Home > Levi

Author: Brynne Asher












Change is brutal.

This is also a new development. I never knew change could be a rusty knife to the soul, but the last thirty days proves it. This conversation from hell is the stinging tetanus shot proving all the recent changes in my reality could not suck more.

I never had issues with change until the weight of the world landed on my shoulders.

“We need to discuss your grades while there’s still time for you to turn them around. This isn’t in line with your transcript from your school in Phoenix. How are you settling in, Carissa?”

Settling in?

I fist the cuffs of my oversized cardigan where my arms are crossed. I don’t want my white knuckles to give away what I’m truly feeling. “Fine.”

I wonder if Mrs. Bradley is going to enroll me in a theater class, since there’s no way I could convince anyone that I’m anywhere in the universe of fine at the moment.

She fingers the polyester scarf tied at her neck as she studies me—more intently than I can say for myself when it comes to studying since we landed in the Commonwealth. “I have an appointment tomorrow with your grandmother about Cade. When your mother enrolled you, she gave me permission to talk to you about him. How is he settling in at home?”

There’s not much in life that steels my spine, but the topic of my brother is at the top of that list. “I had no idea our grandmother has a meeting scheduled with you. Why? Cade’s grades are better than mine. No, they’re perfect. And if you really need to know, things aren’t great, considering this isn’t our home.”

She pauses as her eyes narrow on me. “The meeting is a formality—protocol for the program. Our meeting tomorrow is nothing more than a prescheduled visit with Cade’s teachers. But let’s talk about the latter. Your grandmother gave me the impression you and Cade are transitioning well. If you’d like to share something else, it would help me a great deal before our meeting.”

There’s so much more to know, but my new school counselor has no power to fix the damage already done.

Instead of telling her that, I stand and sling my backpack over my shoulder. “Everything is great. I’m sure my grandmother will tell you how great things are at your meeting. I don’t want to be late to my next class.”

That’s a lie too. I’d rather sit through another meal with Louise before getting to class on time. That says a lot about how much I want to sit here and talk to my counselor.

“Wait.” Mrs. Bradley picks up a piece of paper from her cluttered desk and hands it to me. “Tutoring. You’re scheduled three days a week after school in the library until you bring your grade up to a C.”

My face warms immediately, and I’m forced to bite back the stinging that prickles my eyes. I’ve never needed a tutor in anything. I might hate science, and my grades in general are barely above average, but I certainly have never had a failing grade.

My words come out rushed. “I’ll turn it around—I promise. I can do it on my own.”

“If you’d like me to talk to your grandmother about this tomorrow I can. We can include your teachers, if you think that would help.”

I clutch my backpack, and the panic starts to simmer. “Trust me, that would not help.”

She gives me a sad smile. “Then you have two choices. Meet with one of our peer-approved tutors after school, or we can set up a schedule with Mr. Stance—”

“No!” I interrupt, spitting the word with too much emotion. Mr. Stance is what’s wrong with public education. He’s the worst teacher I’ve ever had. He’s older than dirt and smells like an onion salad from two weeks ago—if onion salads are even a thing. If so, he would definitely be the kind of guy to eat them. “I’ll take the tutor. I guess. I mean, that would be better than…” I bite the inside of my cheek before finishing. “Bothering Mr. Stance.”

“I think that’s a wise choice.” She nods in agreement, and I wonder if her offering me a peer tutor is her idea of an olive branch, saving me from sitting too close to the stinkiest teacher on the face of the planet. “Your tutor schedule is listed here. Report to the library at your assigned study room.”

“What about Cade? We have a schedule. I can’t change that on him.”

Mrs. Bradley softens her voice, and I decide I don’t dislike her as much as I thought I did when I was called into her office fifteen minutes ago. “I know how important a schedule is for Cade. Your mother explained that. It’s wonderful you’re helping him with it. But your grades are important too. When I spoke to your grandmother this morning, I explained the situation.”

Shit. Of course she called Louise before talking to me. Adults can be such dumbasses.

“Don’t worry.” Mrs. Bradley has no clue what she’s talking about as she tries to assure me she didn’t just stir up a shit show. “Your grandmother will pick up Cade after school and return later to get you.”

I try not to roll my eyes.

My grandmother doesn’t lift a finger to do anything for herself besides prepare dinner. There’s no way she’d get behind the wheel to pick us up. She’ll send someone who Cade is even less familiar with than Chuck.

“Fantastic.” My response is tight and relays anything other than fan-fucking-tastic as I reach out and snatch the paper with my assigned tutor’s information on it. When I glance at it, all I see is a long list of dates. Shit, she really has me scheduled three times a week for the next month and a half. I need to get my shit turned around quick so I don’t have to deal with this nonsense longer than I have to.

“Carissa,” Mrs. Bradley calls for me as I reach for the door.

I exhale before turning. “Yes?”

“I have confidence this will turn things around. I want nothing more than for you to settle in and make friends.”

“Sure. Friends. I’ll get on that.” Louise would chastise me for being rude to any adult, let alone my school counselor, but I don’t care. I have no time to worry about friends if Cade is miserable, and Cade currently being miserable is an understatement. It’s hard enough moving across the country, but dealing with the changes thrown at us is too much for him. I’m doing my best to balance that for both of us. But from the state of my grades—and the current conversation—I’m doing a shit job at it.

“We have student volunteers for this sort of thing.” Mrs. Bradley continues to hold me hostage in this office and won’t stop talking. “If you’d like, I can pair you with someone with similar interests.”

Wow. Assigned friends. Just when I thought my life couldn’t get more depressing on the east coast. No matter the threats from my grandmother, my manners just flew out the window. “Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t want anyone forced to spend time with me just to rack up their National Honors Society hours. I might look like a lost cause, but I’m not that hard up.”

“That’s not what I meant—”

I hold up the paper fisted in my hand. “This is plenty. Not sure I can handle any more mandatory interaction in one day.”

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