Counting the Stars
Everyone knew her name, and everyone said it differently.
Her parents said it with disappointment.
Her sister said it with annoyance.
Her teachers said it while reprimanding her for another stunt.
The boys said it as they whispered in awe.
The girls said it with envy, hate, or respect.
“Ruby Scott,” they’d sneer, whisper, or shout.
“Did you hear? Ruby Scott, she–’
“That girl is trouble, honey, don’t get involved–”
“Each time it’s bigger than the last–”
Ruby Theresa Scott knew what everybody said about her. She couldn’t bring herself to care. These people didn’t matter to her, what mattered was having fun, and she certainly wasn’t having fun when she was in school, bored out of her mind.
“You know what else isn’t fun?” her parents would say to her. “Minimum wage. Food stamps. Living on the wrong side of town.”
“Don’t bother arguing with her,” said her sister. “She just does what she wants with no regard for anyone else. I’d love to see her try in school for once, but it’s never going to happen.”
That had sounded like a challenge, and Ruby Theresa Scott never backed down from a challenge.
“I will change,” she said. “I’ll show you.”
“Oh please,” her sister said haughtily. “How are you going to pull up your grades in all your classes by the end of the year?”
“I’ll do it,” Ruby declared. “I’ll find a tutor. I’ll fix my grades, clean up my act, and I’ll be a better person by this summer. Just you wait.”
Only a few people knew his name, and they all said it the same.
His parents, his siblings, his teachers, his friends (not that he had many). Each said it with a friendly tone, like they were content with what he had to offer. All he had to offer was good grades and a spotless record, but that seemed to be enough for everyone.
He knew her name, though. He just hadn’t thought that she knew his.
“You want me to what?”
“Tutor me,” demanded Ruby Scott. “I know you will.”
Of course he would. He just didn’t understand why she was asking him.
Ruby Scott was a Bad Girl, a Detention-Getter, a No-Good Rebel who was wasting her life away being “cool” (the last one was quoted from his mom). She was the girl everyone was afraid of, but everyone still wanted to talk to her. Skateboarding, skipping classes, pranking the teachers, and even smoking in the bathrooms during lunch were all things she was known for, along with the Great Ladybug Disaster. Teachers hated her. Parents despised her. Girls were either afraid of her, jealous of her, in awe of her, or a little bit in love with her. Boys were enthralled.
After all, she was gorgeous. Long, wavy dark hair fell to her mid back, and her heart-shaped face held brown, almond-shaped eyes and perfect lips that were trapped in a near-constant smirk. And no matter what a person’s opinion of her, nobody could deny that she made student’s lives at Wayview High interesting.
But why was she talking to him?
“Well?” she asked expectantly. “What do you say?”
“I–” His voice cracked. “I didn’t know you knew who I was.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes so hard it looked like it hurt. “Of course I know who you are. You’re Jacob Whitman, probably the smartest person in our school. You raise your hand in every class and everyone wants to be your partner for group projects.”
“I feel exploited,” Jacob said.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Taken advantage of,” he clarified. “I mean, what’s in it for me?”
Ruby raised her eyebrow. “Bargaining, are we? I didn’t expect that.”
“I’m not an idiot,” he said defensively.
“Fine.” Ruby looked down at her black fingernails, the perfect picture of indifference. “I’ll get you a girlfriend.”
He choked on his own spit. “W- what?”
“You heard me. It won’t be hard, actually. You’d probably be cute if you styled your hair and took off your glasses.”
“I don’t need a girlfriend!” Jacob cried.
“Boyfriend, then?”
“No!” He squeezed his eyes shut. “No, just—help my social life a tiny bit, and I’ll do it. I don’t—I don’t need anything as drastic as a girlfriend.”
“You sure?” Ruby asked, looking him up and down. Analyzing him. “Like I said, it wouldn’t be hard.”
“No,” he said firmly. “None of that.”
“If you say so.” She sighed again. “So, we’re doing this? Tutor sessions for Ruby and popularity boost for Jacob?”
This was why there was no way he’d say no.
Only a few people knew his name, and for the most part, they all said it the same. But Ruby Scott said it like she was bored, and that wouldn’t be a good thing if it wasn’t so refreshing. It was such a huge difference from the friendly, content tone he got from everyone else, and it posed a challenge to him.
As the only one who said his name differently, she seemed like the only one he could change. So yes, he would tutor her. But as he stared at her, looking gorgeous and out of place in the middle of their school library, Jacob vowed he’d find a way to make his name sound interesting coming out of her lips.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ll tutor you.”
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