I am an idiot!
Really I am such a total idiot.
I pretty much just threw away my whole future, literally. We barely have enough money to get by each month and this exam was my only hope of getting a free and awesome higher education so that eventually I could be a scientist like my dad was before he died.
And it isn't like Mom hasn't told me a million times that I am too impulsive but I went and did it again. Idiot! I hit my forehead with my palm and then a second later remember the boy sitting next to me.
I sneak a glance at him. He has blond wavy hair hiding his face but not so much that I haven’t notice how hot he is. I wonder how I look. I reach up and touch my hair which has been in a messy bun for hours now. I would love to pull out the hair elastic and give my head a shake. I definitely look better with my hair down but how awkward would that be?
Get a grip Tic. You just ruined your life and your thinking about a boy you don’t know and will probably never see again. I sneak another look and this time I notice a scarlet splash of blood on his white t-shirt. Shit! I wonder how that girl is. Is she okay?
Everything started out fine this morning. Well as fine as it can be when you have to wake up at five thirty and it’s still dark outside. Truth is I was already a mess of nerves. I had only slept a few hours and I was tired and jumpy at the same time. As I struggled to get my hair up in a messy bun, Uncle Al, who is our neighbor and not my actual uncle, was waiting out front for me looking fresh in a pressed plaid shirt and jeans. He’s a farmer and he’s used to being up ‘at the crack of dawn’ as he likes to say. He was taking a day off of running his cows around to take me up to Rock Haven High School to take the entrance exam for North East Science Academy.
The drive up was quiet and we made good time. We got to the high school parking lot just after eight and the exam wouldn’t start until nine. Uncle Al passed me an egg sandwich Mom had made for me but after two bites I folded the brown paper carefully back around the sandwich and put it on the seat between us. He pulled two mugs out nowhere and poured us each a cup of black coffee from an old green thermos. He was looking straight ahead, his gaze tracking a few wisps of clouds floating, ‘figuring the sky’ for what kind of day it would be.
“Weather seems good” I ventured, my hands wrapped around my mug. I held it close to my face so I could breathe in the sharp bitter smell.
“We’ll see,” he answered making me wonder if he sensed something I didn’t.
Soon the parking lot started to get busy with more cars, dropping off students. My peers. My competition. I passed my mug to him.
“I guess I should go in now,” I said.
“Right.” He said. My hand was on the door handle,
Something soft and low in the way he said my name made me turn and really look at him. There were more and more crow’s feet in the corners of his milky blue eyes and his stubble was like speckled ash after a fire.
“No matter what happens in there, your mom and I are proud of you.”
“I know…” I shrugged and got out of the car and walked to the school entrance without looking back.
I let myself become a part of the herd of students being shepherded into the gymnasium and then straightened into one of several neat lines of students waiting to sign in. While I waited I counted off ten rows of ten desks.
“Name?” said a woman when I got to the front of the line.
“Atlantic Brewer.” I watched as she ran her finger down the list on her clipboard stopping and pinning it firmly on my name.
I pulled my New Hope Town High student card from my front pocket and handed it to her. She inspected it carefully for what felt like too long, and I must have been holding my breath without knowing it until finally she passed it back to me and I started to breathe again.
“Take any seat that’s available. Tests are on the table.” She was picking at her cuticles as she recited, “ Do not turn them over until you are told to do so. Next.”
While I waited for everyone else to sign in and take a seat I looked around at the gym; blue mats leaning against a wall, bleachers stacked at one end, a clock up front. There were pendants hung from the rafters for the basketball and football teams sporting a yellow and black bee on a green background. School had just let out for summer vacation a week before and the gym still smelled of rubber balls and metal and sweat.
“Attention students,” a tall bald man with glasses called from the front of the gym.
“The entrance exam for North East Science Academy is about to begin. Please do not turn your tests over until I give the signal to do so. You will have three hours to complete the exam. If you finish before that time turn your test back over and exit as quietly as you can so as not to disturb your fellow students.” I glanced at the girl to my right who was chewing the end of her pen and staring straight ahead.
“Until you are done with your exam do not leave your seat or speak for any reason. Although there will not be any invigilators in the room with you I will draw your attention now to our four video cameras. “And here he pointed to the corners of the room, and our heads swivelled in unison to see where each of the cameras stood on tripods.
“The entire exam is being recorded and all the tapes will be thoroughly reviewed by a team of experts. Any student suspected of cheating will be disqualified. Entrance to the Academy is a privilege and it is you responsibility to make sure your behavior is beyond suspicion.” He stopped his monologue and adjusted his red bowtie. He ran his hands down the front of his tan sweater vest as if brushing off invisible dust and then, like a starting gun,
What can I say about the exam? I can barely remember it as I sit here waiting to be called in to meet with the invigilators. There were science questions like:
The amount of carbon in our environment is fixed – True/False (explain)
What are the axis of the Keeling curve?
Which light waves are trapped by which gases in the atmosphere?
I was confident about many but not all of my answers. New Hope Town High is a public high school in a small town. Its football program is better than it’s science program and the football team only won two games last year. Most of what I knew I had taught myself. My Dad had been a scientist before he died and he was my inspiration. He was why I wanted to attend N.E.S., and why I had spent many hours in my spare time on-line preparing for this exam.
There were also unexpected questions like:
Name three things you can use a shovel for other than its intended use
I wrote fence post and bean pole right away, thanks to all the gardening I did with Mom, but struggled to come up with a third use, finally putting down self defense. That was probably the wrong answer but I didn’t want to waste too much time on it. I kept sneaking glances at the big clock up front. I had also read on blogs from students who had taken the entrance exam that time management was critical. The consensus seemed to be there was almost, just barely, enough time to finish the exam. Even though I really wasn’t sure about some of my answers I thought I was making decent progress. The very last time I looked up from my test to check it was eleven twenty three.
That was over an hour ago.
Now, I am staring at the posters plastered along the hallway near us. They have cartoon bees on them and say things like ‘Bee Kind’ and ‘Bee at the Fun Fair’. I hear shoes clacking sharply on the linoleum.
“Tic and Lee the Board of Examiners are ready for you.”