Perfect's Overrated

March 2, 2012
October 26th
“Do you have your report card?” asked Mr. Brader as he stared at Nova over his reading glasses. Nova pulled out the envelope that, unlike other teenagers, she never feared until today.
“Yes, sir.” Nova took a deep breath as she handed over her report card. She stood before her father as he opened the envelope and read the paper inside, feeling nervous as she mentally followed him along. AP American History: A, ACC Pre-Calculus: A, American Literature: A, Chemistry:-
“A C+ in Chemistry.” He was staring at her again, this time in disappointment. Nova started to fidget with her hands. She hated that look. She did whatever she could so he never gave her that look. An A was preferred and a B was tolerated, but a C was a crime. “A C is average,” her father use to say. “Being average is nothing to be proud of.” Nova mentally flinched at the memory.
“Please explain why this is a C,” he said calmly. Nova wasn’t fooled. It was a command.
“I’m acing all my tests and finishing all my homework.” He just kept his eyes on her, and her hands began to sweat. “It’s the labs. I can only do half of the work.”
“And the other half?” he asked.
Nova took a calming breath, “The other work depends on my lab partner.”
“And does he not answer his share of the questions well?”
Nova shook her head, “No, sir. He doesn’t do the work at all.”
“Then it is your job to make sure he does it. Or do I need to have a talk with him?”
If you can find him, sure. Actually, that would be a bad idea. She didn’t know who would win that particular show down. “No, I’ll sort it out,” she said.
“Good.” He held up her paper, “This isn’t acceptable. I want improvement by the end of the next quarter.” He went back to his reading without another word.
“Yes, sir,” Nova murmured as she left the room. She went to her room and after flinging her bag onto her bed; she stood in front of her full length mirror and sighed. “What are you going to do?”
October 27th
Nova knocked on the classroom door. “You wanted to see me, sir?” she asked.
Mr. Backes, her Chemistry teacher, looked up from the papers he was grading. “Ah, yes, Ms. Brader. Please, come in.” When she had walked over, he took off his glasses and placed them onto his desk. “Where was your lab partner today, Ms. Brader?”
“Sir?” Nova felt a little panicked.
He tapped his finger on a piece of paper, “I noticed his work was filled out here, but I don’t recall him being present today. “ He gave her a knowing look, “And this looks an awful like your hand writing.”
Nova sighed. She couldn’t lie to him. He was one of her favorite teachers and she couldn’t betray his trust. Besides, he might understand. “Sir, I filled his out for him, because he continues to skip class and I need to bring my grade up. I can’t keep letting him bring me down.”
Mr. Backes stared at her thoughtfully for a moment before asking, “Have you tried talking to him?”
Nova was taken aback by this question, “What?” Talk? To him?
“Have you ever tried to get to know him? Ask him why he continues to skip my class?” He glanced at something on his computer and added, “He only appears to only skip this class and I can’t seem to think of a good reason why.” He turned back to her. “I will give you full credit for this assignment this time as well as him.” When she opened her mouth to protest, he cut her off with a wave of his hand, “It is only this once, Ms. Brader. But in the future, I will only count it partly finished. Get him to show up for class and do his work if you want to bring up both your grades. Like you, he does well on tests and homework; it’s the lab that is the problem.”
He returned to grading and Nova knew she had been dismissed. She stalked out of the room. He better be home, she thought.

Nova stared at the faded red paint of the door before her. She had been standing in front of the door for five minutes, trying to gather the courage to knock, but just couldn’t seem to do it. She was in a small neighborhood where he lived and was surprised at how small two-story houses could get. She would be surprised if there was enough room for a kitchen, living room, and a bedroom. Or even two. Come on girl! She clenched her fist. Just get it over with and knock! She lifted her hand to do so, when she heard a voice behind her ask, “What are you doing here?”
She whirled around and took a step back. He was standing right behind her. How could he have walked up behind her without her hearing him? There were leaves all over his freaking yard!
“What are you doing here?” he repeated, annoyance clear in his tone.
Nova brushed her red hair out of her eyes and stared into his dark green ones. His black hair was so long, it almost covered his eyes. Nova didn’t like the feeling she was getting in her stomach. Must be something I ate, she hoped. “I need to talk to you,” she said, hoping he didn’t notice the tremor in her voice. Why was she so damn nervous? He was only a boy. An annoying boy.
He raised an eyebrow and a smirk crossed his lips, “Yeah, sure. I’m busy princess.” He pushed her out of his way and made for the door knob. “Go back home.”
“William Hennessy!” she shouted. He froze. She was unable to see his face, because his back was still to her. For some reason, that really p****d her off. “You listen to me right now!”
He turned slowly back to her and she was surprise to see amusement in his eyes, though his face remained expressionless. When he didn’t say anything, Nova continued, “I could care less what you want to do right now. I’m your Chemistry partner and I will not stand idly by while you continue to hold me back.” He crossed his arms, but didn’t say a word. She continued, “I don’t know why you continue to skip class! I don’t know why you only show up for the tests and to turn in your homework! I thought you skipped class because you don’t care about your grades, but you bother to do some of the work. And you only skip Chemistry and only on days we’re in the lab!”
She started to pace, her hair flying behind her, trying to ignore his eyes as they watched her. “Is it me? Do you not like me or something? What could I have possibly done to cause you to skip class? I think you showed up for maybe two labs. Two! Then, bam! Gone! What did I do to make you hate me enough to skip class?”
“I don’t hate you, Nova,” he said quietly, his eyes no longer amused. But she didn’t slow down.
“Then why, Will? Why would you do this to me?” She stopped when she started to cry. She wiped away the tears, mortified that she was losing her cool. She never lost control of herself in front of others. She couldn’t afford to. “My father expects me to get straight A’s and I can’t stand to see him disappointed in me.” She stopped and took a deep breath. After she was calmer and had stopped the tears, she turned to Will. “So? Are you going to decide to come or am I going to have to stand in front of your yard until you do?”
For a moment, he stared at her, his eyes searching her face. Just when she thought he was going to say no, he smiled. “I wouldn’t mind, but my mom might have an issue with that. I’ll see you tomorrow princess.” He turned and went inside and she jumped at the sound of the door being slammed.
She glared at the door. “And stop calling me princess,” she yelled after him.
October 28th
“Any questions?” asked Mr. Backes. Nova glanced toward the door. Will hadn’t shown up yet. And he probably won’t. Can’t believe I trust that-
“No? Then everyone please walk quickly and quietly to the lab. I mean you, Mr. O’Dell. I don’t need you whistling to your girlfriend when we pass her classroom again.” Mr. Backes gave Sam a serious look, even as the class started laughing. They all gathered their supplies and started for the lab. Nova glared at Will’s empty seat.
“What’s wrong?” asked her friend, Whitley Wolfe.
“I was hoping that my lab partner would be here, but I guess I should know better.”
Whitley smiled, “Will Hennessy, right? He’s a looker.”
Nova rolled her eyes, but smiled, “You think every guy’s a looker.”
Whitley shook her head, “Not that LeRoy kid. You can’t say that you don’t think he’s not attractive.”
He’s not here. I’m not feeding to his ego. “Yes, I think he isn’t that bad looking,” Nova admitted.
“Why, princess.” She turned to find Will smiling down at her. “I didn’t think you noticed.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I wasn’t finished. I was going to add how you’re so pigheaded that it destroys the attraction.”
Will slapped a hand over his chest, “You wound me with your words.”
“And stop calling me princess.” Nova turned and stalked away. Will watched her go with amusement.
Whitely smiled at him, “She’s not really mad.” She was very happy to see something like this finally happening for Nova.
Amusement left his face, “She’s something.”
November 15th
Nova sat on a bench in front of school. Whitley canceled taking her home, because her boss called her into work early and to top it off, her dad didn’t get off work until 4. And she really wanted to get started on her English paper as soon as possible. She sighed, “Perfect. Just perfect.”
“Perfect’s overrated.” She looked up and saw that Will was leaning against the wall next to her.
“Don’t you make any noise when you walk?” she asked, letting her irritation leak into the question.
He smiled, “Nope. I’m part ninja.”
She turned away. “Whatever.” She grabbed her bag and got up to leave.
“Hey.” Will pushed from the wall and followed her. “Need a ride?”
“No, I’m fine. I’ll take the bus.”
“Out to where you live? That’ll cost you.”
She stopped walking and turned to him, “And how is it you know where I live?”
He shrugged, “Buzz book.”
Nova rolled her eyes, “You looked up my address in the school’s buzz book. Why?”
“Your friend, Whitley needed a ride sometime. She never mentioned it?”
“No.” Whitley, I’m going to kill you. “She never even came in.”
“Huh.” He smiled and shrugged. “Seriously, I’ve got my truck and it won’t cost you a penny to ride in it.” At her raise eyebrow, he sighed, “I swear not to pull anything.”
Nova bit her lip, thinking. She knew it was logical but she didn’t like how disappointed she had felt about his promise. Oh, get over yourself. “Fine.”
Later, Will parked in front of her house, “There you go.”
Nova looked out the window. “Here I am,” she sighed. She sat there a bit and Will just sat with her. She turned to him, “Do you ever feel like driving and never stopping?”
Will looked over at her, “A few times. Do you want to drive and never stop?”
She leaned back, “At times.”
After a moment of silence, he asked, “Why?”
She looked out at the other houses in the neighborhood. “Because I feel too perfect here. Look around. Perfectly cut lawns, perfect houses, perfect grades. I just want to do something not so perfect for once.”
Will watched her closely. “Like what?”
Instead of answering, she said, “I’ve never once kissed a boy, because any boy I’ve even looked at, my dad would say ‘Now Nova. He’ll just hold you back.’ No boy is ever perfect enough for him, so he can’t be perfect enough for me.”
Will searched her eyes, “You’re saying you never kissed a boy because your dad said he wasn’t good enough?”
She threw up her hands in frustration. “Yes!”
He looked out the window. “So, you want to rebel a little.”
“Guess that’s one way of putting it,” she said.
He grabbed her and pulled her toward him. He paused for a second, but then he put his mouth on her’s. She felt a jolt at the contact and dived into the kiss with him. The kiss was quick but electrifying. She had never felt anything like it before. When he pulled back, she couldn’t speak for a moment.
When she could, she barely got out, “Thank you.”
He pushed his hair away from his face, “You’re welcome.”
Nova felt her temper rise at his cold tone, “I’m sorry. Am I not good enough for Mr. William Hennessy? Next time, I’ll make sure I practice before hand.” She got out of the truck and slammed the door. She ran inside and ran up to her room. Then, she let the tears fall.
Will sat in his truck a minute. He glanced up at the window he knew was her’s and sighed. He ran a hand over his face before driving home.
December 22nd
Nova ran through the parking lot, the snow crunching under her boots. “Thanks for the lift,” she said as she hopped into Whitley’s car.
“No problem.” She carefully maneuvered out of the parking lot and onto the road. “Are you sure you don’t want me to wait and drive you home?”
Nova shook her head. “It’s not that far of a walk and I like the exercise. Gives me time to think.”
Whitley shot her a worried look. “The snow’s supposed to start up again later and come down pretty hard.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Practically a blizzard.”
“Whitley.” Nova gave her a small smile. “I’ll be fine. I promise.”
Whitley sighed. “Okay. But I’m going to worry, so you better text me or something.” She pulled up to the entrance to the cemetery. As Nova got out, Whitley yelled, “Don’t forget we’re hanging at the mall the day after Christmas! No better time to pick up guys recently dumped by their picky girlfriends.”
“Got it. See ya.” Nova closed the door and turned to face the entrance. She stood there as Whitley drove off and waited a bit longer before walking in. She wandered through the cemetery, barely glancing at the other grave sites she passed. She wandered until she came to a tomb stone that said:
Grace Brader
Loving wife and mother.
Nova stood before it, a bit nervous, which made her smile. “Hi Mom,” she said. She turned her head toward the smaller stone next to it. “Hi little brother.”
Noah Brader
Playing with the Angels.
Nova knelt down; ignoring the fact her jeans were getting wet. “Another set of exams, come and gone.” She wiped what little snow there was off the stones. “Don’t know why I’m nervous. I studied hard and deserve nothing less than an A. Guess that means I’m normal. Not some cold, rich, genius like some have called me.”
“Who called you that?”
Nova started and turned to look behind her. Will stood a few feet away, his hands in his black jacket pockets. Nova had to fight a smile when she saw that he wore a green snow hat and a scarf to match.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Visiting.” He pointed his thumb over his shoulder. “My dad.”
Nova relaxed. “I’m sorry.”
He shrugged. “I never knew him but it makes my mom feel better if I visit every once in a while.” He fell silent and his gaze stayed on her face, serious and intense. Nova’s eyes wandered to his mouth and she felt herself blush. She nervously pushed a strand of hair behind her ear and turned back around.
“I’ve never seen you here before,” she said.
But he had seen her many times. “Guess we come at different times. Why’d you come today?”
Nova ran a finger over her mother’s tomb stone, tracing the dates. “I’ve been feeling a little stressed lately and talking to them helps.” She looked back at Will. “Do you believe the dead can hear us?”
Will rocked back on his heels as he thought carefully. “I believe that they sense something. Whether they can see us or hear us, I don’t know. That would imply that they’re here and I think they’ve moved on somewhere else.” He raised an eyebrow at Nova’s shocked face. “Not what you wanted to hear, princess?” he asked, slightly irritated.
She shook her head. “No, just surprised you have the ability to think that deeply.”
He scowled at her. “I’m not stupid.”
She looked down. “That’s not what I meant.” She stood up quickly. “I should go.”
“Wait.” Though he didn’t move, she still stopped. “What happened to them?”
Nova looked back down at the graves before answering, “Something went wrong during the birthing and the doctors couldn’t do anything to save either of them.” She wiped away a stray tear. Will lifted his hand but quickly dropped it. Nova didn’t see. “I have to go now. See you after the break.” She turned and ran off.
Will watched her go until she disappeared. He walked up to the graves and stood a moment as the snow fell around him.
“Your daughter sure is something.” He sighed. “And I can’t walk away.” He glanced at the smaller grave. “Hey Noah. About time I found out what your story is.” He glanced back down the path that Nova had gone. “And her’s.”
January 5th
Nova took her report card from Mr. Backes’ hand and stared at it, feeling very nervous. This piece of paper will tell her whether she brought her grade up. She knew that she got an A on the exam and Will had been showing up every day, even for lab.
Lab had been confusing for her. Not the educational part, the partner part. After the kiss, it got awkward. And a little frightening. Every time she had stood next to him, her pulse raced. And when she had seen him that first day back from break, she realized she couldn’t look him in the eye without feeling … something. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
She glanced over a few rows and saw him looking at his report card, chewing on a pencil. His hair was still long and he had to push it back once in a while, not that it did any good. Nova smiled as he stretched his arms behind his head and almost chuckled when he dropped his pencil. She sighed. Ever since that kiss, she found herself thinking about him every day. She sighed, turned back to her report card and opened it.
She skipped the other classes and went straight to Chemistry. And right before her eyes was an A-. She felt her smile grow and blinked her eyes a few times, because they were watering. She did it! She looked back at Will. They did it! He was staring at her, a smile on his face. But as soon as she looked at him, the smile vanished, his eyes seemed to grow darker, and after a moment, he looked away.
She dropped her smile too. Why did he always do that? He would get that intense look in his eyes, look away or give her that cocky smile of his and she would feel warm and- Oh my god! I have fallen in love with him. She turned around and stared ahead, not caring that anyone could see the shock on her face. How did that happen? How could she have missed that she was falling in love! When did that happen?
“Ms. Brader?” She looked up and saw Mr. Backes standing next to her desk, a look of worry on his face. “Are you all right?”
She almost nodded, but she saw that Will was staring at her too with a similar expression. She blushed. She stood up. “Actually, I feel a little sick,” she said, the lie coming surprisingly easy to her. “May I leave early?”
Mr. Backes nodded, “Of course. Do you need anything?”
Nova gathered her stuff, “No thank you. I’m okay. I just need some air. That’s all.” She rushed out of the room. She walked quickly down the hall, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. She didn’t understand why she felt this way and she didn’t like how hurt she felt when he looked away. Crap! Don’t you cry!
A hand grabbed her elbow and she was pulled to a stop. “Nova!”
Her eyes widened and she spun around. Sure enough, there he was. Will kept his grip on her elbow and searched her face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine Will. Why are you out here?” she hated that her voice broke on his name.
He lifted a hand and tucked a stray hair behind her ear, “I was worried about you.” He looked at her books in her arms. “Didn’t you get an A?”
Nova felt something snap. “Yes I got the stupid A!” she shouted. “Is that all that matters to you?” His eyes widened at first in amusement, then shock. “Ever since you started coming back to school, I’ve felt so confused. And you! You felt nothing!”
Will gripped both her arms. “Nova, what are you talking about?”
“I know you only came to class because I forced you to, that you only kissed me because I practically begged you too, and you made it pretty clear that you didn’t care for it! And it should’ve been easy for me to move on but then you were at the cemetery and I felt confused again. But you would continue on like nothing affected you, shooting me those teasing, mocking looks. I can’t believe I fell for such an a*s! Well, you can take your jokes and stuff them-” She didn’t get to finish, because Will’s mouth was suddenly covering her’s.
This kiss was warm, passionate, and long, and when he stopped it she couldn’t speak. She felt numb and didn’t say anything when Will took her books from her and set them on the floor.
“Nova.” She looked up at him and saw that there was a lot of emotion in his eyes. She had never seen so much in his eyes before and seeing those emotions now made her feel wonderful. “I kept my distance because all I could think about was kissing you and after I finally did, I couldn’t believe that I had taken advantage of you when you were emotional. And I thought about skipping again. But then I remembered that day you came to my house and begged me-”
She narrowed her eyes, “I didn’t beg.”
He just smiled and continued, “Asked me to come to the labs, I couldn’t say no.” He laughed, “You looked so amazing, stomping around my yard all mad. Your hair was a mess when you left, you know. I watched you until you were gone.”
She felt her temper grow, “Is this supposed to be your way of flattering me?”
He twirled a strand of her hair around his finger. “I love your red hair all crazy. Makes you less perfect.”
“And that’s good?”
He gave the strand of hair a small tug, “Perfect makes you too good for me.”
She looked down, “I’m not perfect. Far from it actually.”
Will took her chin in his hand and tilted her face up, “Perfect’s overrated.”
She smiled, “I agree.” He bent his head and they shared another kiss.
“By the way.’ He pulled up and she gave him a questioning look. “I might as well as tell you now that I love you too. I think I started to that day at my house, but it was official at the cemetery.”
Her eyes lit up, “Really?” He nodded. She breathed a sigh of relief, “Glad I’m not the only one.”
He kissed her hard and then lifted her up and twirled her around. They were both laughing when he set her back down.
“You know, my father’s not going to like you,” said Nova.
Will shrugged, “I think I can win him over. After all, I get all A’s and B’s.”
She laughed but then thought of a problem, “Guess Chemistry won’t be as fun now.” At Will’s raised eyebrow, she added, “Mr. Backes changes the partners at the start of every quarter.”
Will smiled, “I told him that I would only work with you and if he changed us, I wouldn’t bother to show up for any of his classes again.”
“You would really do that?”
Will shook his head, “My mom would kill me. But he agreed. I think he could see through me though.”
Nova smiled, “He probably knows that you don’t know what you’re doing in lab. Probably thought it would be safer if I remained your partner.”
Will pulled her close. “I’m pretty sneaky. I can make you think you’re safe.” He gave her one of his cocky grins and he smothered her laugh with a kiss.
May 19th
“Thank god summer’s here,” Whitley said, jumping into the back of Will’s truck. “I’m pretty sure I failed that History exam and I’m positive my math exam was illegal, and I’m going to blackmail Mr. Zietz into giving me an A or the cops are going to get him.”
Nova turned to smile at her, “I didn’t think it was that bad.”
Whitley rolled her eyes, “Of course you wouldn’t. You’re a genius.”
Will smiled as he pulled out onto the road, “Think about the beach. It’ll help.”
“Until the grades show up in my email.” She sighed and fell back into the seat, “I need some beach-lifeguard therapy.”
“Can’t be that bad,” said Nova, in mocking horror.
“Yes, and it’s worse ‘cause you got a guy and I’m all alone.”
Will gave Nova a look, “You use to gawk at guys on the beach?”
“No, I sat by Whitley while she gawked at guys on the beach, in the park, at the mall, and so on.” She leaned toward him, “You’re the only one gawk at.”
“Good.” He kissed her before turning back to the road. “Now promise I’m going to be the only one you ever gawk at.”
“You guys make me sick,” Whitley pouted. “This summer better not be filled with you guys constantly kissing.”
Nova smiled, “Sorry Whitley, but I think you’re out of luck there.” She kissed Will’s cheek. “If I can’t gawk at anyone other than Will, than he has to kiss me every chance he gets.”
“Next exit, I’m pulling over.”
“Do it, and die,” grumbled Whitley. Nova and Will laughed.

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