“Mom!” I screamed, clutching the edge of my brother’s hoodie as he stumbled down the staircase after me. “I caught Mark reading my diary again!"
“You should read some of the scoop in there!” Mark, my younger and completely annoying brother, danced wickedly around us both. “There’s a really interesting entry about what Emily and Brett did 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 so-called 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 from behind that precious computer screen she had practically married lately.
“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 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. Over time, I had fully transitioned into a living stereotype; all curling tongs, short skirts and too much make-up. But, inside, a different Emily lived there - a girl who knew better than the way she was living now.
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. After he had passed away, I had fallen into the hands of the “cool” kids at school who accepted me purely because I went along with everything they said I should do. It had been fun at first; after feeling invisible for so long, I was living the high school dream of finally fitting in.
But of course, I realized eventually that being popular wasn't going to give me a fast track ticket anywhere - it certainly doesn't provide you with anything worthwhile. I now had 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 at the kitchen counter. “Mom is gonna kill you!”
Handing me the envelope, I gulped down the quivering lump in my throat. It was a freshly typed letter from school; and the red markings could only mean it wasn’t good news.
“Dear Mrs. Masson,
It has come to our attention that your daughter, Miss Emily Masson, is suffering a noticeable decrease in her grades. Most recently, she has been failing English extensively. Mr. Clarke, Emily's teacher, is particularly concerned about the outcome and Emily's progression in future.
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
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 a few years ago. Since I was a kid, I always remembered her speeches about success being a product of hard work and study. I felt my knees quiver at the thought of telling her I was completely failing English; simply remembering the time she had grounded Mark for losing a pointless spelling bee was enough to keep me quiet.
“So,” Mark whispered. “How much are you going to pay me to keep my mouth shut?”
“What do you mean…a tutor?” Lauren looked at me, dumbly.
Lauren Price was by all accounts my "best" friend. She was beautiful with a waterfall of blonde hair and teeth bleached to perfection but in reality, she was 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. “So, I’m gonna sign up to the tuition programme. The guidance counsellor 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. Right?
“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 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 recalled a time when I had asked him about his ambitions and had 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.”
It was the last time I ever tried to really talk to Brett. Even listening seemed to be a burden for him, so I realized quickly that we weren't going to get much further in regards to conversation.
I was a coward being surrounded by all of those vacant people and being so unhappy but doing nothing about it. But, shallow as I was, I figured I’d rather be just stuck somewhere than tied to it - or more so, back being tied to Emily Masson, the girl that nobody liked. 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 a party the next weekend, with 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 counsellor,” I repeated. “I need a tutor.”
Did anyone listen around here? I thought, desperately.
“Don't worry, I’ll give you a real private tutoring,” Brett winked as his buddies, who 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 as 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 decent conversation 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 staring 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 nose. 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 something inside me when I saw the black lettering on it. Maybe, it was just relief that I didn't have to approach those kids who played with the figurines and math problems again.
“Hey, you’re in the tutition programme?” I asked.
“Yeah,” He pushed his glasses up his nose. "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 this all the time; like my popularity made me somehow immune to being a nice person.
“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…