|Copyright @ 2013 by Anne Osterlund. Used by permission of Speak, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.|
“Salvador Resendez.” The sharp tone came from inside the Pen—aka the school’s ominous square front office with its bulletproof windows, legal-form wallpaper, and particleboard cubicles for dividing kids in trouble. Principal Markham appeared. His flabby arms crossed over his paunch as he leaned up against the wraparound counter that separated the office staff from the reality of Liberty High School. “It’s about time. The welcome ceremony starts in five minutes.”
Salva shrugged his shoulders. “Yeah, the girls are taking care of that. I’m doing activity sign-ups on Friday.” He figured he ought to be able to relax and enjoy the first day of the school year.
Markham’s uneven mustache dipped down at the corners. “You are the student body president.”
It’s not my fault Julie Tri-Ang transferred to some fancy prep school. VP would have looked plenty good on a college application. Salva started toward the gym, braving the last-minute traffic of sprinting achievers and dawdling slackers, but Markham called after him. “I need you back here before you go to class."
“Later, Resendez. Now, move.”
The assembly lasted twenty minutes. Nalani Villetti, who’d been elected secretary and was now vice president, at least did her job introducing the teachers and staff members, but Kaitlyn, who had left her speech at home, panicked in front of the crowd. Salva ended up having to vamp and do the whole “Welcome back, everybody. We’re going to have an awesome year” bit. Not that giving the speech was a big deal. It just wasn’t the low-key start he’d intended for his senior year.
Neither was visiting the principal’s office.
“Come in, Salvador,” Markham said, dropping his thick body into the padded chair behind his desk. “Seems we have a problem with your current class schedule.”
Do I have to go through this again? Salva braced his hands against the doorframe. Just because he had taken a few classes ahead of the curve didn’t mean he should have to fight for the advanced courses every year. Why did they always try to schedule students into a box?
“You aren’t signed up for an English class,” Markham said, the joints on his chair squealing as he leaned back his torso.
Salva let out a breath. Was that all? “I took senior English last year, remember? I started freshman lit as an eighth grader. You’re the one who made me do that.” Well, technically, it had been Mrs. Lukowski, his middle-school English teacher, who had strong-armed the high school into accepting him and four other top students. Back then, Salva had been a bit afraid of Mrs. Lukowski.
“You still need four years of English in high school. It’s state law.”
Salva just stared. This was stupid, far too stupid for him to waste his breath explaining why. “You’re saying I need to retake freshman English in high school to get it to count?”
“Don’t be obtuse.” Markham wrapped his thick fingers around an insulated coffee mug. “You need to take AP English.”
Salva’s grip on the doorframe faltered. “With the Mercenary?”
Markham grimaced, looked as though he might rebut the use of the school-wide moniker, then disdained the effort and took a swig from his mug. Coffee drizzled around the edge of his mouth and dripped down onto the mountain of papers piled on his cheap metal desk. “You’re more than capable of taking her course.”
Capable. Not stupid. “I have advanced physics and AP calc. You can’t expect me to take on the Mercenary, too.”
The principal gave him a look of false pity, then lifted a coffee-stained printout from the top of his pile. “Your new schedule. I removed you from phys ed II. A waste of your time, Mr. Resendez.”
Salva fumed. He knew better than Markham what was a waste of his own time.
“That’s all.” The principal tossed the printout across the desk and gulped another swig of coffee. “Hurry, or you’ll be tardy for second period.”
That would be AP English. Great.
Salva snagged the revised schedule, then freed himself from the Pen and made a beeline for his locker. By the time he’d retrieved his notebook, the hall had cleared. He allowed himself to lengthen his strides and pick up speed. The walls flashed past, a blur of peeled paint and dented steel. He swept around the corner—
And ran headlong into the walking disaster area.