Chapter 1: Mr. Grumpy
A hiss came flying my way, and I turned my head in the direction it came from. Ashley was looking impatiently at me, nodding her head at the sleeping boy seated in the table adjacent to mine and in front of hers. "Come on, Chelsea. Wake him up. Mr. Jameson looks ready to kill."
I fought the urge to groan and throw my hands up. Why did I always have to be the one to wake up Mr. Grumpy in class? Then again, the fact that I was his desk partner probably had something to do with it. I hated this pairing system in the classrooms.
"But he's going to give me that terrifying death glare." I tried to wiggle my way out of it, giving my best friend my best pleading puppy-dog look. Unsurprisingly, she wasn't falling for it.
"Just do it! He's right next to you," she said, gesturing at him wildly and pointing to the front of the classroom as inconspicuously as she can. "And just look at Mr. Jameson! He looks like he's going to pick up that horrific tome to throw it at him again. I don't know about you, but I'm sitting right behind him, so I definitely don't feel like getting hit."
"You talk like I want to be clobbered with one of his dumbbell worthy books," I said, annoyed.
I gave our fuming teacher a hesitant glance and wondered just how it was possible for him to look so unbelievably hot even when he was hopping mad. And then I shook those thoughts away; this was not the time to daydream about my attractive English teacher. Reluctantly, I lifted my left hand and shook the sleeping guy's arm.
His head was lying face-down on table, with his face buried in his crossed arms, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at the way some of the girls audibly sighed when he stirs a little. Give me a break! None of you would be drooling over him this much if you had to wake him every time!
"Hey," I said tentatively, "wake up. Mr. Jameson's going to throw stuff at you if you don't."
This guy was the legendary antisocial jerk in school. His name was Nolan—or at least, I thought so—and he despised social interaction. Gym was a class you'd never catch him in, and that was pretty much all I knew about him. Classmates who tried to wave at him barely got a passing glance out of him. A lot of people around school didn't like him because they thought he was arrogant—but, frankly, I hardly thought anyone who went around in (admittedly high-quality) denim jeans and black zip hoodies over black T-shirts could afford to be that judgmental. To me, he was just an oddball.
An oddball I really wished wasn't in so many of my classes.
The weirdest part was sometimes overhearing girls gossip about how attractive he kind of was. Nolan was pale and skinny, and there was no visible arm muscle definition to speak of considering he never showed up for gym and he was always covered up otherwise. The only possible attractive characteristic was his height; he was tall, I'd give him that. Stick one of those swooning girls in my seat for a day and treat them to one of his death glares and all the attraction would die off in an instant.
A low growl exited his mouth as I shook him for the fifth time. Startled, I jumped back in my seat.
Whipping around, I threw Ashley a desperate look. "Help me out here!"
She opened her mouth, but before she could get anything out, Mr. Jameson's smooth but deeply aggravated voice travelled across the classroom. "Nolan...you're always, always..."
He trailed off then, and I turned around, almost shaking in fear. Our handsome teacher had lifted a bulky-looking book with an orange hardcover jacket and was looking extremely pissed off. This scene had happened far too many times for me not to know what was coming next.
"...sleeping!" he yelled, hurling the book in our direction.
Several of my classmates started yelling at me, most of the yelling being "Dodge, Chelsea!"
Squealing, I leapt out of my chair into Ashley's waiting open arms. Just how many times does this have to happen in a week? This guy is always asleep, in every class.
There's a heavy thwack as the book hits him smack in the head, and bounces off it to land on the floor, sliding to a stop just a little distance away from the table. Mr. Jameson's deep-blue eyes blazed with fury, narrowed with focus on the still-sleeping Nolan. A couple of girls stared dreamily at Mr. Jameson, and I would've gladly joined them if I wasn't still leaning into Ashley.
"Chels—get off of me," she said, nudging me in my side. Her attention was already on the scene that was unfolding before us.
Complying, I plopped myself down on the floor right next to her seat—I was definitely not stupid enough to seek death by returning to my own table. Thankful that our classroom floors were pretty much always clean due to regular maintenance, I settled down comfortably to watch what was going on.
Nolan stirred a little, and several classmates stiffened in their seats; he really was legendary in school for a reason. He freaked me out, especially when he spoke in that scarily low, husky voice of his. Slowly, he lifted his head off the table.
He raised a hand to rub the back of his head. Most of the girls, including Ashley and I, and some of the boys, cringed when he finally spoke.
"Who the hell," he began in a soft and dangerous tone, "hit my head?"
Mr. Jameson, standing tall and towering over Nolan's sitting figure, folded his arms and replied in an equally furious voice, "I did."
Nolan's eyes flared open. His irises were this bright piercing green, and it was always unnerving whenever his eyes were trained on you; it was like he could see through you. Not that he looked people in the eye that often. It just so happened that I was occasionally the unfortunate recipient of the Nolan Scary Eye Contact because I ended up having to wake him every so often in English class. He gave Mr. Jameson the stink-eye but said nothing.
"Nolan, you need to stop sleeping in class. It distracts the people around you, and you're not learning anything from sleeping through classes," said Mr. Jameson, beginning to launch into the same speech he gave Nolan almost every day.
"That is so not true," Melissa, one of my good friends, whispered.
Ashley and I nodded in agreement, but none of us bothered to speak up to refute Mr. Jameson's point. Nolan didn't distract anybody by sleeping in class. It was now considered a norm for him to nap in class, so we all just ignored him. Besides, despite never paying attention in class, he still managed to land himself a spot among the top five scorers in every single one of his classes. Pretty amazing, really, and most of us suspected that he secretly spent all day studying after classes. There was no other way to explain his fantastic grades.
Still, none of us were death-seeking enough to risk Mr. Jameson's wrath. The rest of the class stayed silent and stared at the wall clock in boredom, watching the secondhand tick away the seconds, as he lectured and nagged and reprimanded Nolan for the next five minutes. When he was finally done, he sent Nolan off to the principal's office—like he usually did. In a way, his persistence was kind of impressive and his unrelenting attitude made me admire him even more.
All the other teachers had given up and just let him sleep in class, because it didn't seem to matter how frequently they lectured him or sent him down to the office. He'd probably never received any punishment for his behavior; or at least, if he did, none of it mattered to him since he just continued sleeping in class anyway. Maybe it was because this was a private boarding school, and the principal didn't really care about much except for collecting astounding sums of money from the parents.
At the table to Chelsea's right, our friend Derek muttered, "What's the point of lecturing him so much? Not even Mr. McMillan would bother. He's just wasting his time."
"It's really admirable of him to keep trying!" whispered Ashley heatedly, turning to him with an indignant expression. "You don't see many teachers like that anymore."
"Exactly. You just don't understand a good teacher's pain," says Melissa haughtily, turning her nose up in the air. "Their hard work always goes unappreciated!"
I stifled a grin. Melissa would want to slap me if she caught me.
Derek looked positively incredulous. Straightening up in his seat, he snapped at her, "Like you understand. If I recall correctly, you were just saying yesterday how you couldn't understand why Mrs. Henderson made you stay back after class because you were too lazy to finish your assignment."
Melissa glowered at him. Even Ashley had to turn her head to the side to repress a laugh I knew was about to escape from her.
I couldn't blame Derek for his statement, however annoying he could get sometimes. For many years now, Melissa had been putting her disdain for the teaching profession on full display for all to see. She was the kind of student that would make a teacher would groan upon realizing she was in his class that year. She frequently 'forgot' to bring her assignments to class, left classes mid-lesson due to 'excruciating stomachaches', and got caught passing notes in class to her desk neighbors.
While she might not really have 'understood a good teacher's pain', that wasn't to say I didn't understand where she was coming from, because I totally did: Mr. Jameson was the most pleasant eye candy to have ever stepped foot into this school.
"Well, Chelsea, what are you waiting for?" snapped Mr. Jameson irately, treating me to one of his famous glares. Although Mr. Jameson was more well-known for his glares than his smiles, he still looked good while glaring. "Get back to your seat."
"Of course, Mr. Jameson." I picked myself up from the ground and quickly took my seat.
He gave the room a sweeping glance, as if to make sure everybody was at their respective desks, and then turned his back on us to resume writing on the whiteboard.
I let out a huge, satisfied sigh as I leaned back in my chair.
Ashley glanced at my empty lunch tray, looking mildly impressed. "I think you broke your eating record today, Chels."
I shrug. "What can I say? I was already starving when third period started."
"You're always starving," Derek said, snickering. "It'd only be newsworthy if you weren't hungry."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "Hey, I had to wake Nolan up today. I think the suffering I underwent this morning is more than enough to justify my appetite."
"I don't know, how does that even justify anything?" he said, offering me his fries. "If anything, shouldn't it scare your appetite away?"
"Enough nitpicking," I said, taking three fries at once. "I don't want to think about him outside of English, alright?"
He smirked at me, amusement dancing in his dark-brown eyes. I rolled my eyes at him.
"Speaking of Nolan—Mr. Jameson was so hot today," Melissa said, dropping her burger back onto her tray and heaving a great sigh.
"Did - did you just drop your food for maximum dramatic effect?" Derek said, his dark eyebrows drawing together in disbelief.
She ignored him. "Did you see the way he slicked his hair back? I almost melted when he walked into the classroom!"
"Are you kidding?" I said enthusiastically, almost knocking over my drink when I waved my hand dramatically. "Mr. Jameson isn't hot today—he's sweltering. It's like he was the sun and I was the ice-cream that little child got from the ice-cream truck."
"Er, guys," Ashley said as her light-brown eyes widened, hushing us as she glanced up over our heads. "You might want to keep it down."
Melissa and I turned just in time to see Mr. Jameson walking past our table. Heat rose in my cheeks and the flush on Melissa's face probably reflected mine right now. Derek snickered.
"Crap," I whispered, although he was already long past by now. "You don't think he heard us, do you?"
"We can only hope he didn't," Ashley said, shrugging, although she did look rather embarrassed for us.
"I hope he did," Derek declared.
"What?" he said defensively. "It'd be funny, admit it!"
"No, it wouldn't!" Melissa said, looking like she was about to smash her blueberry pie into his face. "I'd never live it down!"
We both glared at him.
"You'd better watch out, Derek," I said, wagging a threatening finger at him. "One day we'll find your weak spot and you'll be dying to try to live it down for the rest of your life."
"Please," he said, finishing his turkey sandwich. "You two embarrass yourselves far more times in a day than I have myself in the past year."
Wordlessly, Melissa uncapped his bottle of apple juice and guzzled down the rest of it in one go.
Derek made a sound of outrage. With a smug look in her hazel eyes, Melissa wordlessly brandished the now empty bottle in his face.
Ashley rolled her eyes and whispered to me, "I expect you to pay up any time now."
We had an ongoing bet on when Melissa and Derek would finally get together—their squabbling bordered on flirting one hundred percent of the time and it drove us, the people around them, nuts that they were acting so oblivious about it. I was convinced Melissa would act unaware of the totally obvious chemistry between them right up until graduation day, so if they got together before then Ashley would get the ten dollars.
"You've been saying that for the last couple of weeks, and nothing has changed," I whispered back.
"What are you two mumbling about?" Derek asked, looking suspiciously at us.
"Nothing," I said quickly and switched my tone to a whining one. "I just wish Nolan would stop sleeping in class and Ashley would stop making me wake him up."
She shook her head. "It's hard for me to wake him up without leaving my chair. All you have to do is reach over and shake his arm!"
"Yeah, but he's scary! And you could wake him up—just kick his chair!"
"That's a lot ruder and more startling than just shaking him," she points out.
"Excuses, excuses!" I jab an accusing finger in her direction. "You're just too terrified to wake yourself—admit it!"
"Come on, Chels," Melissa said, laughing. "Everyone is too terrified to wake him."
"Yeah, we really appreciate your service, you know," Ashley said, depositing a pile of fries onto my tray. "Here, have some more fries."
"I don't want any more fries," I said, frowning. "If you're just going to brush me off with food, you could at least offer me your garlic bread."
"How are you not stuffed?" Melissa handed me her garlic bread.
"I have a blackhole for a stomach, remember?" I responded. "Hopefully, I'll fall into a food coma and nap through every single class after this. I can't wait for today to be over."
Ashley raised her eyebrows. "So … you want to be sent to the principal's office for the rest of the day today?"
"Hey, that just means I'll be able to keep Melissa company," I joked, grinning at Melissa. "I'm sure it gets lonely in that large freezing office with just you and Principal Hayes."
She made a half-hearted attempt at snatching her garlic bread back.
"It's too early for gym," Ashley groaned, wiping the yawn-tears from her eyes for the fifth time in the last ten minutes. "Why couldn't we have it in the afternoon?"
"Tell that to Melissa," I said, pointing to her faraway figure on the running track. "She's already doing pre-class warmups."
Gym was pretty much the only class Melissa never had trouble with. Her track times were the fastest among all the girls in our grade, and she was always eager to do whatever activity our teacher had planned. Incidentally, her favorite teacher (apart from Mr. Jameson) was Mr. Robinson, our gym teacher.
Ashley sighed, looking a little envious. "All that napping she does in class is to conserve energy for gym class, didn't you know? I wish I liked physical exercise as much."
"Same," I said, finishing up tying my shoelaces.
A loud whistle pierced through the air.
Mr. Robinson lowered his whistle and called, "Alright, everyone! Before we start, let me do a quick head count. Gather around here, please, and stop moving around!"
Melissa practically sprinted over, and I couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm.
Once Mr. Robinson finished, a frown settled upon his face. "We're one short today."
"We're always one short in gym," I whispered to Ashley. "I don't understand why he has to do this every single class; he should know already who's skipping."
"It's Nolan, Mr. Robinson," Claire, one of our classmates, said, looking like she was completely over this topic. "He's probably skipping gym again today."
"Like he always does," I heard someone else mutter.
"Well, that's just not right," Mr. Robinson said, shaking his head. "Could someone go and fetch him please?"
I stared in disbelief—and I wasn't the only one among our classmates. He had to be kidding us. He always tried to get one of us to go find him and bring him to class, but usually nobody knew where he went after the previous period ended. The searches always ended in failure, and only amounted to a giant waste of time.
"I don't think any of us knows where he is—" Claire tried, only to be cut off by another classmate.
"I saw him heading in the direction of the darkroom just now," Jordan said, oblivious to the sharp glares of everyone around him.
"Great!" Mr. Robinson looked relieved. "Please go and get him for me."
Alarm crossed his face, as if he had just realized what he had done. "Oh no, I couldn't—maybe you should get someone else—"
You dug your own grave, mister!
"Well, could anyone who's close to him please go?" Mr. Robinson said, checking his watch. "I really want to get started as soon as possible."
"Nobody's close to him," Melissa whispered to me, looking appalled by Mr. Robinson's assumption.
"Say, Chelsea, why don't you go?" another one of our classmates, Sheila, spoke up. "You're the one who always wakes him up in class, after all."
"Excuse me?" I barely squeaked out the words in my horror.
What did I have anything to do with this?
"Yeah, I'm sure you're used to it!" Cheryl, another classmate, said in a chirpy voice, as if by saying it in a positive tone I would be more inclined to the idea. "And I'm sure he would appreciate it much more if you went instead of any of us since he's more used to you."
Suddenly, I was surrounded with a whole class of students looking at me with a hopeful expression on their faces.
"Hey, please, Chelsea suffers enough having to wake him up almost every day," Ashley said, annoyed.
I was moved I almost cried. "Ashley, you understand me!"
"Why don't you go, Sheila? If you're so inclined on volunteering on someone else, maybe you should start with volunteering yourself first," Derek said, looking unimpressed.
Sheila looked like she regretted ever opening her mouth.
"Well, it would make more sense if you went, Chelsea," Claire said, shrugging. "You're kind of … known in school for being the one who always wakes him up, you know?"
"What? What is that?" I yelped. "I don't want to be known for something like that!"
"Okay, enough with the chitchat," Mr. Robinson said, stepping in and cutting off whatever else Claire was about to say. "Chelsea, it seems you're quite acquainted with Nolan. Do go get him, please. I don't want to waste any more of the class time than we already have."
I wanted to tell him that if he didn't want to waste any time, he shouldn't waste even a single second sending me to bring Nolan here. Of the few things I knew about Nolan, I was certain about this: he was not going to come to gym class unless I could somehow physically drag him here.
Instead, I suppressed a sigh and nodded at him. "Yes, Mr. Robinson."
As I left, I gave Jordon the hardest glare I could, even though my eyes felt like they were about to pop out of their sockets. To his credit, he couldn't even look me in the eye and had to stare at the ground.
The only comfort I had from having to run this beyond useless errand was the fact that while my classmates were running laps around the track, I got to slowly stroll to the school's darkroom. What was he even doing in the darkroom, anyway? I didn't even think he was into photography. Actually, he gave all of us the impression that he wasn't into anything, except for maybe sleeping.
It was still ten in the morning, so, as expected, there wasn't anyone in the darkroom when I cautiously entered. At least, I didn't think there was anyone—nobody responded when I opened the door and called out "Hello?"
The surroundings were pitch-black, and I regretted shutting the door the moment it closed.
"Nolan?" I said and instantly cringed at how loud my voice sounded in the silence of the room. "Are you in here? Hello? Is anyone in here?"
There was no response.
I'd never actually been inside the darkroom before; I wasn't interested in photography, so I had no idea what was actually done here to develop photos. All I knew was that usually when people hadn't started the process of making prints, the room didn't actually have to have all the lights off.
It was probably safe to turn on the lights … if I actually knew where the switch was. I sighed and reached for my phone in my back pocket of my sweatpants.
"It's okay," I said to myself, trying to sound at least semi-comforting, "I can just turn on my flashlight, look around, and then leave and tell Mr. Robinson I didn't find him."
After turning on my phone's flashlight function, I started to make my way around the tables. I casually swung the light around as I walked to the opposite end of the darkroom. It was at the last sweep of my light across the room when I saw Nolan leaned against one of the table legs while sitting on the floor, knees hugged to his chest and eyes closed. He was clearly in deep sleep.
I was not happy that Jordan was right about where he last saw Nolan. Great, now I had to wake him up before English class even started today.
Keeping my flashlight trained on him, although I was considerate enough not to focus it on his face, I gingerly approached him. Instinctively, I came to a stop just a couple feet away from him. I wasn't going to shake him unless I absolutely had to.
Clearing my throat, I said, in what I considered a sufficiently loud voice, "Hey, Nolan. Please wake up."
He didn't stir even a little.
I sighed. Reluctantly, I squatted down so I was somewhat at his eye level. "Nolan, wake up. Mr. Robinson sent me to bring you back to class."
There was no response.
I stared hard at him. Was I really going to have to resort to physical shaking before he would even react?
"Look, I would prefer it if you could wake up right now, tell me what a pest I'm being and tell me that you would never come to gym class so I could return to Mr. Robinson having put my conscience at ease," I said, knowing that I was probably the only one listening to my little rant. "As it stands, you leave me no choice."
I reached out and shook his arm hard. "Nolan! Wake up!"
He mumbled something and turned his head away. My grip on my phone slipped and I fumbled for it. Thankfully, I managed to grab it before it could fall to the ground. As I adjusted my grip on it, the light angled just right on his face.
"Oops," I muttered, but his eyelids began to twitch so maybe that wasn't the worst move in the world.
He was finally waking up! Relief washed over me; this meant that I could leave soon, right?
The second his eyes opened, he yelled and jerked away, rolling away from the field of light as if I were incinerating him with a flamethrower. "Turn it off!"
"Sorry," I said hurriedly, turning my phone to the side so that the light wouldn't touch him.
Okay, so a bright light shining into your eyes probably wasn't the nicest thing to wake up to. Now that the light was focused in another direction, I couldn't see the expression on his face; but he seemed like he was facing me.
"What are you doing?" he said flatly, a touch of anger to his voice.
"I … Mr. Robinson told me to bring you to gym class," I said. "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shine the light on you, but I still have to ask you to come to class—"
"Turn it off," he said again, sounding agitated.
I did a doubletake. "What—you mean, the light? I can't—if I do that, I won't be able to see anything—and you won't be able to see, either!"
There was a long pause as we stared at each other.
"Fine." He sounded like he was saying it through gritted teeth. "But don't you shine that on me again, or I'll turn it off for you."
Of course I wasn't going to shine it in his face again; did he think I was some kind of monster?
"That was an accident. My hand slipped," I said, annoyed, slowly standing up. "I won't do it again, I promise."
"You'd better not." He made no move to get up.
I couldn't believe he wasn't telling me that he wasn't coming with me, instead of wasting his time arguing with me about the light.
"Aren't you coming with me?" I asked.
"With you?" He sounded baffled. "Where?"
I gaped at him. "What do you mean, where? I just told you, Mr. Robinson told me to come and get you for gym class! You can't keep skipping it forever."
"Oh." Did his brain register nothing I said earlier?
"Where's gym held today?" was the reply he gave that I wasn't expecting.
"Uh, at the track."
"The outdoor track?"
How many other tracks did we have? "Yeah."
"I'm not coming. Leave," he said.
Now that was the response I was waiting for! I was free! I almost clapped my hands in joy before remembering that I was still holding onto my phone.
I practically skipped to the door, already thinking about how I was going to ham it up to Mr. Robinson about how I tried and failed to bring the problem student back.
And hopefully, he'd finally wise up and never do this to me again. The last thing I wanted to do was to have another conversation like this with Nolan.
AN: If you liked it, please drop me a review!