She deposited her lunch across from him and started nibbling. Leo kept his eyes locked on his mostly empty tray, trying not to look at her. His normally unstoppable appetite was gone. Julia looked out at the crowd of students, quite a few were starting at them and trying to seem like they weren’t.
“Give it a few days and they’ll find something else to talk about.”
Leo was having trouble forming words, so he just nodded and grunted his agreement.
“When I first got here, I thought they’d never stop talking about me. Now they mostly just leave me alone.”
Julia’s voice sounded a little sad. He looked up and watched her watching all the friendly conversations going on around them.
“They’re probably a little intimidated by your dad’s position.”
“It it really that bad?”
“Well he is Roman born and he gets personal visits from the emperor. The last governor wasn’t nearly as…”
Leo trailed off. He didn’t know how to put it delicately enough.
“Well connected?” Julia finished for him. He smiled and nodded.
The circumstances surrounding the sudden switch in governors were an open secret. The last governor hadn’t been doing enough to counter the growing rebel terrorist threat. Julia’s father had been sent in to bring things in line, and a full extra legion had been deployed to help him. It was strange that they were learning about the defeat of the rebels over two hundred years ago and yet they were still here, a few splinter groups at least. Leo had to concede, in this instance, maybe it actually did pay to listen in history class. His expression must have gotten pretty serious.
“My father’s not really that scary. The people just haven’t gotten the chance to get to know the real him.”
Julia sounded a bit defensive. She was probably used to people being intimidated by her dad.
“No, I wasn’t thinking about your father. I was thinking about the rebels. How they just won’t quit.”
“I know. It’s really interesting. I’ve been reading this book about it,” Julia started to pull a thick tome out of the stack she always carried, then stuck it back in. “But you don’t want to hear all that.”
“No, I think it’s really interesting,” Leo said hastily. Now that they were talking, he didn’t want them to stop. “I don’t have a problem with history, just Mr. Martin.”
That was stretching the truth more than a little, but he needed the opening. He had a feeling she wouldn’t find his mediocre exploits on the basketball courts very good conversation.
“He can be pretty horrible, can’t he? I couldn’t believe he went after you in class like that for, well, you know.”
Leo and Julia both turned red and their eyes went back to their lunches. The next few minutes were dominated by awkward silence. Leo was beating himself up inside his head the entire time. As the minute hand crawled around the clock toward the end of the period, he knew he had to say something. Julia had come over, sat down with him, and started talking. It was his turn.