After all, I wasnâ€™t like Nick in the back, goofing off and disrupting everything just because I had no idea what was going on. This stuff was second nature to me. The names of the gods and goddesses, their children and half children, the stories, the meanings of the stories, the way they compared through cultures â€“ it was all so easy for me â€“ and if I wanted to day dream, or even sleep, I had the right.
â€œTravis!â€ she called, apparently I had been lost in thought again, â€œWould you care to answer the question?â€
â€œWould you care to repeat the question? After all I was dreamingâ€¦ A very strange dream.â€
â€œCan you tell me what the hydra represents in Greek mythology?â€ she asked, trying to hide the fact that I got under her skin. But it was obvious I struck a cord with her as her pale cheeks turned a bright pink color.
The class laughed. One would think that comments like this that would make me the class cut up, right? Whether or not that was the case, comments like the one that came next that branded me as a nerd. â€œThe hydra is believed to represent peopleâ€™s craving for lust, and the more you fight it the stronger it grows. We see this because when Hercules would cut off one head, two more grew in its placeâ€¦â€
â€œSo we should all give into lust!â€ A voice called from the back of the room. Thatâ€™s probably what separated me from most of my peers. A sex joke was like gold to them, no matter how obvious it was.
With a sigh, I continued. â€œThe hydra was the second labor of Hercules. Each one was a different task that represented man against nature. This was an important thing for people of the ancient world because they lived in fear of nature. Hercules was an important figure in Greek myths because he was a hero who could not only challenge the gods, but conquer nature. So if it wasnâ€™t for heroes like Hercules we might not have ever thought it was possible to conquer our world.â€
In her usual, patronizing, way she said, â€œVery good Travis, now imagine how much youâ€™d know if you actually paid attentionâ€¦â€
My only response was a sigh. I wasnâ€™t going to let her insults get to me. Mrs. Frost felt like everyone was beneath her. Arguing would only prove her right in her mind. I would defy her in a different way, I drifted off into my little fantasy world. I didn't get my head back on the desk for more than a second before I was getting yelled at again. â€œI asked you a question!â€ Mrs. Frost said slapping her hand down onto my desk, jolting me back into the real world once more. When I looked up at her, she smiled as if getting me to focus was some sort of personal victory, â€œCan you give the class a name of any other hero in mythology that conquered nature?â€
I shrugged, â€œI probably can, but why not see what the rest of the class thinks? Thereâ€™s over twenty other brains in this room.â€
â€œBecause while they need to learn mythology, something you know a great deal about, you Mr. Wolf need to learn to pay attention. So as long as you continue to stare into space and dream of whatever it is that you dream about, I am going to be picking your brain for every single bit of information. I can only hope that some of it soaks into your peers.â€
I rolled my eyes. There wasnâ€™t much I could do, arguing would just make things worse â€“ but answering her would only give Mrs. Frost her way. With a sigh I decided the battle wasnâ€™t worth it. So what if my peers thought I was acting like a teacherâ€™s pet? I was already outcast for being more mature than everyone.
â€œWell Travis?â€ She asked, â€œDo you have an answer for me?â€
Without a secondâ€™s hesitation I responded, â€œRyu.â€ Obviously none of the other students in class had any idea who I was talking about. Anything that wasnâ€™t related cars, money, women, or how to get one of the three was lost on my generation. But Ryuâ€™s story is so unknown, even Mrs. Frost raised a curious eyebrow when I said his name.
â€œAnd who, pray tell, is Ryu?â€
With a confident smirk I smiled and asked, â€œYou mean you donâ€™t know?â€ Mrs. Frost huffed as her face went red once again. I just smiled and went on explaining, â€œRyuâ€™s myth comes to us from either Greece, or itâ€™s the only surviving story from the lost city of Atlantis.â€
â€œOh please, Atlantis? Do you think a supposed myth from a fictional place is going be credible in my classroom?â€
It was obvious that she was trying to find anything to prove me wrong. I just shrugged and continued, â€œLike I said itâ€™s believed to either be proof that Atlantis existed, or a myth from ancient Greece set it the fictional city of Atlantis. But thatâ€™s not the point, Ryu was said to be the exiled prince of Atlantis, cast away by his father â€“ the corrupt king Sargon. Years later he returned to overthrow his fatherâ€¦â€
Frost cut me off, â€œThatâ€™s all fine and good Travis. It sounds like a great story, but what does it have to do with the question I asked?â€
â€œâ€¦In overthrowing his father, Ryu set free an ancient evil â€“ by the name Akua. Akua threatened to destroy the world, but Ryu stopped him.â€
â€œOnce again what does thisâ€¦â€
â€œIN ORDER to do so, Ryu used the sword named Dragon Heart. This sword carried with it the power of the elements â€“ Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. Using this sword he defeated Akua, a being of pure darkness. The myth of Ryuâ€™s battle with Akua shows a warrior using the powers of nature to overcome darkness, our most basic of fears.â€
I smiled in triumph. The rest class was silent, like they were actually interested. Mrs. Frost was speechless. She wouldnâ€™t admit that I knew more than she did on this subject, so she said nothing.
â€œLook at that! T-Cup is so lame that he knows more than Frost!â€
As the class laughed, I simply shook my head and smiled. It amused me to know how threatened Nick was by me. Every time I impressed anyone, he felt the need to do anything he could to turn it against me. Still the nick name he gave me was impressively cleaver. Since my last name is Wolf, it started as Cub â€“ like I said, theyâ€™re not the smartest group. Cub turned into Cup, and with my first name being Travis it was an easy transition into T-Cup.
â€œAlright, alright, alright,â€ Mrs. Frost said, her face still flush, â€œCalm down, leave Travis alone.â€ When the laughter stopped, Mrs. Frost let out a breath of relief. She didnâ€™t really care about protecting me from ridicule. She just hated that the joke was about me being smarter than her. Luckily for her the bell rang, and she didnâ€™t have to put up with me anymore.
She brushed a strand of copper hair behind her ear as I walked toward her. My knees where week and my palms where sweating. When she closed her locker and turned to walk away I tried to say something to get her attention but the only sound I could make was a weird choking noise that she didnâ€™t hear. I stood there, feeling like a moron as I watched her walk away; until some jerk came and started hitting on her.
And no, Iâ€™m not just saying he was a jerk because I liked Katie. This guy was a serious punk. Fights, jail, it was all too common for this guy. People avoided him like the plague, and Katie didnâ€™t seem to think any different. I couldnâ€™t tell what they were saying, but from the way she was shoving him I knew what she was thinking.
â€œLeave her alone Ethan!â€
Both of them turned their attention to me. â€œLook loser, this is none of your business. Why donâ€™t you go along and play your little card game with that sissy boy you call your cousin?â€
â€œWhy donâ€™t you try hitting on a girl with less self esteem and more father issues?â€
â€œFather issues?â€ Ethan asked, â€œYou think your cute Wolf Pup?â€
â€œNo, but Iâ€™m glad you do.â€ I replied with a smirk â€“ I thought I was hilarious, â€œWhatâ€™s the matter? Youâ€™re daddy didnâ€™t hug you enough?â€ Ethan however didnâ€™t.
Without so much as a word he swung at me. I parried the punch and pushed Ethan away. â€œMy dad teaches Tae-Kwan-Do, youâ€™ll have to do better than that.â€
Ethan took a step toward me and asked, â€œTae-Kwan-Do huh?â€ he punched again, this time a wild wide swing. I blocked and got inside his punch this time. Before I could do anything else however, Ethan head butted me. I felt a crack as my nose was bloodied.
My hands shot up and I got a knee to the gut. â€œI learned that on the street.â€ Ethan mocked as I fell to my knees. As I sat there breathing heavily with blood filling my hands and covering my shirt, Ethan planted his foot into my chest sending me to the ground.
â€œStop!â€ Katie yelled, stepping in the way. â€œStop hurting him!â€
â€œHe needs to learn to watch his mouth.â€ Ethan said.
â€œAnd you need to learn to respect women.â€ I said standing.
â€œSee Katie? The Wolf Pup wants more; aint that right Pup?â€
He was right; I would have thrown a punch, a kick, anything if Katie wasnâ€™t in the way. But she was, so I just flipped him off. He made a move toward me, but Katie put her hands on his chest. â€œNo.â€ she said, â€œItâ€™s over. You won Ethan, and if you ever want a second chance with me youâ€™ll leave him alone. Got it?â€
â€œYouâ€™re lucky Wolf.â€ Ethan warned, â€œNext time you run your little mouth, you better hope sheâ€™s here to save you again.â€ And with that he walked off. I let myself drop to ground and coughed. After a couple of minutes I was able to catch my breath.
With a warm smile Katie offered me a hand up. I could feel my face grow red as she helped me to my feet. â€œAre you okay?â€
I nodded, â€œIâ€™m more worried about you.â€
â€œOh Iâ€™m fine. He wouldnâ€™t hurt me.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€ I asked, â€œHe has a violent reputation. And he sure as hell didnâ€™t have a problem laying a hand on me.â€ I said with a laugh.
She didnâ€™t get the joke, â€œSorry about that. But Iâ€™m sure. Weâ€™veâ€¦ been dating.â€
My heart sank. â€œOhâ€¦â€
â€œWell, that is, we were dating. He kept blowing me off. He says itâ€™s about work but never explained anything about what he does. I got tired of it and dumped him.â€
â€œOh, thatâ€™s good.â€ I said with a hopeful smile, â€œNo, I mean â€“ itâ€™s good that youâ€¦ um, stood up for yourself. You donâ€™t deserve to be ignored. You deserved someone whoâ€™s going to pay attention and take time for you.â€
â€œWell thank you.â€ She said before she started walking off.
â€œWait,â€ I called after her. She stopped and turned with a smile, â€œWill you come with me?â€
â€œI would love to, but I really have to go.â€
My heart sank and I could feel my cheeks flush. â€œOh yeahâ€¦ alright thatâ€™s fine.â€ I said, not meeting her eyes.
She let out a giggle, it was the cutest sound in the world, and then she kissed me on the cheek. I couldnâ€™t hide my smile, not that I wanted to. My face went bright red. Before I could react she said, â€œIâ€™ll see you tomorrow Travis.â€