As we packed up our books, Janet cast a worried glance at me. She knew I wasn't ready for the test coming up, that I was going to have a real problem if I didn't do well. I was already lagging in math...it wouldn't end up well if I didn't deliver here. Shuffling out of the classroom with the rest of the herd, I felt her hand on my shoulder.
"You really aren't ready?" she whispered worriedly.
I shook my head grimly. I wasn't really concerned about the grade itself, but I didn't like feeling stupid, and my mom would probably take it hard. So would Jan. But what was there to do?
"...Do you want to sit next to me in math?" she asked.
I nodded this time. At least I could be near a friend when the wave of despair came calling.
We walked down the hall, Jan smiling at people as they walked by, me with my eyes on the ground. Without my forward vision, I had no way of avoiding the lady walking in the opposite direction.
I slammed into Mrs. Appleby, knocking her to the ground. Jan whirled around, immediately kneeling to check on the poor lady. I offered a hand, all the while spouting out apologies.
"I'm so sorry Mrs. Appleby, I didn't even see you, I wasn't looking where I was going, I'm so stupid, are you okay?" I stammered.
It looked like she had barely registered what I had said. Her eyes, gray behind her horn-rimmed glasses, were glazed, gazing at something I couldn't see.
"Yes, yes, quite alright dear. Move along," she muttered.
Jan tugged me along before I could get in any trouble, but as we pulled away, I heard Mrs. Appleby mutter something else, in an even softer tone.
"But how...they just...came back...they just came back...."
A shiver ran down my spine.
I slid into my seat, eyes again downcast, my hands resting limply in my lap. My mind was racing. How much of this lesson did I remember? Formulas and figures danced in my head, just out of reach. With a heavy sigh, I reached for my pencil, paper, and calculator. I tapped idly, waiting for the test. As the teacher passed out papers, my heart sank. It was harder than I'd even dreamed. It sat on my desk idly, mocking me.
Twenty minutes into the test, and I was no further along than I had been. Scribbles of half-hearted work and arithmetic were along some of the problems. I'd even stumbled onto one answer. But the majority of my paper was blank. I sat back in my chair, eyes wandering over to Jan. She was hunched over, and I could tell from her pencil's position that she was nearing the end. Then, as I watched, she straightened up and caught my eye. There was pity there, and...fear? Her eyes darted to the front of the room, and then, slowly, she slid her paper under her writing arm, the answers dangling just within my view.
My eyes widened. I would never believe that Jan would cheat, even for me. I was touched, shocked, and afraid. Cheating was serious. Bad grades, disciplinary action, calls home...I shuddered at that last one. Then again...what was the worst that could happen if I was careful?
Then I remembered.
I quickly glanced at Jan's test, even the work. I held the snapshot in my mind, then mouthed to Jan.
"It's okay. Thanks."
She looked puzzled, but turned back and started working again. The image still fresh in my head, I focused on my paper and willed the work and answers to appear there, just as they had on Jan's paper. Sure enough, gray marks blurred into view in the right spots. I was about to celebrate...and then they didn't get any clearer. A blurred mess was now imprinted on my paper, and I couldn't read it!
I was confused, but then I realized what must have happened. Since I didn't memorize the actual work, I had only imprinted the shapes. What a ridiculous way to lose out! I mentally kicked myself, then winced. There was a sudden, sharp pain behind my left eye, and I felt tired. Drained. I looked down at the paper, wishing I had more time, and then my eyes shut.
Jan shook my arm.
"Haley, wake up! You only have five minutes!" she whispered fiercely.
I jumped. My hair was a mess, clinging to my face. My arm was asleep. My headache had gotten worse.
It hadn't been the most refreshing nap ever.
I stared at the clock, wishing I had more time. I looked at the paper, smudged and indistinct. I focused, and willed the smudges to be erased. The pain pounded behind my eye, but I managed to get the marks out. My lone answer and scribblings remained.
The bell rang, and I stumbled up to the teacher's desk to turn my paper in. She eyed me beadily, then looked at my test, then back at my face.
"Haley, you look like you need a trip to the nurse," she said.
I shook my head.
"No, I'm just tired. Sorry...."
I turned away. I didn't know why I had apologized. Then again, it was a lousy test for me. Angry and exhausted, I grabbed my bag and staggered off to my next class.
I had learned something important during that class.
I had limits.