The boy hunched over his desk protectively like a prisoner guarding his lunch tray. Quickly, he glanced up toward the front of the room to make sure that Miss Hendricks was not watching as he put the finishing touches on the note. He read it twice to make sure it was perfect. His face was flushed and his heart felt as though it would jump out of his shirt.
“Thomas, I’d like you to give us an example of a prepositional phrase, please,” Miss Hendricks said, looking at the classmate seated directly behind him. She stood next to the blackboard holding a piece of chalk, ready to copy down Thomas’s answer. The boy’s chair jumped slightly.
“Hey, Peter, give me the answer,” Thomas whispered harshly. His breath smelled like eggs and Peter pinched his nose shut as Thomas kicked his chair from behind once more.
“She’s looking right at you, I can’t give you the answer,” he whispered back.
“Thomas, we’re waiting.” Miss Hendrick’s rapped the chalkboard with her knuckles. Some of the other kids in the class stared and giggled at Thomas. He hardly ever knew the answers. He answered questions by repeating whatever someone else gave him.
“Hurry up!” Thomas whispered angrily at the back of Peter’s neck. Peter did not respond and instead began folding the note. He would give it to Livia after class was over.
Thinking about her answer made his heart pound so hard he could hear the pulse in his head. She sat at the front of his row and twisted around in her chair to stare at Thomas along with the other kids. She smiled at Peter when she saw him looking at her. It was the most beautiful smile in the world. Instead of smiling back, he looked down shyly.
Peter rehearsed mentally exactly what he would say when giving the note.
“Livia, would you please read this when you have time?” That didn’t sound right. He pursed his lips.
Suddenly, the paper was snatched from his hands. Thomas waved it over his head.
“Miss Hendricks, Peter is passing notes in class,” Thomas said loudly. He grinned menacingly at Peter. Some of the other boys in class hooted. A few girls laughed. Livia looked toward Peter but he dared not meet her eyes.
“Give it back!” Peter said through clenched teeth. He grabbed for it. Thomas danced out of his reach and opened the paper.
“No, don’t read it!” Peter said, jumping toward Thomas. Miss Hendricks clapped her hands for attention.
“Class, settle down! Thomas, give me the note!”
Thomas held the paper out of Peter’s reach and began reading loudly.
Some of the kids laughed and clapped. Peter once again grabbed at the paper and missed. Livia got up quickly from her desk and ran from the room.
Thomas continued reading out loud. Miss Hendricks was yelling now. Peter grabbed at Thomas’s arms and tried to snatch the note back; not that it would do any good now. He halfheartedly shoved Thomas and sat down. He stared at his desk.