(Author's note: This is actually an assignment from my creative writing class at school, and I don't quite know how good it is… I thought the premise was kind of interesting, though! P.S. don't judge me based on the second little vignette! I am not in favor of that sort of thing – or any of this, really! Haha. Enjoy! ~not Ross)
"You're out, Thomas!" I yelled, slapping the red ball down and down against the blacktop.
"Am not!" he sneered.
A chorus of, "Yes, you are!" arose from all our friends on the side of the court.
Thomas glared at me and stalked off the court, grumbling something about how he knew it was trouble when a girl joined the handball games. He did not. He was the one who succumbed to my pestering by the second week of third grade. He was the one who convinced the rest of the boys to let me play.
The shortest boy in our class lumbered onto the court, snickering. "Come on, Thomas, you let a girl beat you?" Jaime had been my adversary from that first day I played – even before. He considered my enormous colony of cooties to have a negative effect on the balance of the game. I think that it just broke his concentration having all that long black hair swishing in his peripheral vision.
"My serve," I declared, and punched the red ball down and across towards the board, just above the masking tape line.
Jaime hit it hard and high, and I dashed backwards to reach it in time. It rocketed towards the wall, WHAM! and bounced back towards us, WHAM! back towards the wall, WHAM! straight towards me. I slammed it forward, and it launched off the board, soaring over our heads. I whirled around just in time to watch the ball bounce right outside of the painted line, off towards the playground. Thomas, as the unfortunate soul at the end of the waiting line, sprinted off the retrieve it.
"Out!" screeched Jaime, jabbing a finger up at my face. "You're out!"
Yes, I was. Very clearly out. But I had been in the court ever since the beginning of lunch, and Jaime was not going to be the person to get me out, Jaime of all people! "Am not!"
"Yeah, you are!" he taunted. "It's way out of bounds!"
"No, it wasn't. You're blind, Jaime!"
A row began amidst the dozen boys standing in line. The vote was split about perfectly, and punches were about to be thrown when old Mrs. Murray, the very wrinkly yard duty lady, toddled over to see what the dilemma was.
I explained it to her, almost forgetting that I actually did know that I was out.
"Jaime," she chided, leaning down to look at him. "You have to play fair. If she didn't get out, don't tell everyone that she did."
"But she did!" he protested, on the verge of tears.
"Did not! Did not!" I yelled.
And that settled it. Everyone believed me.
"Arlene, don't lie to me."
Eric's dark brown eyes looked me up and down, eyebrows turned down in worried anger. Part of me wanted to mention how adorable he was when he got mad. The other part wanted to assure him that everything was just fine – fine, as far as he was concerned.
"It isn't a lie!" I protested. "You're my boyfriend. You're the best boyfriend I've ever had. That I ever will have. Why would I cheat on you?"
He hesitated. His mouth twitched. "I… I guess you wouldn't."
"No," I said, kissing him. "I wouldn't. And I have no idea why you would even think that."
He wrapped his arms around me and pressed me back against the wall, and we kissed. I enjoyed it, don't get me wrong about that. I enjoyed Eric, but that didn't mean that I only had to enjoy Eric.
"Eric, I have to go," I apologized, worming out of his grip.
"Homework. Lots of World History homework. I may as well get a head start on it now, right?" Of course, he didn't know that I'd forgotten my World History textbook that day.
"Okay… Good luck, then. I'll see you by the cafeteria tomorrow, okay?"
I glanced into the window of a classroom as I rushed down the hallway. 12:07. I only had three minutes to get all the way across campus and meet with Martin down by the gym bathrooms. And then, we only had ten minutes until lunch ended. Why did boys have to be so particular? What was wrong if I had two boyfriends? Because Eric wanted to be the only one who had control over me? It wasn't fair.
I didn't want to lie to him. But I had to. It was the only way. And he believed me.
"Are you kidding me? It's way too late!"
"Come on, Carla, all you have to do is rumage through your files and find a paper on psychology. Not that hard."
Carla tried to open her eyes enough to see me clearly, and she leaned against the door-frame of her appartment. "It is eleven at night."
"Please!" I begged. "This is the biggest paper of the year! If I don't have it, I'm going to fail the class. I can't afford to fail the class."
She rested her head on her shoulder, sighed loudly, and waved her hand in towards the appartment. "Fine. Come on inside. What did you say you wanted? Psychology?"
"Yeah, something." I shuffled in behind her and invited myself to collapse onto her couch, which creaked and dented under my weight. Carla disappeared into another room, leaving me to stare at the poster-plastered wall that hid behind her old, cube-shaped television. Carla's appartment always fascinated me – from the vintage decorations to the orangy-brown flowers that she always kept on the table to the smell of old wood, lemon air freshener, and dust. A stack of textbooks leaned precariously on the coffee table, ranging from European Literature to Anatomy and Physiology. Carla, after all, was a woman of many interests, and her appartment communicated that.
"Here," she said, shuffling back into the living room. In her hand trembled a stack of papers, neatly stapled, with the title TheTheoryofRelativity:anOverview. "Don't be expecting too much. I'd say a B. The kid who wrote this wasn't exactly Einstein."
"Didn't Einstein actually come up with this relative theory?" I asked, trying to remember what my professor had drawled on about for the past six weeks.
Carla shrugged, uninterested. "Not a clue. Maybe. Do you need any other fake papers, or can I get to sleep now?"
"No, this is it," I said as I stood to leave. "Thanks."
"Right," she yawned.
Outside, the night was quiet and cold, just like any other night in any other October. The stolen paper tingled in my hands. It wasn't the first time, of course, that I had come to Carla in need of a previously-graded essay, but I thought back on all the times I'd been warned about plagiarism. Very serious, very serious. But a lie was a lie, and I'd told plenty, and this one was no different; I'm not the kind of person who draws attention, so why wouldn't everyone believe me?
Professors have always mystified me. Most days, they don't even care if you bother showing up to their class or not, and then they drawl on about the most boring things. As if anyone cares about it! And then some days, they'll email you specifically and ask you to meet them in their office for a talk. Talk about what? Pre-World-War-One Russia? I had better things to do!
I showed up anyway.
Professor Welke was a great big, bald man with ties from the 1970s. His office looked about as well kept as he did, but that was okay because I never showed up for his class, anyway. Well, I did once, but that involved some kind of bake-off. I walked into his office, and he didn't say a word, so I took advantage of a tall wooden chair next to the wall. Its bars dug into my back. A huge cuckoo clock bellowed from a dark, dusty bookshelf that looked like it could've held the original copy of the Magna Carta or something.
The man folded his arms across the desk, looking amused. "Arlene Rivera."
"That's my name," I pointed out, already bored.
"You wrote quite a fine paper last week, Ms. Rivera, quite a fine paper indeed."
I blushed. Who cared if I had actually been the one to write it? Just so long as I passed the stupid class. "Thank you, Professor."
"I had no idea you were so interested in physics."
Why should he care? I glanced around his office and saw a big, fancy certificate framed and hung on the wall. TedWelkeProfessorofPsychology read the script across the top. It was some kind of award for his psychology teaching.
"Uh…" I stammered.
"Fascinating, though, that you drew all of these conclusions from my Psychology 101 course, isn't it?" he continued, still looking far too relaxed for my liking.
I squirmed. Psychology, yes. Didn't I tell Carla psychology? Why in the world would she give me a physics paper? I hadn't taken physics since high school, and that was one of those "wait-what-was-the-homework?-I-fell-asleep-again" classes where we listened to our iPods during tests. "Are you saying I turned in a physics paper?" I asked, trying to keep my cool.
"Yes, that is what I'm saying, Ms. Rivera." He kept staring at me, as if he was waiting for me to crack. Funny thing about me, though, I never cracked under anything.
And I always had a plan. "Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! I must have gotten the papers mixed up in my dorm last night! I'm really, really sorry, sir. Is there any way that I can turn in that paper to you tomorrow or next week, or…?"
"Oh, yes, of course. It's no problem, I just wanted to alert you."
"Thank you, sir. I really am sorry about the mix-up."
It looked like I was in the clear. Welke smiled at me. "You know, I loved my college physics class. I'd love to discuss Einstein's theory of relativity with you. What do you think of it?"
Oh. No. Was Einstein the guy with the crazy hair or the guy who got hit on the head with an apple? I tried to smile back, tried to make him think nothing was wrong. Nothing was ever wrong with me. "Well, sir… It, uh, is a very… good theory. I think it's… I mean, well, what is there to… discuss?"
"Well, why don't you summarize it for me?"
I wouldn't have taken Welke to be such a nasty little sneak. I sat on my hands. "Well…" Psychology, right? Think psychology… "The theory of relativity is talking about how all relatives in a family believe the same way about… theology!" I grinned at him. That had to be it. Something about relatives. Or was that physics? I shivered involuntarily.
The smile fell from Welke's face. "Ms. Rivera, do you know what you've done?"
I tried to play it cool, but I could feel my eyes going dry. My palms sweating. My toes curling. "I'm afraid, sir, that I quite know what you're talking about."
"I think, Ms. Rivera, that you do."