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The Motley Group This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

By , Cupertino, CA
“Did I tell you about that time I snuck marijuana into my teacher's desk?” Smirking at me, he leans across the line that separates our desks, daring everyone in our group of four to gasp in horror before informing our history teacher that they are sitting with a delinquent.

“Nope.” I pop the “p” to insert an extra layer of nonchalance, glaring at the third group member, who gasps and starts to raise his right hand. “Don't even think about it.” He lowers his hand but lifts his chin in self-righteous indignation, clearly trying to make me feel like an inferior low-life who is being dragged into the abyss of guns, drugs, and alcohol.

I raise my eyebrows and walk to the front of the room to snag two copies of the next worksheet, for myself and the delinquent. “Finish this, and then you can tell me about it.”

He looks over the paper passively then glances at mine. I roll my eyes and move my sheet before he can start copying my answers. He makes a face but then sighs as I begin explaining the fine details of the events that caused the Civil War.

It's been like this for a while now – ever since we were paired in our history teacher's last-ditch effort to make Mike resemble an actual student. After all, I'm the picture of productivity, when I'm not staggering into the classroom minutes after the bell. It was a long shot, and a rather large gamble on what I expect he assumed would be my apathy in the face of the five solid minutes of foul language I was subjected to once I had slid into my new seat.

What he probably hadn't factored in was the fact that I could give as well as take. After Mike had exhausted his rather extensive vocabulary, I suggested that he do something rather rude. Group mate three refused to make eye contact for three days, but Mike hasn't used the f-word more than three times in a sentence since then. And not once directed toward me. Group mate three, though, has been fair – and rather easy – game. The issue is how his face reddens, we've decided between us, though I'm actually rather partial to the nasal twang he takes when his delicate sensibilities are upset.

“It's not much of a story … I hated him so I snuck a bag of pot into his desk and told the cops he was selling.” I've gotten used to a lot of things these past few weeks, but Mike's ease in admitting a felony isn't one of them. I don't let it show when I roll my eyes again and grin, asking what the teacher had done to deserve Mike's wrath.

He's told me a lot about himself while being my table-mate. More than I think any of us expected. I know about his first family as well as his second. I know how he feels being the adopted white kid in a black family, about his father's guns (too many) and the drugs (too much) that pervade his life. I listen as he paints pictures of a place lined in wire with metal detectors to detect the switchblades and shotguns that make it past anyway. He tells me that that is where he belongs, but sometimes when I've just finished re-teaching a lesson he's too proud to have paid attention to, I see a glint in his eyes. Sometimes I reckon that glint is happiness.

That glint is in his eyes as we banter about nothing and everything – the fact that I've never been kissed, or done drugs, or felt the need to pull the trigger of a gun, while he does all three regularly. Thankfully the last one is in a safe place away from people. I've gotten him to agree to that, at least. We aren't friends, per se, because he's a delinquent who'll probably end up in jail one day, and I'm the teacher's pet determined to change the world. Besides, we're both pretty sure that admitting any type of friendship would lower both of our credibility.

So instead, we sit next to each other for fifty minutes a day, taunting our group mate, discussing Mike's past and present exploits, and maybe learning a little history. Good thing I've always had a knack for the subject and enjoy reading from our textbook, because if not, I'm pretty sure my grades would be as bad as Mike's. And not on purpose either.

The bell rings, and I pack up my stuff, watching as Mike shoves the worksheet we've completed into a pocket. I take comfort in the fact that at least he's making 75's nowadays rather than the 50's he started with. If he wasn't so determined to flush his life down the toilet, he probably could have brought his scores up to the 90's.

I tell myself again that he has a different set of priorities, remembering the wire and guns as I walk out the door. He's waiting outside, and we both pick up conversations as we walk – me with my friends, who are frantically studying for a science test, and him with a group of boys I know are heading to the bathroom to smoke a joint.

He raises his hand at me in a half wave before pulling something white out of his pocket along with the lighter I once saw him fumbling with when I asked for a pencil. I pause for a second before calling out that we have a test on Friday that he'd better be prepared for. He pauses to pull out the crumpled worksheet, carefully folding it and putting it in his backpack.

The glint is back in his eye as he grins at me right before he disappears into the boy's bathroom.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2014 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.





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