The Poet (Samantha Jazz Series #1) - Lisa Renee Jones



Georgetown, Texas

Tap, tap, tap, tap…

I jerk my gaze from the pretty girl in the corner, who just joined our class today, to the front of the room where Sister Marion is beating her desk with a ruler, her sharp features pinched with anger. She’s mad almost as often as my dad.

“Enough of this jabbering,” she reprimands. “We’re here to do our Lord justice by using our minds the way they were intended to be used. And how are our minds meant to be used, class?”

Me and the rest of the class quickly recite, “To their fullest potential, Sister Marion.”

“That’s right,” she approves. “And we cannot do so if we are not listening carefully, which we are not doing when we’re running our mouths at inappropriate times. We must speak with thoughtful discipline.”

She moves behind her big wooden desk and sets the ruler down on top. Thank God. I hate that ruler.

“Today,” she announces, “we start our poetry series.” She flips open a book and begins reading a poem. It’s boring. I hate it. I don’t even understand the words coming out of her mouth.

My eyes are heavy, lids fluttering with the call of sleep. I fight it. I fight hard to stay awake, but somehow my chin wobbles forward and hits my chest. Oh God, no. Adrenaline surges, waking me with a sharp lift of my head. My heart races with the fear I might be caught. My eyes land on Sister Marion, who is staring at a book, not at me, as she reads another boring poem. Relief washes over me, but I’m desperate to stay alert, so I do the only thing I know will keep me awake. I sneak another peek at the pretty girl again, her red curls waving around her freckled face. I frown. I think she’s much older than the rest of us. Maybe twelve or thirteen when the rest of us are ten and eleven. I wonder why she’s here. Did she fail a couple of grades? I wonder if her dad’s mean, too, and that messed up her schoolwork like it has mine.

“Henry Oliver!”

My name is followed by the slamming of a ruler on my desk.

I jump, and my heart punches at my chest, the way it does when my dad yells real loud. Gasping, I look up to find the sister standing above me. “Sister Marion.”

“Good to know you’ve at least learned my name this year, Henry,” she replies.

The entire room erupts in laughter, and tears of embarrassment pinch my eyes, but I can’t cry. My father says that crying is for babies. And babies get beat up.

“Enough!” Sister Marion snaps at the room. The students zip their lips, and all the sound in the room is sucked away, but everyone is looking at me, including Sister Marion. “We are not here to watch pretty little girls, Henry,” she reprimands. “Yes, I saw you staring at the new girl.”

Oh God, oh God. Please no. Please no. Don’t do this to me. I fight the urge to stand up and run away.

“We are not here for that,” Sister Marion adds. “We are here to honor God with our minds. Do you understand, young man?”

“Yes, Sister Marion,” I agree quickly.

“Then make our Father proud,” she says. “You will be the first to read a poem today.”

I quake inside. Oh no. “You’re going to talk to my father, Sister Marion?”

“Our Father, the Lord Jesus. You will talk to him now. Get up and follow me.” She turns on her heel and marches to the front of the room, waiting for me from behind her desk.

All eyes are on me and, afraid of losing my glasses, I shove them up my nose, my stupid hand trembling as I do. The kids saw. Of course, they saw. They’re all watching me, waiting to laugh at me again. Forcing my legs to work, I stand because I have no choice, curling my fingers into my sweaty palms.

Two steps forward. Three. I’m doing good. Yes. Four. I stumble on my unlaced shoe, falling forward, landing with a hard smack of my bare knees on the concrete floor. The room erupts into laughter once more and I imagine quicksand, like I saw in some movie the other day, sucking me under. That would be good, really good, right now. I straighten and my ears are ringing, the room fading in and out. I can barely make out the ruler hitting Sister Marion’s desk again. Every step I take shuffles heavily,