Mr.Al Gebra was on the third sum of the exercise, I was on the eighth. But of course I'd be pulled up.
"Violet…" he questioned, "What's the formula?"
I did know all the formulas. Math was something I took great pride in. I didn't however, know what formula he wanted. I frantically looked for the question. He was impatient now.
"Keith?" He moved on.
"cos(x+y)=cosx.cosy+sinx.siny," the boy spoke promptly, sans a hint of hesitation.
For the first time I noticed a boy of my age, seated in the corner, with buzz-cut hair, cyan eyes and a lean nose. His attire read simple but his posture suggested responsibility. He took his seat. Frowning, he resumed work.
"Brilliant!" Mr.Al cried out, as if Keith had formulated less cumbersome equations.
Only if he knew I was on the tenth sum now. I look up and saw Mr.Al standing by Keith.
"Oh!" he lets out, "The eighteenth question? How did you manage the tenth? That's differentiation and algebra included."
Indignant as I was, Mr.Al was right. I was struggling with that sum and I couldn't even generalise a procedure. I was envious. He stole my limelight and Mr.Al probably thinks I'm a slacker, when in fact I knew the formula. My blood began to boil passed temperatures it couldn't render.
"Could I speak with you after class, Keith?"
That could only mean one possibility; Mr.Al was going to ask him to the Math Quiz Team. My heart slumped. I was in high hopes of impressing Mr.Al so that I would be selected. My eyes felt blotchy. I dug my nails into the palm of my hands and sat in misery and defeat.
Class dragged by mercilessly. After the class, I quickly followed Keith to Mr.Al's room. Then I moved up stealthily to where the two were conversing and strained my ears to glean whatever I could r.
"…it's true then…" said Mr.Al, disappointed.
"Yes Sir, I am quite certain…" he said in low monotony.
I moved in further.
"…you could buy this…I need a grade."
Imagine what I thought at that. For all I know, I should be accepting Mr.Al's offer. But now Keith had the audacity to ask him for a grade by indulging him into trade of some sort.
"I'll see what I can do, Keith." Mr.Al replied, much to my dismay.
I could barely keep my head up. Confused and infuriated, I left suite a few moments after Keith. In the hallway, I saw Keith moving left towards the exit. We still have three periods until recess, I realised. Curiosity got the better of me, so I followed him, agile yet cautious.
We were out of the school campus and about ten blocks passed the vicinity of the more well-to-do neighbourhood. I have never been to this side of town as we lived on the furthest end.
I observed houses that barely held any frame. Moss and weeds covered some. Roofs were off others. Keith was about four metres ahead when he turned left to a somewhat ramshackle structure that needed buckets of paints and plenty of repairs. I hid behind a tree that now was part of a fence. I watched as two toddlers ran towards Keith. He picked them up in one swift sling. He ruffled one's head and tickled the other's belly. Then he walked in, which was when I noticed a placard under the irrepressible ivy, which read 'Kids' In Retreat'.
My heart sunk, my conscience heaved in remorse. Something touched my back. With a sudden jerk, I raised my arms in defence and swivelled around to see a lady of about fifty, cloths creased.
"Is there something you need?" the woman asked courteously, offering a warm smile.
My breathing slowed and I smiled back.
"I was wondering if maybe you could help me…" I rummage through my bag to get some writing material. Hopefully this would work.
"I have this project on childcare services…and I would like to know what it's like for you?"
"Haha," she laughed. She seemed cheerful, despite her shabbiness . "Sure dear…well let's start with my pride and joy…my son. Soon as he was born, my husband abandoned us, leaving us with nothing to spare. I didn't give into depression nor did I resolve to any hard feelings…I took into raising Keith. Around the time he was born, I gathered that I had a way of dealing with toddlers and so I opened a childcare unit. But Keith is what keeps me going. He does most of the repairs and the cleaning. He even ensures that the children are taken care of. He also sells the produce from the little patch we have at the rear. These days he comes home past ten…he began tutoring kids when I struggled with the bills. He came off school early to help me with the inspection due any moment now. We hardly get by every day, but there's always some hope, right?"
She paused and her face lit up, recollecting.
"Today he engulfed me in an embrace amidst laundry, when he told me he was offered to be in the Math Quiz Team. I was so overwhelmed. He also said that…"
"Mr.Al asked him a formula that no one else knew." I finished, sensing my eyes roll.
"Oh…so you know Keith? He's in your class, I suppose. Do you wish to speak with him?"
"No,no…um…" I stammered, mentally slapping myself. "My friend happens to be in his class. Anyways, thank you, I've gathered all I need to know."
I thanked the lady for her time and went my way. How was I so ignorant to be quick in judgement? I felt miserable in what I thought was unfair. For all I know now, Keith really deserves it. I let go of my tightly clenched fist.
I knew Keith's story now. Nevertheless, I felt it his story to tell and not mine. Truly, Marvel needs better recommendations than men in iron suits and capes.