“What do you think is in the cupboard?”
I turn around to face Steven. “I’d rather not know.”
“Oh, come on,” he says. “Not even a guess?”
I can tell boredom is hitting him full force. He’s peeling an edge of the Constitution poster off of the cupboard next to us. I wince at the chipped paint he’s revealing. It’s no wonder Mr. Perriera chose to cover the pea soup exterior of the cupboard with posters.
“Well,” Steven answers his own question. “Maybe Marcus is in there.”
“Marcus,” he repeats.
“Yeah, I heard you,” I say. “But who’s Marcus?”
Steven looks at me, puzzled. “He sits right next to you. Or used to, I guess.”
I look at the empty seat beside me. Marcus…Nope. Nothing is coming to me.
“I thought that seat was always empty,” I respond, shrugging off his exasperation.
“He went into the bathroom in the middle of class two days ago and hasn’t come back,” Steven says.
“So?” I ask. “He ditched class. It’s not like anyone here actually wants to be here.”
“He left his stuff here,” Steven says, as if that proves anything.
The entire class jumps as Mr. Perreira enters our sophomore classroom, slamming the door.
We all quiet down, prepared for his outburst. Mr. Perreira has a record of…not so normal behavior. I look down at my notebook, the one with the crumpled front cover. It had the unfortunate luck to be in the pile of books Mr. Perreira once borrowed from my desk, only to slam them down on his own to get the class’ attention.
He doesn’t seem angry today. Surprisingly enough, he almost looks…gleeful. He walks to the chalkboard, waving a paper in his hand.
“The department just finished creating the midterm. Here’s your study guide,” he says, beginning to write on the board.
- A 2. C 3. B 4. B
“Is he giving us the answers?” Steven whispers.
It looks that way. I guess there is some good to outweigh the bad of this class. Pencils begin scratching across paper rapidly, everyone trying to finish copying before Mr. Perreira turns back into the dragon he usually is.
He finishes at the board and picks up a stack of papers on his desk. Walking around he hands them out. I’m too busy copying off the board to notice when he’s next to me.
“Marissa,” he says, startling me. “I couldn’t find your paper, but you’re a good student. You probably passed it in and I lost it, so I gave you an A in my gradebook.”
I look down at the paper he has just placed on my desk. There on the cover page of my paper on President Jefferson is…a big fat F. I flip through the pages frantically, trying to figure out why he hated it. But markings are absent from the crisp white pages. He didn’t even grade it!
“What did you get?”
I turn around to face Steven, showing him my paper. “He said he lost it. Did he forget to turn the page or something?” I ask bewildered.
“He failed you?”
I snicker. “Actually he gave me an A because he figured I turned it in.”
Steven frowns. “All the luck.”
We turn to face the door. Mr. Perreira has made another one of his mid-class breaks.
Steven taps me on the back until I turn around. “Open the cupboard. See what’s inside.”
“If you want to know so badly, you open it!”
“You’re closer to it!”
I look back and forth between him and the cupboard. “It is literally directly between us.”
Steven shrugs. “I don’t want to be his next victim.”
I glare at him. “But that’s a fate you want for me? Thanks.”
“He probably ate Marcus’ soul,” Steven says, ignoring me.
I laugh. “And that’s how he lives forever?”
“Maybe he has relics from when he traveled the Oregon Trail way back when,” Steven suggests.
Rolling my eyes, I only respond with, “Open it yourself.”
“Aren’t you the tiniest bit curious?” he asks.
In truth, I am a little bit. He’s only opened it once in front of us. He cracked it the smallest bit and blocked our view the entire time. Whatever was in it wasn’t something he wanted to share.
“You are!” Steven exclaims triumphantly, taking my silence as affirmation. “So open it?”
“If I open it will you shut up?” I ask frustrated.
At his nodding, I look back to the door one last time, praying Mr. Perreira isn’t about to resurface. I pause, my hand on the handle of the cupboard, slowly open it, and…gasp.
“What? What is it?” Steven asks, his voice tinged with fear.
Laughing, I open the door wider to show him. “Junk.”
“What’s that shiny thing?” Steven asks, pointing towards the back corner.
I lift the musty, old blanket that’s partially covering it, revealing a plaque. “He won an award?” I ask, surprised.
“Let me see,” Steven says and I pull the plaque out.
“Excellence in Teaching? This has to be a joke.”
Steven murmurs his agreement, before pulling the plaque out of my hands. “Wait, this is for a school in Virginia.”
I scan over the names of the award recipients for the past two decades. “His name isn’t even on it!”
Steven chucks it back into the cupboard and pulls out a small bottle with a cork in it. “This probably holds Marcus’ soul,” he says, snickering. Turning it over, he reveals a label with MB on it.
“Um,” I say, the color draining from my face. “What was Marcus’ last name?”
“Brown,” Steven answers, softly.
“What do you two think you’re doing?”