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I watched the kids file into the room quietly waiting for my block start. This was my first year as a teacher and I was unsure what to do sometimes, but I thought was handling it all pretty well considering.
At the back of the room, I saw a girl. She was pale, tired but she looked normal, so why did she catch my eye? As I stood up to go to the front I noticed something unusual. She was alone. No one was talking to her, she wasn't talking to them. Just her and her headset. Why?
After school, I grabbed my satchel and headed out. I may be a teacher, but nobody wants to stick around on a beautiful day.
As I walked across the lot to my truck, I saw that girl... (What was her name? I think it was Mary... ) walking down the nearby street. Why did she keep drawing my eye to her? I sighed, knowing what the nice thing to do was.
"Hey Mary!" I yelled. She didn't look at me...ok.. Maybe her name wasn’t Mary. I threw my bag in the truck and climbed in. As I pulled out, I drove up beside her and stopped.
“Hey. You want a ride?” She looked at me like I was nuts. The nodded. I moved my bag and she slid in beside it. “Sorry I don’t remember your name.” I admitted, taking the truck into second.
“Mari.” She pronounced it M-ah-r-ee. At least I was close.
“Well, I guess you know I’m Mr. Darsen.” I said awkwardly. She gave me a small smile.
“Yeah, I know. You’re my econ teacher. Your first year here, right?” She asked softly.
“Um, my first year teaching anywhere. I just got out of college. So where do you live?” She rattled off an address and some directions. “So... What’s your favorite class?” I kept trying to avoid another silence.
“I honestly don’t have one. I like art and music.” Mari contemplated.
“Yeah I noticed. You’ve always had a headset since the first day of school.” She looked at me like I was a creeper. “I’m not stalking you! It’s just an observation!” I said quickly. She laughed at my discomfort.
“It’s ok. I get it. Yeah, I listen to a lot of music.”
“Well there’s some CD’s by your feet. You can pop one in, if you want.” I said trying to reach a common ground.
She grabbed the booklet of them, obviously glad for a distraction.
“Which one you want?” She said. “I don’t know many of these.”
“Well, try Martina McBride.” I suggested, knowing how girly that was. She pulled the CD out and popped it in. Concrete Angel’s slow piano filled the speakers. Mari was silently listening to the lyrics. As, we kept driving, I saw tears welling up in her eyes.
“Mari, you ok?” She was silent. Then the tears began to escape her eyes. I knew something was horribly wrong.
“Can I shut this off?” She asked suddenly.
“Yeah sure. Sorry, it’s a sad song.” I said reaching for the eject button.
“Yeah... Sad that actually happens. Sad that we can’t fix it.” She said bitterly. I could tell from her face that there was more to that then she would ever say. It made me wonder where that anger had come from... And why it was triggered.
As we pulled onto a street far out into the backroads, Mari spoke up.
“You can let me out here. It’s not far.”
“I’ve drove this far. Might as well keep going. Besides, I live two streets over, on Medford lane.” I answered. She sat back and was quiet for the rest of the ride, until we neared a shabby trailer.
“Here. Thanks for the ride...” She said slowly gathering her bag.
“No problem. Since I don’t live far, how about we carpool?” I heard myself ask suddenly. Mari looked at me for a second, like she was calculating something. “Come on. You wouldn’t have to miss the bus anymore.” She let a small smile slide onto her lips.
“Ok...” She said.
“Ok, I have to be there a little early. I can pick you up at 7:15?” I suggested.
“ ‘kay. See you then.” She said getting out.
“Bye.” She waved.
I waved back, wondering again why she was so wary, thinking maybe, just maybe, she was this town’s concrete angel.