Slammed, p.13
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       Slammed, p.13

         Part #1 of Slammed series by Colleen Hoover
 

  “Get out your notebooks, we’re making poetry today,” Will says as he takes a seat at his desk. Half the class groans. I hear Eddie clapping.

  “Can we have partners?” Nick asks as he starts inching his desk toward mine.

  Will glares at him. “No.”

  Nick shrugs and scoots his desk back into place.

  “Each of you needs to write a short poem which you will perform in front of the class tomorrow.”

  I start taking notes on the assignment, not willing to watch him as he speaks. Remaining in his class was a very bad idea. I can't focus on anything he's saying. I'm constantly wondering what's going on inside his head, if he's thinking about us, what he does inside his house at night. Even at home he’s been the only thing I can think about. I find myself stealing glances across the street any chance I get. Honestly, if I would have just switched classes it probably wouldn't have made a difference. I would just rush home and beat him in the driveway so I could watch from the window when he pulls up to the house. This game I'm playing with myself is so exhausting. I wish I could find a way to let go of the hold he has on me. He seems to have done a pretty good job of moving on.

  “You just need to start out with about ten sentences for tomorrow's presentation. We can expand over the next couple of weeks, giving you something to prepare for the slam,” Will says. “And don’t think I haven’t forgotten. So far no one in here has shown up at the slam. We made a deal.”

  The entire class starts to protest.

  “That wasn’t the deal! You said we just had to observe. Now we have to perform?” says Gavin.

  “No. Well, technically not. Everyone in here is required to attend one slam. You aren't required to perform, I just want you to observe. However, there’s a chance you could be chosen to be the sacrifice, so it wouldn't hurt to have something prepared.”

  Several students ask what the sacrifice is in unison. Will explains the term and how it can be anyone chosen at random. Therefore, he wants everyone to have a piece ready before the night they are to attend, just in case.

  “What if we want to perform?” Eddie asks.

  “I’ll tell you what. We’ll make one more deal. Whomever willingly slams will be exempt from the final.”

  “Sweet, I’m in,” Eddie says.

  “What if we don’t go?” Javi asks.

  “Then you’re missing out on something amazing. And you get an F for participation,” he replies.

  Javi rolls his eyes and groans at Will's response.

  “So, what kinds of things can we write about?” Eddie asks.

  Will moves to the front of the desk and sits, only inches from me.

  “There are no rules, you can write about anything. You can write about love, food, your hobby, something significant that’s happened in your life. You can write about how much you hate your Poetry teacher. Write about anything, as long as it’s something you’re passionate about. If the audience doesn’t feel your passion, they won’t feel you—and that’s never fun, believe me.” He says this as though he speaks from experience.

  “What about sex? Can we write about that?” Javi asks. It’s obvious he’s trying to push Will’s buttons. Will remains cool.

  “Anything. As long as it doesn’t get you in hot water with your parents. I’ll be sending permission slips home for the slam at the end of the week.”

  “What if they don’t let us go? I mean, it is a club,” A student asks from the back of the room.

  “I understand if they have hesitations. If there are any parents that don’t feel comfortable, I’ll talk to them about it. I also don’t want transportation to be an issue. This club is somewhat of a drive, so if it’s an issue, I’ll take a school vehicle. Whatever the obstacle, we’ll work through it. I’m very passionate about Slam Poetry and don’t feel I’ll be doing justice as your teacher if I don’t allow you the opportunity to experience this in person.

  “I’ll answer questions throughout the week regarding the semester requirement. But for now, let's get back to today's assignment. You have the entire class period to complete the poem. We’ll start presenting them tomorrow. Get to it.”

  I open my notebook and lay it flat on my desk. I stare at it, not having the first clue as to what to write about. The only thing that’s been on my mind lately is Will and there’s no way I’m doing a poem about him.

  By the end of the class period, the only thing that’s written on my paper is my name. I glance up to Will who is seated at his desk, biting the corner of his bottom lip. His eyes are focused on my desk, down on the poem that I’ve yet to write. He glances up and sees me watching him. It’s the first eye contact we’ve had in three weeks. Surprisingly, he doesn’t immediately look away. If he had any idea how this lip biting quirk affected me, he'd stop. The intensity in his eyes causes me to flush as the room suddenly becomes warm. His stare is impenetrable by nothing but the final class dismissal bell. He stands and walks to the door, holding it open for the students exiting. I immediately put away my notebook and throw my bag over my shoulder. I don’t make eye contact when I leave the classroom, but I can feel him watching me.

  Just when I think he’s forgotten about me, he goes and does something like this. The entire rest of the day I’m extremely quiet as I attempt to analyze his actions. I eventually come up with just one conclusion: He’s just as confused as I am.

  ***

  I’m relieved to feel the warm sun beating down on my face as I walk toward my jeep. The weather has been insanely cold going into October. The predictions are that the next two weeks will be a nice respite from the snow before the full winter season begins. I insert the key into the ignition and turn it.

  Nothing happens.

  Great, my jeep is shot. I have no idea what I'm doing, but I pop the hood on the jeep and take a look. There's a bunch of wires and metal, that's about all I can comprehend from a mechanical standpoint. I do know what the battery looks like so I grab a crowbar from the trunk and tap it against the battery. After a failed attempt at getting the ignition to turn over again, I resort to pounding a little harder until I'm pretty much bludgeoning the battery out of sheer frustration.

  "That's not a good idea."

  Will walks up beside me, satchel across his chest, looking very much like a teacher and less like Will.

  "You've made it clear that you don't think a lot of what I do is a very good idea," I say as I return my focus back under the hood.

  "What's wrong, it won't crank?" He bends forward under the hood and starts to mess with wires.

  I don't understand what he's doing. One day he tells me he doesn't want to speak to me, the next minute he’s staring me down in class and now he's under my hood trying to help me. I'm not a fan of inconsistency.

  "What are you doing, Will?"

  He rises out from under the hood and cocks his head at me. "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm trying to figure out what's wrong with your jeep." He walks around to the driver's side and gets in, attempting to turn the ignition.

  I follow him to the door. "I mean, why are you doing this? You’ve made it pretty clear you don’t want me to speak to you."

  "Layken, you're a student stranded in the parking lot. I'm not going to get in my car and just drive away."

  His comparison, although accurate, hurts. He realizes his poor choice of words and sighs as he gets out of the car and looks back under the hood.

  "Look, that's not how I meant it," he says as he fidgets with more wires.

  I lean under the hood next to him in an attempt to look natural as I continue my point.

  "It's just really hard, Will. It was so easy for you to accept this and move past it. It hasn't been that easy for me. It's all I think about."

  Will grips the edge of the hood with his hands as he turns his head toward me.

  "You think this is easy for me?" he whispers.

  "Well, that's how you make it seem."

  "Lake, nothing about this has been easy. It's a daily struggle for
me to come to work, knowing this very job is what's keeping us apart." He turns away from the car and leans against it. "If it weren't for Caulder, I would have quit that first day I saw you in the hallway. I could have taken the year off…waited until you graduated to go back." He turns toward me, his voice lower than before. "Believe me, I’ve ran every possible scenario through my mind. How do you think it makes me feel to know that I'm the reason you're hurting? That I'm the reason you're so sad?"

  The sincerity in his voice is surprising. I had no idea. Over the last couple of weeks, I'd convinced myself he must have never even cared to begin with.

  "I-I’m sorry. I just thought-"

  Will cuts me off mid-sentence and turns back toward the car. "Your battery is fine, looks like it might be your alternator."

  "Car won't start?" Nick asks as he walks up beside us, explaining the reason behind Will's sudden guarded behavior.

  "No, Mr. Cooper thinks I need a new alternator."

  "That sucks," Nick says as he glances under the hood. "I'll give you a ride home if you need one."

  I start to decline when Will interrupts.

  "That would be great, Nick," Will says as he closes the hood of the jeep.

  I shoot Will a glance and he ignores my silent protest. Will walks away and leaves me with Nick and no other option for a ride home.

  "I'm parked over here," Nick says as he leads the way to his car.

  "Let me grab my stuff first." I reach for my bag and my hand goes up to find the ignition empty. Will must have accidentally taken my keys. I leave the door unlocked just in case he doesn't have them. I don't want to add a locksmith charge on top of our already mounting debt.

  “Wow. Nice car,” I say as we reach Nicks vehicle. It’s a small black sports car. Not sure what kind but there isn’t a spec of dirt on it.

  “It’s not mine,” he says as we climb inside. “It’s my dads. He lets me drive it when he’s off work.”

  “Still, it’s nice. Do you mind if we swing by Chapman Elementary? I’m supposed to pick up my little brother.”

  “No problem,” he says as he turns left out of the parking lot.

  “So, New Girl. You miss Texas yet?” Although it’s been a month, he still calls me new girl.

  “Yep,” I reply shortly.

  He attempts to make more small talk but I treat his questions as if they are rhetorical, even if they aren't. I can't stop thinking about the things Will said to me before Nick interrupted us. Nick finally grasps the idea that I'm not in a chatty mood so he turns on the radio.

  We pull up to Kel’s school and I get out of the car so Kel can spot me, since I’m not in my jeep. When Kel notices me, he comes running up to me, followed by Caulder. “Hey, where's your jeep?”

  “Won’t start. Hop in, Nick is giving us a ride home.”

  “Oh. Well Caulder is supposed to go with us today."

  I open the back door as the two climb in the small backseats. They immediately start oohing and aahing. The remainder of the short drive consists of transformer comparisons and Nick's car.

  When we arrive at the house, Kel and Caulder jump out of the car and run inside. I thank Nick and follow the boys toward the house when I hear Nick open his door.

  “Layken, wait,” Nick calls after me.

 
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