Synopsis: Two teens meet in a high school detention room.
Word Count: 2091
Date Written: July 2021
He’s never gotten detention before.
Christopher straight A student, perfect record, wants-to-go-to-Harvard Nilson has never even come close to getting detention. Until today.
The last bell of the day rings and he makes his way down the hall slowly; he’s not exactly in a rush. He’s not sure what to expect, but he knows it can’t be good. His friends are rushing to their lockers, trying to get their books in order before catching the bus home and he desperately wishes he was going with them.
Chris readjusts his backpack on his shoulder as he walks into the detention room. It’s the same classroom he had for freshman year English a few years prior, but the mood is definitely darker today. He recognizes a few of the faces in the room, the kids always here for being constantly late or overly disruptive during class. Some of the faces aren’t familiar to him, but he’s not all that surprised by it.
He gives his name to the teacher at the desk, and she checks him off the list. The pen makes a tick mark next to his name, and Chris sighs as he thinks about his future falling before his eyes.
Chris makes his way through the rows of desks to an empty one towards the back of the room. It’s seated right behind a blonde who’s got her head buried in a book, and Chris thinks she looks more friendly than the rest of the inhabitants of the classroom. He takes the seat.
With his bag tucked under his chair, he leans back and waits. The bell rings again, signaling the start of detention and still he waits.
Ten minutes have passed, and nothing is happening. Chris stares at the teacher – one he doesn’t even recognize – waiting for her to do something. He’s starting to get restless in his seat, so he leans forward and taps the girl in front of him on the shoulder.
“Hey,” he whispers.
“What,” she whispers back, her eyes never leaving her book.
“When does this start?” he asks.
He sees her eyes flick up, but she makes no move to turn around. “What?”
“Detention, I thought it started at 2:30.”
“My point exactly.”
She closes the book, finally interested enough to turn around, and she takes one look at him.
“Are you new, or something?”
Chris blinks. “…no.”
She takes another look, eyes trailing down and then back up. “First time here?”
“What gave me away?”
“You look like someone’s about to come in here with a guillotine.”
“How do you know that they won’t?”
“Because this isn’t my first rodeo.”
“So, you’re a troublemaker?”
The girl smirks. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”
Chris feels something flutter in his stomach and his first thought is this can’t be good.
“I’m Chris by the way,” he redirects, “Chris Nilson.”
“Ah,” is all she says in return, sounding like everything now makes perfect sense.
“You’ve heard of me?” he asks, suddenly very curious.
“By reputation only,” she answers. “I’m taking Mr. McCrown’s AP Government class this year. He’s mentioned you and your counterpart a handful of times.”
“Some guy – or could be girl I guess – somebody named Tyler.”
“Yeah,” Chris smiles. “Tyler Wilson, he’s my best friend. We took McCrown’s AP Government class last year, and his AP US History class the year before that.”
“He’s got more than a few stories about you guys.”
“All good I hope.”
“Not even a little bit,” she grins again.
Chris smiles back, intrigued by the girl in front of him. “Who are you? How have I never seen you around here before?”
“My family moved here about six months ago, I’m still somewhat new,” she shrugs. “I’m Alex Moss.”
“Nice to meet you,” he grins. “Well, not that nice, considering where we are right now, but you get my point.”
“Uh huh,” she muses before turning back around and picking up her book. That lasts all of ten seconds before Chris is tapping her on the shoulder again. “What?”
“So, what are we supposed to be doing right now?”
“I don’t follow.”
“It’s detention, Chris, you sit there quietly minding your own business until the bell rings, what did you expect?”
Chris’s brow furrowed. “I don’t know… I always pictured it more like an hour of torture and less like a study hall.”
“It’s detention at a middle-class prep-school, not a trial for war crimes.”
“Still…” he trials off.
“So, what landed you in here anyways?” Alex asks. “I can’t imagine you skipped class or yelled at a teacher.”
“I took the fall for someone,” he shrugs, not really sure how else to explain it.
“What did Tyler do?”
“He didn’t do anything,” Chris defended. “It was bad timing in an even worse situation.”
“What happened?” Alex asked quietly.
“We were in McNally’s class, and the room was dead silent. We were taking a pop quiz and Tyler’s phone started ringing. In any other class, the teacher would have just made him shut it off, I mean it wasn’t even in his pocket it was in his backpack, but McNally-”
“She’s ruthless when it comes to phones.”
“Exactly. She walks right over to Tyler and rips his quiz in half, says he gets a zero for trying to cheat.”
“I know, I couldn’t even focus on the back half of my quiz after that. I was worried about him, you know? I mean, I know he can take the zero, he has like a ninety-nine average in that class, and McNally drops your lowest quiz anyways, but still.”
“And how exactly did you get roped into detention because of this?” Alex asks.
“Well,” Chris continues, “after class, she called Tyler up to her desk and told him that she had to give him a detention along with the zero because it was school policy. Tyler started freaking out, begging her not to, and that’s when I jumped in. I told her it was my phone that was ringing in his backpack, made something up about Tyler borrowing it at lunch and how he hadn’t had a chance to return it to me yet. I don’t know if she bought my story or just didn’t care, but she gave me the detention instead.”
“And why couldn’t Tyler just take the detention? I mean, it was his phone, even if the punishment seems extreme.”
“If Tyler got the detention, he would’ve had to explain it to his dad when he gets home tonight, and his dad…” Chris paused. “Tyler’s dad yells a lot.”
“Everyone’s dad yells sometimes.”
“Not like Tyler’s dad,” Chris sighed. “He yells at anyone who will stand there and take it, and most of the time that’s Tyler. I think he does it to protect his brothers, like if the old man screams enough at Tyler, he’ll be too tired to take it out on the younger ones.”
“Still,” she muses, “he must be a pretty good friend for you to take the fall for him.”
“He’s the best person I know,” Chris answers honestly. “He’d do anything for me if I asked.”
“Clearly you’d do the same for him,” Alex muses. “So, what, you took the blame for the phone thing so instead of Tyler’s dad yelling at him, your dad can yell at you?”
Chris smirked. “My dad’s a lawyer; he doesn’t yell, he argues.”
“Something tells me you like to argue with him.”
“Only when I think I can win.”
“How often does that happen?”
“Almost never,” Chris admits. “He’s a really good lawyer.”
“But you like to challenge him anyways?”
“Yeah,” he shrugs, “even if I don’t win, he still lets me make my case. He might ground me for this, but at least he’ll let me tell the full story before he does.”
Alex shakes her head but does so with a smile. “I can see why Mr. McCrown has so many stories about you two now.”
“What about you?” Chris asks. “What’s your story, how’d you end up in here?”
“Civil disobedience,” she answers casually.
“Care to elaborate?” Chris asks, intrigued.
Alex take a deep breath before starting. “My friend, Margaret-”
“Red hair, crazy eyes, always knows all the gossip about the teachers?”
“The very same. So, the other day she came in wearing a tank top, and our math teacher yelled at her for being out of dress code. Margaret argued that the dress code says that tank tops can be worn if the straps are thicker than the width of two fingers.”
“Hang on,” Chris interrupted, “we wear a uniform. Tank tops aren’t allowed, polo shirts and button downs only.”
“It was a free-dress-day, keep up,” Alex waved him off. “Anyways, she demonstrated that her shirt was within the restrictions of the dress code, but our teacher disagreed. She said it was ‘too revealing’ and sent Margaret home.”
“She sent her home?” Chris asked, bewildered.
“Yup. Had to miss almost a full day of school for that, can you believe it?”
“Wait, so how did that lead to you being here.”
Alex grinned. “We came up with a plan.”
“I’m not sure I like where this is going.”
“We called every girl in our class last night, and we made a pact to all wear tank tops to class today, as a form of protest. We figured she couldn’t give all of us detention.”
“That was a mistake.”
Alex rolled her eyes. “Tell me about it. She threatened suspension too, but then Mrs. Littingham from the next class over came in and she settled the whole thing.”
“But you all still got detention?”
“Just the three ring leaders.”
“Where are the other two?”
“They spread our detentions out, said they didn’t want us conspiring in the back row or something.”
“Wait, three ring leaders?”
“You, Margaret, and…”
“Jane Tillman, she’s--”
“I know Jane,” Chris interrupted. “She’s my friend.”
“Yeah?” Alex smiled. “She’s so cool, she heard of our plan and wanted in immediately. Her social network is how we were able to get the message out so fast.”
“She’s good at that,” Chris smiled.
“Word has it that she got the school paper to write an article about the whole thing for its next publication. I don’t know who she knows there, but it’s gonna be huge.”
“That would be Xavier,” Chris mused. “I know him too, he’s a big fan of the activists. I bet he went nuts when Jane told him your plan, he loves this kind of stuff.”
“You just know everybody around here, don’t you?”
Chris shrugged. “Only the important people. Jane and Xavier, those two are thick as thieves and they’re great allies to have on your side. If they ever try to rope you into something like this again, I say go with it. They usually know what they’re doing.”
“Noted,” Alex grinned. Her instincts already told her to do just that, but she likes that he agrees with them.
The bell rings for the final time that day, and it makes Chris almost jump out of his seat. “It’s over?”
“Yeah,” Alex smiles. “Wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“I mean I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone,” Chris throws his backpack over his shoulders, “unless you’re gonna be here. Then it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Alex laughs. “Glad I could make your first time memorable.”
The punchline of a joke is just sitting on the tip of his tongue, but she cuts him off before he can say anything.
Chris holds up his hands in surrender as they walked out the front doors of the high school.
“Are you taking the late bus home?” she asks.
“Nah,” he shakes his head, “I’m gonna walk. Enjoy my freedom now that I’ve done the hard time.”
“Me too,” she muses, falling in to step with him. “The walking part at least. I live up off of North.”
“I live just a few blocks from there,” Chris smiles. “I’ll walk with you.”
Alex grins. “I’d like that.”
He makes sure to get her number before they part ways—“So I can call you sometime. For future detention worthy conspiring of course.”—and smiles for the rest of his walk, hands buried in his pockets as he strides along the pavement.
It’s almost enough to make him forget he has to explain the whole detention thing to his parents when he gets home.
At least it was worth it.