“Elana Berret to the math office, please. Elana Berret to the math office. Thank you.” The loud intercom beamed right as I walked into the school. I looked at Claire, worried about why the math office would want me.
She shrugged. “Way to go, math geek. You’re already in trouble,” she teased before splitting to go to her locker.
My mind raced, trying to figure out why I needed to go to the math office. Maybe I failed my test and they wanted me in another class. Maybe they need to give me my math book. Did I drop my ID in class yesterday?
I slung my backpack to one shoulder to check the side pocket for my ID, but immediately regretted it. It felt like I really did dislocate my shoulder yesterday from the shooting range. Sleep last night didn’t go so well, my shoulder aching and refusing to relax. Note, never choose shotgun as first choice gun. Ever. I slung my back pack onto two shoulders again.
At the beginning of the math hall, there was a classroom labeled, ‘Math Office’ with names of teachers underneath the title on the right. Glancing in, I saw a multitude of desks and shelves, teachers and various books and papers scattered in and unorganized manner.
Stepping in slowly, I looked around the room for Mrs. Brewer. At least, that’s who I think I should be reporting to.
“Elana,” she called from a desk on the left and swiveled in her chair so she could face me. “Come here, I’d like to talk to you.”
I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat. How could I fail my favorite subject?
Mrs. Brewer saw the worry on my face as I approached her. “It’s okay, I just had a question to ask you.”
Her request surprised me. When I realized she was waiting for an answer I squeaked, “Okay.”
“I run the tutoring center in the school, and, well, most of the tutors graduated last year and there are more kids that come in there than I can help. I looked at your test grade yesterday, and you didn’t miss any questions. Do you like math?”
I nodded my head, starting to figure out where this was going and my shoulders relaxed a little. “Would you be willing to tutor some kids after school? It will only be about two hours or so. You get paid, and although it’s crappy pay, it’s still something.”
My mind immediately went to gun practice after school and I thought about how free shooting made me feel. But then I thought about math and how I can think so much better when I do it. How do I choose between the two?
“You don’t have to give me an answer right away, just think about it and let me know. I would really appreciate it if you do, though.” Mrs. Brewer swung her chair back around and grabbed a purple textbook with ‘Advanced Calculus’ in bold black letters on the front. She handed it over to me. “Welcome to AP Calculus, I hope you enjoy the class,” she said with a polite smile as I turned and walked back out the door.
Pulling out the school map, I tried to find my locker from here. After making a few wrong turns, I found the arch that said, ‘Gym Wing’ above it and walked through to find my locker. I emptied all the notebooks I had to take home for homework and grabbed the essentials I needed for my next three classes.
“Why did the math office want you?” A voice came from behind me and I shrieked and dropped my English folder, scattering empty notebook papers on the tile. “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” Ryan said and bent down to pick up my papers now scattered at my feet.
“They wanted to ask me if I would be willing to be a tutor for after school.” I bent down and started helping him pick up blank lined papers.
“Are you going to?” I looked over at him to find his face mere inches from mine. Feeling uncomfortable, I quickly looked back down and finished gathering the papers and standing up.
“I don’t know yet,” I said, placing the papers back in my folder and putting the folder into my backpack with the others. I slung the backpack over my shoulder and closed my locker door. Remembering the warning I received yesterday about hanging out with Ryan Jacobson, I turned on my heel and started heading to my first hour, the warning bell mocking my soon-to-be tardiness.
“Are you okay?” Ryan asked as he came to my side.
I took a deep breath. How do I get rid of him? “Look, Ryan, I’m sure you’re a nice guy. And thank you so much for showing me my classes yesterday, it helped a lot. But I don’t think it’s the best idea if we hang out together,” I tried to say without sounding rude.
Ryan’s face looked confused. “Okay, may I ask why?”
I said the first excuse that popped in my head. “My friends don’t really like you that much.” Smooth, Elana. Very smooth. Now he thinks you’re a selfish jerk.
Ryan opened his mouth, but I cut him off before he could speak. “I’m sorry, but I’m sure I’ll see you around.”
I rushed ahead of him, walking twice as fast as I normally do. Rounding corners, I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. My head spun when I realized I didn’t know where class was and pulled out the map again. Following the directions, I made it to class seconds before the bell rang.
In front of the class was a tall, larger lady. She had sandy blonde hair and dull green eyes that looked kind. “Elana, right?” She asked as I walked in the door. The rest of the students didn’t pay attention, lost in their own little worlds.
I nodded. “I’m Ms. Conde. I’m so sorry about yesterday, I wasn’t expecting new students or I would have been here. The quiz you took will not count against your grade, neither will the in-class participation.”
Ms. Conde stepped from the front of the room and over to her desk, pulling out a copy of The Great Gatsby and scribbling something down on a paper before handing it to me. “Here is your copy. You have a week and a half to read it, and I will give you a shot verbal quiz about it. That grade will count as the grade for all the reading quizzes. Sound fair?”
I nodded in agreement and thanked her before turning around and walking back to the seat next to Claire. She looked at me, eyes begging for information, but I stared ahead and ignored her.
The class was the same as yesterday, finishing in a group discussion Claire and I couldn’t be part of. So instead, I filled her in about the tutoring center and Ryan.
“You think he’ll leave you alone?” She asked after my explanation. “I mean, you did give him the lamest excuse in the world.”
I cringed at her honest opinion. “I hope so. The last thing I want is to start this major contention. All I want to do is get through all this training so we can go back home.”
Claire’s face looked sorrowful at my response. “Yeah, okay.” She said, sounding disappointed. “So, why do you think they asked us not to bother him?”
I shrugged. “He’s student council president and basketball star. I’m sure he’s friends with some other pack members, too. That’s enough reason for me.”
Claire’s face changed to confusion. “You’re not the least bit curious?”
“I am, but I don’t want to get in the middle of something. I’ll just stay out of the way and mind my own business.” Fat chance.
That was harder than I thought. Not only did we have math together, but also Chemistry. Luckily Claire was in there as well.
After seeing him a ton of times, the school day finally ended and I found myself in the backseat of Hyene’s car on the way back to the mansion. How was I going to avoid him the whole time I’m here? Maybe I would get out of here quicker than I originally thought. The last thing I want to do it put a bigger burden on the people who are trying to help me and Claire.
“What did they want you for this morning, Elana?”
Hyene’s voice nearly scared me out of my seat. I never realized how deep I was in my thoughts until her voice invaded them. “What? Oh, they wanted to ask me if I would help them tutor some people in the tutoring center.”
Hyene seemed to tighten in her seat. “What did you say?”
“Just that I would think about it.”
The car fell silent for a while. “Do you want to?” Hyene asked, her tight position not loosened any.
“Well, I like tutoring people and I love math, so yeah, I want to. But I don’t want to ruin any schedules you guys have, especially if I might slow down our learning processes.”
Hyene nodded and her posture relaxed again. “You should do it. Don’t worry about anything else, I can take care of it. You go ahead and tutor some kids. They need you more than us,” she said while smiling at me reassuringly through the rearview mirror.
I thought about it. Obviously, some things would change, but I wouldn’t want there to be any problems. “Are you sure?”
Hyene nodded. “Yeah, it’s no big deal. I’ll get it figured out for you,” she promised.