It’s a joke, I think. A cruel joke. I take my history book from the bottom of my locker and start down the hall. Margret is still at her locker, just a few feet from my class. Her platinum hair falls in ringlets to the shoulders of her pale lavender blouse. I feel my face turn hot. My shoes look nice today too, I decide.
Margret glides into Mr. Travis’ room a moment before me. She turns to go to her seat in the nearest column of old, oak desks. I march to the other side of the room, taking the seat furthest away. My eyes start darting where I don’t want them to go, so I crack open my textbook and delve into a passage on Pickett’s Charge.
“Reading ahead?” says Mr. Travis, hovering above me.
“Previewing,” I say.
Mr. Travis bends down toward my ear, his thick grey beard almost grazing the skin. “Avoiding Margret again?”
I jump. My face heats up even hotter than before. “How did you know?”
“When you’ve taught at a high school for as long as I have, you learn a little about freshmen crushes.” Mr. Travis stands straighter. “See me at the end of class, Thomas.”
The class rings out with mocking “oooh”s. I don’t hear Margret’s voice. “Yes, Mr. Travis.”
* * *
“Would you be interested in doing some tutoring after-school?” Mr. Travis asks me.
I bite at my thumb nail. “I’m not sure that would be,” I begin, but Mr. Travis cuts me off.
“It’s for Margret.”
I shiver. “Tutoring Margret? I…suppose.”
“She’s barely holding on to a “D” and I think it could really help you out, socially and with your self-esteem.” Mr. Travis looks me square in the eyes. “Give it a thought.”
“Yes,” I say, almost immediately. “I’ll do it.”
* * *
“Wh-what do you seem to have the most trouble with?” I stutter to Margret. Today she’s wearing a snow white dress that falls to her knees. I train my eyes on her eyebrows, trying not to leer into her pale green eyes.
“The names and dates get cluttered in my head. There’s no way I can remember them all,” Margret replies. Her tone is light, calm.
“Have you tried using little tricks to get yourself to remember?”
“Tricks? Like using acronyms to remember the colors of the rainbow or orders of operation? I’m good at those.” Her sudden smile forces my eyes to her glossy lips.
I clear my throat. “Yeah, exactly.”
Margret knits her eyebrows a fraction. “You’re acting really odd. Is something wrong?”
I swallow hard and take a deep breath. “Did you put a note in my locker a few days ago saying you’d like to see a movie or something some time?”
Margret’s cheeks flush. “I…I didn’t. But…”
“I don’t understand.”
“Martha must have put that note in your locker, pretending to be me.”
The tile at my feet looks really plain today. “So you don’t want to.”
Margret runs a hand across the curls on each side of her head. “Actually I do. I wasn’t brave enough to ask you myself.” She pauses. “Iron Man 3 is playing at six tomorrow.”
“I’d love to.”