Unable to focus on role call, I missed hearing my name. Also, neglecting to notice the teacher walking to where I sat, desperately trying to think of some way that Mum being diagnosed with M.S. was no big deal. As much as Mum played it down, tried to convince me it would be many years, if any, before any symptoms began to impact on our lives. It was cosmically unfair. Why her? Surely there was someone out there, someone who shot people in the back, kicked puppies and dumped toxic waste in waterways, someone who deserved such a debilitating sentence.
“Carl Grainger?” my riviere was broken by the teachers’ all-too-near voice.
The classroom sniggered.
“Are you alright?”
“Sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Next door’s cat is on heat. It was yowling non-stop.”
“If you’re too tired for school, maybe you should get you parents to come and get you…”
“I’ll be okay.”
Someone behind the teacher meowed causing strangled laughter to wave through the room.
“Settle down everyone.” Mrs Berryman turned and walked back to her desk staring down certain students along the way. “There are just a few announcements this morning…”
I tuned her words back out, my gaze skipping across the floor until they settled on a pair of familiar sneakers. Following up to the face of their owner, Tom was glaring at someone across the classroom, no doubt the same person who had elicited the feline mewl at my behest. I was puzzled why he would do something like that. There was no need to rock the boat, it wasn’t like I was offended, or hurt. In fact I had to hide a smile when I first heard it. Plus, it was the first lie I could come up with under pressure. Blurting out that I’d stayed awake all night worrying that my Mum was slowly dying wouldn’t have bode well. I could just imagine the unwanted attention and phone calls home after uttering that sentence in class.
The muscle in the corner of his jaw rippled and flexed as Tom ground his teeth, and the hand on the top of the desk was scrunched into a fist. I admired how the tendons under his skin moved. He looked impressive, ready to strike a knockout blow at any given moment. If I commanded attention like that, I doubt my Father would treat me like such a disappointment. A warm flush spread across my skin just as Tom’s eyes suddenly turned to lock onto mine. I’d been staring for quite some time with goodness knows what moronic expression. Great, now he’s going to think I’m retarded as well.
Instead he winked.
I dropped my gaze instantly to my hands, face burning hot and itchy. What the hell was wrong with me? It’s not like he can read my mind. There’s no way he could know I wish I was more like him; if only to put my Dad in his place. And just maybe be more capable in finding some way to save Mum. Anything to be more than I was – plain and ordinary.