"Well don't you look cute in your uniform," Mary smiled. "How have you been, love? John was just telling me about how you're staying with him now." Mary folded her hands over her plump belly.
"I'm just going to say I'm good so we can dodge a really long, awkward conversation," I remarked, shoving the pile of dirty clothes in my bag which lay slumped on the seat.
Mary giggled at that but John just folded his arms, smiling along though I knew he didn't find it quite as amusing as Mary did.
John turned to me after excusing himself from Mary. "Shuro, you sure you're up to going to school? You can stay here if you want; though I can't promise anything exciting."
"I'm fine," I shrugged. "What time is it?" I slipped on my backpack.
John glanced at his watch. "If you say so. Well, you're already late. It's nine-thirty."
"I'll just be heading on out then," I said, walking past them toward the door.
"Just get a note from the office. Say you were with me," John said.
"Yeah, yeah," I waved him off and left his office.
The first time I met John was about two years ago, in the winter of 07. It was during the second semester of eighth grade. I had been in detention all day for picking a fight with my math teacher. At the end of the school day while I watched everyone else pack up and go home from behind the door's small square window, I stayed in that sterile classroom alone and unsupervised. The door was locked so no students would disrupt me as I wrote "I will not talk back to my elders" two hundred times. I stopped when the vice principle, Mrs. Surrandon, came in to have a little chat.
"I heard what happened with Mr. Meyers," she had said, as she leaned up against the teacher's mahogany desk at the head of the class.
I was seated in the first desk at the front, slouched with my pencil in hand. I didn't say anything to her but merely tapped the pencil back and forth and avoided eye-contact.
"Shuro, I am very concerned about you. This is your sixth time in detention this month. That's not the right way to go if you want to pass the year." I could feel her eyes peering into my very soul but I didn't want to look.
"Look, I don't need your words of wisdom, okay?" I spat. "All you teachers think you're so fucking great, like you're better than everyone else. The truth is you don't give two shits about your students."
She seemed hurt and taken aback. "Shuro, why would you say something like that? Here at St. Benedict's, the students are our main priority-"
"Bullshit. Meyers was threatening to expel me for stating my personal opinion."
Her eyes widened with confusion. "Look, that is probably because he felt intimidated by your tone and actions."
"Oh, sure, side with that bastard. You are all exactly the same, goddamn it!"
"Shuro, watch your language! Don't make me call your father now!" She spat right back at me, her eyebrows narrowed and her voice stinging as it came out.
I looked at her as silence passed, confounded by her comment. "Do whatever you want." I broke our glares with a turn of my head.
She sighed. "I know you don't want to explain anything to me, Shuro. But I feel it would be best if you did talk about things with someone. It's good to let out your feelings through words.
"No, trust me, it isn't. Not for me. If I do that I'll end up in detention again."
"No, I mean in a place where someone will really listen to you. It'll do you some good."
"I don't need therapy! No way." I raised my voice and shook my head.
"I know a nice man who talks with students here at St. Benedict's as a side job when he isn't busy with his clients. He's a lawyer. He likes helping people."
I kept shaking my head. "I don't think so."
"Shuro, please consider this proposal. I know you don't like sharing your issues with others but I really feel this is the right thing to do. He's an amazing man; if there's anyone you can confide in, it's him."
I just stared at her behind wary narrowed eyes. After a few moments I shifted in my seat. The hard wood was more than uncomfortable after sitting there for over three hours.
"You're free to go." She nodded.
I immediately got to my feet and gathered my things, heading toward the door.
"Think about it." She told me as I shut the door behind me.
A few days after that I got in to another fight, with a classmate this time, and instead of being sent to detention, I was told to wait in the vice principle's office. The office was huge and old but it had new furniture which contrasted the walls and windows' castle-like feel. I sat in a large leather seat in front of the desk with Mrs. Surrandon's name on it. No one was in the room but me. Every shift I made against the leather sounded like a bomb going off.
Finally a door opened behind me and I turned to see Mrs. Surrandon followed by a tall and handsome man with piercing blue eyes who grinned at me right when he spotted me. I stood, not knowing what to think. I just gave him a leery glare.
"Shuro, this is John Gillis. He's the lawyer I was telling you about." Mrs. Surrandon smiled and stepped aside so we could formally meet.
"Hey, Kiddo," John extended a hand for me to shake but I didn't take it. I don't know why but I hated him so much at first.
"Look, I don't need you to talk to me like I'm six years old, alright? And you don't have to pretend to want to help me, either. 'Cause I don't need it." And after that I stormed off, caring less about what they had to say.
It wasn't until I was at my locker that John spotted me again and walked over, closing his cell phone. I tried to ignore him as he leaned up against the lockers beside mine. I shoved books in my bag carelessly and without a word.
"It's Shuro, right?" John asked. "That's an odd name."
"Don't talk to me," I said, zipping the front pocket of my bag shut.
"Tell ya what; why don't you come to my office, we'll get to know each other, and we'll just take it from there."
"Um let me think
No." I slammed my locker shut and closed the lock. I started to walk away with my bag hanging over my shoulder.
"Well, your teacher was right," John said.
I paused and turned. "What are you talking about?"
He shrugged. "Oh, she just said you were a stubborn brat that won't listen to anyone, even if they're just trying to do what's best for you."
I scoffed in disbelief. "She did not say that."
John merely nodded. "Why don't you prove her wrong?"
I shook my head, bewildered. "You're just trying to get me into your office. It's not gonna happen. Everyone around here is just the same; false and deceitful. It drives me crazy."
John stepped closer, shaking his head. "Shuro, why would I be trying to get you into my office if I was a phony? It's not like there's money involved. Some people just genuinely care. You might be unaware of it, but it's actually a common thing in society. You should really stop judging people after two minutes of knowing them. You'll find that not everyone's the same." He winked at me then patted my shoulder and walked right by, heading for the entrance of the school.
I decided to go to his office the next day. There was something about him that intrigued me. He had been right; he was different from anybody else I had ever met. I would have known that the moment I met him, if wasn't so blinded by the shadows that everyone else cast.
His office smelled like the pages of a new book, and the shades behind him were drawn, so that I could see the afternoon darkness creeping up into the sky. The days were so short. I casually threw my backpack on the ground in front of his desk.
"So I see you've decided to come!" John stood. "Well, you've made the right choice."
"Whatever." I sat down in the leather chair in front of his desk. "So
what exactly are we supposed to do here?"
"Nothing in particular. You can do whatever you want." He answered.
"What?" I asked, looking around the room. "I thought the whole reason I was here was so that I could discuss my 'issues' with someone."
John smiled. "Well if you already know, then why did you ask?" I still remember that comment like it was yesterday. He had outsmarted me and I had nothing to say back, which was a first.
"Look, Shuro, I'm not going to force you to discuss anything. You can tell me whatever you like." He placed his hands on the desk and leaned back in the chair.
I stood and examined his office. It had the same feel as Mrs. Surrandon's, since it was practically in the same building. The two were on the same lot of land. The bookshelves in his office were new and spotless. I walked over to one that had a picture frame sitting on it's shelf. The picture had two people in it: one was John and the other was a woman I didn't recognize at the time.
"Who's she?" I asked.
John looked over. "That's Emera, my wife."
"You love her?"
John seemed taken aback by my question, as if it came out of nowhere. "She's a pain in the neck, but she's alright," he joked.
I placed it down without a word. "I want to ask you something."
John seemed a bit confused, but he nodded nonetheless. "Sure, shoot."
"What does love mean to you?"
"Do you ask everyone this upon meeting them?"
When he noticed I was still waiting for his response he sighed and shook his head. "I guess
when you want to spend the rest of your life with someone because they make you the happiest person in the world."
I shook my head. "That's ridiculous. Love doesn't exist."
John looked at me incredulously. "Of course it does. Love is an emotion just like anger and sadness. Those exist, don't they?"
"Just the idea of love it's
it's all fake."
"And what makes you say that?"
"If love existed there wouldn't be wars
there wouldn't be slavery or discrimination or poverty. The government would pay for fucking health insurance."
John chuckled and shook his head. "You've got a hell of an opinion, don't you?"
I just stood there, eyeing around the room some more.
His phone suddenly rang and he picked up with a sweet "hey, Em."
I took out a book from the shelf and flipped through the pages. It was something on law.
"Actually, I'm with a student," he said to her. "Sure, I'll remember to pick something up. Alright. See you later. Love you too." He eyed me with a smirk as he said that.
After he hung up I grabbed my bag. "Look, I gotta go, alright?"
"So soon?" John eyed his watch.
"Yeah." I didn't feel like talking anymore. I felt I had already discussed enough with him.
"Alright, we'll see each other soon."
I glanced one last time at him before leaving without a word.
Had I known that man would become the most important person in my life? The only person I've ever cared so much about that it hurts my heart? No, I had no idea.
And now, two years later, I found myself back in the school it had all started in.