This piece was written for the Review Game's Writing Challenge Contest. There's a link on my profile if you want to know more about the WCC. The prompt: "I'm not done yet." I haven't written anything in a year, and this is my attempt to write again.
Edited with help from reviewers.
The walls stared at the students as if they were angry with the kids for wasting the air with their unprepared, unmotivated selves. Posters dotted the walls at bizarre angles, and each desk always decided to bend slightly out of the row it was meant to be in. The steel-gray carpet set the colors of the room off balance, making the room seem colder than it really was. And, in the front of the room, a single student was giving a speech about Edgar Allen Poe.
Rachel sat in the third row in the first column. Second closest to the door, right next to Mrs. Joanne's desk. It was the last day of the grading period, and the students were giving their final presentations. Rachel wondered absently about why her English teacher chose to put her desk right next to the door. It was almost as if, in her plot of student-loathing and misery-making, she had wanted to stare at the highschoolers as they tasted the freedom of the hallways, reminding them that they would soon be back in this room tomorrow.
Rachel mulled over this plausible line of thinking. It was eleven ten. She had been contemplating the strangeness of the classroom for fifty-six minutes, according to the analog clock on Mrs. Joanne's desk, the one that was always ten minutes ahead (no doubt another cruel plot to fool students into thinking it was time for lunch only to have them realize that they had another ten minutes to go.) But Rachel was desperate, you see, because she was trying hard to think of something, anything at all that could keep her mind off of the presenter and project being presented at the moment. Otherwise she knew that she would lose her patience, and that would be a bad thing because in order for her plan to work she needed to be very, very patient.
The sound of her classmates' clapping made her focus for a moment. Drake, the speaker, was finished. A look of relief and bewilderment stuck to his face, and Rachel wondered if he knew any more about what he had just said than she, who had most definitely not paid attention.
Mrs. Joanne stood to draw the name of the next presenter out of a small tin container. Another carefully thought of idea meant to inspire fear and anticipation in the class. The only thing more unnerving than giving a speech about a famous literary writer was not knowing when you were going to give it.
"Rachel," the teacher said plainly, too bored of these presentations to bother with extra words or last names.
Rachel did not allow herself to jump from her stupor of absent thoughts; rather, she blinked twice to wake herself and started to pick up her typed speech. She saw the scared faces of her classmates who had yet to present and could've grinned at how much they would owe her after this. She saw Quincy, who sat two seats in front of her, marvel at the sight of her thick stack of unbound papers.
Commencing stage one.
"Oops!" Rachel exclaimed, her voice dripping with sincerity as she stumbled on the carpet, her speech scattering across the floor. She gave a startled Mrs. Joanne an apologetic look as she bent over to retrieve them. The students stared dumbly as she picked up papers, their minds still fried from an hour of senseless facts thrown at them and heavy with the knowledge that they had another half hour still to go.
"Do you need help, Rachel?" asked Mrs. Joanne after the girl had spent a good five minutes sorting through her work.
"Oh, yes!" Rachel answered cheerily, "I numbered them. The pages, you see. Lucky me. I mean, it'd be impossible to sort through this if I had no idea what order they were supposed to go in. Very fortunate because-"
"I understand, Rachel," Mrs. Joanne said. Rachel looked at her teacher for a moment to see if she could keep going with this. Mrs. Joanne was looking at her with a puzzled expression, Rachel's sincerity throwing her off. The clock on her desk read eleven twenty-two. Time to wrap up, thought Rachel. She rounded the papers up and stepped in front of the class.
Her classmates didn't quite know what to think of this delay. Some looked confused. Most looked bored. She noticed Alex, the kid who sat behind her and closest to the door, glancing worriedly at the clock on Mrs. Joanne's desk. He wanted to jump and run out of the room, but he hadn't presented yet. Rachel could only presume because he had nothing to present and his grade was bad enough as it was and didn't need an extra zero.
"Rachel?" Mrs. Joanne again. Rachel realized that she should start talking.
"William Shakespeare," she began, "is one of the most famous playwrights of all time. Although we revere him today as a master, he was not received so well in his own time. The theatre was frowned upon by many churches and men of wealth, and people wondered how a simple man from Stratford could write so…"
So she talked. And talked. And talked. Eleven twenty-eight, read Mrs. Joanne's clock. Eleven thirty…
"Rachel, could you please start wrapping up?" The entire room jolted as if Mrs. Joanne's words had snapped them out of a depression induced by Elizabethan Age facts ripped from Wikipedia. Rachel pulled her best surprised look.
"Oh, of course," she stuttered, looking abashed. How could Mrs. Joanne tire of this speech her student worked so hard on? asked her wide-eyed face. For the only reason she had written it was to please Mrs. Joanne, of course. How could she tire of William Shakespeare?
Mrs. Joanne watched from her desk as Rachel skipped a few pages. From the chair closest to the door, Alex's eyes were glued to the clock. Eleven thirty-two. Class got out in eight minutes. She could make it.
"Um, okay," she started in a low voice, still shaken by Mrs. Joanne's harsh words, "Shakespeare's plays got slightly darker in theme with his age. This might've been partly due to the death of his only son at age eleven…"
Eleven thirty-eight. No way Mrs. Joanne could squeeze anyone else in. Rachel had successfully sucked up all class time with her ridiculously long speech.
"After his death, Shakespeare's works might never had been published if it wasn't for his rival playwright…"
Rachel trailed off and looked at the clock in confusion. It said eleven forty. The bell should've rung…
She almost slapped herself. Ten minutes! Stupid, stupid, she thought to herself.
Alex stared at the clock, trying to make time go faster. I'll finish it tonight, he probably thought, and give it to her tomorrow, and I'll get an A, which I need…
Rachel thought hard. What could she say? She had ten minutes (nine, as she looked at the clock again) and one paragraph left.
"All right, Rachel, I think—" Mrs. Joanne began.
"Wait," Alex's voice rang too loud in the silent room, and all eyes trained to him.
"Um," he said, startled by his own voice, which had spoken without his consent in desperation. He thought through what little information he had retained from Rachel's speech, "About that, uh, Globe Theatre, right? Weren't there, um, two?"
"Yeah," Rachel began, going with it, "The first one burned down to the ground, so they had to build a new one." Eleven forty-three, she thought.
The other students looked quizzically from Alex to Rachel, and then from Rachel to Mrs. Joanne, and then to the faces of other kids in the class. They began to whisper, to shrug their shoulders and crack their backs as bears do when waking from hibernation. Rachel smiled. She was close…
"Settle down, everyone," Mrs. Joanne said, "Alex, please don't interrupt, although Rachel was done. I believe it's your turn next—"
"Wait, Mrs. Joanne. Alex made me remember an important part I skipped," Rachel said, and before Mrs. Joanne could interrupt, she started again.
"Shakespeare's works were especially designed for the Globe Theatre…"
"Rachel, please, you've taken enough time," Mrs. Joanne said, "Alex, please." Mrs. Joanne motioned for him to go to the center of the room.
The lunch bell rang.
As if he had teleportation powers, Alex disappeeared through the door before Mrs. Joanne could say a word.
"You said you wanted a printed copy?" Rachel asked sweetly, handing her English teacher the bundle of papers.