In this except, we meet the story’s protagonist for the first time.
Nibbling on the end of one of her braids, Sylvia looked over the paper laying on her desk and thought this just couldn’t be the big test Mr. Burns kept threatening the class with all last week. She cocked a questioning eyebrow at her teacher as he passed out the rest to the other students.
“Um, Mr. Burns?” She raised her hand.
He stopped and sighed as he had come to do a lot more frequently as of late, and only towards her she noticed.
“Yes, Sylvia?” he handed a test to a pinch-faced boy.
She held up the paper between her thumb and forefinger as if it were a strange thing. “You sure this is the right test? Because it’s—“
“Yes, it’s the right test, Sylvia.” He threw her an annoyed glance from behind his thick-rimmed glasses.
She pursed her lips. “Okay. Just asking.” She placed the paper back on her desk and stared at it.
She really didn’t know what she was expecting. It wasn’t like Mr. Burns could produce any kind of test that would be challenging enough for her anyway, but she held out hope. Perhaps thinking this time would be different. But it wasn’t and it hadn’t been at other schools either. But still, she hoped. No harm in that she supposed.
Reaching the front of the class, Mr. Burns turned on his heels. “All right everyone. You have until…” he checked his watch. “The end of class to complete the test.”
Students moaned and groaned, made faces, and some slumped in their seats.
Sylvia looked about the class and chuckled. “Oooh, scary.” she widened her eyes and wiggled her fingers at her test paper.
Mr. Burns frowned at her. “Actually, it is for some, Sylvia.”
“I guess so.” She shrugged.
Sylvia just wanted to get this whole thing over with. The test was stupid, a total waste of time for her like all the other tests she’d taken at all the other schools, but she had to endure it. After a certain point in the Public School System, the only thing she learned was how to endure taking tests. Suddenly, Gym class came to her mind. She’d have fun in gym class at least and what a pity such a thing had become the highlight of her recent days.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Burns.” Kaitlin Sparks smiled from her seat all too perky with silky dark hair, manicured eyebrows, and a light sheen of gloss on her lips. “That should be more than enough time for the class to finish. I’m sure we’ll all do well. Some of us are just a bit nervous.” She smoothed her hair back behind her left ear, a young diva in the making.
Mr. Burns nodded. “I hope that’s the case.” He checked his watch again then looked about the class, brow raised. “Okay, begin, begin.” He waved them on.
Sylvia sighed, picked up her pencil, then looked up to Mr. Burns. He met her gaze, checked his watch, the wall clock behind him, then waved her on.
She eyed the wall clock reading 9:36.
“Fast or slow, confound or compromise?” She mumbled to herself looking down at her test. It was a game she liked to play with her teachers, with everyone really, though none of them ever knew they were participants in it. She loved getting a reaction out of people, especially teachers and so-called authority figures, to see them at a total loss for what to do or how to treat her, how to…deal with her.
She read the first history question, then wrote her answer. She skimmed the second question and scribbled a response. She looked back up to Mr. Burns who was still watching her, no doubt searching for any signs of cheating.
She smirked and shook her head. “Confound, I say.” she muttered. She scanned the next thirteen questions in a row, tapped the eraser-end of her pencil to her lips, then glanced at the ceiling in thought. A mischievous smile crept across her face as the answers to the questions shot forth from her mind all clamoring to be written. She jotted them down one by one in quick succession, laid her pencil down, then turned the test over.
Mr. Burns knitted his brow suspiciously. “Finished, Sylvia?”
“Yup.” She leaned back in her chair.
He checked his watch.
She smirked at the walk clock.
Wrinkles deepening in his forehead, Mr. Burns walked up to her desk and collected the paper. He stood there examining it, his gaze darted across and down the page, then his eyes narrowed on her, almost glaring. “Interesting.”
He walked back to the head of the class, sat at his desk in the left corner of the room, and shuffled through the pages of a thick textbook, seemingly comparing it to her test paper.
Sylvia noticed Kaitlin staring at her, lips pursed. She smiled at the girl, and wiggled her fingers in a taunting wave.
Kaitlin rolled her eyes and turned back to her test.
Sylvia shook her head then turned to look out one of the large windows lining the left wall of the classroom. Leaning on her desk with her elbows, she rested her chin in the palms of her hands and took in the trees and periodic passerby or car that crossed her line of sight.
Only a couple months in and this school was turning out to be just like all the others. Slight differences here and there, but basically the same. The new place novelty was wearing off fast, faster than usual, and she told herself that she would not let her boredom get to her this time.
At least Kaitlin was entertaining. Typical, but entertaining, and there was at least one other student that held her attention for the moment, and she prayed it would last for more than a moment. When she got bored, she had a tendency to make things happen to keep herself interested, to keep herself entertained, which usually left things a total mess for all those around her.
She didn’t want to do that here. Not this time. Not with this particular setup.
A blueish-gray bird landed on the window sill, it’s head turned and tilted in quick jerky movements. Then, it took flight, disappearing just as fast as it appeared.
Sylvia sighed again and looked about the classroom with a frown. Students wrote down answers then erased them to sit staring at the smudges on their papers. The electrical hum of the light fixtures and the laborious, raspy breathing of her classmates became deafening in the silence.
Boredom was fast approaching, and it was not good.
She raised her hand. “Um, Mr. Burns?”
“Yes?” He looked up from his desk, over his glasses.
“Are we going to have homework today?”
He eyed her head on. “Yes, and no, you can’t do it in class. It’s called—“
“Homework for a reason.” She smiled and nodded. “Yeah…heard that one before.”
He cleared his throat. “Look, if you want something to do, you can start reading chapter twenty-three.”
“Okay, but…”she drummed her fingers across her desk.
“I already read it.” Her smile broadened.
He threw her a dry look. “Then read the next.”
“Yeah…” she nodded. “I read that too.”
Mr. Burns took off his glasses and stared at her, a spark of irritation twitched his upper lip. He looked about the class at the students struggling with the test, then motioned for her to approach his desk.
“Here we go again.” she mumbled, sliding her chair back, scraping the floor. He’d never believe she read the whole book in three days, and that she could recite it word for word, page by page, if she really had too.
She stood and walked towards his desk with her lanky, petite frame. Kaitlin watched with a simmering gaze and Sylvia winked back at her, tapping the back of her bare brown wrist. Kaitlin twisted her mouth and turned back to her test.
Sylvia stepped up to Mr. Burns desk as he skimmed through a history textbook.
“So, where did you leave off?” he didn’t look at her.
“Well…” she bounced on the balls of her feet. “I pretty much read the whole thing.”
“The whole what? Which chapter?”
“The whole book.” She chuckled.
Mr. Burns froze, then looked up at Sylvia, brow furrowed. “Do you think this is a joke, Ms. Moore?”
“No, Sir. Not at all.” She frowned.
He eyed her expectantly. “So, where did you leave off?”
“Oh, okay, um…” She sighed, shifted her feet, and looked to the ceiling wondering why people wanted to be lied to? “Chapter Forty?” She shrugged.
He cocked his head to the side and looked her up and down. “Chapter Forty?” he breathed and shook his head. “Why must we play these games, Sylvia? Why do you make everything so difficult? Just tell me the truth.”
“I just did. I’m not playing games.” She shook her head and widened her big brown eyes. It was her best attempt at looking innocent and she hoped it didn’t look as fake as she felt presenting it.
He studied her a moment, over his glasses. “Did you study for this?” he handed her test paper back.
She took it and smiled at the 100% scrawled across the top in red ink. “Study?” her gaze darted about. “Uh…no.”
“Really? Do you ever study?” He fixed her with a perplexed gaze.
She laughed, then caught herself and cleared her throat after seeing Mr. Burns’ questioning stare. “Uh, no, sir. I’ve never really had to study.” She pointed to her perfect grade.
He eyed her for a long moment then, as if trying to figure her out what to make of her, but his reaction wasn’t enough. She couldn’t help herself. She opened her mind and grouped about his emotions. She felt them within her own, melded together, but distinctly separate. She felt the stark confused befuddlement he was hiding behind his stone face and she reveled in it.
She wanted to laugh, but looked away from him instead, then back. “What?” she smiled coyly. He just stared at her. A spark of anger flared inside him and she didn’t think she could contain herself satisfaction any longer—
He cleared his throat and shook his head. “Nothing. Well, can you humor me and read chapter twenty-three again?”
“If you want me to.” She shrugged. You humor me enough.
“You can go back to your seat now.”
“Right.” She turned, rolled her eyes, and headed for her desk catching Kaitlin staring at her again. This was getting ridiculous now. Sylvia glared a question back at the girl, eyes wide and mouth twisted. Kaitlin returned the glare even harder. They locked eye contact until Sylvia reached her desk where she plopped down in her seat with a huff.
Mr. Burns was watching her still and she threw him a brief smile, then paused slightly after feeling a twinge of…arousal rise within him?
Almost as if he knew she could feel what he was feeling, he quickly turned his attention back to the books and papers on his desk, like a man caught ogling a woman’s cleavage.
Sylvia’s smile faded with concern and she knew she’d have to keep a closer eye on him from now on. Arousal? She wondered if he felt that way about any other girls in the class, no, the whole school for that matter. He probably did, but why her?
She looked down at herself. She was skinny, lanky, with no curves at all she could see, and she dressed more like a boy than a girl with loose jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts. Her hair was braided and pulled back away from her face. She was definitely in the lower percentile range when it came to femmine physical development. The only other person she knew to feel…that way about her was John Ritz, the husband in the second foster home she lived in when she was seven years old.
One night, Mr. Ritz, John, came into her room and tried to talk her into touching him in private places. He said it was a special way for her to show him how much she wanted to stay in his house with him and Carla, his wife, but when she refused to touch him, he tried to force himself on her. She was scared, horrified. A little girl shouldn’t have to experience things like that. Not at all, but especially not with a grown man. Sylvia fought back that night with her teeth, nails, fists and feet, and when that didn’t stop John, she used her mind. She poured fear into him, all of the fear she felt, her horror, her terror, she poured it all into him along with all the bad feelings she could imagine as a child.
It was the first time she’d ever done anything like that. Before then, she could only feel other people’s emotions. After that night, she could make other people feel her emotions, and any other emotion she wanted, any one or combination of emotions she could think of.
That was the greatest night of her young life even though it came at the expense of Mr Ritz’s. Heart-attacks were tragic things, and soon, with the loss of her husband, Carla, Mrs. Ritz sent her back into in the Foster Care System.
Sylvia studied Mr. Burns now. Was he like Mr. Ritz? She wondered if he ever took action upon his…arousal with any of the girls here. Her gaze scanned the room taking in every single girl, then her gaze rested on Kaitlin Sparks who was writing down answers on her test paper.
She could easily dive into Mr. Burn’s mind to find out for sure, he was busy working at his desk now, a bit too busy, but honestly, she really didn’t want to deal with whatever she might find in his head. No, not right now. Once she started doing that, it usually marked the beginning of the end for…everything. She wanted this to last for as long is it possibly could.
Besides, the arousal in him was gone now, along with his anger, as he busily scribbled on papers. Maybe it was a fluke, a glitch, a one time thing. Emotions were very unpredictable like that. Especially when they were your own. It might not have even been meant for her. He could’ve been thinking of something or someone else. She figured she’d better drop it before her imagination took it to a whole new level and made something out of nothing. It wouldn’t be the first time it happened.
She twisted around in her seat and unzipped her book bag hanging on the back of her chair. She partially pulled out and opened a blue folder and slid her test paper inside in front of another paper with 100% scrawled across the top.
She shoved the folder back into her bag and fingered the spine of her history textbook. Geez. She couldn’t wait for this class to be over. She shook her head at the textbook then pulled it out, placed it on her desk, and flipped the pages to Chapter Twenty-Three.
“I’m finished, Mr. Burns.” Kaitlin called. “Shall I start on Chapter Twenty-Three as well?”
“Yes, but first bring me your test.” He didn’t look up from his desk.
She strode up to his desk smiling, a bounce in her step heightened by her early developing figure, and handed him her paper. On her way back to her seat, her smile faded when she glanced at Sylvia.
Sylvia looked down at her text book. “This is getting old.” She mumbled, turning to the next page, then the next, and the next without reading.
Finally, she looked out the window again, still turning the pages one after another—the period bell rang and the class of unfinished test-takers erupted into even louder moans and frustrated sighs than before.
Sylvia closed her text book with a heavy thump. “Thank…GOD!”