Kassandra Kush

Picture Perfect Chapter 2

Posted on: May 23, 2013

CHAPTER TWO

            “This caps it off. I need to go get a tutor,” Val said, throwing the test in her folder as she and Evie left their science classroom.

“Why? What was your grade?”

“Below forty percent. I didn’t even get half the answers right. And in English, for Creative Writing, I already have a D. I always thought I was creative, but it appears not when writing is involved.”

“But you’re so smart!” Evie insisted as they put their books in their lockers and turned toward the cafeteria for lunch.

“Yeah, right. In math maybe, but not Anatomy and Creative Writing. After I get out, I’m going to the Guidance Office to get someone who can hopefully tutor me in both subjects. I can just have tutoring sixth period and still leave before seventh.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’m glad you’re doing something about it,” Evie said, giving her a hug.

“Thanks,” Val said dryly, but she felt like a dummy. She’d always done really well in school, not quite straight A’s, but fairly close. Especially in math; numbers just made sense to her. Bones and grammar didn’t.

It was junior year, and she couldn’t afford to flunk out of any of her classes.

 

The very next day, Val was sitting in an empty classroom next door to the guidance office, waiting for her tutor to arrive. Because their high school had so many students despite their small town, they had a star tutor program, where other students volunteered to do the tutoring (with periodic check ins from guidance counselors). Val just hoped it wasn’t some smart person from either her English or science class.

It turned out to be even worse.

Val groaned when she saw Caiden walk into the classroom, skateboard, DC backpack and all.

Please tell me you’re here to meet your tutor as well,” She said.

Caiden smiled when he saw her. “Nope. I’m your tutor. Unless your last name isn’t Young and there’s another Valerie?”

“Would you believe me if I lied?” Val asked, putting her head in her hands. She’d managed to avoid thinking about Caiden over the weekend, she’d been so focused on her gymnastics competition, and then thrilled over taking first place. But now, it appeared that he was her most brutal problem. She couldn’t afford to not have a tutor, and her guidance counselor had commented that Val was lucky to get a full year tutor, this late into school. Caiden had been the last one.

“Nope,” He said again, and walked to sit in the desk in front of Val’s own. She leaned back in her chair, not wanting to be close to him. There was something just a little too overpowering about Caiden. Maybe it was just the fact that he was a skater, but then again maybe it had to do with the fact that he smelled really, really good. For a skater anyway, Val reminded herself.

Good hygiene didn’t make a good person.

“Wait, so if you’re my tutor, then, you must be, hang on, you’re smart?” Val asked haltingly, and then realized that her question had come out completely the wrong way and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Before she could apologize, Caiden leaned toward her and spoke in a whisper. “Yeah, and since you need tutoring, you must be like, dumb right?”

Val frowned, but she knew that she deserved the insult. “I’m not dumb. At least, not usually.”

Caiden didn’t make a comment, just looked at her. There followed a stare down, and Val was the first to look away. His tan skin made his brown eyes seem darker, and the depth to them was intense. He made her . . . . . Edgy, or even nervous.

“Well, are you ready to start?” He asked finally.

“Yes,” Val said with relief.

“Which do you want to work on first, Creative Writing or Anatomy?”

Val reached into her backpack, and the folder she pulled out was for science. “Looks like Anatomy,” She said.

“Alright, what did you do in class today?” Caiden asked, taking a pencil out of his pocket and toying with it.

“Took a test and then got it back.”

“Okay, how did you do?”

Instead of responding, Val just pulled the test from her folder and handed it to him.

Caiden tried not to make a face when he saw the test, but he must have failed, because Valerie spoke up; “It’s okay. I know it’s awful.”

“Awful isn’t the word. This thing should be shot and burned.”

“Thanks oh-so-much,” Valerie said dryly, and he could tell he’d annoyed her.

Caiden looked at her over the top of the test. “We could do it if it would make you feel better. Well, the burning part anyway.”

Valerie just stared at him as though he was crazy. “You are so weird. Don’t tell me you’ve actually done that.”

Caiden shrugged. “I did to a grade sheet once. Then I realized that I was supposed to get the thing signed for a homework grade, so I haven’t done it since. But it made me feel a lot better. Until I remembered the signing deal, that is.”

Valerie closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “How many days left till we graduate?” She asked, wondering how long this torture was going to last.

“Well, a lot more for you than me if we don’t work on this,” Caiden said cheerfully. “Ready to correct this test?”

Forty grueling minutes later, Val left the prison that she now had to go to every day (except for major holidays and weekends, of course). Caiden had made her look up every answer she’d gotten wrong, and write the correct answer out three times in a row. Then he’d confiscated her story for Creative Writing to proofread that night.

She hated him.

It was just that simple. If she had to go through this exact same thing every day, she was really going to kill herself. Maybe she’d tape the test onto her shirt and jump into a fire. Just so Caiden would get some kicks when he heard about it on the news.

But then again, he would probably just laugh at her.

Gymnastics that night was like a soothing therapy. As she flipped, twirled, cart wheeled and ran, Val felt herself calm down and begin to think things out. She needed this tutoring-badly. That meant she couldn’t afford to blow things with Caiden. As much as she thought he was weird and such a skater (even though deep down, she knew he wasn’t even close to hard core), she needed his help. Her writing muscles were cramped, but she could recall every single correct answer from that test.

She needed him to help her. But that didn’t mean she had to soften towards him. He was just her tutor. That was all.

 

Caiden grabbed his electric guitar from its stand and sat down on the couch, plugging in the cord as he did so. “Dude, I came up with a killer beat yesterday.” He said to his best friend, Ethan Livingston, who sat in front of the drum set across from him.

Ethan, who actually didn’t know the first thing about playing the drums, tapped the sticks together in an off time beat. “Let’s hear it.”

Caiden strummed a few chords before playing what he’d come up with at about two in the morning the night before.

Ethan nodded his head as he listened, smiling when Caiden finished. “Sweet, as always,” He said, coming over to smack Caiden on the back. “But isn’t it kind of, like, slow?”

“Slower than most other stuff,” Caiden agreed, and he put the guitar back before going over to his keyboard. “But if you’re going to write a slow song, then the music is supposed to be, you know, slow.”

“Right on, but why are you writing a slow song?” Ethan asked. Usually, Caiden stuck more to faster paced songs, though never could his music be classified as actual rock. Slow rock maybe, but nothing too crazy or loud.

Caiden hesitated, his hands hovering above the keyboard. If he couldn’t be straight with Ethan, he couldn’t truly be straight with himself. “It’s going to be about a girl,” He explained.

“Who?”

“Valerie Young.”

“Valerie Young?” Ethan hooted from the couch. “Are you freaking serious?”

“Yeah,” Caiden said, trying out chords from the keyboard.

“Dude, not only is she going to be an Abercrombie model, she’s going to marry one. What are you thinking? You two are complete opposites.”

“So? Opposites attract.”

“Yeah, sure,” Ethan said skeptically. “Don’t tell me you like her, like her. I mean, there’s a difference between liking and being interested. You’re just interested, and we can fix that right away.”

Caiden paused and thought. “Nah, this is definitely liking. And she’s hot, you can’t deny that.”

“No, I won’t, Abercrombie model, remember? But Caiden, seriously, it can only go downhill from here.”

“I hear you, but I’m not gonna listen. I’m her tutor, so I’ll be seeing her everyday for the rest of the year anyways. I may as well explore the possibilities.”

“No, you don’t have too. Say you can’t tutor her anymore.”

“I couldn’t do that to her, just for the sake of her grades. I think you have a better grade in Anatomy than she does.”

Ethan thought about that for a moment. “Man, that’s pretty sad.”

“Yeah,” Caiden agreed, turning back to the keyboard. “Now could you shut up? I want to get most of these chords down before I start my homework.”

 

The week passed fairly quickly for Val. Gymnastics was going well, her parents didn’t talk to each other at all, Homecoming was the next week, and her tutoring with Caiden was truly helping her grades. Plus, during the tutoring sessions, she didn’t have to talk to Caiden about anything other than English or Anatomy. Val thought things would work out quite well.

Until Friday, when she saw something that practically forced her to break out of the tutoring shell and start a real conversation.

“You’re in calculus?” She blurted, spotting the book in his backpack.

Caiden looked up at her, puzzled for a moment. “Yeah, calculus AB, why?”

“So you’re good at math too? Is there anything you can’t do?” Val felt compelled to ask. The boy was smart. In order to be in the tutoring program, you had to have at the very least an A- average.

Caiden laughed. “Yeah. Skateboarding. I actually suck pretty bad.”

Val had to laugh at this. “Ironic. But I’ve got you beat in math. I’m in calculus BC.” It was the highest math level offered at their school, one above Caiden.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, I love it. I’ve always loved math.” Val said, smiling. It was somewhat amazing to her that they would have something so concrete in common.

“I know exactly what you mean. I don’t understand how people can hate it. It’s always been so easy.”

“Exactly. I don’t think I’ve had trouble in math since like, second grade.”

“Yeah. This year is the first time I’ve had to even pay attention in class. It’s getting more complicated.” Caiden admitted.

“Let me know if you ever need some help,” Val offered, and then laughed again. “This is so weird. I’m here to get help from you.”

“It’s okay. I might have to take you up on that offer. And since interims come out week after next, we’ll be able to check your progress.”

Val suddenly realized she was smiling at Caiden, and quickly looked back down at her paper and coughed. “So. Homecoming is next week, are you going?”

“I might drop in. I can’t dance either,” He said.

“Oh,” Was all Val said.

“Are you going?”

“Yeah. With Evie, her date and a couple other people. We’re taking pictures at my house this year, I think.”

“You got a date?” The question was casual, and Val knew that anyone would have asked it when inquiring about Homecoming, but she felt herself stiffen.

“No. And I have to go, I have gymnastics tonight, and I need to stop at home and change.”

“You’re a gymnast?” Caiden asked as they gathered up their things.

“Yeah.”

“I thought so.”

Val looked up at him. “Why did you think that?”

“You’ve got a gymnasts body,” He said easily. “Goodbye Valerie.”

Val felt herself flush. “Stop calling me Valerie. And stop, stop looking at me!”

Caiden paused, and checked her out from the tips of her toes up to the top of her head. “Whatever you say, Valerie.”

After he left the room, Val stomped her foot. But it didn’t make her feel any better, or make the heat that had filled her at Caiden’s perusal go away.

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