The computer room is empty when I get there and I’m grateful there’s nobody around. I’m not upset because of the fiasco in class earlier. I’m upset about the fact that my mother doesn’t trust me enough. I’m upset that she’s got us into this mess with Rob. I’m worried for our safety. I just wish there was someone I could speak to about it.
I sit down behind a computer, keeping my back to the person that’s just entered the room.
Great, my alone time is officially over.
I quickly wipe my eyes and wait for the assignment sheets to be printed out. They are taking forever to load and my patience is wearing thin.
The person who interrupted my private moment is logging on behind me. After waiting roughly ten minutes, the printer finally responds and the papers come flying out at a fast speed.
That’s so typical.
No wonder the Lakeside students are always complaining. I would be, if I went to a college that had faulty printers.
As I’m leaving, the boy who came in earlier looks up from his computer and I stop moving. My stomach does that little flip of surprise.
“Oh, hey…” Rory says.
He’s wearing a pair of ripped jeans and a long black t-shirt. I’m guessing black must be his favourite colour because that’s all he seems to wear.
I match his curiosity with a frown and then place both hands on my hips. “You’re not stalking me, are you?”
“I could ask you the same question Clemons,” he says, watching me closely. I hope it isn’t obvious that I’ve been crying for the past half hour.
“I didn’t see you in town on Saturday.”
I shrug. “Something came up.”
“I was counting myself lucky that you weren’t there... couldn’t have you throwing yourself at me again. That would have been so embarrassing.”
I sigh heavily. “I’m really not in the mood today Rory.”
I expect him to make another remark or to use this to his advantage, but his face suddenly turns serious. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah fine.” It’s not like I’d open up to him anyway. We’re not friends.
“Are you sure?”
I wrap my arms around myself and shrug again. “Yeah.”
Rory’s eyes return to the computer screen for a fleeting second. “Alright then.”
I don’t know what comes over me but my mouth opens before I can think about what I’m going to say. “Actually, I’m not okay.” His eyes find mine again as I sit down next to him. “I think we’re in trouble... me and my mother.”
He listens as I explain the entire situation and he doesn’t interrupt once. “We need to make the money by the end of the week, otherwise we’re screwed basically,” I finish, taking a deep breath.
He’s staring blankly at me. “Wow. That’s – That’s a lot to take in.” He pauses for thought. “I wish there was some way I could help you out...”
I hold up a hand to stop him from continuing. “I don’t want anything from you Rory. It just feels good to tell someone else about this… even if that person happens to be you of all people.”
He hangs his head. “Well, I might have a solution to your problem.”
I lean forward. “Like what?”
“I work for this guy on the weekends. He pays me to clean his pool. I could ask if you’d be able to help me out this weekend? It would be a one-off thing.”
I almost break into song. “Seriously? You would do that?”
“Yeah. As much as we don’t always see eye to eye, I can’t leave you to deal with this on your own.”
I’m strangely grateful he’s doing this. It doesn’t make sense because I thought he hated me. I thought I hated him too, but at this moment, I’m struggling to find a reason to dislike him.
“There’s got to be some kind of catch,” I say, voicing my thoughts aloud.
“No catch. Just... remember that one day when the roles are reversed and I need help, you’ll owe me a favour.”
“Fine. But how am I going to earn five hundred bucks after a day’s work? People around here don’t dish out that kind of money.”
“Yeah, I know. I never said the work was coming from Barnett, did I? The job is in Lakeside.”
There it is. That one word has enough power to make my heart sink into my chest.
“Lakeside?” I repeat.
“Yeah. Is that a problem?”
YES. A BIG PROBLEM. But, if I don’t come to my mother’s rescue, nobody else will.
“No,” I say instead. “It’s fine.”
“Good. I’ll check in with the guy I work for and I’ll let you know what he says tomorrow.”
Usually, when essays are scheduled there is a huge uproar within the class. People panic and stress out about their grades before the work has even been graded. I’m the same. Maybe it’s because I’m too much of a perfectionist.
I’ll read my work over and over until I find something that needs editing or changing. I am never happy with the outcome and it puts me in a bad mood. I may as well have a ‘do not disturb’ sign on my forehead because I am not the most sociable.
I’m just making my way towards the college building, when I spot Rory lingering by the entrance. It’s as if he’s waiting for someone.
I head straight towards him. He notices me and pulls his earphones out. “Hey.”
“Did you talk to your boss?” I ask, cutting straight to the chase.
“Yeah. He said you can start today after college.”
“That’s a bit sudden, isn’t it?”
“His son threw a house party last weekend. They’re maid is away on maternity leave so he’s kind of desperate. Meet me outside the college at three. I brought my bike so we can ride there together.”
He stares at me for a moment longer. “How are you feeling after yesterday by the way?”
I was hoping he would have forgotten about my little emotional escapade in the computer room. “Uh, I’m feeling a lot better now that I’ve got a plan in place.”
I start walking away from him. He follows. “What are you doing?”
Rory laughs under his breath. “Um, am I supposed to be doing something other than walking into college like a normal person?”
“Please keep at a distance. You’re invading my personal space.”
I sense him there as we walk through the double doors. “Maybe I make you nervous.”
It’s my turn to laugh at that ridiculous suggestion. “Right... because I’m secretly pining after you like every other girl in this town. I just can’t resist your charms,” I mumble sarcastically. “My heart skips a beat every time you walk into the room. You’re just so handsome and...”
“Alright, please stop,” he demands. “It’s annoying.”
“Well, you’re a jerk ninety nine percent of the time.”
“What about the other one percent?”
I cross my arms. “I’m still deciding on that.”
He stops as we reach the stairs. The smirk hasn’t left his face. “See you later Clemons. Don’t be late.”
I make sure to read over my finished assignment at least ten times before Ricky starts collecting them. Grayson is as calm as ever when he hands Ricky his paper and I’m not buying it.
“That was so easy! I finished it weeks ago,” he says, leaning back in his chair. It’s going to end up killing him one day, I’m sure.
Eddie chuckles and I can hear him chewing a sweet loudly from behind me. He must be eating with his mouth open because the sounds he’s making should not be audible to the human ear.
“Dude, we aced it! Top marks I reckon, hands down!” Eddie high-fives Grayson from above my head.
What is this? Nursery? They’re acting like a pair of toddlers competing for a gold star.
Grayson gives me a sideways glance and I know he’s about to say something. “Did you manage to finish your assignment on time Skye?”
I hold my tongue. “Yes, not that it’s any of your beeswax Swine.”
“Ah, it’s natural to panic a bit. Don’t worry if you don’t get the results you want the first time round. You could always resubmit when the opportunity presents itself.”
I’ve hated Grayson Swain the moment he arrived at this place, but now he is my sworn enemy. He is underestimating my ability to write.
“You may have had the perfect score back at Lakeside Grayson, but Barnett college is not known to take it easy with the marking scheme. Be prepared for disappointment.”
I watch his expression morph into one of confusion. “All the more reason for you to be worried.”
“Maybe you should try concentrating on your own results. The outcome might shock you.”
“I’m one of the top students at Lakeside. That’s not going to change, especially considering who I’m up against,” he bites back, smugly.
“Not everything has to be made into a competition, Grayson.”
He blinks a few times, seeming to have developed a slight twitch in his eye. “Whatever. I’m done with this conversation. It’s boring.”
“Good, because my neck was starting to hurt just looking at you.”
His eyes flash with anger and I turn away with a triumphant grin on my face. I managed to get the last word and silenced him. I deserve a pat on the back or some form of recognition. A gold star would be equally as satisfying.