Nadine thinks to herself, I’m too hungover for this shit.
Monday morning. Trigonometry. The fluorescent lighting in here hurts her eyes and her stomach feels hollowed out, empty. She can still taste the Vodka from the party last night.
“Fuck my life,” Nadine says, quietly.
Mrs. Keating, that dried up cunt, is passing out the math test. “You’ll have the whole period to complete this exam. There is absolutely no talking. When you are finished, you may bring your papers up to my desk. You may start on the homework if you complete the exam early. Everyone get that? Fantastic. The only things on your desk now should be a calculator and a pencil. Not your phone.”
Studious quiet fills the classroom. Mrs. Keating returns to her big desk. Nadine is not ready for this. Not ready at all. She should have skipped the whole day, instead of just first period.
Time seems to drag. Nadine can’t stand the silence. She tries to focus on the exam. The words and numbers appear to be written in a language she can’t understand. Nothing makes sense. She looks around the room. Everyone else appears to be doing just fine. Sam – the kid with all the bad acne on his face and neck – sitting next to her hasn’t stopped writing for more than a minute or so. He’s probably some kind of genius.
It is 9:40. Class is not over for another hour. Nadine’s paper remains blank.
Five excruciating minutes pass. Nadine casts a fleeting look at her best friend sitting in the desk to her right.
Lila Sullivan had been at the party at Heather De Liso’s house last night as well. Nadine and Lila had gone together, as usual. Heather’s parents were in Chicago for the week, something to do with her father’s job. A group text had been sent earlier that morning. Heather wrote that her older brother – a sophomore in college still living at home – had managed to score a keg for the night. Nadine had got pretty wasted, especially after Jack Sawyer showed up with some of his friends. Jack always had a large group of people following him around. He was like some bizarre cult leader – like that Charles Manson guy Nadine had read about – and the kids at his sides were his adoring flock. The night passed in a blurry haze. Lila didn’t do any drinking. Nadine remembers that her last coherent thought of the evening was why Lila kept coming to these things if she wasn’t going to have any fun. She always just sat on the couch or stood in the corner of the room watching everyone like they were mysterious creatures in a strange land.
Nadine feels like her head is about to explode. She watches Lila, her face as blank as the piece of paper in front of her. An idea emerges from the fogginess of her brain. “Hey,” she whispers.
Lila glances up at her. Nadine smiles.
“What?” Lila’s voice is low.
“I can’t do this today. Really. I need some help.”
“Forget it.” She goes back to her work.
They talk like conspirators planning a jewel heist or a bank robbery.
“Come on, Lila. I’m desperate here. I just need a couple answers. You don’t even have to give me the hardest ones.”
Lila is punching numbers into her calculator. She doesn’t make eye contact. “No.”
“Please.” Nadine is practically begging now. “I can’t even think straight. Everything is all screwed up. I feel like I want to puke.”
“I’m sure Keating would give you a pass to go see the nurse.” Lila is writing down her equations with such confidence. She knows this stuff. “Or maybe you could just fall on the floor and fake a seizure or something.”
“Bitch,” Nadine hisses.
“I hope I’m not hearing any talking back there,” says Keating to no one in particular. She is at her computer, not even facing the class. Maybe she does have eyes in the back of her head after all.
Nadine puts her face in her hands. This hangover is killing her. She’s hurting really bad. Why can’t Lila see that? They are supposed to be best friends. Friends help each other out in times like this. Lila could be so stuck up sometimes, just a stuck up...
“Nadine,” a voice whispers to her.
She looks over at Lila. That couldn’t have been her. Lila is totally absorbed in her work.
This voice is coming from the desk to her left. Sam’s desk. She looks over at him.
Sam had witnessed the whole exchange between Nadine and Lila. He had seen how desperate Nadine looked, how she truly needed some help. He slides his paper across his desk. She is not sure what to make of this strange gesture.
“Take it,” he says. “My name isn’t even on it yet, but it’s all done.”
Is this kid serious?
Nadine looks to see if Keating is still at her computer. She is. The rest of the class continues working.
“Are you sure?” Nadine asks as she takes the paper.
“Yeah. Just give me your test. We’ll switch. I can do the work again.”
Nadine’s head is spinning. She hasn’t even spoken a word to this kid all year. Why the hell would he want to help her now?
Just go with it, her mind screams. Give him your paper.
She does. He begins to fill out answers. She watches him in amazement.
“Thank you,” says Nadine. She speaks barely above a low whisper.
Class is over. Students file out of the room, talking and laughing once more, texting friends on their cellphones.
Nadine had gone up to Keating’s desk – breathing slowly, heart in her throat – and placed her exam with all the others. Keating didn’t notice a thing. Nadine returned to her seat and watched the clock above the chalk board and didn’t let out a breath until the bell rang. A metallic shrill that she felt in her bones.
Sam is gathering his stuff.
She feels like she needs to say something to him. “I didn’t know you were so good at trig. You flew through that exa...