People always questioned his appearance.
He, being Drake, the curly, inky-haired kid that never went unnoticed. I’d known about him since I was in the fourth grade. I didn’t meet him until the fifth.
Every Tuesday that he showed up to school, he sported at least one gash on his face and knuckles that were bloody red. I say Tuesdays, because on Mondays he was always absent.
He was taller than the average fifth grader. He had long, black eyelashes that hid bold, emerald eyes, and wild, long black hair that concealed his boyish features. He needed a haircut badly.
All of the kids in our school were afraid to talk to him or look him in the eye, not just because of his rough, rugged looks, but also because of the rumors that circulated through school like water out of the fountains.
They loved to talk about him. I think some boys actually envied him—mostly because of his height and how, even though most of the girls were terrified of him, they also had a small crush on him. What girl can resist a bad boy?
For a while, I wondered what the bruises and cuts meant. All the other kids in Mrs. Pots’ fifth grade class were afraid to ask Drake Davenport why he always had marks on his body, but not me.
His broodiness didn’t bother me. It further intrigued my naïve mind, and when he was assigned to sit at my table in art class after the new semester, I asked him about it on the very first day.
“Why do you always look like you’ve been beat up?”
He turned to look at me, his thick eyebrows furrowing beneath his corkscrew bangs.
“What?” he muttered.
“You heard me.” I sat back in my chair, dropping my pencil. “Why do you look like that everyday?”
He grimaced, jerking his head to look away. “Leave me alone.”
“Why won’t you tell people? Is it bad?” I whispered my last question.
He frowned at the chalkboard, avoiding my eyes at all costs. “Fuck off,” he grumbled.
I gasped like a true girly-girl. “Why did you say that? You can’t say words like that!”
“Well, leave me alone, stupid girl.”
I folded my arms tightly across my chest. “For your information, I’m not stupid. I have the best grades in our class. I got accepted into Lake Lane Middle School, thank you very much.” Lake Lane was a private school in our lakeside city of Fox River, Minnesota. It was very hard to get into, even if the family had money to spend on it. The student basically had to have straight A’s all year long if they wanted in. I was proud to be accepted.
Drake rolled his eyes. “Does it look like I care about your dumb grades?”
“Do you care about anything?” I inquired. I was a nosy, prying kid. I can admit that.
“Do you ever freaking stop talking?”
“No. The only way to get answers is if you ask questions. Imagine if Einstein didn’t ask himself questions. He wouldn’t have been such a genius.”
“Whatever,” he grumbled. He dropped his markers and then pushed out of his chair, marching towards Mrs. Pots’ desk.
He asked her something and she reluctantly handed him the yellow bathroom pass, telling him to hurry back. He was out of the door in seconds, and I blew a breath. Sheesh. Was he rude or what?
“You better leave him alone, Jenny,” Jake whispered across the able. “I heard he beat up a girl on the playground once.”
I frowned. “I don’t believe that.” I glanced at the door. “I don’t think he’s so bad. He just doesn’t like to talk.”
“I heard he lives in a moving house with no bedrooms in a bad part of the city.” Silvia laughed as she covered her mouth, pointing her gaze at the door Drake recently walked out. “He’s so poor. Look at what he wears! That’s probably why he’s so mad all the time.”
Everyone at the round table giggled—everyone except me.
Yes, most of the students at our school had wealthy parents. Most of us lived in gated communities, but there was a small part of Fox River that I knew Drake resided in.
He lived in a trailer home with his father. He was automatically included in our school district zone because he was only a few blocks away from the school.
He didn’t fit in, but that didn’t give any of the kids at our table the right to make fun of him.
I looked at each of my giggling classmates. “That is really mean to say, you guys. My brother always told me not to judge anyone because of his or her appearance. He told me you never know what anyone is going through so never judge unless you know for sure, and even if you know, still try not to judge.”
The entire table stopped laughing—well, everyone except Parker Hastings. “Oh, shut up, Jenny! Your stupid brother isn’t even alive anymore so who cares what he had to say!”
I gasped, staring wide-eyed at him. Parker’s words stung my heart, his taunt like salt being rubbed into a deep wound. My eyes went hot and prickly. Mrs. Pots appeared right behind me as soon as Parker let out his rude remark.
“Parker Hastings! Meet me outside the classroom. Now!”
I dropped my head as everyone oohh’d and sniggered while Parker groaned, shoving his chair back and stomping to the door. When I glanced back, I was surprised to see Drake standing at Mrs. Pots’ desk.
He watched Mrs. Pots crossly follow Parker out and after he dropped the yellow bathroom pass on her desk, he tipped his head to look at me.
His eyes were softer than they were less than five minutes ago. He walked my way and sat down in the short blue chair beside me.
I didn’t look up. One: because what Parker said about my brother Mitchell was still eating me up inside, and two: because I didn’t want Drake to pick on me too.
So I picked up my markers and finished my fractions coloring sheet.
Drake continued his with dry markers that were most likely from his previous school year. I silently slid a few of my markers his way, letting it be known that he could use them if he wanted.
I felt him looking at me. I still didn’t bother meeting his eyes.
When everyone around our table focused on their papers while talking about other things—things like field day and summer break—Drake finally spoke.
“I heard what you told them.” He paused on coloring and I glanced aside, but his eyes weren’t on me. He was focused on his paper. “Thanks… I guess.”