Chapter 13: Hauled In

A week later, it was a Tuesday morning. I was sitting in class and I was handed a piece of paper from my first professor. I scanned the pink piece of paper, feeling my throat close in panic.

“What’s that?” Thomas whispered, leaning across the aisle.

“Professor Firestone wants to see me in his office.” I replied, loosely summarizing the context of the request.

Thomas made an unusual face. “Oh, that’s… not good, man.” He winced.

“I haven’t done anything.” I hissed back across the aisle. “At least, I don’t think I have…”

I’d been working extra hard over the past week. I’d completed all of my homework, handed it in on time. I’d attended all of my classes and even scored a decent eighty-three percent on a pop quiz, thanks to Olivia’s careful tutoring. I couldn’t possibly guess what Professor Firestone wanted to see me for.

Throughout the class, I could hardly concentrate. All I could think about was what Firestone could possibly want with me.

The professor dismissed us and I went to my biology class, in a daze. Ordinarily, I would hurry, desperate to see Olivia. Whether I liked to admit it or not, she was the sole highlight of my day. I was propelled further simply because of my desire to see Olivia. After the first time I kissed her, I hadn’t been entirely sure if I liked her at all. But now that I had a chance to get to know her, I was completely enthralled by her. Even on my darkest days, she could always make things better.

Every little thing about her fascinated me; the way she chewed her pen, the way she would reach behind her and twirl her dark curls around her fingers and how her bare legs always looked so silky and smooth.

I made it into the class, only to discover that Olivia was already in her usual spot behind our lab table.

She smiled up at me sweetly. “Hi.”

“Hey,” I grinned, moving around behind her. I plopped down on my stool.

“What’s wrong?” She frowned, immediately sensing what was going on.

“I got a note this morning in my first class. Firestone apparently wants to see me on my lunch hour.”

Olivia frowned. “But you’re doing so well!”

“That’s what I thought too.” I sighed.

“Well, maybe it’s not a bad thing.” She suggested lightly. This was one of the things I liked best about Olivia. She always tried to put the best spin on things.

“I hope so.”

Olivia smiled. “Are we still on for tonight? The Stephen King movie marathon?”

“Sure.” I nodded. “I thought you hated Stephen King.”

She shrugged. “His books weren’t the best, but the movies have merit.” She explained.

“Alright.” I chuckled. “Your place or mine?”

“Hmm… Gabby has her new boyfriend over tonight; we probably shouldn’t hang around too much…”

“Ahh…” I immediately understood. “New boyfriend? Already?”

“She pretty much goes through a new guy every week.” Olivia laughed. “Don’t get me wrong, I love her, she’s my friend but she’s a little extreme…”

“No kidding.” I mused.

The professor called the class to order, and I didn’t have much time to think about getting called into Firestone’s office.

We did a lab, so I let Olivia take over. She knew exactly what she was doing; I simply helped out where I could.

When class let out, I walked with Olivia to the door. We stopped in the hall. “I should go.”

Olivia nodded. “You don’t want to keep Firestone waiting.”

“No.”

“I’ve got to meet Gabby for lunch anyway.” Olivia informed me. “I’ll see you in American History?”

“I’ll be there.”

“Okay.” She smiled, giving me a tiny wave fore hurrying down the hall; disappearing between the bodies of students all rushing off to get where they needed to go.

I immediately joined them, taking the stairs, and cutting a quick shortcut beneath the same stone archways I had passed beneath on my very first day here.

I slipped into the building with the administrative offices and went to the same desk, leaning heavily on it.

The receptionist looked up from her phone. “Can I help you?”

I surrendered the slip of paper to her. “Professor Firestone wants to see me?”

“Right here, Mr. Hanson.”

I looked up to see Professor Firestone standing in the door way.

“Hey.”

“Right this way.” He held the door open for me.

I followed him through his private waiting room and into his office. I sat in the exact same chair I had the last time, impatiently waiting. My foot tapped anxiously.

Professor Firestone sat down on his chair on the other side of the desk. “How are you today, Mr. Hanson?”

“Okay.” I shrugged.

“Good. How do you like Pine Crest Academy so far?” He asked, clasping his hands together on the desk. He leaned on his elbows.

“It’s alright.” I answered.

“Have you made many friends?”

“A couple.” I answered.

“So you’re fitting in well.”

“I guess so.” This was one of the most awkward conversations I’d ever had in my entire life.

“Okay. What I called you in here for today was that I’ve been monitoring your progress here. I’ve spoken to your professors. They all say you’re doing well. Your American history teacher says you’ve got a ninety percent average. Your other classes are hovering around an eighty percent. That’s extremely impressive. You’re on the honor roll, and you’re doing exceptionally well. I’m very impressed by your progress here.”

“Uhhh… thank you.” I replied.

“I’ve made an executive decision, in regards to your academic probation. It’s very highly unlikely for me to grant you this leniency, especially since you’ve only been here two weeks…” He paused. “But I’ve decided to try you without the academic probation. Though I must warn you, should your grades begin to slip any further than a seventy percent, I’ll be forced to reinstate the probation.”

“That’s understandable.” I agreed.

“You’ll be able to attend school functions, trips and should you choose to, you can drop your job at the library.”

I nodded. “Okay. That’s awesome.”

“I understand you’ve also been spending a lot of time with Miss Olivia James.”

I nodded. “She’s a friend.”

“Just a friend?”

“Yes.” I frowned, frustrated with his insinuation.

“Is there a potential for there to be something more between you?”

“I don’t know.” I answered.

“Miss James is one of our brightest students. She has a great future ahead of her.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh come on, it’s not like I’m going to be corrupting the innocent little girl. We’re friends, and if anything happens, then she’s a smart girl. It’s up to her to decide what she wants to do.”

“That is true.” Professor Firestone agreed. “And perhaps it is none of my business. But should you decide to revert to your old ways, or if you are not able to meet your academic responsibilities…”

“You don’t want me dragging her down with me.”

He nodded. “Precisely. I have every confidence in you, but I feel I need to still cover my bases.”

“Right.” I glanced away to hide rolling my eyes.

“I’ll update your professors, and I’d like to check in with you in a couple of weeks.”

“Sure.” I answered.

“Is there anything else you’d like to catch me up on?”

“No.” I answered.

“Okay. You’re free to go, Mr. Hanson.”

“Thanks.” I stood, slinging my bag over my shoulder.

“Mr. Hanson, one more thing.” Firestone said, glancing up from whatever it was he was crossing out on his calendar; probably my appointment. “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Right. Okay.” I nodded. “Thanks, I guess.” As I left his office, I frowned in confusion with my back to him.

I hurried quickly from his office and took a shortcut through the art building to get to the cafeteria. I was absolutely starving, and thanks to my unfortunately timed meeting with Firestone, I not only had half an hour for lunch.

I moved into the cafeteria and filled a tray full of food that I was going to have to scarf down in record timing. At the last minute, I remembered to grab a coke.

I swiped my student card for my meal and picked up my tray. I glanced around the cafeteria until I spotted someone I knew. I found Thomas sitting by himself at a table near the back corner. His books were open.

I sighed and moved toward him, weaving in and out of the tables.

“Dude.” I said to him, causing him to jump.

I flipped his book closed. “It’s lunch. No school work allowed. Take a damn break for once in your life.” I told him.

“You’re right.” He nodded.

“Ike!” Olivia appeared at my side suddenly. “How did it go with Professor Firestone?”

“Good, actually.” I answered. “He’s waved my academic probation.”

Olivia’s whole face seemed to light up. “I knew you could do it!” She threw her arms around my neck and hugged me happily.

I inhaled the sweet fruity scent of her shampoo, and nearly salivated at the delicious smell.

I cocked one eyebrow at Thomas who grinned knowingly. He kept insisting that Olivia liked me and if I liked Olivia I should make my move. He didn’t understand the risks or the reasons why I couldn’t be with her; why I needed to wait to let her into my life. He didn’t understand that I had to be absolutely sure I could completely trust her before I could tell her how I felt and what I’d been though.

Olivia released me and I quickly dropped my arms from around her, so it didn’t seem like I was trying to keep her in my arms. However, I secretly wouldn’t have minded holding her a little longer.

She moved back around the table. “So what all did Firestone say? I mean, he probably wouldn’t have just let you off.” She plopped down on a chair on the other side of the table. She picked up her spoon and yogurt cup and scooped some into her mouth.

I sat down with my tray of food and opened the can of coke. “Well he said I got a ninety percent average in my American history class. Which was news to me.” I mused, picking up four fries and taking a bite off the stack. “I mean, I’m sure that isn’t impressive to you two geniuses, but to some body like me, that’s pretty damn decent.”

“No, that’s a great mark!” Thomas replied.

“What’s your mark?”

“Ninety-nine.” Thomas answered, proudly.

“Ninety-eight.” Olivia replied.

I rolled my eyes. “You both suck. Thanks.”

“Sorry.” Olivia smiled sweetly. “Ninety is a perfectly respectable mark. You should be very proud of yourself.”

“What else did Firestone say?” Thomas pressed.

“Well, I don’t have to work that stupid library job any more. Which is awesome because that job was so boring and borderline embarrassing.” I replied, picking up my burger and taking a huge bite.

Olivia spooned more yogurt into her mouth.

“How can you eat that junk?” Thomas asked, wrinkling his nose. “It’s bacterial cultures and rotten milk.”

“It has blueberries in it. I love blueberries.” She smiled. “Blueberries are my favorite. You should try it.”

“No thanks. I’d be afraid of lysteria or botulism.”

Olivia sighed, rolling her eyes. She dropped her spoon back into the yogurt cup and placed it back on the table. “Thanks for that Thomas. Now I’m done with the yogurt.” She shuddered. “I have to go though, I’m supposed to exchange notes with someone before English.”

“See you in class.” I said to her.

“Bye.” Thomas replied.

Olivia stood and left the table, carrying her tray.

I watched her go, mesmerized by the sway of her skirt and how incredibly hot she was.

When I could no longer see her, I turned to Thomas. I shoved his upper arm, hard.

“Ow!” Thomas cried. “What was that for?”

“The yogurt thing? What the hell, man? She was eating that!”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “Jeeze!” He rubbed his arm. “I was making conversation. God, I’m going to have a bruise!”

“Good.” I replied.

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