When Mrs. Marsh called me into the room during recess, I knew something other than my being suspended the day before had gone wrong.
“Téras Trómos,” She said my name rather sharply, and my vivid green eyes turned upon her in cold haughtiness. I knew she disliked me the most of all the teachers. In fact, her calling me to my office was a shock, seeing as she usually just ignored me, especially if she asked a question in class and asked for a show of hands of those who knew the answer. Usually she skimmed over me, and picked another person, or if there was no one but me, she would ignore me and answer the question herself. I’d given up even trying in her class and only wrote my answers down on the paper.
“What?” I said in a disinterested tone of voice.
“You are paired with Eilad Chári for the rest of the school year to help him study, and he is to help you socialize more. I have talked it over with Mr. Prewitt.” She said hastily, as my eyes grew wide with horror. “And both he and I advise and wish that you do not cause trouble with that dear sweet child. And if I see even a mark on him from you trying to be some big bully—”
Oh great. Here came the ‘everything is always Téras’ fault’ supposition.
“—then I’ll have his parents and all the teachers and children down on you in an instant!”
I flapped my wings as if to say, ‘Bring it on’ but I kept quiet and nodded slowly.
“He is now studying in the Study Hall to take the test he failed yesterday. You will be required to take it as well, so go help him, and at twelve thirty get back in here with him and we will go over the test again.”
“I haven’t had lu—”
“Go at once.” She said sharply. “Before I send you to the principal’s office for disciplinarian issues!”
I grumbled under my breath, and couldn’t help but roll my eyes when she shouted after me to be respectful. I slowly made my way down the hall and to the study hall. I stood in front of the doorway leading to the room, looking at James who was standing in the doorway talking to Eilad. No wonder the poor kid couldn’t ever get his work done! Wait, who was I calling poor?
“Outta my way.” I shoved James aside and marched into the room. “Now, scat. This is a STUDY HALL! STUDY! NOT A TALKING HALL!”
“Hey you—!” James started at me, fists curled, but Eilad stood up.
“James, he’s supposed to help me study for Mrs. Marsh’s test so I can pass it this time!” He said cheerily, though I could see a bit of fear in his eyes. Well, good.
James dropped his mouth. “He’ll kill you!”
“I’ll kill you first if you don’t scat outta here.” I growled, taking one step forward.
“James… please…” Eilad’s eyes were begging him to go, I knew, but he just couldn’t bring himself to say ‘leave’.
I couldn’t help but think to myself, Since you can’t say it, I’ll say it for you. “LEAVE.” I said in a clear, firm tone. “L.E.A.V.E. That spells LEAVE.”
“I’m not a baby, y’know. I know what l.e.a.v.e spells.” James said calmly.
A smirk formed onto my lips as I gave a little devilish grin. “Well then, you must be slow, since you obviously don’t know what it means, or else you would have left already.”
James’ eyes flashed, and I saw him start to raise his fists. Instead of hitting him, which was the first thought which ran through my mind, I quickly put my hand firmly and heavily over his fist in warning. I didn’t want to end up in the principal’s office again. “Don’t, James.” I said in a soothing voice. “I wouldn’t want to have to punch you again, and spill out the whole story of how you were disturbing Mr. Chári’s studies, and for causing him to fail to Mrs. Marsh.”
James reddened. “I’m not really disturbing you, am I, Eilad?”
Eilad’s mouth opened up to speak, but I interrupted. “Tell the truth.”
He looked hurt and looked down. “W-we better get to work, Téras… w-we only have thirty minutes to study, and then we have to take the test…”
“Less than that now.” I grumbled, plopping into one chair and sinking into it. I stood up. “That one’s much too… fluffy feeling…” I chose a harder chair then and drew it up to the coffee table which Eilad’s work was spread out on. Eilad gave a cheery goodbye as James left.
After I said goodbye to James, I turned to Téras. Well… he didn’t seem so scary up close. He was actually really thin… and pretty tall too, though slightly shorter than James. Of course, I was shorter than most people, but I guess it made me look ‘cute’ or whatever. I gave a weak grin towards him. “Well…?”
Téras scowled at me. “First things first. You’re never gonna get anywhere in life if you don’t know when to say enough is enough. If you’d sat and talked to that Hutchins all the time you were supposed to be studying, what on earth do you think would have been different about your test?”
I raised my brows. “Well… I don’t know… what?”
“Nothing! Or else it might’ve even been a bit worse! Heck, I wouldn’t have been surprised if you got a fifty-five percent if you’d talked to him the whole time! Reckon I know why you’re such a bad student now!”
I lowered my head. “I-I just don’t want to hurt anyone…”
“Well then, let’s see here…” Téras looked up and started counting on his fingers. “If I hadn’t sent Hutchins away, you would have failed the test again and hurt your teacher, since you’re her most precious baby.”
I could just feel the sarcasm oozing off that one.
“And then you would’ve disappointed and hurt your parents, I’m just so sure. I’m certain White-Wings must be almost impossible to displease, but having you held back a grade I’m sure must sting enough to make even them displeased.”
“I don’t have to listen to this…” I weakly whispered, but Téras was pretty overbearing. Plus, his wing blocked me from moving.
“Oh yes you do, if you want me to help you, you better stay and listen to what I have to say. Your irrational fear of hurting people is hindering you from getting good grades! And it’s hurtin’ a lot more people than you think, and yourself! Heck, it’s even hindering me from getting my LUNCH!”
“Sorry.” I mumbled. This was not going as planned.
“So, if I were you, for your first step, I’d start learning when to say enough is enough to your friends!”
“Well, at least I HAVE friends.” I grumbled, crossing my arms.
Téras pulled his wings in sharply, and I could tell I’d hit a sensitive spot. “I don’t need friends.” He said coldly. “Now, how far did you go in reading the study book?”
“Er — just past the preface… just now…”
Téras stared at me. “You mean that not once ALL summer… you picked up this book and studied?”
I shrugged. “What can I say? I was busy…”
“Busy wasting time.” He grumbled under his breath. “All right, we have a lot of work to cover, and only twenty minutes to do it, so, let’s get started.”
At first, I was so clueless about what he or the book was talking about, so Téras had to go back over the stuff we’d learned last year, and slowly but surely I started to understand it.
“Just remember,” He said as we got up to take the test. “Division is the opposite of multiplication, and it is not subtraction!”
“And fractions are very easy if you think of the common denominator between the two they’re asking! Like if you’re told to take two-thirds minus one-half, what would the answer be?”
“Uh… well…” I frowned. “I need paper.”
“No, you can do it in your head. What can you extrapolate one-half and two-thirds out to?”
I started growing frustrated. “I need paper Téras!”
“NO. YOU. DON’T! If you can’t get this simple concept down, you’ll fail the fractions part! And I’m not losing lunch again to help you stupid study! The common denominator is what both bottom numbers can go into! They can both divide into six! One-half can change into three-sixths, since three is HALF of six! And two-thirds can change into four-sixths! Thus, two-thirds, or four-sixths, minus one-half, or three-sixths, is WHAT?”
“One sixth…” I mumbled.
“Good.” He answered calmly, as he started out the door. I followed.
Téras practically slammed into James on the way out, but didn’t stop, as he marched down the hall. The kids in the hall seemed to part for him like the Red Sea. I dashed to keep up with him. “Wait up Téras!” I charged up and then when I reached him, followed him down the rest of the hall to Mrs. Marsh’s classroom.
“Good, you’re here.” She said coldly to Téras, then beamed at me. “Eilad! How was the study time?”
“Well… I think I’m getting it now. Fractions, I mean. The division… still confusing.”
“Téras, you were supposed to—”
“I had thirty minutes, Mrs. Marsh, thirty minutes to explain a whole book to a kid who’s only read the preface. I don’t think I could make him perfectly understand EVERYTHING.” He said, dropping into his seat.
She sighed. “Well, I will hold you responsible if he fails!”
He glanced over at me, then said half-heartedly, “Fail, so I can see how this plays out, will you? I’d just love to be blamed for another person failing. Maybe I’ll be put in detention again.”
Mrs. Marsh’s eyes flashed, but I quickly went to my seat. “I’m ready, Mrs. Marsh!” I said cheerily. I couldn’t help but look across the room to where Téras sat, and I was surprised to see that his wings were so large, that they dragged on the floor. I’d never seen them stretched out to their full length, but I knew they had to be the longest, largest pair of wings I’d ever seen on anyone… not that I’d seen too many winged people before. I’d only known my family to be winged, besides Téras, of course. And as White-Wings were known among the Wing-Families for their small, graceful, innocent wings, Black-Wings were equally known for their large, dark, powerful wings. I was secretly glad I didn’t have Téras’ wings. They must have been awfully heavy to carry…
“You may start your tests now.” Mrs Marsh said, and I heard Téras’ paper flip over at the same time mine did. I worked steadily for the time allotment we were given, but I still had five questions to go when the timer was finished.
I slowly got up and handed in my sheet. The fractions had taken up a bulk of my time, but thanks to Téras, I understood it somewhat. The long-division was what kept stumping me. “Think you did better, Eilad?” Mrs. Marsh asked me kindly as I put my paper on the desk.
“I hope so, ma’am.” I said quietly, as I stepped aside for Téras to put his paper on the desk.
“Thank you, Téras.” She said cooly as he set it there.
“I reckon I’ll get a hundred percent, but seeing as one question was completely wrong in and of itself, I took the liberty to fix that for you and Principal Horace. It’s number seventeen in the number sequence. It doesn’t fit. It says ’78’ when it should read ’76’. Everything else fits in that pattern but that. I bet it threw off a lot of students. Well, good day.” Téras gave a stiff bow, and marched out.
I grinned and chased after him. “Wait! Wait up Téras! Are you gonna help me with English class? I gotta study for that too!”
“OH you have GOT to be kidding me!” Téras groaned, throwing down his hands. “I give up! Just be my puppy-dog for a while and watch and learn; just don’t get in my way.”
I grinned and nodded.
I think it really surprised people to see me, Eilad Chári, following Téras Trómos around and sitting by him for the remainder of lunch and studying with him for the rest of the school day.
Right before we left, I ran to check the scores to see what I’d gotten on all my work. “Hey! Téras! Look! On my fraction and division test, I got an eighty-six! I did it! I passed! And I’m fifteenth!” I cried.
Téras only glanced at the top of the list. “Ah, same old same old. First.” He shrugged at his own perfect score in every single subject then turned away as someone called his name, loud and clear.
Kids were running around back and forth now, some hanging with their friends, and some going outside to the bus to take them home; others had already been picked up by their parents or relatives, and many kids were being picked up presently. My home was such a short distance from the school that I could walk it in about five minutes and fly home in even a shorter amount of time.
But I was curious about Téras. Actually, I was kinda surprised I was curious about him. I’d never really paid much attention to him, other than to his wings, but since he always stood in the same place, with the same expression, I kinda had it memorized, and had never really paid him mind. But now that I’d followed him around different places and actually spoken a few words to him, I was rather curious about him. What were his Black-Winged relatives like? Did he ever fly? How big were his wings? Who would win in a race, me or him? Why was he always so mean to other kids, yet so smart and hard on himself as well? And then that made me think… why was I so friendly to everyone? Why couldn’t I ever say no to people? Why was I so optimistic? Why was I the favorite, the popular one?
But as I heard Téras’ name being called, I got a bit frightened. What if his Black-Winged parent who was coming to pick him up saw me? Téras had always walked outside to wait alone to be picked up once the bell rang for us to be dismissed, and I’d always stayed inside to talk to friends a bit longer, so it’d never been a problem. Plus, we’d only been going to middle school for one year together. This was the start of the second.
I hid behind a trashcan hoping to hide my white wings from his Black-winged parents, as Téras, for the first time I’d ever seen, ran across the main room to a man in a black and white jacket with jeans on, but… no wings…? I squinted my eyes. Who was this man?
Téras actually smiled at him, I could see, and his whole face lit up, as the two started walking out, Téras chatting away a storm. Well, he really was talkative, wasn’t he? I grinned. I’d somehow get that talky side out of him. I liked challenges. And this one would be a fun one. Maybe I could get someone to do it with me! Even funner! Honestly, I never would’ve guessed who would show up that very night.