I am currently in my third year out of the four years that are required. I was sitting at my desk and diligently listening to my teacher’s lesson — listening diligently, but I was not learning. Beside me was Connie. Connie is someone that we met during my first year, and he has stuck with me ever since.
I was listening to my teacher Mrs Torrez’s lecture, and Connie was mildly listening and drawing pictures in his notebook.
Mrs Torrez stopped her lesson.
“Ms Boateng… Ms Boateng!.. Ms Boateng, wake up!”
“G-Gah, sorry Miss!”
Valerie Boateng sprung awake when a girl with red hair was tapping on her shoulder. It has been about a month since starting the new school year, so I observed some things about my classmates. Valerie is a classmate that entered this school last year. We were in a few of the same classes last year, so I became slightly familiar with her. She also insisted that I call her by her first name.
Mrs Torrez, the teacher who was about the same height or shorter than most of the class but seemed taller because she was standing, spoke to Valerie again.
“Ms Boateng, this is the last period and there are twenty minutes left, so please try to stay awake until then.”
“Y-Yes… Sorry, Miss.”
Mrs Torrez went back to teaching her lesson. The subject being taught in this class was biology. So, there were a lot of difficult and complicated topics covered. It made sense why Valerie dozes off in class. Mentally, it can be pretty exhausting learning and memorizing a lot of these perplexing concepts.
“Hey Ren, what do you think?”
I turned my head when Connie alerted me.
“What do you need?”
“Valerie’s pretty hot, don’t you think?”
Mrs Torrez interfered.
“Mr Capperman, please focus!”
“Oh, s-sorry miss.”
One day, Connie and I were sitting at a table in the cafeteria eating lunch. I was eating a simple sandwich I prepared at home and Connie was eating a slice of pizza he bought from the cafeteria.
“So Ren, how about it? Pretty good plan, eh?”
Connie was telling me about his plans for when he graduates high school.
“Psychology is such an interesting topic to me. I mean, you get to learn about people and how they think and such… Bro, if you get good enough, I bet you’ll be able to borderline read people’s minds! How cool is that?”
“Pursue psychology… Sure, I know what I wanna learn, but what career? Eh, I haven’t decided on that yet. I don’t think there are many jobs that specifically require a psychology knowledge set, but it sure is useful —I mean, we deal with other humans every day!”
I am not good at continuing conversations. It is not like I dislike talking with others, I just do not do it often. I barely add anything to a conversation unless the other person specifically asks me questions, and I will answer them to the best of my ability.
“Hey Ren, how about you? Do you have plans for the future? Wait, that was a rhetorical question…”
I silently nodded.
“Yeah… I plan to work at the company Comeffecient.”
“Oh… Wait, I know that place! But why? Of course, with the nature of that company, there’s no doubt that you’ll be making tons of cash and always be on that grind, but why there?”
I nodded again.
“Well… My father instructed me to go there…”
“Ah, I see…”
Connie nodded. When I watched him, I got a feeling that he was feeling something in addition to understanding. Disappointment? Anger? Whatever it was, it did not concern me.
The topic was changed when a girl ran past our table.
“Hey Valerie, wanna join our not so exhilarating conversation!?”
Valerie was running but stopped when Connie called out to her. Cradled in her arms was a large purple and blue school binder. There was also a laptop cradled in between the binder and her chest.
“Sorry Connie, I have to study. T-Thanks though!”
Valerie continued running.
“Okay, see you later…”
Things have been like this recently. Whenever it was our lunch break, Connie ate with me. Valerie also eats, but once she finishes quickly, she runs off to the library to study. Every time Connie sees her, he always suggests that she join us, but she declines by saying she needs to study or she’s going to study.
“Eh? What’s up with her? It’s not like we have an upcoming test or anything…”
Connie’s eyes widened and he leaned forward towards me.
“Wait, that isn’t it, right? Ren, we don’t have an upcoming test, do we?”
“Oh, phew! Thank goodness… I don’t think I can afford to die for the millionth time…”
After eating lunch, Connie brought me to check on Valerie in the library. The cafeteria led to the large front foyer, and across from the entrance was the entrance to the library. The library, also doubling as the school’s computer lab, was a room that was bigger than a classroom. It is called a library, but only about a sixth of the room is filled with shelves with books, while the rest is occupied by tables for studying and computers.
We walked towards a table for two people in the corner. Sitting at it was Valerie working on her white laptop while writing things in a notebook. Sprawled all over the table were many papers, pens, and pencils.
“Yo, what’s up Valerie!?”
Valerie frantically raised her head to look at us. That was the first close-up look I got of Valerie in a while. Her hair was not combed properly and was slightly greasy. Her eyes were red and there were black spots under them. Small pimples and blackheads were hardly visible on her face. Her uniform was wrinkled and smelled of perfume.
“C-Connie? Ren? Yeah, what is it?”
Valerie was still looking at her laptop and writing things down.
“Well, you see, there are about twenty minutes left for break. Ren and I were about to head out, so we were wondering if you wanted to join us.”
Valerie made a dismissing hand signal as she continued to work.
“Ah, that’s very thoughtful of you, but no thanks! I really need to study, so maybe another day.”
Connie went to sit in the chair opposite Valerie. Connie brought his head closer to the table and leaned forward, meeting Valerie’s eyes when she changed to look at her notebook.
“Connie, please get off of my things. And yeah, I’m sure.”
Connie leaned back in his chair and stared at Valerie with a perplexed face.
“Eh, you sure you’re sure? I mean, we don’t have any upcoming tests for any classes we have. And according to classmates who are in your remaining classes, you don’t have upcoming tests in any of those ones. So?..”
Valerie finally averted her eyes from her laptop and notebook to look at Connie. She spoke in a slightly annoyed tone but still smiled. It was passive-aggressive.
“Yes Connie, I am sure. So please leave and enjoy the outside without me.”
She already said no, so why was Connie being so persistent. I think hard work is beneficial, so there is no reason Connie should stop her.
“I see… Well, unfortunately for you I’m changing my request from a request to a demand. Valerie, come with us.”
Connie grabbed the back of Valerie’s collar and started dragging her to the exit.
“H-Hey! Quit it! Connie, I seriously have work to do!”
Connie was speaking bluntly.
“Yeah, no you don’t.”
“Hey, don’t yell, we’re in a library.”
Valerie spoke in a normal tone but continued speaking like she was annoyed.
“Connie! Really I have work that I need to get done.”
“Homework? No, you’re not doing that. There’s a reason it’s called homework.”
“Yeah, but… Seriously Connie, just let me go!”
“Hey Valerie, stop talking.”
Connie still spoke bluntly, but he also sounded mad. Honestly, it was the angriest I have seen him — hold back having a fit that would cause a scene. It surprised Valerie for a moment, but she still fought.
“You are going to enjoy your time with Ren and me, and you are going to enjoy it!”
“The hell!? That doesn’t sound like enjoyment!”
“Um, yeah it does — you are going to have fun because I specifically requested it!”
With Valerie struggling, Connie did not get far — only as far as the end of the section with study tables.
“Stop! Or I’ll be forced to scream!”
He went back to sounding frivolous.
“Eh!? Please don’t I can’t be labeled anything that could get me expelled- h-hey!”
When Connie was shocked by Valerie’s threat, she managed to free herself by jolting her collar free with a pull that caught him off guard.
Connie put his hands at his side, mimicking the pose an angry father would assume to discipline their child.
“Listen here, young lady! You are- huh?”
Valerie lifted her hand to stop Connie. Her seriousness that contrasted the non-serious charade Connie was doing stopped him.
“Look, Connie… Ren… Really, I appreciate you guys for wanting to include me, but really, I have work to complete. And besides…”
Valerie was speaking in a sad-sounding tone.
“I like working…”
Connie stared at Valerie for a few seconds. So she likes working… Then Connie is really in the wrong here. I think some people can experience stress from working a lot, but if Valerie says she enjoys it, then there is no reason to interfere — besides, hard work is efficient.
“Hm… I see I see…”
Connie put his hand on his forehead as if he were laughing at himself.
“Ah, is that so? Ah, then I deeply apologize for trying to pull you away from it...”
He turned towards the exit and signaled at me.
“Hey Ren, let’s go!”
I walked towards him. When I arrived, Connie turned around.
“See ya later, Valerie. And call us the next time you want to hang out!”
As we walked out, I briefly turned my head again and caught a glimpse of Valerie. And she seemed… odd? She looked kind of disappointed and sad. Because of Connie? Because of herself? Because of both of those reasons? I do not know… But I should not let it concern me...
Connie sighed quietly and concernedly.