Lessons Lost in Dust
Lessons Lost in Dust--"Pay attention, Katniss, or you might miss something important."
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Katniss's fingers rapped the desk unconsciously as she fidgeted in her chair. She wasn't sure what she hated more, sitting still for countless hours or the stupid lessons she was supposed to be learning. She stared out the window, focusing on the sunlight as she shifted through the trees and the bit of paper dancing in the wind across the dry and dusty courtyard. A few older students were out eating lunch while some of the younger ones played ball on their break. Katniss exhaled audible, desperate to be outside, and this feeling was only heightened when her best friend Gale walked by.
He came out smiling as he tossed the wayward ball to one of the younger children. Katniss couldn't hear what he was saying, but she imagined it friendly, cheerful. Gale somehow always managed that. He took a set at one of the tables and pulled out his lunch. Two of his classmates, or friends, rather, Katniss considered, they were probably his friends, approached him. Gale had lots of friends at school. Everyone liked him, especially the girls, she thought as one walked up to her. Her name was Wren, Katniss thought, and she was Gale's age. She approached the table smiling, and of course Gale smiled back, as the girl flipped her hair and said something sweet and stupid. At least, that's what Katniss thought she said, but Gale was laughing too, and Katniss found herself wishing it was at her and not with her. But she really didn't know. Gale never talked to her about girls. But Katniss knew what the girls said about him. Not that she was jealous, she told herself, at least, not for that reason. Winter was coming soon, and she and Gale were going to have to work extra hard to get all the supplies ready. She didn't need Gale to be distracted. He could do whatever he wanted once they were properly prepared…
Katniss was snatched from her daydream. She looked hollowly at her teacher.
"Miss Everdeen?" Katniss nodded to show she was listening. "Can you explain the first law of attraction to me?"
"Umm." Katniss fumbled. She had no idea what the teacher was talking about. She glanced down at her old, dusty textbook and tried to open it to the right page.
"The laws of attraction Katniss. And how they're important to our study of magnetism?"
"Right. They are important," she said with mock authority.
"And can you tell me how?"
Katniss's silence spoke her answer.
"You need to pay attention, Katniss, or you might miss something important."
"Right," she said again, glancing down at the dying pages of her book with thick with paper and falling apart. She looked at her text, and then back out the window, where Gale was smiling as he waved goodbye to the girl and joking with his friends. She wished she was having as good a time as he was and huffed as she turned back to her book: "Magnetism and Mining…."
. . .
One of the boys Gale was sitting with, Toby, slapped him on the shoulder. "She's into you," he said with a cocky smile. Gale shrugged and seemed indifferent, but Toby wasn't going to let this drop so easily, he looked to their other guy, Forge, for support.
"She definitely likes you," Forge said.
"So?" Gale shrugged off his companions' suggestions.
"What we mean," Toby took back the lead, "is that you could have her." Forge nodded. "She's the type."
"I know what type of girl she is," Gale said, irritation edging his voice.
"Then what are you waiting for? Things are over with you and Lilah, right?"
The look Gale gave him wasn't quite an answer.
Toby could hardly contain himself. "Well, even if you are with Lilah, that doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with Wren…"
"I don't like her," Gale said, looking at his lunch.
"So? You don't have to like her to screw with her," Forge said.
Toby nodded like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Take her back to the slag heap, for a little slag hump?" Toby elbowed Gale and nearly dissolved in a fit of his own giggles. "I'd be there with her right now if she'd come over to talk to me." He had a faraway look in his eye as he said it, no doubt imagining himself with her at the slag heap. When Toby returned from his reverie, he furthered. "Or what…are you having too much fun with Katniss?" Both boys snickered.
Gale brought his eyes up to meet Toby's. The look he gave him said they'd had this conversation before and he didn't want to have it again.
But Toby didn't stop. "Having too much fun with her out in the woods?" he laughed again. "I'll tell you, she doesn't really look like the type, especially when you're got Lilah Jessup and Wren Trelling after you. But it's always the ones who don't look like the type that are the most fun…"
"Toby…" There was more than a warning in Gale's voice.
"…And she must be a lot of fun, to make you ignore Wren like that."
"She's my friend."
"Just your friend?"
"You're really not doing her?"
"So you don't mind if I have a go at her then?"
Gale realized he minded. He minded a lot. "Toby, shut up." He didn't like people talking about Katniss that way; he didn't stop to think why.
Toby was still laughing, but Forge noticed the gravity in Gale's voice.
"Come on, Gale, you don't get to have all the fun. She's a bit young, but I guess that could be fun…I could probably teach her a thing or two…" Toby playfully slapped Gale's shoulder as she said this, still thinking it was the funniest of jokes.
Gale grabbed his hand quickly before he could remove it and immediately twisted Toby's wrist. His eyes popped with pain as he fell and gasped. "Come on, let go, shit, that hurts!"
Gale held on for a moment longer, squeezing as tightly as he could before releasing.
"Jeez, what's your problem?" Toby said between pants as he rubbed his injured arm.
Gale got up and squeezed Toby's shoulder tightly. "I don't like the way you're talking about my friend. And if I so much as see you looking at her the wrong way, I'll break both your arms, okay?"
A small peep escaped Toby's lips as he tried not to look like he was suffering. "Yeah," he finally got out, "okay, okay…"
He patted him on the back as he walked away, both signaling their understanding and reminding Toby of his strength. Toby almost fell out of his sleep.
. . .
Katniss looked back out the window having written down the assigned homework in her book as classes ended. It was her lunch period now, and she was hoping to catch a glimpse of Gale, maybe have the chance to talk to him, but he was gone now, probably headed to his own class, she figured. He probably had more fun with his friends that he would with her anyhow, she thought to herself as she packed up her books to leave.