A deal with the devil

Deal with the Devil

by Felicia Ogunnowo

Tristan couldn’t bear much any longer. He sat with authority at his desk at the front of the classroom, watching the documentary along with students about the background of the timeline of The Great Gatsby. At this point, he couldn’t care less.

Images blurred so much that he rubbed his eyes incessantly. Words jammed in and flew out that he grasped nothing of importance. More and more, as the video went further, his urge to escape grew. This is probably how students felt everyday when he was lecturing. He somehow related with their adolescent urge to get out of here. Though this was a topic that he loved and flourished in, information went through one ear and out the other. The lights were off and sleep was drifting unto his eyes but he buried his head in his hands to prevent that. After that, he kept pulling at the rubber band across his wrist.

The dismissal bell finally rang and students arose in unison and were nearly halfway through the door. At last, freedom.

“Hey Mr. Rune, do you mind if I could talk with you for a minute,” a voice asked. It was Ione Buchanan.

“Right now? I don’t know Ione, I have things I have to…get…you know,” Tristan said. Tired and full of angst, he was not ready to stay another twenty to thirty minutes explaining an assignment or going through the gradebook.

“Oh, that’s fine. I just had some shots from the dance last week from the Pictures Club that Ms. Grant thought I should show you,” Ione said.

“Ms. Grant?” Tristan asked, raising his head on his wrist. The new guidance counselor. Why on Earth would she refer Ione to him, of all people?

“Yeah, not only is she an amazing guidance counselor but she does a great job leading the Pictures Club too. Anyway, I figured just showing her my shots would be enough but she always mentions your keen eye and unorthodox opinions, so she suggested that I should pass them to you and get a…second opinion,”. With a deep breath into his chest, Tristan made his best attempt to not unveil his exasperation.

“Uh, okay, yeah,” Tristan said, nearly hesitant. He got up and walked over to the front of his desk where Ione was and sat on the edge. Surprisingly, the pain of him sitting right on the ledge of the desk was enough to keep him awake.

“Here are a few,” Ione said, opening up her tablet. It was a merry go round as an oncoming array of multiple images flashed forward of different students, teachers, and administrators at the recent Homecoming dance. Pieces of colors came and went. Some faces were recognized with clarity and distinction, some were just a blur. The more pictures he saw, the more agitated Tristan became. He imagined how the students felt when they were told to sit and watch a presentation film. On and on the slides went.

“Yeah, uhh…Ione. These, these all look fine. I really don’t think there’s much expertise I can offer,” Tristan stated, smirking for a quick moment in hopes to send her off. “Maybe we could both just head out,”

“Going somewhere?” Ione asked, noticing his consistency to avert his gaze at the clock. Tristan turned to her, dumbfounded.

“N-no. No no. Just keeping an eye out,” he answered. Not much to Ione’s satisfaction.

“You know, I was just as surprised as you were when Ms. Grant told me to show you these photos,”

“Why’s that?” Tristan asked.

“I assumed that you were like other teachers. You’d have your favorites and only pick ones whose pictures you liked the most,”

“What would make you think that?”. Ione shrugged, keeping her stance on Tristan.

“Nothing. But I can tell, every teacher has their favorite,”

“Okay,” Tristan muttered. “Ione, look it’s been a long day for me. For you as well I’m sure. So I think now would be a good time for us both to leave and we can pick this up another time,”

“Just wait, before you head off I wanted to show you one last photo. I think you’ll really like it,” Ione said confidently. She slid through all the way to the end and managed to find what she was looking for. “This,”. For a moment, she placed herself at his side and showed him the photo he was aching to see. From that same night. Homecoming. There were no students cheering and drinking the sour punch. It wasn’t a teacher saying something corny over the mic. It wasn’t even the school trophy, but rather a mysterious display of him already engaged in what seemed like a passionate kiss with Bo Adesina.

Bo was another student in his class and as some liked to mention, the only African- American girl in the whole academy.  What was happening in the picture was nothing more than an honest mistake. More so on Tristan’s part than Bo.

They were in the class, standing in the same spot as he and Ione were. The class was dark and there was only light from the shades. Tristan had only gone back to get slips for another teacher and apparently Bo was already there. She said he messaged her to meet them, but Tristan claimed he never did. He could barely remember what they were speaking about or how it started. But he could remember how it ended.

“I think you’re an excellent student and a great person Bo. But you have to believe that yourself. You have to do the work,” he said to Bo that starry night. Within a moment, Bo grabbed his face with quickness and planted an innocent kiss on his lips.

“I–I’m so–sorry. I’m..” she stumbled. Tristan was at a loss for words. Stunned he was and utterly confused. Yet, he didn’t want her to be instantly full of regret. Without hesitation, Bo sped out of the classroom and probably out of the school. When Tristan returned to the gym, he never saw her again. 

“Where did you g—“.

“Nnhn,” Ione said, backing up with quickness. Locking her phone, she pressed it to her chest as if it were treasure. And in her case, it actually was. “Not so fast,”

“Wh–H–?” Tristan asked. Opposite of what happened that night with Bo, where there were no words, it was like the words were speeding up throat like vomit but wouldn’t come out the right. His heart dropped in the abyss of his stomach, his mind became a tornado.

“You know, I honestly thought being assigned to the Pictures Club, I would hate it. Being around a bunch of geeks in retro living out their serial killer fantasies hiding out in the darkroom. But I’ve learned so much. It’s so amazing what photos you can capture when you have a different lense.”

“Ione! What in God’s name d—

“I told you. I was assigned to take photos from the dance. So many highlights, but this one is definitely my favorite,” Ione said calmly. “You know there are types of lenses. There’s standard, specialty, wide angle, telephoto, and macro. In my opinion, macro is the best. It really zooms and captures the whole photo. I never would’ve thought handling a camera other than my own could be so informative. Now I’m supposed to show these to Ms. Grant by the end of the week so she can clear them,” Ione said, grinning.

“Ione, I beg of you. In the name of God, I need you to give those photos back t–” Tristan said, reaching out for the tablet.

“I think it’s a little too late to call on God now. I’m giving the photos back to Ms. Grant,” Ione asked.

No!” Give them to me,” Tristan pleaded, realizing his voice was too loud.

“But Mr. Rune, these photos don’t belong to you. Technically, they’re part of the Pictures Club and are meant for Hillstone property, You know, yearbook, websites, things like that,”

“Ione,” Tristan said, using everything in him to lower his voice. He was up from the edge of his desk and wanted to step closer to Ione, but held back to avoid any other kind of accusation. “Please, whatever it is that you want…I will give it to you. But you cannot turn that picture in,” Tristan begged.

“Well that depends on you,” Ione said.

“What do you mean?” Tristan asked, his head pounding.

“Yesterday, I overheard you on the phone with someone. Sounded kind of heated,”. Tristan could feel drips of sweat falling down his chest underneath his tank top under his shirt. “Loan officers can be a pain in the arse, right? And I’m sure they’ll be highly unlikely to make offers with a pedophile,”

“No Ione listen, that picture isn’t what it looks like!” he charged. “You’re taking it out of context.”

“I so don’t care. And I’m sure the police won’t see it that way either,” Ione said. Her hazel glowed with mischief. “But here’s my proposition. Now, my grades are always the best in the class, but my ranking isn’t up to par. It’s below your favorite student apparently,”. Bo? “Bo. And because of that ranking, she’ll be likely to be nominated and win the Scholar Award at the end of the year. She’s only been in your class for a few months so that doesn’t seem all that fair. I need you to change that. Higher my ranking and lower hers,”

“Wh—? Ione, what is wrong with you?! You think this is some kind of game?” Tristan whispered angrily.

“Well, it is. My game, that is. And you’re gonna play by my rules. And either you win or you lose,” Ione stated.

“Io–I can’t just change scores like that. Deadlines are coming up. Grades have been finalized,”

“So un-finalize them,” Ione stated. “I know you’re new here and all but it’s not that hard. I’m sure you have access,”. Tristan breathed hard. “I have $100,000 just resting in my family account waiting to be spent on whatever I want. Or, I could do some good with that money,”. Tristan looked at her confused. “So you have one of two choices, higher my marks and I help you pay off your house and whatever other payments you need to take care of and you can avoid foreclosure or you don’t and I can take this picture of you and Bo straight to Dean Rowan,”. Tristan mumbled with agitation. Deal with the devil? Or risk losing everything he has? He couldn’t think of any rebuttal to get him out of this. He had to do what he could to preserve himself and the future of his well-being.

“Okay, fine,” he caved. “I’ll….” Tristan started. His lips quivered with hesitancy. His heart rose with fear. Not of what was about to be done, but his decision that was about to be made just in a single moment. “I’ll change the grades,” he said slowly.

““Isn’t that wonderful,” Ione said. “And from now on, you don’t put final marks until I see them,” Ione said, her eyes straight into Tristan’s.

Tristan couldn’t explain it, but his heart felt crushed. He couldn’t let that image get out. It would ruin him. And Bo. Yet, his home was a priority at risk. As far as he was concerned, he was between a rock and a hard place.

God, what do I do?, he thought. He couldn’t wait for an answer. Things were on the line.

A home he could find anywhere, but his reputation would remain unfixable and would stay that way no matter where he went. Or could it be the opposite? Perhaps he could move somewhere else and keep his clean cut persona. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t leave. Where would he go? Back to Australia? No.

It was done. No. He could go back. No. That didn’t seem like a good possibility. Ione smirked her thin glossed lips and finally walked her way out of the classroom.

“Have a nice day Mr. Rune,” she finally said. As the hinges closed and the wooden door slammed shut, Tristan winced with pain as he felt his heart drop.

“Deal With the Devil” is a short story by Felicia Ogunnowo on Reedy’s Prompt.

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