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We Don't Belong Here

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It all started when Adam stepped into room 104, where Mountain View High always held it’s after school detentions.

“What are you doing here?” asked a voice, like the reeving of an engine, combusting and ready to go. The voice belonged to Ronan Lynch, who was a black-clothed splotch in the back corner of the otherwise people-ness classroom decorated in neutral beiges and supposedly calming pale blue.

Adam had stopped short, just inside the doorway. “This is detention,” he said.

This was the first sentence he had ever spoken to Ronan Lynch, who after just a three months stint at Mountain View had made himself infamous. Rumor had it that he used to go the nearby rich kid school, Aglionby Prep, and had been expelled. The expulsion part was easy to believe with the way Lynch skipped class, talked back to teachers, and got into fights in the parking lot after hours.

Adam was skeptical about the Aglionby part thought. When rich kids got expelled from fancy boarding schools they didn’t get shunted off to the nearby public institution, especially not one the calibre of Mountain View.

Adam took seat at a desk second row, one off from the center. He thought it had the best view during the class times, so it was habit. He really didn’t want to look indecisive when he eyes as sharp as switchblades on the back of his head.

There was a reason he had avoided Lynch since he started at Mountain View. Lynch was trouble, and Adam had enough trouble in his life already. No need to draw attention now; Lynch probably didn’t know Adam existed. Adam had seen his car, seen his expensive clothes, seen a friend picking him up an obnoxious but also glorious orange camaro. People like that didn’t pay attention to people like Adam, living their humble little lives.

“But you’re a goody two shoes,” Lynch said.

Despite himself, all his willpower, he turned to look over his shoulder. He wanted to say, ‘You don’t know anything about me.’ No one did. Not his classmates, not his teachers, and least of all his parents. Adam Parrish was unknowable.

Instead, Adam said, “Nobody’s perfect.”

Lynch grinned, revealing incisors, and it didn’t feel safe. It felt like petting a wild dog and not knowing when it was going bite.

Adam turned around front again. The teacher would be here soon, and they would have to be quiet, and Adam could get this over with it. It was bad enough that he had to take off his shift at Boyd’s. He didn’t need to make a new enemy out of it.

Soon Mr. Duncan showed up, and read in monotone the rules of detention: no talking, no phones, no shenanigans, no leaving early, no exceptions. Mr. Duncan then opened up his laptop on the teacher’s desk and plugged in his earphones and his mind.
Adam propped his chin on his hand and started at the clock that must’ve had dying batteries. Surely that red second hand was making its circular journey too slow. Surely seconds were faster than that.

What a waste of time. He could be earning money, studying, doing the hard work of changing his life, maybe, one day. And yet here he was, in detention, because he had decided to stand up for himself for once, and teacher had walked in at the exact wrong moment.

Behind him, as if sandpaper against his preexisting irritation, sounded a bang, bang, bang, bang -- a rhythmic kicking of a desk leg.

Adam cricked his neck. Just ignore it, he told himself.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

He could do it. He could live with it for -- Adam checked the clock -- an hour and fifty three minutes more.

No, he couldn’t.

Adam turned in his seat and mouth as aggressively as he could, “Can you stop that?”

Lynch kicked harder.

Adam turned back forward, pissed off and with nowhere to go with it.

The kicking stopped, but Adam’s ears itched with the other noises that had replaced it: a note book being fluttered open, a page being ripped out.

A crumpled ball of notebook paper hit his shoulder and tumbled onto his desk top, a perfect throw. Adam stared down at it, spying the inked scrawl amongst the straight blue and red lines.

Adam flattened it out. It read: “How much do you want to bet that Duncan’s watching porn right now?”

Adam made an involuntary noise of disgust at the mere thought and seconds later heard another page being ripped. He had given Lynch what he had wanted: a reaction.

This paper ball hit him in the back of the head and bounced away. Adam held very still. He would not turn. He would not look. He would not reach for the note.

A third paper ball came sailing in low, skidded to a stop at Adam’s sneakers.

“Look,” Lynch’s voice hissed from behind him. When Adam’s didn’t twitch a finger, he repeated again, louder, “Look.”

Number one rule of a Mountain View detention: no talking. “You’re not supposed to enjoy it,” had said the principal before.

“Look,” Lynch said again, again louder. He was going to get them both in trouble.

Adam scooped up the note and read Lynch’s thrilling follow up: “I think it’s 75/25 odds” and underneath that something that definitely wasn’t English. A romance language, for use, but not Spanish, the only foreign language classes Mountain View offered.

Adam flipped the page over and scrawled something out with pen in his pocket: “Leave me alone.”

He underhand tossed it backwards in Lynch’s direction.

He heard Lynch uncrinkle it. Heard his huff of air like a bull preparing before the charge.

Great.

The ball came back, hitting against his ankle. It read: “I’m bored.”

Adam replied: “Then don’t get detention. You’re not supposed to enjoy it.”

“But the company is riveting.” Lynch had underlined ‘riveting’ three times and it wreaked of sarcasm.

“I’m not your entertainment. Leave me alone.”

“But I’m fucking bored”

And so they had come full circle.

A cellphone rang out and in the front of the room Mr. Duncan snuffled in a strange jerk; he had fallen asleep and was now suddenly waking up. Adam sat quickly at attention, hoping the floor behind wasn’t scattered with proof of note passing. He really didn’t need a second afternoon of detention.

Mr. Duncan plucked his earbuds from his ears, shut his laptop, and stood up, grabbing his cell phone off the desk top. He eyed the screen and then eyed the two students sitting in the classroom, but with a lot less attention.

“Stay here,” he said, and walked out the classroom door.

After he was gone the length of a minute, Lynch stood without any attempt at discreteness from his desk and marched up to the classroom door.

What was it like to live like that, Adam had to wonder. What was it like to demand attention so casually? To not duck your head away from attention lest it be the wrong attention? To live so boldly and unafraid?

Adam swallowed against his dry throat. No, he would not go down this road of thoughts. Adam Parrish was not and would not be jealous of Ronan Lynch.

Lynch peak out the door’s window, up and down the hall. Then he checked the knob, unlocked of course, and peaked further down the hallway.

“He’s gone,” Lynch said. “Jailbreak?”

“No,” Adam said.

“What’s the worst thing that can happened?”

“A week more of detention.”

“That’s your worse thing, Parrish?”

Adam knew plenty of worse things than detention, but he wasn’t going to talk about them with Lynch or anyone else.

He opened his mouth for some sort of sharp retort, when a curiosity hit him all the sudden.

“How do you know my name?”

For the first time of the afternoon, Adam Parrish had caused Ronan Lynch stop.

“I’m fucking observant, that’s how.” He rubbed his wrist against his chin, his mouth, snagged a bite on the leather bands he wore there, all while Adam watched, like he was a calculus problem up on the chalkboard.

Lynch dropped his arm. “Fuck,” he said, an engine being flooded, refusing to start. “This school’s not that big.”

The classroom door opened, the culprit being Mr. Duncan.

“Mr. Lynch, return to your seat,” he monotoned.

And Mr. Lynch did. What he didn’t do was throw any more notes Adam’s way, and Adam was all out of paper himself.

Plus, Adam had an equation to solve. The equation: Ronan Lynch. The variables: Ronan Lynch knew his name and knew he was a so-called ‘goodie two shoes.’ Ronan Lynch had started the conversation every turn this detention. Ronan Lynch was unsettled when Adam called him on it. Now solve for x.

Adam glanced over his shoulder and found Lynch looking back at him. No canine smirk. No perfected bad boy slouch. Just looking like he’d forgotten he could be seen in return. Lynch looked away too fast when he noticed Adam noticing him.

There was the answer.

#

Only once released from detention did they gain their voices back.

At the mouth of the classroom, Lynch popped his shoulder in an extra casual stretch, and said, “What’re you doing tomorrow after school? Detention again?”

“No,” Adam said. “You?”

“Surprisingly, no.”

Adam waited for what was next, hand clenched around the strap of his backpack tightening.

“Do you want to go ghost hunting?” Lynch said, voice pitched higher than Adam had heard it before.

“What?” Adam said, with a sharp ending ‘t’. This he hadn’t expected.

Lynch raised his eyes to the ceiling as if looking for some help from the heavens. “My friend and I are going ghost hunting… Well, not actually ghosting hunting. It’s dead Welsh king hunting, but ghost hunting sounds more normal...”

“Neither of those sound normal.”

“Yeah, it’s fucking weird,” Lynch said. “But you seem weird, so I thought you’d might like it… It will be a big waste of time, probably, but we’ll go get pizza afterwards and it’s something to do in this fucking town. So… do you?”

“Do I want to go dead I’m-not-sure-what hunting with you and your friend I’ve never met?”

“And get pizza,” Lynch reiterated, like it was normal add on to what Adam had said. Maybe this was what Lynch did with his free time.

Well, Adam didn’t have detention tomorrow and neither did he have work. He had planned to study for the World His test, but he could push that off until Saturday. Adam Parrish, always calculating -- his money, his time, his grades -- stopped. Time to go with his gut, to go with his curiosity, make a bold choice.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay?” Lynch repeated, like he was startled with the response. “Okay… Meet you in the parking lot after school then.”

“Sounds good.”

“Yup. Fuck. Good. Yeah.”

Adam raised his eyebrows as he watched Lynch slip down the hallway in the wrong direction from the front door.

On his bike ride home, Adam thought he might be met with regrets, the type that came after a rare compulsive spend or a nap when he should’ve been doing homework. But none came.

More important than any calculations, Adam wanted to know more about the way Lynch’s blue ice eyes landed on him sometimes when he thought Adam wasn’t paying attention.

Adam Parrish was unknowable. Maybe, just maybe, he wanted to be known.