Chapter 9: Avoidance

I was completely dreading Monday morning. Not just because it meant another day surrounded by snobby rich kids and ridiculously hard homework, but also because I had almost every one of my classes with Olivia.

I had done nothing wrong; in fact the things that I had done could be deemed admirable, but she didn’t see it that way.

I knew that it was going to be hopelessly awkward in biology class. I had to sit next to her and share a desk with her after all we’d done, and after all I’d seen. She’d put herself out there trying to kiss me like that, and I had turned her down. She probably wasn’t used to being turned down. Not getting her way was probably a huge let down for her.

But I told myself that I was doing the right thing. Even though I was combating the larger part of my brain that at the time had been screaming at me to go for it, I couldn’t very well tell her that. Even if it was morally and ethically wrong to take advantage of a drunken girl, she was hot and I had really, really wanted to kiss her back.

In the end, I couldn’t lead her on and I couldn’t bring her into everything I was dealing with at the moment. I was still struggling to keep myself in check. I was still at the point where the cravings were killing me; to the point where I could hardly stand it. It wasn’t right to bring someone into that.
And I honestly wasn’t sure I could trust her. If I confessed to her all my secrets, I couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t go ahead and tell the entire school. I didn’t want to be some random piece of gossip that Olivia and her roommate spread around the school like a bad case of the flu.

I still hated myself for the fact that I was still insanely attracted to Olivia. She was breathtakingly beautiful. She seemed sweet and genuine, but how could I possibly be sure? The girls in my life had always been nothing but trouble. Even when I tried to do the right thing, the girls in my life could always make it worse.

I was almost relieved when one minute to the start of class Olivia still had not arrived. A part of me hoped she was sick or desperate to avoid me. Maybe she had even changed the class so she wouldn’t have to be anywhere near me.

But as the professor began passing out our marked homework from the day before, Olivia silently swept into the room and neatly plopped down on her stool next to me. She didn’t say a word to me, not even shooting a cold and awkward “Hi,” in my direction. She simply sat silently and opened her books.

I received my homework back and turned the page over immediately. My mark wasn’t a fail, but it was just barely a pass.
A sixty-seven percent was not an acceptable mark if I was determined to do well this year. I made up my mind to talk to the teacher and see if he could give me any advice or at the very least, tell me what I was doing wrong.

He turned to go over one of the harder questions and to write the formula on the chalk board and I opened my book. The pen that I usually had clutched between the pages of the book was not there. It must have fallen out either in my bag or on my way to class. It was the only pen I had brought with me.

While the teacher still had his back to the class, I quietly leaned over. “Hey Olivia… do you have a pen I can borrow?” I asked in a whisper.

She didn’t answer me at all. She didn’t even look at me. She simply reached for the purple pencil case that had been sitting on the desk and nudged it toward me.

I almost sighed; so much for getting her to talk to me. I picked up her pencil case and sifted through the expertly folded letters and sheets of lined paper before finally removing a blue pen. I closed the case and placed it back where it had been.

Olivia didn’t even look at me this time either. She was mortified after what had happened the night before, and to be honest, I couldn’t completely blame her.

Doing stupid stuff when you were drunk and regretting it the next day was something I knew all too well.

I felt terrible, and a huge part of me felt responsible for the fact that she was ridiculously angry with me; I felt like I should have stopped her from drinking so much.

The class passed insanely slowly. When the professor dismissed us, I gathered my stuff slowly and by the time I reached the teacher’s desk, the class was almost completely empty.

“Professor Payne?” I asked, clearing my throat awkwardly.

He glanced up from arranging his stack of papers; most likely today’s homework that we had just submitted. “Ah, Mr. Hanson.”

“Do you have a sec that I could talk to you about the assignment that I just got back?” I asked. I had no idea what to say. I’d never had to talk to a teacher before, unless I was being reprimanded or yelled at by one. I’d usually desperately tried to avoid teachers at any cost. I didn’t have a good report with them, especially after my old English teacher had busted me with a dime bag of pot in my backpack.

“Yes. A sixty-seven is a mediocre grade at best. It’s by no means a fail. Ordinarily I would just advise you to try harder and it is still early. You’re new here and probably not used to my marking or the way things are done at this school. But I am well away of your academic standing in this school, Professor Firestone has made it abundantly clear…”

I nodded. I was a little impressed that he knew my mark right off hand.

“Right…” I said slowly, awkwardly hitching the strap of my messenger bag up further on my shoulder. “Uh… well, I was wondering if you could suggest anything to help me bring my marks up. Could I do something different? I mean, something to bring my mark up to at least a seventy five.” I explained.

The professor nodded. “Sure. My suggestion would be to talk to your lab partner. I see you’re sitting with Miss James. She happens to be one of the best students in this class. She’s a very bright girl. You could have her tutor you, or you can just work together; your group work is a substantial part of your final grade.

I nodded. That wasn’t going to go over very well. He wanted my lab partner to tutor me and she wasn’t even talking to me right now. I almost laughed at the irony.

“Okay. So just that? I mean, what about extra credit?” I could hardly believe I was asking the question as the words stumbled out of my mouth. The urge to hit myself surfaced again. I was now officially everything I hate.

“Extra credit usually comes in later in the year. It’s only the sixth day of school.” He chuckled wryly. “And besides, I don’t think you’ll need it. You know the answers, and you get there…. I think you just need to be tutored in what’s expected of you here at Pine Crest Academy. For example, your homework is completed, you’ve found the correct answers, but your answers are direct and to the point. They should be more elaborate. You should explain part of the process and how and why you got the answer. The best person to help you with that is your lab partner, Miss James.”

I swallowed. “Okay, thanks. That’s a good help… I think.”

“You should hurry to your next class, before you’re late.”

I nodded. “Thanks!” I jogged from the classroom and down the hall. I was in my next classroom with no more than thirty seconds to spare before the professor called the class to order. I plopped down in my usual seat and quickly removed my books. My chest ached and my lungs tingled from the exertion of running. Maybe I needed to quit smoking. Not that I really had the choice to smoke here.

I sighed. The ache in my lungs desperately reminded me of how badly I needed a cigarette.

Olivia came into the room after I did. There weren’t any other seats left so she had no choice but to sit across from me. However she still gave me the cold shoulder, not even daring to look at me.

While the professor lectured extensively about the first settlers coming to America, I hardly listened. I’d heard this before, and even I remembered bits and pieces of it. I couldn’t understand the need for students to continue to take history. History never changed. And if it did, I would find a way to change my own history.

I snuck a glance at Olivia who was alternating between diligently taking notes and doodling in the margins of her notebook.
Throughout the reminder of class, I tried desperately to think of something to say to her; some way to make amends and at least get her to talk to me.

I decided on the grade school method. I tore a piece of notebook paper from my book and tried to write neatly and legibly on it, asking her if we could possibly meet as soon as class was over.

I folded the paper three times and when the professor turned her back, I tossed the paper onto her desk. Luckily it landed on the desk and slid across the table to touch her right hand lightly. I had to admit it was a good shot.

Olivia laid down her pen and picked up the paper without even looking at me. She unfolded it and her eyes lightly scanned the page. She seemed to study the paper for a few extra minutes, and for a brief moment I feared she couldn’t read my illegible chicken scratch.

She glanced at me and without a word or even a written response, she simply nodded. She would meet me.

I was surprisingly relieved; I let out the breath I’d been holding. I knew that if I could just talk to her for even a few minutes, she might forgive me. She might at the very least understand why I couldn’t return her advances that night.

I went back to trying to take notes, but I couldn’t concentrate. What on earth was I going to say to her?

The professor dismissed us and I gathered my books. A couple of people approached Olivia, and I slipped outside to wait for her in the hall. I leaned against the row of lockers casually, still trying to find something to say.

The hallway was almost empty, when the people Olivia had been talking to filtered from the room. Olivia followed a few seconds later.

She hesitated on the other side of the hall, tugging awkwardly at the bottom of her sweater. “Hey.” She said.

“Hi.” I answered. “I was kind of hoping we could talk…”

“About Friday night?” She inquired.

“Yeah.” I nodded. “Do you want to go someplace quiet and talk?”

She nodded, but neither one of us moved.

“Uhh… do you know a place? I’m still not really familiar with this place yet.” I began. It was true. Aside from the route to and from class and work, I had no idea how to even get to the main cafeteria.

Olivia tightly hugged her books to her chest and began walking down the hall.

I followed quickly, and she pushed through a door. I followed and we were outside in the main quad.

I followed Olivia across the plush green grass. Finally, when we were well out of earshot, Olivia stopped beneath the shade of a large oak tree.

“So… what do you want to talk about?” She prompted. Her gaze was still turned down to her shoes.