A Different Blue Page 3

I whipped back my long black hair as I entered the room. My eyes were heavily made up, and my jeans were so tight that sitting down was highly uncomfortable, although I'd perfected the art of slouching so they didn't pinch . . . too much. I cracked my gum and slid one eyebrow up disdainfully as I looked for an empty seat. All eyes swiveled toward me as I sauntered up the center aisle and slid into the seat right in front, dead center. Damn. Being late had its downside. I took my time taking off my jacket and dropping my purse to the floor. I hadn't even deigned to look in the direction of the new teacher whose voice had faded to silence at my arrival. A few people snickered at my nonchalant display, and I shot a venomous sneer in the general direction of the laughter. It stopped. Finally, I slid into my seat and raised my eyes to the front of the classroom, sighing deeply and loudly.

"Carry on," I droned, with another toss of my hair.

"Mr. Wilson" was written across the whiteboard in capital letters. My eyes locked on him. He was staring at me with a furrowed brow and a slight smile. Dark hair in need of a haircut curled above his ears and fell onto his forehead. It looked as if he had tried to tame it into respectability, but his mop had obviously rebelled at some point during his first day at Boulder High School. I raised my eyebrows in amazement and tried hard not to snort out loud. He looked like a student. In fact, if he hadn't had on a tie, knotted hastily over a blue button-up dress shirt with a pair of khakis, I would have thought he was some kind of teacher's aid.

"Hello," he said politely. He had a British accent. What was a guy with a British accent doing in Boulder City, Nevada? His tone was warm and friendly, and he seemed unbothered by my purposeful disrespect. He looked down at the roll that was sitting on a music stand to his right.

"You must be Blue Echohawk . . ." His voice trailed off a little and his expression was one of muted surprise. The name tends to throw people. I have dark hair, but my eyes are very blue. I don't really look like an Indian.

"And you must be Mr. Wilson," I retorted.

Laughter rang out. Mr. Wilson smiled. “I am. As I was telling your classmates, you may call me Wilson. Except when you are late or disrespectful, in which case I would appreciate the Mr," he finished mildly.

"Well in that case, I guess I'd better stick to Mr. Wilson then. Because I'm usually late, and I'm always disrespectful." I smiled back sweetly.

Mr. Wilson shrugged. “We'll see.” He stared at me for another second. The set of his grey eyes made him look slightly mournful, like one of those dogs with the liquid gaze and the long expression. He didn't strike me as a barrel of laughs. I sighed again. I knew I didn't want to take this class. History was my least favorite subject. European History sounded about as bad as you could get.

"Literature is my favorite subject." Mr. Wilson's eyes left my face as he launched into an introduction of the course. He said the word literature with only three syllables. Lit-ra-ture. I wiggled myself into a mostly comfortable position and stared crossly at the young professor.

“You might wonder, then, why I'm teaching history.”

I didn't think anyone cared enough to wonder, but we were all a little transfixed by his accent. He continued.

"Remove the first two letters off the word history. Now what does it spell?"

"Story," some eager beaver chirped from behind me.

"Exactly." Mr. Wilson nodded sagely. “And that's what history is. A story. It's someone's story. As a boy, I discovered that I would much rather read a book than listen to a lecture. Literature makes history come to life. It is maybe the most accurate depiction of history, especially literature that was written in the time period depicted in the story. My job this year is to introduce you to stories that open your mind to a broader world – a colorful history – and to help you see the connections to your own life. I promise to not be too dull if you promise to attempt to listen and learn."

"How old are you?" a girl's voice rang out flirtatiously.

“You sound like Harry Potter,” some guy grunted from the back of the room. There were a few giggles, and Mr. Wilson's ears turned red where they peeked out beneath the hair that curled around them. He ignored the question and the comment and began handing out sheets of paper. There were some groans. Paper meant work.

"Look at the page in front of you," Mr. Wilson instructed, as he finished distributing the sheets. He walked to the front of the classroom and leaned against the whiteboard, folding his arms. He looked at us for several seconds, making sure we were all with him. “It's blank. Nothing's been written on the page. It's a clean slate. Kind of like the rest of your life. Blank, unknown, unwritten. But you all have a history, yes?"

A few kids nodded their heads agreeably. I looked at the clock. Half an hour until I could take off these jeans.

"You all have a story. It's been written up to this point, to this very second. And I want to know that story. I want to know YOUR history. I want you to know it. For the rest of the class time I want you to tell me your story. Don't worry about being perfect. Perfect is boring. I don't care about run-on sentences or misspelled words. That's not my purpose. I just want an honest account – whatever you are willing to divulge. I will collect them at the end of the hour."

Desk chairs scraped, zippers were yanked opened in search of pens, and complaints were uttered as I stared down at the paper. I ran my fingertips down it, imagining I could feel the lines that ran in horizontal blue stripes. The feel of the paper soothed me, and I thought what a waste it was to fill it with squiggles and marks. I laid my head down on the desk, on top of the paper, and closed my eyes, breathing in. The paper smelled clean, with just a hint of sawdust. I let my mind linger on the fragrance, imagining the paper beneath my cheek was one of my carvings, imagining I was rubbing my hands along the curves and grooves that I'd sanded down, layer upon layer, uncovering the beauty beneath the bark. It would be a shame to mar it. Just like it was a shame to ruin a perfectly good sheet of paper. I sat up and stared at the pristine page in front of me. I didn't want to tell my story. Jimmy said to really understand something you had to know its story. But he'd been talking about a blackbird at the time.

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