A split second after the announcement, the once quiet room was now filled with noises of chair legs scratching against the wooden floor, shuffling of papers and books, and the happy chatters of students who are probably making plans as the long-awaited weekend was finally here. The school bell rang a few seconds later and Claire stood up before stacking her notebooks and books. A few classmates bothered to wave goodbye in her direction and she responded with a small hesitant smile.
It was the first weekend of the school year and most students are suffering from severe summer vacation hangover. The weather was great, too— just enough sun so that it’s warm and the breeze was not as dry as the usual. So it was pretty much the perfect time to make plans, catch up and just enjoy the short calm before the storm. Claire had no plans, though.
She looked up from her desk and raised her eyebrows in question. After spotting her homeroom teacher’s eyes looking at her, she knew that she was the one who called her.
“I need you in my office”, Mrs. Myers told her before finally walking out of the room, her heavy textbooks pressed against her chest.
She craned her neck to look at her best friend since childhood, Jessica. She was an Asian-American and had really soft baby-like features. “Hey, Jess”
“Why is Mrs. Myers calling you to the office?”
“I don’t know”, she shrugged. “We’ll see”
After quickly arranging her books in her backpack and waving goodbye to Jess, she made her way to the faculty office. Students were going in the direction of the building’s exits so Claire was pushing against the traffic of warm sweaty bodies.
By the time she was closing the office door, she was sweating a little and sighing in relief. She then turned around and spotted Mrs. Myers sitting in her assigned cubicle.
She smiled politely. “Do you need me for anything, Mrs. Myers?”
“As a matter of fact, yes”, the teacher replied before turning her head to look at the corner of the office. “As the consistent top student in your batch, I’d like you to tutor one of our transferees”
Claire turned to look in the direction where Mrs. Myers’s gaze lay. She found herself looking at a boy her age, sitting on the couch in the small makeshift lounging area in the corner of the office. A glance was enough for her to know that he was one of those spoiled rich kids who don’t take their education seriously as they were already insured by the wealth their family has. He was dressed from head to toe in designer brands and he was sitting as if he was in his living room. His expensive-looking leather sling bag sat on the dirty floor by his feet.
“Oh”, she mumbled.
“But only if it’s okay with you”
She looked back at her teacher. She could tell that Mrs. Myers expects her to take the task, as she usually does.
“I mean…” she started to say. “Yes, I can do that”
“Great!” Mrs. Myers smiled and clapped her hands together. “Starting next week, he would need a two-hour session every Friday to go over everything that he’s struggling with”
“Everything?” with wide eyes, she asked, just in case she misheard. Tutoring for one class is hard enough, so she couldn’t imagine having to teach lessons from all the subjects if ever the situation calls the need for it.
“Yes”, her teacher confirmed. “I understand that this might seem like a daunting task, which is why I wanted you specifically to do it. I know your capabilities”
“Plus”, she interrupted. “You will be compensated at an hourly rate”
Seems like Claire had plans on Fridays from now on.
Her mother looked up from her bowl of beef stew to look at her, anticipating. She hummed to let her know that she was listening.
“I need to stay in school a few hours late every Friday starting next week”
“What for?” Her mother sat up straight and gently dropped her spoon on the table.
“I was hired as a tutor”, Claire replied. “Just for two hours a week. I took it, just thought it would be a good way to earn a little more extra allowance”
She heard her mom sigh and saw how her shoulders dropped. She almost looked disappointed in her but she knew that wasn’t the case. She knew that her mother was disappointed in herself. She always reacted like that, as far as Claire could remember, whenever the girl took the initiative to contribute to the household.
“Claire…” her mother started to say. “You know you really don’t have to do more than do well in school—“
“I know, mom”, she cut her off, holding up a palm. “You’re not getting any younger. I just don’t want you to stress yourself out too much, okay?”
The corners of her mother’s lips began to tug upwards. “I’m so lucky to have you”
“Oh, stop that drama”, she laughed.
It has always been the two of them, ever since she was 10. It’s been hard, no doubt. Her mother is blind in one eye, thus, it had been hard for her to land a decent job. Claire also took the initiative to work part-time every now and then when she feels like she could handle a job and academic load at the same time.
They live in a three-story old apartment complex, on the top floor. Part of their ceiling leaks during thunderstorms and their landlady refuses to pay for the expense to have it fixed since they were a few months behind on rent. It wasn’t exactly an ideal living situation but she and her mother are more than grateful to have at least a roof over their heads.
Claire thought about the transferee boy and how rich his family must be. She wondered how it would feel like to not worry about next week’s groceries and this month’s rent and credit card bills and allowance.