Despite wearing one of her father’s old button-ups and an apron, Y/N still managed to get charcoal pencil on her dress and face. She had hardly noticed. There were more impressive things to see. The kids in her class were finally taking a project seriously. After months of watercolor painting, clay pottery, and magazine collage, the students had finally found a project that they were interested in. For this lesson, Y/N asked the students to sketch one of their heroes in charcoal. They could choose anyone, real or fictional.
Y/N circled the room, surveying the students’ progress and helping them out when they couldn’t get the eyes are nose symmetrical. There was one drawing in particular that had caught her attention. It depicted a young girl in a leather jacket and slicked-back hair. She stood, arms stretched forward and dark eyes blazing. The detail that really made Y/N pause was that the girl’s nose was bleeding.
“Max, who is that? A character from one of your comic books?” she asked.
The redhead looked up briefly and flashed Y/N a dimpled grin before turning back to her work. She was concentrating on the details of the girl’s sneakers.
“Somethin’ like that,” Max quipped. “She’s kind of a superhero.”
Y/N looked closely.
“This is really great, Max! Can I hang it up outside the classroom when it’s done?”
The girl’s eyes widened, and she rushed to cover her paper.
“No way! It’s, uh, really not for public viewing,” Max stuttered, face turning red.
Y/N held up her hands in surrender.
“Alright, alright! But it is pretty awesome,” Y/N urged.
Y/N turned her attention to the sketch beside Max’s superhero. The lines weren’t as clean and precise of Max’s piece, but it made Y/N smile, nonetheless. The drawing depicted a mustachioed man wearing a sweater vest and tie. It looked a bit like Mister Rogers.
“Dustin, is that the guy from that children’s show with the trolley?” Y/N wondered aloud.
Dustin frowned. Max buried her face in her work, trying and failing to hide her snickers.
“Aw, come on, Y/N!” Dustin crossed his arms. “It’s Mister Clarke!”
Y/N nodded silently. She didn’t see a resemblance.
“Okay everyone, finish up! Ten more minutes!” she called, looking down her Casio. The room had to be vacant before the custodians came by. Even though she taught the after-school art class every Friday, she had to move her supplies to and from her car every week.
Twenty minutes later, Y/N had gathered up the sketches to be displayed in the hallway. All except for Max’s. She had quickly slipped it into her Trapper Keeper. The handful of students who had stayed through the months of Y/N’s infectious love of art and community service milled out of the room. Max and Dustin stayed behind to help pack up her car.
The trio lugged the last of the bins into Y/N's hatchback. Dustin sat down with a huff.
"Alright! That's my workout for the week!" He kicked up his feet and reclined dramatically in the hatchback
"Since when does a Dungeons and Dragons campaign count as a workout?" scoffed Max.
"Hey!" Dustin couldn't help the blush that crept up his cheeks. So much for looking cool in front of the art teacher.
"Dungeons and Dragons? Is that why you're always in such a hurry to leave my class?" teased Y/N.
Dustin clutched his chest in mock offense.
"I would never! Your art class is a ray of sunshine in the cloudy storm that is my life."
Distracted with laughter and talk of campaigns and canvases, the three hardly noticed the approach of a certain teal Camaro. The blaring of the car's horn in the quiet parking lot was enough to get their attention.
From behind mirrored aviators, Billy watched as Max's face changed from surprise to panic as she registered who she was looking at. Why did she suddenly look so nervous? She was with that Dustin kid, like always. There was someone else standing there too. Someone familiar. About his age. Max’s big head was blocking his view. He was usually late picking her up. Dustin was the only person he’d seen her with leaving the art class. Billy slid down his shades to get a better look as Max stomped toward the passenger side. She wrenched open the door and threw her bag to her feet.
Billy glared at Max for a beat, trying to decide how to approach his curiosity.
“What? You gonna drive?” Max snapped.
Shifting the car in reverse, Billy sped out of the parking lot. Clouds of dust and gravel rose behind them. He decided that being blunt and direct was the best approach.
“Who were you talking to?” His voice calm, even.
“Dustin.” Max looked out the window at the trees. She was a terrible liar.
“Yeah, I know who your loser friends are. Who was that chick you were talking to?”
“What chick?” Max feigned ignorance. She was starting to piss him off.
“Don’t be a fucking smartass. Who was that girl?” Billy paused and grinned. “You know what? I’ll just turn around and ask.”
“Wait!” Max shouted, just as Billy had slammed on the brakes. “It’s Y/N! Y/N Y/L/N, my art teacher.”
Billy’s jaw clenched. That’s why she had looked so familiar. He should have recognized her. Her picture had been in the school paper Max had brought home. Something about a volunteer art class. He should have put the pieces together sooner.
“You’re not goin’ to that art class anymore.”
Max rolled her eyes.
“It’s not up to you. I’m taking it because Mom wants me to. She wants me to have a hobby that’s more ladylike.”
Billy seethed. He swore Max was so dumb sometimes.
“It’s not about the class, doofus. It’s your teacher. Dad’s gonna flip his lid if he sees you with somebody like her.”
“Like what? She’s like a Girl Scout or something,” Max grumbled, sinking lower in the seat.
“You know what I mean.” He gripped the steering wheel tighter. He wasn’t about to let Max start more trouble for him.
It was bad enough that Max had been hanging out with Lucas Sinclair. But if Billy’s dad found out that Max was spending time with Y/N too? He’d never hear the end of it. Neil Hargrove was obsessed with keeping up appearances. Billy’s father had been even worse in California. His family had to look perfect on the outside. Wonder Bread and picket fences, well-behaved children and a manicured lawn. He believed that certain types of people would…sully that image. Billy didn’t agree, but it wasn’t worth getting his ass beat.
“Look, just don’t let him see you around town with her,” his voice taut, “Just art class.”
Max felt a lump form in her throat. She took a calming breath, eyes staring at the roof of the car. She hated that her stepfather was this way.
“Yeah, whatever. Just art class,” she conceded.