Stories & Articles
|Posted by sen.joydeep on May 11, 2015 at 2:10 PM|
The sky full of letters
‘My thoughts are kind of like butterflies but I guess, I never tried to catch them.’
- Skylet Zane
Ever opened a book to find the letters taunting you? Well, haunting might be better word for explaining. Every time you flip a page, they are always there to jump right out of the page at you like a jack-in-the-box. They buzz around your head and drive you mad until you get utterly crazy and slam the book shut in annoyance. The same story with numbers. The minute you scribble a 6 on the paper with a great mental effort, you find that it suddenly flipped into a 9 or if it wants to annoy you even more, then into a 66. And then there is this weird feeling which suddenly makes you super hyperactive and taunts you to throw you textbook at the teacher’s droning voice (the words usually go over my head). If you are someone who feels just like me, then you are welcome to join my pity party.
Physicists call this stuff in fancy terms ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’ or in simpler terms- ADHD. Trigonometry, Math, English, Science blah-blah-blah are not my type of a game. When you are the one practically vibrating in your seat, getting distracted by every single noise made in the classroom, having alphabets fly around you and have a pair of eagle sharp eyes staring at every move you made- then you probably get the definition of what is the so called hell.
It is even worse when you don’t want to do the thing, like math. I got my notebook open and a pencil which was nearly half the size than it was supposed to be (I was feeling so uncontrollable last to last math class that I could barely hold my teeth steady). Okay let’s face it then, I thought and I flipped to a page. The constants and pro-numerals and coefficients were beginning to start their revolution. By the end of fifteen minutes when I found the numbers behave themselves, I feverishly began to scribble my name on top of the paper- Skylet Zane. Ms Darth, the math teacher would have surely chopped me to pieces if she realised that I had only managed to write two words in the quarter of an hour.
The next twenty minutes went by as I finished solving (well not really solving) the first equation and I couldn’t decide whether the answer should be 75b or 57p. I groaned and slammed the book shut again. ‘Any problems, darling?’ Miss Darth, the math teacher asked. I put on a sick face and replied, ‘Yes, I think that I have a stomach ache coming up. May I go to the bathroom?’ The class erupted into chortles of laughter and I blushed bright red.
‘Silence,’ Miss Darth cried and banged her cane against the wooden table. Then she came up to me and sighed. ‘Miss Zane, this is the ninety-seventh lie you uttered in my class.’ Wow, that demon sure had sharp memory. I wondered if it really was ninety seventh or seventy ninth or maybe… She suddenly clicked her fingers near my face and barked, ‘Snap out of your dream, darling! I need you to finish your equations in the next forty five minutes or else you know what awaits you.’ No need of introductory speech- detention. After she went back to her desk, I buried my head in my hands. Forty five minutes of more torture time.
AN IMPOSSIBLE PROMISE
‘Sky, we need to talk,’ claimed mum at break-fast. I practically chocked on my ce-real and I gulped it down with some milk. ‘Now?’ I asked. Mum’s ‘talks’ usually ended up to be se-rious because usually, her talks were about me. Now don’t ask me why people tend to think that serious about me because they usually did. ‘Yes, now’ she replied. Her blue eyes were pale with con-cern and she was frowning hard. She did that when I did something wrong.
‘It’s about your school.’ ‘Am listen-ing,’ I mumbled and began to play with my corn-flakes. The word school made me think about ninth grade and that today was my first day at ninth grade. Then my mind reel-ed back to the last day of eighth grade when we got our report cards back; the dis-appoint-ment on my parents’ faces though they had not complain-ed a bit about the low marks in maths and science or that I literally failed in lan-guage. A click of fingers snapped me back to the present and I glared at her in surprise. ‘Did you have your attention deficit pills today?’ ‘Yes,’ I lied. Those pills never helped me anyway.
‘Yeah, so as I was saying’ mum continued. What was she saying again? ‘It’s your choice now, Skylet. You are nearly fourteen now. Normal school is getting hard on you. Dad and I were thinking about putting you in Evenford Aca-demy’ Evenford was this local school which helped with mentally dis-ordered kids and I was too proud to admit that I was one.
I put my spoon down on the table louder than I intended to. ‘You can’t, I promise I will work harder this year. Please mum, you can’t send me to that school! What are you going to tell your friends? That your kid is mentally disordered?’ Mum put an arm around my shoul-der. ‘Calm down, it’s just a thought. I don’t care what I tell my friends. It’s you whom we care about, Sky. We want you to be happy- that is what matters. And we don’t want you to get yourself stressed.’
I squeezed her hand. ‘Mum please, give me one term to prove myself. If you then feel that I need special help after that- the de-cision is then yours. Okay?’ Aster Zane’s face broke into a smile and she gave me one of her bear hugs. Gosh, I thought. How am I going to manage to even spend one week of school without fail-ing?
TURNS OUT TO BE BETTER
As my mum drove me to school, my mind was busy gather-ing up thoughts. How could I do this? There were not many rea-sons that I liked my school but really, I couldn’t just get admitted to Evenford- the shame I did cause my dad and mum. ‘Here we are’ said mum smilingly. She parked the car. I slung my bag over my shoulder, gave her a quick kiss and waved her goodbye. The car zoomed away from the park-ing lot.
I sighed and made my way towards the math class which was supposed to be the first period- duh, what a fun way to start the day. Hope-fully, we did not have Ms Darth as our math teacher this year. A be-spectacled man with brown hair and a mou-stache sat at the front desk. There were already a few kids chatting with each other though not loudly. I hated those kind of teach-ers who made you feel un-comfor-table and quiet.
‘Welcome to 9C, Ms Zane,’ he said in his speedy American accent which took me a second to analyse. This wasn’t a surprise because all old teachers had a con-versation with the new ones about the kids, kids especially like me. He shook my hand and I rushed to take the back seat before anyone else did.
Oops, I forgot to ask him his name. I squinted at the blackboard where he wrote his name. Mr Bob, he wrote. I was glad that his name was nice and simple so that I couldn’t swap the letters around. I remember last year how I had called the teacher Miss Heart instead of Miss Darth. Anyway as predicted, Mr Bob walked towards my seat and sat down on his knees. Mind you, he only came to me. All the kids stared at the VIP attention I was getting though my face was burning with shame. ‘Yes, Mr Bob?’ I said politely. ‘Um-I had a talk with your old math teacher.’ What’s new in that? ‘She said that you were having a wee bit of a problem with your numer-acy. And if that is the case, you must ask me for help if needed. I can arrange a few after school classes for you-’ ‘No! Mr Blob, I mean Pop. Sorry, Mr Bob but-’ I began to jumble up the words in terror. ‘Relax Skylet. I said only if you need it. We will have a little quiz at the beginning of the lesson which would help us to understand your level. Good luck.’ He returned back to his desk to greet another kid.
I was suddenly feeling claus-tro-pho-bic which might be due to the H part of my problem. It was as though I was squeezed hard in a tiny room with so many objects and I was frightened to death. A quiz, how was I going to manage that? ‘Hey,’ said a voice and I looked up. It was a boy with curly blond hair grown all the way down to his shoulders. His sparkling green eyes looked into mine mischievously. ‘May I sit here?’ he asked and I nodded. He then shoved out his hand and said, ‘My name’s Kay Valdez, Spanish. Kay as in Okay but just without the O part. Okay?’ I laughed at his joke and Kay grinned. ‘I am Skylet, New Yorker’ I said at last.
But before I could ask him anything else, Mr Bob clapped his hands together and said, ‘We would start our class with a small quiz just to see where you guys are at. Try to keep your eyes at your own work and you may begin as soon as you get the paper.’ And saying so, he passed out pieces of paper with problems scribbled all over. I took a deep breath and began to scan the page over. The tiny black numbers began to walk along the page just like ants. I stared at them as though saying, please just stop and allow me to work through. But the ant-numbers continued to annoy me. After ten min-utes of tortuting-my-brain-to-focus time, I flipped over the paper and began to doodle behind the page. It was a nice drawing of two butter-flies flying together which seemed to come out of the paper and one even sat on my finger.
Then all of a sudden, both of them vanished. ‘Psst,’ whispered Kay and nudged me with his ruler. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘You need help with the paper?’ I glanced over at his sheet which was filled in with big sprawly hand-writing as though written in a hurry but he still was smart enough to answer all of them. ‘Yes, please’ I begged. When Mr Bob was looking over at the front desks, he swiftly passed his sheet to me. ‘Copy it, quick.’ He took out an identical white sheet of paper from his pocket and layed it on his table and meanwhile I noted down his answers, making sure that I would write some of the numbers the opposite way so that Mr Bob doesn’t feel that I suddenly became super smart. I mouthed the word thanks before I handed him his test paper back. Friends? He mouthed back. I nodded and my curls bounced on my back.
Throughout the day, canny Kay helped me in all the class assignments from math and science to English. When we waited for our parents at the parking lot, I said, ‘You know, you can be my teacher.’ He blushed and his dimpled chin went a shade of light pink. ‘You think so? I-I have never been that of a good student, so-’ ‘Come on, you helped me survive the day, smarty pants.’ ‘That was easy,’ he admitted. ‘See? Now, goodbye! See you tomorrow’ I went down to where my mum waved at me from her car. ‘Had a nice day?’ she asked. I nodded and strapped my seatbelt around me. ‘I had a talk with Mr Bob a few minutes ago. He said he was really impressed by your performance today. You are doing a great job Sky, keep it up.’ There was a corner of my heart which said that it was mean to take praise for someone else’s hard work but I shrugged anyway.
MY BEST FRIEND
IS ACTING WEIRD
The next day when I reached school, I found Kay doing vio-lent volts on the mon-key bars. He motion-ed me to come close and gave a toothy grin. ‘Hey,’ I said and dropped my bag on the ground. ‘What’s up?’ he asked. Kay hung upside down on the high-est bar, gripped the lower ones with his hands and slipped down to the lower bars. ‘Nothing, class starts in seven minutes. So we should go.’ ‘Pah! Seven minutes is a lot of time. Can you do this?’ Kay challen-ged but I shook my head. ‘We would get late.’ I tapped my wrist watch. ‘Afraid?’ he asked slyly. That was what made me annoyed. I grasped hold of the steel bar and followed what he did. When my neatly set up hair was all over my face, I tugged at his shirt and asked him to come back to class. ‘No.’ Kay put his lower lip over his upper lip and crossed his hands over his chest like a baby. I had to practi-cally drag him to visual arts class when he denied to come.
He was distra-cted during class time too, his dreamy eyes gazing at the trees from the window. ‘Kay, you are suppo-sed to make the drawing of a tree,’ I whispered after I was finished colouring mine. But he acted as though he did not hear me. I had to help him, he assisted me all day yester-day. I snatched his book from under his arms, sketched out a rough drawing of a pine tree and shaded it lightly with green. He looked at me thank-fully but I frowned. He was supposed to be the teacher, what was wrong with him? Valdez was acting just like me.
At music, Kay was just the same. He could not stay still and I think that he dropped his clarinet thrice purposely. Miss Brunner shook her head in an annoyed way when he did not pay attention to her question. I poked him and he turned around angrily. ‘Miss Brunner asked a question,’ I informed. Kay stood up like a robot and said clearly ‘I am feeling like I am going to puke.’ She stepped back and motioned to the door ‘Hurry, go to the bathroom.’ Kay had surely done a brilliant job in putting on a sick face but sadly for him, it did not work on me. He lied, but why?
‘Miss Brunner,’ I said when it was half an hour after he was gone. ‘Valdez isn’t back yet.’ She shoved the idea away and said that he must have gone to the nurse. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and hurried to the infirmary and as I had predicted, he wasn’t there. I stopped at the middle of the corridors and thought hard where he could be. Then it suddenly occurred to me where. The place he was looking at from the window for an entire hour. I ran swiftly down the stairs, into the playground and tried to figure which part of the playground it was.
‘Valdez! Kay Valdez,’ I shouted. My instincts told me that he was here. He had to be. ‘That’s my name,’ said a familiar voice and I whipped around sharply to see him sit on a branch of an oak tree. He had his wicked glint back in his eyes and I sighed with relief. ‘Kay Valdez, why are you here instead of school?’ I demanded. As much as I hated school, my mum had punched it into my head that it was bad to ditch it. ‘Want to join me?’ he said and extended his arm. I took it and pulled him that he lost his balance and fell on top of a heap of grass. ‘What did I do now?’ ‘You are ditch-ing class,’ I said, pronouncing every syllable properly. I did not want to mess up my spellings when I was lecturing someone for the first time. ‘I-That’s nothing with you,’ he growled. Ouch, that hurts. ‘It does because Miss Brunner is going to come and find us both in a few minutes.’ ‘Why are you interfering so much with what I think and do?’ ‘Because you are a good kid and a nice teacher. And I know that.’
Our fists were clenched tightly and we were both fuming with rage. His face softened slightly. ‘You don’t understand.’ ‘Understand what?’ I asked. ‘I need to know what is wrong with you.’ ‘Me too,’ said a voice behind me. I winced, it was Miss Brunner.
‘Didn’t you say you were going to the bathroom?’ But I did not understood which one of us she was talking to, both of us made the same excuse. ‘It’s not her fault,’ murmured Kay. ‘She came to look for me.’ ‘True,’ said Miss Brunner. ‘Let’s be fair then. Miss Zane, you may leave now and Mister Valdez, I shall deal with your punishment right now.’
We followed her meekly back to the building. Why, I mouthed to him, did you do that? You didn’t deserve punishment Sky, he said with his stern eyes. I slung my bag over my shoulder and pretended to walk a few steps away. The school was now empty of students. I could hear Miss Brunner asking him, ‘Write down- I shall not disobey my teachers- seventy times. Only after that, you may leave.’ He stared down at the blank sheet and the black pencil as though…as though they were haunting him.
Hmmm… I had to get him out some way. I cupped my hands near my mouth and meowed realistically. 'Meow. Meow.’ The sound echoed in the corridor and it just sounded as though there was a real pussy strolling the room. Had I mentioned before that I was a really good ven-tri-lo-quist? ‘What was that?’ cried Miss Brunner. ‘A cat, it seems like’ he said though he didn’t know it was me. I followed on with my marvellous performance. Miss Brunner began to clench and unclench her fingers uneasily. ‘I will go and talk to the principal about this but continue your work, Mister Valdez. A-and if the cat comes in, j-just shoo it away,’ she managed to stammer and hurried out of the room with her strands falling out from her bun.
‘Kay,’ I gushed. He jolted up from his work and stared at me blankly. ‘Come on out, she’s gone.’ ‘You know you are worse than the cat?’ he said happily as he put all his stuff in his bag. ‘The cat was me, silly. No time to explain. Now hurry.’ ‘Thanks,’ he cried and ran down the stairs soundlessly. I shook my head and picked up the paper where he was supposed to do his punishment. He wrote- ‘I SHAL ZOT DISOBAY MY TEECHERS’
DAD HELPS ME
I found him up near the monkey bars. ‘Whew, that tyrant is going to get me tomorrow. The cat was a brilliant idea, by the way,’ Kay ex-claimed and gave me a high five. I tapped my feet on the ground. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to tell me something? There is something wrong with you and I have to figure out why.’ ‘What is that to do with you? Poking your nose in other’s busi-ness-es.’ Now why was that guy pur-pose-ly using fancy words? ‘Girls are all the same,’ he com-plain-ed. ‘Yeah? And who wanted to be my friend yesterday?’ Kay shuddered and looked away. ‘Adios, Valdez. If you fall into any more trouble than this cat is not going to come to your rescue. I stuck my ton-gue at him, turned around and stomped my way across to my house.
As much as I had shouted at him, I knew there was something which he did not want to share but why not? We were both good friend to each other, right? I closed my homework notebook and cradled my head in my arms. Now he was the reason why I couldn’t do my homework (though I guess I couldn’t do it without him anyway).
‘Sky? Can I come in?’ There was a soft knock at the door. ‘Do.’ It was my dad. He stood at the doorway, looking at me as though I was a model at a Science fair. My dad’s genes were always the strongest in the family. I had his green eyes, his black curls, and his smile and even though I didn’t like to admit- but his ADHD too. ‘What?’ I asked, trying to hide a smile. He sat down on my bed. ‘You look ten-sed,’ he admitted. Wow, wel-come to reality. ‘I am.’ ‘Not that kind of tensed about not doing your homework.’ Dad eyed the pile of notebooks which lay untouched at the corner of my desk.
‘Then what?’ ‘You are worried about someone, admit it.’ ‘How…’ He laughed his tinkling laugh. ‘Come on, Sky. Won’t I know my daugh-ter? I used to have that kind of a face when I was at high school with your mum. Just because I threw a pan-cake at her face during our regu-lar food fights, she did not talk to me for days. I had that kind of a face then, trying to think of a way to con-sole that girl. She was a real grouch in those days.’ ‘You know, darling? I guess you are missing dinner tonight,’ said mum from downstairs. I giggled and he slam-med the door before saying ‘Your pan-cakes are the best, Aster!’
‘So, who is this guy?’ he asked. ‘No, he’s not that kind of a guy. He is called Kay and’ ‘Is he cute?’ he inter-rupt-ed and I ig-nored him. ‘He’s really nice, helps with my studies and all but today he acted really weird.’ ‘Tell me about him.’ I described to him what happened today and he cracked up when he heard the part about the cat-to-the-rescue. ‘Your opinion? Thoughts? You are a man right, you might under-stand.’ He scratched his chin. ‘That kid reminds of someone.’
‘Who?’ I asked quickly. ‘Me, of course. The times I did skip class times to goof around but I had a pretty good reason.’ ‘Your AHD’ ‘Yeah. But Kay, I guess he is just fool-ing around a bit. But I think if he is then you should help him out. Your mum was the one to bring up a monkey like me into a normal human.’ I nodded. He clicked the door softly after him and left me with my own thoughts. I glanced at the piece of paper he wrote on. Oh, how could I not understand? That hurried writing, those spelling errors, that energy in that kid and his stub-born-ness.
WE BOTH HAVE
SOMETHING IN COMMON
‘Help me up, will you?’ I cried from below. Kay sat up on his favourite tree with his arms cross-ed. ‘Sure.’ He pulled me up onto the same branch as him. It was a gig-an-tic oak tree which nearly hid us both with its bushy green leaves. ‘Nice,’ I said as I felt the rough bark. ‘Yeah,’ he con-fess-ed. ‘I love this tree, this is sort of my second home after I come back from school.’
I glanced at his sorrow-ful face. Kay stared down at the ground, not meeting my eyes. He suddenly piped up, ‘Are you still annoyed about yesterday?’ ‘I was but I am not anymore.’ ‘You should be. I was horrible to you. Sorry for-’ I put my arm around his shoulder. ‘It’s okay, Valdez. I understand.’ His face went blank. ‘W-what do you mean you understand?’ ‘Your problem. If you want to talk about it then do, I might help.’
Kay took a deep breath. ‘I have AHD.’ I nodded. ‘And also a little bit of dys-lex-ia when I get too hyper.’ ‘Why didn’t you tell it to me before?’ I deman-ded. ‘You knew my ADD so why didn’t you tell me about yourself?’ He played with a leaf which had tiny holes in it. ‘I couldn’t. You said you wanted to make me your teacher, remember? And I thought that if you knew about this,’ he said this as though an ugly word. ‘Then you won’t have let me be. Since years I had problems in making friends at school. Studying wasn’t hard for me, it was just im-poss-ible. I could sit and stare at a piece of paper for long but ended up writing only two words. Pencils were a pho-bia. I could do math, science or trig-ono-metry easily, but all what I needed was my willpower. If even there was a slightest bit of boredom in that subject, then I couldn’t do it. I am stubborn, I admit.’
‘Then dad decided to put me at this school because the princy said that there was someone like me at ninth grade.’ ‘Me,’ I confirmed. ‘You were really nice at the first day but about that teacher part, I did not have much will-pow-er for that. But I still want to be friends.’ He said and looked at me. ‘You know what? We have to be each other’s teachers. Either of us are not perfect, and if we work together to patch up each other…’ ‘Brilliant,’ he smiled. Kay jumped down from the branch and put up his hands in the air towards me. ‘Jump, I will catch.’ I smiled at him wickedly. I leaned towards him but then slipped down from the bark at the back. ‘Evil’ he commented. I asked happily ‘Want to join me for a game of football?’
IS WORSE THAN EVER
At the end of Friday’s school, Kay said ‘Don’t the teach-ers love us anymore? The burden of homework is pressing me like hot iron on clothes.’ I finished shad-ing a rose with maroon and looked up at him. I sat on a bushy patch under the oak and Kay sat up on top swinging his legs to and fro. ‘My sister annoys me to death and I don’t get time at school.’ ‘Duh, that’s not a good ex-cuse at all. And I never knew you had a sister?’ ‘Huh, the world’s most annoying git she is. Anyway want to come to my house for some homework help, please?’ ‘Sure, why not tom-orr-ow then?’
Kay and I met at the school parking lot and then we made our way to his house. His house was sort of a bungalow in blue and white. Flowers hung around the windows which were decorated with matching purple curtains. ‘Sweet,’ I said. He dragged me to the lawn of his house which turned to be even bigger than his house in all. It was all neatly mowed up and two nets hung at either side of the lawn. ‘Want to have a game of football before-’ he proposed. But I clutched his sleeve and pulled him back to the door. This was gene-rally my task at the ‘teacher’ task- controlling Kay when he got too much out of control. ‘Let’s try to concentrate a little, right?’ He grinned.
Kay opened the door for me and I stepped inside. ‘This way,’ he said and pushed me up a spiral stair-case. The stairs led up to a floor with three doors which I suppose were the bedrooms. A lady stood near the left one. It seemed ob-vio-us to me that she was his mum because they had the same sea-green eyes and the blond hair though not curly as him. She frowned at him but soon softened when she saw me. ‘Kay, don’t you think it is your duty to tell me where you are off to? Oh, wel-come Skylet. I was hoping to meet you once.’ ‘You know me?’ I asked. She laughed, the same laugh as him. ‘Who do you think is the major topic during dinner? Who do you think is the one person that my son keeps on talking about?’ Both Kay and I blushed. Me because I had the same story as him.
‘Coming, Sky?’ he said, irri-ta-ted. ‘I am not stealing your friend, Kay,’ she smiled. I was glad she didn’t mention the word- girlfriend. ‘Why don’t you go to your room and put out your books?’ He shook his head and went in through the door at the right. The moment he was gone, I realised that Ms Valdez was looking at me. ‘Sky,’ she said softly. ‘I am really happy that my boy got you as a fri-end. I can see the change in him, never have I seen him so happy before.’ ‘Its okay, Ms Valdez. I like to be his friend, he’s cool.’ She threw her head back and laughed as though I said something funny. ‘Go ahead and join him then. Good luck with your homework’ and saying so, she picked up a basket of laun-dry and started down the stairs.
I shut the door after me to find Kay spraw-led up on the floor with a pile of textbooks which he was neatly making a tower with. He balanced a pencil on top and smiled at his masterpiece. ‘Ta da!’ I clapped in applause and then took out my math notebook which was the one at the base that made the entire tower fall. ‘Hey!’ ‘What? Take out your pens and let’s begin to work.’ The rest of the hour went by with me helping him with arts and music and him assisting me with language, math and other subjects with ‘words’. There were a few times he got distracted but anyway, I got him to work.
After we were done, I lay down on my back and yawned. ‘That was hard’ I admitted. He laid next to me and nodded. ‘What do you want to play now?’ ‘Um-how about climbing that tree in your garden?’ ‘Sure’ he bri-ghtened up. That was when the door burst open. An eleven or twelve year old girl with pig-tails and a pink frock stood at the doorway. ‘Sally’ he said with his gritted teeth. ‘Get out of here, this is my room.’ ‘Oops, sorry to disturb your rom-an-tic times. Of course, they are so very rare in your life,’ Sally said smoothly.
‘You are talking too much for your age, girl’ I answered and gripped his hand to make sure he won’t lose control. My eyes met his and I mouthed, she is pro-vo-king you. ‘Yeah? And who here is the duffer that is in ninth grade but cannot spell ‘elephant’ correctly? Isn’t that you, Skylet?’ As much as I understood, I was a regular topic at this house. ‘Enough, Sally!’ he barked. ‘You remember that we aren’t suppo-sed to use the d-word at home. I am going to report this to mum.’
‘She’s not home, anyway.’ ‘Why don’t you play with Susie then?’ ‘Mum does not allow more than one friend at home and so-’ ‘Oh, I smell something burning! Something that starts with a j.’ Kay was now shaking with mirth. Sally stamped her foot. ‘I am not jealous, okay?’ And she stomped out of the room.
‘Was that a hurr-i-cane?’ I asked question-ingly. ‘No, she is my annoying sister. The greatest git in the entire world.’
The next day when I got to his house to finish up the final bits of our science work, I could hear quarr-els from up his room. I gave a soft knock at the door and opened it. Kay and his mum were glar-ing at each other, waiting for each other’s next move. His mum had some white tablets in her palm and I shudd-ered when I saw them. Pills, ugh! ‘You have to,’ said Ms Valdez, trying hard to maintain her com-pos-ure. ‘Have I lost control a single time this week?’ he demanded. ‘Yeah, right now.’ I cleared my throat and they both looked at me as though noticing me for the first time. Miss Valdez blushed and looked away and Kay swept his fingers through his bangs.
‘What is the matter?’ ‘Kay won’t have his medication’ she said with a sign. ‘Even tried to mix the pills with his milk but that didn’t work.’ ‘That’s dis-gust-ing! My mum tries to put mine in my pudding but she can never trick me like that’ I said proudly, Kay grinned. ‘It’s not about tricking you two. You have to get- well, you can’t be suffering from this for your whole life. Anyway, Sky just make sure that he has his pills, I am too tired to try.’ She closed the door behind her, trying hard not to slam it.
‘You are nuts if you are going to try to make me have this stuff’ he said, annoyed. This was the first time after yesterday that I saw him angry. He was always kind of soft when he was with me. I answered ‘I don’t think I am nuts because I will not make you do anything you don’t want to.’ I sat down on the floor and leaned against his bed. His blanket smelt of sweet honey and coffee. It smelt like him- nice. Kay beamed at me. He sat down beside me. ‘Why don’t you want the pills?’ ‘Because they are useless,’ I admitted. ‘What about you?’ ‘They taste weird and I can’t usually swallow them without chok-ing twice.’ I couldn’t help but laugh. ‘What? This is serious’ he said, putting on a fake tone of ten-sion.
‘Yeah, this is serious. Your mum is going to catch us in five minutes if you don’t have them.’ Kay gulped down the glass of water kept beside his medi-cine, pocketed his pill and motioned me towards the door. ‘Come on, we need to get out before she hunts us down.’ ‘To where?’ I asked when we were safely out of bounds. ‘School.’
We ran to his oak tree. ‘This, Sky is my greatest secret of lifetime’ he said mysteriously. Kay bent on his knees and began to shove aside the soil. ‘What…’ I was saying. A white box began to appear. I bent forward and opened the lid. Inside were probably hundreds of tiny white cylinders. I threw back my head and laughed. ‘Seri-ous-ly, you could reach that far?’ He shrugged. ‘Best hiding place for this stuff.’ And then Kay put his pill inside the box. ‘Have you never had even one of these?’ ‘My medi-ca-tion started when I was four. I have forcefully swallowed probably seven or eight in all these ten years.’ ‘If you need any to hide yours, then you can do so anytime you want,’ he offered.
I shook my head and mo-tion-ed to the tree. ‘How about a little of work now?’
NOT THAT BAD ANYMORE
‘Tell me something about yourself, Kay’ I said, closing the textbook in his hand knowing that none of us were int-er-es-ted in studying. ‘What do you want to know?’ he said and put his arms behind his head. ‘I don’t know. Your family, your sister, your problems, your school before and your girlfriends.’ He chuckled when he heard the last one.
He began. ‘I sure like to annoy my mum a lot but I consider her to be the most tolerable person in the world. She has to control this hyper monkey, my jealous sister and my dad who is no worse than me. I don’t accuse my sister but you know, she was born normal.’ ‘Don’t use the word ‘normal’. Say average, it makes me feel more normal.’ He nodded in agreement. ‘So basi-cally I got most of the attention in my family and my sister was sort of thrown aside. And Sally tries to get back at me by trying to be mean.’
Kay’s fingers played with a twig where there was a small silk cocoon. ‘About school, I was sent to primary when I was six because my dad thought I would be bad. The worst thing was that even though I knew more than other kids, I never wanted to learn unless it were something I liked. My mum was called to school practically every day by my principal. I was a stubborn kid then, just laid on the ground and threw my hands.’ ‘I understand.’ ‘I was home tutored for the rest of junior school but I needed to go to junior high in order to graduate. I was easily admitted to this school in New York and I was really glad when I heard there was someone like me in class.’ ‘That was me’ I said with a smile. ‘The day when I saw you struggling with your paper, I was reminded so much of my times in second grade.’ ‘That was why you helped me’ I said. ‘Yeah, yeah. And about the girlfriends part… I never had one, I literally went to school for two years or so.’ I observed him carefully. Kay was cute with his dimpled cheeks and blond curls. It was un-beli-eva-ble when he said he didn’t have that many friends. He swung his foot around the branch.
‘Does this satisfy your curiosity?’ he asked with a smile. ‘Yup.’ To my disappointment, he handed me the book. ‘Study’ I groaned and handed it back to him. ‘You read, I will listen.’ ‘Oh, okay. Right then.’ Kay took the book from my hands and our fingers touched. He flipped a few pages and began to read as though telling me a bedtime story. ‘The invention of the electric bell leads back to the…’ His tone was sort of mono-ton-ous but it did not matter. The fact that he was reading for me was what that counted. I pressed my head against his shoulder to peer at the diagrams. His shoulder was soft, warm and cushiony.
I peered at his face to find his lips twitching slightly. He licked his fingers every time he flicked a page. My eyelids were beginning to droop with sleep. I closed them for a while. The wind was rustling my hair every few seconds. Green leaves which were slowly turning a shade of autumn yellow were thrashing against the thick branch we were sitting on. I suddenly felt a soft touch against my strands and my eyes sna-pped open. I watched him suspiciously as he pinched one of my curls between his fingers. He quickly dropped it and fumbled ‘You fell asleep Sky.’ ‘Sorry, carry on.’ The rest of the time, I leaned against the bark which wasn’t as nice as him.
As evening drowned by, I jumped down from the oak. ‘Bye’ I told him and waved. ‘Adios’ he said softly. His voice was sort of broken from reading ten pages of cram-med writing. When I turned back to leave, Kay cleared his throat and said ‘You got nice hair, Sky.’
It was one on a Sunday afternoon that there was a knock at the door. I went ahead and opened it. Kay. ‘Hey’ he said with his grin. ‘How… how the heck did you find my house?’ I asked. But at that moment, dad came behind me. ‘That’s not a way to greet a guest.’ I was still frowning at him. ‘Hi Mr Zane. I am Kay’ he said in his politest voice. ‘Good afternoon Kay. So how come you are here? Came to meet Sky?’ ‘Yes, sir. I thought she might want to go out with me today.’ What? ‘An honour,’ I muttered. Dad smiled and patted my shoulder, ‘Go ahead and remember to keep your cell with you. Kay, take good care of my girl. Have a nice day, you two.’ Kay dragged me out of my house.
‘Wait a second, Kay.’
‘What? Don’t you want to go?’ he asked.
‘Did you just convince my dad to take me out?’
‘Unbelievable, right?’ ‘Where are you taking me, by the way?’
He swept his hair away from his eyes. ‘Where do you want to go, Señorita? Movie? Beach? Ice-cream parlour?’ ‘Nah, you are making this sound like a date Kay.’ ‘You want this to be a date?’ he asked mischievously. I shook my head as a no. ‘How about going trek-king?’ ‘Up in the hills, beyond the sky. Covered with rustling trees where sunlight seeps through the holes.’ I laughed. ‘Know a place like that?’ ‘Follow me,’ he said and marched ahead.
‘Is this a hill?’ I asked though it sounded as though I cracked a joke. ‘Yup’ he confirmed. ‘Beyond the sky with rust-ling trees and morning sun. Yup, this is the hill.’ ‘No, I didn’t mean that, this looks like a moun-tain.’ ‘Too steep? Frightened of heights? Want me to take you back?’ he asked. I stepped forward towards the slope and said, ‘Who says so? Come on.’
After a few minutes of trud-ging upwards, I said conversationally, ‘So Kay, how did you find my home?’ He tried to hide a smile.
‘Let’s hear your theo-ries first.’
‘You have spies after me?’
‘You spy me all the way home?!’ This came up both as a question as and a statement. ‘Maybe yes’ he smiled. I sighed.
‘How long was this going on? This spying thing, I mean.’ ‘Ever since you walked all the way home by yourself.’ ‘Since the second day?’ ‘Yup.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Why? Don’t you remember what your dad just said? I need to take care of you, you are only thirteen.’ ‘Nearly fourteen’, I reminded. ‘Whatever, I just need to make sure you reach home safely.’ I looked at his head where the curls were bobbing up and down at every smile. Then I felt a twinge in my heart, he followed me home to make sure I was okay.
‘Hey, want to play tag?’ I challenged. ‘Sure’ he grinned. ‘I am it.’ He extended his arms but I dodged out of his way. ‘Hah!’ I cried in triumph and then ran towards the trees which enveloped me into the woods. His footsteps sounded like a bear padding in and I quickened my steps when they felt closer. I was having so fun that I never saw it. ‘Sky! Watch out!’ It was too late. My left foot skidded through the wet mud. Kay tried to grasp my arm but I slipped ahead into the wide brook.
Splash! Water went into my ears and mouth. Then I remembered the fact that I didn’t know how to swim. I closed my eyes and tried to float. The stones and twigs pierced through my foot and that hurt. Suddenly I felt a strong arm around my waist and one around my shoulder. They pulled up from the brook. I coughed out some of the liquid. ‘You are okay, baby?’ Kay watched me grimly as I leaned against his shoulder. He pulled me up against a pine and made me sit.
He sat down beside me and tugged at a clover stuck in my hair. My frock was drenched completely but at least I got all the water out from my system. ‘That was the’ I croaked. ‘Worst thing that could have happened,’ he completed. I shook my head. ‘The most amazing experience ever!’ He didn’t crack a smile and that was when I realised how serious the matter was. Kay slipped his hand into my pocket and brought out my cell phone. He handed me the phone and said ‘Call your dad.’ I scrolled through the contacts and called him. ‘Hey kido, how’s it going? Having fun?’ ‘Dad I-’ I began to fumble over the words, wondering what to say. Kay leaned over at the phone and said, ‘Mr Zane, could you pick us up urgently? Sky had accidentally fallen into a brook and she is wet and injured. We are at Ridgeon Park, about two miles away from your house. It might be a good idea to hurry, we don’t want her to catch pne-umo-nia.’ ‘Keep her alive for ten minutes, Kay. I will be right there.’ And he cut off.
I HAVE A
‘It’s all my fault,’ he cursed. ‘I came up with this plan to take you out, I am such an idiot.’ ‘Don’t, Kay.’ ‘I was the one who wanted to be it.’ ‘Shut up Kay.’ ‘Then I couldn’t even stop you from falling into the water.’ ‘Kay, please’ I pleaded. ‘If I didn’t bring you here, nothing would have hap-pen-ed.’ I put my finger against his soft lips. ‘Shush. If you wouldn’t have brought me here then I would have been stuck all day at home doing nothing.’ It was a lame consolation but that was what I could think of right now. Kay put my finger down with his hand. He pulled out his maroon hoodie and put it over my bare shoulders. My teeth were sort of chat-ter-ing and I wish they won’t. At this time I was wishing a lot of things. I wished we could forget this and instead play tag. Or him reading a book to me. Or us talking instead.
‘Fine, distract me then,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to think about this.’ ‘Knock knock’ he said with a smile spreading up his face. ‘Who’s there?’ ‘Canoe.’ Canoe? ‘Canoe who?’ ‘Canoe you help me with my homework?’ I laughed to make him feel better.
‘Skylet?’ ‘Hmmm?’ ‘Do you like to spend time with me?’ he asked. I couldn’t understand how his eyes were because they were half covered with his curly bangs. ‘Th-that’s a trick question.’ His face became brighter somehow. ‘The answer?’ ‘Well I think it is fun. What about you?’ I couldn’t get whatever the answer because the next moment there was the sound of honking. A pair of footsteps neared us. Dad stood over us with a long towel gripped in his fingers. Kay tugged me up softly and I managed to stand straight. ‘Nice job, Kay’ he said as he wrapped me around with the white fluffy towel. I groaned ‘Is this necessary?’ ‘Yup, quite. I don’t want you both to be ditching school with fever.’
I sat up at the back seat with Kay. I felt like a mummy the way they both draped warm stuff around me. The thing that I liked best about dad was that he was never annoyed at me. He now was telling Kay about mum and his first disastrous outing together. He started the engine and began ‘Your mum and I went to the Niagara Falls on this school trip and your mum had the same story as you did, Sky.’ I got my clum-sin-ess from her. ‘Wait a sec, don’t tell me that you saved from falling down the waterfall?’ giggled Kay. ‘Of course, though she looked rather nice with the weeds stuck all over her hair. Ah, she was the prettiest angel of our class.’ At that point, I was about to feel my hair to see if it were dry when I realised that Kay was clutching at my right wri-st unknowingly. I left it there.
When my dad parked the car near our home, Kay bid me bye. I slipped inside my house to take a long and warm shower. I remembered every moment of today as the hot water trickled down me. How his eyes looked, the time when he pulled me out of the water, when he called me ‘baby’ (I was a little off-en-ded, I didn’t like to be treated as a kid) and the time in the car together. I flopped down on my bed to find his maroon jacket lying neatly next to it. I dried it too with the hair dryer but made sure that the honey-coffee smell did not go.
My cell phone began to ring softly. Who could it be? ‘Hello?’ I said. ‘Are you okay?’ he yelled from the other end. ‘Do you have a tem-per-a-ture? Found any broken bones? Can you see and hear clearly? Can you speak? Do you think you can manage it to school tomorrow?’ ‘Kay?! How did you get my number? And for heaven’s sake, don’t yell.’ ‘Oh, I thought you still had some water in your ears, just checking. Your dad gave me your number.’ ‘I am well and alive, Valdez’ I smiled. ‘I had a nice day with you.’ ‘Oh, okay. Good night then, Sky’ ‘Night’ I yawned. He remembered to call me- that was what counted.
This week Miss Duds, our English teacher gave us an impossible task. At the end of class, she announced (as though it was something happy but it was the most unpleasant news I heard the entire day) ‘Everyone, this year for our final project for English we are setting you a small task which you and your partner would all have to present at school by the end of the following week. You have to study and tell us about a form of English literature or you might want to write your own. It can be novels, short story, book review or anything creative which you have to present in a creative style. Pre-fer-able if not in written. Class is dismissed.’
‘Any ideas?’ I said as I sat cross-legged under the bushy shades. Kay played with my hair and said ‘Nope.’ ‘Wow, that’s helpful. For your information, we only got six more days to do this.’ ‘Listen, Sky’ he bre-ath-ed into my ear. ‘Words, language, English, literature, papers, pencils, presentation, books all add up to one word.’ ‘Nightmare?’ I guessed, ‘Close, phobia. So no, I don’t have any ideas.’
I grabbed at a bunch of grass and pulled it out in frustration. A little butterfly which was sitting on the strand flew away in surprise. ‘What are your thoughts?’
‘My thoughts are like scat-tered butterflies.’
‘Which fly away but never stop by,’ he rhymed.
‘Letters and alphas buzz around in my head.’
‘And I am scared every time I see a pen in red. Hey, that was a cool poem Sky.’ I turned back at him and smiled widely. I think we got our idea for our project. ‘Can we continue?’ ‘Um- I never want to stay awake in class?’
‘And instead want to lay down on green grass.’
‘I can’t do homework, I don’t have the will,’ he said.
‘So instead I have to eat a strange white pill.’
Kay slid down beside me, his eyes shining green. ‘Awesome or awful? I choose the first option. That was wonderful, Sky.’ I gave him a five. ‘Me too, and we managed it together. Only if we add a little more words, I add a little tune…’ ‘And I catch a few butterflies-’ ‘Then we will have the best presentation in class!’ I jumped up and down in excitement.
The next few days, we practiced hard. We had prepared a thirty sentence long poem, we just didn’t want to stop! The words flowed on their own just like butterflies. On the final day of performance, we had a little rhyming song ready and Kay had collected seven colourful butterflies in a mini cage.
When it was our turn, we each sang one couplet each. We received a few smirks from some of the kids but overall everyone enjoyed it. By the ending verses of the song which were
“Words were a threat, with study we would sweat,
But we could never catch the butterflies with our net.”
Kay opened his little cage from where the butterflies began to pour out one by one. Applause broke out, the kids cheered. One of the butterflies sat on my head which Kay felt was hilarious. “Self-representation with the use of songs, very interesting. Good job, both of you. Next please.” But for the rest of the class, I was distracted by the little cabbage butterfly which kept tickling me in the ear.
‘Tell me, what is the chemical for-mu-la for copper?’ asked Kay, his face buried in the book. I frowned and strained hard to remember. ‘Co? Pe? Er?’ ‘The first one was close. Remember the bird cuckoo? Connect both of them. Cu is the formula for copper.’ This was how we spent two disastrous weeks before the exams. Every day ended with our heads crammed with facts and figures which was so hard to analyse.
On the day before the exam I laid on my bed, str-ess-sed out. I had almost swallowed one of the attention deficit pills in annoyance. Mum had sent me to bed saying ‘It is necessary to have a good night’s sleep before a test.’ But how the heck was I supposed to sleep with butterflies buz-zing around me? I grabbed at my cell phone and called Kay. The last time we had talked over the phone was when he had called me after the trekking trip. The phone barely gave two rings before his voice came on. ‘Skylet? Are you okay?’ I smiled to myself when I heard him. ‘Hey’ I greeted. ‘Missing me?’ he asked jokingly. ‘In your dreams, Kay.’ Though maybe I was, maybe a little bit.
‘So why this sudden call at nine in the night?’ ‘Mum sent me up to bed early. I am not falling asleep,’ I complained. ‘Oh. Sorry but I am not that of a good singer. I can’t sing lullabies for you now, Sally is going to laugh her head out.’ ‘No, no. I was wondering if you would want to read to me though. Like a bedtime story or something.’
‘Sure. I am right in front of my shelf, which one do you want?’ ‘Fiction. Read me one of J.K. Rowling’s, they are pretty neat.’ I heard him flip a few pages of his book and I settled myself cosily into my blanket. It seemed as though he sat right in front of me in an armchair, reading in front of the fire. Maybe I might dream something like that tonight. He cleared his throat and began to read, ‘Harry Potter was an unu-sual boy in many ways. For one…’ I loved to listen to that voice. I loved that he cared to read aloud for me even though he faced his dyslexia.
By the time he was at the end of one chapter, I was drifted into sleep. I grinned with my eyes shut when he commented about Hedwig the owl or puffy Aunt Marge but it was about five minutes later that he sighed silently ‘That girl had fallen asleep.’
OF THE TEST
Kay was by the door to pick me up for school. ‘Remember everything?’ I asked and he nodded grimly. ‘Maybe. Maybe not.’ ‘What would happen if you fail?’ I thought aloud though I regretted it at once. ‘I know you won’t though.’ He burst out laughing. ‘Um-Sally is going to tease me for three months, mum would accuse herself and dad would say it is okay. Nothing at-trac-tive in any case. What about you?’ I sighed shakily. ‘They will then send me to Evenford.’ Kay stopped in his tracks and jerked me by my shoulder. ‘They can’t do that! You can’t just go to that stupid jail, you don’t deserve that! You won’t be happy and I won’t be for one.’ I nodded silently. His green eyes were ablaze. ‘Please, Sky. Try to get at least a B- this term.’ ‘They are happy with a C.’ Kay began to walk again, clutching my hand tightly.
‘Please Sky. You can’t leave me at this school all alone.’ ‘Hey, hey! Don’t cry silly. We haven’t even seen the papers yet.’ His tone changed. ‘Who here is crying again?’ ‘You will never change, Valdez.’ ‘Why? Don’t you like me like this?’ he smiled. I loved him like this.
When we neared our exam-in-a-tion hall, kids were mostly outside class trying to do some last minute reading. ‘What is an example of simple sugar?’ I quizzed. ‘Glucose or Fructose. Spelling of glu-cose is easier though so you might want to write that one. What is the formula for copper?’ ‘Cu as in cuc-koo.’ I couldn’t help it but giggle. The teacher called us all in and there was a rush as the students scrambled inside the hall. I pulled Kay away aside. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘Thanks, thanks for whatever you did this year to help me. You were a real good friend,’ I said, looking up into his eyes. Before he could reply, I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him on his cheek. Kay was sort of frozen in his place and I had to drag him towards the room. ‘W-what was t-that?’ he stammered. ‘A good luck wish.’
Everyone had to sit in their assigned seats during the test and Kay seemed to sit miles away from me. Every desk had a test paper turned over and a pen at its side. I suddenly stiffened when I saw my pen. It was in red. Then my attention deficit took over me. Red reminded me of the corrections in red where the teacher put big crosses all over my sheet. Then the big E written on my report card last year which was in red. If I got an E this year then I would have to go to Evenford. Without Kay Valdez, my best friend. My pen pho-bia was taking over me. I stepped back from my seat and bumped into someone.
‘Sky,’ said a voice softly. ‘You wanna ex-chan-ge?’ I turned back to see Kay holding out his blue ballpoint pen. I smiled thankfully. I was so lucky, did I deserve all this?
REPORT CARD DAY
‘How was the exam then?’ asked my mum for the fif-th time though which I had ignored greatly for the first four times. ‘Music and art were excellent, science was good, humanities was quite okay, the numbers behaved themselves today and language practically made me cry.’ ‘More than satisfying’ she said. ‘Told you that the pills would help.’ Who would tell her that I had not even touched the pills for the last five months? That very minute my phone gave a buzz. I grabbed at it and hurriedly checked my mail. It was Kay. ‘Meet me at the tree tomorrow with your RC. Don’t stress about it now, okay?’ he wrote.
Since twilight, I was waiting eagerly at the stairs for the post. About fifteen second later when my hands were moist with the morning dew and cheeks were red with frostbite, there was a sign of the postman on his cycle. ‘Good morning’ I wished and practically snatched the white envelope from his wrinkly hands. I dashed back inside and sat down at the table where my parents sat with a smile stuck to their faces.
Subject Grade (Out of 7)
Physical Edu 6
Final Grade: B++
‘I got double plusses beside B’ I cried. ‘Well done’ said Dad giving me a thu-mbs up. ‘So what now?’ ‘You want an ice-cream for a treat?’ ‘No, not that. So are you going to Everford?’ ‘Everford? What is that?’ asked Dad, pre-ten-ding to scra-tch his head. ‘Of course not, we are not going to send our smart angel there.’ My heart gave a leap. I wasn’t going to go there after all. ‘Aren’t you going to call Kay?’ asked mum. ‘No, I am going to him. Bye!’ ‘Hey, don’t wet the report card! Aster, don’t you think we should take a picture of it?’ Dad called after me and I laughed aloud as I ran towards the school.
The sun was rising up the hori-zon, leaving up gentle blanket of orange behind. The oak tree was now bald without its leav-es and Kay was clearly visible as he sat silhouetting the sun. ‘Kay!’ I shouted as I scamp-ered up the tree beside him. Then my heart dropped when I saw his sad face. It was one without his regular smile. His lower lip was over his upper lip. Did he…did he fail? I looked down at his report in his hand and then back at his face.
Tears were beginning to streak down my cheeks. My mouth which was pre-vious-ly bursting with words suddenly went dry. ‘Hey, are you crying? What are you crying for?’ ‘What did you get?’ I fumbled. He ignored it and snat-ch-ed at my report card. Kay’s face broke into a wide grin. ‘You got a B++, that’s even better than me! I got a B-’ Wait a sec, he didn’t fail? I wrapped my arms around him and buri-ed my head into his warm chest. ‘Skylet? Baby? What’s wrong, neither of us failed. So why the tears?’ The tears were now hard to control and I sobbed. ‘We will stay here at school now’. ‘Yup,’ he said and pat-ted my back.
Kay took my chin up in his palms. His per-fect lips met mine and he held it there until my water-works stopped. ‘You are a good act-or’ I said as he moved away. And he laughed. And I joined his laugh. The oak tree moved its branches in ag-ree-ment. At a far distance, we saw two butterflies flying towards the East.