Caleb always sat at the back of class. He’d have his sketchbook open, no matter what lesson we were in and he would doodle. I caught a glimpse of a page once where he’d drawn a swirling vortex dragging cartoons of his classmates into the twisting maw. I was searching for my own face when he looked up with startling grey eyes and snapped the book shut.
‘Sorry, I was just…’ That was as far as I got before he’d turned back away, staring at the equation Mr Thomas had just written up. He didn’t move to pick up a pen or open a school book, just resolutely ignored me and left me with nothing but the memory of those eyes. It was as if they didn’t even see me.
I’d gone back to my seat a little shaken. I couldn’t concentrate for the rest of Mr Thomas’ lesson, not with his eyes burning in my mind, a dirty blonde fringe falling over them but the rage still cutting through. He’d been so angry, all because I’d looked at a sketch pad.
What was his problem?
Thankfully, we went our separate ways after maths. Caleb went on to the art rooms and I had a French lesson. Not that I could learn anything about the past perfect tense. I started doodling instead, a swirling pool of water like Caleb’s. Mine was lacking all those cartoon faces pulled into agonised rictuses, however.
French went quickly and I had the rest of the day off. It was a short drive home in my battered Fiesta, but today it was filled with danger. I couldn’t keep my head in the game, telling myself I just needed to rest, get my head down for a few hours. I don’t know why it had rattled me so much, but it was enough that I nearly ran into someone at a set of traffic lights. Always fun to defy death on the drive home.
I bustled into the house, dumping my bag on the sofa so fast that it ejected my school books all over the living room floor. I ignored them and raced up to my room. I needed to sleep, anything to get the eyes to go away. I fumbled with the buttons on my shirt and threw it into a corner before crawling into the duvet’s welcome embrace.
My dreams were twisted and tortured, swirling round and round. The only thing that came to mind was Yeats’ The Second Coming. Turning and turning and things fall apart. All the words sweeping around me and an insistent knocking, a pounding drumbeat setting the rhythm of the dream.
The dream that wasn’t a dream. The knocking was from outside and it yanked me awake. I opened my eyes and sat bolt upright.
Knock, knock, knock.
I brushed the sleep from my eyes, flicking the grit away. I pulled on a pair of tracksuit bottoms and walked groggily downstairs. Pulled open the front door to a rush of freezing air.
Standing in front of me, wearing a leather jacket and clutching his sketch pad like a lifeline, was Caleb. He stared straight at me, before pushing the blonde hair up and over his forehead.
‘You need to come with me, right now.’
Those grey eyes burned into my skin as I looked blearily on. I leaned against the door and weighed my options. I didn’t know Caleb. All I knew of him was that damn drawing that had turned my world upside down for a day.
There was only one option.
The Idiot in Tin Foil