Music class used to be a regular lesson, scheduled: at ten, the class would start. Callie would arrive fairly on time – and this never varied much. She would learn and stare at Billy Pryde, the boy who sat in the middle of the second row, intermittently, taking in gazes of his sandy hair and lightly freckled cheeks like breaths of fresh air amid the submersive learning they were subjected to.
When He arrived, that all changed.
Callie remembered the day clearly; one day she was happy in her dream world, where the teacher was normal and they would listen and analyse and compose various classical pieces. And then one day Mrs Tianna was gone. And they had a new teacher. And the bottom of Callie's world dropped – albeit it took a while to drop. But drop it did.
It was a Tuesday; funny day for a teacher swap, and Callie had walked in, chatting in an offhand manner to Vee and Ana, two of her good friends at school. She had stopped short when she realized that the dark haired man seated at the teacher's desk was clearly not their beloved Mrs Tianna. In fact, he bore no resemblance whatsoever. She had been middle aged, with flighty blonde hair and a constant out of it expression on her face. Her eyes had been blue and she wore light coloured skirts and blouses.
This man was dark – everything about him; his skin was tanned; a rough beard grew over his lower face and head. Eyebrows came together in focus and his eyes were black.
It was such a shock to see that man there that Callie forgot herself. Within seconds, his eyes found hers and the intense blackness captured her; centred her; grounded her.
And then he looked at the other two, with the same gaze, as if memorizing every curve and angle their faces made, and Callie knew they were unnerved by it, as she had been.
"Mr Chase." He introduced himself shortly and nodded up at the seats. "If you will." He didn't ask for their names, instead passing them over for the next students who walked into the door, and the three walked up to their seats, slightly bemused, slightly unsettled.
By ten minutes past ten, the entire class was seated before him, and he began.
"Good evening class," he began, and there were immediate laughs.
"Sir?" ventured Alicia, an outspoken girl of the class, who even with her status of public speaking captain, was intimidated by the glare he sent her way. "It's the morning," she almost whispered.
"I know," he stated simply. "I was allowing for time difference." The man, once he had said this, looked like he wished he could swallow the words; obviously he was from a place that allowed for more than eight hours time difference backwards, more so forwards. And this opened the door for a barrage of unanswered questions; every student was bursting to ask, but none dared, none had the courage.
"I am Mr Chase, you are my students, and we are going to study music together. Or rather make music. And study it," he amended, his gaze sweeping over the girls and boys seated before him.
"And now, I want you to introduce yourself by the name of a song which has your name in it. Or infers it. And I will guess."
This was the first time Callie noticed his sense of humour and fun that lingered fleetingly behind his dark eyes. This man was different.
"Mambo Number Five," began a girl from the back. He looked up at her, apparently delighted that they had cottoned on so quickly, and then scanned his class register.
"Yes!" she grinned at the success.
"By the Way, Chili Peppers," another girl said.
"Danielle – Danni," he guessed correctly.
"Albumblatt," another student called out.
"Elise," he returned, nodding appreciatively. "Good one."
"You Know my Name, Chris Cornell," shouted a boy – the first of the boys.
Mr Chase looked confused for a minute, frowning, reading the list again before his whole face lit up with realization.
"Chase," he affirmed. "Brilliant." The boy grinned smugly at his companions.
Callie decided she might as well go, but she didn't know which one to choose. And her name was in the title. So unoriginal. She rolled her eyes, and took a breath ready to shout out her name.
"Hotel California, California Dreaming, Dani California and California Love." The man looked impressed with her song choice for a second, and immediately guessed it, without even looking at the list.
"California," he raised his eyebrows. "Interesting name."
"Callie for short," she responded, raising hers, to match his expression.
"Callie it is then. Next."