An outlandish discord of colors filled the three floors of the school as students paraded in converging directions in a sea of diversity—or as much diversity as could be found in an overwhelmingly high white population with very few exceptions. Steven was not one of these exceptions: standing tall and slightly—but not noticeably—overweight with an unkempt dark brown butch cut, brown rectangular plastic framed glasses, a faded green short sleeve tee shirt and light blue jeans. His long quick stride forced him to maneuver through the field of students sluggishly strutting to their lockers and to their next he walked a few male students acknowledged him by cheering sarcastically in a deep voice, "Wimpy!" A few students laughed as Steve turned his head briefly with each calling of his derogatory nickname.
He remained silent even if he recognized the culprit and continued forward speaking no words until he disembarked from the sea of students into the chorus room.
It was a brightly lit classroom of mostly white except for the black chairs, the grey teacher's desk, the multi colored posters of musical significance, and the brown piano.
One student had arrived before him. This student was even taller and thin with a black unkempt Caesar cut, a black short sleeve "J'adore Québec" tee shirt and dark blue jeans. Steve let out a heavy but silent sigh and began to approach him with his hands forming and disassembling a fist. He acknowledged the student kind heartedly but with a quaking in his voice, "Hello John," and took the seat next to him after he received a similar but half hearted hello in return and stayed motionless briefly.
Steve turned to John quickly with the same nervousness, "I was wondering if you wanted to work with me on the contemporary issues project."
John stayed motionless for a second and when the door to the classroom opened a few seconds later he turned around to face Steve to ask, "I'm sorry was that directed at me?"
"Well up until five seconds ago you and I were the only ones in the room," Steve enlightened.
"Don't you normally work with Alyssa?" John asked. "You two are pretty close friends."
"Well she wants to do credit cards because she's a financial geek and I'd rather do something on bullying because that's a more personal battle that I have," Steve explained. "And I'd figure that you would like a partner since you typically work alone. I don't like seeing that."
"It's a good topic I say why the hell not?" John deduced. "You know that it's an important thing in my life don't you? That's another reason why you are asking."
"Partially," Steve admitted. "I'd figure you'd be good to work with."
"Why now?" John asked.
"Pardon?" Steve questioned.
"Why haven't you ever talked to me before," John notified. "You've stood up for me in the face of ass holes but you've never taken the time to stop and talk to me."
There was a long pause before Steve let out a sigh and admitted, "I'm not as perfect as I'd like to be. People always think of me as an ideal example of somebody who is too perfect, too nice, or too mature for my age. If they knew the half of my life maybe they'd understand that I am human too. I know the full of it and I can't live it down. I'm in seek of forgiveness, and of a better me. But I can't help myself.
"Let's face it I've been blessed. I've got a group of friends who care about me and I cherish them because up until high school I had nothing. I didn't get here on my own John. I'm a sinner, like everyone else in this room. I don't have an excuse; just social, mental, and emotional inanity."
"Listen to yourself ramble," a voice from behind them mocked. "Why do you use such big words? It messes people up."
Steve turned around quickly and shot, "Well Frank, it's to keep foul, inattentive, puerile, heartless people—like you—from eavesdropping into conversations that encompasses nothing significant pertaining to them. Oh, and if you don't comprehend what I have just enlightened you on, there is this book that is used to help you define sophisticated words that you don't know the definitions of; it's called, the dictionary."
The student was a boy in a blue and grey Auburn football uniform with thick brown hair and large muscles. He wasn't very tall but he wasn't short either. He scowled at Steven with clenched fists. He took in a large breath and opened his mouth but stopped as the teacher rose from his seat.
"Nobody wants to hear from you, you wise ass," Frank retorted in a whisper.
"It's better than hearing from a dumb ass," John muttered inaudibly. He then turned to Steve to say, "I think we should work on that project together."
"Welcome aboard my friend," Steve whispered back.
John almost flinched at the word. His face went pale, but no eyes were on him. His lips did not move from the straight formation they had. He still had a stern and slightly intimidating look on him although he was weakened by just one word that had haunted him a long time. It had been a long time since the word friend was involved with him as the subject unless there was some negative adverb such as not, prior to friend. Although it should be an honor for him to receive such a declaration, he felt uneasy and frightened by such a relationship as friend in which he would have to accept putting off a plan of his in order to satisfy what was required of him. But this was his chance to make a bigger statement than he had previously thought. "Thanks," John replied hesitantly.
Chorus class had passed with the sound of a lunch bell. An anxious John made a bolt for the door. The only aspect missing was Steve, which caused him to turn around. And of course, there Steve was, behind a crowd of thankless bees out in search of nectar while Steve was standing without emotion like a guard of a hive unnoticed and unappreciated. That was how Steven stood after every class in which a door would not stay open on its own. He would hold it at the beginning and the end of class as if it was his duty with no exception.
John felt himself thrown back against the wall, and although he didn't see who it was he assumed it was Frank who had just walked past and was laughing. John put himself back into position without making a sound as Steve approached him once again. "What happened?"
"Frank pushed me into the wall," John said with a slight amount of a vengeful lust in his voice. "Why do you do it?" John asked. "Hold the door that is. Nobody regards you any higher for doing it."
"Your statement may be true, or it could be that they do not regard me higher publically, but just maybe at least one finds me more prominent than I know they do," Steve said as they continued to walk towards the cafeteria. "Never underestimate the power of a small deed even if the circumstance says under logic that you will not be appreciated for it. The best people perform good deeds regardless of their standing, just to do it. There is always the reward of knowing you did the right thing."
"You're nobler than I,"
"I am also less damaged than you," Steve asserted. "I believe just like I came around out of the darkness, you too will be able to be guided to the light. Nobody gets to that point without a little help."
"Even with help…" John started and stopped catching himself in the act.
"Even with help what?" Steve questioned.
"Even with help life isn't easy is it?" John said turning the question back on to Steve. He knew Steve could provide an answer to even the most challenging of questions. It wasn't out of disrespect but rather out of desperation to avoid the inevitability of Steve finding out anything about John in a secret that nobody knew. John knew that Steve must have already grown suspicious.
"Life is always going to be difficult," Steve asserted. "That is just a fact of life we have to deal with. But struggles don't define who we are. How we combat struggles is what brings out are character. Mind you, that is only one piece to a puzzle of our definition, but it is one that is important to shaping the rest of the pieces. When I say combat I don't mean strong or weak rebellion against struggle—that is the common simple-minded analysis made by people who see strength as the control one has over their emotions and the emotions of others. The more control they have the better—rather, it is the way in which you present yourself as a person who makes right decisions in the face of your opposing force."
"Don't get me wrong Steve," John began, "but you do need to tone down the vocabulary a little bit. I understand you but it's…"
"It's me," Steve interrupted. "The fact is, I have a passion for an elaborate vocabulary, although I do suppose if it makes me a little difficult to understand."
"Okay maybe more than just a little."
They took a seat at a round table with eight seats appending from metal legs that went into the ground and to the underside of the table. "How long has it been since you actually had a meaningful conversation with someone at lunch?" Steve asked.
"Probably not since last year. There were always upperclassmen watching over me the last few years. I liked them but I wouldn't consider them friends. I was never really invited to do anything with them."
"Did you ever invite them to do anything with you?"
"I never had the courage to."
"Guess who?" a voice asked from behind Steve. She had slid her pale hands behind his glasses obstructing his vision.
"Do I smell apple hand sanitizer from Mrs. Sauerback's room?" Steve asked.
"Possibly," the voice said.
"Umm Jolene?" Steve guessed.
"I'm not somebody who you'd expect it to be," she hinted.
"John, is it Jolene?" Steve asked suspiciously.
"Nope," John answered shaking his head as if Steve could see it. He then turned his attention to the girl. She had average height and straight black hair with deep purple highlights, and a small gold bead lip ring. She was wearing a black tank top and light blue jeans cut at the knees. "It's really someone you wouldn't expect it to be."
"Fantastic," Steve sighed.
"You'd never guess you've been here all your life," she said. "I'll give you the first letter: S."
"Starla?" Steve asked.
The girl uncovered his eyes and confirmed his guess, "There ya go Steve." Steve was more focused on the fact that while his eyes were covered the table he was at filled up with a good amount of his friends.
"They told me to do it Steve."
"You are all pretty damn sneaky I'll admit," Steve said shaking his head. "Care to join us Starla?"
"That was the plan," Starla said with a wink.
"Well then don't wait on me by all means…" Steve started as he looked around at the table. All the seats had been taken by others. "Take my seat, I'll grab a chair."
"Are you sure?" Starla asked.
"Oh absolutely, I'll be back momentarily."
A girl with short blond hair with a brown leather jacket and green eyes sitting at the opposite end of the table stalked his movements as he walked away. She shook her head ever so slightly and looked down at her lunch, a less than appealing assortment of the school's "buttered noodles and Swedish meatballs. "I may not trust the food but I don't want to offend the lunch ladies," she said softly, but loud enough for everyone to turn their heads to her for a minute, then resume their business.