I enter my AP English classroom slightly after the students the next day to hear an argument escalating. Normally these smart kids just sit down and get on with their work with or without me, unless it’s the beginning of a new topic, so I don’t worry about rushing to class on a Tuesday, especially as it’s right after lunch and who doesn’t want a sneaky few more minutes on their break, right?
“It’s supposed to be an essay about your favorite poet, and a detailed dissection of your favorite work by them, not an excuse to play your shitty music obnoxiously loud, you dumb emo!” Gavin is stood nearly toe to toe with Layne, his face beet red as he glares at brunette boy, his finger pressed into Layne’s chest. Layne easily has three inches on Gavin, his face is twisted in anger too. The other students are sitting quietly at their desks, all eyes trained on the two boys.
“Songwriters are poets. Just because your stupid fucking....” Layne starts to spit back at him.
“Whoa boys! No swearing in my classroom thank you very much.” I quickly walk over to them and gently push them away from each other, a hand on each of their chests. I quickly drop the one from Gavin’s but linger my touch on Layne’s. “Now what’s this all about?”
Gavin huffs and grabs the A4 pad which is dangling in Layne’s hands.
“The new kid thinks he can write about some shi...ah, r-rubbish rock star instead of an actual poet.” He hands me the pad triumphantly, and Layne slumps down in his chair, pushing his hair back with both hands, keeping his eyes firmly cast down, with a scowl, onto the desk in front of him. I look down at the pad and see that he’s started writing about Layne Staley from Alice In Chains. I try to stifle a smile.
“Ok Gavin. Thank you for your concern in trying to help Layne with his assignment, but I think I will deal with this going forward.” I put the pad back down in front of Layne and tap my red fingernail on it. “Mr Stanley would you please see me after class.”
“Mrs Maddox....” Layne puts his hands on my desk and leans forward, slight whine to his voice. I shake my head.
“Now hush, and sit down.” He closes his mouth and perches on the edge of one of desks on the front row. “You have already done this assignment at your old school, right?” The side of his mouth quirks up slightly, and he nods once. “I agree that songwriters are a valid subject to tackle as modern poets, especially if you’ve already done it on a more established poet. And you chose a good one, Layne Staley? Namesake?”
“Yeah, my dad had a weird sense of humor, but good taste in music.” He chews the inside of his mouth to stop from smiling. “So I can carry on with my essay?”
“Yes. Although I’d be interested in reading your first essay. And as long as you stop taunting the other students with your Spotify playlist.” I smile. “The other AP students aren’t as....cultured as you.” He laughs loudly, showcasing his wide mouth and perfectly white teeth.
“Damn straight. I think you and Miss Green are the only two people in this school with decent taste in music.” I blanch at his words.
“Why...why do you say that?” I feel my cheeks start to warm under his gaze.
“I did see you both at the club on Saturday, right?” He pushes off the desk and walks round to stand in front of me. “You were wearing a tight, black dress....” He leans closer, and I feel his warm breath on my cheek. “And really fucking sexy boots. They would have looked so good hiked up over my shoulder...” Cheeks now blazing, and a pulsing starting in my panties, I abruptly stand up, making him take a step back.
“I really don’t think that is appropriate conversation to be having with your teacher.” I push past him, turning when I get to the door. “And I told you no swearing in my classroom.”
“Oh my days! I think these kids are actually gonna fucking kill me.” Janey throws down another pop quiz answer sheet covered in her red writing, and runs her hands through her blonde tresses. “It’s like they don’t listen on purpose. One person, one! In my whole senior AP Chem class has scored over 80% and he’s only been in class for two fucking weeks.”
I laugh and walk across the staff room to the coffee machine. While it’s brewing I look out the window. The trees out the front of the school are starting to loose their red and orange leaves, the sky already starting to go dim even though it’s only four o’clock. Sitting on one of the picnic benches on the front lawn is a lone figure, his back pack on the seat where his feet are resting. Even from this distance I can tell it’s Layne, his Nine Inch Nails hoodie giving him away.
“Does he have any friends here yet?” I motion towards him with my head as Janey shuffles up behind me. She leans forward squinting a little to see who it is, then rests her chin on my shoulder.
“Layne Stanley? Not that I’ve seen. He sits on his own in my class, does all the practical's on his own, but he’s the only student that did well in that test.” A black van pulls up blasting heavy metal music so loud that we can hear it even from this distance, and the door slides open with a plume of smoke. Layne throws his bag in to the darkness shaking his head and climbs in behind it. “I’ve not seen him with anyone in the halls though either, but I guess there’s not many kids here that he would have much in common with.”
“Yeah, he said you and me were the only people in this school with decent musical taste!”
“He saw us at the club?” I smile and nod my head. “That’s hilarious.” She laughs, walking back to her pile of marking. I hadn’t told her about seeing him in the ladies room. I stay by the window, watching the van squeal out of the parking lot.
So he hasn’t made any friends here yet, he seems to have friends out of school.
My question to myself is, why do I care?
Thursday brings me my creative writing class. I love my creative writing students. This senior year I have eight students, six girls and two boys. I take the class in the library, and the students can choose to lounge on the beanbags we have in there or sit on the armchairs. It is a relaxed class, I encourage them to talk freely in this class so quite often the subject matter deviates from creative writing.
Today they had ended up discussing who played the better Batman. I had already been out voted with my apparently outdated view on Michael Keaton and Tim Burton. While the kids had been arguing I had noticed a lone brown haired boy sitting with his back up against a book shelf in the aisle next to us, apparently engrossed in a copy of Peter Pan, but I’d heard him scoff a couple times during their conversation. I smile to myself and walk over to him.
I lower myself down to sit down on the floor next to him, and he turns his head slightly and the side of his mouth quirks up at me.
“Hey. Free period Layne?” I ask.
“Mmhmm.” He nods. I stretch my legs out in front of me crossing them at the the ankle, my grey pencil skirt riding up a little as it catches on the rough carpet, exposing more of my teal colored tights. My little black heels look even smaller than normal as they sit next to Layne’s battered combat boots. “I agree by the way.”
“Agree to what?”
“Tim Burton’s Batman films are by far the best. Michael Keaton is fucking awesome.”
“I knew you listening!” I giggle and bump him with my shoulder. “And what did I say about using that kind of language?”
He closes the book and pushes his hair back out of his eyes, before licking his lips and leaning in closer to me. “I think you fucking love it, Miss.” He whispers, voice husky, his breath fans over me smelling like a mix of Big Red gum and cigarettes. An involuntary shiver runs down my spine, and he grins widely.
“That’s enough of that, young man.” I say back lowly, feeling a blush redden my cheeks, and gently push him away from me. “So you enjoying the book?” I nod to the book now lying on top of his faded black skinny jeans.
“Uh...yeah. It’s actually my favorite book.” He blushes slightly, shaking his head a little causing his hair to fall back down, grazing his well defined cheek bones.
“Really? Big bad metal head likes Peter Pan?” I laugh a little as he blushes harder.
“I always wanted to be rescued by Peter and get whisked away to Neverland when I was a kid.” He shrugs, playing with the edges of the pages.
“That’s kinda sad, sweetie.” I frown. “Why would you want to be rescued from your childhood?”
Layne abruptly stands up, shoving the book back onto the shelf, his green eyes flashing with emotion.
“It doesn’t matter.” He mutters as he turns on his heel and stalks out of the library.
I sit for a moment frowning after him until one of my students, Tom, pops his head round the shelves. “Hey Mrs Maddox? Nicola and Henry are getting close to blows over George Clooney....again!”