Sharron Watkins checked under the stalls and, satisfied that she was alone in the girl’s restroom, checked her teeth in the mirror. For what she had in mind, she had to look her absolute best. Hair, teeth, skin were as straight and shiny as she’d ever get them. She wore a blue knee-grazing skirt, a white shirt with a blue and yellow tartan vest that had seemed like a good idea when she put it on this morning. Now it just made her look like a baby. She was not a baby. She was fourteen years old, a young woman. Her credentials in this regard were beyond reproach: bra, check; subscription to Teen Beat cancelled, check; babysitting duties approved by parents, check. She was practically an adult and she wanted Jeff Skilling to recognize that fact.
Jeff Skilling was older, sixteen, and every girl in school was already in love with him, as she was. He was smart, and handsome. He had the prettiest smile. Plus he was friendly; he talked to the nerds and the drama geeks, the outcasts, and even the regular folks like her. He had a personality that seemed to reach across clique lines. All the girls loved him, but Sharron had an advantage over them: she was smart.
She knew that she was smart because she’d earned all A’s since Gymboree; teachers loved her. Her parents told her she was smart. Everybody in the entire organization knew she was smart. The cheerleaders that Jeff seemed to favor looked like little skanks with their short skirts and big bouncy boobs and glossy hair, but they were all airheads. Jeff Skilling could not be satisfied with an airhead. Sharron Watkins was the opposite: she was smart. She was going to use her smarts for the ultimate payoff: Jeff would, on this day, notice her.
Sharron turned from the mirror, grabbed her books, and emerged into the flow of tenth graders jamming the halls. There, at the end of the long corridor, surrounded by girls, was Jeff Skilling. Even now, she felt that wild, tremulous energy as she looked at him. Though she was too far away to make out his features very clearly, she saw the impression of his smile and her heart fluttered like one of Keat’s birds.
She moved toward him in a casual way, reminding herself to keep her back very straight because on America’s Next Top Model, Tyra was always saying that if you keep your back straight and your boobs pointed straight out, parallel to the floor, you look confident. As she approached, one of his harem girls left and he glanced up, and saw her. They’d known each other since elementary school, though they’d never been really close. She saw the surprise in his face as she stopped right in front of him.
“Jeff Skilling, I would like a word with you,” she said.
The other girl, the one who had stayed to bask in his presence just a little longer before study hall, laughed nervously beside him.
“Sure Sharron,” he said, and turned to the little tart he was talking to. “I’ll catch ya later.”
She scampered away. The halls were clearing. Though there were still people flowing about, Sharron felt like the only person in the world. Jeff’s eyes were shockingly blue-green, and she felt like she were looking at the earth from a very high distance. Could she go through with this? Could she actually say the words to him?
“Yes?” he asked.
“I saw you cheating,” she announced. Suddenly she felt giddy, like she was on a sugar rush.
Surprise registered in his face. “What?”
“I saw you cheating. With some of the other boys. During lunch.”
He actually smiled, which made her want to slap him. Instead she kept her back straight, her posture confident.
“Sharron, I was tutoring those kids. They are having trouble in algebra.”
“That’s what you say, but I saw you passing papers back and forth.”
She saw this wasn’t working, and she felt the floor was moving very fast under her. She wanted to say something, to tell him that she loved him. That she wanted to move to Vermont and have a farm and raise cows, and they could make their own organic cheese and sell it on the internet, and at night they’d make sweet, sweet love while snow drifted down, and the fire would keep them warm, and then after they made love, they’d eat pizza and drink Mountain Dew until the sun came up. If only she could say this! If only she could make him see that she was perfect for him! Their future in Vermont, their cheese-making cows….
It was obvious that he had never thought of cheese-making cows with her. Because she saw that he wasn’t going to engage her in conversation, she said, “Okay, I’ll just go to the principal then.”
“Okay,” he said in a confused voice. For a moment, he looked genuinely hurt, and her heart broke. Was it possible he did want to raise dairy cows with her in Vermont; was he just now recognizing the possibility of what he’d lost? Could he give up the big life at Highbridge High School for the simpler life on the farm?
When he made no further attempt to talk to her, Sharron internally steeled herself, and walked away.
The next day, the principal received a letter printed on loose-leaf notebook paper.
Has Highbridge High School become a risky place to go to school? For those of us who have not yet graduated, can we afford to stay?
Jeff Skilling’s meteoric rise will raise suspicions that we have been less than honest in our standardized testing. Aggressive grading, artificial valuation – particularly in algebra – put us in a vulnerable position within the school district.
To the layman on the street it will look like teachers have over-graded Skilling, pulling all our grades up with him, and thereby securing greater federal funding for our school. Will any child be left behind? If it can be proved he cheated on the last algebra exam, would you care to know this? What do we do? Can you give me some assurance that you will sit down with the vice principal and review Skilling’s grades, indeed audit his entire school record? Furthermore, is there any way I can help conceal this from the PTA? If they discover this manipulation of grades, we won’t be able to keep it from the Highbridge Gazette.
A concerned student
The next day, Sharron Watkins appeared in the principal’s office to confess that she wrote the anonymous memo. The principal was a busy man, but fair, and at her urging he contacted the superintendent to begin an audit of the record of grades for Skilling’s class, to see if there might be any abnormalities.
The superintendent called a meeting the next week to present the results of the investigation. There had been no cheating by Jeff Skilling, or in fact by anyone in Jeff Skilling’s class.
Sharron felt the last of her hopes for the cheese farm melt away like a fine camembert in the Vermont sunshine. Still, the lessons of Tyra were fresh in her head. She could not show any defeat. Indeed she had to project utter confidence. As the superintendent wrapped up his presentation, he asked if anyone had anything else to say.
Sharron raised her hand. “I believe something terrible has happened at Highbridge High School,” she announced. “And I plan to go directly to the Highbridge Gazette with my suspicions.”
In order to keep her quiet the superintendent and the principal quickly appeased her with monthly assemblies in the auditorium where Sharron Watkins would talk about the duty to be a responsible, ethical student.
Every Friday when she gave her little talks on ethics, she would look out from the stage, and see Jeff Skilling, his astonishing blue eyes the little beacons that kept pulling her emotionally to him.
His presence at the assembly was mandatory, and he clearly did not like her anymore. But at last she had accomplished her mission: Jeff Skilling had finally, finally, noticed her.