Page and the Exams
It was summer. For most pets and their owners this was a cause for rejoicing, but for one class at the neoschool in Shenkuu it was entirely the opposite. For them, summer meant exams.
Page wasn’t worried by this prospect. The white Aisha was intelligent and top of all her classes, so the exams didn’t concern her particularly. However, for most of her friends, it was a very different story.
Her best friend Sammi, a striped Uni, was dreading the exams. She was very popular due to her sunny temperament, but simply could not remember lessons, and therefore fully expected to fail. Any neopet who failed the end of year exams would have to repeat the whole year, and would not be able to advance to the next grade until they finished it.
“You’re so lucky,” she sighed to Page as they walked home together one day. “You can just remember everything that our teacher says, and I have to struggle so much! I wish that I could be more like you!”
“You’ll be fine.” Page smiled reassuringly. “If you just keep practicing, you’ll pass the tests easily!”
Sammi sighed. She doubted that it would be anywhere near as easy as Page seemed to think it was, and secretly she felt jealous of her friend. Easy for her to say, she thought. She doesn’t have to work hard at all, and she always gets the top marks. However, she didn’t say anything.
As they parted, Page looked after Sammi worriedly. She felt bad, knowing how much the Uni struggled to keep up with class work.
“Had a good day?” her owner, Mimi, asked as she walked absently through the door.
“It was okay,” she replied distractedly.
“Come on now, what’s wrong?” asked Mimi.
“Well,” Page began, “I was just thinking about the exams...”
Before Mimi could say anything, her brother Matt interrupted her. “For goodness sake, Page, don’t you dare start moaning about the exams! My friend’s brother Jarid’s in your year, and he’s terrified of them! You don’t know how lucky you are not to have to work! How can you possibly be so selfish as to complain?!”
Page stared at the Lupe for a second then ran out of the room and up the stairs, slamming the door of her bedroom. Matt took another biscuit. “Drama queen,” he muttered. Mimi glared at him. “What?” he asked.
Mimi sighed and followed her youngest pet up the stairs. She tapped on the door. “Page?” she asked. Getting no reply, she pushed the door open to see the Aisha curled up on the bed, crying. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“Go away!” was the only reply. Her owner stood there for a while, but then she went out. Page remained where she was, still crying. It wasn’t her fault that she was good at schoolwork, was it? Why did everyone have to make her feel guilty about it? She felt bad for her friends, especially Sammi, but it wasn’t as if there was anything that she could do... Or was there? Slowly a plan began to form in her mind.
The next day, Page was up early and out of the house before Matt had even surfaced, although as the fire Lupe had a reputation for always being late, that wasn’t a great surprise. In her satchel she carried several pieces of paper, carefully rolled to protect them, that she had worked hard on the night before. As she thought about them a smile slid across her face.
She was so early that there was no one in the classroom when she arrived, which was exactly as she had planned. She took out the posters and began pinning them to the bulletin boards which lined the room.
Sammi came in as she was finishing the last one. “You’re early this morning! What are you doing?” She broke off as she caught sight of the posters. In large neat letters they carefully proclaimed ‘WORRIED ABOUT THE EXAMS? FREE TUITION – NEOMAIL OR TALK TO PAGE’. “Are they real?” she asked.
Her friend laughed. “Of course they’re real! It makes me feel bad to see you and the others struggling, and I thought I might be able to help.”
The Uni smiled. “Thank you, that’s really sweet! Will you help me?”
“Yes, of course!” Page replied.
As the other pets arrived at school the classroom began to fill up. Everyone saw the posters, and soon there was a large crowd around Page’s desk. It seemed that the whole class could use a little exam help, especially from her. She found her diary and gave everyone who asked an evening. The night before the day of the exams she left free for her own study.
In her bedroom that evening she moved everything off her desk except the text books, paper, pens and pencils, and borrowed an extra chair from the kitchen. It all looked very professional, and was ready just in time for Sammi’s arrival. “I’m glad that you’re my first person!” Page grinned as she let her friend in. “You can tell me what I’m doing wrong!”
The two pets worked hard all evening, with Page explaining the course to her friend as best she could. Sammi found that she was finally able to make sense of what they had been taught, and when she left with her condensed notes and a revision guide, felt that at last she had a chance of passing.
The next two weeks were extremely busy for Page, as every night she had a different classmate to coach. She found that she had barely any time to eat or sleep, so busy was she with teaching and writing notes and guidelines. However, she didn’t care, as she was so pleased to see that all traces of resentment against her intelligence had been dropped by everyone. In school she was now one of the most popular pets in the year, having previously been always on the sidelines.
At last, it was the evening before the exams. “Have you got anyone to teach tonight?” Sammi asked as they were saying goodbye.
“No, I need to do some work of my own,” Page replied. “I’ve really not done enough for a while, I just haven’t had time! I need to catch up on some sleep too.”
“Well, have a good evening then! Night!”
“Night!” called Page, and turned off down her street. No sooner had she entered her house and put her bag down when a knock sounded on the door. She pulled it open. On the doorstep stood a small plushie Bori.
“H-hi,” he gasped nervously. “You’re Page, aren’t you?”
“I’m-I’m Aaron. I’m in your class.”
“Are you here for exam help?”
He nodded, clearly relieved that he didn’t have to stammer out the request himself. “Yes please. Thank you.”
“I’m sorry, but I need tonight to do my own work. You should have booked a time before.”
Aaron’s face fell and he looked about to cry. “Please? I need to pass, I really really really need to pass!”
Page sighed and took a deep breath. “Okay. Half an hour, that’s all. Come on.” She turned and led the way to her room, silently cursing him in irritation. The Bori followed silently.
Upstairs, Aaron took the seat which the Aisha grumpily waved him to, and spread out his work for Page to see. She inspected it carefully.
“This isn’t bad, really; you just don’t seem to have understood some of the basic principles.”
“N-no, not really.”
“Ok, tell me what you have a problem with. Is it with understanding what the teacher says, or just with remembering it?”
“Well,” he began uncertainly, “I’m sitting behind the noisy boys, and I can’t hear over them properly. And I’m too shy to ask for it to be repeated. Then everyone would look at me.”
“And you don’t want to be looked at?”
Aaron shook his head emphatically. Page sat back on her chair and studied him carefully for a minute. During her entire time at neoschool she couldn’t remember a single occasion when the plushie Bori had spoken without being prompted. Suddenly she felt sorry for him, imagining how awful it must be to be so painfully shy that you couldn’t even talk to people that you longed to be friends with. It became important to her that she help him pass the tests, and she no longer cared how much of her own time was taken up. “Okay then,” she began in a much gentler voice than she had previously used. “We’ll begin at the beginning. I’m sure you’ll pick everything up quickly.”
The lesson went on until late in the night. True to Page’s prediction, Aaron seemed desperately eager to learn, and grasped the work easily once it had been explained to him in detail. At last they were finished, and Page realised as she said goodnight to her new friend that she had genuinely enjoyed the session. She closed the door behind him and once again ascended to her room to get started on her own work.
After an hour, Page realised that there was no use in continuing that night. It was about three in the morning, and two weeks of not enough sleep had caught up with her. The room blurred around her as waves of exhaustion crashed over her head, and she allowed herself to drop into her bed and pull the covers around her. “Tomorrow,” she whispered to herself. “I’ll get up early and work then. I’ll have plenty of time...” She slept.
Mimi’s voice floated up the stairs and under her door.
“Page, get up now, you’re going to be late!”
Blearily, the white Aisha opened her eyes and looked around her. The first thing that she saw was the clock on the wall. 8:45. School started at 9...
In a panic she jumped up. It couldn’t be that time already; what about her work? Haphazardly she swept her school supplies into her bag and dashed down the stairs, past her surprised owner, and out through the door. Even walking at a brisk pace she lived too far from the school to arrive early; in fact she was the last of her class to arrive, dropping into her seat just as Miss Roberts, the teacher, entered the room.
The papers were handed out. “The time is five minutes past nine,” said Miss Roberts. “You may begin.”
Page quickly scanned through the paper and then attempted the first question, but found that her mind was a blank. The facts which she had confidently talked through to her classmates eluded her and she felt as if she was in a haze of tiredness. Dates, reciprocals, punctuation, all swam past her in a muddled fashion as she wrote down everything that she could remember.
At last it was over. A heavy feeling of despair loomed inside her as she walked slowly home, where she immediately collapsed into bed and slept.
Page didn’t see anyone over the weekend. She lurked in her room, worrying. She knew that she had done much worse than she had expected, and was dreading school. On Monday she walked purposefully slowly, getting in only just on time in order to avoid having to talk to anyone about how the exams had gone for her.
“Settle down,” called Miss Roberts to the class as she entered. “I’m sure that you’re all anxious about the exam results, so we’ll go through them first.”
There was a faint rustle of anticipation.
“Top of the class – Aaron!” Page grinned hugely at Aaron, who smiled gratefully back.
“Second place – Sammi!” Sammi let out a squeal of excitement, causing everyone to laugh at her.
“Third – Jarid!” The younger brother of Matt’s friend mouthed Thank you at Page.
So it continued down the list of names. With each place read out, Page’s heart sank still further. Would she even pass?”
Miss Roberts stopped reading. “Well, that concludes the pass list. I must say that I’m delighted with you all. I don’t think that we’ve ever had a year before when so many pets passed! In fact, we only have one fail. Page, I’m extremely disappointed in you. You could have easily passed those tests.”
Page sat in a state of shock. No, I didn’t fail, I can’t have failed! she thought desperately.
Suddenly, from the back of the room, Aaron stood up. “M-miss,” he stammered. “You-you can’t fail Page.”
Everyone looked astonished at hearing the Bori speak, including Miss Roberts, but she quickly recovered herself. “And why is that then?”
“Because-because she was helping me.”
“And me!” chimed in Sammi.
“Me too!” called Jarid, and with that the entire class began to speak.
“She spent ages explaining the maths to me!”
“I didn’t understand any of the grammar rules at all before!”
“You can’t fail her! I wouldn’t have passed without her help!”
One by one the voices called out, until everyone had spoken. Miss Roberts looked around the room, noting that not one pet had been left out. “Is this true?” she asked.
“Yes, it is,” replied Page. “I thought it wasn’t fair that I found the work so much easier than everyone else did, so I organised sessions to help the others. But I didn’t have time to revise for myself, and I missed so much sleep that I was too tired to think properly.”
“Well, in that case,” Miss Roberts began, “Page, you can retake the test in a week. I’m sure you’ll pass easily.”
Most of the class cheered. It was now break time and Page found herself surrounded by a swarm of pets, all eager to thank her for her help. At the other end of the room, she saw to her satisfaction that Aaron had also drawn a crowd around him, most of whom were congratulating him both on coming top of the class and for standing up for Page to prevent her from failing. She pushed her way towards him.
“Aaron, would you like to come over to mine tonight?”
“I’d love to!” he replied.