The navigator raised an eyebrow at Tom’s interruption. “Oh? Well, what creates water currents, then?”
Tom bit his lip. He had never actually attempted to answer anything on his own in class before. “Um…things. Like, when you drop something in the water, it creates little waves.”
The navigator smiled. “Yes, that’s true, but aren’t there tides and such that large currents follow?”
For some reason Tom thought that was wrong, but couldn’t place why. He was very aware of the entire class staring at him. “Uh…there are large underwater currents, but if they followed tides…tides change, and that would mean that the currents would too, but they don’t. Do they?” He looked up at the navigator, unsure.
She sighed. “Well, Tom, little is known of underwater currents. Wave studies have been carried out for years. It is thought that they follow the tides, and change with the weather.”
“Oh.” Tom was confused. If waves followed tides, then how did the ships get anywhere? And in the tank, the waves created had disappeared after reflecting off the tank walls. Did the same thing happen with real ones?
The navigator moved on, though, to discussions of air currents, which Tom did not find half as intriguing. Weather did not shape all water currents, he was convinced. There must be something static that determined their motion. Tom opted to daydream again rather than listen to the teacher. Every time they began to discuss something interesting, it never seemed to last, and this lesson on air currents seemed to drag on forever. Apparently much more was known about it than tides and water currents, and Tom found that mildly annoying.
“Ah, apparently someone has seen fit to join us for once.” Tom looked up in surprise at the change in the teacher’s tone. In the doorway, Nathan strode in, probably his first time actually attending class in a while. He didn’t respond to the teacher’s jibe; he simply sat down in an empty chair next to Tom. His assigned seat had been taken by someone else in response to the fact that no one actually expected him to ever show up. He smiled at Tom happily before turning to the teacher, as if he were actually going to try and learn something. Tom wasn’t fooled.
“What are you doing here?” Tom hissed, trying to keep his voice low enough so that the teacher wouldn’t hear him.
Nathan didn’t even turn to face him. “What does it look like? Schooling.” Tom could barely hear him; apparently Nathan had mastered the art of whispering during class.
Tom wasn’t willing to let it go. “Why now?”
Nathan looked at him this time. “Maybe I’m just looking out for you.” He grinned.
Tom felt his face grow hot, and his own reaction irritated him even more. “What?!” He yelled the last, too loudly.
The whole class looked at him for the second time that day, and this time the teacher was not amused. “Do I need to separate you two?” She looked tired already.
“No…I’ll be quiet.” Tom attempted to whisper this time. The teacher just rolled her eyes and turned back to the board. Nathan snickered, and Tom tried to kick him under the desk. His legs were too short to reach and he ended up hitting the leg of the desk, making it jump. The teacher looked up, but Tom stayed motionless. Nathan laughed quietly the entire time, and Tom vowed to get him back for it.
The teacher returned to the subject of air currents, and though Tom found it boring, he couldn’t help noticing that Nathan, of all people, had begun to take notes, the chalk grating on the board. He longed to ask the older boy why he had suddenly returned to class and actually shown an interest, but didn’t want to risk embarrassing himself further. He wished the teacher would talk more about water.
Tom rested his head in his hands as the teacher droned on. He actually felt rather tired. Watching Nathan scribbling down notes made him feel like an even worse student. He couldn’t wait until it was time for lunch.
“The nature of wind is akin to osmosis--high to low pressure areas. One can predict storms with a barometer, which measures pressure.” Tom thought he had seen a barometer in the infirmary. He hadn’t bothered to see how it worked, though. He sighed and looked over at Nathan again, who appeared to be grinning as he was taking notes. Tom wanted to smack him.
Tom rested his head on his desk. Maybe he could take a nap without anyone noticing. He closed his eyes and let the teacher’s droning lull him. It sounded like water burbling…
Someone punched him in the arm, hard. “Ow!” Tom stood up indignantly, glaring at Nathan. The rest of the class was getting up, and Nathan was folding up the board he had taken notes on. Apparently class was over. He followed the rest of the students out of the room, and stopped in the hall.
“Way to sleep during class.” Nathan smirked at him.
“It’s not my fault the teacher is so boring!” Tom growled back.
“Right, right.” Nathan laughed, and gave Tom a shove. “Why not explore on deck for a while? See, all the little kids are going.”
Tom scowled. “I’m not a little kid!” He was thirteen and living on his own! Granted, he had to because he had no family, but that independence had to count for something.
Nathan ignored him, though, and Tom frowned and headed up to the deck. He wished he understood the other boy.
When he looked up at the sky, and noticed it was cloudy, and the air felt oddly heavy with humidity that he could not feel, yet somehow sense. He was very aware of the dampness in the air, and wondered if anyone else noticed. His heart began to pound.