How to Save a Life- The Fray
James sat back down at his desk. Noah looked around uncomfortably, and he knew he would soon want to leave… which led him to the moment he had wanted to avoid most the entire afternoon.
Grabbing a pen, he flipped over and frantically signed some forms that were lying on his desk.
“Now, in regards to punishment,” James began evenly, not wanting even a hint of emotion to be reflected in his voice. “Please keep in mind that by all rights, I should expel you for what happened today."
Noah nodded reluctantly, waiting for his sentence.
“I’m giving you one week of out-of-school suspension,” James said, watching the boy carefully for any reaction. He hated that he had to punish him at all, let alone suspend him for three whole days. But since he had additionally placed the name callers into in-school suspension for two days, and Noah had actually done physical damage to school property, his punishment had to be steeper.
James folded the forms and sealed them in an envelope. He slid the envelope across the desk to Noah, who looked questioningly at it.
“They have to know?” he asked. His voice had taken on an edge of fear that caused James to take notice.
He immediately realized that Noah’s problem wasn’t in the punishment itself, but in having his parents find out about it. After working with teenagers for years, James knew the drill. Noah would have gotten up every morning during his suspension, left his house for eight hours, and come home at the usual time, with his parents being none the wiser. It was precisely the reason he had been the one to initiate mutual communication for school suspensions, as opposed to the old form letters that mysteriously never made it to their parental destination. He had always considered it one of his better administrative decisions…
… Until now.
He was horrified to see the teenager’s trembling hand reach out to grab the envelope. Noah’s eyes had once again taken on that terrified glaze that he could hardly bear to look at.
The envelope fluttered in the boy’s hand. He was trembling all over.
What was going on in the boy’s home that caused him such fear?
“I’m sorry,” Noah said again, standing to leave.
“Wait!” James said, dropping his reserved façade.
“I’ll take you home,” he announced suddenly, to even his own surprise.
Noah looked suspiciously at the principal. “What? Why?”
He racked his mind for a decent excuse.
“Because… after everything that’s happened today, I just think it’s safer if you don’t walk home alone,” he said. “You don’t know if any of those boys might be waiting for you.”
“I can take care of myself,” Noah insisted.
“I’m not implying that you can’t. But I just think it’s best for today.”
He could sense the boy’s mind turning, trying to figure him out….
“Okay,” Noah finally relented.
James exhaled a sigh of relief, unaware he had even been holding his breath.
“Go forward at the next light. It’ll be the second building on the left.”
In order to prolong the car ride, James drove just under the speed limit- much to the displeasure of his car's engine. He had tried to engage the young man in conversation during the trip, but a deep and meaningful discussion was impossible where eye contact, even if it was only one-sided, could not be maintained.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Noah nervously picking at the envelope containing all the sordid details of his classroom outburst.
James had worked with children and teenagers for a long time now; he knew all of the signs.
However, there were procedures for these kinds of things. Things like legalities. He couldn’t just act on a premonition. No matter how overwhelming it was.
James could not shake the growing, dreadful feeling that time was running out.
As he approached the light, it turned red. He stopped and put on the right turn signal.
Noah unbuckled his seatbelt and clutched the envelope in his trembling hand. He let out a long, shuddering sigh that hurt James’ heart. He shut his eyes against the sound and came to a decision.
“God damn it,” he whispered.
“Dr. Bassler?” Noah said.
James opened his eyes just as the light turned green and the driver in the truck behind him honked his horn.
He switched off the turn signal and turned right through the intersection.
Noah gave James a cautious look. “You turned the wrong direction.”
“It would appear so.” He didn’t take his eyes off the road.
James took a deep breath.
“Because… I don’t know if I could live with myself if anything happened to you over a stupid week long suspension.”
He could feel the boy’s deep blue eyes crawling over him, questioning him, gauging him, wanting to trust, wanting to believe.
“If you want me to take you home, say the word and I’ll turn around right now,” he concluded.
He continued to drive, leaving Noah to make his decision.
After a moment, he heard the sound of a fastening seatbelt.
James smiled in relief. For that one moment, he thought he had never heard a more lovely sound.
Well, that's it for this week folks! Been busy for the last couple of weeks (blame Zel and school) so the story has been lagging a bit on the update end. Anyways, hope everyone enjoyed the update and expect another soon / eventually / in this next century.