Esther slid the door open to 12B, releasing a throng of noise. Shutting the door, she hurried to her row.
Tobie sat on top of his desk, feet on his seat, talking with Gus and idly flipping a pen between his fingers. Jacob reclined against Sadie's desk, as she and Rebeca huddled together by the pencil sharpener at the back of the room. They giggled, stealing glances at the boys as Esther shoved her bag under her desk. Snippets of conversation rose out of the din.
"...no reason why coach can't put me at forward," Gus muttered, his algebra book open and pen scribbling to finish the homework.
Jacob laughed. "Except that he has Tobie."
Tobie grinned. "What can I say." He tapped Gus on the head with his pen. "I'm just better then you."
Gus glared at him, viciously flipping a page.
"You can't out-run or out-handle him, Gus. Sorry man." Jacob stretched, eyes on the girls at the back. "But don't feel bad." He clapped a hand on Gus' shoulder. "No one else can either." With a grin to Rebeca he made his way up the row.
"Yeah, well maybe if he shared the freakn ball every once in a while..."
Tobie spun on the desk top, feet hitting the floor. "If I had anyone to trust with it, I would." He raised his eye brows, waiting.
Gus grunted and went back to his book as the classroom door slid back.
"Morning class. Take your seats." Lampman took up the dry-board eraser, rubbed the homework assignment away and wrote: POP QUIZ in its place. "Based on the math assignment from last night," he said over the groans. "Take your seat Mr. Lenburt, class has officially started." He wrote out four algebraic equations of varying degrees of difficulty, caped the marker with satisfaction and picked up the apple timer from his desk. "You have 20 minuets. Begin." He sat in his chair, pulling out a beat up paperback from the top drawer.
Esther dutifully copied down the problems, but after getting half way through the second one, her gaze darted to Holon's desk. Holon's empty desk.
Where is he? Is he sick? He looked fine yesterday... She shook her head to banish the thoughts and forced her eyes back to her paper. You don't care. X... focus on finding X. In front of her, Gus shifted his paper and lifted up the corner to peek at the homework. The rustle of Lampman's book made him cringe and the paper dropped.
Esther solved the last problem and lifted her paper up slightly to check her work. Feeling someone watching her, she glanced to her right. Tobie's gaze lifted from her paper, to her, and then snapped back to his own work. Esther quickly set the paper down on her desk.
Lampman stood, swiping the timer off his desk and slowly walking towards the middle of the room.
"Annnnd...Time! Pass up your quiz behind your homework. I said TIME, Mr. Robles."
Esther flipped open her homework folder for her assignment as the row over handed up their papers. Rebeca playfully smacked Teddy with her's.
"Pass it up, pass it up. Class rep, collect them please."
Eddie stood. "Yes, sir."
As he got to the second row the classroom door opened and Holon stepped through, red and gold scarf tied over his coat, books in his hand.
"Nice of you to join us Mr. Huges," Lampman said. "Late pass?"
"You missed a quiz. Homework?"
Holon slid a piece of paper from his books and handed it to Lampman.
"Take your seat."
Sadie and Rebeca were ensconced in whispers even before Holon got to the row. Esther passed her papers up, trying not to let her gaze wander. As Holon passed her, her eyes acted on their own accord; gaze skirting the edge of her desk. The hand holding the books was wrapped in gauze; under which was a small splatter of blood. She gasped.
"Miss St. Claire? Is there a problem?"
Esther jerked her head around. "No! No problem, sir. Sorry."
Holon placed his books on the desk and sat, pulling the sleeve of his coat over his hand.
"Do I have everyone's quiz and homework? This will count as your attendance as well so be sure you handed up both. Eddie, mark a tardy for Mr. Huges. Alright." Lampman erased the equations from the board. "Moving on."
Taking out her notebook, Esther glanced over at Holon. He sat low in his seat, nearly hunched over the top of it as if freezing, his hair dripping with rain. As he brushed it back from his face Esther noticed dark the circles under his eyes.
Ro and Simon were outside the field house, waiting for her as the first lunch bell rang.
"Thought you weren't coming," Ro said, grinning at Esther as she hurried up the hall.
"Sorry. The hall was a mess.”
“Mum made sandwiches." Ro held up a blue fabric lunch cooler. "And Si grabbed some drinks. Where you wanna eat?"
Esther's mouth twisted as she thought.
"Roof?" Ro suggested.
Esther frowned. "We can't get up there. Plus, its raining."
"Sure we can. There's doors. Come on, let’s see." Ro headed towards the maintenance stairs, Simon right behind her. "Oh come on, Esther," she called over her shoulder.
"Told ya," Ro quipped as the roof access door opened with a whine. Water pattered and pooled all around the empty roof.
"Told you," Esther retorted, gesturing at the rain.
"We can sit here." Ro pointed along the wall beside the roof access shed; which had a good sized over hang. "It’s not even wet," she added, meaningfully.
"Whatever..." Esther held her bag close to her chest and edged along the wall. Ro followed, leaving the door open for Simon.
"Ro, hold the door open a second."
"Hold the door."
When she propped it open with a toe, Simon darted out into the rain. He returned with half a wet brick which he jammed against the door frame. "Ok."
Ro steeped back and the door started to close, stopping when it hit the brick. She nodded in approval. "That's why we keep you around." She sat against the wall that housed the stairs then opened the cooler. "Alrighty. We got peanut butter, chicken salad, uh... I think that’s egg..." She pulled out a wheat bread sandwich with a bright yellow filling and gave it a sniff. "Yep, egg. Esther?"
Ro handed her the sandwich and a bag of chips from the cooler. "Si?"
"Leaving the egg for me I see..." Ro said as she handed him the sandwich.
"Your mom always make so many sandwiches?"
"Pfft," Ro dismissed, unwrapping the plastic from hers. "Told her I feed Es a while ago. Mum thinks she's too skinny. You should come by and say hi soon," she added at Esther, taking a bite.
Esther nodded. "Hows Maci?"
"Had her kittens. They’re mewing all the time right now. You want a kitten?"
"I'll ask Monica."
"Want a kitten, Si?" Ro asked, nudging him playfully.
He shook his head. "Allergic." He eyed Ro's arm.
"Oh, I invest heavily in those rolly pet hair things." Ro grinned. "I hate having fur all over me. So how’s class, Es?"
Esther picked at her sandwich, watching the rain trickle off the overhang and splash into puddles just beyond her oxfords. "Holon...was late today..."
"Yeah, so?" Ro said, around a mouth full of sandwich.
"He was bleeding..."
"His hand. It was bandaged but...It was still bleeding. I think he was in a fight or something."
"Huh. Wouldn't think anyone from Tobie's gang was scrappy. Figured they'd just hire thugs when push came to shove. He's a big boy," Ro dismissed Esther's worried look. "Don't worry, I'm sure whoever it was got his arse handed to him."
"That's not the point."
"Then what is?"
Esther glanced at Ro, then Simon. Her gaze returned to her sandwich.
"Would you stop worrying about every little thing?" Ro said, handing Esther a soda from the cooler. "One isolated tardy and a bit of blood is hardly something to get worked up about. Or did you just miss him that much?" she added with an evil grin.
Esther snatched the soda as her checks flared.
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