The warm afternoon sun spilled in through the window, washing Harper’s face in a pleasant, warm glow. It was a comforting feeling. A relaxing one too. For a few moments, she felt so tempted to put her head down on her desk and take a nap.
She couldn’t of course. Not without getting caught. And even if she could, Harper knew she shouldn’t.
She was barely a month into school and her grades were already suffering in several of her classes. Her parents had recently brought up the dreaded subject of tutoring as an option if things didn’t start improving. It was a bullet Harper had dodged before, and she intended to do it again.
So she fought the urge to turn off her hearing aid or take a nap. Instead, she did her best to listen, much as she didn’t want to. But even with her hearing aid still on, that proved to be a challenge. Mr. Asche liked to mumble when he talked, and often walked all around the room during his lectures. Harper found that she usually missed about half of what a person was saying if she wasn’t facing them when they spoke. And teachers were no exception.
Ugh! See? THIS is why it’s a huge waste of time. Harper sighed to herself as her teacher’s indistinct words reached her ears. She had no idea what he was saying. I couldn’t even understand him if I WANTED to! Why the heck should I even bother trying?
The harsh scraping of chair legs against the linoleum floor was loud enough to break through her train of thought. She almost jumped at the sound as she looked around at her fellow classmates, who seemed to be walking around the room.
Harper rose to her feet as well, and noticed that most of the other students seemed to be arranging themselves in trios and talking quietly to one another. Guess we’re supposed to be in groups of three? Mr. Asche had begun the class saying something about a research project. Apparently this would be a group one. Oh great…
Unfortunately Nyla was not in her History class. But Sophie and Thad were, thankfully. Though Harper had a sneaking suspicion that wouldn’t help her in this case…
And sure enough, she was right.
“Sorry, Harper.” Thad looked up at her apologetically as she approached. “We’re already working with Quinn…”
“Maybe Mr. Asche will let us be a group of four?” Sophie suggested kindly. “Couldn’t hurt to ask, right?”
Harper did her best to hide her disappointment. “Yeah, okay.”
As though on cue, Mr. Asche approached their table. “Do you need a partner, Harper?” He asked.
Her cheeks felt warm with embarrassment. “Um… I guess.” She muttered.
The teacher gestured to a table in the corner of the room. “Well, you’re in luck. There’s a pair right there who need a third person.”
Harper didn’t even bother looking at the group he suggested. “I was actually wondering if maybe we could be a group of four?” She gestured over her shoulder toward Thad, Sophie, and Quinn.
Mr. Asche shook his head. “Nice try. But I’m sure the group over there would love to have you.”
Harper turned away, hoping he wouldn’t see her roll her eyes as she headed over to join her new partners.
“Hey, look… We got Rosebrook!” Rylie called out happily as Harper sat beside her and Devin at their table.
“Oh, thank God.” Devin laughed. “I was so sure he’d stick us with Bitchface or something.”
“Ha! As if she doesn’t already have a flock of her little minions just begging to be in her group…” Rylie gestured across the classroom. “Look at that. Doesn’t it make you sick?”
Harper’s lips stretched into a grin as she realized who they were talking about. They even call her followers ‘minions’ like I do… This is too good!
“Uh… Earth to Harper? Did you forget your hearing aid or something?”
“I said ‘doesn’t it make you sick?”‘ Rylie repeated. “Katie and her stupid fan club.”
“Oh! I didn’t realize you were talking to me…” In fact, it was almost hard to believe. Though she’d gone to school with Rylie and Devin nearly her entire life, Harper was fairly certain this was the longest conversation they’d ever had. “It really does.” She agreed. “I can’t stand her.”
“Figured as much. Most people can’t, can they?”
“I still remember that time you punched her out during lunch back when we were like… What? Ten or Eleven?” Devin laughed softly to himself. “Fucking savage.”
Harper smiled nervously at his words. “Guess I got kinda carried away.”
“Hey, I don’t blame you!” Rylie leaned forward a bit as she spoke. Harper wondered whether it was an attempt not be overheard by their peers, or to make sure Harper was able to hear her clearly. Either way, she seemed to be successful at both. “I usually try to keep my distance, just in case being a bratty piece of shit is contagious or something.” She paused, smirking. “But if the opportunity ever presented itself… Not sure I could pass it up.”
A slight chuckle passed Harper’s lips. It still felt so odd to be chatting so naturally with Rylie and Devin. Heck, part of her almost felt like she needed to introduce herself or something, for how little she knew either of them. It was strangely exciting to be talking to them at last.
“So… Ancient Greece, huh?” She asked a bit awkwardly. “Any ideas on how we’re gonna do this stupid project?”
Devin’s lips curled into a slight smirk. “Half-assed and at the last minute?”
“Same as always!” Rylie laughed as she raised her fist briefly to bump her friend’s.
“Ha! I’m so glad you guys get it!” Harper smiled at the pair of them. They definitely seemed to be on the same page as her when it came to Katie… and their lame assignment too. Suddenly the idea of doing a group project didn’t seem as terrible as it had before. “I hate wasting my time on crap like this.”
Devin smiled at her. “Same!”
“Alright, class.” Mr. Asche’s voice called out over them. “We’re out of time for today. Remember that these projects are due in two weeks.” He looked at them all sternly for a moment. “Thank you. You’re dismissed.”
There was an excited buzz of movement and conversation as the members of the class eagerly handed for the door.
One more class… So close to freedom! Harper slowly rose to her feet, grateful that the end of the school day was finally in sight. She turned to face her two partners. “Guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow?” She asked almost hopefully.
Rylie nodded. “Later.”
As she began walking away from them, Harper could have sworn she saw Devin lean in to whisper something in his friend’s ear. Unfortunately Harper’s hearing was not good enough to make out anything he might have said. Whatever. Not my business anyway.
She’d nearly made it to the door before she felt a sharp tap on her shoulder. Harper whipped her head around, her eyes falling on Rylie’s smiling face.
“On second thought… Are you doing anything after school today?” The other girl asked.
Harper shook her head. “Um, I don’t think so?” She spoke as though it was a question.
“Sweet! Rylie replied. “We can meet down in the square, by the library. At like four?” She suggested. “If you’re up for it, that is.”
The red-haired girl tried her best to hide her surprise. “Okay, sure! Sounds good to me.” She paused for a moment. “But… The library? Seriously?” Harper couldn’t help her confusion. “I thought we weren’t working on the project til the last minute.”
Rylie smirked slightly. “Oh, we’re not.” She assured her, her smile widening. “See you then!”