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The bell rang, and I sprinted into the classroom as the large wooden door swung shut. Ms. Trick always locked it after the bell and if you weren’t in class on time, you were out of luck. Knocks and pleas went unanswered. My knuckles scraped against the rough edge as I squeezed through the narrow opening. They throbbed and bled. Ms. Trick tsk’ed at me as I planted myself in my seat, sucking on the wound to staunch it.
“Now that Heiko’s here, we can start. Please take out your writing assignments
and pass them to the person behind you. Those in the last row, bring your
assignments down to the front.”
I passed my paper to Jerry behind me, who passed his to Saro behind him. Seta came down from the back of the amphitheatred class and handed hers to Mila at the bottom of the row next to mine. She flicked my ear as she returned to her seat; which didn’t escape Ms. Trick’s attention.
“We’ll start with Seta’s story. Mila, please stand and read it aloud.”
“Quiet Seta. Mila... please. “
I turned, crossed my eyes and stuck out my tongue at Seta. She let the bird fly under her desk as Mila took a deep breath.
“One minute, Mila. Heiko! Face forward!... Mila… remember to sound out the
words you’re unsure of.”
Ms. Trick shot the smug smile off Michelle’s face with a marksman’s stink eye. Mila began reading as I pivoted in my seat.
“’My-ee Mah-der’s Mowt’ by Sey-tah Ah-noo-shee-ann.”
As Mila read, I sat transfixed by the cadence of her awkward accent; muddling the meaning of the words. I was hypnotized by the rise and fall of her voice, her breathing and the metallic lisp pushed through glinting braces that caught the slivers of afternoon sunlight breaking through half drawn venetian blinds. Her rust colored hair danced on the shoulders of her pink and green Quiet Riot t-shirt; stirred by the warm breeze that blew through the classroom. It carried the scent of her strawberry shampoo to my nostrils and I filled my lungs. Oh how my chest burned with capricious teenage desire and smog activated asthma- a burning that only ventolin and clumsily metered poetry could soothe.
It struck me as strange that I be gripped by such sudden ardor. I’d never paid much attention to the new Slavic transfer before. Sure, I found her accent cute and her deep dimples impressive, but my rapt attention tended towards the more curvy girls in the class. She was built like a toadstool. Big red head and a pale, skinny body. Yet here I was, enchanted, as she chewed on the English language like gristle…
“Heiko! What’d you think of Seta’s story?”
“Huh? Oh. Uh…”
I looked over at Mila, who sat down again and was fiddling with the rubber bands in her braces.
The class snickered.
“Well!... Seta. You have a fan.”
“What? No! I…”
Michelle sprang out of her seat and cleared her throat. Ms. Trick sighed.
As Michelle prattled, I screwed up my courage and scribbled my affection on the back of an old hall pass. When the coast was clear, I threw it at Mila. It returned half a minute later with her response.
Sory. I only gong wit manely man.
I blushed and hurriedly stuffed the note in my shirt pocket, popping a button off from the force and causing my knuckles to bleed again. As I held my fist to my mouth, I thought…
“Seta IS kinda cute….”
Los Angeles, CA
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