Chapter Twenty-Four

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'Mr Maverick? May I have a word, please?'

Lysander looked up from packing his bag.

He could see Ms Lowe staring at him from her desk through the rush of his classmates heading for the door. The serious look on her face was one that told him he didn't have a choice in the matter, so he nodded. He looked to his friend; Jack shrugged, the universal sign of I dunno, man and hoisted his backpack up onto his shoulder.

'I'll wait outside,' he said, and then he was gone.

Lysander waited until the last of the students had left the classroom before he approached his English teacher's desk.

He couldn't help but wonder what he had done to land himself here. Ever since the incident with Ethan Masters several weeks ago, he had done everything in his power to keep out of trouble and off the radar of any figure of authority. As far as he knew, he had been successful—he had done nothing to warrant the attention of a teacher, so Ms Lowe calling him aside now concerned him.

'You're not in trouble,' she said, as if she could read his thoughts. And almost immediately he relaxed, releasing a tension in his shoulders that he hadn't known was there. 'I just wanted to ask if everything was all right with you.'

That was all?

'Fine,' he replied, stunned. 'Everything's fine.'

Ms Lowe raised an eyebrow.

It was a lie, of course. It had been four days since his break-up with Eliza Beth, three since the gaping hole in his chest had come back and made itself comfortable, and two since he had returned to school to find the entire student body constantly staring at him—some with disdain, others with sympathy. He felt that he could perhaps deal with the former two of his problems if he hadn't had the third constantly on his mind. As it was, he desperately wanted his anonymity back.

But Ms Lowe couldn't know this. He had never even voiced it to Jack.

'I only ask,' she said, 'because your free writing has...changed.' She sounded to him as though she was choosing her words very carefully. 'Last week you were writing about how wonderful things were going. But over the past few days... Well, it just seems like you've been having a rough time.'

'You actually read those?'

Lysander immediately felt stupid for asking.

'I use them as a tool to see what each of my students need help with,' Ms Lowe explained calmly. 'They tell me who needs to learn to write faster, who needs help with spelling and grammar, and sometimes—unintentional as it was—they tell me when my students need somebody to talk to.'

'I don't,' Lysander started to say, but the look on Ms Lowe's face stopped him.

'I know that you recently lost your sister,' she said, 'but you seemed to be dealing with that. Until Monday, when you wrote that breaking up with Miss Jenkins was like losing her all over again.'

He had indeed written that. He remembered being faced with that blank sheet of paper as soon as he had stepped into English, and how it had seemed like both a blessing and a curse—a way to help him release some of that anger, while making him relive things at the same time. His thoughts and feelings had rushed to the forefront of his mind at the sight of it and he'd started writing without a thought, letting his hands do the talking and not paying any mind to what would happen to the paper once he was done with it. He hadn't been surprised at the words appearing before him—that his heart was broken; that he couldn't believe he had been so stupid; that he hated Eliza Beth for what she had done. And he remembered writing that breaking up with her had been like losing Dakota all over again—because it was the truth.

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