Chapter 2: Strangers
"Well done, Athena!" Mr. Wellers placed Athena’s test on the table in front of her. Athena felt her jaw drop. 100% for the test. Kelly snorted in the seat next to hers. "Nerd," she whispered teasingly. Athena elbowed her playfully. Kelly giggled. "Congrats. I wish I could score that much in Math." Kelly said and lifted her score sheet. Kelly had gotten 86%. She shrugged. "Meh, close enough." Kelly said with a smile. Athena laughed a little.
The bell chimed loudly, indicating that it was time for the next period. "Oh, Jake, Athena, wait a minute. I would like to speak to you two." Mr. Wellers said as Athena stood up. She looked over her shoulder at Jake as he stood up from his back seat. He met her confused gaze. What was this about? "Should I wait for you?" Kelly asked. Athena looked at her and shook her head. "No, it’s okay," she said. She could tell Kelly was curious to what this was about. "Okay," Kelly said and left the classroom along with the rest of the class.
Athena picked up her bag and swung it over her shoulders. She and Jake walked up to Mr. Wellers who was standing in front of his desk. His gaze traveled from Jake to Athena, and back. "Jake, let’s start with you. You’re skipping classes and failing in half of them, including Math." Athena glanced at Jake. He seemed bored. "Most recently, they caught you drinking on school grounds. Now, usually, the principal can expel you for two weeks, but being that it’s your senior year and you cannot afford to miss out on any more classes, I spoke to him and we came to a different arrangement." Mr. Wellers looked at Athena. "Athena will be your new tutor every Monday and Wednesday for the next three weeks," he said. Athena’s eyes widened. "What?" She and Jake both exclaimed at the same time. She shook her head. "Sir, with all due respect, no. I won’t do it," Athena said. Mr. Wellers crossed his arm over his chest. "Athena, you are a very bright girl. You should realize that, if you are able to improve Jake’s marks, it would be a great asset to any recommendation letter," he said.
Athena gritted her teeth together. He was dangling her future in front of her, she hated that it was Mr. Wellers talking to her. She had great respect for the man. He was the one person that helped her when she was going through the most difficult time in her life. It was difficult saying no to him, but she just couldn’t tutor Jake. He wasn’t there when she most needed him, and she wasn’t sure if she could ever forgive him for that. "Athena, please, I’m asking you this as a personal favor." Mr. Wellers said. Athena felt her resistance wavering. Mr. Wellers held her gaze strongly. Athena looked away. "Fine," she said through a clenched jaw.
"You’re sure you don’t want me to wait?" Kelly asked. Athena gave her friend a bland look. "You really want to wait for two hours, Kells?" She asked. Kelly shrugged. "Just thought I would offer, Grumpy Bear," Kelly said innocently. Athena sighed. "I’m sorry. I’m just really aggravated. I hope the next two hours fly by," she said. Kelly smiled encouragingly. "Good luck. I’ll see you later then," she said and walked away, waving slightly. Athena nodded. "Bye," she said quietly then started up the steps to the library. Athena walked into the silent building. She decided on a table at the back of the library where Jake could still see her when he walked in. She had a feeling he’d be late. She wondered if he would show up at all. Athena sat down and pulled out her Math book so that she could at least get some homework done while she was there. She took out her iPod and placed one earphone into her left ear, leaving the other one to dangle. She listened to some music for a while. About ten minutes later, one of her favorite songs started playing- 'Mad by Ne-Yo'. She smiled to herself. "So both of us are mad for nothing. Fighting for nothing. Crying for nothing," she sang quietly. Athena heard a low chuckle behind her. She looked over her shoulder as Jake dropped his bag on the table. His eyes were playful. Athena could only watch him as heat pushed up her neck from embarrassment.
"You’re still a Ne-Yo fan," Jake said. He smiled a little. "I’m glad some things haven’t changed," he said and sat down next to her. Athena dropped her eyes to the Math book in front of her and started paging through it. "Why don’t we start with Algebra," she suggested. She already wanted this session over. "Do you still cuddle up with Mr. Peanut when you’re sad?" Athena tensed when she thought of the gray stuffed elephant he had gotten her for her eleventh birthday. "No," she lied and continued paging through the book. "Do you still have him?" Jake didn’t seem like he was going to drop the subject. "I think he’s in a box in the attic," she lied again. There was no way she would degrade Mr. Peanut like that. He belonged on her bed―period, but Jake didn’t need to know that. "Oh," Jake said. Athena raised her eyes to Jake. He seemed hurt and for a split second she was reminded of the guy that used to be her guardian so long ago.
Athena sighed. "He’s on my bed, I still sleep with him sometimes," she admitted. Jake brightened. "Now, can we please get to work?" Athena asked and gestured towards the book in front of her. "Are you still too afraid to walk in the dark?" Jake ignored her. Athena pounded her fist on the desk. "Jake, why do you care? You haven’t cared for three years," she said, aggravated. Jake seemed surprised by her outburst. "I’m just trying to figure out who you are now, Piglet." Athena felt her heart twinge at that nickname. She sighed. "You’ve kind of lost the right to that knowledge," she said, holding his wavering gaze. "Look, we’re not friends anymore, remember? I’m your tutor for the next three weeks, and that’s it. After this we go back to living separate lives," she said. Jake smiled patiently. "I think you’ve forgotten who I am, Piglet. I’m Jake Brown a.k.a. the guy that has known you for most of your life. The guy that knows more about you than your own mother," he said. "You don’t know me anymore, Jake. I’m not the same girl I was when we were fifteen," Athena said. Jake’s smile remained constant.
"You’ve changed, I’ll admit. You’re more confident, more outspoken ... but you’re still my Piglet under all that," he said. Athena held his gaze for a few seconds, not knowing how to respond. She finally dropped her eyes. "Keep telling yourself that," she said under her breath. "You think I’m lying?" Jake asked. Athena looked at him. "I think you actually believe what you’re saying," she said. "I do." Jake sat up and leaned towards her. "Correct me if I’m wrong. You’re Athena Melissa Thompson. You’re the daughter of Dr. Emily Thompson. You’ve never met your biological father and when you were a little girl, you created an imaginary friend of what your father might have been like. You still sleep with the stuffed animal I bought you when you’re sick or scared. You hate wearing any Band-Aid that doesn’t have Winnie the Pooh on it. You’re not a straight 'A' student, but you’re intelligent. Your favorite subject is Math because it’s precise and consistent, and I would bet my car on this last one, you don’t hate me because I pushed you away when we were younger, you’re too good a person to do that. Something happened to you in the three years we haven’t spoken, something that scarred you emotionally, and you blame me for what happened," Jake said.
Athena was silent. She held her palm out to him. "Hand it over," she said. Jake’s eyebrows came together above his eyes. "What?" He asked. "You’re car keys. Guess what, Sherlock, I don’t hate you and I don’t blame you for what happened," she said. Jake raised his eyebrows. "So, something did happen," he confirmed. Athena ignored him, mostly because she didn’t want to get into that subject. "Hand them over, Jake. As I recall, you just bet your car," she said. Jake smirked. "As I recall, my exact words were 'I would'," he said. Athena dropped her hand. She shook her head, frustrated. "Let’s just get to work," she said. "So, you’re not going to tell me what happened?" Jake asked. "No," Athena said and turned her attention back to the books on the table. She hoped he would drop it, but Jake was persistent and stubborn, he’s always been, so she didn’t hold her breath. "Well, for what it’s worth, I’m really sorry," Jake said sincerely. Athena stared through the table, her mouth fell open slightly. She closed it and swallowed. She let out a quiet breath. "So what are your key problems in Math?" She asked.
"Jake, stop following me!" Athena said as they turned into her street. "I’m not following. I’m walking along side you," he said with a smirk. Athena rolled her eyes. "Well, could you walk alongside the pavement in the opposite direction?" She asked. Jake chuckled. "I would if your house was in that direction," he said. Athena groaned. "Jake, she’s probably not even home," Athena tried. Jake pointed towards her house that stood at the bottom of the street. "Oh, yeah, then why would her car be in the driveway?" He asked. Athena cursed under her breath. Couldn’t her mom just once park the car inside the garage where it belonged? "What was that?" Jake asked playfully. "Nothing," Athena muttered. Jake smirked again. They reached her house and Athena opened the door. "Hey, mom." Athena said when she saw her mom standing behind the kitchen counter. Emily looked up from the magazine and smiled at her daughter. "Hey, I was wondering where you were," she said. Athena stood away from the door. "Yeah, I got a little preoccupied." She said and Jake stepped into the door frame. Athena watched her mother’s smile drop, then appear again in a wide and excited grin.
"Jake!" Emily exclaimed and all, but ran towards them. She hugged Jake tightly and he laughed. "Oh my gosh! This house hasn’t seen that good-looking face of yours in years." Athena felt her jaw drop. Subtle much? She rolled her eyes and walked towards the kitchen, not wanting to be near the heart-warming reunion. "How have you been?" Athena heard Emily ask as she opened the fridge and searched for something to drink. "I’ve been good. I just got into a bit of trouble in school but Athena’s helping me out, so I should be back on track in a few weeks." Athena rolled her eyes at his words and grabbed a Coke out of the fridge. She shut the fridge door with more force that needed and turned towards them. Emily looked at her daughter. "You two are friends again?" She asked. "No." Athena cracked open the can on the counter. "I’m tutoring him for the next three weeks. Whoopty-freaking-doo," she said dryly and pressed the can of Coke to her lips then tilted her head back, allowing the liquid to flow into her mouth. "Oh ... Well, it’s great to see you again, Jake. Come on, sit down by the counter. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do." Emily said.
Athena almost spurted the Coke out of her nose. She lowered the can and placed it on the counter. Jake sat down on the chair directly in front of her and gave her a cheeky grin. "Actually, Jake needs to go home," she said and half-glared at him. Jake shrugged. "I’ve got time," he said, holding her gaze. Emily didn’t seem to notice their little stare off as she walked into the kitchen. "That’s great, Jake. Are you still such a big fan of blueberry ice cream? Because we bought a tub just yesterday." Emily said and went through the freezer section of the fridge. "I wouldn’t say no," Jake said. Athena shook her head and walked around the counter, leaving the Coke there. "Where are you going, Piglet?" Jake asked when she reached the staircase. Athena looked over her shoulder. "To mars, genius. Where do you think?" She asked dryly, then continued up the stairs. Jake knew there was only one room upstairs and that was hers. "Your room's still up there?" She heard Jake ask but ignored him. She wanted to make it clear to Jake that they were not friends.
She reached the top of the staircase and stepped onto the light wood flooring. Her room had a queen-sized bed in the middle of the wall opposite the staircase and had a vintage frame with two white bedside tables on the side. The walls have all been painted a gentle pastel blue and she had one large window with white curtains that had little blue birds printed on them. The wall opposite the bed had the bathroom door that was surrounded by white cabinets. She heard heavy steps jog up the stairs and almost groaned as she shimmied out of her gray cardigan and threw it on the bed. She walked over to her bed, keeping her back to the staircase.
"Wow," Jake said behind her. She didn’t turn around and ran her finger over the purple dream catcher that hung above the bed. "You guys completely re-did this place," Jake said. Athena turned around and looked at him. She crossed her arms over her chest. His eyes were roaming around her room. "You got rid of that crappy carpet. You finally painted the room something other than that dreadful pink..." Jake looked at her bed. He grinned. "You weren’t lying," he said. Athena looked at her bed at Mr. Peanut that sat on one of her pillows. "I don’t remember giving you permission to come into my room, Brown," she said. Jake walked over to her window. There was a large, black pirate chest below it. "Oh, your mother gave me that, don’t worry," he said and knelt down in front of the chest. He placed his hand on its leather. He smiled. "Do you remember when we tried digging a hole to bury this with all our treasure?" He asked and chuckled. Athena smiled a little, grateful that he had his back to her. Their ‘treasure’ consisted of all their favorite toys and candy. They spent a whole day trying to dig a hole, big enough to fit the chest in, and when they finally managed, the chest was too heavy for the two of them to even carry out of her room. If that wasn’t bad enough, her mother almost got a stroke when she saw the condition of their backyard. Safe to say, she was everything, but happy.
Athena wasn’t allowed to see Jake for a week. That was when they were seven. Athena turned away and wiped the smile off her face. Jake stood up. She watched as his eyes landed on the pin board above her bed. He walked closer and studied all the pictures, notes, tickets, and cards pinned up on it. She knew he was searching for something he had given her, but there was nothing. She had taken them all off a long time ago. "What happened to all the pictures of us and the cards I gave you?" He asked and looked at her. Athena shrugged. "Ask my mom. I wanted to throw them away but she took them and put them in a box," she said. Jake’s eyes searched hers. "So, you still have them?" He asked. "I don’t. My mom does," Athena said.
Jake looked back at the board. His eyes traveled over the pictures of Athena, Kelly, Emily, and a few other faces. "Is that Alex Jefferson?" He asked. Athena looked at the board. Her eyes landed on a picture in the bottom right corner with her and a guy with dark skin, black hair, and the most amazing smile she could imagine. "Yeah," she said. In the picture Alex was kissing her cheek as she smiled at the camera. "You and Alex are dating?" Jake asked, looking at her. "Were," she corrected him and dropped her eyes, trying to hide that she still cared for Alex. He was funny, smart, and on the basketball team. He broke up with her just a couple of months ago, his motive was that he didn’t feel the way he did when they started dating. It still stung knowing that his feelings could change so easily. She looked at Jake and realized he was staring at her. She waited for him to speak. The silence was killing her. "Kids, come get your ice cream!" Emily called from downstairs. Jake broke contact with her as he turned his attention to the stairs. Athena decided she’d rather have him in the kitchen than her room, so she walked over to the stairs. He had already seen enough.
*Mrblobby: Thank you. It's great to be back on iBuzzle.
*Margaret: Haha. Be patient, my dear.
*Fann: Already? Yay. Thanks for the motivation.