The hallway glimmers in the sunlight. Spring had just arrived in New York City and given the typical weather here, I’m surprised it’s here early. I walk towards my locker by the teacher’s lounge, and unfortunately, the boy’s locker room. I see one of the guidance counselor’s walking out of the lounge. I turn around, but she spots me “Skylar, how are you?” she says cheerfully. I turn to face her, taking a deep breath.
“Good morning Mrs. Kramer. I’m actually on my way to my locker. Exercise helps relieve stress, if you ask me.” I try to not sound too happy about running every day in the morning, but I had no choice if I wanted to get better.
“Will I be seeing you in my office later today?” she asks. I answer with a forced smile. Why would I be in her office today? I wave good-bye to her as she walks towards her office on the other side of the building. I head to my locker, still worrying about what she had said. I grab my planner from my locker and shift to today’s date. My body begins to shake. On today’s date, in big letters, I had written “Partner Up”. I look at my locker door and debate whether or not slamming my head into it would be worthwhile. I shrug and look inside of my almost empty locker. Besides a few binders, I really had no reason to use my locker for anything else. I look back at my planner, hoping that my eyes were just playing tricks on me. No luck. I really did have to tutor someone. I’m pretty sure it was Mrs. Kramer’s way of expanding my social circle, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing fine.
I lock my locker and walk towards the stairs, which goes directly to the library. Luckily, no one is there yet except the librarian, Mr.Links.
“Good morning, Sir.” I greet him as I walk in. He’s burying himself into the novel “And then there was none”, one of my favorites, but he looks up from the book.
“Hi there, Skylar.” He turns his book to me so I can read the cover, although the binding of the book is already familiar to me. “I’m really glad you recommended this book to me. I love the classics, but this may change my mind. I can’t believe how mysterious this is turning out to be.”
“I’m glad you like it, Mr. Links.” I look at the computers in the back, “How’s the printer feeling today?” Normally, the printers in the library never worked, but I liked the work environment here, compared to the noisy study hall where everyone had their own laptop.
Mr. Links smiles back at me, “Works like a charm, but I don’t know for how long. What’d you do to it? It has never worked this long.” The weekend was only two days long, but I couldn’t recall what I did to fix the printer. “What’s your schedule like today?” He asks me, allowing me to avoid his question.
I pause for a moment to think. “I have a course on Edgar Allan Poe today, 3rd period, and a my independent study on American History, 6th period. Why?” Normally, Mr. Links didn’t mind me staying in the library for long hours. Let’s just say my school prefers the “study hall” and cafe. And when I say cafe, I mean cafe. It’s been such a popular hang out spot that the student union decided to renovate it to look like an actual cafe with actual cafe food. Unlike the library, the English department has been raising their own funds to modernize the reading space.
“I think you have a real talent for computers, Skylar. I have a friend who’s a co-manager for a big time technology company. I think it would be a great opportunity. I could ask him to come in today to talk with you.” He explains. I’m about to shake my head, but the information begins to process. I want to agree to his generous offer, but I know I could never live up to such high standards or manage my life to incorporate that into my schedule.
“I would love to Sir, but I don’t know if it’ll be easy for me to manage.” I technically wasn’t turning down the offer.
“Why don’t we have him come in to meet you anyways? If you try, you have nothing to lose.” I nod. He’s right. I really had nothing to lose. He smiles, “Great.” He takes out his phone and begins dialing a number. “I’ll let you know when he’ll be coming in.”
“No problem, Skylar.” He walks to his desk behind the counter and begins to talk to someone on the phone. I walk towards the back of the library. I choose the table farthest to the right, still in view of Mr. Links, but also in the perfect position to avoid eye contact with anyone walking in. I take my book with a collection of Mr. Poe’s written pieces and begin reading, pouring myself deep in his adventures and tales.
I hear tapping around me. The reality of the clock noise is all too vivid for me to ignore one more time. I look up and I see three heads, well two and a half heads. Mrs. Kramer and Mr. Links stand on each side of someone else, but their head is down so I can’t determine who it is. Not that their face would matter. It’s not like I know a lot people here. Thinking about it, I think I know more teachers than students.
“Sorry to bother you Skylar.” Mr. Links says. Mrs. Kramer nudges the person in between them, causing their eyes to glare at her. “The guy I was telling you about will be here in two hours, right after your third period class. You can meet with him in here if you want, or out in the plaza.”
The plaza does sound nice, but that would mean out in the open. “I prefer to meet with him in here. I hope to see him then.” I politely answer. Mrs. Kramer nods at Mr. Links, basically alternatively asking him to leave.
She looks at the book in front of me. “Ah,” she sighs, “Mr. Poe is an interesting writer. Tells you a lot about the human race without having to spell it out for his readers.” She pokes the person beside her again. This time the person raises their head up to look at her, scowling. She ignores him. “Skylar, I would like you to meet Hunter Green. He’s your partner for the tutor workshop. If you do well, the principal will see about your early transfer.” I beam in pleasure. An early transfer would mean I wouldn’t have to be stuck in this school with people who didn’t know me. Then again, I would miss the teachers. I look at the person she calls Hunter. He’s staring at me. Mrs. Kramer seems to ignore his glares, appearing to not be bothered by them and continues. “Hunter, here. isn’t doing too well in his American History course and I know how well you’ve been doing in your extended studies.”
American History? I recall it being a mandatory eleventh grade course after global and historical world literature. I look at the two of them, “He’s a junior?” I ask, curious as to who he was. I mean, you can’t blame me. I don’t actually have a big social group.
She shakes her head, “He’s a senior, but he’ll be a senior again if he doesn’t pass this course and Art.”
I raise my eyebrow at Hunter, “You’re failing Art?” I had taken art and art history in my junior year. As a senior, it wasn’t mandatory to take an art course, but for extra credits, I became the art teacher’s studio assistant. Art wasn’t that hard. Mrs. Kingston was an amazing artist and teacher. She taught you had to brush the strokes correctly when painting and how to explore various methods to create your own way of expressing your emotions. I loved how I could get lost in her class and despite not having real talent, it was one of the few times I didn’t have to worry about all the stress in my life. Hunter mumbles something under his breath, something I couldn’t catch, but Mrs. Kramer seems to have. She glares at him, practically throwing daggers at him. “Good luck with him, Skylar. Mr. Links will be making sure he’s working efficiently and I’ll be back before your meeting to take him off your hands.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Kramer.”
“No, thank you Skylar. See you later.” With that, she walks towards the exit of the library, leaving me to push out the chair across from me from under the table. Hunter pulls out the chair in the table next to mine, on the left, and sits down. I gather my books and walk over to his table. I grab one of my favorite novels about American history and place it front of him.
“I recommend you read this book. The most interesting and detailed part is on the description of the forgotten man, but the other parts are just as good.” I turn to the back of the book where it provides an author’s note. "Amity Shlaes is one of my favorite historians."
Hunter pushes the book back to me, "No thanks." He looks at my arm, holding the book as if it were a delicate flower. "I've heard things about you. Some people say you're anti social. Others say you're a freak. Some consider you a nerd, but the one thing everyone says about you is that you keep to yourself. Yet, you chat with the teachers. Funny how you're born into this generation." He looks at the book again, "Thanks, but no thanks."
I frown. How could he refuse such an amazing book? I push it back to him, "You should read it. It helps you understand the great depression a lot better." I turn on my laptop and show him my Netflix movies, specifically the series from the history channel- The Men Who Built America. "This series is about the Industrial Revolution and believe me, it's really interesting and cool. The historians in this documentary are describe the industrial revolution in detail and the theme song has an amazing beat." He puts his foot onto the chair next to me, laying back.
"I hope you know that I don't care." He puts headphones on and closes his eyes.
"I know you don't have music playing." He looks up at me in shock. "Don't you want to graduate?" I've never met someone so careless about their work. This was a free education and he was basically throwing it away. "You know how many kids would want to be in your position right now? Many people either pay for their education or don't get one."
He puts his feet down and leans over the table. I move myself back, worried about what he was about to do. I didn't mean to snap, but I couldn't help it. He was throwing his life away. "That's real cute, Skylar. You think I care about other people. I have an education and that's all that matters."
I stand up, furious at his response. "How could you say something like that? You get a free education, but you don't even take it seriously. If learning is all that matters, than why are you throwing it away?" I shove all my things into my bag and walk by Mr. Links. I look at him shamefully, "I'm sorry Mr. Links. I can't deal with him." He begins to speak to me, but I walk out of the library, down the stairs, and into the parking lot. I strap my bag tightly onto my back and step onto my bike. I ride towards East River park. No one is there except a few parents and their kids. I lock my bike into the post, grab my bag, and walk over to one of the free benches facing the river. I pull my laptop out and proceed to send an email to my English professor.
Subject: Missing Class
Good morning, Mr. Mitchell. I will not be present for today's class, but can you tell me what I need to hand in? I've attached my essay to this email as well as notes from the online slide you posted earlier today for today's lecture. I'll be watching the live class stream today, instead of being present in lecture hall today.
I pull up my inbox to see two unread emails from Mr. Links. I glance at the emails and I look at my bike. The guy he wanted me to meet had just arrived at school. He was early, but wanted to grab brunch to discuss the possibly opportunities he could offer me. I reply with a 'Yes' and within a few minutes, Mr. Links is giving me the address of the cafe. I glance at my watch. I still have an hour before I meet with him. The diner is only a few blocks from East River Park so I finish up next week's paper for my course in Edgar Allan Poe's literature.
My laptop reads 11:20 and I gather my belongings. I ride over to the diner, double check the address Mr. Links gave me. I'm in the right place, hopefully. I lock my bike into the parking spot on the sidewalk. I walk into the diner. Mr. Links motions for me to go over to his booth. He's sitting with someone else in the booth farthest from the kitchen, but with the nicest view of the river. I greet the other guy, "It's nice to meet you Sit. Mr. Links hasn't introduced me to you, but it's an honor to meet you." He asks me to sit across from him, which I do without hesitating.
"It's nice to meet you too Miss Roy. I'm Chris Green." He introduces himself. Chris Green. I repeat the name in my head. Chris Green. Chris Green. Chris...Green. I freeze, realizing how familiar the last name is.
"Mr. Green, I don't mean to be rude, but are you the father of a one Hunter Green?" Curiosity killed the cat, but luckily I wasn't a cat because he answered with a smile.
"That I am. Do you know him?"
I don't know how to reply. Under the table, I start to play with my fingers. Mr. Links steps in to save me, "Skylar here is tutoring Hunter in American history and hopefully, she'll agree to help him with art." He motions to me, breaking the curse I was under- the curse of Hunter Green.
"That's wonderful to hear. I've tried to hire tutors for him, but he's rude to each and every one of them. He won't be graduating if he doesn't pass these two courses." Mr. Green repeats. I nod, agreeing because I don't know what else to say.
"Mr. Green, may I ask you something?"
"Go ahead, Miss Roy."
"How will my position in your son's education effect my impression on you?
He grins, "A very direct student, interesting. It shows courage and independence. You must be handling school work and family duties well." I cringe at his comment and Mr. Links glances at me with worry plastered on his face. "Is something wrong?" Mr. Green asks. Mr. Link and I shake our heads.
"Nothing. I'm sorry, but your son is hard to work with. He doesn't value the free education he's receiving and could frankly care less."
"That sounds like my son. He's been offered a basketball scholarship so he thinks his future is secured. After seeing your direct approach with me, in addition to your polite nature, I think you can change his view on this situation. I'll consider your position as my assistant manager at the corporation if you help my son." Mr. Link looks at me, waiting for my answer.
"Mr. Green, I would love to accept your proposal, but I might not have the proper time schedule to accommodate you."
He brings out his phone and looks at the time, "I know your school studies may make this harder, but will you be okay with coming over to our house to tutor him? I can have someone drive you home and to the house."
I think about my parents' reactions. I think it through before answering. "Can I try this out tonight and see how I feel afterwards?"
"Of course. You're doing me a huge favor by helping him."
I step out of the car, thanking the driver. Mr. Green had called me earlier that day, telling me that I was going to be going home with Hunter. When I showed up next to Hunter, he wasn't exactly happy about it, but his father had texted him about my tutoring session with him after school. He couldn't argue with that.
"Can we go already?" Hunter complains on the steps to his house. I thank the driver, Jack, again before walking to the house. I look up. It's huge. It's a brick house, but it's the width of two houses and from the outside, you can see five floors and a large garage. Hunter climbs the stairs and shouts out to me, "Are you done admiring this place?" I don't answer him. "I'll be dead before you get up here." He complains again. I walk up to the door and begin to ring the doorbell, but Hunter stops my hand and raises his eyebrow. "Are you kidding me right now? I live here." Oh yeah, I forgot. He unlocks the door, dropping his bag onto the floor beside his shoes. He walks over to the couch in plain sight and stares at me. I slip out of my shoes, that are clearly too big for me, and place them neatly against the other shoes near the door. I look up at Hunter to see him texting someone on his phone.
"Should we get started?" I ask Hunter. His brown hair is messy as he lays against the couch. He looks at me. "I don't want you to fail."
"I don't need your help. I can pass on my own."He defends.
"I know you're a good basketball player, but how will you sustain academic scholarship standings if you fail these courses?"
"Why should you care? My life has nothing to do with yours."
"You have an amazing life, whether you see it yourself or not. I can't watch you toss that away so get your balls together because you're playing on a full court and not half court."
"Really? For someone who thinks I don't care, you really do care about me caring." He states, reminding me of the argument we had earlier. Mr. Green walks into the room.
"Is there anything I can get you two?" He asks. We both shake our heads. The door bell rings and he walks over to answer the door. Two people stand in front of him. "Can I help you?"
"We want Skylar to come with us now. She shouldn't be here, especially without our permission." The man asks in a harsh tone,
"I'm sorry, but who are you?"
"Skylar's parents." the woman answers, obviously furious. Mr. Green turns to look at me. I keep my head down and walks towards them. "Skylar, you're in a lot of trouble."
"I sent you a text, Rachel." I tell her.
"What did I tell you about texting? I gave you 5 minutes of call time so you could call me in case of emergencies, not so you can text me!" she shots at me. I hear Mr. Green step back. "You're grounded, young lady. "I mumble something under my breath, something along the lines of 'Not that it matters'. "What was that?" Rachel scolds. She grabs me by the arm and slaps my cheek. I wince at the burn as she drags me out of the Green home. I don't listen to the murmurs from their house as I shut everyone out, endearing my pain.