Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: FOTD - Jackanapes; Blueberry Yoghurt #29 - The First Time
Topping: Whipped Cream (Alex is 14)
Word Count: 774
Summary: Alex puts Josh's advice into action for the first time.
“How you survived the last two years I have no idea,” Josh said as he watched Alex pick up the books and balance his pad on the top, “but I’m legally obliged to keep you alive for the next four, so remember that sometimes the best assessments are done up close and personal, and for God’s sake pay attention to your surroundings.”
Alex nodded. It was difficult to accept that Kennet would receive little to no punishment for what he did to him, but Josh had pointed out several times that the world had changed while Alex wasn’t looking: the rules so heavily stressed during his childhood no longer applied.
If he needed a reminder, all he had to do was lift his fringe and look in the mirror. The bruise had faded to a yellow-green, but was unmistakeably a palm. He could see the thumb. It did as much to solidify his intentions as Josh’s words had.
“And remember,” Josh shouted as Alex left the room, “if you die before you’re eighteen I’m in deep shit, so be careful!”
He slipped back into the classroom during maths, either unnoticed or at least not commented upon, and settled himself back into his seat silently. A row forward and to the left, Kennet’s head was bent over his own notes and books; the sudden urge to beat his skull in with a chair was only just quashed. There might not be as many rules as he thought, but he was pretty sure that murdering classmates in the middle of a lesson was probably one that was still in force.
He wouldn’t do it anyway. It was a crushing realisation. Given half a chance he’d kick Kennet senseless—but he wouldn’t kill him.
The teacher rose from his seat and greeted someone at the door; when Alex glanced over his shoulder he realised it was the English tutor, originator of the soul-destroying homework. When he looked back it was straight into Kennet’s eyes and Kennet’s nasty smirk.
The rush of fear and nausea rapidly bubbled into hatred. Then—right then—he could do it without batting an eyelid.
“Alex, I’d like to see your assigned work.”
Both he and Kennet looked around as one to see the teacher leaning his palms on the desk, eyes locked on him with a faint smile playing around his lips. Josh wasn’t kidding when he said that the rules didn’t apply any more. This man had picked up on his weakness and was fully prepared to exploit it.
He was getting sick of this. “Yes sir.” If he thought that he’d failed to complete it because he was quaking in bed he was in for a shock. Crossing the room like he couldn’t feel Kennet’s eyes boring into him, he stopped in front of the desk long enough to bang his essays and notes down with a thump that made the adult jump, then stalked back to his seat.
“I didn’t give you permission to return to your desk, Alex.”
For God’s sake... “You didn’t tell me to stay either, sir.” He leaned back in his seat, folding his arms, heart pounding—he’d never done this before, never dared— “Did I do something wrong?”
The flash of confusion that was quickly replaced with calm authority was more amusing than it should be; Alex might be prone to insulting the other students, but he’d never yet been rude to anyone in a position of power. “Next time, wait for instruction.”
“I’ve never needed to before. Sir.” A murmur of assent rumbled behind him. “Is that a new policy?”
The man’s pale complexion turned sickly. “Do you need me to spell it out for you, Alex? I’m asking you to do as you’re told.”
Alex raised his eyebrows, ignoring the short burst of pain the gesture caused, and tried his hardest to look innocent. “But sir, you didn’t tell me anything.”
For one second he thought the man was going to come over and slap him. The greenish pallor turned a shade of angry red instead. “I’ll be sure to give you more specific instructions next time, Alex.”
The man stared hard at him, looking for some trace of sarcasm, some insolence; that was the only thing he’d said that had been truly respectful.
He had no doubt at all that he’d be getting the essays back with a bad grade. It didn’t matter, he realised. What mattered was playing this new game where no one got to walk all over him any more, be it Kennet, his teachers or anyone else.
And what really mattered now was winning.