I sit at my table in class watching everyone cower inside.
“Test time!” Instructor Inga shouts. She waves a thick stack of papers in the air with a cheesy grin. “The pressure is potent this semester! Look at your faces. You’re so nervous!”
Inga doesn’t mean me. I come from an impressive line of strong Black Mountain Grim blood. We eat fear.
Besides, I’ve taken this test three times and never scored less than 350. Some students can’t tap into their mind fast enough to access the questions.
Tomorrow I’ll return as a fourth-year honor student. My final year. Everyone else that scores less than 300 will be in their below average classes where the window views stink compared to the view I have in Inga’s class.
Ah, the benefits of being intelligent.
I look at the empty spot beside me.
Three days into the spring semester and Misa Honey isn’t here. She was yesterday but didn’t sit with me. The ‘getting to know you’ activity Inga assigned had us scattered across class.
I didn’t get to know anyone.
No one cares what ice cream flavor I enjoy or my favorite spot to vacation. In the end, it’s all idle talk, anyway. Forgettable information. A waste of time…
Misa never asked me anything. I thought she’d love to learn about Emilian Grim considering how badly she’s wanted to sit with me. Especially after I saved her from that loser blonde Timothy and his inappropriate hands.
What does she see in him?
But… Misa threw away the flower he gave her. Maybe she doesn’t see much.
Hmm. I’d never give a woman flowers. Who wants something dead? Here, beautiful woman, keep this dying thing I plucked from the dirt to remember our love with. It’s a joke.
The bigger joke was wasting all that time taking Misa on a campus tour because she missed the original one. Now she’ll miss the placement test.
She just makes mistake after mistake.
“I’m sorry I’m late!”
Are you kidding me?
“No worries, dear!” Inga calls.
Misa rushes inside looking haggard and weird, just like yesterday. She’s wearing a huge black floppy hat, sunglasses, and head-to-toe black sweats. Was she up studying all night or is she a ninja on vacation?
I watch her scan the class, searching for a seat. There are ten tables on the left and right sides of the room. Each table has two students at it already.
Except for left side table five.
“Take a seat, Misa.” Inga says. She puts two white packets of paper on my table and pats my shoulder.
“Hi.” Misa says. Her voice is gentle and kind.
“Hm.” It’s all I can manage.
Misa pulls out the chair with her foot and sits down fast. She looks at me and tries to say something but doesn’t.
We stare ahead as Inga hands out the remaining tests.
“Made it just in time.” Misa whispers.
Pointless idle talk alert. Do not engage… Save your focus for the test.
“I was super nervous last night, but I slept with a moonstone under my pillow. I feel confident now.” She digs in her backpack. “It’s a stone of emotional balance. See?”
She sets a white rock on the table. It looks like a thick, crooked rectangle, dotted with faint black marks.
“I brought more… if you would like to use them. I charged them on my selenite stick overnight so they could take in fresh energy.”
This is a new form of torture.
Misa puts two palm-size misshapen rocks on the table. One is inky black and shimmers in the sunlight coming in from the window. The other is cloudy green with faded white spots.
“It’s black tourmaline and green aventurine.” She slides the black one over. “This can help point you in the right direction with solutions to problems.”
What is she talking about? I’m not lost. And what woman plays with rocks? Is she a child? Great. Now I’m babysitting.
I look around. Inga’s chatting it up with another student.
Come on, woman. Hurry up and tell us we can begin.
“Green aventurine can be iffy.” Misa continues. “I only use it in genuine emergencies, like today. I really need to pass with a 300 or higher so the university can waive my school fees.”
She stares at the rock in her palm, sighs, and puts it on top of her test.
“Do you enjoy taking tests?”
Sigh. I nod.
“Really?” Her face scrunches up and twists like she smells something foul. “How come?”
Oh, God. More questions? What next? Are we going to have kids?
I don’t answer.
“Now remember, concentrate, and don’t forget to breathe.” Inga says. “With strong focus, you’ll access the questions before you know it…” She looks at the clock above her desk. “You have two hours. Please begin.”
I block Misa and her rocks from my peripheral and concentrate on the test.
From its blank depths, a solid black circle emerges, then hardens to stone. It cracks and caves inward as raging black liquid rushes up, drowning the crumbled stone. The liquid leaks out of the circle, drenching the entire packet, then changes back to clean white paper. The test questions appear one by one on each page in dry, black ink.
I look around. Some are having trouble getting to the questions. I can tell when the sniffles start. Crying. It only makes things worse.
The journey to the questions varies from student to student, and some take longer than others. With a calm and focused mind, anyone can get there. The key is how quick one can get to the questions to have adequate time to answer the questions. It is the trickiest part of every placement test.
Beside me, Misa is already scribbling away.
Hm. She’s fast.
Eighteen minutes later, I put my pencil down.
“Did you finish?” Misa whispers.
I nod with pride.
Her mouth drops open.
“Why haven’t you?” I whisper back.
She grabs the green rock and squeezes it. “I’m trying…”
I peek over. There’s a lot completed so far. Hmm. Ah. No. Looks like she’s stuck on the last three questions. Figures. If her brain were transparent, I’m certain I’d see the gears grinding inside. Or those rocks rolling around.
I drop my test off at Inga’s desk.
“Another 350.” I announce. “I look forward to having you as my instructor again this year, ma’am.”
Inga rolls her eyes and smiles.
“Thank you, Emilian. You’re dismissed for the day.” She looks at the rest of the class. “That goes for everyone once you’ve finished. I will post grades on the portal by end of day. Tomorrow, all scores of 300 and above will report here. Scores less than 300 will receive further instructions on the portal this evening.”
I look back. Misa falls into my line of sight with her gray-blue somber eyes.
“Good Luck.” I mouth to her as I walk out.
I look forward to sitting alone tomorrow.