Leo looked around with the rest of the class. There was an obvious answer—the odds were stacked against the rebels. But everyone knew that Mr. Martin never liked an easy answer. He would invariably thank them for their input and then give his interpretation, making the hapless student feel stupid in the process. One hand rose into the air. It was Julia’s.
“There were many reasons. The rebels were successful at first in holding most of the countryside, but the imperial army was able to outlast them through constant resupply.”
“I’m impressed Ms. Estelle. At least one of you has done the reading. Julia is exactly right. Securing supply lines has been an integral part of the empire’s military success since the roads of the Republican Period in the fifth century BCE.”
Now that Mr. Martin was droning on again, Leo relaxed, but not too much. He knew the old man would be watching him like a hawk, ready to call him out if his attention wandered. As a result, he unwilling absorbed the rest of the lecture. Most of it actually wasn’t too bad. He liked hearing about the different battles. The legion had initially suffered heavy casualties because of the hit and run tactics the rebels used. He tried to imagine legionnaires lining up in neat rows for the colonists to shoot. It seemed like they would’ve caught on quicker.
Mr. Martin ended the lecture by skipping forward to the last battle. He was sparse on the details, which actually left Leo wanting to hear more about the exploits of the British mercenary general Cornwallis and how he’d earned the rewards of governorship of Pennsylvania and full citizenship rights from the emperor in Rome. If Martin kept all his lectures that interesting and maybe showed a movie every once in a while instead of talking every day, his class might not be that bad.
A crude stick figure started walking jerkily across his desk in the minute before the bell rang. It had his name scrawled under it in familiar handwriting. He let out a groan as a second figure with Julia’s name under it walked up. His stick alter ego went down on one knee and got slapped for his trouble. Leo balled up the file and sent it back to Victor. His friend was practically hysterical as he gathered up his books. Leo signed out of his desk before Victor could send another hilarious creation his way.
The bell rang and he hung back, letting most of the class filter out before moving into the hall. Both Victor and Mr. Martin found that a little amusing, but only his fellow student commented on it.
“What’s the matter, don’t you want to run into Julia?”
When he didn’t answer, Victor kept at it.
“You should thank Mr. Martin by the way.”
“Why? He humiliated me in front of the whole class.”
“Yeah, but he did what you never could. Now Julia knows you like her.”
“And soon everyone else will know it too. Claudia Jenkins was in there.”
“Ouch, I didn’t think of that. Doesn’t Julia already have some football player boyfriend? I’d watch your back.”
Leo didn’t want to admit that he knew Julia and Mark, a tight end on the school team, had broken up weeks ago. Victor would probably accuse him of stalking or something. It wasn’t his fault he happened to overhear Claudia talking about it. She’d told half the school, so it didn’t even count as eavesdropping.