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Episode 14 Part 42

By:  Lenady

“So then what happened?”


Tilly had stopped. Stopped talking, stopped stirring. She couldn’t think of anything other than the question ‘What in the heck are you doing?’ Because somewhere between moving boxes and the stuck locker she realized that this might have been one of the stupidest ideas she’d ever had. “Um…” she answered after a moment, “give me a minute.”


She’d just realized, although it had been slowly starting to creep into her mind all along, that she didn’t even know where she was going with any of this. Yeah, she’d had a thought when she first started telling the story, but that had kind of flittered away when Sanrook started asking questions. With talking about Erin and getting off onto a tangent about ‘Hope’s’ dad, then bringing Alison into the story, because what in the heck did Alison have to do with anything? And why’d Tilly even decide to do this anyway? It was gonna be bad. It was going to backfire spectacularly, blow up in her face in so many ways and she didn’t even- She gripped the fork, rubbing the metal firmly with her thumb, feeling the grooves push into her skin.


“Ding ding ding,” Toren chirped. “Time’s up. On the food that is. You still have like twenty five seconds Tilly, but hurry it up ‘cause I like this story and pauses are annoying and boring.”


Tilly huffed out a laugh and reached over to turn off the stovetop. “Yeah, well too bad. I’m thi- Ah!” She’d meant to pull up a bit of spaghetti to test, but had stuck the fork in too far, too fast, and the tops of her fingers had reached the still rolling water. She just barely managed to back away from the stove as she dropped the fork back into the pot, sending a small splash of scalding water flying.


“Thinking?” Toren said, “Yeah, no.”


Tilly waved her smarting hand through the air. “Ah! Dang it. You can just-” she popped her fingers in her mouth, after a second removing them to wave again. She sighed, after a moment, and pointed at the pasta. “Let’s get this together first, huh?” 


Sanrook nodded enthusiastically, grinning as she pulled the fork out with a set of tongs, then loaded a pile of noodles onto the small baking sheet she was using as a plate. She had to retrieve a few as they started to slide off the side.


“Need something bigger?” Tilly smirked, looking towards the cabinet where they kept the mixing bowl.


“Nah,” Sanrook said, as she ladled on a mound of red sauce.


Tilly shrugged, as she drew a forkful of spaghetti out of the water, letting it drain for a moment before placing it in the center of her plate. “Whatever. It’s your shirt that’s gonna get on,” Tilly said, pointing at Sanrook with the fork.


Sanrook looked over at her, eyebrows raised slightly, and grinned.


Tilly shook her head. Yeah, she got it. As if anything, even the force of gravity, was going to get between Sanrook and food.


She grabbed a handful of paper towels on the way out of the kitchen anyway. Sanrook had pulled out what Tilly thought was a pair of chopsticks. She couldn’t foresee that ending well.


They were a few bites into the meal (or at least Sanrook was, Tilly’d just mostly been sitting there swirling the pasta around her plate) before Tilly noticed Sanrook glancing up at her every so often.


“So…” Tilly started to say, and Sanrook sat up straighter. She sighed.


“So, despite…” Tilly tapped on the rim of her plate, scraping a piece of red sauce with her thumbnail. “So…” she began again, waited for a moment feeling her entire body tense, nearly rigid, and then sat the plate down on her lap forcefully. “Sanrook, I’m no good at this. How about we just turn the tv on or something.”


“Oh,” said Sanrook, who glanced to the side then looked back with a subtle look of concern.


Tilly couldn’t be certain what was going through her mind, since most of the time trying just left her nursing a headache.


 “Yeah,” Sanrook continued, “It must be getting pretty late.  You know, being in space and all, its kinda always night time.” Sanrook considered her watch. “Yeah, its past eleven by the time we’ve been keeping.  So yeah, we can just stop whenever.”  She smiled. And with that expression Tilly felt her will begin to crumble. It was a normal broad Sanrook grin, but too nonchalant, with obvious disappointment written in the muscles around her eyes.


“Awwwwww,” came the whine over the unseen speakers that supplied Toren with a voice, “but I’m not tired at all!”


“You’re a computer” said Sanrook.


“I know. That’s why I’m not tired.”


“You are missing the obvious point that we, on the other hand, are not computers,” said Sanrook with finality, “Tilly can do whatever she wants.”  With that Sanrook seemed to realize there was a sheet of spaghetti perched on her lap.  She resumed eating with her usual gusto.


Tilly sighed and looked back down at her plate.


“So anyway, the girl started to get used to the village.” She paused for a moment, trying to grasp onto the bits of story that were flitting around her head and bumping into the memories already there. She frowned as she focused in on one, reaching towards it and hoping she wouldn’t end up with a bleeding hand. “But Alison wasn’t the only one that found her, or them rather, to be an unwelcome addition. You see,” she said, pushing the spaghetti back and forth. “People don’t always like what they aren’t familiar with. The village was small and out of the way and people knew each other and didn’t necessarily like new people coming in. Especially new people that weren’t really the type to settle down.”


* * *


“Matilda,” said Mr. Burget, as he handed back her homework sheet, “I need to see you after class.” Tilly looked down at it and winced, partially from the name everyone kept calling her and partially from the flood of red across the page. Stupid quadratic equations.


She looked back up to nod at him, but he was already moving back the row. A few people glanced towards her, curiosity on some faces and amusement on others. She bent over and stuffed the homework sheet in her binder, hiding the red on the paper and the red on her face from both.


“Alright,” Mr. Burget walked back to the front of the room. “Your assignment’s on the board. It’s only fifteen-" A few groans rose up from the class, and Mr. Burget said again, in a louder voice, “Only fifteen problems, so I don’t want you coming in tomorrow with blank papers.” And then the bell rang and the room was suddenly a roar with students and shifting desks.


Tilly sat still, quietly putting her math book and pens away in her bag… still the clear one. The search for her old backpack had been a waste of time. It had probably gotten sold or donated before the least move. She’d mentioned to her mom about going to get a new one, but her mom hadn’t really been looking at her at the time, focusing down on the magazine as they sat at the kitchen table. Tilly’d managed to force down the compulsion to rip the glossy paper out of her mom’s hands and throw it in the trash.


After a moment the row was clear and Tilly started to stand, before she noticed someone approaching Mr. Burget as the last remaining students walked out the door. She sighed, and sat back down, stiffly, in her seat. It was one of the sci/tech guys, well girl in this case, in the robotics club Mr. Burget sponsored. She breathed in and looked at the clock, glancing between the slowly moving hands and the girl and wishing she would just leave already so Tilly could get this over with.


After what felt like a small eternity of shifting nervously while the girl and Mr. Burget talked animatedly about something or other, the girl left, and Mr. Burget turned back around and sat at his desk. “Matilda,” he said, all hints of levity having left his face, “We need to talk about your work in this class so far.” He motioned her forward with one hand.


She nodded, palms suddenly clammy and stomach churning as she stood and walked towards his desk.


He sat, hands folded, looking up at her. Tilly had never quite understood how that position, looking down at a teacher, was as intimidating as them looking down at you. It probably wasn’t the positioning at all, she realized, but the fact that she was standing at their desk, and you never stood at a teacher’s desk unless you were in trouble, or had to ask for something, and most of the time, in Tilly’s experience, that meant asking for help, which could be almost as bad as being in trouble, sometimes. All according to the teacher’s patience and how easy the stuff was for the rest of the class.


“Your work so far,” He began, then shook his head. “The work we’ve been covering over the past few days, it’s not advanced.” He glanced towards the chalkboard, behind Tilly’s shoulder, then added, “By any means.”


Tilly caught the smile before it had the chance to form on her lips. ‘Yup’, she thought. 'Just as bad.’


“You’re on a dangerous track so far. I was aware of your… shortcomings,” and it was faint, but Tilly caught his lips curled up in the hint of a sneer before settling back down to a neutral position, “But I hadn’t anticipated them being this severe, even after seeing your transcripts.”


Tilly bit her lip and gripped her backpack, opening her mouth to respond but...


He continued, “Your math grades from last year, and the year prior… they dipped in places, but…” He shook his head. “I had my reservations, but was assured it wouldn’t cause problems.”


Tilly found her left arm tightly in the grip of her right hand, as she replaced Mr. Burget’s ‘it’ with ‘you’. That’s what he meant after all. 


“I don’t know what they told you, but here you have to be more than one of Mrs. Epstein‘s prima donnas to pass the class.”


“But that’s not-"


“Not what they told you?” he said, eyebrows raising, his lips twitching upwards slightly.


She shook her head, her throat growing tight.

“No. That’s not what-" The sound of her own voice cracking shook her, a rush of panic flooding her system. She cleared her throat, fighting past the lump she felt growing, and the trembling in her hand. She breathed in and out and in, and steeled herself. “That’s not what I thought anyway.”


He nodded his head and smiled. “Right.”


And Tilly winced, feeling her composure start to crumble, because she knew that, for whatever reason, he didn’t believe her. 


“That still doesn’t change the situation at hand,” he said, tapping a notebook on the desk with his palm. “It’s been a week, but so far I haven’t seen too much evidence to support an argument for your success in this class, which does not bode well, given your position as a student with probationary admittance. In other words, Miss Kaphtman, if there’s not drastic improvement I’m going to recommend your admittance be reconsidered.”


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