The little blonde cheerleader waved at me, then aimed the gun. She was about four inches away from me, her desk directly beside mine- but the barrel of the black handgun was about an inch from my nose. Several gasps arose around us in the small senior honors English classroom; I froze, my heart thudding as loudly and uncontrollably as an over stimulated clothes washer.
"Thought that might wake you all up a bit," Amanda Partin smirked, her small hand not trembling in the slightest as she kept the gun trained on me. Not one of the sixteen others in the room, including the teacher, Mrs. Lerner, said a word, made a move- I don't think we were capable of it, in those first shocked moments.
I, honestly, had two simultaneous and completely oppositional reactions. The first thing that popped into my head- after the initial dumbfounded staring- was that all of this had to be a joke. The gun must be a toy, or not loaded, or something- this had to be a senior prank. Surely this wasn't really a real fully loaded gun- surely it wasn't Amanda Partin of all people who was holding it.
Even as these doubts flickered in my mind, I believed Amanda and her gun entirely, and I was terrified, scared shitless. How can you help but be when a girl stands up in the middle of an analysis of Ophelia's suicide in Hamlet, whips a handgun out of her oversized purse, and shoves it into your face? Especially a girl like Amanda Partin- about the last person you'd ever think capable of such a thing.
Before that day, that time- stopping moment where Amanda aimed the gun at me, she had been one of those girls in the school who fit in well enough, but did not really stand out in any way- not a leader or anyone that people automatically thought of when they gave out student superlatives. She was one of those girls who is smart enough to be in honors, but not enough to get the top grades; cute enough and talented enough to be on the cheerleader squad, but never as a captain, always in the back row; considered part of the in crowd, but on the fringes, not considered one of the most popular. She wasn't especially talkative or especially quiet- just one of those people who seemed cheerful most of the time, but not so much it annoyed you. If anything, Amanda was almost bland- likeable, but forgettable. How could someone like that be angry enough or violent enough to bring a gun to school?
Yet here it was… directly in my face. I know I've repeated this a lot, but that's not something you will ever get over, ever forget, if the intent was serious.
Even in the first twenty seconds or so, even with all the flitting through my head, one of the first things I thought was, why me? What does she possibly have against me? I barely knew Amanda- I mean, yeah, we were in the same honors classes, had been all through middle and high school- but still, I never spoke to her outside of class. I had never dated her, never called her, never e-mailed or danced with her. I was a soccer player- cheerleaders didn't' even come to our games. I had never been cruel to her, never even made fun of her- unless indirectly, through dumb blonde or cheerleader jokes. Surely that couldn't be what this was all about.
"Damn, is this real?" I heard a guy breathe behind me, "is she for real…"
I myself couldn't stop from saying, "Oh shit," my voice much higher and tighter than usual.
Amanda smirked, still holding the gun steadily. I remember thinking disjointedly how small she was, how scary it was that someone five inches shorter than me and 30 pounds lighter could be holding my life so precariously in my hands.
"You scared, Rhys?" she asked me, her voice almost pleasant, conversational. "Afraid I'll harm you- shoot you in your nice, smart-boy face?"
Obviously the thought had crossed my mind. But what are you supposed to say to that- what would make someone put down a gun?
"Amanda," Mrs. Lerner spoke up then, apparently getting over her shock enough to attempt to exert authority over the situation. "Amanda, let's not get excited or upset here… we don't want anyone getting hurt." Her voice shook, and her eyes were flitting between Amanda and the gun- the gun still pointed at my almost unblinking face.
"Amanda, you don't' need to do this. Just put the gun down, and we'll listen to whatever it is you think you need to say to us so urgently. Just-"
"No, I don't think so, authority figure," Amanda sneered, barely shifting derisive blue eyes in her direction. "I think I can probably say whatever I want just as well with a gun in hand- if not better."
I noticed from the corner of my eye that Mrs. Lerner had this strange, urgent look in her eyes, more than fear or shock… it was as if she was trying to convey a message, trying to signal to someone with her eyes. I didn't dare turn my head, not with the gun in my face- but sure enough, as Mrs. Lerner spoke to Amanda again, I saw Calder Skannart stand up quietly, begin edging toward the back of the room- toward the silent call button, installed just for hostage situations like this.
"Amanda, we want to listen to whatever it is you have to say," Mrs. Lerner was telling her, but her voice trembled, and her eyes kept darting toward the door, the call button, Calder… everyone else was still as the chairs they sat in, all too aware of the intensity of the situation unfolding. "If anything's bothering you, we want to help, we want to hear you out-"
"Oh, you want to help now, do you, now that it's too fucking late for me?" Amanda snarled, her eyes narrowing in sudden anger. "Well you know, there are time limits in life. It's too late for you too."
Suddenly she whipped around, her gun turning with her, away from me. I barely had time to feel relief- perhaps two seconds, at the most- for that was about how much time lapsed before she aimed her gun at Calder and shot him in the chest.