Late Again, Rachael?
"Late again I see, Rachael."
I sighed as I shoved my day late homework into the bin marked "Neopian history". Mrs. Lora, my teacher, stepped outside the door and waved me to her spot. The neopets' staring drilled into the back of my head like nails, and whispers broke out.
The rainbow Poogle with thick glasses, grey ankle length dress, and ridiculous purple and pink scarf stood in front of me with that same "I'm worried about you but at the same time angry but trying to hide it" expression I have seen about fifty times.
I swished my starry Wocky tail around, paws behind my back, look of innocence on my face. She was holding a thick folder. She put my homework into it. We had an awkward fifteen seconds of uninterrupted eye contact. I was the first to look away, toward the floor.
"Rachael, I believe we have had this conversation before," she said. "This business of turning in homework late every day has got to stop."
I wanted to say, "Conversation? What conversation? This is you telling me what to do and me going, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh, uh huh." But instead I said, "I didn't know we had that homework. I didn't get the paper until yesterday, when it was due." I didn't give her a song and dance or get on my hands and knees begging for forgiveness.
"Then why, Rachael, did every single other student turn it in to me on time? Why was it just you that didn't get the paper? Why did you not write the assignment down in your planner?" she said, arms crossed.
"I don't know how it happened, but I did not get the paper." This is another wear down the teacher method. Stick to your story and be stubborn.
"Rachael, I saw the blank worksheet in your folder. Just make an extra effort to get that homework in, and on time," Mrs. Lora said and walked back into the classroom.
My face burned with both embarrassment and rage. I waltzed back into the room, trying not to call attention to myself, which was almost impossible when class was held up because of me. I slouched over and ducked into my seat, conveniently placed in the back of the room.
I went through the rest of the day as a wall flower, staring at the paper with the stupid rainbow "Late" stamp and the little red pen mark reading "Minus one point. Please turn in homework on time" sitting on the top of it. I couldn't figure out what kept happening.
It seemed like if I wrote everything down, made an amazing amount of effort, and did everything I possibly could to turn it in, I would go to school and discover something I didn't do. I wanted to punch the assignment board, kick the teacher, and bite my planner in half. Was she assigning things in secret when I went to the bathroom or got a drink? It just didn't seem logical.
And the day went on like that. My face burned with frustration and rage. I just thought about what kept happening, and how mad it made me when teachers shook their heads and said that I gave no effort and my attitude and school work needed improvement fast. It just seemed like I was in an endless cycle.
After what seemed like an eternity, the final bell rang. I grabbed my books and went home. The walk seemed a lot longer than usual, maybe because of the rain, the perfect salt and vinegar topping on the mud pie that was today.
When I got home, I slumped into the couch with a cold cola in paw. I unzipped my backpack and dumped out the contents. I sorted through an assortment of writing instruments, some undone assignments from over three weeks ago, and among the debris, my assignment planner. The page from today was completely blank.
How could I have been so stupid? We probably had been assigned five things today and I had no idea what anything was. Most likely I didn't have even close to the right books for them even if I remembered what I was assigned, so I pretty much couldn't do anything about the homework today.
I tossed my backpack across the room and screamed into my pillow. Every day I was just helping my teacher prove her point. I was irresponsible! I put no effort into my school work! In my pit of rage, I felt something wet on my foot. I had spilled my cola all over the rug. At this point I just began to cry. I knew I was doomed to be an irresponsible lazy slob, forever.
You could probably guess how surprised and shocked my owner Sky was when she walked into the room. She took a minute or two to take the whole scene in, her lovable starry Wocky sobbing on a cola soaked rug, a beaten old backpack lying lifeless in the corner, and the fact that this had gone from perfect to horrible in about five minutes.
"I can't do my homework!" I sobbed.
"I'll get the tea," she said.
Whenever something needed to be discussed, Sky made us tea. I picked myself up off the carpet and went over to the table. Sky was making the green tea in the kitchen. She poured the tea into small cups and sat down.
"Now, Rachael, what is it you don't understand?" she asked.
"It's not that I don't understand something, it's that I don't have my homework. I forgot to write things down, and I don't have my books. I can't do the homework."
Sky sighed and stared into her tea. "Why did you forget your homework, Rachael? Why didn't you write it down?"
I swear I saw Mrs. Lora sitting with me at the table. I squinted at her in disbelief. "It isn't my fault, Sky. I was still mad about the other paper that was late! I wasn't concentrating!"
"So whose fault is it that you weren't concentrating? Mrs. Lora's?"
"What are you trying to say?" I said.
"I'm saying, Rachael..." She paused. "I'm starting to agree with her. You have been acting a little irresponsible lately. I don't remember one day this month you haven't said something about late work. You're going to fail if you keep it up."
This shocked me a little. Sky was always easy going and didn't like to discipline me much. "You agree with her?" I squeaked.
"Yep, I think I do. You're grounded, Rachael; two weeks. That means no comics, no friends, and no neomail. Plus, we're having a meeting with your teacher. I'm shooting her a message right now."
"NO! I'm not grounded! I'm not having a meeting with my teacher!" I commanded.
"Rachael, you're forgetting that I'm the owner. You don't get to decide if you're grounded or not. When you behave badly, you get punished." And she just walked away. A tear fell down my starry cheek.
Two days later, a Saturday, we walked into the beige classroom, not a soul in the room. Mrs. Lora must have stepped out to get coffee, or some other teacher thing. Sky sat us down at the red circle table at the front of the room, staring at me like I was just caught stealing a candy bar from her store.
"What?" I said icily.
"This is embarrassing, Rachael. It makes me look like a bad owner."
"I'm sorry you feel that way." I turned my back on her without another word.
Mrs. Lora walked into the room with a pile of papers into the room. She sat down with surprise, surprise, a cup of coffee. She shook my paw and Sky's hand, and we exchanged hellos and how are you doing like anyone in an awkward situation does.
"So, let's get down to business. I understand Rachael isn't turning in her homework on time," she said to Sky. "Why is that happening, Rachael?" Then she just stared at me. I refused to say anything, sitting there staring back until she finally gave in. She sighed.
"You need to cooperate if you want this to get any better, Rachael!" Mrs. Lora snapped.
She pulled a really thick folder from her never ending stack of paper that kind of gave off this feeling that every single piece of paper in the stack was somehow against me. Did it look familiar?
"This, Rachael," she began, "is every piece of late work you have turned into me this year." Yep, that was the same folder I saw in the hallway that day. Then she did a very un-teacher like thing. She simply dumped the contents on the floor. A waterfall of papers decorated with the famous rainbow stamp and red words "Minus one point. Please turn in homework on time". Among the papers, there were several colored sticky notes.
"What are the sticky notes for?" I managed to choke out.
"Those are representing missing work, work I never received from you," she said.
"RACHAEL!" Sky yelled, alarmed. "I never even thought you could be this irresponsible! A little unorganized maybe, but this is ridiculous!"
Mrs. Lora acted as if she didn't hear that. Turning to me, she said, "Would you like to see your grades?" she said almost like a threat.
"Yes" Sky breathed, answering for me.
Mrs. Lora selected a folder out of the giant stack. It was a semi-thick file with my name printed on it. She pulled out a clean, un-creased paper from the folder. It seemed like she was just too organized to be real. Well, minus that last act of paper dumping. She laid the paper on the table with the expression she had plastered on her face that she had when took me into the hall that one time. My jaw dropped. D-, D, D+ F, D+ D F! Sky turned to me in this slow, scary way. She crossed her arms.
"Well, Rachael, what have you got to say for yourself?" she said. Mrs. Lora also folded her arms and waited.
"I can't WAIT to hear what you come up with," Sky said red from anger.
"I, don't know, really, Sky."
"I have a suggestion," Mrs. Lora popped up. "I know you're not going to like this, Rachael."
"Go on," Sky said without a word from me.
"Rachael should be put on a tight leash for a while. She should get a tutor to make sure she isn't blowing off assignments. I will personally check her planner to make sure she is writing down every assignment. There should be strict punishments for any late work you find out about. Plus, Rachael shouldn't have any friends over after school until she pulls these marks up."
"Sounds fair. I'll look for a tutor in the paper tomorrow."
"Are you sure all of that is really necessary? It sounds beyond ridiculous." Apparently stressful situations trigger my need to talk back.
"What's ridiculous is how poor these grades are. You need to pull up these marks up, Rachael..."
Why do teachers use the word "poor" in these situations? I mean, my marks may be bad, but they don't lack money. Why not use bad or not well? These marks are "poor"? Are you kidding me?
"These grades aren't sufficient enough for you to advance to the next grade level," Mrs. Lora said with almost a hint of pleasure in her voice.
"But the last report cards go out in a little under a month! How is that possible?" I was getting really worried! Another year with Mrs. Lora was just too much.
"Well, that is only possible if you don't turn in another assignment late and you pull at least a B on the final exam."
I just sat there in stunned silence. At one point, I just sobbed. I knew it wouldn't happen. It just couldn't. I thought I would at least get some sympathy. Mrs. Lora spoke first.
"You brought this upon yourself."
Then Sky. "This is nobody's fault but your own."
"This isn't my f-" But I couldn't finish the sentence because Sky interrupted me.
"Don't even START, Rachael. You never take responsibility for anything. You made this bed and now you have to sleep in it. You have to get yourself out of this hole."
I got my stuff and walked out. I'd had enough; of everything. I kept walking until I was outside of the school. Then I sat on the steps and cried, again. Sky was not far behind.
"You do NOT just walk out like that! You can't just run and hide from your problems!" She collected herself. "Well, Mrs. Lora said we're done anyway. I hope you don't think you're going to read comics when you get home. You go in your room and study."
The walk home was completely silent. I could almost feel the rage Sky gave off. She never got this mad unless I did something really bad. I have to admit this was pretty horrible. I was failing, for Fyora's sake. I couldn't believe I let this whole mess of a situation get this bad.
When I got home, I cowered from Sky and hid in my room. I grabbed my history textbook. I looked at it for five minutes, flipped through it, open and closed the cover, then put it down. Then it hit me. I was failing because I would get bored, often too easily. I thought about this as I tiptoed to the railing. Sky was looking in the paper for a tutor; great. The tutor wouldn't let me slack off. The tutor wouldn't let me flip through a text book, open and close the cover then forget it. The tutor would eat up all my time. The tutor would slap my paw with a ruler if I tried to skip over a problem I didn't feel like doing. That could be good, that could be bad.
I admit, and I have been doing a lot of admitting lately, that these were bad habits, habits the tutor would at least try to break, but the truth was, I really, really didn't want a tutor. But it was the only option left.
It was seven o'clock on a Saturday, and the tutor arrived at the door. It was simply, ridiculous.
"So, where is Rachael?"
Sky let her in with an outrageously fake grin on her face. She probably wasn't happy about waking up at seven in the morning to supervise my tutoring either. The disco Aisha walked into the house, walking carefully and slowly in her banana yellow high heels, red bag full of teacher things, long burnt orange wool skirt, and pink blouse. She was probably trying to match her color, but she should have just worn black. She looked like a yard sale threw up on her.
I was sitting at the table, tired and angry, both at myself and the tutor. Sky led the teacher to my spot at the marble table. She took her time sitting down. She laid all her papers out on the table, and then smiled at me.
"My name is Ms. Gale. Let's get cracking on that homework!" she said in her syrupy voice.
I pulled the homework I had stressed over remembering out of my folder and placed them neatly on the table. I tapped my paw against the table and gave her the famous 'now what?' expression.
"Let's start with your algebra work!" she said this like she had said something completely earth shattering.
I sighed and looking at the first problem in the said algebra homework. It was very difficult looking, and my habit was to say "forget it" and not do the problem. This would not fly here. I spent seven minutes on this problem alone. Not worth it if you ask me. And that was how the rest of the session went.
Three long grueling hours later, we were done. Still with that stupid smile on her face, Ms. Gabe left. I left my head drop on the table. I went to sleep right there.
The tutor came on Sunday too. She would eat up my weekends, some days after school, and basically every moment of my life revolved around not failing. I thought about my friends during these three weeks before the finals. I thought about how they were getting ice cream, going to the park, hanging out, relaxing and going shopping during the weekends and after school. They weren't trapped at home with a tutor. I worked really hard, though. I really did. I still hadn't had late work since the scary meeting with Ms. Lora.
Test day was here. I was scared out of my mind. I walked into the classroom that seemed darker, colder and more intimidating than usual with my teeth chattering. I sat in my seat and looked around; everyone else seemed calm cool and collected. Maybe because they were passing with flying colors and their fate didn't rest on this test. The tests were already on our desk. I had four sharpened pencils with new erasers ready.
"Ok, you can start now," Mrs. Lora announced, emotionlessly.
Okay, relax, relax. I took a few deep breaths. It is just me and the test. After a while, everything else seemed to have disappeared.
First answer, easy, second answer was simple. Every question was bringing back a clip from a tutoring session or a study time. I remembered all of it! I zoomed through the test, having to making myself slow down occasionally. I checked it over at least three times. I knew every single answer, but I was still shaking.
I turned my test in after everyone else already had. I walked to the turn-in bins, took a big breath, then slid the paper in.
The next day at school, Mrs. Lora was handing back our tests. I started shaking all over again. Now I was starting to love and hate my desk in the back of the room. I went back and forth with feelings of wishing she would hurry up and hand me my test, and wishing she would slow down to put off looking at my test. Finally, she got to me. I looked at my paper...