Jesus Villarreal stared blankly at his assigned seat for calculus, not quite comprehending what he was seeing. As his classmates began to file in around him, noting his peculiar behavior with a mixture of pity and confusion, Jesus simply stood there and stared.
He easily recognized the blond sitting in his seat, though she did not seem to notice him. (Not that she ever had before.) She looked exactly the same since the last time he saw her. Dark blond hair was pulled into a loose braid, the spread of freckles across her nose, and that gruesome bullet hole in the middle of her forehead.
He resisted the urge to toss his breakfast. Instead, he dug his nails into the palms of his hands in a feeble attempt to wake himself up and counted to ten. Once he came to the sickening realization that he hadn't woken up, and was still standing in the middle of class like a fool (he could see his teacher eyeing him wearily from the corner of his eye), he simply spun around and walked out of class.
No one tried to stop him.
He slowly made his way down the mostly empty hallways. He ignored the tacky Halloween decorations and picked up his pace as he tried to walk past the school's memorial. His fists clenched angrily at his sides. He tried to focus on anything bub the pile of flowers, cards, and gifts that laid before the photos. He even managed to make it to the exit without exploding. (He felt rather proud of himself for that.) But before he could ditch and head back home, a hand landed on his shoulder. He looked back to see the school's psychologist, Mrs. Resendiz, a wry smile on her face. She didn’t appear to be much older than his sister. Her dark hair was pulled back into a loose bun, and a pair of thick, black rimmed glasses rested on her face.
He shrugged her hand off and turned to face her, reluctantly asking, "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Yes, you could tell me why you aren't in calculus," she easily replied. Her smile fell and her gaze softened; she looked more tired than anything, making Jesus feel distinctively uncomfortable. But before she could give him a chance to answer she began to speak again, "I think I know the answer to that. Come on, let's go to my office."
She turned her back to him and started to walk, fully expecting him to follow. And he was tempted to ignore her and just walk out the front door. But before he could make up his mind, Mrs. Resendiz spoke again, "You walk out that door and I'm calling your grandmother."
His shoulder sagged in defeat as he followed her to her office. It was in a small room across from the gym. The walls were cluttered with motivation posters and self-help books and thick binders cluttered her bookshelf. The desk was just as messy as her walls, covered thick folders and papers. He was surprised to see that her laptop wasn't buried under all that mess. The only places to sit were her computer chair, a beaten old bean bag, and a couch that had clearly seen better days.
He would have been just fine standing by the doorway, but Mrs. Resendiz's stern gaze caught his. She tilted her head towards the couch, a silent command he dutifully obeyed.
Jesus dropped his ratty old backpack to the ground and plopped down on the couch. He anxiously drummed his fingers against his denim clad thigh, and looked anywhere but the woman in front of him.
"Have you been sleeping?"
"Wha," he unintelligibly garbled out. He had been expecting another reprimand for skipping class again. She repeated her question and he scoffed and unconvincingly said, "Of course I've been. What makes you say that?"
She leveled him with another look (he was really starting to hate those) and pulled out a small, compact mirror. She opened it and while she placed it in his hands, she spoke, "Tell me what you see."
He huffed in annoyance, but decided to humor her and gazed at his reflection. His brown hair was unkempt and stuck out at random angles. Feeling self-conscious, he attempted to pat it down. His normally tanned skin was looking rather pale. And there were dark bags under his brown eyes. (No wonder she asked about his sleeping habits.)
When he hadn't replied, Mrs. Resendiz said, "Your sister called earlier this week. She's concerned about you."
Jesus groaned miserably and sank deeper into the couch. Of course she had called. "I'm fine," he tersely said.
She obviously did not buy it. She re-adjusted her glasses and said, "I know this is a tough time for you and your family. But you aren't alone. Maybe you and your sisters should---"
"No," he forcibly interrupted. He jumped up and grabbed his backpack.
Mrs. Resendiz stayed seating, watching him carefully. "I know this is hard for you, but you need to stop running from this."
The bell rang at that moment, giving him the perfect out. He was nearly out the door as he said, "I gotta get to English."
Before she could stop him, he bolted. He pushed past the other students and made a short turn towards the exit with plans of heading straight home. Or maybe he would call Madi and they would meet up. If there was anyone having a shittier day than him, it was definitely his sister.