When lunchtime rolls around, I’m in hell of a mood and Brandon makes a point to make it worse. By the time he actually stops laughing he’s gone blue in the face and there are literal tears in his eyes. I poke at the disgusting excuse of a nutritious meal with my fork, imaging the mashed potatoes are his brain – not that his brain isn’t the equivalent of mashed potatoes to begin with.
“So wait, wait!” A few more chuckles escape him and he clutches his belly for theatrics. “Let me get this straight. You’re tutoring? A student? Like an actual human being?”
“As opposed to who? Your mom?”
He flings some peas at me, missing and hitting someone sitting at the table behind us. I try and stifle my laughter while Brandon ignores their confused curses.
“But seriously, Eth! You’ve barely got patience for your own teachers, much less other students.”
It’s true; I’m a pain in the neck to most teachers here. I don’t cause trouble really, it’s just that I so happen to find myself in a sea of incompetence on a daily basis and dislike for me increases whenever I send my projects in early or do the reading before we’ve even begun the second chapter. The teachers probably took that as some belligerent characteristic that needed to be ironed out by this whole tutoring scheme, or else my social skills would suffer indefinitely. Mr. Trent wouldn’t say it to my face – he’s one of the few that actually liked me – but I knew it, AP English scores be damned.
I shrug at Brandon and say, “I don’t know, dude. Most of the other kids in the advanced classes are doing it too, for the extra credit. It’s not like I’m volunteering because I want to.”
He leans in dramatically, grinning. “You have to admit, there’s some irony to it. You, Ethan Marks, tutoring some poor kid.”
Just as I was about to stab him with a spork, Ashley joins us and sets down her lunch tray next to mine. “What I miss?” she says with a smile. Ashley is Brandon’s sister, the other Morton twin. She’s a sweet, tall girl with light brown skin and who liked to dye her hair a different color every month. By now you could scarcely see the natural brown curls beginning to grow out beneath all that yellow dye.
Naturally, Brandon is quick to spill. “Eth’s been roped into the whole tutoring thing by Mr. Trent, so it's basically the end of the world.”
At that, her face scrunches up, trying to suppress a laugh. I give her props for giving me some dignity.
“Can’t you just say no?”
Before I reply, Brandon interrupts me. “His English grades have been slipping, so this’ll help big time.”
Now Ashley laughs, choking on spoonful of soup. “No.”
At some point after this conversation, I believe I cry into my potatoes and nearly end my friendship with the Morton twins. Ashley’s supposed to be the sweet one. But whatever, I can’t deny the fact that I need to be a perfect student and frankly being anything except stellar on paper was just a crime to my family name. It’s ridiculous, I know it is. However, I haven’t worked this hard to be anything less than perfect. If I needed to school some degenerate pre-school level jock on the food pyramid and the ways of breathing then fine, so be it.
The roster I get later that day states that tutoring would be done every day after school on Fridays and the kids that had learning disabilities were set up with another group on Saturdays for the next couple of months, give or take. ‘Failure to attend without proper explanation would amount to less and less credit given for the program’ had been marked in red on the paper and seared into my mind. I cancelled my plans (which I had surprisingly made) with Brandon and Ashley, and made my way to the library once final period ended that Friday.
I was assigned some girl named Lynette Brooks to tutor. Didn’t know her, didn’t care. However, by the way the twins reacted to her name and how quickly they left me to my fate after class I figure the girl was worth some notoriety if the teachers stuck her with me. I guess I was lucky; some of the other tutors got stuck with two or three failing students.
It was already nearing 4 o’clock before I began to get annoyed. I spent the whole night setting up a worksheet for us to work through gradually, especially since she was pretty weak, to put it lightly, in every subject except something like Arts and Crafts. I’m probably dealing with a freaking hippy or something – no offence to actual hippies.
A headache was growing before finally I heard footsteps approaching my desk. I turn around to see her, the same brown-haired girl from earlier this week, wearing skinny jeans and a blue tank top. Her arms are crossed and she’s glaring at me with her green eyes. Her cheeks are rosy and look puffed up, making her seem somewhat childish with that expression on her face. She’s pretty cute but, you know, dumb.
I’m not pleased to say the least. Of course I get the rude one. “So you’re Lyn-something from before?”
She’s practically seething. “Lynette.”
“I know, but you’re the girl who bumped into me.”
I’m guessing by her reaction she either had no idea what I was referring to or she bumped into a lot of people. I decide to try and be friendly (on Ashley’s orders), standing up and stretching out my hand to shake.
“Well, nice to meet you then,” I said, sounding like my father. “I’m Ethan, your tutor.”
There’s a pause and she just stares at my hand before scoffing and sitting down on the seat next to mine.
“That’s nice,” she says. Then attempting to make this even more awkward, she adds: “I’m here to be tutored, so tutor me already.”
I admit I’m amazed; she’s worse than me. But still, I relent for the sake of my grades and uncomfortably sit back down, scratching the back of my head.
“Okay…” I mutter then clear my throat. “Did you bring your history textbook?”
She glares harder. I don’t know why I ask, I can clearly see she hasn’t so much as brought a pencil with her. I blush a little despite myself.
“It’s alright, you can borrow mine.” I reach into my bag and pull out the extra supplies I brought. Obviously, I’m going to be walking on egg shells around this girl if I’m supposed to drill any amount of intelligence into her head.
“So, shall we begin?” I said.