Rotten Apples

Chapter 7 – The Untouchables

The teacher of my Culinary elective class was extremely intriguing to watch and listen to as she briefed us all on the fundamentals of the new course. Being French, young, and passionate about pastries & cooking as a whole, she was an instant inspiration and a role model to myself and many of the other students in the classroom. She had a foreign feel to her aura and beauty that, with her selection of clothing, paired absolutely perfectly with her flowing dark hair and piercing black eyes, which made me instantly think of Antonio. He had that same foreign ‘breeze of fresh air’ and ‘ invisible fragrance’ to his personality. It made them both interesting. It made them attractive, more than the average. They caught your attention if either of them were in a room full of a bunch of people. They made you do a double take. They made you almost think, “Wait… What?” as you looked back at them, trying to put your finger on as to why you were looking back at them. In a way, they were both like pastries, themselves, displayed beautifully among a bunch of ordinary, factory made snacks. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been able to even remotely be able to concentrate as much of that first class as I did, by a long shot, given who was sitting just two feet away from me, right next to my new best friend who was shielding me from him, without him realizing it.

Nothing. Barely a single word was said by Sascha that entire first Culinary 101 introduction class that I shared with him & my new best friend, Antonio. When we both discovered that Sascha was going to be our permanent annual partner for the period, the only word he said was a briskly spoken and low muttered “…Hello.” in response to Donny’s greeting. It was the very first time that Donny had ever even a spoken to him & I didn’t know exactly how that made me feel. It didn’t even seem real. It felt like I was living half inside of reality and half inside of some alternate dimension or dream. It couldn’t be. Could it? COULD IT? Donny, Sascha, and I? All of us… TOGETHER… were IN ONE TABLE… for all eternity!!? It might not have been a big deal or felt like forever to anyone else… But, to me, one whole year in that situation seemed like forever. It WAS forever…

The entire time during that period as the teacher handed us our blueprints of the new culinary class curriculum, taught us our cooking schedules, explained to us our recipe planner, and gave us further and overall information on the class as a whole for the year, Sascha seemed and appeared utterly quiet and… completely different from any other time I had ever seen him. I expected the worst, but, he didn’t remotely look at me. It was all unexpected. It was almost as if he was a completely different person all together that day without his friends. He seemed… touchable. That’s it. The entire time that I had ever first moved into that new town and had experienced any and all bullying that I had endured, up until that point, my bullies and many of the kids, especially Sascha, appeared and seemed to be ‘untouchable’. My bullies, particularly him, were ‘glorified’ to my eyes. They were beautiful, powerful, popular, and from what I could reckon, were all financially well off. But, today, Sascha was and appeared to be a human, a REAL human just like me. He was no different than me. I could actually touch him.

I couldn’t explain it, but, there was a moment while the teacher was talking when Sascha noticed me looking at him and his eyes met mine, and it was like I saw who he was for the first time. The terrible and obnoxious “shell” that he usually had around him with his friends and everyone else was gone for those few moments, he looked down and looked back up at me and then gazed at the front of the classroom.

I was expecting the complete opposite. I was expecting GOD only knows what from him. I expected either, screaming, yelling, taunting, bullying, or even him trying to convince Donny how he shouldn’t be friends with me, anymore, as he brainwashed him to believe how much of a ‘looser’ I was, filling his mind with GOD only knows what. But, no; I was quick to judge him and what he’d do that day. Could anyone really blame me, though? After everything he did to me, Sascha had a bad reputation with both Liam and I.

Sascha was painfully quiet and slowly moved around and stared at the table the whole time, sometimes, playing with his fingers in deep, hypnotic thought. Either that, or he was scowling at whatever thoughts he was having for those few moments.. It was the strangest thing that I had ever seen in that school up to that point, especially, from him. Without his friends around him, it was almost as if Sascha was ‘smaller’, not, just in a social way, but, almost in his own head. After the period was over Donny and I looked at one another and shrugged, completely lost and confused as to what to think or do about our new ‘partner’. What could we do? What could we say? Nothing…

“I see you 8th period.’ Kayy?” Antonio said to me after giving me a little hug and walking off. After he did, I saw Sascha look at him, and then, me with an expression which was blanker than the color white, itself. It was unreadable, unseen, and unnoticeable by anyone else in that classroom. He got up, snatched his things, shocking me from his quick movement, crumpled up his class planner that the teacher gave us, and walked away.

__________

“Mom. It’s a good class! But, you see…” I said at the dinner table that evening as I was explaining to my family the new class that I was once enthusiastic about. I debated whether or not I should mention anything about my new “partner” issues. Playing with my mashed potatoes for a while as I thought about it. I finally came to the conclusion. I don’t know where I got the courage to do so. But, I needed their help and advice. I couldn’t run away from it all. And, I couldn’t face it alone. I needed them. I couldn’t deal with this. It was overwhelming me just as much as my bullying ever did, if not, even more so, for some unusual reason. I told them partially the issue to get their advice. “There’s this one kid. Uh… He with us for the rest of the year and walked innn the last minute. But…” I said debating how I should carefully choose my wording in order to keep my ‘hillbilly bullying’ a secret. That was top secret! It was written on Black Paper for no one else to read. It was locked in my Pandora’s Box of my life. And only I had the key.

In between bites, my mother spoke, *swallows* “But, what?” She said casually, not understanding the full gravity of the situation, whatsoever.

With a deep inhale I spoke, “This boy,… He a bit of a trouble maker.” This caught everyone’s attention, even Shannon, but, I was too focused on what I was saying and how I really felt about Sascha as a person rather than a bully to really care, anymore. “He a… he a bully.” I said, shamefully. “He bullies lots o’ kids with his frieaayaans. He real mean. He REALLY mean. He GOOD at it, too. And, his frieaayaans. They even worse. He ain’t never nice to no one. At least Ah’ don’t think he is. His other frieaayan even beat up someone with them all the other day. But, … *Sigh*” Breathe Billy. Just breathe. You can do this, I thought. “I don’t know…. There’s there’s somethin’ ABOUT him that I just can’t explain. I feel somethin’ about him. I feel like he lost or somethin’.” I said. I probably sounded crazy to my family. At, least that’s what I thought until they spoke in response.

This time my daddy spoke, “He ever give you any trouble?” He said with a serious face putting his fork in his mouth with some ol’ Southern Taters, afterwards.

“…Nah. He ain’t never do nothin’ to me or Antonio.” I lied as BEST as I could and it near killed me to do so. GOD help me, was that lie like swallowing a whole spoon without any water to work it down my throat. That’s how much that lie hurt me. “He just don’t wanna be with us. He barely spoke to me or him. I think somethin’s wrong with him, but, now we’re STUCK with him!!!!” I screamed it a little louder than I should of and this shocked my mother a bit.

She took a sip of red wine, something she only ever enjoys on occasion, especially given all of what had happened to us recently in regards to our orchard and the hard work they had both been putting in to our new one. And, I was still MAD about the fact that I hadn’t even gotten a chance to see the knew one, yet! She had been drinking her wine with her meal and slowly turned to me like a wise owl with noble eyes in the middle of the night. “Hmmm. You seem to awfully dislike this boy who’s done ‘nothing’ to you Billy Decker…” She said. She obviously was now opened to the idea that something else was going on that I was hiding from her, far beyond what I had been letting off to be, anyway.

My father intervened. “William. What have I always taught you?”

I shrugged.

“The good Lord always teaches to go to those who do bad and show them the better way, teach them, and shine your good light on them. Christ didn’t go to just the rich men all the time. He went to the peasants, the ill, the prostitutes, the cheaters, the liars, the whores; he went to those he saw had hearts full of life which were covered with hatred’s fire. He SAVED ’em, Billy. That was his job. He saved them. He cleaned them. Now, maybe this boy IS a bad one. But he a child o’ God, nonetheless, just like you, Shannon, your momma, Antonio, & I. Don’t you forget that, son. You ain’t no fool. I raised you better and you provin’ it right now. You see somethin’ in him. Maybe, he lost. ….And, maybe you found him, whether, you like it or not. The Lord maybe workin’ right through you and brought him to you for some good reason, ever think I’m that? Ya here? He works in mysterious ways.” My father paused for a moment sipping his sweetened tea.

“You got a choice, now, son. Either, you help shine some light and show it to this boy, or you leave him behind and let him stay where he is. Choice is up to yuu’. Ya here? Ain’t nobody forcin’ you to do NOTHIN’. But, never forget this: Don’t ever let what you physically see, distract you from what’s really there…”

And that last sentence is a lesson that I would always remember for the rest of my life. Don’t only judge what you see, but, investigate what’s truly happening. Seeing underneath someone’s skin and through their eyes will help you see through all the lies.

“Save Them.” I thought. If my father only what that unusual statement meant to me and my life, thus far, or knew what he was really telling me; if they only knew what was really going on, they’d look at me with absolute wonder…

__________

It had been in an awkward experience those next 7 days of school in that culinary class. Donny was obviously starting to realize and notice the obvious tension that existed between Sascha & I. It was inevitable to me, from the very beginning, that he would see it himself, first hand; and now, he was. However, being a partner with Sascha was much different than when he was bullying me. It was almost as if I was with someone who I used to be friends with who no longer wish to speak with me and held some sort of a tight gripped grudge or hatred towards me. His body language, his short responses which he only spoke when he was FORCED to speak to us, and overall energy all portrayed that type of ‘history’. Yet, that history didn’t exist, whatsoever. And, for the most part, I think that’s exactly what Donnie believed was the case. Which, was perfectly fine by me. It was much better than him knowing the actual harsh reality of the entire hidden situation between us all. I wanted him to stay oblivious as long as humanly possible.

“It’s time for some fun.” Ms. Lizette said, standing in front of us all giving a sly grin. It wasn’t a surprise overhearing some of the boys in the class snicker and whisper about how attractive she was. Even I liked her. And, I didn’t even LIKE girls. I didn’t think I did, anyway. I didn’t even know WHAT I liked, really. I was just Billy. That’s all I knew. I was just Billy.

“Today all of the gloves come off.” She said. “I’ve trained you all on the basics, the equipment instructions, and now, it’s your turn to show ME something.” She said.

“Huh?” I heard Donny say as Sascha sat there with folded arms.

“I want everyone to push in the stools all the way to the side of the class under the hatch. That’s what it’s for. This hatch is where the stools go to make them completely disappear during cooking hours. It keeps them out of the way to grant space and avoid danger. Boys. BOYS. HEYY!” She yelled at three boys in the back who were commenting on how ‘hot’ she was.

“S-sorry Ms. Lizette.” A boy named Jamie said.

“Yeah, sorry.” His friend said.

“Good.” She continued. “Let’s go!” She clapped her hands with a smile.

A few minutes later, after the stools we were sitting on were cleared and stored where the teacher had instructed us to put them, the class was all standing behind our designated spots at our tables.

“It’s cooking time.” She said.

“YES!” a bunch of the kids said.

“Ah ah ah.” She said calming them for a moment. “There’s rules, here.”

“Awwwwwe.” A bunch of them said disappointed.

“The rules are. There are no rules. Today, I want you to show ME who are you in a plate. Don’t just try to impress me with your culinary skills that you have so far, which I still DO want to see. But, show my heart what you love about food. Make me FEEL something. The French teach the passion is the fashion for food and I want you to not be afraid to make me feel something. Got it?” She said.

“Wow.” I thought. I looked down at the oven and for the first time…. I was happy to be in that class since Sascha ever showed up. I knew what I wanted to make. It was like a flame that burned deep within me, all of the sudden, that fueled me like the acceleration of a supercar. It was a recipe that my mother taught me which was her absolute most IMPORTANT one back at our own county and to my family’s hearts. It represented her, and my Old orchard. I wanted to make her proud. I wanted to make Mee-Mee and Sparticus proud. Looking at Sascha and seeing the blank and slightly angst filled look that I saw on his face, I looked back down at the oven again and gave a grin of my own as I looked back up at him and I SWEAR I saw it. He unwillingly gave me a light grin, but, then immediately removed it and looked away.

I looked at the teacher and asked her to come to my station. She walked up to me making her black heels click on the floor and stood graciously next to me.

“Yes, Uhm hmmmm Billy, yes?” She said nicely.

“Yes’m May Ah’ use the oven, please?” I asked out of politeness and to ensure it was within the policy of the classroom.

“Of course you may. What would you like to make? Do you know already?” She said as I noticed some kids looking at us.

I smiled at her and whispered softly into her ear, “I’m makin’ an apple paa’.”

 

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