Look, I didn’t mean to fail algebra.
Well, I didn’t fail really. I got a C. C’s are a pass in anyone else’s book, right? Yeah, not in mine. In mine, anything under an A is a fail. And I don’t fail often. In fact, I never fail. Failing is for pets that don’t care, pets that aren’t smart like me. Pets that fail don’t work hard enough; they think they’re so cool when they’re not. They’re lazy. But I work hard. I’m the opposite.
I’m smart. I’m the best in my class. Not that I’m bragging or anything, it’s just a fact. I like facts. Facts are easy to remember. They’re interesting. They’re either right, or they’re wrong.
Like math. I don’t like math. Especially algebra. Algebra isn’t easy to remember. It isn’t interesting. But it is also right, or wrong.
The only problem was that I was usually wrong.
And so that’s why I was there. There, after Neoschool, sitting in a chair right next to the chalkboard. The numbers seem to taunt me, staring me down triumphantly. I refused to glance at them, grabbing a book to read instead. There are no numbers in this book, just facts. Even so, I’ve read this book a million times. In fact, I’ve read every single book in this room. Except for the math textbook, that is.
“Er, can I sit here?”
A pink Bruce came walking up to me, referring to the seat next to mine.
“Sure,” I said, shrugging. She set her bag on the floor, smiling gratefully.
“I’m Lix,” she said.
“Chrysa,” I said, without looking up.
“What are you reading?” she asked, perhaps trying to make a conversation.
“A book,” I said back, idly turning the page.
“So, uh, why are you here at We’re To Help?”
Ugh. The name itself gives me shivers. It was so cheesy; it felt hard not to gag.
“Are you good at Math?” she asked. I finally looked up, my brows furrowing. I was starting like this Bruce less and less.
Lix was a bit pudgy, with neat muted pink hair pulled back in a uni tail, and warm grey eyes and square glasses sitting on her beak. She looked at me with a bright interest.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m the best at it.” I tossed my hair back, and held my head a little higher.
“Really?” she exclaimed. Her expression turned confused. “But then why would you be here?”
Now I was starting to really dislike this Bruce. Why did she have to be so nosy?
“Because.” She frowned, and I finally felt satisfied, burying myself in facts again.
“AM I LATE? IS THE TEACHER HERE?”
I looked up from my book, annoyed. Who in Fyora’s name would be yelling if they were late? When they did, the teacher would come in and mark them late. That’s how it works in stories. I like stories. Not as good as facts, but good enough.
“The Teacher isn’t here? Oh, that’s good.”
Nobody responded to him, or looked annoyed, so I figured this behaviour was normal. Great, I was surrounded by lazy pets who didn’t earn good grades, and crazy, to boot.
And with my luck, he walked up to me, staring. “You’re made out of strawberry!”
Like I didn’t know that. I have to add pets who state the obvious to my list.
“Hi!” He said, grinning like a maniac. “I’m Justin!”
Justin was a rainbow Wocky, with bright blue eyes and shaggy brown hair. He was beginning to hurt my eyes with all his different colours. I looked back, unimpressed.
“Hi,” I said in mono-tone, trying to burry myself in facts, but then he pulled my long Aisha ear to one side, examining it. “No, stop it!” I shrieked, batting him away, glaring. My tall ear snapped back into place.
“It feels like a real leaf,” he said in wonder, sitting in the other seat next to mine. I silently groaned. Now I was to be surrounded my two weirdoes for the rest of my torture.
“Maybe because it is a real leaf!” I snapped, putting the book to my face.
“Wait... I think I’ve heard of you before!”
I let the book drop back to the desk. “You have?” I asked. It felt nice to finally be recognized.
“Yeah... aren’t you the Aisha that doesn’t say anything in class? The one that’s always in the corner studying?”
I gazed back mortified, sure my cheeks was turning redder than my strawberry face. “No!” I said back much too quickly. “What would ever give you that idea?”
“No reason,” Justin grinned, oblivious to my embarrassment. Lix looked like she was suppressing a smile.
I had enough of all of them for a lifetime, so I decided to ignore. I ignore people well. In fact, last year I didn’t talk to anyone at all. I ignored them all. They didn’t like me. But I ignored them, and eventually they started ignoring me too. Just how I liked it.
I put the book back to my face. I couldn’t read anything, but it was calming enough, and muffled the incessant chattering.
“Chrysa, you should probably put that book down. You aren’t just going to soak up the knowledge by just pressing it on your face, after all.”
I look to see the teacher staring at me, an amused look on her face. The rest of the class gawked. I put the book down on the desk awkwardly. Could this day get any worse?
I didn’t like Miss Agala, the yellow ogrin. She gave out math quizzes every Friday. I don’t like math quizzes; thus my contempt. In fact, I didn’t like math in general.
But y’know. I was still a natural at it. Just like I am with everything else. Just another fact for you to remember. Quiz next Tuesday.
She handed us new notebooks, with fresh lined pages and an office smell still lingering upon them. I immediately scratched my name along the cover. I turned the page, and wrote in the date. And next to it I put a sad face. Just how I was feeling.
We were doing integers. I could do it in my sleep. Actually, I should be doing it in my sleep. Noted.
“Uh Chrysa, can you help me for a second?” Lix asked, looking rather flustered. I considered helping her for a moment. Helping people earned brownie points with the teacher. And... it made you liked by the class. Not that I actually wanted to be liked by them. Who would want to be liked by them?
I looked over and said, “When subtracting a negative integer, it becomes positive.”
She looked over her paper.”Oh, now I remember. Thanks!” She flashed a smile, but I was already looking over my own paper.
I caught myself staring at the clock, and a good five minutes before I packed my bag. When the teacher dismissed us, I was already out the door.
Crossing the lawn filled with dandelions, I came across a white flower. Another weed, no doubt, but it made me think of a metaphor. I was the flower, and they were all dandelions. I was the one who shone out of all of them. My language teacher would’ve been so impressed.
When I got home, my dad was in the doorway. When he saw me, he exclaimed, “Berry!”
I know, weird nickname, for being strawberry and all. But my parents insisted that it was because I was named off of some fruit from Mystery Island called the Chrysaberry. Isn’t it all such a scary coincidence?
“They were going bonkers. Thought that you were petnapped or something,” my older sister Nilana said, rolling her eyes. “So, how was the dumb math class?”
Suddenly my whole family was looking at me intently. Maybe on the verge of glaring. I shrunk under their gaze. “I’m the best out of all of them,” I supplied. My mother did not look impressed.
“That’s not something to be proud of. Anyone could do that.”
“Chrysa, other families don’t have the time to teach their kids what we teach you. And you haven’t repaid us by being the best!”
I looked to the ground ashamed. Every day I let them down. And every single day they told me that I had let them down. It was always fresh on my mind.
“You just have to work harder,” my Dad said.
“But I am working hard!” I protested, like I always said.
“Well your version of working hard isn’t good enough,” mom replied severly. Trying to hide the hurt on my face, my sister spoke up.
“Aw come on,” Nilana said. “Don’t be so hard on her.”
My parents considered this simple statement for a moment. After all, the green Zafara had the brains and talent that I sorely lacked. And for those reasons, my parents tended to worship her.
“Chrysa, why don’t we go shopping later today? You could use a break,” she reasoned.
“No!” I snapped back. “I hate shopping!” Nilana looked taken aback.
“But you loved it last year...” she said quietly.
I stormed up into my room. They didn’t have a clue about me last year.
When I arrived at the desk in front on the chalkboard, I was still thinking about my sister.
I loved my sister. More than anything in the world. She was my best friend. No, she is my best friend. And I felt bad that I snapped at her. She had every right to be confused. Especially that she was right. I did love shopping for clothes last year. Or at least it seemed like it. I spent all the golden Neopoints I had so carefully saved up for all the years on the most fashionable and expensive clothes.
I thought if I dressed right, everyone would like me.
“No book today?”
“Huh?” I said turning around. Lix stood there, looking apologetic. “I was just thinking, I guess.”
“About what?” she asked. My first instinct would be to shut her out and ignore her for being nosy, but my heart wasn’t in it.
“My sister,” I replied reluctantly
“What’s she like?” she asked, looking interested.
“Her name’s Nilana, and she’s smart and nice and funny and fashionable and...” I trailed off realizing I was babbling and making myself look like a fool. Like I am.
“She sounds really cool,” Lix said back. “You’re so lucky. All I have is a stupid older brother named Bi.”
I never really considered myself lucky to have an older sister. Sometimes, I thought of it as the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
And then a certain rainbow blur ran in, fumbling papers as he went.
“Hi guys! Has Miss Agala come yet?”
“No Justin,” Lix replied patiently. She quirked an eyebrow. “What are you doing with all that paper?”
“I’m going to become a Neopian Times writer!” he said enthusiastically placing all his stuff on the desk and on mine. I tried not to scowl.
“What are you going to write about?”
“I think I’m going to write a story about a pet who’s stuck in the pound and-”
“And then they get adopted into a wonderful family. The end,” I said icily. “Stories like that don’t get in anymore.”
Justin looked crestfallen, but I didn’t feel sorry for him. He didn’t realize it, but I had done him a favour. Now he didn’t have to write a story that would be doomed to fail anyway.
“Aw come on Chrysa, it’s not like you write for the Neopian Times,” he replied.
“Yeah, what do you know about it?” Lix asked, frowning.
“Well, uh, I could write for it if I wanted,” I stammered, wishing I hadn’t spoken up in the first place.
“Okay then,” Lix said matter-of-factly. “The first pet out of all of us to get into the Times wins.”
“What?!” I replied frowning. It was usually the most experienced writers getting into the times every week. Sure, there were flukes, but I wasn’t much of a writer. “I don’t do contests,” I added crossing my arms.
“That doesn’t seem a lot like Chrysa. She usually loves contests” she said, looking amused. I glowered back.
“That’s different. I like a little competition only when...” I trailed off, thinking about it for a second.
“When you win,” Lix finished triumphantly.
“Fine, I’ll enter your contest,” I snapped, feeling my face grow warm. “But all of you are going to lose anyway.”
“Your seeds are going red. Are you alright?” Justin asked me, frowning. I stood up, about to give him a piece of my mind when I heard a voice.
“Chrysa, there is no standing in my classroom. Would you kindly sit back down?”
As Miss Agala’s beady eyes stared me down, and I sank into my chair. Justin looked apologetic, but I wasn’t one to forgive, let alone forget.
When the notebooks go passed out, I wrote the date and an annoyed face. Just how I was feeling.
When I got home, the door opened for me, and out stepped dad in his balding glory. And he didn’t look happy. In fact, he looked down right furious. I went in without him saying a word, and dropped my bag.
“So,” he said, circling me. “So.”
“So what?” I replied automatically.
“Don’t you use that ungrateful tone with me! Do you know how hard we all work to make you the best?”
“…Very?” I said back hesitantly, confused with this sudden outburst. He lunged at me so fast all I could do was wait for the impending blow.
“What is this Chrysa?” he asked harshly. I opened an eye to be treated with a sight of a paper covered in red ink. My heart sunk.
“You know where we found this?” he asked, circling me again. I knew exactly where he found it, but it was one question I wasn’t willing answer.
“We found this in the basement, wedged between all the books. Someone must’ve went to a lot of trouble to hide it there.”
The pit in my stomach had become a gnawing hole. I said nothing.
“Chrysa, we always go to so much trouble to make sure you’re the very best. Why do you do this to us? We never knew about this test. Why didn’t you say so? Aren’t always here to help you?”
The ground never seemed so fascinating.
Then he stopped, mid-rant. “Chrysa, I’ve nothing to say. It’s your future, not mine.”
You just said something.