Author's Note: Curious thought, I think my chapters are averaging four pages... Hmm. Didn't do too terribly during Camp Nanowrimo scramble I suppose. Some of the content is a bit rough, a bit rushed, and a bit out-of-touch, but I still think it'll be interesting to a few of you ghosts out there.

Chapter 4 – You Don't Have All the Answers

Samantha looked over at her open textbook, eying the paper that she was supposed to be completing.

"Did you get your homework done yet?" She heard her mom yell through the door.

"Not yet!" She yelled back.

"Hurry up! You need to get to bed!" Samantha groaned.

"But it's important! I have to take time on my assignments if I want a good grade!" The girl yelled back, satisfied when she head her mom close the door that was probably to her bedroom. Samantha's blue-green eyes returned to the paper in front of her. She had been drawing for hours now, completely immersed. From time to time, she'd remember that she was supposed to be doing something else, and her attention would briefly be on her homework. She had actually managed to get her name and the date on her paper in the last two hours.

Hearing footsteps getting close to her door, she hurriedly covered her sketchpad with her textbook and began solving the first problem. She heard the door squeak open quietly.

"Goodnight, sweetie." Her mom said softly. Samantha smiled and looked back at her.

"Goodnight, Mom." The older woman closed the door slowly. Samantha diligently completed the first problem and attempted the second for about a millisecond before turning back to her drawing.

Another hour or so later, she finally put up her sketchpad, happy with her completed work. She looked at the clock. "Are you kidding?" She asked softly, taking in the fact that it was actually one in the morning. She looked at her homework, then shrugged, closing the book. There was no way she was going to miss out on sleep to work on some lame math paper.

"So, Tiffany, how do you do the whole homework-on-the-bus thing?" Samantha asked, two seconds after getting on the bus and happily sitting herself next to a half-bummed out Tiffany. She seemed happier than yesterday. Samantha could only hope that the tension from yesterday had gone down drastically.

"You just... do it? And make sure to avoid trying to write when the bus is about to stop or go over a speed bump. Your best bet is to write what you can when the bus is stopped." Samantha nodded seriously, as if she were taking great words of wisdom from a master. She then pulled out her book and started trying to solve the rest of her math problems. "I thought you didn't take homework home." Tiffany commented, looking at Samantha's paper. Samantha scowled.

"Mom got a note from the teacher about how I've gotten three zeros and several papers with less than fifty percent. So I have to get this completed so no one can whine about it." Samantha muttered, her voice getting uncharacteristicly low. She has a very sweet and fragile look about her, but she was often rather blunt and borderline lazy. She could hear Tiffany snicker. "Hush! I have to finish this."

"Now you know how I feel." Tiffany commented. "Wait, that's only ten questions? Why didn't you just finish it at home?" Samantha went to problem three and sent a glare toward Tiffany.

"I'm very busy, thank you very much." Tiffany laughed.

"Busy? Doing what? Drawing?" Samantha didn't respond, not wanting to give Tiffany the satisfaction of being right. She already had enough of that today. By the time she got to problem five, Cassandra got on the bus.

"Hey- are you doing homework?" Samantha sighed.

"Yes. Don't act so surprised, it's rude." Cassandra and Tiffany laughed and carried on some sort of conversation that Samantha was doing her best to block out. She almost yelled "finished" when she completed her last problem as the bus lurched to a stop. Her paper left her book and slid to the floor. She stared in absolute panic as everyone began to stand up. She watched in terror as a foot narrowly missed stepping on it. She lost sight of it and tried to get into the stream of people leaving the bus so she could grab her work before it was lost forever.

"Here, you dropped this." Samantha froze as her paper, only slightly dirty, was presented to her by a young man with brown hair and hazel eyes.

"Thanks..." she said softly, taking it from him. She watched as he left the bus, then snapped back to reality to stuff it in her bag before getting off as well. Cassandra came up behind her.

"Hold up! Did Luis Persey just save your homework for you? I've never seen him be that nice to a girl, even his own girlfriends!" Cassandra's amazed face popped up in Samantha's way. She blushed a little bit, then looked down at her bag that she was still carrying instead of putting over her shoulder.

"Yeah... but it's not that big of a deal." She said, then pushed past Cassandra, who was now desperately trying to get more information out of her. Samantha walked as fast as she could, finally making it inside and to her usual cafeteria seat. Cassandra sat next to her, eyes wide.

"Not that big of a deal?! That was Luis Persey!" She exclaimed, making Samantha shift uncomfortably in her seat. Maybe she hadn't made it to the right destination quite yet. It took moments for Kelly and her overly-glittery face to make a comment.

"Whoa, what's this about Luis Persey?" She asked, practically stretching across the entire table. Cassandra didn't answer her, so Kelly looked at Samantha expectantly. Samantha looked down at the table, then back up at Kelly's earnest gaze.

"He just picked up my homework that fell and handed it to me before anyone stepped on it on the bus." Kelly stared at her like she had just told her the world was ten seconds from crashing into Mars.

"Wait, he rides the bus?" Samantha shrugged. "He never rides the bus." Kelly seemed to be contemplating this new information. Samantha could only hope that it would keep her occupied until the bell rang. Cassandra nudged Samantha in the ribs and nodded her head toward Greg, who seemed to be outright staring at Samantha. The moment their eyes met, they both looked away, embarrassed. Cassandra grinned and leaned close to Samantha.

"So that's why the great Luis Persey doesn't faze you. You have your eyes set on someone else and they do as well?" Samantha could feel her face getting red.

"I don't know what you're talking about..." Samantha said defensively, pleading with the clock to speed up. This situation was annoyingly painful. It was then that her eyes swept over their usual table and noticed that Tiffany was missing. Bryant seemed down, or just plain tired. Todd was looking around, almost bummed out as well. His usual happy buzzy aura was gone, but that didn't seem to come to Emily's recognition as she attempted to subtly flirt with him. Samantha tried to find Tiffany in the breakfast line, but didn't see her. She decided to put her head down as she waited for time to pass. She didn't like how it felt like the whole group was in disarray.

Yesterday in the afternoon, Tiffany had called her with her troubles.

"Hey, Samantha? Do you have some time to talk? I won't bother you for too long, I have to go to church in an hour." Samantha laid back on her bed, knowing that it was probably going to be as long as her time limit would allow.

"Sure, what's up?" Samantha immediately heard the hesitation in her voice. Concern rose up in her.

"You know... yesterday. How all that happened?"

"Yeah, they were just being stupid." She said, wondering why she'd be so upset over that.

"Well... afterwards, Emily got mad at me and told me to either give up on liking Todd or not be her friend anymore. I think she hates me." Samantha frowned, and had a sneaky suspicion that her friend was crying on the other end.

"I don't think she hates you. We're all good friends. She just got upset... probably. There's no way she could hate you." Samantha could hear sniffles going on on the other end.

"I don't know... I've never seen her act like that."

"It'll be alright, she's probably just going through some stuff." Another sniffle sounded from the other end of the line.

"Thanks, Samantha. You're always the best. I'll see you tomorrow." Something sounded off in her voice, but the short-haired girl hung up before Samantha could try to see why.

Samantha got up and tried to race through the door out of the classroom before her teacher could stop her, but to no avail. The chubby and short woman practically jumped in front of her student, desperate to talk to her today.

"Samantha! I need to talk to you about your grades." Samantha cringed and slowly followed her teacher over to her cluttered desk. The woman sat down in her chair and pulled up something on the computer. Samantha eyed the exit, wondering if she could just disappear out the door without getting detention for outright ignoring a teacher. "Okay, here it is. I want you to take a look at your grades." Samantha reluctantly looked at the screen, her blue-green eyes barely scanning it. None of them started with nines or eights... maybe one started with a seven. As she began to look in hopes that it was a test she did so well on, the teacher spun around in her chair with a grave expression on her face.

"I know you're a bright young lady. You're very sweet and I believe you can do better. Is there something that I should know about? Is there a reason you're not doing well? Something at home?" Samantha looked steadily at the woman's bangs, which just ended at the bottom edge of her eyebrow. Her lips wouldn't move. Her teachers were all like this. They acted so willing to understand, calling her smart and sweet and talented. Telling her that all she needed was a little motivation, or that there must be some problem that they could fix.

The teacher continued staring at her, waiting for a reply. Samantha began to wait it out.

"I can write a note for you if you're late, and this is my planning hour coming up, so I'll wait for your answer as long as it takes." Samantha's eyes flew from the edge of her bangs to her eyes, surprise and slight anger taking over.

"I don't need to take your time, and you don't need to take mine. If I do better, you won't complain, right?" Samantha asked, her voice a bit rough. She felt like a trapped bird suddenly, trying with all she had to get out. The door was just over there. All she had to do is get this lady to leave her alone.

"No." Samantha took a step back, her heart pounding. Why wasn't her answer good enough? Why couldn't she just let her go? "If you feel more comfortable, you can speak with the counselor." Samantha shook her head hastily.

"I don't need to talk with a counselor. I don't need any of that. Are you done yet?" Her voice was revealing her agitation as she began outwardly displaying her attitude. The teacher's eyebrows furrowed.

"What's going on, Samantha?" Samantha clenched her teeth.

"There's nothing going on! There's no point in making a big deal over the fact that there's no point in trying to measure up to everyone else! So what if all of your other students get great grades? I'll never amount to that, or much at all. Stop expecting everything from me." With tears about to come from her eyes, she took a few steps back and then turned, half-running from the room. She'd probably get detention from those words alone, so she might as well run away from her. Some teacher poking her nose where it didn't belong wasn't about to see Samantha Rossetti cry.

Nor was anyone else.