“Hey guys, what’s going on?” Zee’s history teacher stood up, smiling. “Did anybody do anything interesting over the weekend? Let’s go around the room and share, starting with Blondie over there.” She was that one teacher with nicknames for everyone, but simultaneously maintained a “Coolest Teacher in the School” status. Zee supposed some people were just multitalented. Most kids watched TV or had a sports tournament, while some slept and hung out with friends. Nobody bothered to give an interesting answer, so when Ms Hill called out “Zoooelle!”, Zee kept it simple.
“I read a book.”
“Really? What book?”
“‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” Zee said, and the teacher looked impressed.
“A classic! What did you think of it?”
“It wasn’t terrible.” The truth was that Zee had liked it quite a lot, but in seventh grade, to be enthusiastic was a sign of weakness, or something equally stupid, and Zee knew it, so she was unenthusiastic not because she was afraid of being weak, but because if she was enthusiastic for a reason other than fear of being perceived as weak, she was cheating the system. Except that nobody knew so they just assumed she was being enthusiastic to follow the social rules, so she was actually following the rules by cheating the system...never mind.
It’s unclear whether Mrs. S and Ms. Hill compared notes or not, but Zee sat in the back row of the classroom next to Jacob in History as well as in Literacy. It was a funny coincidence they didn’t really talk about, but instead, simply accepted.
As class began, Jacob whispered to Zee, “You read a classic in a weekend?”
“You’re surprised?” Zee whispered back, surprised at his obvious surprise.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Why not be surprised?” Was he stalling? Yes, He was.
“Because I’m obviously some kind of freaky genius,” Zee said. Jacob looked as if he wanted to argue.
“That depends on your definition of ‘freaky genius’,” is what he came up with. Zee knew this was a standard argument people fell back on when they didn’t really have anything else to say, which meant he had no real way to argue that she wasn’t brilliant, which she found acceptable. So she didn’t press it.
“Fair enough,” she said, immediately realizing she’d used his line.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s entirely fair.”
“Using my line, are you?”
“Like you’re using mine?” He retorted.
He fell silent.
“Did I just win an argument with ‘Yes’?” Zee grinned.
He tried to scowl but ended up subcubbing to his staccato, jerky laugh after a few seconds, only to shut up when the teacher looked over.
Zee kept smiling.