I fell asleep in English. I don't know how, but one minute I was reading through my essay, and the next I was being roughly poked in the shoulder by Jason Howard, who started to hiss in my ear about some sort of gossip. I blinked hesitantly, unsure of what the time was. The broken clock above the whiteboard read '3:15', as it had for the last year. At least it's right twice a day, I heard my dad say in the back of my head. I let a smile play on my lips as I checked the time on my phone. 11:44.
A sweeping glance around the brightly decorated, half-empty classroom told me that no one else had drifted off, but something felt off balance. The walls were still a sickly pale orange, plastered with wonky posters that screamed about grammar with a thousand exclamation points, and everyone still had the same dazed look on their faces. I glanced down at my book. It took me a moment to focus on what I'd scrawled on the paper in smudged blue ink; the curse of being left handed. I picked up my pen and cleared my throat, my right hand instinctively reaching up to my neck. I rubbed gently, swallowed, and furrowed my eyebrows together.
Despite the strangled whispers from Jason, I concentrated on the words swimming on the paper in front of me, and wished for time to speed up. I ran my hands through my hair, cursing when I felt it flop down towards my forehead again.
'Max!' I heard Jason snap. 'Are you listening to me?'
'Not in the slightest,' I replied, shrugging. Jason's voice was very nasally, and very annoying. He was smart, though, and knew how to crack a joke just when I needed to smile. 'What were you going on about?'
He feigned annoyance: turning away from me, crossing his arms with a huff and pouting massively. I had to jab him a few times in the side to get him to turn around.
'Come on, what were you talking about?' I asked, laughing.
'Well,' he started, and I already regretted asking. His stories always seemed to grow longer and longer depending on how bored he was, and he was definitely bored. 'I was talking with Selena at the start of school, and she said she'd noticed something weird about the new kids at the beginning of September. They've still not spoken to anyone. I mean, they've obviously spoken to teachers, but 'Lena said that they only talk to teachers when they have to. Other than that, they keep to themselves, refusing to interact with any other people in college. How weird is that? Why wouldn't you want to talk to someone?'
'I know why I wouldn't want to talk to you,' I muttered under my breath, then I said audibly; 'Some people just don't feel comfortable meeting new people, I guess. Why are you so interested in the new kids? I've barely seen any of them around, and it's already been a month.'
There was a period of silence. The only sounds in the room was the rustling of paper as people flicked through books, and the tapping of the teacher's keyboard as she glanced over the top of her laptop screen at us, deciding whether she should tell us to be quiet or not. I shifted in my seat, adjusted my collar. Silences made me feel uncomfortable. I looked over at Jason, who seemed unsure. Of what, I couldn't put my finger on. His mouth opened and closed again several times before he continued.
'I just think it's weird. They're mostly girls, apparently they had lots of friends before they came here,' he pushed his hair out of his eyes thoughtfully. 'Why not make more friends here? What's the point in staying on the outside, when you're already in?'
'So there are girls involved?' I teased. When I saw him roll his eyes, annoyance flashing across the normally calm green, I shook my head. 'There's no point in asking me, Jason. I'm neither new here, or a girl.'
Something was up with Jason, because normally he would've come back with something rather tasteless and witty. He didn't often appreciate sarcasm in conversations, especially when it was aimed at him. I looked him up and down and took him all in as though I was one of the new girls: scrawny, with mousy brown hair that didn't really have a set style, green eyes and a constant frown. He wasn't necessarily the friendliest of types, with a bad habit of judging people hurriedly, as though he were in a rush to know and make friends. I took my eyes away from him when he looked at me, and shrugged. There wasn't any point in continuing the conversation, I knew.
Jason's pen started scratching on his paper beside me, slow, steady and consistent. It itched its way into my mind, burying itself deep in the corners. I felt the irritation building up, gaining momentum, ready to crash down like a wave... But I suppressed it. I knew how to, thanks to my siblings. Hours of poking and whining replayed over in my head, sounds that trumped the pen scratching. I didn't understand why it had annoyed me, but I let it slip my mind. I shrugged and rolled my eyes to myself, no longer thinking about anything in particular, deciding to leave the thinking until when I got home.
I went back to staring down at my essay, the blue words sailing through a sea of white paper and confusion.