“Alright, class,” Mrs. Penley called out with a stack of papers in her hands. “In addition to the packet I am handing out, Trevor is giving you a template of a compass. Please write your name at the top, but leave the areas surrounding North, East, South, and West blank.”
We all took papers, stuffing the list from Mrs. Penley to the side and following the directions regarding the compass. Starting class with an activity relieved me. The tormenting pressure of the stare I could feel boring into the back of my head was distracting, to say the least.
“Ok.” Mrs. Penley clapped her hands together. “The packets I gave you are lists of films where important monologues occurred. As we’ve already started discussing monologues and their importance in Film and Literature, I would like you to start looking up a few of these on the Internet for research. We’ll discuss, during tomorrow’s class, your first project for presenting a monologue to the class.”
Solo presentation. Ugh! Acting out a monologue. Double ugh!
“Also,” Mrs. Penley continued, “for various discussions this year, you’ll be asked to pair up with a different person in class. You’ll know who to pair up with based on this compass. You’ll have five minutes to circulate the classroom finding partners for your North, South, East, and West. Whoever you pick to fill in on your North, for example, they will also put you as their North, and so on. Kind of elementary, I know, but it’ll help mix things up.”
Group work was fine occasionally, but I preferred to work on my own. My nose scrunched up at the thought of hearing “Buddy up!” constantly this year. Dreadful words.
“Go!” the teacher shouted. The screech of chairs scraping across the floor filled the room. Grabbing my paper and pencil, I started looking for someone not already paired up. As I looked around, others were jotting each other’s names down, while I hadn’t even started.
Ben grinned and nodded at me, so I filed over to him where we exchanged names on East. Catching sight of others’ papers and their blanks, I was able to secure West and South from two girls.
I need a North. I mentally sang to myself as I looked around for another partner. Almost everyone scampered to their seats as the five minutes came to a close. I glanced to Jared, who I don’t think even got out of his seat. Everyone probably rushed over to him.
This was the part of school I hated. The sinking feeling in my stomach reminded me of all the awkward times, before France, that I’d felt left out. Grade school was easy. I had friends and never had to feel lonely in these situations. High school had made me less confident and more introverted.
I was still down one partner and would be left odd man out again. Weary of this feeling after being accepted in France for a year, I grabbed the bull by the horns.
“Mrs. Penley, I’m missing a North. Is it alright if I make a threesome with two others?”
Snorts sounded around the room, while some whispered under their breath. I knew I’d walked into that one.
“Hey, Tate. I’ll do a threesome with you. My compass always points North.” Nate Dietrich fist-bumped his buddy as others laughed again.
Surprising myself, I threw back, “Thanks, but I think your right hand will get jealous.” The class erupted in Whoa’s and Burn!
It was that easy. Due to the use of a couple of immature quips today, I was able to regain a little respect from my classmates. Who knew? Pride hit me, and I had to bite back a smile.
“Does anyone need a North?” Mrs. Penley interrupted the barbs before Nate could shoot back with something else.
Everyone else was seated, meaning they had all of their partners. I kept my attention on Mrs. Penley, waiting for her to just tell me to find a threesome.
“She can be my North.” Jared’s formidable voice hit me from behind, sending shivers down my spine.
The teacher looked expectantly to me. This couldn’t be happening. Why hadn’t he gotten off his ass and found a North like everyone else?
“Well, Tate. Go ahead then,” Mrs. Penley urged me.
Spinning around, I practically huffed back to my seat without sparing a glanced at my North, and carved “Jared” on my paper…and I think accidentally on my desk, too.
“So when do you come home exactly?” My Calculus homework was done, and my Government book was cradled in my lap as I video chatted with Dad.
“I’ll be home by the twenty-second for sure.”
Still more than three months away. My dad’s arrival back home would be welcome. My days felt lonely without him to share things with, and after my mom passed away from cancer eight years ago, our home was even emptier without him around. K.C. and I had spent time together, but she had a boyfriend. I was slowly making more friends at school, despite Jared’s latest blow to my reputation, but I’d decided to stay in this weekend and focus on planning for the Science Fair. I’d yet to decide on my research topic.
“Well, I can’t wait. We need a decent cook around here,” I chirped, holding my steaming cup of tomato soup. As light as my supper was, the cascading warmth soothed my body. My limbs were still adjusting to the cross-country practices.
“That’s not your supper, is it?”
“Yeah.” I drew out like “duh.”
“And where are the vegetables, the grains, and the dairy?”
Oh, here we go. “The tomatoes in the soup are the vegetable, there’s milk in the soup too, and I’ll make a grilled cheese to go with it if that’ll make you happy.” My playful air told my dad “see, I’m smarter than I look.”