I can do this. I can fake my way through this and everything will be fine. All I have to do is remember every single lie I’ve ever told. If I don’t, my carefully constructed reality will rip apart like a pair of Nike knockoffs.
Then I remember something else, just as I open the door to head in to Homework Club. I need some new lies in my back pocket, just in case. Because if my friends are here–and some of them are bound to be here– they’ll ask me why I’m here, and I have to be ready with an excuse. Which is just another word for a lie.
Not that studying is anything to be embarrassed about. Our school must have the biggest Homework Club in Orlando. Homework is expected, we all do it, it’s not cool to fail. But as I said, if my friends saw me here, they’d be wondering why someone who’d previously claimed to have a private tutor was studying at school.
What’s the fresh lie in my back pocket? My tutor is sick, but it needs to be more than that, I suspect she’s been lying to me for a while now and–this is the cherry on top–she must have a new boyfriend and she’s all loved up and irresponsible. It’s a believable story because I put in the extra embellishment. Plus I’ll get sympathy for being abandoned. Perfect.
Don’t judge me. Lying is a victimless crime, I’m not depriving anybody of a living or getting something extra that I’m not entitled to, OK? So spare your judgmental curled lip and have a good hard look at yourself why don’t you? Admit it, you tell lies all day. Little fibs about how early you went to sleep last night (because if you told the parentals what time you really fell asleep, they’d drag you before a therapist.) How your best friend’s new hair style looks awesome (even though it makes her ears stick out) not to mention the biggest lie of all, ‘my phone must have been dead.’
So why am I going to Homework Club? Because failing is about the most frightening thing that could ever happen. It will not happen to me. My parents didn’t put everything on the line to get me into this school to see me fail. So I won’t fail. I’ll come to homework club for help. It’s that simple. Which means a few more lies. In the grand scheme of things, what’s one more?
There he is, the nerdiest boy in physics class (and there is serious nerd competition here) solving college-level problems with his nerdy friends. They are going to be rocket scientists for sure. They are captains of the Physics Club (of course we have one of them), they make robots in their spare time and are on first-name bases with the NASA crews who live down the end of the freeway.
Obligatory throat clearing happens on my part as I approach their table. The three of them look at me as if I’m some kind of alien species.
“This is a little embarrassing,” is my opening gambit. “I need help with physics and this is Homework Club and you’re all here, and . . . here I am.”
It’s only a partial lie, I’m not the least bit embarrassed but I do need help. I’m not this pathetic normally, but I’m sure they need me to sound a little helpless. It triggers the knight-in-shining-armor response. They’ll fall out of their chairs to help me.
One of them, I have absolutely no idea what his name is, twitches his shoulder and turns bright red. This is going great!
“Fine, sit down,” Nerd Leader says. I know his name is Malcolm, because he writes the physics column in our school newspaper every month.
Yes, we have one of them too.
The other two look at him with betrayal writ large in their expressions. He’s letting a non-geek into their personal space.
Well, I am virtually a stranger. I guess I never have spoken to them before.
Time to make introductions. “I’m Bianca, I need help with physics homework so I came here looking for the three of you.” That was the absolute truth, but I did kind of “cute-up” my voice to sound ever so slightly helpless.
“Noah,” one of them mumbles. “Ed,” the other says. I know that can’t be their real names, it’s their Americanized names their parents gave them to enroll in school. Not that their background bothers me one bit. A brain is a brain, and I need theirs.
As I take the seat next to Malcolm, he looks me up and down and says, “What will I get out of this?”
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