that review was written when she first came to the shelter

Enjoltaire Teacher AU pt one

Enjolras bit back a snarl, blank eyes gazing at him. Typical. Debates this semester were turning out to be a disaster. All the arguments were weak, points given leaving something to be desired. This wasn’t what he’d signed up for when he’d gotten hired as an English teacher. Especially when it came to an honours class. Oh, they’d started out as seemingly brilliant students, but soon enough their eyes had turned glassy at how ‘boring’ debate was. Incredible.

“Guys, there’s more to talking than just getting along and cracking jokes to pass time. Debate leads to compromise, and you’ll need that in life,” he explained, exasperated.

The class all looked at each other, silent until one of the students who actually cared about the class, Lena, said, “Can we actually pick a topic that we like, Mr. Enjolras?”

“What’s wrong with these?”

Lena hesitated. “Well, government programs aren’t exactly our forte. I’m not saying it’s not interesting,” she added hurriedly to appease her teacher, “but not all of us understand it to the extent you do.”

Enjolras sat back on his desk, arms propping him up to maintain balance as he thought about her request. On the one hand, it might not be challenging enough, and it could lead to a fight over topics…but on the other hand, the students could benefit from it, and even enjoy it.

“Okay, let’s try it.” He received a not so subtle cheer from his class, and hoped he wouldn’t regret it. “What topics can you come up with?”

One student raised his hand slowly. “Video games?” A collective groan, with only a couple cheers. Hmm…

“Animals and no kill shelters?” A girl suggested. The fact that she loved animals was no secret. This received a mixed review. Interesting.

“One more and we’ll decide,” Enjolras said, eager for the next student.

“Gun control?” The class was relatively silent, he noticed. A couple grumbles, but that was it. The person who’d said it seemed nervous.

Enjolras nodded. “These are all good.” He stood up, striding to the back of the room to a whiteboard. “We’ll vote for the topic, then you’ll split. Alright?” He was happy to see that most of the class had woken up. The teacher wrote the three topics on the board. “Who wants video games?” Three hands. “Okay…no-kill shelters?” Most raised their hands, and there was no reason for the third vote. “So, those for against no-kill shelters split up. You’ll have ten minutes to plan. By then you should have at least a decent opener and three points. Go.” The scraping of desks and chairs filled the room, friends grouping together to start their new assignment. Enjolras grinned, watching the excitement levels rise. He ran a hand through his hair, impressed by how fast the class had gotten to work.

About halfway through the planning period, a knock came on the door. Enjolras raised an eyebrow, seeing a familiar brunet standing outside. What did he want now? Glancing back at his class, who didn’t even look up, he approached the door, sneaking out quietly.

“Grantaire. Did you need something?” Enjolras asked the history teacher, eyeing him expectantly. In return, Grantaire smiled back.

“Enjolras. Charming as ever.” He leant back against the wall easily, hands in his pockets.

“Don’t you have a class?”

“Not at the moment.” Grantaire’s class was popular, it was surprising to see him away from his classroom. He taught in a creative way, and ever since he’d been hired two years ago, students had begged to be in his class. Enjolras had met him just this year, and he found the teacher irritating most of the time, though he had a certain charm. His carefree smile showed indifference, and he had a very laid-back attitude, whereas Enjolras was more attentive and persistent. The two usually clashed during conversations, one passive, the other more aggressive.

“So why are you here? I have to get back to my class in a minute.”

Grantaire shrugged lazily. “I wondered if you wanted coffee. I know we don’t have lunch until noon, and that’s three hours away.”

“Coffee.”

“Yup. I’ll bring it back before class ends. How do you like it?”

“Right now? With cream and sugar.” Enjolras’ current coffee had been drained, and the blond wasn’t awake enough, but he was in the mood for something sweet.

“Geez, that’s sugary. Okay, I’ll be back. Don’t miss me too much,” the history teacher said with a wink, before walking away, whistling a cheerful little tune. He left Enjolras, who watched as he walked down in the hallway. To Enjolras’ surprise, his face felt hot, and he wore a blush that showed everything, from embarrassment to something that felt a little like infatuation. He pursed his lips, willing himself to relax before re-entering the room.

The students looked up at him when he was back. He cleared his throat. “We’ll start with those against no-kill shelters. You get five minutes each, start.”
*

Enjolras was insanely pleased with his class. They needed student topics more often. Everyone had gotten into it, friendly bickering taking place by the end. As a result, he’d given them the last fifteen minutes to relax and talk. The short break gave Enjolras time to brainstorm some ideas for tomorrow, typing it on his schedule for the next class.

He jumped when there was another knock on the door, Grantaire outside with two coffees.

“How did you knock?” was the first question out of Enjolras’ mouth. The brunet’s hands were full, and he carefully balanced the drinks to keep them from spilling.

“I had a student do it for me before he went into his class. You know, that freshman, Gavroche Thenardier. His sister’s in one of your classes, I think. Although I guess I could’ve just kicked down the door…”

“Yo, R!” One of the students called out, waving at the history teacher.

“Hey guys,” Grantaire said, amused. He turned back to Enjolras. “What are you working on?”

“Debates,” Enjolras said. “We’re done for today though.”

“Mind if I stay here until class ends? The teacher’s lounge is empty.”

“Er…” The English teacher noticed the hopeful expressions his students wore. “I guess so.”

“Great. Do you want your coffee now?” Grantaire offered him his cup, eyebrow raised.

Enjolras took it, feeling the warmth against his fingers. “Thank you.” He took a sip, the drink a little too hot to be enjoyable, but it tasted amazing, the perfect amount of sweetness. He sat down at his desk, Grantaire choosing to stand next to him, eyes resting on the whiteboard Enjolras had written on.

“Which debate did you pick?” he asked, taking a sip of his own coffee.

“No-kill shelters.”

“Who won?” At this all the students started shouting that their teams had won, voices raised higher and higher, until Enjolras silenced them with a stern frown.

“People for no-kill shelters. Their points were more well-rounded, but it was a close call.”

“Ah. That seems interesting.

It’s just too bad that in real life people don’t actually listen to valid points in debates.”

Enjolras blinked in surprise. “What do you mean?”

Grantaire gave a half-shrug. “Well, most people just side with what they believe in, regardless of facts or validity.”

“People do listen, if you make yourself heard. The problem is that people don’t say a thing to help,” Enjolras snapped.

“Look, all I’m saying is, even when something does happen, it’s due to a crime that appalls everyone into fixing laws. It’s not because of facts that show something needs to be changed, usually.” The history teacher said this lightly.

Enjolras gritted his teeth, standing up defiantly. “You’re wrong. There have been civil rights movements with laws passed, simple transfers of power-”

“But they’re rare, Enjolras. That’s the problem. Most issues are at least partly resolved with violence.”

“You-” Enjolras was cut off as the bell rang, students bolting from the room and into the hallways. One student stayed behind, whispering something into Grantaire’s ear that caused them both to smirk. Then the student left, leaving both teachers alone, one mirthful, one fuming. The tumult from the hallways was muted as the doors closed, leaving them in a tense silence.

Enjolras narrowed his eyes at the history teacher. “You have a class to go to, now go.”

“Whoa, are you mad? I thought you liked debates and that sort of thing.” Grantaire raised his hands in surrender.

Okay, that was true. Enjolras loved debates. However, he usually won them quickly, a feeling of grim satisfaction taking over when someone took his side. Grantaire had shown no sign of relenting, firing back his own reasons with ease. It was a challenge, one that Enjolras couldn’t help but be a little mad about. More than mad, determined to win.

“Do you always have this hour free?”

“Yes. Why?” Grantaire took up a more defensive tone.

“Thursday. Come back Thursday. We’ll have a debate, picked by the students,” Enjolras stated.

“Okay…sure. But why?” Grantaire’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“So my students see a debate, instead of just trying to talk without an example.” And so I can wipe that smug expression off your face. “Is that alright?”

“Yep. I’ll buy coffee again too.” Grantaire gave a lopsided grin. “Any stakes for this dispute?”

Oh. A gamble? “If I win…you have to bring me coffee every morning for the rest of the year.”

“And if I win,” Grantaire’s voice had gone soft. He leant over Enjolras, having a good four inch difference in height. The blond tried to back away, hitting the desk in a futile attempt. He wet his lips nervously, face warm.

“Grantaire…” Their lips were dangerously close, if either moved a couple inches, they’d meet.

“If I win,” Grantaire repeated, “Let me take you on a date. What do you say, Apollo?”

Enjolras gazed into Grantaire’s eyes, mouth open, words failing him. No one had mentioned that the history teacher didn’t have a sense of personal boundaries. For some reason though, Enjolras didn’t mind that at the moment. Instead he felt his heart pounding, uncertain of what was happening. Almost unaware of his actions, he leaned forward, and…

The second bell rang, signifying the start of next hour. Grantaire jerked back, eyes wide, as if he’d just realised exactly how close he’d been to the English teacher. He laughed nervously.

“I have to get back to my class,” he mumbled, backing away from Enjolras, towards the door. His eyes were averted as he gripped the door handle. “But I’ll come back Thursday. Promise. Shit, I hope my class hasn’t done anything.” He hurried out the door, and Enjolras felt the same way he had earlier in the hall.

6

“Is that the alarm? Is someone really stealing books right now? That would be fantastic…”

My friend Donna and I entered the Barnes & Noble in Princeton at noon in order to be first in line for a Q&A and signing with Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, who was on a book tour to celebrate and promote the tenth anniversary edition of the modern classic. We followed the first and best rule of both signings and bookshops in general: make friends with the people who work there. They were the reason we got our front row seats - since they knew how long we’d been there, and since we had shared a conversation or two over the course of the day, they came to us when the chairs were set up before opening them to everyone else.

[Warning: There are spoilers in this review. Zusak spoke spoilers into the microphone several times during the Q&A.]

Markus Zusak is friendly and engaging. He stood in front of us rather than sit behind the signing table, making wide hand gestures as he told us stories in his rich Aussie accent. When he answered questions, he would face the person who had asked it - I was in the front row, and as he answered my question, he spoke into the mic but looked me in the eye. He cares about his readers. He cares that we love his book. He also cares that we have recommended our book - as he said, “I really appreciate anyone who recommends this book because the person always asks you what it’s about, and you say, well, it’s set in Nazi Germany, it’s narrated by Death, almost everyone dies, and it’s 580 pages so you should read it, it’s great.” He made sure to answer questions from all sides of the room, and went thirty minutes over attempting to answer every question, asking at one point if we could please stop putting our hands up because he wanted to but couldn’t answer every question.

Zusak talked a lot about his family. The stories and characters originated in the tales of his parents, German and Austrian immigrants - Rosa was real, though even tougher in real life; his grandfather was sent away because he refused to send Zusak’s father to Hitler Youth. He said the novel was originally meant to be a novella of non-fiction, but that then all of a sudden a classroom exercise with colors and Death came to him, and then the idea he had for a novel about a girl in modern-day Sydney who stole books, and then they all began to come together and morph and change. His favorite line in the book is a description of a redhead with “full stop freckles” that later “lengthen into commas” (UK/Aussie version). His favorite character is Rudy, but he wasn’t upset by Rudy’s death - he knew it was what had to happen. As for the people out there who wish Max and Liesel had gotten married, Zusak was firmly against it. For many reasons, but most of all because he believed that if Rudy could not have Liesel, certainly no other character in the book could. 

Many people asked him about Death. He said that the voice of Death is mostly his own. He said that when he began, Death was too morbid, and kind of perverse. He told us about messing with Liesel’s point of view as well- it didn’t work because she sounded too Australian. Then he had a breakthrough with Death as the narrator and went back to the beginning. “What if he was afraid of humans, and worried for us, and was writing to prove to himself that humans were worth it? I think Death is the voice in our own heads telling us that we’re going to die and that’s what makes living worth it.” To another question, he moved on to discuss what he got out of the novel - telling his parents he loved them - and what he hopes we get out of it - many things, many possibilities: a novel about a girl growing up in Nazi Germany with a Jew sheltered in her basement; a novel about Hitler and propaganda and the way a girl steals back those words; but most of all, that “we’re all made up of stories.”

There were many questions about the writing process. I had read in the extra material of the tenth anniversary that Zusak planned out the chapter headings beforehand; that he wanted there to be precisely 88 chapters: 4 each in prologue and epilogue, 10 in each of the 8 parts. I asked him about why he chooses to write this way, and whether it was difficult to maintain. He showed us his current notebook - his charts, his lists, his outlines - full of content for the novel he’s been writing for the last 8 years, of which he would later read us the first page. He said his writing was mathematical; he needs the structure, and although it can be difficult to stick to, it also keeps him from getting lost. He would also describe how for each novel, he fiddles with page settings until he has them perfectly: The Book Thief was written in Bold Courier New, size 10, 1.3 spacing (never double spacing), and meticulously considered margin sizes. Finally, he gave this writing advice:

“People think as a writer you need to have an imagination, but really you just need a lot of problems.”

“If you’re writing it has to be your top priority. Number one or number two. Family can come first. Not friends. I only sort of had friends. While they went out drinking I was home writing. And now I’m here. And they’re still out drinking. So they’re happy, sure. But I’m also happy.“