East Side Academy

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Chapter 61 - The Best

“You’re simply the best / Better than all the rest / Better than anyone” – The Best, Tina Turner

Four Months Later


“Hush, hush,” Diana says to Teddy and me. We are sitting in the first assembly of the new school year. Our Grade 12 year. I look and see James sitting next to Malcolm a couple of rows ahead of me. It was the best summer you could have asked for. James and I spent as much together as we could. We spent time with each of our families, all of our friends, and I was sad when it was over. But now it’s time for a new school year, our last year. I had the best friends and boyfriend you could ask for going into it. I had a good feeling about this year.

Mia is doing great. She loves the life she has created at East Side, the friends she has made. It wasn’t easy. Life never is, but she is strong, and with the right help she is in a much better place. Some scars will never heal, but if you see scars as strength, rather than weakness, you can accomplish more than what you can ever imagine. There are a lot of people that have been through terrible things. We can’t let the trauma be the end of our story, just a chapter in it. I took Ms. Sinistra, the principal, up on her offer from when I was sent to her office.

“Arya.” Ms. Sinistra says as I walk into her office. “What can I help you with?”

“I want to ask for help with the situation I’m in,” I say.

“Of course,” Ms. Sinistra says, pointing to the chairs for me to sit.

I wave at the door and Mia comes in behind me and we both sit down.

“What do you need?” Ms. Sinistra asks kindly.

I look at Mia, waiting for her to speak. “I think I need help.”

“What kind of help?” Ms. Sinistra asks.

“Someone to talk to,” Mia says.

“Of course, Mia.” Ms. Sinistra says, “It’d be a pleasure.”

Sometimes all we need is someone to talk to, someone who is outside of the situation completely. Mia was lucky to find a therapist she got along with so well. She’s better now. Not the same as she was before Henri, but she never will be because she’s no longer that person.

“They’re announcing our grade now!” Diana whispers to me. This assembly also announces the top three top students from last year. Diana is anxiously waiting to hear the names called. She and Lincoln never tell each other their final grades, wanting to keep it a surprise for the assembly to see who the top student will be. “This is where I beat Lincoln to the ground.” Diana whispers, “I can’t wait to see his face when I win.” I am curious as well, so I listen as the principal calls out the names, starting with third place.

“And for Grade 11,” Ms. Sinistra says into the microphone, “with the third-highest average…” Ms. Sinistra looks down. “Malcolm X.”

“What?!” everyone says around me, including me. Diana is the most outraged.

“How?!” Diana says.

Malcolm stands up while his three friends stand up and cheer the loudest, accepting his plaque on stage and offering a handshake to the principal.

“He’s smart?” Diana says confused, “Since when?”

“Hush,” I say to her.

“With the second-highest average…” Ms. Sinistra says, “two recipients, Lisa Bathory and Lincoln Abraham.”

“Ha!” Diana says beside me. “Only one spot left.”

“And finally, with the highest average…” Ms. Sinistra says, “Diana Warrior.”

Diana screams so loud next to me that I’ll have to check she didn’t damage my eardrum.

When we get out of the assembly, I see Malcolm and James. “Congrats!” I say to Malcolm, “definitely didn’t expect to see you up on that stage.”

“Malcolm keeps his grades to himself.” James says, “He might even steal Diana’s spot if he applied himself and did all his homework.”

“Unnecessary.” Malcolm says, “It takes up too much of my time.”

“I’m still impressed,” I say, “I guess you were always fourth place the past years, so no one knew about that big brain in there.”

“I told you I was smarter than all my friends combined.” Malcolm winks at me.

“Funny,” James says.

“At least I’ve never electrocuted myself,” Malcolm says to James.

“Don’t you have somewhere you need to be right now?” James says, raising an eyebrow.

Malcolm looks between the two of us. “Don’t worry,” he says, “I can take a hint.” And then Malcolm walks away.

“I didn’t see that coming,” I tell James.

“He’s one of those people you hate because he gets 100% on all his tests without even trying,” James says.

“I guess I know who to ask to be my lab partner in physics then.” I saw, looking over James’ shoulder.

“Hey!” James says, “I thought we were supposed to be partners.”

“Surprised you don’t choose him over me,” I say.

“I would never choose anyone over you,” James says. I raise an eyebrow at him. “Okay, maybe my mom on occasion, but that hasn’t happened in a long time.”

“I’m only joking, James.” I say, “It’s not a competition.”

And just then, Lisa walks by in deep conversation with a guy I have never seen before. She doesn’t even acknowledge us.

“Who’s that?” I ask James and he turns his head to follow them.

“Alan Turing,” James says, looking back at me. “He’s a 12X. He’s a good guy. Very much a science geek. I guess that’s something they have in common.”

“Did you ever talk to her?” I ask James, realizing he never told me if he did or not. Lisa stopped bothering both of us, so I never thought to bring it up again.

“I tried.” James says, “But she seemed already consumed by Alan and it looks like they are still together.”

I look over and see Alan and Lisa together. She seems happy for once and he’s looking at her like she is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. “I’m glad she found someone,” I say and then Lisa looks over in my direction. She smiles and then winks at me before she turns away with Alan.

“Is that Rachel?” James says over my shoulder. I turn and look and see James’ little sister talking to some boy. “You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s only the first day.”

“Settle down, James.” I say, putting a hand to his forearm, “There’s no need to go all crazy older brother on him already.”

“Too late,” James says and starts walking over to them. I laugh. Poor Rachel, I guess I will have to help her out if she wants any type of relationship while her older brother is at this school. James will have to accept that his sister will date and that freaking out on some guy is not a good option. I’m proof of that. Hopefully, she can realize that his protective nature comes from a loving place and how lucky she is to have a brother like James in her life.

Because I know I am beyond lucky to have him in mine.

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