“Mom!” I screamed, clutching the edge of my brother’s hoody as he stumbled down the staircase after me. “I caught Mark reading my diary again!"
“You should read some of the scoop in there, Mom,” Mark, my younger and completely annoying brother, danced wickedly around us both. “There’s a really interesting entry about what Emily and Brett last weekend…”
“Shut up!” My eyes widened as I slapped him over the back of his head. The last thing I needed was my Mom knowing about my exploits – especially, when Mark had completely exaggerated them. Just because my friends chose the lifestyle of partying and drinking didn’t mean that I had to. Anyway, I doubt Mom would even care; she would hardly notice if a speeding bus plunged right into our house and killed her two kids in the process.
“I’m finishing a really important case,” She replied absentmindedly adjusting her glasses and waving a hand in our direction. “If it’s really important you know what to do.”
I glanced at the refrigerator full of “important” post-it notes and whiteboard reminders; our method of communication in the family. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a real conversation with my Mom - she was a busy lawyer constantly immersed in her work – and I often found myself jotting down notes to stick to her laptop screen that usually found themselves in the shredder anyway. I dreaded to think what would happen if I really did join my friends on their path to destruction; would she even notice? I'd toyed with the idea a couple of times simply because I was tired of being ignored.
Regardless, I had never been tempted. I guess you could have called me one of the most popular girls at school with the cliché all-star, athlete boyfriend and posse of fellow cheerleaders but I liked to pretend in my head that I was the opposite. I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box but I wanted to go on and do big things – maybe even write a book or start a business, anything to get the hell out of town. So far, the pressure to fit in had made me turn into a complete drone; all curling tongs, short skirts and too much make-up.
Glancing at the photo of Dad on the wall, I felt my self shudder inside; he would never have been proud of the way my life was turning out. He always told me I could go on to do anything I wanted. After he had passed away, I had had taken solace with the “cool” kids at school who accepted me purely because I went along with everything they said I should do. It was fun at the time when I was too naive to know any better. Now, I had completely no idea where I was headed. It was my senior year and I hadn’t even applied to any colleges, let alone earned the grades to back up my application.
“Oh, shit,” Mark laughed, tearing open an envelope on the kitchen counter. “Mom is gonna kill you!”
Handing me the envelope, I gulped down the quivering lump in my throat. It was a pre-typed letter from school; and the red markings told me it wasn’t something good.
“Dear Mrs. Masson,
It has come to our attention that your daughter, Miss Emily Masson, is suffering a withdrawl from her work. Most recently, she has been failing English extensively. Emily’s teacher, Mr. Clarke, is concerned about her grades and has asked us to send a verbal warning.
We do not tolerate anything less than 100 percent from our students and will be arranging a further meeting with you if there is no change in Emily’s grades. May I also remind you that without this grade, Emily will NOT graduate from high school and progress onto college.
Ms. Veronica Klein
“Boy, you’re in trouble,” Mark smirked.
“It'll all work out,” I tried to a wave a hand easily. “Mom has bigger things to worry about.”
I should mention that although my Mom wasn't winning any Mother of the Year awards, she had always been strict about school. She had been a “mature” student at college, had opened her law firm only a few years ago and she intended for the same success for her two kids. She always said that success was a production of hard work and intelligence. I felt my knees quiver at the thought of telling her I was completely failing English; the time she had grounded Mark for losing a spelling bee wasn't lost in the back of my mind.
“So,” Mark whispered. “How much are you going to pay me to keep my mouth shut?”
“What do you mean…a tutor?” Lauren looked on dumbly.
Lauren Price was by all acounts my "best" friend. She was beautiful with a waterfall of blonde hair and teeth bleached to perfection but in reality, she could be a real moron. Most conversation topics were lost on her apart from Taylor Lautner or carb-controlled diets and I often found myself feeling like I’d get a better response from a pile of bricks.
“I’m failing English,” I sighed. “I’m gonna sign up to the tuition programme. The guidance counseller assigns you a student - someone really smart to help you out.”
“Oh,” Lauren replied, biting her lip. “But, aren’t those people, like, nerds?…”
“No, they’re just…really smart,“ I defended, trying to reassure myself more than her.
I had witnessed the tuition group once in the library after school playing games with miniature Dragons and talking about equations; none of them looked like the sort of people I hung around with usually. But, I guess all I had to do was meet up with them a few times a week and listen to them talk about Shakespeare – no big deal.
“Hey,” Brett’s arms wrapped around me protectively. “Where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?”
I looked up at the face of my immaculate boyfriend with his bulging biceps and cropped blonde hair, his skin flawfree and his eyes a magnificent sea blue. I should have felt lucky but the truth was, Brett had skipped the personality gene. He had two modes; sports or more sports and we were lucky to have conversation outside of anything else. I recalled a time where I had asked him about his ambitions and told him mine:
“Write a book?” He had exclaimed in disbelief, barely looking up from his Xbox controller. “What the hell would you want to do that for? Anyway, I’m going to be in the NFL and buy you a big house and lots of new shit so don’t worry about it.”
You probably think I’m a coward being surrounded by all of these vacant people and being so unhappy but doing nothing about it – but, shallow as I was I figured I’d rather be depressed and stuck in a secure place than start back at the beginning and become the girl that nobody liked. It was hard to get out of popularity once you were “inside”; it was like this routine you fell back into everytime. Even though I had tried to claw myself out, I always ended up at a party the next weekend, Brett trying to slide his hand up my skirt and Lauren too intoxicated to stop another guy from doing the same.
“I’m going to the guidance counseller,” I repeated. “I need a tutor.”
“I’ll give you a real private tutoring lesson,” Brett winked as his buddies laughed along inappropriately.
“Charming,” I shoved him away. “Listen, I have to go – I’ll see you later.”
Leaving behind the idiots I knew as my “friends”, I felt my body relax from it’s usual stiff position and I leaned against the wall of the corridor for fresh air. It was moments like these when I could be alone that I cherished and ironically, I found myself looking forward to finding a tutor now – maybe it meant I could have a conversation with a person instead of an ape for once.
Rounding the corner, a body speeding along smashed into my own sending us both toppling to the floor. I looked up to find a flustered guy looking at me; he was cute, in a nerdy way, with huge, dark eyes framed by fluttering lashes and black hair styled into a quiff. He was dressed in a fitted checked shirt with a pair of glasses balancing on his face. He glanced away, blushing madly as I helped him pick up his books.
“Sorry,” He mumbled. “I didn’t see you there.”
“That’s okay,” I smiled. “No permanent injuries.”
Noticing a badge he had dropped, I picked it up and felt a surge of excitement inside me when I saw the black lettering on it.
“Hey, you’re in the tutition programme?” I asked.
“Yeah,” He pushed his glasses up his nose. "What can I do for you?"
“You don’t happen to need an English student, do you? I’m totally flunking English and I’ll be willing to pay you too...”
He hesitated for a moment; staring at me strangely as if wondering why I was even speaking to him in the first place. People seemed to look at me like this all the time; like my popularity made me somehow immune to being a nice person.
“Yeah, I have a spot free,” He smiled apprehensively. “Tuesdays and Thursdays every week?”
“That’s cool with me,” I replied. “I’m Emily.”
“I’m Zayn. Zayn Malik – nice to meet you.”
We shook hands and I felt relief spread over my body as one less worry was ticked off my list - it didn't hurt that Zayn Malik was cute either. Maybe tutoring wouldn’t be so bad after all…