(Erik, armed with the dust, visits Psyche’s Chemistry class)
The next day I was zoning in Mr. Darling’s class when a breeze blew by me. The air smelled of cinnamon and subtle but expensive cologne.
“Are you bored yet?” His whisper startled me. I nearly swallowed my pen cap. After the horrible coughing fit passed, he drew even closer to my ear. “So, that guy is your teacher?”
Before I could reply, Mr. Darling called my name. Holding out the dry erase marker, he said, “Come up and balance this equation.”
“I haven’t finished yet,” I said.
“Come forward,” Mr. Darling insisted.
I slowly untangled myself from the desk. While I struggled to place numbers on the equation, the student teacher stalked around me like some hungry carnivore. A hand rested on my shoulder, and I cringed, but it was my invisible savior who whispered, “Five H20, six carbon.”
Mr. Darling paused directly behind me, and I wished I’d worn a longer shirt—one that completely covered my backside.
“Two nitrogen.” The hand moved away. “I’ll take care of him.”
The equation finished, I set the marker on the ledge of the board and went to my desk, unable to look at anything but the floor. I slid into my seat and slouched behind Rory.
Mr. Darling scanned my work. “Correct,” he announced. Then he tripped on some unseen obstacle. His body flung forward with unnatural force and his face smacked the whiteboard.
The class laughed when Mr. Darling stood, shaking his head like he didn’t know what happened. He sniffed, and his nose dribbled blood. He tried to wipe it away with his hand, but smeared it up the sleeve of his shirt. “Okay,” he said, acting nonchalant, “everyone start on the next problem.” Pinching his nose at the bridge, he managed to stem the tide for a moment, but as soon as he let go, the stream was worse than before.
Five minutes passed and his nose was still bleeding, so Mr. Darling twisted up two tissues and shoved one into each nostril. The ends hung over his lip, making a white mustache that fluttered when he breathed.
Savannah giggled into her worksheet.
A moment later the counselor, Ms. Hubble, appeared in the doorway. “Could I see….” She broke off when she saw our teacher. “Michael, what happened to your nose?” she asked.
“Perfect timing,” came the quiet whisper over my shoulder. The air whipped away.
“Ah chew!” Mr. Darling sneezed and sent the bloody tissues flying. “Excuse me,” he mumbled. A new red trickle started down his lip. He looked at Ms. Hubble and the expression on his face shocked us all. He eyed the counselor like he eyed me just a moment ago. Then his features softened, and he gave her the most pathetic puppy-dog eyes. “I bumped my nose on the board. It won’t stop bleeding.”
The counselor stepped forward, all her motherly compassion surfacing right there in front of our class. “You poor thing.” Then, “Ah chew!” and we all gasped as she lit up like a forty-year-old flashlight. “Just come to my office after class.” She winked on her way out.
“You have got to be joking,” muttered a girl in the next row. “She’s like fifteen years older than him.”
“Oh, that is just wrong,” Savannah whispered before the bell rang to dismiss us.
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