“Where’ve you been?” Lee demanded (he had just popped out of nowhere).
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We have to endure Kendrin’s Health class, and you don’t?” asked Lee. “What’s up with that?”
“I missed Kendrin’s Health?” I asked. “That means I missed Hukra’s PE, too!”
“I’m sure you’re so disappointed,” said Nick, who stood next to Lee.
“I -- I was busy… doing something,” I said. “Really, I was!”
The boys looked at each other, and I read their glances to mean they’d start talking about me (and what they thought I had been doing) the second I was out of earshot.
“You’re lucky you didn’t miss Sankter’s class,” said Nick. “I don’t think he likes many of his students.”
“Right,” I said. “How much longer do we have until his class?”
Nick looked at his wristwatch. “Somewhere from ten to fifteen minutes.”
I was gone so fast that I didn’t hear Nick ask why. I needed to get to the Math room, so I could talk with Miss Macintosh. A detention was more than I could bear, and Miss Macintosh was strict. Weaseling out of a detention from missing her class would not be easy. I needed some sort of an excuse. I could say… too late. I was there.
I let myself into the classroom where Miss Macintosh was sorting papers.
“Be brief, Miss Ginger,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to be late for class… or miss it altogether.” She stared at me with eyes of stone.
“I’m sorry, Miss Macintosh,” I said. “I’m still getting used to the school, and I’ve had a lot of homework this past week…”
Miss Macintosh cocked an eyebrow, and I realized that I was babbling and making excuses. I inhaled deeply. “I’m read to accept responsibility for my actions.”
“Good for you, Miss Ginger,” she said. “With an attitude like that, you just might get somewhere in this world.”
“Thank you, I--
“I wasn’t finished, Miss Ginger,” Miss Macintosh cut me off. “Miss Ginger, you may be one of the most decent student I’ve taught in years, but be that as it may, you were marked absent in my class today. I’m afraid I have no choice…” She handed me a pink sheet of paper: a detention slip.
“Uh… thanks,” I said, though I wasn’t quite sure what I was thanking her for. “Like you said, I’ve got to run, or I’ll be late for class.”
Before I left, Miss Macintosh had one more thing to say: “And by the way, you homework? It was perfect.”
I hurried to Mr. Sankter’s class, where Lee and Nick had saved a seat for me.
“Where d’you keep disappearing to?” Lee asked.
Mr. Sankter slammed a stick against Lee’s desk. “Talking will not be tolerated in my class, Mr. Soupless. Mr. Sankter addressed the rest of the class. “You’ve had enough easy days to get you started. So I think it’s time I cracked the who[ on you lot.”
Someone in the back of the classroom raised his hand. “Sir--”
“I know what you are wondering,” said Mr. Sankter. “And I must say that it’s rather pathetic that you do not know the answer.”
All the class knew the question, for it was lingering on the minds of all. No one had had the courage to ask it, though. Everyone was wondering why we were in school on a Saturday.
“Duke, perhaps you’d like to enlighten your idiot classmates,” Mr. Sankter said, and the boy who had called me “nutmeg” stood up.
“Of course,” said the boy, Duke. “We are in school on a Saturday because we are not dweebs, worthy of nothing more than a hillbilly pre-school… well, most of us.”
This “Duke” kid had broken a rule. I was sure of it. The language rules at Cabot’s were very strict. “Dweeb”, I know, was outlawed, and “idiot”, even, which Mr. Sankter said a lot, was walking on a fine line.
“Thank you, Duke,” said Mr. Sankter. “I thin you all get the point: you are in school on Saturday so you can learn something, and become better than everyone else!
“Because everyone did unrealistically well on the P.T.E. assignment, I think you all are ready to move on to basic chemistry.”
I began to wish I hadn’t made Lee and Nick do “unrealistically well” on their reports.
“Basic chemistry?” Lee repeated.
Mr. Sankter slammed his stick on Lee’s desk again. “You did not raise your hand before you spoke, Mr. Soupless! Detention!”
“But he -- that’s not -- you just --” Nick sputtered.
“Ooh-hoo! Detention for two!” Mr. Sankter got way too excited about detention slips, I decided.
Lee and Nick looked at me, as though they were wishing I had detention, too. Shows what they know, huh?
Turn out, “basic chemistry” meant we got to use the science lab. (note: I didn’t use an exclamation point at the end of that sentence for a reason) However, we didn’t get to have actual chemistry experiments. After we finished memorizing all the lab rules, we had just enough time to make a tornado in a bottle. Also, he gave us homework: make a volcano (due in two days).
“That was so insane!” I found myself half-shouting after class. “How come that Duke kid can break whatever rules he wants to, and does Mr. Sankter say a word about it? Oh no. But when you talk without your hand raised, ‘that’s it! Detention!”
“He’s Mr. Sankter’s son,” said Nick.
“WHAT?” I unleashed my disbelief.
“Yeah,” said Nick. “His name’s Duke Sankter.”
“Ruddy teacher’s pet,” Lee murmured.
“How do you know?” I asked. “The gym?”
“Actually, no,” said Nick. “I heard it from that Ophelia Odabhore girl. I thought I’d take advantage of her GQS.”
“You know that’s not a real medical condition, right?” I said.
They either didn’t hear me, already knew, or simply didn’t care, for Lee continued talking.
“I still can’t believe we got a detention for talking.”
“It’s not that hard to believe,” I said. “He told you not to talk, you talked, so you got a detention. It actually makes a bit of sense.”
“That makes sense?” said Lee.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Not really,” said Nick. “We talk, and we get detention. You skip class--”
“Yeah, what was up with that?” Lee asked. “And where were you, anyway?”
I sighed. What would Dan tell me to do? Then, I stopped myself. I remembered that The Boss was not the boss of me and my life. Cabot’s was a new beginning for me, and I needed to make some decisions for myself. If you’re going to make a decision, the do it! But be quick about it. They’re waiting…
I decided that I couldn’t provide them with too much information. After all, I’d only known them a week. Dan might be overprotective, but about many things, he was wise. One of a million lessons I had learned from him was that not all people were good people, and that it’s difficult to know if a person is good or not if you’ve only known the person a week.
“So, where have you been disappearing to?” Nick asked.
“I guess you could say I was doing some research,” I said. “I just wasn’t doing research in the library. I still learned something, though.”
Lee and Nick rolled their eyes and exchanged looks.
“What was that for?” I demanded.
“Oh, nothing,” said Lee. “Just that, well, it’s no secret that you’re the smartest kid in our class. But even so, no one expected that you’d be too good for class and the library, and would go off and teach yourself somewhere else.”
I wanted to punch him. I really did. I think he sensed it, too, because he flinched when I brought my hand up to put a lock of hair behind my ear.
“And you didn’t even get a detention,” Nick muttered.
“FYI, I did get a detention,” I said. “Okay? Does that satisfy you? Now, listen up, you might want to hear this: you guys were wrong! Your two rumors you were telling me about? They’re not both the Confiscation Room.”
“Yes!” said Lee. “I was right!”
“No, you weren’t,” I said. “Haven’t you been listening?”
“I knew you should have got a detention!” said Nick. “And you did! See, we were right.”
“Doesn’t it matter to you that the Confiscation Room isn’t the secret room you’ve heard tell of?”
“And how do you know this?” Lee asked.
If I told them the answer to that question, I’d have to tell them about Dan. I really didn’t want to talk about all that Cabot’s was offering to Dan. I just had a feeling that the three of us weren’t ready for that conversation yet. “Un, Leah - I mean, Ophelia - told me about it.”
“Right,” they mumbled.
Someday, I knew, I’d be able to tell them everything. I’d introduce them to Dan and The Guyz (duo, not trio), Mom and Dad would be so pleased that I had found friends, and Aly and Abby would be so jealous because I’d have two boys, and they’d have none (not that I liked Nick and Lee like that, but I didn’t have to tell my cousins that).
“I am so glad this week is over,” said Lee.
“Why’s that?” I asked. “We get one day off before we have to do it all over again.”
“Nuh-uh,” said Nick. “I was talking to this seventh grader, and he was saying that today’s the only Saturday we have class. He also said they’ll let us out of class on Monday to make up for it. Something about confusing the newbies…”
“Odd,” I said. “But what does it matter? We’ll just get the opportunity to sit in our dorms, and pick our noses ‘till they bleed.” I really need to stop hanging around Dan. Yuck!
“Monica, we get to go home over the weekend,” said Nick. “I’ll just be in a hotel room, though, ‘cause we go from place to place too much to have a permanent house.”
“I’m going home,” said Lee. “We live just out of the city. It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s worth it for the quiet -- if you can call it that. There’s a fair few people.”
“I suppose I’d just stay here,” I said.
“Don’t you and your family get along?” Nick asked.
“Oh, sure we do,” I answered. “They’re just all the way back in Alabama.”
“So, you won’t see your folks ‘till Christmas?” said Lee.
I shook my head, but said nothing. I was feeling very homesick all of a sudden.
“Lee Sooplex, you have a call at the office,” said a voice over intercom.
“You guys wait for me outside,” said Lee. “I should only be a minute.”
I followed Nick outside, but my mind was a day ahead. Everyone’s parents would be picking their kids up. Except mine. There’d be a couple of other kids there, but they’d be social rejects, and want nothing to do with me. The meals would taste awful because the staff wouldn’t put in much work for only a couple students. The teachers would not want to put up with students when they didn’t have to, and therefore would be very unkind/ Imagine what Mr. Sankter would be like! And Duke would probably stay there too. The image in my head was like one you’d see in a particularly frightening horror movie.
“-so you’re welcome to stay with us.”
I opened my eyes (physically, they were never closed, but mentally, I wasn’t paying any attention, and hardly remembered Nick helping me onto the tree, whose branch I sat on).
“Did you even hear what I just said?” Lee asked (yes, he was there now). He sighed. “I said you can spend the weekend at our place. Mom’s already said you could.” Nick raised his eyebrows at Lee, who muttered in response, “Mom demanded I be polite.”
I could have sang upon hearing this news (even though Lee had been forced to invite me, I was happy, nevertheless). I could have danced. I could have screamed. I could have went up to Lee and hugged him without caring what it would look like! I almost did, mind you. I jumped out of the tree, but instead of hugging him, I just sort of squealed, “Thank you so much!”
Lee kind of snickered, but only for a second. “You’ll have to share a room with my little sister. She’s really annoying, but you’ll survive.”
My smile was the broadest it had been in years. So, this is what true friendship feels like… I like it.
“If we’re all leaving, we should probably pack,” said Nick.
“That can’t take long,” I said. “We only have to pack two days’ worth of stuff.
“We don’t have long,” said Lee. “We’ve got detention in an hour.”
Had it been any other day, I would have groaned, but it was that day, and nothing could have brought me down. There’s probably a word for that, but I can’t put my finger on it.
So, we all went back to our dorms (actually, we all went to the boys’ first, and then decided we’d go to mine after detention).
I was very much surprised at how much time it didn’t take them to gather their stuff, because their dorm was completely cluttered and unorganized (kind of reminded me of The Guyz’s rooms).
“And that’s it,” Lee concluded as he zipped his weekend bag (he didn’t want to bother with the huge suitcase).
“Yep,” said Nick, as he, too, zipped up his weekend bag. Why didn’t I have a weekend bag? “And now it’s time for detention.”
Detention was, as expected, miserable. Well, more miserable for Lee and Nick than it was for me. All detentions were held at the same place, at the same time, and are held by the same person. The librarian.
The libraraian had us write a full-length essay on why what each of us did was wrong. Mine was easy enough, for I knew why skipping class was wrong, and I still felt bad about the whole thing. Lee and Nick, however…
Thanks to them, I (and everyone else who was in detention, but I didn’t know any of them, so I completely ignored their existence) was in the library a lot longer than I wanted to. They couldn’t think of anything to write! When was I supposed to pack?
After hours of detention, the boys finally handed in their papers.
“Sorry, we took so long,” said Nick. “That was a hard essay.”
I rolled my eyes (but I was still smiling). “Are you still going to help me pack?”
“Well, I don’t have a choice,” said Lee. “You know, since she’s staying at our place.”
“Mm-hmm, like Monica, here is going to forget anything,” said Nick, and when neither I nor Lee said anything, Nick added, “I suppose I’ll just keep watch for any teachers. It’s after hours, you know.”
We waved at Nick briefly before turning toward my dorm. But it was late, so, of course the door was locked.
I knocked softly on the door.
“is that you, Monica?” whispered Nellie’s voice.
“Yes,” I whispered back. “Please let me in.”
The door opened a crack, and I pushed it open the rest of the way. All of the lights were out, and the girls, in bed.
“What’s he doing here?” Nellie squirmed uncomfortably in her robe.
“Oh, never you mind,” I whispered. “He’ll be out in a minute. He’s helping me pack, alright? Please, try to go to sleep. We really won’t be long.”
Nellie went over to her bed, and lay down in it without taking off her robe.
I took two uniforms, and stuffed them into my suitcase.
Lee snickered. “Those are the only clothes that you’ve packed?”
I smiled weakly. “Yes.”
After I finished packing my “necessities”, I asked, “Is that all?”
“You’re going to need your pillow, too,” said Lee. “Yeah, we don’t have any extras.”
I smiled very weakly, trying not to blush. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Lee looked uncomfortable, like he’d never been in the presence of someone so pathetic.
Shortly afterward, I saw Lee to the door. “I’d see you to your dorm, but…”
“I know,” he said. “I get it.”
I closed the door, and locked it. That night, I dreamt of the wonderful family that must be the Sooplexes. It was the deepest sleep I’d had all week.