Existence 01 - Existence
“Hey, Pagan, Mr. Yorkley said I needed to come talk to you.” Leif’s voice seemed to snap me out of my momentary shock. If Mr. Yorkley sent him, he needed some sort of academic help. However, I wasn’t sure I wanted to help, nor did I intend on making this easy for him. I managed a “so what” expression and waited in silence. Leif cleared his throat and rubbed his hands on the knees of his jeans, as if he were actually nervous.
“Uh, um, well,” he began, “I mean, that is, I need some help in Speech. It isn’t my thing and Mr. Yorkley said you were the one to talk to about getting some assistance.” He stared straight ahead as he spoke. He hadn’t even glanced over at me. I really didn’t like this guy. He finally turned his gaze my direction. I was sure he bestowed this pitifully hopeful expression on females everywhere, in order to get what he wanted. My stomach betrayed me and quivered from the affect his pleading baby blue eyes evoked. I hated that he could make my body react to him at all, other than to hurl of course.
“This is the first day of school. How can you need help already?” I asked in a voice I hoped sounded annoyed. I wasn’t a simpering idiot who could be moved by a few bats of his long eyelashes, even if my double-crossing body didn’t seem to agree. Surely I was imagining the faint blush on his cheeks.
“Um, yeah, I know, but I, well, that is Mr. Yorkley and I know I’m going to struggle,” he said a little defensively. Leif had always been a good student. I’d been in a few classes with him.
“Why do you both think you’ll struggle? Surely, you’re not afraid to speak out loud in class.”
He shook his head and stared straight ahead again. “No, that’s not it.” I waited but he didn’t say anymore. Interestingly enough, I became intrigued.
“I don’t really know why you need my help. It’s really simple. You write speeches about the topics assigned and then give them orally. Simple, basic, no fancy strings or hard equations.”
He turned his gaze back toward me with a sad smile. “It isn’t so easy for me.” He paused and acted like he wanted to say more, and then he shook his head and stood up, “Never mind, forget I asked.” I watched him walk past the table of his admiring fans and head outside through the double doors. I experienced a minute pang of guilt for being so hard on him. He’d come to ask for help and I’d basically just made fun of him. I reached for my tray, angry with myself for acting like a jerk. ‘Jerk’ belonged in his job description, not mine.
* * * *
My book bag landed on the kitchen counter with a heavy thump, announcing my return. I headed for the fridge. The fresh squeezed orange juice I’d worked so hard on yesterday sounded good.
“Pagan, honey, is that you?” My mom’s voice called from down the hall. She was huddled in the corner of her office with a large cup of coffee, typing away on her computer. I didn’t have to see her to know this. My mother is a writer. She lives in stained sweats behind her computer.
“Yes,” I replied. Before I could pour myself a glass of orange juice, the sound of her slippers flopping against the hardwood floors surprised me. This was a strange occurrence. Rarely did she break away from her writing when I came home from school. It was usually closer to dinner time before she graced me with her presence.
“Good, I’m glad you came straight home. I need to talk to you and then I have to get dressed.” She motioned to her baggy sweats and large Atlanta Braves t-shirt. “I’m having dinner with Roger but don’t worry, I’m leaving you money to order a pizza.” She pulled a bar stool out and her friendly face turned serious. It wasn’t a good serious, either. This was the kind of serious I recognized but rarely experienced.
“What?” I asked as I set my glass down.
Mom’s back became more rigid as she cleared her throat. The “I am disappointed in you” frown turned the corners of her lips down. I quickly racked my brain, trying to think of something I might have done to upset her, but nothing came to mind.
“I received a call, right in the middle of chapter fifteen, from Mr. Yorkley.”
Uh oh, she knew about Leif. “Mr. Yorkley?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know what this was about. Mom nodded and tilted her head to the side as if she were studying me to see if she believed I really had no idea why my teacher might call. The head
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