"Peer tutoring?" I pushed my chair away from the table, making loud skidding sounds against the tile.
"Isis, it's the last step in the counseling program." Sonya said peering over her glasses at me as she shuffled the papers in front of her. She ran the program for troubled teens that my mom had forced me into at the suggestion of my psychologist last year.
"But have you looked at my file?" I picked at a scratch in the table. Then forced my hands still in my lap. "I don't need peer tutoring. My grades are perfect. My attendance at school is good, and I've got friends. I get along with others. Not to mention I've already been accepted into all of the colleges I applied for. I could see this if you wanted me to tutor, but I'm not about to be tutored by someone else."
"Peer tutoring allows you to practice the skills that you have learned in this program. Your completion of the entire program will allow us to include you in the case studies and program brochures. It's the last step and then you won't need to come to the weekly group meetings anymore."
"And if I don't do it?" I asked.
"Then I won't be able to graduate you from the program. And I'll have to call your mother." Sonya shrugged her shoulders and put the file on the table.
"Let me think about it," I said. She didn't know that my dad had promised I could quit the entire program as soon as I turned eighteen in two weeks. So it didn't matter what she said or did. My mom didn't know about the deal we'd made when she pushed me into the program at the beginning of the year.
I headed out of the room without waiting for her answer. I walked across the parking lot thinking about the argument I was about to have with my mom. Most of the volunteers for the peer tutoring were in my classes at school. The one thing that may make my mom cave was that people would know I was in some group for crazy kids.
I was angry, so instead of getting in the car, I walked towards the back of the building to the serenity garden and gazebo. I rounded the corner of the building quietly. A boy sat in the gazebo, his back to me. He was juggling three balls in the air. A soft yellow light streaming off of the balls caught my attention. I stepped closer, the light capturing my attention, until I was almost to the gazebo. I looked at the boy. He wasn't juggling. His arms were folded across his chest, but the balls still arced in a circle with the yellow light connecting the balls back to him.
I stepped closer, stumbling on a rock and the boy jumped causing the balls to drop, bounce and roll on the floor of the gazebo. He turned towards me eyes wide. That's when I recognized him. Dane was in several of my classes at school.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you," I mumbled as I spun around so fast my brown hair tangled in my face. I pushed it out the way and took off running in the other direction. I jumped into the car and headed into the parking lot. As I was turning onto the road I glanced into my rearview mirror. Dane had followed me and was watching as I pulled out of the parking lot.
I hadn't imagined Dane and the floating balls. Every time I saw him during school the next day, I saw the balls moving through the air by themselves. It fascinated me to see someone moving something without touching it, and without worrying about how it happened. Something I could do when I was scared or angry. But I stopped when I was younger. And my mom started taking me to a psychiatrist.
By the end of the day, my usual headache was only a dull throb instead of spiraling out of control. Making it through history wasn't going to be extreme torture. As I left art class I rubbed at the paint left on my hands more out of habit then trying to take it off. I always had paint or ink or some other substance on my hands, and people had finally stopped commenting on it. Well everyone, but my mom.
I was nearly to history when the bell rang, and the crowd around me surged forward. A.P. kids weren't usually late, I was always the exception. Somebody slammed into me on one side knocking me off balance. Trying to stop myself from falling I reached out and grabbed on to the person next to me, but a strong shock pushed me backwards. I was flailing trying to catch myself as I stumbled until I landed with an oomph on my butt, my skirt flipped up and legs sprawled out—ever the lady. My bag flew to one side of the hall and slipped open dumping my books across the floor.
Dane, who I managed to grab on my way down, looked down at me, confused. He was only looking at my face, careful not to look any lower. "Isis, you okay?" he asked as he crouched down next to my bag and began shoveling books back in it.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to grab you," I said, struggling to get up. Never mind the bag, a little help would be nice, but then I looked down and realized my skirt was up higher than I realized. Nothing was covered, which was why Dane was over on the other side of the hall. We'd never talked before, but you get an impression of someone you've had several classes with every year for four years. He wouldn't want to make me uncomfortable. I bounced to my feet grabbed the bag from him.
"Don't worry about it," Dane smiled looking at me now that I wasn't flashing him. His brown hair was long and kept falling across his face as he moved. "It happens to the best of us."
I nodded reaching out for the bag, my fingers brushed his as I grabbed it from him. Another shock went through me, like a wave rippling down. My legs and arms were shaking from it and my headache jumped from throbbing to pounding. I stumbled backwards again, fortunately into the wall and not onto the floor.
"You okay?" Dane was confused again. I nodded and hurried into class. I needed to sit down. Now.
Mr. Westerman hadn't arrived yet, but the group assignment he'd been hinting at for over a month was written on the board. I pulled out my notebook, which was covered in sketches, and began copying down the basic requirements for the assignment. My hand was still shaking as I tried to write. It didn't say how the groups were going to be determined, hopefully I could pick my partner. Sarah would usually work with me, though we never did anything outside of school.
My head was killing me, and the only thing that distracted me from the pain was drawing. I pulled out my sketchbook, even though Westerman didn't like to see it. He wasn't here yet, and worked on my current sketch. I got a creepy crawly feeling, like someone was watching me, and looked up to see Dane staring at me. He'd never done that before. He didn't look away when I met his eyes, he just looked thoughtful like he was trying to figure something out.
Westerman walked into the room and began talking without waiting for anyone's attention. I slipped my sketchbook under my notebook, and began to doodle in the margins next to my assignment. He didn't explain the assignment any further, just read off names of partners. Though the class was small, I had to wait until the last partnership was read to hear my name, then Dane.
Great, just great. Something weird had happened out in the hall, and now I was going to have to deal with it. Everyone started getting up and moving towards their partners. We had a few weeks to work on this, but I needed to get it done as quickly as possible. My art portfolio was due at two different schools for scholarship applications. That was all I wanted to focus on.
"Looks like we're partners," Dane smiled at me as he straddled the chair of the desk in front of me.
"No need to state the obvious," I muttered continuing to sketch. The smile slid off of his face, and he settled back. His enthusiasm gone. He reached out and flipped my notebook towards him to look at the pictures I had drawn the margin.
"You want to go to the library today?" he asked. "I don't have much time to work on the project. Westerman will let us leave early."
"That'd be good." I looked up and met his gaze directly. The world tilted to one side, and I felt an attack coming on. I needed to get out of here before it hit. I stopped trying to explain the attacks to my mom after she'd taken me to the doctor and gotten me diagnosed with panic attacks. Only these were totally different. I looked them up online, and what happened to me wasn't what I found there. Except you don't tell the doctor about the other stuff that happened like making things move across the room or blowing things up or they'd be sure to lock you up.
I got up and left the room. The panic attack diagnosis let me do that without telling the teacher, and most people were used to it. I took advantage of it and left more than I needed to, because it made the times like this when I was on the verge of losing it stand out less. I headed to the nearest drinking fountain and gulped in the cold water. Then I put my wrists under the water until they ached. By the time that had happened I was breathing normally, and I knew that I'd be okay.
"You ready Isis?" Dane didn't say anything or ask if I was okay. He just handed me my bag, and I checked to make sure my sketchbook was inside. Then we walked out to the parking lot. "Do you need a ride?"
"Yeah, I don't have a car." I followed Dane towards his car. The air outside was warm and I could feel spring all around me.