A/N: First short story post on fictionpress, and thanks for the reviews! It's nearing completion, so please bear with me for just a little more.
Special thanks to sophiesix, freddyburn, and other reviewers for their amazing help!
The fluttering of papers echoed across the classroom walls as he flipped the model on its side. He pressed yet another crease along the origin of his twelfth diagonal fold, knowing that he was still a long way away from finishing anytime soon. The student hated following through the painstaking process of creating the tiny paper crux of the origami piece, but his teacher would have never allowed a step to be missed for any piece of art. Some art, he thought. His origami model's four paper receptacles were taking twenty steps alone to complete, and he didn't even want to think about how long the cluster of petals encircling the core would take.
A yelp of pain erupted from the front of the classroom. The student didn't need to lift his head up to know that one of his classmates had made a careless mistake in one of the models, and he grimly remembered the thin metal cane beating down on his own fingers once. His classmate should have checked his work before turning it in for assessment, so the punishment was well-deserved. He jerked his head violently from side to side in an effort to cleanse his mind from wandering thoughts and turned his vision to the dancing paper model that dangled between his skillful set of fingers. Not one mistake could be spared.
The sepals of the paper cluster began to unfurl as he plucked the edges of the tiny leaves with the hands of an operating surgeon. Cascading creases became even tighter to fully capture the setting in which the petals were to enclose the root of the piece. The student lifted his head for a moment to release the breath he didn't even know he was holding before diving back into his impregnable fortress of concentration. A definite shape was forming, but that only meant a blunder now would be inexcusable.
The sound of another heavy smack of the teacher's cane resounded from the front of the room. The student continued working as animalistic howls erupted from the writhing bundle of flesh rolling across the floor. A couple of newcomers winced, and the girl to his left uttered a peculiar little cry that went as far as her throat. They will learn soon enough, he thought to himself, that mistakes are not acceptable. Nobody survived in this class if they made mistakes.
He worked on his own miniature project for a few more minutes before holding it up at level with his eyes. A sudden push and twist of an intruding pencil unraveled the center of the closed bud, signifying the completion of a new origami rose. He stared at the model for a little longer before slowly placing it on his desk. The student deeply exhaled, stretched his fingers, and rolled his neck. It was finally time to check over his work. He drew out a small sigh from his lungs and picked up his model again.
Summoning his mental barriers once more against the outside world, he directed his attention to the task at hand. His adroit fingers began flickering over the edges of each particular petal, brushing under the smooth crescendo of the flowery spiral, and dancing in and out of every pocket of observed artistry. The student allowed a smile to play across his face as he felt the instilled lessons of the teacher come alive through his flying fingers. Not even for a quarter of a second did they lightly rest on each portion of the flower, yet at each swift brush of his fingers he felt infinitesimal pieces of satisfaction welling up in his being. He applauded himself silently as his fingers slowed to the end of the dance. No mistakes had been made this time.
He picked up the rose carefully in his hands as he stood up from his desk. His chair's metallic legs scraped against the polished concrete floor as the eyes of his neighboring friends grinded slowly against the roofs of their eye sockets. The student placed one foot deliberately, squarely ahead of the other as he walked up to the front of the room where the teacher's desk was. The time for his assessment had come.
He placed the origami piece on his teacher's desk with practiced care and stepped back respectfully. A pair of hands, worn thin with gnarly age, slowly appeared from under the wooden desk and picked up the model at a wearied pace. The fatigued fingers that caressed the young piece of artistry now were very much different from the swift ones that had created the model. They began to amble across the surface drowsily like exhausted children who sickly followed their parents in botanical museums. The fingers would languish drearily on the floral presentations held within the paper exhibit, inquiring of each other if the petals appeared to hold up to formulaic examination or if the architecture of the creases was properly measured out according to the interior designer's plans. They made several more stops across the tiny exhibit, pausing to comment on the dimensions, before deciding it would be proper to go home now and take another rest before the next showing.
The teacher blinked twice as he raised his head to look at the young boy standing before him. The assessment's result was the same as it always had been for the last three years. He gave a small, familiar sigh that the student knew well and tossed the paper model into a nearby homemade trash bin. A soft click was heard when it hit the bottom of the wooden cylinder. The old man lifted his weary eyes with a little effort and looked into the child's eyes.
"Perfect, as always."
The student said nothing as he stepped back and bowed to his teacher. He heard the fluttering of papers in the classroom dropping to a muffled whisper and saw the newcomers in the back nudging their neighbors as they risked the sting of the punishing metal cane. Those who had been in the classroom long enough didn't bother to lift their eyes to stare at the dry spectacle. The result was as it had always been for as long as all of them could remember, except for that one afternoon three years ago.
He began walking back to his desk to collect his bag and books. The first book had to be placed snugly against the back of the bag's interior, or else the next two would not be able to fit in the remaining pocket spaces. A pencil case would be placed on top of the three books to conserve space, and the two metal zippers on either side of the bag would have to be gently pulled upwards in order to properly encapsulate his belongings. He never skipped a step.
The small boy shouldered his bag and began to walk towards the door. The rustling of papers had started up again by now. Another small, expected cry of pain whipped out from the center of the room, accompanied with the regular crack of the metal cane. Automatically, his fingers reached into the pockets of his pants and pulled out a small, fresh piece of paper.