He glanced up at the clock, squinting so he could make out where the hands were. It was 1:17, or at least he assumed it was because they still looked pretty blurry. He supposed he should go get an eye test but that would only result in a life long expense that he didn’t really have the money for right now nor would have in the foreseeable future. And screw asking dad to pay, he didn’t want that hanging over his head for the next few years. Instead of entertaining that thought, he instead blamed the fact that he was sitting at the back of the classroom and a good five or so metres away from the clock. He’d own that mistake, but not his crappy eyesight.

He shoved the end of his pen in his mouth, gnawing away at the hard plastic while he mentally calculated how many hours till school was done. It finished at three so that meant there was entirely too much time left and he didn’t know how he’d make it. There was nowhere else in the world he would rather be less right now than this stuffy room. Summertime, no air conditioner and twenty-five teenagers meant that the place very quickly transformed into sauna of BO mixed with Lynx and Impulse spray. He knew he was probably adding to the stink himself but there was nothing he could do about that, one could only sweat so much before they started to smell.

“Tai!” The shrill voice of his English teacher cut through his daydream and brought him hurtling back to reality where he hit the earth with a disheartening thud.

“What?” He shot back. The word was muffled due to the pen still stuck between his teeth but his intent came through, prompting an eyebrow raise from her.

“It’s pardon,” The words were short and sharp, like they had a period after each one. “And take that pen out your mouth, it’s unbecoming of a young man.”

His expression stayed the same but he slowly bit down harder on the pen, grinding it between his teeth. The plastic began to crack and ever so slowly, the ink began to seep out and drip down onto his chin. He smiled, teeth looking like he’d been chomping on blueberry warheads, before pulling out the pen and spitting out the plastic onto his desk. “There ya go, miss,” He smirked, wiping his sleeve across his chin and further spreading the ink over his skin. “Can I go clean this up? It might be toxic.” Without waiting for a response, he pushed all his things into his bag and slung it up over his shoulder.

“Leave your bag in the classroom, there is no need to take it with you.”

He was already at the door and she was dreaming if she thought he was making that trip back to his desk to drop it off again. He trailed his eyes around the room, grinning at his audience as he did so. Some were watching with admiration, but most with apathy. They were used to his behaviour at this point, they’d shared this class for almost a year now and it was nothing new. Dunno why they admire me though, he thought, I just do what they don’t have the guts for.

“I can’t, miss,” He whined back. “What if my stuff gets stolen? I saw Josh eyeing off my laptop before.” There was a cough mixed with a “bullshit” from said deskmate and her attention was then directed to him instead. Using this as a distraction, he slipped out the doorway before anyone could tell him off.

The bathroom stunk like piss. Piss they’d tried to cover up with air freshener but it hadn’t been strong enough and the stink had cut through, making it all the more nauseating. Instinctively he grabbed his nose to block the smell, forgetting all about the ink and coating his nose this time too. He sighed when he saw himself in the mirror, inspecting his face as he pumped soap into his hand. Scrubbing away, he wondered why he was like this. It was nothing against her specifically; he treated them all the same way. Whenever someone tried to tell him what to do it got his back up and he’d pull out some stunt like that.

He cupped his hands together to drink some water, semi-effectively washing most of the ink out of his mouth. Tilting his head back, he let it drool out and drop onto the counter in big fat drops. He looked cool, almost like he was in a horror movie, as if he was spitting up some weird tar caused by an alien disease he’d contracted during a space mission accidentally. Would be fun if someone walked in and he could freak him out. Leaning closer in to his reflection, he ran his tongue over his teeth and tried to clean the rest from his gums. It didn’t work and he shrugged at himself, guess it would be a job for the toothbrush tonight.

He didn’t feel like going back to class. The shopping centre down by the port was beckoning him…or rather the McDonald’s was. Maybe he’d run into that cute girl with the red hair from the private school that he’d met last week. Though first he had to avoid the watchful gaze of the office receptionist as he tip toed out, she’d stare out the window like a hawk, ready to swoop down and ask you why you weren’t in class. He’d bested the first obstacle — sneaking out of the room and this was the final frontier, the hardest challenge, the last boss, so on and so forth.

He hunched his shoulders up and shoved his hands in his pockets to make himself smaller. As if that would help. His recent growth spurt had left him at an impressive six foot two and standing at least a head taller than every other student in the school, so there was really no way to miss him. His heart was hammering in his chest as he crossed the threshold; it was like he was going in to battle. Despite having the enviable skill of being able to pull an excuse out of his ass, the anticipation of being caught out really got to him. Why? He couldn’t tell you. It’s not as if he cared about getting detention or being told off or whatever.

“Tai!” Deja vu and right on cue (that rhymed, he should be a poet). He froze as she marched towards him, wagging her finger and tut-tutting. “What are you doing out here again?”

“I’m sorry, miss!” He faux-wailed. “I have an eye test, I’ve been having trouble reading the board and they didn’t have any appointments after school hours. Didn’t my dad message through and let you know? He told me that he did.” His dad being of course a friend who took drama as a subject. He was good at deepening his voice and in return, Tai would forge his mum’s signature for him.

She exhaled sharply through her nostrils. “He did not. I’ll have to confirm with him now before I’ll let you go any further.”

“But miss…” He dragged out the last word like a little kid whining to their mum. “The appointment is in twenty minutes so I need to go now. You wouldn’t deny me of my health, would you?”

“School protocol and you know that, Mister Farley.” The trip into reception dragged on and on, each step was like walking in sand while wearing thongs. He attempted to send through a message to his “dad” but she whipped her head around and narrowed her eyes, so he put the device away resentfully. Maybe today was the day that he finally got caught out and was sent packing back to class.

She sat him down in the foyer and kept her beady eyes on him as she dialled the number. He slid down on the chair so he was almost horizontal, staring grumpily back at her. Here came the authority issues again. One ring…two rings…three…four… His fingers were clutched onto the armrests in an iron grip, trying to hide how on edge he was. Five…six…

“Hello, you’ve reached the voicemail of—” Shit. It was all over. It had been fun while it lasted. “Hello, Mister Farley speaking.”

He let out an audible sigh of relief, prompting another glare from her. Thank God, Jesus, Buddha, all the saints and whoever else was out there. He was saved the wrath and resulting awkwardness for now. He stood up as the conversation ended and she hung up the phone, unable to keep the shit-eating grin off his face and revealing his brightly coloured teeth.

She pursed her lips, but didn’t protest. “I’ll let you go this time but I expect to see a pair of glasses on your face next time you try to sneak by.”

“Absolutely!” He gave her a salute. He’d beaten the level; taken down the threat, yada yada yada and boy did he feel accomplished. Not wanting to risk any further interrogation, he spun on his heel and made a break for it. Sprinting down the street, his grin just got wider. He was free.