By: Rebecca Taylor
Inspired by this week’s picture prompt
Jennifer Healy was among the laughing teens that clamored off the school buses and onto the sidewalk outside Mountain High School. She passed the bike rack excitedly. Today was the day that her class was setting out on a fieldtrip. They were going to ride downtown to the edge of the water and collect garbage by the water’s edge. They would also see what sort of rocks were at the edge of the river and if they could see any fish living there. Her ecology teacher had decided that a bike trip would be good for the environment as they set out to make improvements in the community for Earth Day. Jennifer was glad that she would be getting out of the classroom for half the day. She liked learning and she put in long hours studying but sometimes the same walls day after day frustrated her. She knew that there was more in the world and she wanted to discover it. Today, she had a chance to do that and make a difference by cleaning up the murky water in the Mountainview River.
After first period all the students in her ecology class went outside and chose one of the shiny blue bicycles from the rack in front of the faded brick school. Then they lined up two by two and prepared for the ride on the scenic bike path. Jennifer was paired up with Jackson Harvey. She would also be working with him on the report that had to be written about their community service project. Most girls would have been happy to be teamed up with Jackson; he was good looking, smart and a good athlete. However, he and Jennifer had been rivals for many years and lately he had made it his mission to get Jennifer to go out with him. So far she had resisted. Jackson wasn’t a bad person, but she found him pompous, because he was always bragging about his successes in front of students who didn’t do as well as him. Jennifer was modest about her achievements, she worked hard to be one of the top in her class but she didn’t make a big deal out of it with those who didn’t do as well. Around her lots of her classmates were talking about their plans for the weekend but she rode in silence thinking about how she was going to make herself work civilly with Jackson.
“You know you can’t ignore me, we have an assignment to do together,” said Jackson a few minutes later interrupting Jennifer’s thoughts.
“I know,” answered Jennifer.
“Why don’t you like me?” asked Jackson.
“I don’t dislike you,” replied Jennifer, “we can manage to co-exist and make a good report for ecology class.”
“That isn’t answering the question,” said Jackson exasperatedly, “come on, your friends aren’t around us and neither are mine, no one is going to laugh at your answer and if it’s that awful I won’t take offense because I’m the one pushing for an answer.”
“You think you’re better than other people,” said Jennifer peddling harder to get up a hill in their path.”
“In class we’re definitely equals,” answered Jackson. “Especially when it comes to math. You can out do me in algebra and fractions any day.”
“I’m not talking about us. We’ve always battled it out for the top spots in class. I’m talking about you saying how well you do in front of students who you know didn’t pass some of those classes, even after they’ve tried tutoring and been up all night studying. Just because we’re good at something doesn’t mean that there aren’t others in our class, trying harder and not making it.”
“That’s the only reason you won’t go out with me? Don’t you think that makes you a little high and mighty yourself?”
“You asked, I answered. I can’t date someone I don’t feel comfortable with.”
“If I shut up about my marks and my MVP sports awards, would that make you happy?”
“Not if you were only doing it to please me.”
They stopped talking for a few minutes as they reached the water’s edge and their teachers instructed them where to put their bicycles. Then, they grabbed trash bags and gloves, and got to work.
“Do you have someone at home who cares how well you do and looks at your report card when it comes?” asked Jackson putting soda cans in a bag for recycling.
“Both my mom and dad. They’re always helping me study or listening to me practice a speech or something.”
“I wish I had that,” said Jackson. “My parents have four other kids, younger than me to help with homework and clean up after. They let me do my own thing and they sign my report card when it comes, but I don’t hear good job too often. That’s probably why I milk my accomplishments for all they’re worth at school. I’ll try to do better. I never stopped to think about how my bragging might make others feel.”
“I’m sorry your family doesn’t take pride in your work like mine does,” answered Jennifer.
“So, now will you go out with me?” asked Jackson, a devilish grin on his face.
“Let’s start by making a truce and trying to be friends. I don’t want to rush into anything,” replied Jennifer.
“Deal,” said Jackson tying another trash bag.
It was there on the water’s edge by Mountainview River that Jennifer Healy and Jackson Harvey learned that sometimes appearances are deceiving and you have to pull apart the reasons behind something to see someone’s true identity.