This story was written for my Creative Response for my Short Story class. I tried to write in a similar style to Dorothy Parker's story "But The One On The Right", as published in An Anthology of Short Stories. I've made a few very slight changes that my teacher suggested, but aside from that, it's all as it was originally written. Here it is.
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
The clock is ticking but it looks like it's broken – in fact, I hope it is; then they'll be a legitimate reason for it moving so slow. What's question seven again? Ah, here it is… Differentiate 'Y=5 log e^(5x^2-8x+2)'… Okay so… Just write it down. Good.
Is anybody else up to seven yet? Steve on my left has written the start to question one and is now doodling in his margin. Hmm, maybe I should do that… Sure beats doing maths…
God, it's too hot to make us do this – see! I'm not the only staring glazed-eyed at the white board! Mr Burke doesn't need to look at me like that – that's right, go back to correcting your papers… that's right… no need to suspect me…
I wonder whose smart idea it was to make us come to school when it's forty degrees. I thought governmental schools were supposed to close if the temperature rose too high. Also, they need to get a new air-conditioner; this one lets out air that smells suspiciously like moth balls… I hope there aren't any moths in the air conditioning– that can't be sanitary.
Twenty minutes until I can leave, drive home, flump down on the couch and doze off to sit-com reruns (if the canned-laughter isn't too loud or erratic).
Then my brother would come home and switch on some lame quiz show, interrupting my train of thought or sleep. For once I wish he'd nudge me awake and tell me to leave before that annoying show came on.
"What is the capital of Egypt? Come on folks, it's not a hard one."
"Cairo! Cairo!" my brother would scream, bouncing up and down on the couch like some insane puppy. "It's Cairo, you moron! Don't pick Giza! Noo!"
So I would trudge to my bedroom and talk to my Labrador, Mitts. Yeah I know, talk to a dog, but I have dial-up and I'm not allowed to use the phone unless it's for an emergency. Just once I'd like buying-a-new-phone to be an emergency.
Uh oh, Mr Burke is looking at me again – now, if I keep my head down and stare at my book, he'll think I'm concentrating. Huh. What's this? Oh. It's from Steve… I'll just write a reply and inconspicuously slide the note to him…
Why does he want to know what deodorant I use? He smirks at me and pushes the grimy piece of paper back my way, having just written another message. I stare at it – What! You think my choice of deodorant is questionable? You think it smells BAD? Have you ever taken a whiff at what you wear? I scribble this down on the note and shove it towards him, hoping I can kill him with my counter-attack. My Strawberry Shimmer smells nice, thank you very much.
I take a chance to peek a look at the clock… I swear it's broken. Uh, wait, no – quarter of an hour left… Damn it. Now I can feel sweat sliding down my back – gross. Hmm… Another note from Steve… what's this about? … What am I doing for Valentine's Day? Why do you ask? He ducks his head into his book and whispers out of the corner of his mouth.
He wants to go out with me.
All of a sudden I can see the glimmer of gold mixed with the brown in his eyes, the way his hair sticks up at the back is no longer stupid-looking (though I'd still recommended him to give it a brush), the tan line left by his now-absent watch is all-of-a-sudden extremely fascinating… Steve wants to go out with me!
I tap my sandaled foot into his leg and he jumps in his seat – you'd think I had leapt out from behind a dark corner and screamed "Boo!" We sneak a glance at each other and I feel my stomach dancing. Of course I'll go out with him! Where will we go? What will we do? I wonder if he'd kiss me on our first date, I wonder if he'd buy me chocolates! I'm lost in giddiness and yet, I keep my mouth shut. I can feel people behind me staring. Though, perhaps I'm just more interesting than the maths exercises which wouldn't be surprising. I'd take some me-time over maths-time any day. I pass these thoughts to Steve and he smirks and grins. He'd like some me-time too! Oooh.
Now I can feel the heat rising into my face and I look foolishly at my black pencil case with the flower I stitched over the hole. I grin. I can tell Steve's grinning too. We both keep our heads down to hide our faces.
Steve writes that where he's taking me is a surprise. Does he honestly think I'll believe that? He writes another note. Okay, he does. I furrow my brow in thought and quiver in my seat.
I print my home number on my notebook and point at it so Steve notices– just in case he forgot it. I tell him to call me and give me details later; that this was an emergency. He frowns and shakes his head. No? Oh, he's going to pick me up at a random time. God, that's nerve-racking…
Eep! Mr Burke is up and is peering over his glasses at us. I act innocent and ask him when the lesson ends. He points to the back of the class and tells me to get back to work or it'll be homework. Who wants homework on a Friday? Who wants homework on Valentine's Day? Or Sunday? I scribble my answers down in such a hurry that I'm surprised the writing is legible. I look at the clock and my insides leap – only a few minutes left!
I pack up my things and sit at my table, shooting looks at others in the class – they're all ready to go too. The heat doesn't seem to bother them anymore; the thought of freedom is in their grasp.
'Okay year twelves, if you didn't complete any of those exercises, be sure to finish them for homework – I'll correct them Monday and I'll be giving out your tests-' a mixture of groans and gasps from everybody '-which I will be seeing a few of you about … You can all go now. Have a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow.'
These last few words were bitter, as if he knew his day was going to be miserable.
I sling on my bag and Steve winks at me. Just as I go to follow him Mr Burke holds me back. He wants to talk to me.
'Do you know what you're here for, Miss Evans? … No?
'Well, it's about your test results…' he shows me a paper with a big, red, ugly D written next to my name, 'You didn't show any of your work. You're lucky you didn't get an E. Now, I'm going to ring your parents up tonight, they should know your grades are slipping…'
You can't do that! I won't be able to go on my date! I deserve to go on this date – I didn't put up with your boring lessons for nothing, you know!
'… and I want you to go over our previous material and come back Monday nice and fresh. I think it's best you cancel all appointments this weekend and dedicate your time to some study. You need to improve your algebra; no more cheapskates with the calculator, okay?'
He smiles at me pleasantly and I gape in horror, my spirits crushed under heavy text books. The high-light of my weekend would be watching morbid quiz-shows…