Drew paused in the main hallway at the sight of a ruckus up ahead. Two guys were going at each other like wild animals, throwing each other up against the wall. He saw a few sophomore girls flee down the stairs to avoid getting hit by an errant appendage. Seeing the fear on their faces, Drew raced toward the fray to see what he could do. He was about three feet away when Mr. Demas, the vice principal, tore in from the office, grabbed the two kids who were now entangled on the floor, and yanked them apart.
“Enough! Enough!” the veep shouted as the kids continued to try to reach each other.
“What the hell happened?” Drew asked Tamara, who was hanging out near a wall, looking pale.
“I have no idea. I think one of them bumped into the other one and then all of a sudden it turned into battle royale,” she said. “God, the people in this school are just combative today. All anyone wants to do is fight,” she added, looking at Drew in an accusatory way.
“What? Like it’s my fault?” he asked.
“I heard what you and the guys did last night. I didn’t want to believe it, but that bruise on your face says it all,” she said. “You can’t think that’s not contributing to the erosion of the situation around here. This is the third fight I’ve heard of today.”
Drew sighed, embittered. He was so sick of everyone acting like he was somehow responsible for everyone else. “Yeah, well, contrary to popular belief, I don’t control the entire Washingtonville population.”
Tamara stood up straight, pushing herself away from the wall as the crowd dispersed and the combatants were tossed into the vice principal’s office. “Maybe not. But you do set an example,” she said. Then she shrugged and walked away.
Drew took a deep breath and shook his head. Like he wasn’t under enough pressure already. Now Tamara and Samson wanted him to be some beacon of morality and goodness. He didn’t even have a clue how to begin to do that.
“I heard Drew Benson broke Samson Hill’s arm.”
Drew paused. Whoever was talking was standing just around the corner.
“No way,” another voice challenged. “It was Clay Carradine who did it. He just told everyone Drew did it so Drew could have the glory.”
Drew saw red, but he forced himself to chill. Going ballistic now was not an option.
“I saw Samson Hill this morning. His arm’s fine. I heard Corinth gave our guys the drubbing of the century.”
Drew clenched his jaw as he came around the corner into the social sciences wing. The three freshmen who were completely distorting last night’s events fell silent at the sight of him. Even as depressed as he was, Drew almost smirked at their reaction. He was still new to being a senior and wasn’t used to having such a daunting presence.
“No one broke Samson Hill’s arm,” Drew told them, as they cowered timidly before them. “And there was no drubbing. The whole conflict lasted about two-point-five seconds. Now why don’t you go spread the truth around instead of standing there like a bunch of twits?”
The three kids took off so quickly it was as if they had dissipated into thin air. Drew rolled his shoulders back, feeling as if he’d done something positive, but he winced as his shoulder panged with pain. He turned and ducked into his history classroom as the bell rang, hoping against hope for a movie. Instead he found his teacher, Mrs. Lasky, handing out stapled papers to the entire class, some of whom were standing.
“Here you go, Mr. Benson,” the young, irritatingly enthusiastic teacher said.
“What’s this?” Drew asked.
“First semester project,” she announced with a flawless grin.
The entire classroom—Corinth and Washingtonville students alike—groaned. One of the first times Drew had seen both groups agree on anything.
“Now, now. None of that. Before you start demonizing me, remember that in an AP class such as this one, most teachers won’t even give you a list of suggestions like the one I was so kind as to prepare for you,” Mrs. Lasky said, tossing her short hair back off her face. “This should not be too hard. We’ll be spending this period in the library so that you can contemplate the list of topics and do a little research—find out what might be interesting to you. There is an extensive amount of information available about the Second World War, so you should have no trouble finding what you need. And if you think of something that’s not on the list, feel free to pitch it to me. You know how I love creative thinking.”
“Yeah, great,” Clay said. “Creative thinking in history. Isn’t that, like, an oxymoron or something?”
Drew snorted a laugh.
“All right, people. Let’s move out the door in an orderly fashion and head for the library!” Mrs. Lasky trilled, clapping her hands.