Minutes are ticking by. I count the seconds because it is easier than the math on my test. Valuable time trickles away and still nothing. I know I'm screwed. The March sun shines on the stark white paper in front of me, so bright that it blinds me and I can barely see the writing. It does not matter. There's nothing but the teacher's typed questions anyway. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. At least I'm not naked... I think. I look down. Nope, I'm definitely wearing clothes. So this is most certainly reality, which is not much better because it means I really will get a zero this time. There is a reason why I'm going to get a zero. Of course there is. The teacher won't accept it though, not that I will be telling him. I'll have to make something up later. He's going to pull me aside next time we have class and ask me about this. I would bet anything on that. I'm a star pupil, I don't get zeroes. I don't get eighties, even. He'll never accept my real reason. It's a stupid reason anyway, and it frustrates me, and makes me hate myself a little every time I think about it.

I'm jealous of a pencil.

No, he's definitely not going to accept that as an adequate excuse for getting a zero. But it's the truth. Even now I would rather be a pencil, but I suppose that makes sense, seeing as if I was a pencil then I wouldn't have to be taking an exam... although if I were a pencil I would technically be writing on the exam and therefore be doing an exam... this is ridiculous. Clock-watching again. I have 17 minutes more of this torture. Torturing myself over not knowing the answers, any of the answers, and wishing I were a pencil.

Well, that's not entirely accurate. I don't want to be any pencil. A specific one. The one he's holding.

He's not even using the pencil to write on the exam. He doesn't have an exam. He's a genius, and geniuses don't need to do exams they've already taken. They just need to rack up attendance points. Well, not all geniuses. This one does. He's using the pencil to write in a book. A novel. It's a different one every time. Sometimes it's a classic. Sometimes I've never even heard of it. Twice he actually brought trashy romance novels in. The Mills&Boon type. No one said anything about it. I guess he scares people. After all, he has to get attendance points to make up for bad behavior in previous years. The rumor is that Harvard won't give him a full scholarship unless he behaves himself. Apparently he needs the scholarship.

I can't tell if he's reading the novels or not. He's just always writing in them. I hope they're not library books. It annoys me when I take out a book and someone has written all over it. He never says anything in class. Just writes. One time he pointed out a mistake on the board. He was covering for me. I think. The teacher had just asked me a question and I hadn't heard it. I hate giving wrong answers. I hate making mistakes. This test is a huge mistake. Becoming interested in him was an even bigger mistake. If I hadn't then I wouldn't be in this situation, blanking on a test. I would have revised more carefully. I wouldn't have just sat in front of my textbook in my room and stared at my pencil for an hour.

Yearning to be a pencil is pathetic and weird. My best friend, Lauren, told me so when I mentioned it once. I'd spoken aloud without realizing. She didn't really have to tell me. I already knew. It's just that he holds the pencil so carefully, so gently, as if what he is writing is so important that it makes the pencil important. The pencil is the vessel of his creativity. Or something. I'm probably making it up now. Maybe this is what rock bottom feels like. Minus the alcohol. I'm only jealous of a pencil, not contemplating life and death.

6 minutes left. People have stopped writing. Some are checking their answers. Others are just watching the clock, like me.

5 minutes.

4 minutes.

The teacher is also watching the clock. He wants to leave just as much as we do. Watching thirty students scribbling in silence must be tedious.

2 and a half minutes.

A couple students are grabbing the handles of their bags. Just to be more prepared to leave when the teacher says it's all over.

1 minute.

I squint to my left. He's just sitting there now. His book is closed and resting with the pencil on the desk. He's staring out the window. The sun glares through the window and surrounds him in a bright glow. An angelic, genius bad boy. So many contradictions. No wonder I'm so obsessed.

Our teacher is standing now. I can't even hear him say the test is finished over the scrapes of chairs moving and chatter from elated students. I look forlornly at my test one last time and then scribble my name on the top. It's the only thing I've written. The humiliation creeps up my spine and I'm suddenly in a rush to gather together my things and get out. I don't even look at the teacher as I lay the test on his desk. I leave without talking to anyone. The hallway is noisy and crowds of people are walking to classes or stopping at lockers. I have an hour off for lunch but I have no appetite. Lauren will wonder where I am when I don't turn up in the cafeteria and try to find me. I save her the trouble by texting her.

TEST BAD. GOING TO MOPE. C U IN FRENCH X

I'm not sure where to mope. The library is quiet but predictable. Mrs. Jenkins will ask how I am. I don't want to talk to anyone... There's a tap on my shoulder... I dread turning and seeing my Math teacher. Has he seen my test? Already? I take a deep breath and turn.

It's not the teacher.

He's here. Really here. Looking at me.

I wait for him to speak because I can't seem to remember how to do so myself.

He asks me how my test went. I must have grimaced because he's smiling at me as though he understands my pain. Though surely not. Geniuses don't fail tests. He says he saw that I didn't write anything. This surprises me. I wasn't aware that he had been looking at me. I finally remember how to communicate and say that I've been really distracted lately. It's the truth. He says he's been distracted too. His arm extends towards me. He's holding the book. He's handing it to me. I'm very confused now. I take it and read the cover. Giants in the Earth by Rolvaag. I've never heard of it. I ask him if he's recommending it to me. He laughs. It's a nice laugh. Low and warm, not too loud. He opens the book in my hand.

I finally know what he's been writing.

Nothing.

It's not what I thought. There's no writing.

He was drawing pictures.

Pictures of me.

I'm stunned. I don't know whether to ask him about it or admire his talent. I decide to admire his talent. He's very good. He uses clean strokes and shading. The pictures really do look like me. In one I am sitting at my desk, writing; I am chewing on my pen; I am resting my chin on my palm. He has my wavy hair at the right length, just past my shoulders. My nose has the little bump in it that has annoyed me all my life. I never take pictures in profile. It makes it more noticeable. He's even drawn the little ring on my index finger that I wear every day.

If I looked in all the other books he'd brought to school, would I find more pictures of me?

I look up at him. I don't need to ask. The way he is looking at me says everything. He's not scary at all. Not like everyone says. He's looking at me as gently as he was holding his pencil. I smile.

Written or said, sometimes words aren't necessary.

Another thought occurs to me.

I don't need to be jealous of a pencil.

That's a relief.

***

A/N: I was in the middle of finishing The Complex Nature of Friendship when I thought of this idea for a story. When I get some inspiration, I usually grab it with both hands. I actually wrote this as a long one shot with dialogue and more characters and in the third person. Turns out third person narrative doesn't work for me. I hated it and rewrote it a few times. I got to 11 pages and realized I was only half way through and I still wasn't happy with it, so I started from scratch.

I realize the writing style is weird, with loads of full stops and short sentences that are grammatically a disaster zone, but it really felt right. I hope you like this. My next upload will be Dev and Bee again, to finish off the two-parter.