She read through the paper again, and marked some punctuation turning to Brian to explain why she did what she did, and then gave it back to him to try and cut out adjectives and adverbs.
"And why do I need to do that?" he asked.
"It makes the paper sound weak," she explained. "Because if you use a word like 'very', for instance, and if you use it a lot even more so, you seem to be adding padding to the paper, instead of just stating and proving your argument."
"So, it's fluff?" he asked.
"Yeah. And if you feel like you can't eliminate something, don't worry about it for now, just try and eliminate most of them. Especially if you can say the sentence, and it sounds just fine without it." Brian nodded the affirmative and asked,
"So then I just add to my agrument and add quotes from the book?"
"You got it," Tabitha said.
"How is this so easy for you?" he asked.
"I've done it a million okay well, maybe like, ten or fifteen times," she said. "The school offered me an advanced writing course when I started talking college courses so I could write a descent college paper. So I guess I have a little upper hand knowledge of what to write."
"Well and you did take the writing AP English last year, right?"
"How did you know that?"
"People talk," Brian replied with a shrug. "Like I said, they all know how you want to get out of here. How did you get into AP English anyway? Math and science are one thing, you have quatifiable results."
"Okay so I may have studied essay writing before I got to high school, and just maybe I wrote at a higher level than anyone else. When we turned our summer essays in, my teacher asked if I would mind writing another one. Then he had one of the sophomore honors teachers look at it and they said I could probably skip right into the junior AP."
"Wow...Can I ask you something? And I don't mean to be rude, but how much studying do you do?"
"I don't know, enough until I feel prepaired," she said. "I mean I heard in elementary school that middle school math was going to get harder, so I started figuring out pre-algebra and then algebra, and I mean, along the way you pick up lower math things like probability and everything I would have been taught. Then I knew so much, I could pass most of algebra 1 and the school didn't see the point in putting me in a class where I would wait until the very end to learn something. Someone there had heard about how smart kids will turn into trouble makers if you don't give them a challenge. I got lucky, 'cause that was the first year they did the special geometry class to help the eigth graders get ahead."
"So what did you do for seventh and eigth grade?" he asked.
"The high school was too far away, which meant they weren't going to let me walk, so I had a study period then and studied higher maths--algebra two and then pre-calc and trigonometry."
"so you went right into calc?" he asked. "Damn. Okay what about the English? And science? You didn't study ahead for those too, did you?"
"I was scared, okay?"
"Scared of what? It's just high school," Brian said laughing a little.
"Scared of failing I guess. I just wanted to be prepared."
"So you let your fear rule you," Brian said. "I bet you could not fail something if you tried."
"You would probably win that bet if I were fool enough to take it," she replied, looking back down at her paper.
"By the way, what do you do for language classes?" he asked.
"I took a class on spanish last year," she replied.
"You know most universities require you to take at least--"
"Two years of language, some three and others four," she retorted. "Yes, I know. I'm taking beginning language courses at the university next semester."
"You tested out of Spanish?" he asked.
"They have language tutorial programs at the library," she said. "I just used them."
"Do you ever take a moment and just breathe?" Brian asked. "I mean do you ever do things just for fun?"
"I write in my journal," she said.
"Is that it? I mean it seems like you're always just studying. What are you going to do when you get out of college?"
"Get a job?" she asked. "I don't know."
"Why do you do all of this then? It can't just be because you want to get ahead in school and you're afraid of failing."
"Didn't we talk about this the other day and you already had the answers to my snobbery?"
"You aren't a snob, I was just saying that to bait you," Brian told her. "But do you really want to get out of here that bad?"
"Well, when I started all of this it wasn't so much here as my family. I know it makes me kind of terrible person, but after my mom died I was so used to just staying in the house, because it wasn't safe for Melissa and I to go outside without either Mom or Dad. Dad worked a lot of long hours then, and Mom, well, Mom was laid up in bed. Missy was kind of little then, so she didn't mind staying in and playing with her toys or watching TV, but Mom looks so lonely in bed that I would go in and talk to her, and then we started reading together. I think I was seven then, and I actually had a hard time reading, so Mom would just have me read through all of my school books, no matter what they were, and she would have me check out books from the school library. When she died a year later...I just I didn't really know what to do about it.
"So I kept reading, whatever I could get my hands on while Dad renovated the house. And then he started dating Carol, and then they got married, and for a while it was okay. I mean, it was almost like having Mom back. But since they won the lotto, and she got pregnant with Mikey right after, they were both home a lot more, and they couldn't help but wonder why I wanted to stay inside and do my homework and read crazy books, like the ones Mom left behind, technical books on science, mathematics, a few on languages, and some on English--grammer, writing, stuff like that. And I remember Carol saying one night, 'She's not normal, Mitch.' Reiss and Chelsea picked it up from her, and I just couldn't explain to anyone that doing that stuff reminded me of my mom." Tabitha paused and licked her lips. "You...you're the first person I think I've ever told that."
Brian leaned across the table and took her hand.
"Well, thank you for telling me." Tabitha squeezed his hand.
"Thank you for listening."
chapter Ten: A Discussion of Ethics in the Pricipal's Office
Her new life began to go smoothly. Aside from the fact that she fell asleep soundly at eight on Saturday and slept almost to noon, she was still able to sneak away to see Weisz. She still went to school, worked at the library, came home and then studied for school and magic all night long. She did decide to start getting a few hours of sleep before she got up for school, so that she did not collapse every three days and sleep for sixteen hours, but other than that life went well. Until the following Wednesday.
She was at home this time, on Wednesday night, when they called her to come to the principal's office. Well, more specifically, they called her father, and he stopped her as she was on the way out to her astronomy class.
"I'll drive you," he offered. Tabitha felt almost certain she was in trouble. Though the house had always been his, and he had renovated it, her father felt like it was mostly Carol's, as she took charge of painting and decorating. But his truck was the one place Mitch Walls refused to comprimise ownership. After he and Carol had married, if he ever needed to talk to any of them about anything (especially anything bad) they went for a ride in the truck. "The school called when you were at work. They want me to come down first thing tomorrow morning with you and go to the principal's office. Do you know why that might be?"
"No," she said. "Did they say why?"
"Not a word. Tabby, if you did something, just be honest with me. Does it have to do with the magic?" Tabitha took a deep breath, and told herself to keep breathing as they drove along.
"Dad, magic is not a code for drugs or a gang, or something equally terrible."
"Than what is it?"
"Magic. But I didn't do anything, I swear. You know how I am. I wouldn't pick a fight with anyone to save my life. I always turn in my work on time or before it's due. I honestly cannot think of anything I did that would make the principal call me to her office. Except for maybe get an award, and before you ask, no, I don't know if I got one." He looked between her and the road for a few choking minutes before he finally said,
"Yeah, okay. Carol wants to come too. So we'll both be taking you to school tomorrow, after we drop Mikey and Missy off."
"Yeah, okay," she said, though she knew she did not have a choice.
Tabitha love her younger siblings. Just not in the morning. Melissa, or Missy as the family called her, was four years younger than Tabitha and Mikey was a full nine (Carol claimed he was born early at the time, but as the older children grew up they realized that you didn't get to take premature babies home from the hospital right away). At nine and almost six, they were the loudest members of the family, and did not have the best table manners especially right after they had just gotten up. So, when Tabitha woke up, she made it a point to fix breakfast for everyone, eat, and then be in the shower when Carol woke Mikey and Missy up. She dressed slowly and took her time, even fiddling with her hair a bit, and making sure everything was just so in her back pack. When she had nothing else to do, Tabitha indulged herself by messing around on the computer until her father called for her.
They took the van, and Tabitha was made to sit in the very back until Mikey and Missy were dropped off at the elementary school, which thankfully was not that far away. Then the three of them made the drive across town to the high school, where the bell was just beginning to ring. Carol and her father strode across the commons area into the main building where Tabitha led them upstairs to the principal's office. That was when she noticed Brian sitting beside a man in a business suit whom she assumed was his father.
"David d'Ambrosio," the man said, standing up and holding out a hand to her father and Carol.
"Mitch Walls, and my wife Carol." He shook hands with them and then held his hand out to Tabitha, who accepted it.
"You must be Tabitha," Mr. d'Ambrosio said. "Brian mentioned about how you helped him revise his paper. That was very kind of you."
"It wasn't a problem," Tabitha replied. He turned back to her parents, sitting a seat down and letting Tabitha have his old one, next to Brian.
"Do you know why we're here?" he asked.
"I was going to ask you the same," she replied. "How did that paper go, by the way?"
"That's the thing, I haven't gotten it back yet, but almost everyone else got theirs," Brian said. "It's worrying me."