4th Period: Algebra

I had to wait for everyone else in the class to leave for Mr. Henderson to give me my phone back, so I knew I was going to be late to my next class, but I didn't care. Mr. Henderson. My savior. Who would've guessed? I will be turning in every Biology homework assignment on time for the rest of the year...or at least the rest of this week.

As I walked down the hallways towards my next class, I couldn't stop touching my back pocket as if to double check that my phone was really there. Eventually, I remembered that I hadn't even looked to see Sarah's response. I clicked the home button, but the screen popped up to show no notifications. Sarah is normally pretty good about responding to my texts, but I didn't think much about it. Honestly, I was too relieved to have my phone, and its contents, safely in my hand to think much about anything. This relief was short-lived.

I totally forgot about my math test.

Mrs. Martinez, my teacher, is one of my favorite people in this school. She's really cool and almost like a friend, but there was no way she was going to let me out of this test. I knew I was one of her favorite students, but that wasn't going to save me now. I didn't have a chance. Here's the thing: algebra is my kryptonite (if you're willing to think of me as Superman for the purpose of this metaphor). I'm OK with numbers. I'm good with words. But when you put letters and numbers together, I'm completely hopeless. Solve for x? What does that even mean? Whoever came up with the idea to combine letters and numbers deserves to die a slow and painful death. Not to mention there is no feasible way I will ever use any of this information in the real world. At least teach me about how to pay taxes, or what a mortgage is. Stuff I know has value...On second thought, I don't want to learn about that either.

Anyway, there was one way I could buy some time.

Fourth period at our school works like this: it's divided into four 25-minute increments A,B,C, and D. You have class for two of these segments, lunch for one, and flex time for the other. It seems complicated, but if you think about it from the cafeteria ladies' perspective it makes sense. I have AB class, C flex, and D lunch. If I could convince Mrs. Martinez to let me take lunch and flex early, I could use A and B periods to study and take the test during C and D. I wasn't sure how I would convince Mrs. Martinez of this arrangement, but I had to try.

I rushed into class as the bell rang (not being late was a great start) and walked up to the front of the room. Everyone else was already in their seats ready to take the test, but I stood in front of her desk with my tail placed firmly between my legs, fully embracing the role of teacher's pet.

"Mrs. Martinez..." I began.

"Are you ready for the test?"

"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Don't tell me," she said, looking up from her papers, "you're not ready either."

"Yes ma'am." I've found that good manners can get you far in situations like these.

"And you want to use A and B to study, so you can take the test during your flex and lunch periods."

"Yes ma'am."

"Well, I already let another student do the same, so I guess I don't have a reason to keep you."

"Really?" I couldn't hide my shock, but I tried to quickly cover it up with more manners, "I mean, thank you so much."

"Tim, you should know it's really too late at this point. If you haven't been studying, one more hour isn't going to save you."

"Yes ma'am, you're right, but I have to try."

"Alright, be back here before the bell rings. If you're late, I'm giving you a zero."

"Yes ma'am."

I couldn't get out of that class fast enough. I went straight to the cafeteria, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and went to the library. I wish I could say that this extra hour of studying helped prepare me for the test, but Mrs. Martinez was right. It was too late. I went through review questions, study guides, and random scraps of notes I pulled from the dark corners of my backpack, but they may as well have been hieroglyphics. I was drowning in an ocean of letters and numbers that made absolutely no sense to me, but I did my best to stay afloat. If Columbus could find America despite being lost in the ocean looking for India, I could find a way to pass this test...right?

The bell rang too soon. I had barely gone over half of the chapters, but it was all I could do. I walked towards class like a death row inmate walking to the electric chair. My head was down, my feet shuffled, and all I could think was that I should've chosen something better than the cafeteria mystery meat for my final meal. When I walked into the classroom it was empty except for one girl sitting near the front whose name I did not know. I figured this was the other student who had received an extra study hour. The look on her face was even more hopeless than mine.

I sat down at my desk, put my backpack down, pulled out my pen and calculator, and prepared for the worst. Mrs. Martinez gave the other girl her test, then walked over to give me mine.

"No pens, Tim. You need a pencil."

"Shoot, sorry," I responded. A quick inventory of my backpack brought back no pencils. "I'll just borrow one of Sarah's," I said, trying to force a smile and act like I had everything under control.

Algebra was one of the three classes we shared, and we sat next to each other. I knew she wouldn't mind me grabbing a pencil from her backpack, so I reached over and began rummaging through the front pocket where I knew she kept her pens and pencils. When I pulled my hand out, I realized I had both a pencil and a sticky note in my grasp. As I moved to put the sticky note back, my eyes quickly scanned over the words on it.

S: This test is going to be hard

T: I'm not worried. Mrs. M is too nice to make it that bad

S: I hope you're right

T: I love Mrs. M

S: I love you

The sticky note was back in her bag and the test was in front of me before my brain registered what it had just seen. I remembered that note. It was from class yesterday, but I didn't remember that last line. I definitely would've remembered reading something like that. When did she write that? It must have been after class or something. I thought back and remembered passing her the note right as the bell rang. She must've written the last line as we were leaving and then put it in her backpack. But why? Could that possibly mean what I think it means?

Suddenly, the math problems on my desk were the furthest thing from my mind.