“Grade nines, you may start your exam.”
My hand shot forward, flipping open the yellow booklet. There were short instructions; show your work, read carefully, use pencil on the bubble sheet, blah, blah, blah. I got this. Then I saw the first question. My face fell and I could feel beads of sweat gathering above brows.
Multiply the what by what? Did we even learn this? My eyes skittered around the gym, looking for others who were as lost as I was, but all I saw were pencils filling in the bubble sheets. I looked back at the paper. Okay, next question.
My eyes bulged. Solve that? Was that thing even considered math? It was just an angry jumble of numbers and letters. I cursed under my breath and continued to flip through the pages, trying to find something I knew how to do.
20 minutes later I’d finished one question and guessed about five. Should I just guess the whole thing? It’s better than nothing right? But I’m failing! This is not good, not good, not good, not good— Wait a minute. Esther was sitting in front of me, math wiz extraordinaire. She was small too, so I could easily see what she was writing from over her shoulder. A, B, D, D, D, C, A, A, E, B… Okay, multiple choice is over. Now what?
I drummed my fingers impatiently on the desk, looking up at the clock. I was starting to sweat again. Oh god, I was already failing math. If I didn’t get at least a 70 percent I’d fail. AGAIN. No, stop it, I had to try at least. I looked back to my paper, trying to remember something, anything. Any number to the power of zero equals… zero? Shoot, I had no idea. I looked back to Esther, then at the teachers. None of them were giving me weird looks. I took that as a green light and nonchalantly brushed my formula sheet off the edge of the desk. Esther bent down to get it and she was out of my view for just a few seconds. I scanned over the paper, absorbing as much information as I could. Esther handed me my sheet and I muttered a thank you. Any number to the power of zero equals one, I wrote.
I kept doing this, but Esther was smart. She caught on after the third try and made a point of closing her exam book and covering her bubble sheet before bending to pick up my papers. Then she continued, hunched over, annoyance emanating from her like heat waves.
Plan B. I waited until no teachers were looking and then slipped my iPhone into my calculator case as fast as I could. To someone looking from the front of the gym, it would just look like I was just solving another question.
R U getting NE of this?, I texted Anne, my friend who was sitting a few rows down. I counted a few seconds and then I heard the ring from the back of the gym. 200 heads turned in unison. I cringed. Anne was frozen in her seat.
“Having fun, are you?”
I jumped, hitting the gum covered desk bottom with my knee and sending papers and pencils sliding to the floor. Esther even turned to pick them up again, but when she saw who was behind me she whipped back with a terrified look on her face. She glanced at me before she turned totally though, and I saw a hint of sympathy. My math teacher, Mr. Christie, looked over my shoulder at my phone. He was six foot five, 100 percent muscle, and practically breathing down my neck.
“You know what this means, right?”
“I-I fail?” I squeaked.
“Again.” He picked my exam up from the floor. When I looked back he was grinning. It’s like he wanted to see me in summer school. “Come, you don’t just get a free pass when you cheat on an exam anymore. Rules have changed.”
I gathered my things reluctantly. Ugh, my mom was gonna kill me.
Everyone was looking at me, but seeing Mr. Christie glaring back, they turned to their sheets.
Christie lead us out into the halls. They were dead silent. Everyone was still in the exam and it would be another twenty minutes until anyone was allowed to leave. Christie stopped by a door beside the boys bathroom. I’d seen it before, but never really known where it went. Into another room? If it did then it had to be a closet. Was he going to lock me in a closet for an hour? So unfair.
To my surprise there were stairs behind the door, leading into the dank, LED lit basement. I took a tentative step down. My gut told me to run for it. It was the last exam after all, and then it was summer. What did I have to lose?
“Hurry up, Epiphany. It’s not that bad.”
I followed him, but only because I decided it would be a good story to tell later on. Yeah, and then he dragged me into the basement. Like, what even?
The basement was just like any old basement, musty and ugly. No one had tried to make this place look nice. It was just filled with twisting brass pipes and pressure valves.
“Come back here.”
I followed obediently, admittedly curious as to what was behind the next door he was unlocking. The room was dark, but he ushered me in. I heard the click of the door closing and the flick of the light switch. I gasped. We were in a dinner hall and all of my teachers were there, holding forks and knives. Large forks and knives. That’s when I decided this wouldn’t make a very good story after all. I kicked Mr. Christie in the stomach and grabbed his keys from the floor, then I opened the door, and shut it behind me.
It was locked, but I could hear banging. What the heck was going on!? This was what they did to cheating students? It’s bad to cheat but not that bad. I ran up the stairs and jostled the handle. Locked. Shoot.
There were like, a million keys on this thing!
Okay Epiphany, calm down. You’ve got nothing to lose. Even if it looks like your teachers are going to eat you alive, at least you have a slim chance of survival.
The door was shaking. My heart pumped, I tried key after key, none of them fitting.
“Hurry up, hurry up!” I muttered. I heard a crack and I turned, they had broken right through the wood door. It was only a matter of time. I tried another key.
They were out and tripping over themselves to get to me.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot!”
Mr. Christie was bounding up the stairs, giant utensils in hand. He reached for me.
The key fit, I opened the door, and ran like hell, screaming my head off. Then bang, I threw the outside door open, Mr. Christie lost behind me. Sunlight hit my face. I kept running. I was free. It was summer.
AN: Well that escalated quickly. Too quickly? What do you think. I guess I was just so glad that I’m finally done all of my exams and it’s officially summer! By the way, this is absolutely, positively fiction. Esther is actually one of my best friends and the exam wasn’t that bad. Also, Mr. Christie is at least five inches shorter than me and is super nice. He’d never try to eat me alive 😉 I don’t even have an iPhone. At least it was fun writing this. Have a great summer!