“Moooom!” I yelled, “I caught Mark reading my diary again!"
Mark, my completely annoying, younger brother, danced wickedly around me. Finally, I managed to clutch the edge of his hoodie and drag him into the kitchen.
“You should check it out too, Mom,” Mark winked. “There’s some really juicy stuff about Emily and Brett in there…”
“Shut up!” My eyes widened as I slapped him over the back of the head.
Fortunately, it was unlikely my Mom was listening to the latest update about my boyfriend; she would hardly notice if a speeding bus plunged right into our front porch from behind her precious computer screen.
“I’m working right now,” She replied, absentmindedly adjusting her glasses and waving a hand in our direction. “If it’s important you know what to do.”
I glanced at the refrigerator full of “important” post-it notes and whiteboard reminders; the sole 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 which usually found themselves in the paper shredder later. I'd toyed with telling her how badly I felt about our lack of relationship so many times. But I could never work up the courage to actually do it, or anything else for that matter.
Truthfully, I was nobody’s heroine; I was Emily Masson, part of a standard posse of shallow cheerleaders at school, with the cliché athlete boyfriend to match. Over time, I had fully transitioned into a living stereotype; my strawberry hair straightened to perfection, short skirts and too much make-up. The fact remained that I was not feisty, intelligent or funny and I was definitely not extraordinary. I was a walking mannequin, with the wooden personality to match. But inside, a different Emily longed to break out; a girl who knew better than the way she was living now.
Glancing at the photo of Dad on the wall, I knew that he wouldn’t have been proud of the way my life was turning out. After he had passed away, the “popular” kids at school had taken pity on me and accepted me purely because I went along with everything they said I should do. I had to admit that after feeling invisible for so long, it felt good to finally belong somewhere. Eventually, I realised that being popular hadn’t really contributed anything meaningful to my life and I was more empty than ever. I had no idea where I was headed; it was senior year and I had barely considered college, even though I knew I should.
“Oh, boy,” Mark ripped open an envelope at the kitchen counter. “You’re in trouuuuble!”
It was an official-looking letter written on fancy school paper and the red font could only mean bad news. I gulped down the quivering lump in my throat.
“Dear Mrs. Masson,
It has come to our attention that your daughter, Miss Emily Masson, is suffering a noticeable decrease in her grades - particularly, in English class. Emily's teacher, has notified us that he is concerned about Emily's progression and her impending college applications. Therefore, we will require a formal meeting with you if Emily’s grades do not improve by the end of the semester. As you are fully aware, without the necessary grades, Emily will NOT graduate from high school and progress onto further education.
Ms. Veronica Klein
Although my Mom wasn't winning any Mother of the Year awards, I knew she wouldn't be happy about the recent development at school. She had been a mature student at college and had opened her law firm only three years ago. Since I was a kid, she had graced me with long-winded speeches about success being a product of 'hard work and study'. I felt my knees knock at the thought of telling her I was flunking English.
“So,” Mark whispered. “How much are you going to pay me to keep my mouth shut?”
Lauren Price was a fellow cheerleader and had been one of the first popular kids to adopt me into their gang. She was beautiful, with a waterfall of blonde hair and teeth bleached to perfection, but she certainly wasn't the brightest star in the sky. Most conversation topics were lost on her apart from Justin Bieber or carb-controlled diets.
“So, I’m flunking English,” I blurted out, embarrassed. “I’m signing up to the tuition programme.”
“Oh,” Lauren replied, surveying the remains of her salad. “But, aren’t those people, like, nerds?” She said it like being a 'nerd' was an infectious disease.
“No, they’re just…really smart,” I protested, trying to reassure myself more than her.
I had witnessed the tuition group once in the library, playing games with miniature toy dragons and talking about equations. Naturally, 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 into the face of my immaculate boyfriend; with his bulging biceps and cropped blonde hair, his skin flaw-free and his eyes a magnificent sea blue. I should have felt lucky and I guess I was - if looks meant everything. But, unfortunately, Brett had skipped the personality gene. He only seemed to have two modes; sports or more sports and a conversation outside of that was a rarity.
I know what you’re thinking - I was a coward surrounded by all of those vacant people; so desperately unhappy but refusing to do anything about it. It was hard to get out of popularity once you were “inside”; it was like a routine you fell back into every time. Even though I had tried to claw myself out, I always ended up at another party, with Brett pawing me like a piece of meat and Lauren too drunk to stop another guy from doing the same.
“I’m going to the guidance counsellor,” I repeated. “I need a tutor.”
“Don't worry, I’ll give you a real private tutoring,” Brett sniggered at his buddies, who laughed along inappropriately.
“Charming,” I shoved him away. “Listen, I gotta go – I’ll see you around.”
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 staring at me with huge, dark eyes framed by soft lashes. He was dressed in a fitted checked shirt with a pair of glasses balancing on his nose and he blushed 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.”
I picked up the small, plastic badge he had dropped and felt a surge of relief when I saw the word “TUTOR” written on it. At least now I didn't have to approach those kids who played with the figurines and math problems.
“You’re in the tuition programme?” I asked.
“Yes,” He pushed his glasses further up his nose. "Why? Are you looking for a tutor?"
“Well, if you're free, I could really use some help. I’m totally flunking English."
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 that all the time; like popularity made me immune to being a human being.
“I guess I could help,” He smiled, apprehensively. “Are you free on Tuesdays and Thursdays?”
“Yeah, that would be great,” I replied. “I’m Emily, by the way.”
“I’m Will. Nice to meet you.”
“Well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other soon…”
“Looking forward to it! See you around.”
“Yeah,” He looked at me as though I were completely insane again as he disappeared down the corridor in a hurry. “See ya…”
It looked like fate had officially been on my side that day; I had quite literally bumped into my very own tutor without even trying.