The Silence Thing
"Hey!" I said, before they started discussing my love life at their usual volume. "How about we make up a song for the scene? You guys sing it, and I'll play the music." I hoped this would distract them, and stop me from blushing any more than I already was. If it didn't I'd have to tape their mouths shut.
She was nonplussed. "You're a drummer."
Narrowing my eyes, I replied. "I can play a few chords on my guitar. I'm not only a drummer."
After class, Ethan elbowed me, his eyebrows wiggling. "Hey, man, don't get down. He was looking at you too."
I should have known English was going to suck the minute Mr. Stavros handed back our grades for the King Lear project and the red gash across the top of the paper came into view. "D", it said, because he "couldn't clearly see my participation."
Maryam gave me a look, and gestured at Stavros, as if saying that if it really bothered me that much I could just explain to him that I'd written the music and half the lyrics for our presentation. I scowled in reply, and crammed the paper into the back of my folder where I would never have to see it again. She knew me, and for all the years she tried to get me to defend myself when it came to grades, we both knew that even the very real threat of failing couldn't make me talk. The words stuck in my throat. My thoughts went hazy. All that I ever did manage to get out was garbled by stuttering.
No, I couldn't do it, and it only got worse from there.
Just as we were about to escape the hellish confines of the classroom, Stavros dropped a bomb.
"As we'll be studying journalistic writing in our next unit," he said, stroking his snobby goatee like some two-bit villain, "Next class you'll be interviewing a randomly picked classmate, and then writing a feature about them based on that interview."
My fingers twitched at the idea. The amount of people I would actually be able to interview in the class numbered two. Thirty other students filed past me and out the door as the bell rang. Maryam and Ethan paused in front of my desk.
Maryam punched Ethan in the arm, and the slightest hint of a smile curled her lips as he tenderly rubbed where she had hit him. "And I suppose you're going to sit there like a sad, little puppy and resign yourself to an F on this assignment too?"
I scowled, and stared down at the floor, wishing it would crack open and swallow me up. Actually, no, I wished the ground would eat up Stavros- then I wouldn't have to do the dumb project.
"I don't even know why I'm asking you," she continued. "You never stand up for yourself."
Ethan nudged her. "Hey, uh, Mar? Little too much there, even for you."
Shaking her head, she pulled on his arm and they started to walk out. "He needs it. Trust me."
I watched them walk out the door. Deep down, like bottomless abyss deep, I knew Maryam was right. So, I slung my backpack over my shoulders and trudged up to where Stavros was sitting at his desk and typing with obnoxiously rigid posture.
Sensing my presence, he looked up from his computer screen and stared at me expectantly. Maybe it was just that I didn't like him a whole lot right then, but I swear his eyes were shining with malicious glee.
I didn't know what to say. My shoes seemed like they had details I'd never noticed before, and I would have spent forever peering at them to avoid what was coming if I hadn't been interrupted.
Stavros cleared his throat. "Can I help you, Attaway? Or do I need to show you where the exit is?"
Clenching my teeth, I felt my face go hot. "I w-was w-wondering… uh, wh-what I m-m-meant to s-say, um…" My voice trailed off and I forced myself to look up from my feet. The small smirk sprawled across his features looked smug. It made me freeze.
"Yes?" He prompted, the smile broadening to a shit-eating grin.
"Could-I-do-the-assignment-differently?" I said, all in a rush, hoping he would still be able understand.
His forehead crinkled as if puzzled. "I'm sorry, what did you say? It was a tad too fast to hear."
In what must have been a moment of genius, I snatched a piece of paper off his desk and scrawled the message across it.
Could I do the assignment differently? Could I interview Maryam or Ethan instead of being assigned a random person?
I handed over the paper and watched as his eyes skimmed over it. The grin shrunk into a pinched frown.
"I'm sorry, Attaway, but that's not fair to everyone else." He leaned back in his chair and rested his hand on his chin. "Besides, you'll need to get over this silence thing eventually. You can't hide behind your father's fame forever."
For a moment I saw red. Then I turned and walked out without another word.
I might have run straight to my dorm room once I got out of Stavros' classroom. I might have collapsed onto my bed and buried my head under a pillow. I might have screamed every angry thought that was racing through my mind.
That might have been what happened. No one needed to know for sure.
By the time Alex came back to the dorm, I was wrapped up in the blankets with only my face uncovered. My back was to the door, my eyes stuck on the wall. I'd come up with several ways to get out of doing the project, the most involved centered around leaving the country. Problem was, skipping out on the project would kill my grade even more. The gossip mags would love that. I could see it now, an unflattering school picture with an insulting headline, "Idiot Attaway Repeats Senior Year."
The sound of Alex sitting down at his desk and starting to write made me turn around. Once finished writing, he began to fold the paper. His hands moved smoothly from fold to fold before he stopped and gracefully lobbed the paper airplane in my direction. It flew across the room and landed on my bed.
I unfolded the paper, letting my hands emerge from inside the blankets.
What's wrong? You look like a sad cocoon.
Wrinkling my nose at the comparison, though I couldn't argue, I grabbed a pen off my nightstand and wrote back.
The English assignment.
I refolded the paper and threw it back.
He read over the note before setting it aside. His blue-green eyes met mine. "Let's do a practice interview. Then the real thing won't be as hard."
Nodding, I reached for the whiteboard and dry erase marker on my bedside table, only for Alex to leap up and snatch them away. He set them on his desk, next to the note.
"Hey," he said, sitting on my bed and wiggling around until comfortable. "The point of an interview is to ask and answer questions out loud."
Alex looked at me expectantly, waiting for a reply. It suddenly seemed way too hot under my blankets. At the same time, I still had the urge to cover my face and pretend like he wasn't there. I didn't know what to say. A small part of me knew that a simple 'Okay,' would suffice, but there was no way I could make myself say it.
As if sensing my discomfort, Alex cleared his throat. "Here, I'll start." An encouraging smile appeared on his face, "I'm Alex Odell. What's your name?"
I narrowed my eyes, was he joking?
"Come on, I know it's dumb, but it's a good way to start."
Closing my eyes for a minute, I collected my thoughts. I opened them, careful not to look directly into Alex's eyes, instead focusing on the way his hair fell onto his forehead. "I, uh, I'm Cr-Crispin Attaway."
"See? That wasn't too difficult." He said, pleased. "Now you can ask me a question. Anything at all."
I made the mistake of glancing at his eyes. They were hopeful and expectant, and they tied my stomach in knots. "W-what, uh..." I trailed off, my voice a whisper, not sure what I had been trying to ask anyway.
Leaning closer, Alex smiled and nudged me with his elbow. "Come on. It's just me."
'Just Alex,' he might have been, but he was making me nervous. I bit the inside of my cheek and looked down. After coming up with something, I moved my gaze upward. "Why are you being so nice to me?" My voice was more like a breath of air than a whisper, but he'd gotten so close to me I was sure that he would hear.
"That's easy. It's because I want to get to know you."
A/N: I'd like to apologize for how long this chapter has taken. I never expected for there to be months between updates. School has been a little more hectic than I expected, but never fear! I have a clear plan for this story, and would never abandon it. I'm determined to finish it, especially for all of you! Thank you so much for all the favorites, alerts, and kind reviews. Your support and interest in this story is a great motivator. Hopefully this chapter is worth the wait, and the next chapter will be up much sooner.