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Head Over Heels
an SAT/ACT vocabulary novel
  

November 17: World Peace Day

Tonight was my last vocabulary tutorial with Luke. Aside from the Jeremy issue, Nikki was running low on funds and didn’t have much of a reason to keep sponsoring my lessons now that she had the guy.

As soon as we sat down for work, I told him what the deal was, just to get all the pent-up anxiety out. It went just the way I’d rehearsed it. “I have something to say,” I said.

“What’s that?”

“Due to extenuating circumstances beyond my control, but more specifically due to my expeditious advancement under your inimitable tutelage, I have chosen to forego further pedagogical services.”

“Excuse me?”

“This is my last lesson.”

“Yeah, I know what you meant. But I don’t get it.” Luke scrunched up his face. He looked not only befuddled but a bit rankled as well. Annoyed. A part of me felt a little happy that he wasn’t as psyched to cut off our tutoring as Nikki and Jeremy both were. Maybe I wasn’t so superfluous, after all.

“I thought we had a deal so I could pretend I had a job,” Luke said. “And get some extra cash.”

Right. That was what Luke cared about, not hanging around me. God, how many times over could I make myself an idiot? “Well, deal’s off,” I said brusquely.

“Why? I mean, is it so insufferable for you to stop by my place for some weekly big-worded banter?”

“Frankly, yes,” I bit out. “And I really don’t think I need the practice, anyway.”

“Oh is that right?” Luke said. “Very interesting . . .”

I pressed my lips together and nodded solemnly. Luke began to inspect me more closely, almost like an anthropologist studying the behavior of a primate.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“Say it.”

“This wouldn’t have anything to do with Jeremy, would it?” Luke said.

“No. Not at all.”

“Not at all?”

“Not really . . . .”

“What’s that mean?”

“Not exclusively, anyway.”

“But was he a factor in the equation?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Why are you grilling me?”

“Would you say Jeremy was an integral factor?”

“No. I mean, yeah sure, I mentioned to Jeremy that, considering how busy I’ve been, it seemed a bit wasteful to be spending time on these sessions with you. And he totally concurred.”

“I’ll bet he did. Looks like we know who wears the pants in your relationship.”

Whoa. His retort was like a cruise missile to my solar plexus. Once I shook off the impact, I was livid. I stepped forward and pointed at Luke’s chest. “I know you’re not gonna pretend you know anything about my relationship with Jeremy, and who does or does not wear the pants.”

Luke backed up, hands raised. “All right, all right. Fair enough. All I’m saying is that it would be a shame if you miss getting into Yale or Stanford because you’re being submissive.”

“Oh, really. And you don’t think it’s a tad presumptuous of you to think that you would be the deciding factor in whether or not I get into Yale? You know, the ancient Greeks believed that humans were punished by the Gods for that kind of hubris.”

“The ancient Greeks are dead,” Luke said. “And you might be misunderestimating the benefit of fifty SAT points and an articulate essay in the admissions pro—”

“Did you just say misunderestimate? That’s not a word.”

“The president used it in a speech,” Luke said. “So now it’s kind of a word.”

“And where did the president go to college?” I asked.

“Yale.”

“There,” I said. “I rest my case.”

“You win. Way to go. High five.” He put his hand up for me to slap.

“Why do you have to be such a wise guy all the time? Do you have a sincere bone in your body?”

“Of course.”

“Oh yeah? Which one? Let me guess, it’s one of those tiny little ear bones?” For some reason, I was suddenly outraged by his cool indifference to everything. I felt like going on the offensive. Luke needed to be kept in check. “You know, Luke. While we’re on the subject of sincerity, I was wondering, what are your intentions with my friend Nikki?”

“My intentions?”

“Yeah. Like, are you planning on going out with her? What’s the deal?”

“What is this? Are you on some sort of reconnaissance mission for her?” His eyes narrowed. “Is that what this whole thing is about, here?”

Uh-oh. Nikki would kill me if I gave her away. “Of course not,” I said quickly. “But as long as I’m here, I figured I could ask.”

“What do you want from me? I like Nikki. She’s cool. Do I want to marry her? I mean, come on. I just moved here. One thing’s for sure. I’m not going to throw my cards on the table just for your edification. If Nikki wants to know, she can ask.”

“She doesn’t have to. I’ve heard things. I know you probably don’t care about Nikki. You just want to get as much as you can out of her. Then you’ll move on to the next one.”

“Whatever.” He flipped his hand at me dismissively. “Thanks for the prognostication there, Adelphi.”

“Whatever. That’s the credo for your whole life isn’t it? It’s all good. Whatever.”

“For the time being, yeah.”

“Well guess what? You know, it’s selfish, lazy people like you who inspired me to go into politics,” I blurted out.

“Politics?” Luke asked.

“Yeah. I’m running for Vice President.”

“VP, huh? Very impressive. But isn’t that the kind of thing where the President gets to pick his own running mate?””

I glared at him. “Junior Class Vice President.”

Luke chortled. “Oh man,” he said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Did Luke have to mock every single thing I ever said? Was it, like, his job or something?

He rolled his eyes. “Nothing. Forget it.”

“Too late now. What’s so crazy about me running for Vice President?”

“No, it’s just like, even real politics is complete bull, and running for school government positions is even more absurd because there’s no actual power. I mean, why do you want to be vice president? To really change things? Of course not. It’s a popularity contest, to prove to yourself that people know you and think you’re okay. Who gives a flying—”

“I do!” I yelled, a little louder than I’d planned. “I’m not running to substantiate my popularity. It so happens that I have a political platform that I feel very strongly about. So don’t give me this too-cool-for-student-government crap.”

“All right,” Luke said. “Okay, then. So tell me. What’s your platform?”

“It’s just . . .” Something akin to hyperventilation set in at the realization that whatever I said would sound super cheesy. “It’s not like you actually care.”

“No, seriously. Tell me.”

“I think there should be a student disciplinary committee that has equal footing with the adults—”

“Wait a second, are you serious?”

“What?” I asked. “Why’s that so stupid?”

“It’s not. It’s just quixotic. You actually think that, as vice president, you have enough political clout to do . . . anything?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I hate to the bearer of bad tidings here, but you don’t. You’ll be blowing up balloons for the school dance, at best.”

“That’s not true.”

“But at least you’ll know you’re popular,” he said sardonically.

I felt like I was about to explode. Why did I have to take one more second with this jerk, anyway? “Just forget it,” I said. “You’d obviously rather sit here in your room and look down at everyone else in the entire world than actually take anything seriously. So you know what? This has nothing to do with Jeremy. I’m out of here, and it’s one hundred percent my own decision. Okay?”

I was pretty proud of myself after that one . . . but the frustrating part was, on my way out, I turned around and saw that same stupid condescending smile plastered on his face, like he knew I couldn’t stay away for long. Yeah, I’d show him.

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