When people look at me, they automati-
cally assume I'm dark and weird. Why
can't they see the truth? I'm just a girl,
trying to find my place in the world.
-- From the journal of Jade Leigh
God, I hate school.
I'm sitting in trig, listening (not really) to Mr. Parton drone on and on about angles and measurements. As if I care. As if I'll ever use that stuff outside of this classroom.
Honestly, I'd rather be anywhere else. Even home, where my dad begins almost every conversation with, "You should lose the black clothes and wear something with color." Puh-lease. Like I want to look like every Barbie clone in Hell High, a.k.a. Oklahoma's insignificant Haloway High School. Ironically, Dad doesn't appreciate the bright blue streaks in my originally blond/now-dyed-black hair. Go figure. That's color, right?
With my elbows resting on my desktop, I dropped my forehead into my upraised palms and closed my eyes. Mr. Parton continued to blah, blah, blah (or, as he'd tell you, talk), and his superior, I-know-the-answers-therefore-I-am-God voice grated against my nerves.
Was I surprised? No. He always talked to us like that, as if we were dumb for not already knowing how to work math equations we'd never encountered before. He even got mad when we asked questions -- God forbid we actually learn, right? -- and generally treated us like total dumbwits.
Fifteen minutes, thirty-seven seconds before bell. Translation: fifteen minutes, thirty-seven seconds of me wishing for an apocalyptic destruction of the universe so my misery would end.
What had I done to deserve this kind of torture? Talk back to my dad? Who didn't? Ditch a few classes? Show me one person who hasn't. Pierce my nose? Well . . .
"If Miss Leigh will give me the honor of her attention," Mr. Parton snapped, "I'll explain the relation between sins and chords."
I didn't glance up, didn't want to encourage him. Really, when would this end?
"Are you paying attention, Miss Leigh, or are you praying you never come into contact with a wooden stake?"
Several students chuckled.
I still didn't bother looking up, but I did react to his taunt. "No, I'm not," I gritted out. I think the man enjoyed making fun of me more than he liked teaching. Not a single day passed without a snide comment from him: Why don't you do everyone a favor and stay home tomorrow, Miss Leigh? You're the reason I need ulcer medication, Miss Leigh. Your poor father, he must need a lot of therapy, huh, Miss Leigh. I'd heard it all. "FYI," I added, "your comment doesn't make you fright, Mr. Parton."
"Fright." Avery Richards snorted. "That's such a dumb word."
"Just say cool like the rest of us," someone else said.
I felt my cheeks heat with embarrassment -- and hated myself for letting them see any hint of upset.
Mr. Parton tapped his foot impatiently. "Mind sharing with us what you were doing that's more important than listening to what I have to say? If anyone in this classroom needs to learn, it's you."
Okay. Now I'm officially pissed. "If you must know, I'm thinking of less painful ways to kill myself than from your lesson. Kevin."
My classmates erupted into laughter, and I heard the shuffle of their seats as they turned to glance at me. They may not like me, but they always found my irreverence amusing.
Mr. Parton glared. "You will address me as 'Mr. Parton' or not address me at all. You do not call me by my first name. Ever. I don't want someone like you even thinking it."
How's this for a math equation: the wooden stake comment plus the someone-like-you comment equals a ready-to-throw-down Jade Leigh. His words assured one thing: I would not allow myself to back down now.
"Is it okay, then, if I call you Kevie?" I said. I'm Goth; that doesn't make me a vampire. If I were, I would have drained Mr. Parton a long time ago.
Honestly, I'm not evil. I liked to dabble in the magical arts (upon occasion), yes, and I dressed to set myself apart from the ultratraditional norm. There's nothing wrong with expressing my individuality.
"There will be a quiz on this information," he growled. "While I'm happy to give you an F, I'll be even happier to give you detention if you don't start paying attention."
He expected me to shake with fear over the thought of detention. If he'd said something about "extreme makeover" or "an hour of shopping with the Barbie clones" . . . maybe. But an hour alone with my thoughts?
Yeah, I'm quaking.
Just keep your mouth shut, Jade, my common sense piped in. Ignore him. You can't afford to be in trouble again. I looked up at last, facing him, determined (finally) to remain silent and end our battle. He wouldn't get in trouble for it, but I would. Yet, when my gaze locked with his, his too-thin lips curled in a smug smile and his green eyes glowed with triumph -- as if he'd already won.
"That's what I thought," he said, his voice as smug as his grin.
"Detention sounds like fun," I found myself saying, all sense of preservation annihilated by his premature smugness. "Sign me up. I can hardly wait to start."
His eyes narrowed to tiny slits, and his face darkened to an angry red, clashing with his white button-up shirt (no wrinkles) and brown dress slacks (again, no wrinkles). So neat. So tidy.
At one time, I bet he'd been military.
That's probably why he'd taken an instant dislike to me at the beginning of the school year. Military men, like my dad, liked things precise, nothing out of place. I usually wore a black vinyl shirt lined with cobweb lace, fishnet gloves, and ripped jeans. Or, like today, a frayed black mini and black Victorian corset. Soooo not "precise" and completely out of place. My black lip liner and nose ring probably didn't help.
What do you think he'd do if he saw the symbol of infinity tattooed around my navel?
"You want detention so badly I'll sign you up for the entire week." He crossed his arms over his chest, obviously expecting me to rush out an apology. "How would you like that?"
When would he learn I wasn't like the other kids at this school?
"Mr. Parton," I said, studying my metallic blue nail polish as if I hadn't a care in the world. Inside, though, I hadn't forgotten that I stood on the edge of a jagged cliff, trouble waiting for me if I fell. But I couldn't seem to help myself; I despised this man too much. "Do you mind getting back to your lecture, so I can get back to my nap?"
Another round of laughter erupted.
"That's it!" Scowl deepening, he pounded toward me and slapped his hand against my desk, causing the metal legs to vibrate. If he didn't learn to control his stress level, he'd burst a vessel in his forehead. "You've been nothing but a nuisance for three weeks. You have the worst grades in the class -- in all your classes, actually. I checked."
My back straightened, and my shoulders squared. How dare this "role model" discuss my grades with the entire class. "I have an A in creative writing," I informed him staunchly.
"Well, good for you." The sarcastic edge in his voice grated against my every nerve. "You know how to write in your native language. Woohoo. Let's all give Miss Leigh a round of applause."
More laughter (no longer in my favor), followed by the sound of enthusiastic hand clapping and whistling. Traitors! I should have expected nothing less.
My eyes narrowed, and I think Mr. Parton realized I was about to rip into him. He slapped my desk again. "We're done with this conversation. I've had enough of you, and I want you out." He jerked a finger toward the door. "Get out of my classroom. Go straight to the principal's office. Do not talk to anyone. Do not stop in the bathroom."
What, should I collect two hundred dollars if I passed Go?
Tomblike silence claimed the room as I bent to retrieve my books and red velvet purse from the floor. "Don't you need to write me a note or something?" I said, purposefully keeping my tone light. No way I'd give him the "please let me stay" reaction he craved.
His nostrils flared before he stomped to his desk, scribbled something on a piece of paper, and thudded back to me. He smacked that sheet into my outstretched palm. "Out!"
"Thanks," I said, proud of myself. I hadn't backed down, hadn't let him intimidate me. As my mom once said, "If you don't stand up for yourself, Jade sweetie, no one else will. Be strong. Be brave. Be you."
She'd uttered those words right before she died.
Two years ago, a distracted driver had slammed into our car, propelling us into the one in front of us. I'd been fifteen at the time, and she had been teaching me how to drive. I lost my mom that day, as well as the illusion of immortality. I had almost died myself and still bore the scars on my abdomen, so I understood how short life could be. I would not allow a man like Mr. Parton to ruin a single day of mine.
I may only be seventeen years old, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid. That doesn't mean I'm powerless. Mr. Parton enjoys taking his frustrations out on his class. He spills coffee on his shirt, we get a quiz. He locks his keys in his car, we get ten pages of homework.
What's more, I (obviously) can't stand the way he talks to me, as if I'm less of a person than he is because I'm younger, because I dress differently. Should I be punished for not liking math (and sucking at it)? Should I be punished for dabbling in what others considered the darker side of life?
"Pick up the pace," he told me irritably. "The sooner you're gone, the sooner the rest of the class can enjoy the lesson."
I pushed to my feet and adjusted the bag over my shoulder. "I don't think you have to worry about anyone enjoying it."
The comment earned several snickers.
His teeth bared in a scowl, and he took a menacing step toward me. The man looked ready to snap -- my neck, that is. A little tremble worked through me, but I quickl... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.