"I can already tell this is going to be a waste of both of our time," Chase muttered, turning towards the whiteboard and uncapping his marker. He shook his head, "You can’t just fake understanding. It doesn’t matter if you don’t care about Chemistry. Care about your future, and passing Chemistry is a part of that."
Shelby crossed her arms over her chest, “I’m not stupid, Chase. I’m fucking brilliant. I’m just having some trouble caring about whether an equation is balanced or not.”
"And I get that," Chase replied. "Do you think I give a rat’s ass about two teenagers who are stupid enough to kill themselves for love after only three days? No. But I still put my best effort into English and my grades reflect that."
Shelby sighed, “Fine. I’ll try, okay? Let’s just do this.”
Reed left, and soon Shelby and Chase were alone. Shelby had a funny feeling in her stomach at that realization, but she took a breath and stepped further into the room, “Okay. Let’s get this over with.”
"That’s the spirit!" Chase responded, sarcastically. He motioned towards the door, "Not your boyfriend, huh? That’s not what it looked like."
Shelby shrugged, “I don’t care what it looks like. He’s still just a friend.” She frowned, “Can we do this, already? I’d like to pass Chemistry so I can never look at it again.”
"You need to get more interested," Chase said, sternly. "You’ll never truly understand something if you don’t put forth the effort."
Shelby rolled her eyes, “I don’t care if I understand it. I’d just like to be able to fake it until graduation.”
For the first time since entering the room, Shelby spoke, whispering to Reed, “I’m good, Reed. You can go.”
"You sure?" Reed said in a low voice, his skeptical glare still on Chase.
Shelby looked at him, humor in her eyes, “I thought you said I’d be fine.”
Reed finally looked down at Shelby, “You… you will. I just… This guy. He’s too good looking to be a science nerd.”
Shelby almost laughed, dropping her voice so that she was almost not even audible to Reed, “You have a boyfriend, Mr. Jensen.”
"Hey!" Reed said, shushing her. His eyes shot to Chase quickly who was staring away with disinterest. Finally, he looked back at Shelby, "That’s not what I meant by it and you know it."
"I know," Shelby chuckled. She leaned in for a hug, "Thanks, Reed. Now go. You’re going to be late for your detention."
The tutor looked confused, “Yes, because it can be so hard to navigate these halls?” He shook his head, a smirk on his face, and turned his attention to Shelby, “Are you ready to start?”
"Not quite yet," Reed interrupted, taking a protective step in front of Shelby. He narrowed his eyes at the boy, "I need to know a little more about you."
The boy observed Reed with a sardonic smile, “Overbearing boyfriend? Or are you just a really big guard dog?”
"I’m her friend," Reed responded. "And I look out for her. So spill."
The boy looked as if he might argue some more, but then he gave a shrug, “Fine, fine. I’m Chase. Sanford. I’m a senior. Student body president. I run track, pole vault, and I’m on the tennis team. All A’s. I want to either be a scientist or teach science, hence the AP Chem class that led to this little encounter.”
Reed and Shelby exchanged a look.
With a chuckled, Chase shook his head, “Do I pass the test? Because I’d like to get to work.”
"What was that?" Shelby’s new tutor said, turning to look at them with a raised eyebrow.
Reed looked surprised at the sight of him, and Shelby could understand why. ‘Scrawny’ and ‘dork’ were not terms that she would have labelled this boy. He was of average build, with smooth, freckled skin and bright green eyes. He was rather handsome and also somewhat familiar. They might have once had a class together, although Shelby couldn’t be sure.
Reed ran his hand over his hair, “You aren’t exactly what I expected from a science nerd.”
"Sorry to disappoint you," The boy returned. "I left all of my D&D wear at home. You aren’t exactly what I expected, either. I was told I would only have one student to tutor."
Shelby kept letting her eyes wander to the floor as the two boys conversed, “Yeah, well I’m not staying. I just wanted to make sure Shelby got here alright.”
Reed swung the lab door open and walked inside, Shelby keeping close behind him as she examined the room. A slim, ginger-headed boy was facing the whiteboard, eraser in hand. He didn’t turn as he swept the eraser over the board, “Hey! Come on in! Let me just get rid of this stuff. I was doing some diagrams, you know, for fun.”
Reed snorted, glancing over at Shelby, “See what I mean? Dork.”
"Wait, you can’t stay with me?" Shelby asked, the panic rising in her voice.
"What, stay and listen to some dork talk about the elements or whatever? No thank you," Reed scoffed, his eyebrows coming together. He observed Shelby, seeing the concern streaked across her face, and his expression softened, "Besides, I’ve got detention, and Mr. Janes says that if I skip one more I’m going to get expelled. I’ve put in this many years. No use wasting it during my last one."
Shelby sighed, staring past Reed at the Chemistry lab door, “Couldn’t you explain it to Mr. Janes, and maybe he could—”
"Explain what?" Reed interrupted, although he maintained a soft tone. "Explain that something that I’m not allowed to talk about happened to my best friend, and I need to watch over her around her Chemistry tutor for reasons that I can’t say? Yeah, that will go over well."
Shelby frowned but was silent, her eyes dropping to her shoes.
Reed sighed, rubbing his neck, “Stop sweating it, Andover. You’re safe here. It’s our school, remember? And I’ll be right down the hall.” He paused, “They probably paired you with some scrawny genius with glasses who’s never even spoken to a girl before. He’ll probably be too shy to talk to you to even be of any help.”
"I don’t know why I have to have a tutor, anyway," Shelby mumbled.
Reed chuckled, “That’s because you have a 12 in Chem. Come on, Andover. I’ll walk you in.”