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The tutor and the savior
“Just focus on the lesson Vic.”
“How can I focus when you look like a mess?”
Victor was staring at me in a pitiful way. I knew it was unprofessional to show up in front of a student looking a horror movie, but it happened way too frequently that I couldn’t care less. My tears seemed to flow down my cheeks every single day,maybe because my emotional tolerance was the size of a pea, maybe even smaller.
It was during these times that I envied Vic the most. It was supposed to be me comforting him and acting tough. However he had the emotional tolerance the size of Hulk. If something were to make Victor cry, it would probably be the end of the world.
I fixed my curly, ebony colored hair and wiped away tears from my hazel eyes. People said they looked like dirty mud when I cried. Normally Victor said that. I pretended to act like I was alright and moved on with the lesson.
“Alright so what method would you use when solving for x? Pythagorean theorem or the special right triangle concept?” I asked with a sizzling of hope that he would move on as well.
“I would use the annoying method where I would completely ignore my tutor until she tells me what happened.” Victors stubbornness was even stronger than his tolerance level.
“Fine I’ll tell you. It’s really no big deal though…”
I began to narrate the instances that occurred that very morning. It started off to a better a better morning than others until Brittany arrived and turned it into spoiled milk.
“Hey Lora. Did you see that episode of Love Jacks?” Grace was obsessed with dramas and TV shows that had to do with romance.
“Yeah. It was alright. Jodi and I wanted Hank to end up with Debbie though.”
Jodi nodded and gave me a small smile. My friends rarely smiled at me back then. Perhaps it was because they were too focused on somehow blackmailing me into doing our group projects alone or copying off my homework.
Before I could return Jodi’s smile Brittany walked in the room and threw me one of her fake ones. Those were the smiles she would give before she lured me into the lion’s den.
“Hey Lora. Did you finish the project yet? Its due tomorrow.”
“Uh no. You didn’t do your part of it and neither did Grace, Jodi or Mac.”
“We told you why we can’t do our parts. Its because we’re busy. Not everyone has a lot of time on their hands like you.” Brittany began to drive me insane with those words. Among everyone in our gang I was probably the busiest person there.
“Well, I’m pretty busy too you know? Honestly I think it's kind of unfair to take advantage of me like this.” That was the first time I even dared to oppose Brittney. In fear of losing my friends and my group and becoming a loner in high school, I silently bore all Brittany’s antiques. However, that day I was tired of being treated like a trash can. Something that stores all your unwanted trash but gets treated as something foul and nasty.
Brittany just stood in silence for a moment along with Grace and Jodi. She stared at me for a second and laughed a little.
“We aren’t taking advantage of you! All we are asking you to do is help us with the project. You know we aren’t as smart as you and just wanted some help. Wow now apparantely Lora has forgotten that all of us are friends and treats us like we’re dumb people.”
Jodi got up and pulled Grace with her.She gave a frown twice the size of her smile and walked away with Brittney. That day they totally ignored me in class and back in the halls, not that it was something new. People had already started noticing that something was screwed up with our little niche and began to assume that I was the antagonist. Not only was I being treated like the bad guy by my friends, but I was also getting the death glare from complete strangers who were oblivious to fair judgement.
As I finished my story, Victor just looked at his notes. He looked back up to me and just shook his head in utter disbelief.
“That’s it. That’s what's been making you cry all semester? Dude there are people who get cyber bullied and bullied physically. For crying out loud there are people who can’t afford the college of their choice and who have mental or physical issues and you are crying because of some stupid teenage girls who are intimidated by your smartness?”
“Well didn’t I say it was no big deal?”
“I thought since it's been ruining you for months it was a big deal.” Vic was hardly sympathetic if anything.
“Fine just focus on the lesson now. You want to drop down to an F average in Geometry again”
He messed with his messy ash colored hair and gave me a ‘you know better’ look.
“It was a C, Lora. And now I have an A.”
“Which you achieved because of working hard,not listening to the dumb life of your tutor.”
Victor laughed at that lame attempt of joke. It made feel better believe it or not having someone like him who gave me the realest realistic advice there was. Because if someone is brave enough to hurt your feelings to open your eyes, they really care about you.
Victor and I were friends. Best friends. Even though we were not the same age or in the same grade or even the same gender we had a great relationship. A relationship that helped me survive through those hard times.
And I helped Victor somehow scrape through his.
We were walking home together after our tutoring session when we came across these group of boys who knew Victor and strangely knew me. They were Sophomores and being a Junior, I didn’t interact with them a lot.
“Hey ADHD. How’s the tutoring going.” The boy sounded like he just had a tooth extraction.
“Its going great Phil. How’s the ‘Tooth Extraction’’?”
Phil glared at Vic for a second and looked liked he was ready to fight him. He lifted up the sleeves of his shirt to my increasing alarm and gave me an ugly smile.
“Hey perfect GPA, ever seen a live wrestling match? Maybe not cause your too busy fooling dumb kids into thinking they’ll become smart with your tutoring.”
“Well, since every single D student I’ve tutored is now an A or B I don’t think I’m necessarily fooling anybody. I think you’re the one who's fooled himself into thinking my tutoring is dumb.”
Vic gave me a smile and a high five. He motioned for Phil and his gang to move aside.
“Didn’t you see me ready to fight you? You’re getting distracted way too often that it’s even abnormal for someone with…”
Before he could even finish his sentence Vic almost leaped on Phil. I grabbed him by the waist and looked him with a defiant glare.
“You know, in this world everybody isn’t normal. You aren’t normal either because it's abnormal for someone to be as mean as you. I’m not normal because my weakness his greater than most people. Even those people behind you aren’t normal because they are supporting the bad guy. No one in this world is normal. That makes all us unique. And if everyone’s unique, then that becomes normal. So it isn’t normal if you are normal because no one’s normal.”
My speech was rather confusing for them to follow along but they got the jist of it. Phil stepped aside unwillingly and his gang members looked at one another feeling slightly guilty.
“Wow that was amazing.” Vic wasn’t ready to say anything more.
“Yeah. And having ADHD isn’t a big deal.Honestly my mom and dad both have ADHD.”
This was news for Victor who gave a me a ‘really’ look. I nodded.
“Vic listen. You are smart and ADHD doesn’t make you much different from anybody if you just put the effort to work hard and make friends,does it?”
“Yeah.I’ve got a ton of friends. Phil bet one of my friends up and I sort of retaliated. That’s why he’s been picking on me.”
I didn’t respond to what Vic said. I felt that my silence would be of some comfort to him and his thoughts. Vic suddenly turned around and stopped me.
“Leave your friend group Lori.”
The only time Victor ever called me by my real nickname was when he was ecstatic or drop dead serious. Lora was the nickname my friends gave me and Lori was what my family and Vic called me. I guess Vic was my family by then.
“Yeah and become a loner for the next two years of high school. People already hate me Vic, no one’s gonna want to be friends me. If I stay and make things right between all of us…..”
“Well it’s not like you've had any friends for these past few months other than me. People who treat you like that aren’t what I call friends.”
I lost the argument by more than a mile so I decided to just plead instead of fight.
“Ok, but I’ll give them all one last chance. Just one last chance.”
Victor just rolled his eyes and opened his mouth to say something but closed it abruptly. He handed me my purse and walked up the stairs of his house. Without saying a word.
He loved giving people the silent treatment, but it didn’t affect me much cause I was used to it.
I opened my eyes to the sound of our physics teacher’s footsteps. Sleep deprived and exhausted from doing our entire group project last minute, I felt like I was going to faint anytime soon. The only reason I decided to come to school was to turn in our project despite my condition.
Mrs.Jennings handed us an assignment called ‘Peer Reviews’ to complete. We were required to rate our group members on a scale of one to five in terms of participation and cooperation. As anticipated, all of my group members smiled at me at the time and gave me a thumbs up. That hardly made me feel like giving them a five, but I thought this would be the perfect chance to
make things right with them. I unwillingly gave all of them a five.
That was the best mistake I ever made.
As we handed our peer review sheets to Mrs.Jennings I heard all of my ‘friends’ murmuring amongst themselves and giggling. Mrs Tenning was glancing through all the papers and stopped for a while, staying at a few in particular.
“Lorraine, see me after class.”
The bell rang and we both waited until the class was empty. Mrs.Jennings rasied her eyebrows.
“I didn’t expect this from you. You’re the smartest kid in this grade and you didn’t contribute a single thing in your group?”
It took me quite a few minutes to actually process what she had said. My eyes began to spin from sleeplessness.
“Lorraine,did you hear what I said?" Her voice started to shows signs of concern.
"You look sick? Are you alright?" She turned around to get me some water when I managed to blurt something out to her.
“I….I just wanted to make things right between us.”
That was the last thing I said before I collapsed on the ground.
I woke up in the nurse's office,a crowd of staff hovering around my bed.
One of them was Mrs.Jennings. Alongside her were four girls whom my mind and body were not prepared to see.
The only thing I could say to them was ‘Get out’.
But Mrs Jennings stayed and asked all of them to show me something. It was the grade for our group project.
All of them had zero’s.
I had a ninety five.
Jodi,Grace and Brittany left the nurses office without even acknowledging my existence. The only person who stayed behind was Mac
“Hey Lora. You feeling any better?’
“Well I hope you do. I’m going to the mall with my mom today. You want anything?”
“Yea. Some gummy worms sound good.”
Mac laughed for a while.It took her a while to regain her awarness about the severity of the situaion.
“Um...look. Sorry for not hanging out with you a lot. We used to hang out everyday in middle school remember?”
“Yeah. That was before Brittany showed up.”
Mac sighed. It truly looked as though she regretted her actions.
“I had to faint for you to realize you’ve done something wrong Mac.”
“No, Lora. It took a guilty conscience from the very day I started hanging without you to realize I was wrong. Look, Lora, I can’t be friends you again not because I don't want to,it's just I think you won’t take me back.”
“I never said I won’t…”
“You may think you’ve forgiven me,but you’re wrong. You can conceal a scar with makeup but as soon the makeup’s gone you can clearly see it. You can’t get rid of it.” Mac’s tone was solemn.
“What are you…," my voice trailed off.
“The makeup that you’re trying to apply to your scar is my apology.My regret won’t get rid of your bad memories. I’m not hanging out with Jodi, Grace or Brittany anymore. Neither am I going to hang out with you because in the process of scarring you, I’ve scarred myself. And I need some time alone.’
Before I could even reply my knight in shining armour, who strangely could sense my distress from a mile away came into the nurse's office.
“Hey Victor.” Mac said without looking at him.
“Mac,have you realized that even though you can’t get rid of scars, you can learn to live with them?” Victors sarcasm was laughable.
Mac looked at me. I was trying not to smile.
“The bad memories you’ve given Lori may never leave, but she can learn to handle them with some good memories. Give her those good memories so you can stop applying your make up of regret on the scar and learn to live with it.”
Mac acted as though she was totally expecting someone to say something like Vic said and just sighed.
“Lora, I’m moving.”
After that day I felt a strange mixture of light heartedness and sadness. It was chapter closed with Jodi,Grace and especially Brittany,but I could have begun a new chapter with Mac. Victor just said I was being overly dramatic when I told him this and said that the lack of sleep was messing with my head.
The news of the ‘Lorraine incident’ spread all over Carmel High School. People were more open and more friendly to me and were completely avoiding my ex-friends. I knew it was just a phase and as soon as something new came up everyone would forget my name. That’s the complexity of the teenage mind. Forgiveness and forgetfulness are two traits that are considered rare in my book.
The only person I tried to forgive was Mac.I just pretended like Jodi,Grace and Brittany were invisible until I saw all of them eating lunch separately.
It was indeed a mistake that I had given all my friends a five on our peer reviews. But it was the greatest thing i had ever done. That mitake made me realize how little those people valued my feelings and respected. I finally decided to leave them. Even though I had only one true friend,Victor,I felt like I had enough to keep me happy. Yet,there was still one thing I wanted to hear from Brittany.
Fifteen Years Later
“Hey Vic I’m going to work.”
His smile hadn't changed at all since childhood.“Make people feel better for me.”
He kissed me lightly on the cheek and I ruffled his hair. I made it to the hospital on time and walked into my little room.
The first patient of the day was a little girl who had murky brown hair and bright blue eyes. She looked a little like Mac. Her face was flushed red and she had a raging fever.
Her mom,contrastingly, had dirty blonde hair that seemed damaged due to constant straightening. She had dark circles under her eyes and if not for her eye color, a bright green,I would not have recognized her.
Both of us stared at each other as if we were communicating telepathically. The woman, who took a while to overcome the shock, finally regained her composure.
“Apology accepted Brittany.” I turned to her daughter who gave me a faint smile. I pulled out my stethoscope and smiled back.