A Way for the Willing
Lindy fiddled with her pencil. She’d been put in the advanced Neoschool classes, and it bothered her. She studied only a little, had an average amount of motivation in school, and it wasn’t like she got hundreds on every test. She was normal, just like everyone else. She didn’t think she was that special. One way or the other, though, she was still stuck away from her friends until lunch. Lunch was a totally different world from the classroom.
The red Aisha liked to compare tests with her friends. It was just something they did when they got together at lunch and after school. It was fun; it gave them something to talk about. But still, no matter what Lindy thought about her own prowess, they all got lower scores than she did.
Lindy would always give a wide grin at being the highest score, and the friends would grumble good-naturedly or give her a sharp slap on the back coupled with their congratulations. It was a sign of affirmation, to be sure, but Lindy never felt quite sure how she felt about it. It never seemed enough for them to be happy for her. She wanted to be happy for them, but it never worked that way. Being happy over them getting another C just didn’t happen. Sure, she was pleased they didn’t fail. But that didn’t make anyone happy about getting the C.
Lindy sighed as she stared at her blank math test before her. She had already solved the first problem in her mind, but she hesitated before she put it down on the paper. What if... what if she got a C too? Would that solve things? The Aisha began to bite at her pencil, staring blankly at the math sheet, the scene playing out in her mind.
It was lunchtime. “Hey, guys!” Lindy yelled, waving her graded math test in the air. Her friends, Charles, Avice, and Macy grinned at her from their communal table.
“Lindy!” Macy yelled out, cupping her blue Uni hooves around her mouth. “What’d you get this time? A ninety-eight?”
Lindy rushed over to the table—table four—and sat down. “No, not this time,” she said, laughing nervously. “I didn’t do so well on this one.”
“You never do lousy,” Charles said, grabbing the test from her paws before she had time to react. The speckled Nimmo raised his eyebrows, an uncharacteristic frown. “An eighty? That’s a C! You got a C, Lindy!”
“Lindy got a C?” Avice said, putting down her ritual egg and cheese sandwich. “How in Neopia could she get a C?” The red Cybunny looked unsettled. She looked back down at her sandwich and then back up at Charles. Macy had already come around to look at the test.
“What did you do, Lindy?” Macy asked, looking over the test, a disapproving look on her face. “Fail it just to look like us? Give us a break. Don’t tell us you have to come DOWN to our standards. How insulting.”
Lindy gave herself a little shake and looked down at her test, quickly scribbling down the answer to the first question. She looked at the second question, but the thought was still nagging in the back of her had. What if she got... well... just barely a B. That wouldn’t be so drastic, but she could gradually lower her average....
It was lunchtime. “Guess what!” Lindy yelled across the lunchroom, waving to her table. She practically ran across the tiled floor and sat down breathless across from Macy. “Guys, I think I just struck a fluke in the system. I really, really badly on last week’s test.”
“Don’t kid, Lindy,” Charles said. “You never do badly. It’s probably just a mistake on the teacher’s part.”
“I got a B,” Lindy said glumly.
“Not that bad of a B,” Avice said, peering over Lindy’s shoulder at the test, her mouth half full of egg and cheese sandwich. “It’s only an eighty-nine.”
Charles laughed. “An eighty-nine? She got one point away from an A? Ooooh, burn!” He laughed and came around the table to look at the test, ‘just to see for himself.’
Macy, on the other side of the table, looked prim. “Well, it was coming to her,” she said, then she began to laugh, almost choking on her milk.
That was better, Lindy decided. That outcome was much preferable, but... she began to think hard about the B she’d have to get... and the lying to her friends about getting it just by chance. There had to be another option, preferably one that didn’t consist of lying and getting a low grade. Then it occurred to the Aisha. What about tutoring? That could be interesting. She didn’t think her friends would oppose her help.
They were always asking her for help in one form or another. What parts of the lesson did she study? How long every night did she work at homework? Then of course they always joshed her about only spending an hour on night of the major English project, telling her she’d fail. But of course, just like usual, she got an A and Macy in particular had all but taken notes on what she did. Asking them if she could help them out so that they could lord their grades over the other kids in school sounded like a good way to go about it.
Lindy looked up at the clock. She had twenty minutes left and only fourteen questions to answer. That was easy—it was only multiplication. She looked down at her second problem and quickly did the math, then scribbled down her answer. After a moment’s hesitation, she did the third and fourth problems too. The red Aisha set her chewed pencil down and dug around in her desk for a pencil sharpener. Her pencil was getting dull. She found her pencil sharpener, set it on her desk and tried to decide how she’d go about asking her friends if she could give them some help...
It was after school. Lindy was walking out the door with her friends. They were all laughing and chatting about one subject or another, none of them relevant to any of their classes.
“Did you see the look on Mr. Noakes’ face when the volcano started to spew Neocola instead of his vinegar and baking soda stuff?” Charles was about in tears laughing. “I thought I was about to die! I didn’t think that Maurice had it in him to rig the science experiment, but there Noakes was, staring flabbergasted at the Neocola...”
“How did you do in the History test today?” Lindy asked all of a sudden.
“Oh, I didn’t show you yet!” Avice said excitedly, digging around in her satchel. “I got a B!” In the Cybunny’s paws was a test marked with a grade of eighty-five. Lindy grinned.
“That’s great, Avice! Hey, I was wondering something.”
“Hm?” Avice was putting away the test.
“What would you say about coming over to my house later and us studying together? We could help each other.”
“Oh... um...” Avice cocked her head to one side. “If Mum’ll let me, I’d love to do that, Lindy. Maybe if I come over, I can steal a few ideas. I’ll be your rival some day. You better watch yourself.” She wagged a paw at Lindy, a smirk on her face.
“Good,” Lindy said. “Maybe you could come over around 6:00? What about you guys?”
Charles hiked his backpack. “6:00, sure,” he said. Macy shrugged good-naturedly.
“Why not? I haven’t been over to the wonder-girl’s house in a while.”
“I think I could come,” Avice said with a smile.
“I’ll tell my mom,” Lindy said. “We’ll be expecting you guys at 6:00.”
Yes. It was perfect. Lindy nodded to herself, picking up her pencil again and beginning to sharpen it resolutely. She brushed the pencil shavings to the side of her desk and began to answer the remaining questions. She had just finished question seven when Dr. Ballard dinged the bell he always kept at his desk. “Time’s up!” he said cheerfully. “Turn your papers over now and send them to the end of the row.”
Time’s up? Lindy thought frantically. What do you mean time’s up? I had twenty minutes—it was then that she looked at the clock. Five minutes until class ended. Had she really spent all that time daydreaming. The red Aisha felt a pit in her stomach. She had completed less than half of her test. She turned her paper over and handed it to her neighbor, a bored looking blue Pteri. She had failed her test.
Lindy watched numbly as Dr. Ballard took the tests from the end of each row. As he took them up to his desk, tapped them here and there to make sure they were even, then set them down, something in her mind clicked and she began to laugh. Her laughter began softly, but then crescendoed up and up. She was almost crying, she was laughing so hard. Everyone was staring, but she didn’t mind. It was so ironic! She had failed her test! Now she could legitimately tell her friends how she had gotten a lower grade than they did... and now she had an even better reason to start a study group. At least it would keep her from failing all her tests thinking about how to help her friends. How perfectly wonderful.
Dr. Ballard watched Lindy laugh for a moment, then he cleared his throat. “Well,” he said as the laughter died down, “the period’s up. If everyone would quietly exit the room, you may all go to lunch.”
Lindy got up slowly, a grin still from ear to ear, gathered up her books, and shuffled out of the room with the rest of her classmates. Then, with a whoop, she was off to the lunchroom.
“Hey guys!” she yelled as she ran across the busy lunchroom to table four. “Guess what!”