Author:S. Walden


I missed the bus. I watched it pull out of the parking lot just as I exited the building. I sputtered a string of curse words— including the “f” word, which I rarely ever say—as I plopped down on a wooden bench. I was in the middle of calling my mom when I promptly hung up. I realized I didn’t want my mom to pick me up. Nor my dad. I thought about Gracie, and then remembered that Gracie’s parents wouldn’t let her associate with me anymore. There was no one else. My younger brother wasn’t old enough to drive. He was old enough to be a complete jackass, but not old enough to drive.


I hugged my book bag to my chest and stared ahead. I could walk the seven miles home. It would be good exercise, give me time to mull over my fantastic first day of school. I could hitchhike and hope against hope that a mass murderer would pick me up and help me disappear from the world forever. I could simply sit on this bench and see how long it would take my parents to find me. I wasn’t sure about that last one. They might leave me on the bench for days and days, and I’d never be able to recover from that.


I watched “Midnight in a Perfect World” walk towards the faculty parking lot before catching sight of me. He paused mid-step, and decided to approach me. I tensed immediately.


“You’re still here,” he said. His messenger bag was slung over his shoulder across his chest. He wore slacks and a collar shirt with a tie. Typical teacher wear except his clothes were fitted and stylish, and he sported the same red Converse All Stars he wore that day on the side of Highway 28.


I nodded.


“Did you miss the bus?” he asked.




I nodded again.


He sighed and sat down beside me. I wasn’t expecting that and didn’t like it. It felt wrong.


“I’m Mark Connelly,” he said, pulling his car keys from his bag.


I smiled despite my agitation. I couldn’t help it. It was a smile that suggested a secret, and he noticed.


“What?” he asked.


I shook my head. “I’ve just been calling you different names today because I didn’t know your real name.”


He smirked. “I’m afraid to ask.”


“No, not anything bad or disrespectful,” I explained.


“Glad to hear,” he replied. “So what have you been calling me?”


I giggled and hugged my bag tighter to my chest. “It’s stupid.”


“I bet it’s not. I bet it’s funny because you’re laughing,” he replied.


I considered him for a moment. He stared at me with those stormy eyes, jangling his keys in his left hand.


“‘Midnight in a Perfect World’ and ‘Converse All Stars’,” I said finally. And then I burst out laughing. I don’t know why. It wasn’t really funny, but something about it made me laugh. And he laughed, too. But I think he was laughing more as a reaction to my laughter and not his substitute names.


I don’t know how long we sat there laughing, but something about that moment made me feel better. I knew this year would be nothing but shit, so I thought I had to seize any moment to feel good. I knew I would never feel happy. That was asking way too much.


“I was wearing that shirt that day on Highway 28, wasn’t I?” Mr. Connelly asked.


I nodded. “What does it mean? I’ve been curious about it.”


“It’s a song, actually,” he replied. “A very favorite song of mine.”


“What’s it like?”


He stared off at a point just beyond my right ear and replied, “Perfect.”


“Well, I guess that makes sense,” I said.


“You should listen to it,” Mr. Connelly said. “You can listen to the whole song on Youtube.”


I shook my head. “No can do on that one. I’m not allowed to get on the computer except to type papers.” I fidgeted with the zipper on my bag.




“I’m not allowed to do much of anything,” I admitted. Cadence, do not dump on this poor guy. He may have yelled at you this morning, but that doesn’t mean he has to hear about your problems as punishment.


“I see,” Mr. Connelly said. He didn’t press me. I’m glad because I would have been too tempted to tell him everything. Why I thought he would care, I didn’t know.


“It’s just temporary,” I said, but I wasn’t convinced. In fact, I knew my dad planned to keep me off the Internet for the rest of my life. And never give me back driving privileges. And never allow me to date. And never let me do anything.


Mr. Connelly furrowed his brows. “Cadence, I’m sorry for yelling at you this morning.”


I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. I’d never had a teacher apologize to me before. I didn’t think they were allowed to.


“It’s okay,” I mumbled.


“Actually, no, it’s not,” Mr. Connelly replied. “It was wrong. And I understood why you wore that jumpsuit. Another reason I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”


I thought for a moment. “I shouldn’t have argued. I should have done what you asked.”


Mr. Connelly shrugged.


“They wanted me to run to the bathroom and cry,” I said softly. “And I didn’t want to give them what they wanted. That’s why I wore it.”