Tuesday, August 24, 2010

School Days: Junior Year

Chapter 9: The SATs

Despite Nai'a's urging, I didn't tell Erik - or anyone really - that James and I had broken up. He was busy with school and so was I. The SATs were approaching quickly, so I didn't have the time or energy to think about boys. At least that's what I told myself. Timothy had arranged a couple review sessions after school; mostly to acquaint people with the format of the test and go through a few practice sections.

It was our last session and fewer people had shown up each time. Timothy looked at the clock and shrugged. "Okay, let's get started." he said.

One or two stragglers came in a few minutes late and quietly took their seats. The final session was mostly going over some of the practice writing prompts and discussing ways to effectively respond. We broke off into smaller groups and talked about how each of us would approach the prompt.

After an hour, the instructor got our attention back. "Okay everyone! That's it, thank you Timothy for arranging these sessions." she smiled in his direction before continuing. "I wish you all luck on your SATs this weekend."

There was a shuffling of feet and scrapping of chairs as everyone gathered their things and filed out into the hallway. "This sucks." Todd muttered as we exited the classroom. "Ugh..."

"You okay Todd?" I asked.

"I don't feel ready..." he said quietly.

"Wanna come over and go over a few more things?" I suggested. "Nothing like last minute cramming...and ice cream." I grinned.

"Sure, I think that might help...the ice cream anyway." he said with a laugh.

We caught up with Nai'a and Erik and invited them over as well. "You can stay the night if you like Nai'a" I added.

"What about us?" Erik asked with a grin. "Don't we get to sleep over?"

Nai'a chuckled. "You can stay at my house dude, Ginny's driving us all over to the test tomorrow anyway." Todd chimed in.

Timothy came out of the room while we were making the plans and I excused myself to catch him. "Hey Timothy."

Timothy looked past me toward the exit, looking anxious to get going. "Hey Ginny.." he said absently.

"We're having a study group at my house tonight; ice cream and pizza is a given...you wanna come over?" I said.

"Um, thanks but...no. Look I've got to go." And with that, he was gone. He moved through the crowd quickly and was gone before I could get the look of confusion off my face.

"What's with him?" Erik asked, having come up behind me.


I ordered some pizza after getting home and looked through the fridge and pantry to see what sort of snacks we had. "Hey Dad!" I called toward his office. "Todd, Erik and Nai'a are coming over for some SAT cramming - do we have anymore sodas?"

"I'm right here, you can stop shouting." he said from behind me. I jumped in surprised and hit my head on the pantry shelf. "Oh! Ouch, sorry..." he said.

Rubbing my head, I turned toward him. "So do we have any more sodas?" I asked weakly.

"I'll check." he said and kissed my forehead.

The others arrived an hour later and we settled in the living room with a few of the review books we'd gotten. Although the books were open and scattered around, we didn't make much progress really preparing.

"That was probably the least effective study session ever" Todd said between bites of pizza. "But I feel better anyway." he said with a laugh.

I chuckled and started picking up the array of books and stacking them on the table. "Well probably better to go in feeling relaxed." I said with a smile.

Eventually the boys left to cross the yard back to Todd's house. Although Todd had been freed from his grounding, he still had a strict curfew, even if he was just next door.

Nai'a suggested we play the new game that just came out for the SBox until we'd need to get to bed; we had an early wake up call the next morning after all.

"Why, again, haven't you told Erik?" Nai'a asked, probably trying to distract me.

"How do you know I haven't?" I countered.

"Just a guess. He's very cautious around you - like he's holding back out of respect. If he knew you were free....I don't think he would be." she explained.

I couldn't help but agree with her. There were times where we were downright awkward around each other. "Well we've just been busy...with the SATs and all."

"Right." Nai'a said, she didn't believe me of course. "Ha! I win!" she shouted victoriously. After a few more games we went upstairs to shower and get ready for bed. Nai'a fell asleep quickly, but after laying in bed for half an hour, unable to sleep, I crept downstairs.

Tap, tap, tap.

I nearly dropped the dish I was holding in the sink as I heard the noise against the window. I whirled around, clutching a spoon and saw Todd and Erik grinning at me from the other side of the window. They waved me over and after letting my heart slow down to a normal pace, I joined them outside. "What are you two doing here?" I hissed. "Todd, your mom would totally flip...." I was cut off as they each grabbed my arms and pulled me out of the yard.

There was a small stretch of grass between our houses that looked out over the town with a mostly unobstructed view. Todd and Erik both laid back on the grass and looked up at me, clearly expecting me to do the same. "Remember when we did this as kids Ginny?" Todd asked, patting the grass between them.

"Yes..." I said as I settled between them and looked up at the stars. "Why are we here now?"

Todd shrugged. "Just because." We were quiet for several minutes before Todd spoke again. "How's James?" he asked. He really had no idea how nerve racking such an innocent question could be.

"Fine I guess." I said quietly. Without making the conscious decision to do it, I continued. "We broke up actually - so I can't really be sure..."

Todd rolled onto his side and looked at me with surprise but I watched Erik. "You broke up?" Todd asked. "When? Why?"

"A couple weeks ago, because he's about to go off and do the college thing." I said, my eyes still on Erik.

"But...." Todd was about to protest that it could still work out - he and Mei-Ling were doing great, even with her off and college but I got to my feet, effectively cutting him off.

"I should get back, wouldn't want Nai'a waking up and wondering where I'd run off to - waking my dad...ya know?" I said. I smiled at them. "You guys should get back too, if you're mom finds you out of the house, she'll blow a gasket Todd." Before they could argue, I jogged back to my house and quietly latched the door behind me.


The car ride to the test was quiet the next morning, I hadn't slept well at all after the confession and no one seemed to want to break the silence that filled the car.

We arrived early and had a few minutes still before the proctor would start the test but the room was filled with only the sound of shuffling and the occasional cough or pencil tapping.

I looked over at Todd to wish him luck and was surprised by the look on his face. He looked almost ill, as he stared straight ahead of him. "Todd?" I whispered.

"Are you okay?" I asked quietly. Todd shook his head but didn't say anything. I'm pretty sure his nerves had returned and he was feeling it at the worst possibly time.

"Alright everyone, quiet down please." the proctor said, closing the classroom door with a loud clank. She opened her booklet. "You are here to take the SAT examination. Please listen closely as I read out the names of those assigned to this room. If I do not call your name, please let me know immediately so you can be moved to the appropriate room for the duration of the examination..." she read from the book, word for word and then took a quick roll call. No one was in the wrong room thankfully so she continued. "Please listen closely to the following instructions, do not open your test booklet until instructed. This examination consists of three portions, each portion will be timed. Between portions there will be a short, quiet break. If you need to use the restroom or need something, please raise your hand and wait for someone to come to you. There will be no talking during the examination, please turn off all cell phones, pagers or electronic devices now."

Several people bent over to turn off their phones and double check that they had everything they needed for the exam already out. The proctor continued to read instructions for several more minutes before passing back test booklets and giving us the go ahead to begin the first section.

I felt like I was doing pretty well - though it wasn't easy by any means. I glanced around the room and saw that Todd's nerves seemed to have settled. He wasn't staring at his paper unable to remember his own name anyway so that had to be a good sign.

I'd barely finished the section when the proctor stood up and walked to the front of the room. "Time is up. Please put down your pencils. Place your answer sheet inside your booklet and wait while your booklets are collected. Once all booklets are collected, I will release you for a small ten minute break. Please be courteous of those still testing and keep your voices down while in the hallways. Please be prompt returning to the classroom so that we can continue the examination." a couple helpers had gone down the rows collecting the exam booklets. When they were all collected, the proctor nodded and everyone was happy to get up and move around a bit to stretch their legs. I headed for the vending machines to grab something I could eat during the break.

Erik had hung back as students filed back into the room and waited for me to return. "So, you guys broke up?"

"Um...yeah." I said nodding. "I...." I trailed off, not sure what I was going to say. Thankfully I was saved by one of the proctors ushering us into the room.

"Come on, come on - we need to resume." she said. Erik and I took our seats, we were the last to sit down apparently. They handed the booklets back out to everyone. "Please check your booklet and your answer sheet to be sure you have the correct ones. If you do not have the correct booklet or answer sheet, please raise your hand now." she waited as everyone double checked and when no one raised their hand, she continued. "We will now begin the mathematics portion of the examination. No calculators or electronic devices are allowed to be used during this portion. If you need paper to do your calculations, you may use the back pages of your examination booklet, if you need additional paper during the exam, please raise your hand and wait for someone to come to you. Please remember that only answers submitted on your answer sheet will be counted. You may now begin the mathematics portion of the examination."

The math section was probably the hardest for me. I liked math well enough but had never been a whiz at it - especially without a calculator on hand. Formulas started swirling in my head and mixing together to the point that I wasn't sure if I was figuring out the area of a circle or the length of the hypotenuse or some bizarre combination therein. I closed my eyes for a moment to try and clear my head before continuing.

The final section was the essay, while that made Erik and Todd cringe and groan throughout, I could barely stop writing. When the proctor called our attention back to her at the end, I had put the final touches on it and put down my pencil feeling perfectly content, although my hand was mighty sore. When were they going to move the SATs to a computer based test? I stretched out my fingers as she gave all the final instructions on making sure our names and information were filled in correctly. Then we handed in our tests in the same manner we'd turned it in between the sections.

"You will receive your results in four to six weeks." she said with a smile and then dismissed us.

End Chapter

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