By the fourth period, I could kill whoever decided my subjects for me. I mean, I am not in the least interested in World Literature. And here I was, struggling to find my way to room number ninety seven. I bumped into someone, as I went around, craning my neck to find my classroom. The bump made me drop the books I was carrying in my arms and I almost immediately fell on my knees to collect them, groaning in the process. I couldn't believe how much my day sucked.
Whoever I'd bumped into gathered some of my stuff. When I got up, I saw that Mark Chambers was holding out my books to me. I didn't know why but a blush crept to my cheeks. I took my books from him, and smiled.
"Bad first day?" he asked, gently.
"Terrible," I answered, sighing "I just landed myself in a week's detention. And I can't my World Literature classroom."
"Oh, room number ninety seven?"
"Yes! Thank you…do you know which way it is?"
"I'll do something better. I'll walk you to class. You see, it's my next class too."
"Oh, thank god," I breathed.
"What?" he asked, sharply.
"Nothing…I'm new. So it kind of helps to be in class where I know at least one person," I explained. But again, I was blushing to the roots of my hair.
Mark and I walked down the halls together, towards our World Literature class. For some reason, we were getting a lot of awkward looks from everyone around. I would've asked Mark what everyone's deal was but since I barely knew him, and he was the only person I knew in my next class, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
We found our seats in class. Well, actually Mark did. I just slipped into the seat next to his. He didn't mind me sitting there at all. He smiled at me reassuringly.
"Don't worry, you won't land yourself in anymore detentions!" he said. I smiled at him. Why was he so nice?
World Literature was taken a middle aged gentleman named Mr. Ralph Walters. He was very much in love with literature and wanted us to all submit a two hundred word essay on what literature is by next week. The whole class groaned. I was, however, busy studying his features. He had salt and pepper hair, and his eyes crinkled when he smiled. He was wearing a suit, and he looked like one those rare exceptions who seriously look the part of a great teacher. For some reason, I'd taken an easy liking to him.
"You're all groaning because of one two hundred word essay?" he asked us all mockingly, "What are you going to do when I spring my other surprise?"
"I want all of you to come up to the front of the class, and select a name from the bowl here. Whichever name you pick – you're stuck with that person for your project."
Even more groans. Some students called out that they wished to find their own partners. My heart hammered in my chest. No one knew me…how could I possible end up with a partner if the names were not got out of that bowl. On the other hand, what if I got stuck with someone I didn't want to work with at all? Wait…was I secretly hoping to get to work with Mark Chambers? I shook my head, trying to make sense of the thoughts running through my head.
"Mark, you're up next." Mr. Walters called from the front of the room.
"Wish me luck," Mark whispered, when he went past me.
"Good luck," I replied, in equally low tones.
He dipped his hand into the bowl, I crossed my fingers behind my back, and he pulled out a chit of paper. He unfolded it, and saw the name. For some reason, he looked rather pleased with himself. Mark read the name aloud, "Anoushka Sengupta."
I could swear my heart had leapt to my throat when I heard that: the first good thing that happened today. Mark came back to his seat and raised his hand for a high five.
"I can't believe my luck," I said, high fiving, "God, this is the best thing that happened today."
Mark looked rather taken aback, and I realized I'd been saying my thoughts out loud. I screwed my eyes shut tightly, wishing I could just disappear. Mark handled awkward moments really well though.
"Wait till lunch, that's going to be the best part of your day," he said.
Mr. Walters called back our attention to the class when the last person had picked out a name.
"By the end of this week, I expect each team to propose a question they would like to answer in their paper. And the term paper is going to be due on the last day of this month. So good luck to all of you and be creative with the questions you're going to explore through your papers."
And then the bell went signaling the end of class. Mark waited for me to gather my books, and we left the classroom together. Fifth period lunch was a welcome break from the grueling classes so far. We talked all the way to the cafeteria.
And the cafeteria looked every bit as the one we all hear about. There was a table for the jocks and the cheerleaders, one for the geeks, the skater boys. Then there were tables for the different clubs: movies, drama, karate, the school paper, the student council…I looked around confused. We shared the lunch period with the freshman, so I tried to look for my brother. I finally spotted him, sitting all by himself in a table. When he saw me, he waved.
"Where do you usually sit for lunch?" I asked Mark, once I was done waving to my brother.
"Usually, I sit with the movie club, or the so-called nerds, but I can sit with you if you want," he offered, smiling.
"Wait, you don't belong to a clique?"
Mark laughed, "I'll go sit with your brother while you get lunch."
"Don't you want anything?" I asked him.
"No, I always bring my own lunch."
He walked off, leaving me feel a little dazed. Mark Chambers was certainly full of surprises. I got myself and my brother burgers, and fruit juice. Josh beamed when he saw I'd brought him a burger.
"Awesome!" he squealed, grabbing his share of the tray, "Can we have this every day?"
"No," I replied, "This is because your elder sister had a really bad first day. And from tomorrow, I'll make sure we bring our own lunch."
"How is that possible? You know mom and dad are both busy!" he replied, sinking his teeth into the burger. "Anyway, what happened in gym? Did you really knock some guy in your class out?"
"Excuse me?" I asked, stopping myself from eating my burger, "Where the hell did you hear that?"
"It was all over school," Josh said, shrugging his shoulders, "the little new girl knocked over the great Scott Rosen with a basketball. I figured it would be you."
Oh, I could kill Scott Rosen right now. Speaking of the devil…he just walked into the cafeteria as though he owned the place. Well, that was almost true. Almost everyone was greeting him. He took his place in his jock/popular table. I tore my eyes away from him. To think I would be stuck in detention with that jerk.
"Hey, what are you doing after school today?" asked Mark. He had unwrapped his bag lunch, and was now steadily eating his chicken and cheese sandwich.