Picking the Wallflower

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Chapter 5

A cool hand on my face. Murmurs in the background. My hand twitched, and I felt the scratchy sheets. I knew where I was; hard not to, frankly, when you know you’ve just had a panic attack. I opened my eyes and took in my surroundings. White walls, white ceiling, and somebody at my side. I turned my head, and nodded at the nurse. I had been in this situation before.

She helped me up, and checked me over. “Miss Partridge says she was pairing you in groups, and you just stood up, and then collapsed. It reads like a standard panic attack.”

I shrugged. “It’s group work. Most of the teachers know.”

It was true. Many of the teachers knew that group work was not my strong point, and so normally broke the news gently. But Miss Partridge was a new teacher, and so was still learning her students. She had picked up very quickly that I wasn’t particularly popular, but still insisted on call on me to answer questions. Something about trying to be interactive. I didn’t care.

Right now, the nurse put her stethoscope down. “You’re fine, Cass. Just remember, deep breaths.”

I nodded. I liked the kindly old lady. She was nice to me. “Thanks.”

I headed for the door, and pulled it open. The hallway outside was empty. I was unsurprised. I hadn’t exactly been expecting anybody to wait for me once I was taken to the nurse. No doubt there might have even been an argument as to who would take me. I headed back down the hallway to my English class. I should make it in time to outline ideas. My stomach turned at the thought of working with MJ.

I pushed the door open, and smiled politely at Miss Partridge. “The nurse let me go.”

Miss Partridge stood up, motioning for me to enter. In the time I had been gone, she had rearranged the room to accommodate the groups. MJ sat in the back corner, in the empty space that was usually next to my desk. I stopped next to Miss Partridge’s desk, and she handed me a worksheet. “This is part of your homework, Cassandra. I need it done by tomorrow.”

All eyes were on me, and so I nodded. I made my way back to my seat, and gently pulled the chair out. Fortunately, I looked at the seat before I sat. An old habit I had developed in middle school, when one of my classmates had poured a whole bottle of paste into my chair, ruining my new skirt. On my chair was a suspicious looking puddle. I glanced at MJ, who pretended innocence.

I picked up my bag, and dug around inside it for a second. Pulling out the small washcloth I kept for emergencies – one never knew when you would end up wearing your lunch – I wiped off the substance. Placing the cloth back in its carrier, I sat down. MJ looked thoroughly disappointed.

I turned to him. “Have you started?”

He blinked. “What?”

“Have you started? The assignment.”

I bit my tongue, not wanting to add a scathing comment. MJ rolled his eyes. “I just figured you would do it, and I’d get the marks.”

My heart sank. So many people had done exactly that to me. Well, I’d better get good marks for myself. It was no use relying on the lump of idiot seated next to me. While it might have seemed like I was being harsh, I wasn’t. Not really. MJ was only marginally more intelligent than bread mold, and that was being kind to the bread mold. I glanced at the pairings, and realised what Miss Partridge had done.

She had taken the top half of her class, and paired them with the bottom half. Since I was the top student, I was paired with a ‘dumber than bread mold’ football player, as opposed to anybody who could hold a genuine conversation. It grated my nerves, especially when MJ decided he would do what he could to distract me. As at it was, I was having trouble with somebody in my space for that long.

When the bell rang, I dumped everything into my laptop bag and stood up. MJ followed, towering over my petite five ft two. Yeah, I wasn’t a tall person, and he had at least fourteen inches on me. I tried to push past him, but he hadn’t moved. I stepped back, and waited patiently. After another minute, he stepped out into the aisle.

I quickly passed him and hurried out into the emptying hallway.

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