This is something I’ve wanted to write for ages, but I only got around to doing today… This is for someone who has seen how I’ve improved as I wrote, who knows me extremely well, and who I admire and am honoured to have met. You know who you are.
“And that should be it, class. Please put all your things away.”
Ms Tandy’s voice pierced through the sleepy bubble that had formed around Jesse as he dozed. Startled, he jumped to his feet as the rest of the class put away their things, chatting wildly.
“Next time, try not to actually fall asleep in class,” said Lawrence, smiling. “I know that Ms Tandy’s nice and everything, but I doubt that she would really let you sleep in English.”
Jesse ignored him and zipped up his bag, slipping it over his shoulder. He looked to his right, hoping for someone to turn up there.
As he had expected, Anthony was there next to him, giving him a brief smile. “That was fun.”
“What were we supposed to do?” asked Jesse, eyeing the now-sitting Ms Tandy. She was temporarily distracted by Lawrence, who approached her, and Jesse knew why Lawrence was doing that.
He was doing that for him.
“We were supposed to have been writing up our portfolios for Romeo and Juliet. Obviously you didn’t do that.”
Jesse sighed, pushing open the door. “I’m leaving my bag here. Remind me to do the portfolio thing for homework.”
They passed under the bell, just seconds before it rang loudly, signalling the beginning of break.
Katie and Natasha passed behind them, chatting. Jesse managed to catch a few words before they disappeared down the staircase.
“I love Ms Tandy and she’s the best teacher to have ever set foot in here,” said Natasha.
“I know. I’m going to miss her so much when she’s gone. I love her!” replied Katie.
Anthony caught Jesse’s eye and smiled. “I even heard that Ophelia said that she’s been a great teacher and that she enjoyed having her… everyone likes Ms Tandy, don’t they? Even I do.”
They walked down the corridor, threading their way through the expanding crowd. Jesse could barely see the white walls or the cobalt blue railings, and held tightly onto Anthony’s bag as they headed for the canteen.
The school food was always terrible; to Jesse, everything just seemed like a mash of red sauces and different coloured bases. The rice was white and bland; the snacks disgusting and terrible; the counters crowded with a sea of people.
And worst of all, it was always expensive. Always.
Jesse managed to squeeze through all of the young Year 7s, some of which yelled audibly, and tugged out a muffin before being pushed out of the way and having to line up to pay for it.
He just managed to pay for the food by swiping his card over the reader before being dragged away by a rather hungry looking Anthony.
“What’d you get?” asked Jesse, immediately regretting it. Looking at the pile of white rice and orange sauce, he knew what Anthony got. What Anthony got every single day.
“Come on,” said Anthony. “We’ve got form period later, and I don’t want to be late. For once, we don’t have Mr. Goods as our tutor. You’re lucky you’ve got Ms Tandy.”
Jesse knew that. But he also knew that no matter how long he spent eating, he still ending up with enough time to return to the form room and play games.
Cramming down the rest of the food, he waited anxiously for Anthony to finish. An incriminating glance from someone in the older years, probably some Year 11, reminded him to dump the rubbish into a bin.
“I’m going first,” he said finally. “See you in Food later, okay?”
“Fine,” said Anthony, half chewing on the pork. “See you.”
Jesse jogged away from the covered seating area. The day had begun to darken; grey clouds populated the once-blue sky. Knowing that it was going to rain any moment, he picked up the pace as he crossed through the back of the staircase and swung himself onto the flight of steps.
His form room wasn’t that far away. He only needed to tramp up one floor and then walk down two corridors to get there. Normally, he would have chosen to travel across the basketball pitch, but with the weather threatening a drench, he wouldn’t risk that route. Passing in front of the staff room, he bumped into a female teacher as he ran past.
“Oh, sorry, Ms Tandy,” Jesse apologised.
“It’s alright,” she replied reassuringly. “Watch where you’re going, though, Jesse. I’ll come back for tutor period in a few minutes, okay?”
“Sure.” Jesse stood to the side as Ms Tandy passed him. He tried to peek into the staff room, and caught a quick glimpse of the teachers sitting around a conference table eating before the door slammed shut.
When Jesse arrived in the bag-packed form room, he was surprised to find that Lawrence wasn’t there. He was generally one of the earliest people to finish their lunch, and normally he would either be propped up at his table in front of Ms Tandy’s reading a newspaper or turned around to chat with the people sitting behind him.
Instead, the tables were supporting everyone’s bags, waiting to be unzipped and the material inside to be read. Jesse sat down at his seat and pulled out a pair of earphones.
Over the next five minutes, while music blared in Jesse’s ears, the rest of the form arrived. Jesse was forced to greet several of them; Narcissus included; but he generally remained silent and withdrawn, as today he wasn’t in the mood to talk.
When Ms Tandy entered, the room quietened; it wasn’t that she disapproved of chatter, or sitting on tables, or even of playing music through the loudspeakers; but it was just a natural reaction as the form quickly dashed back to their seats and slipped their bags onto the floor.
Jesse wrapped the wires neatly around his music player before stowing it away in his pocket. He ran his eyes towards Ms Tandy, who was now sitting at her desk smiling at the front left, did he realise that Lawrence was still missing.
Ms Tandy went through the register first, waiting for a cry of ‘Yes’ or ‘Here!’ from everyone. As expected, Narcissus came up with something silly, this time responding with an all-new ‘What?’ when she called his name.
Jesse laughed, but his heart wasn’t in it. He glanced at the clock, which informed him that there was another twenty minutes to go before his next class started.
Ms Tandy called Lawrence’s name, but nobody replied.
“I swear I saw him earlier,” she muttered, clicking away at the computer.
When she had finished, everyone just turned away and started chatting. Jesse was in the middle of pulling out the white earphones again before someone tapped his shoulder.
“Erm, did we have any homework for Food Tech?”
“I don’t know, I asked John and he didn’t say there was anything either.”
There were another ten minutes to go; Ms Tandy was surfing away at her computer; Jesse had only managed to pull out his games console when the door opened.
Everyone fell silent, looking at the figure standing in the doorway. Jesse couldn’t seem him from this angle, but he managed to catch an image of a young man in a suit from the windows lined along the opposite wall.
Lawrence stepped out, his face solemn.
Jesse’s mouth dropped open as he studied Lawrence’s profile. He wasn’t wearing the school uniform anymore, but a smart, black suit, complete with tie. It was so weird… so unnatural… he couldn’t even begin to speculate what had happened.
Lawrence strolled across to Ms Tandy, bending low as he passed her a sheet of paper. Everyone was craning their necks to see what it was, but her desk was too far away for even the best eyes to see.
Jesse stood up, leaning forwards as he strained to hear the words.
“I’m going to have to,” Lawrence whispered quietly.
“I don’t get it… what could have he done?” questioned Ms Tandy fearfully.
Lawrence just shook his head, folding up the sheet of paper and sliding it deep inside his jacket.
He stood up straight and looked at Jesse straight in the eye. Lawrence beckoned.
“Yes, you, Jesse, come on, I haven’t got much time.”
“Why are you dressed like that?” teased John. Lawrence shot him such a fierce look that he just stopped and cowered in his seat.
Jesse packed up his things slowly, swinging his bag onto his shoulder. His eyes dashed to Ms Tandy’s frame and back to Lawrence. Eventually, he stepped forwards, wondering why on earth Lawrence was dressed like that and what had happened. And why he needed him.
When he was within range, Lawrence gripped his upper arm tightly. It wasn’t the friendly grip that Jesse had received from him before. This was an almost blood clotting hold that radiated power and authority. Jesse had the sense not to throw it off.
Lawrence escorted him out of the room and into the narrow walkway beyond. He leaned against the low wall, looking at Jesse silently.
“Jesse, do you remember when I started becoming friendly with you?”
This was an unexpected question; who would ever say anything like this? Jesse was confused, thinking that Lawrence was joking, but the set face convinced him otherwise.
“I don’t know… like, two months ago?”
“Two months, one week, three days and twenty hours. That’s when I received this message.”
Lawrence tugged out a small pager-like object from his pocket. He tapped at the screen and showed it to Jesse. He studied it hesitantly.
TAR4: Martin.Jesse TAR5: Cheung.Anthony
MIS TRANS END
“What’s that about?”
Lawrence took it back, sighing. “It might be easier to tell you from the beginning. I work for the FBI; is that enough?”
Jesse’s mind wheeled back. This wasn’t real, this couldn’t be possible… how would a 13 year old be working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation?
“That message you just read was dated roughly two months ago. I was commanded to break off my relations with Narcissus, John and Matthew. I had to become friends with you and Anthony. This came in twenty minutes ago.”
Lawrence pressed a button and passed the messaging device to Jesse. He looked away, turning his head up and down the corridor as he searched. Jesse read the latest message.
TAR 4/5 TERMINATE
MIS TRANS END
“What does this mean?” asked Jesse, his voice trembling.
Lawrence took hold of Jesse’s hand, gently peeling his fingers from the black device. He looked serious and tired.
“It means that I’m going to have to kill you.”
There was no emotion in that voice; there was only an iron cold bitterness. Jesse knew that he was supposed to feel fearful and scared; but instead, empathy for Lawrence filled him.
“So,” asked Jesse, trying to keep his voice even, “are you going to?”
Lawrence wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “Do you think I’m going to?”
“So no then? What about Anthony?”
Lawrence didn’t reply. Instead, he flicked his arm upwards.
The silver flashed in the remaining sunlight as the knife plunged into Jesse’s chest.
The rain splashed down as Lawrence disappeared from his fading view.