The ward of castoria, p.4
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       The Ward of Castoria, p.4

           Robin Silverglate
 

  Chapter 2

  The New Student

  Bryn was early to her first period class as usual. Since her father was a teacher at Lockland Prep, she would get there at the teacher’s arrival time. She sat quietly at her desk and began to annotate a book she was reading for her English class. Bryn heard the door periodically open and shut as the other students entered the room. Most of them sat as unobtrusively as she did. It was too early in the morning for animated conversations. Even her calculus teacher’s voice was hushed as he talked to a student at his desk. Only when the tardy bell rang and Mr. Conrad started reviewing last night’s homework did she look up.

  About half-way through the period, Mr. Conrad moved on to discussing a new concept. Bryn’s quick mind followed every step of the problem, but she did ask a few questions in order to help solidify the concept in her thoughts. The last ten minutes of the class were spent with the students beginning the next day’s homework as the teacher sauntered around the room and helped. Some students actually used this time to work while others were finally awake enough to socialize. Bryn tried not to listen to the conversations of the students who sat near her. She wanted to use this time in order to get as much calculus homework done as possible.

  A peculiar feeling came over Bryn as she worked on her assignment. She felt as if someone was watching her. She lifted up her head and looked at the students sitting directly next to her. It was not them. They were busy talking to each other about a video game. She glanced over toward the group of girls who sat two rows over, but realized they were quietly whispering to each other about a new cute boy at school.

  Bryn continued to peer around the room. There, in the back corner, was the very same boy who had come to the Daily Grinder the night before. Her eyes met his and she gave him a small smile of recognition. He nodded once and then lowered his head in order to continue his homework. Bryn realized he must be the new student the girls were whispering about. She gawked at him as he sat intently working at his desk. Under the fluorescent lights of the classroom, she could see him a little better than she had the night before. He was handsome, for sure, but there was still something about him that seemed out of place. She could not, for the life of her, figure out what was wrong. Everything seemed to be perfect about him.

  Maybe that’s the problem, she thought. He’s too perfect.

  Not one single hair was out of place. His skin was flawless with absolutely no teenage blemishes marring it. The tie of his uniform was meticulously knotted. This was radically different from the other boys at the school who tried to wear their ties as loose as possible. When the bell rang to end first period, Bryn was not surprised to see him get up gracefully from his desk and head toward the door. To her, it was as if he almost glided out of the room.

  Too bad he’s strange, thought Bryn.

  She collected her books and was the last student to leave. Her second period class was just a few doors down the hall. As she entered the next classroom, she immediately saw the new student introducing himself to the teacher. He must be in her English class, as well. Bryn moved to her desk and pulled out her notebook and pencil. She overheard Mrs. Frank tell him to choose any empty seat to sit in. She was surprised to see him sit down in the desk just next to hers.

  “Hello,” he murmured quietly.

  “I didn’t realize you went to Lockwood Prep,” said Bryn.

  He nodded and said, “I just transferred here.”

  Bryn noticed some of the other girls in the class were slyly observing him without trying to be obvious about it. Bryn mused that this was probably the one and only time that girls in this school were jealous of her. She was about to ask him where he moved from, but felt a bag knock her lightly on the head as Kayla walked by her seat.

  “Sorry Payless,” said Kayla in her snide voice as she continued to move toward her desk.

  Bryn blushed in embarrassment and lowered her head down to look at her notebook. She told herself to get over it and just concentrate on the class. American Literature was one of her favorite subjects, but she still had to work hard to block out everything but the teacher’s lecture. The class had just started studying 1920s American literature and they were analyzing poetry from that era. She listened to Mrs. Frank’s nasal voice as she read

  The night is beautiful,

  So the faces of my people.

  The stars are beautiful,

  So the eyes of my people.

  Beautiful, also, is the sun.

  Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people

  “This poem was written in 1923. Can anyone hazard a guess who wrote it?”

  The class sat quietly as the teacher patiently waited for an answer. Bryn shifted her gaze around and saw many students intentionally avoiding eye contact with Mrs. Frank.

  “I’ll give you a hint: The poet lived in Harlem.”

  That was all the information Bryn needed, so she raised her hand. “Was it Langston Hughes?”

  “Very good,” praised Mrs. Frank. “And do you know who he was writing about?”

  “Yes,” replied Bryn. “African-Americans.”

  “Good,” said Mrs. Frank as she moved over to her computer. She projected a picture of the famous poet up onto the screen and described how he became an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance. Bryn diligently took notes and barely noticed the dirty looks Kayla was giving her. Mrs. Frank, who was totally absorbed in her own lecture, did not notice them either. “Getting back to the poem, entitled My People, what is Mr. Hughes trying to say about African-Americans?”

  Once again, the class was silent. A boy who sat in the front of the class took a guess and said, “Was he trying to encourage the African-Americans to participate in the Civil Rights Movement?”

  The teacher thought for a moment. “I don’t believe so. In fact, that was not a goal of the Harlem Renaissance in general. Mr. Hughes had something else in mind when he wrote this poem.”

  Bryn said, “He’s trying to encourage African-Americans to not be ashamed of the fact that they looked different from mainstream culture. They have a different type of beauty and should be proud of it.”

  “Exactly!” Mrs. Frank seemed pleased that at least one of her students understood the poem.

  Bryn peered over at Kayla, fully expecting to see another dirty look. Instead, she saw that Kayla was applying another coat of lipstick. Bryn wondered if Kayla was even paying attention to the lecture. She felt that if anyone should learn a lesson on the different types of beauty, it should be an Evil Stepsister. Bryn could not deny that on the outside, Kayla appeared to be perfect. Kayla, herself, was cognizant of her own beauty and she seemed to find power in it. Most of the male students sought after her and most of the female students desired to be her friend.

  Kayla was unaware of Bryn’s scrutiny. In fact, she was trying to catch the eye of the new student. Bryn watched with amusement as Kayla’s smiles and small noises became more and more obvious. To his credit, the new guy appeared to be very interested in Mrs. Frank’s lecture and did not pay any attention to Kayla. Bryn mused that it probably wouldn’t be long before he succumbed to her beauty. Most men usually did.
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