Karina, the Math Wiz: Part Seven
Karina’s paw flew back and forth on the paper. Every answer seemed to come to her like lightning, but still, she took her time. She clutched her Blue Blumaroo Pencil tightly in her paw. Her pencil marks were neat, crisp, and perfect. She couldn’t help but smile.
As pathetic as it seemed, the math test was doing a fantastic job of cheering her up.
Still, there were other thoughts drifting through her mind – namely Em and the Math-tath-alon. Em had her pencil and test scrunched on her test, as far away from Karina as they could be. Karina felt sad. So what if Em had used her? And what if Karina had been wrong?
It took Karina a few seconds to remember the test in front of her. She continued on, making marks on her paper. She tried to focus before her thoughts began to fade again.
The Math-tath-alon... how badly she had wanted to win. It was only fair that she didn’t get to go. She had made a mistake and had to pay the price. But it was so appealing. She could have done so well. She could have won that money.
The test, she reminded herself. She had to focus on the test.
She finished the last problem and then slowly she read over each question once more. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Em stand up. She quickly turned her paper in and left, without glancing at Karina once. Karina fought to keep her eyes fixed on her test, and not on her former friend.
Her first answer had to be right, she decided, and smiled, and she checked the next. Right again. She felt jittery. She looked towards the door that Em had walked out. Surely she couldn’t be far. Maybe Karina could finish, and catch up with Em...
No, she had to be focused! She checked the next answer, right. Right, right, right. They all had to be right, she stubbornly concluded. Slowly, she stood up, the test paper in her hand. She calmly walked to Mrs. Yimps.
“Better?” her teacher asked, as she extended her hand for the test paper. She folded her slender Gelert paws and smiled.
“Much,” Karina said hastily, biting her lip. She could maybe still catch Em, if she hurried. She quickly grinned. “Hopefully, this is the last time you’ll see me redoing something.”
Mrs. Yimps smiled in response. “Of course it will be, Karina.” The Mynci quickly turned to leave when Mrs. Yimps spoke again. “Karina, you can still make it to the Math-tath-alon.”
She stopped in her tracks and turned around, surprised. “It's already begun.”
“Only just,” the Gelert insisted. “It's just a few miles from here. I’m sure you could manage to get there, Karina.”
Karina paused. She could make it. She could compete, she could be the best, and she could win the money. Or, she could catch up with Em.
Taking a deep breath, Karina simply shook her head. “Thanks, Mrs. Yimps, thanks a lot. For telling me about the contest, for letting me do the redo, for everything. For understand. I really, really appreciate it,” she mumbled, avoiding her teacher’s gaze. “But I’ve got somewhere else to be. Maybe next year.”
Mrs. Yimps didn’t seem to mind. “Pity, of course, but go on, Karina. I can’t keep you here all day. You’ve earned a break. Maybe next year.”
Karina nodded for only a moment before she turned and sped out the door.
She looked both ways down the hall. She was only a few minutes behind Em, but which way could she have gone. Karina couldn’t see any trace of her in either direction. Her face fell, and she sighed. She slowly began to turn to the right.
“Who you looking for?” said a voice from behind, and Karina instinctively spun. Hiding to the side of the door was a familiar green Eyrie wearing an unexpected smile. Karina couldn’t believe it.
“Em! I mean, um, Emerald, what are you doing here? You finished ages ago, and... and, I don’t know. Gosh, why are you still here?”
Em laughed. “Karina, call me Em. I’m... sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, but, what are you doing here?” Karina said. She still felt anxious.
“I thought you might need some help,” she began.
“But wait – Em – were you trying to cheat off me.”
Em suddenly got quiet. She avoided Karina’s eyes. “Let’s change the subject,” she said. “I thought you might need help –”
“Em,” Karina said, her voice losing its excitement.
“Karina, you’re brilliant, and you’ve got awesome sisters, and you’re smart, and everything, and I just sound stupid. I guess I was jealous. Well, duh, of course I was jealous.”
Karina blushed, but Em didn’t stop. “I wanted to look good to you, and to everyone else, and I don’t know. When you guys caught, then it got worse? I don’t know.”
She wasn’t sure why, but she laughed. Karina laughed too.
“I feel better now, I guess,” Em said.
“I do too. I hate being mad at people... and having people mad at me,” Karina explained. “I should probably get home now, but I guess I’ll talk to you later.”
Em laughed again. Her eyes smiled at Karina. “Karina, you’re not going home. We’re not going home.” She paused dramatically. Karina was confused, but Em just giggled. “We’re going to the Math-tath-alon.”
“Em, it already started and we’re miles away,” Karina insisted, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. She stubbornly wrinkled her nose, but Em just laughed and laughed.
She turned to the left and began running to the door. Karina reluctantly followed. The moment they were outside, Em began to flap her green wings. She smiled. “Hop on.”
Em and Karina arrived in the Neopian Plaza and walked straight towards a tall, intimidating black building, the Neopian Auditorium. They quickly entered and were created only by the sound of pencil against paper. Karina knew the sound well and was quite fond of, but Em shivered.
“Come on,” Karina said. She was now full of excitement. Redoing the quiz and reconciling with Em had lifted her spirits, and her walk soon turned into a run. She sped down the long hallway. Em didn’t follow. Karina impatiently slowed down.
“I’m not coming,” Em said, as she began to walk in the direction of the “Spectators” sign.
Karina gaped. “Em, come on. We’re here. I wouldn’t be here if not for you.”
“I’m a cheater,” Em countered. “This is your moment. You’re going to miss it.”
Karina wasn’t sure why, but suddenly she turned and rushed down the opposite hallway. She entered a quiet room with white walls. A dozen or so pets were sitting at identical desks and writing furiously. Each one used an identical pencil. Karina hurried to the front desk.
“I’m Karina364, and I am unbelievably late,” she told the yellow Lenny at the desk. The Lenny nodded, and handed Karina a packet without looking up.
“You’ll never finish, but here you go. Graded like your usual test.”
“Highest percentage wins?” Karina asked breathlessly.
The Lenny smirked. “All who score 100% on the first test proceed to round two. A college level test. Then the highest percentage wins.”
Karina gulped and took a paper. She sat down in one of the only two empty seats. She reached for her Blue Blumaroo Pencil, different from all the others, and began.
“Pencils down!” the Lenny called, after what seemed to have been mere seconds. Karina wrinkled her nose. She had one problem left – one problem! – out of one hundred. There was no chance she’d get 100% now. But at least she had tried.
The Lenny quickly collected all the tests and hurried the competitors out of room and into the auditorium. Karina looked around and realized she knew most of the pets there. She smiled weakly, but none of them smiled back.
A blue Blumaroo looked at the pencil still clutched her hand and laughed. “Did you know that using fancy pencils like that actually creates a distraction that lessens your test-taking ability by .98%? That’s what my owner tells me. I only have regular pencils. All of us only have regular pencils.”
Karina looked away from the Blumaroo as the group reached the auditorium and the crowd. It was a considerable crowd, seeing as it was for a math competition. There were 50,000 Neopoints involved, of course, but Karina had completely forgotten about the prize.
She fidgeted with her fingers and she went over every problem in her mind.
In the crowd were several people from school. She looked for Em and soon found her – she was sitting next to Graphie, Cutie, and Snow Angel. And behind them all, Christine. They couldn’t see her, but she smiled.
Karina turned back towards the other pets when suddenly a loud voice captivated the entire auditorium.
“This is very exciting,” said the yellow Lenny, rushing into the auditorium, holding a stack of papers in her hands. Karina was shocked at how quick the grading process had been. Her heart felt a bit heavy. Soon, she’d be out.
“Tests have been graded, tests have been graded! We have a Math-tath-alon first!” she exclaimed. The crowded shushed. “Two firsts, in fact. Not a single student received 100%!” Several of the pets’ faces fell. The blue Blumaroo scrunched his fists.
Karina’s eyes widened. She still had a chance.
“And, for the first time ever, there will be no round two. The tests have been graded and we have a winner. The 50,000 Neopoint prize goes to...”
“Our very own Karina!” Mrs. Yimps said, as she waved her hands excitedly. It was Monday morning, and the class had never seen their teacher behaving so enthusiastically. “She came late and everything! She scored 100% on every question except the last, which she didn’t get to answer. She’s the winner of 50,000 Neopoints!” she told the class, as she clapped her hands.
Karina reddened slightly. Graphie playfully rolled her eyes. “Of course. Math wiz. Nerd.”
“Thank you,” Karina snarled, laughing at her sister.
“And I have the redoes from Friday,” Mrs. Yimps said, reaching for a stack of graded tests behind her. She began to pass them out. Karina looked nervously to her sister.
“You just won the Math-tath-alon, you loser. You did fine.” Karina shrugged.
The white Gelert approached Karina, a smile on her face. She placed a paper face-down on Karina’s desk. Karina reached for it instantly.
“Very, very impressive,” Mrs. Yimps said with a smile.
Karina flipped it over. 98%. Graphie peered over and smiled. “Not a perfect score, though,” she teased.
Karina looked at the redo in admiration. “Fine by me.”