The other students want a war and Tina's happy to oblige.
Tina looked up as she passed her paper forward. "Yes, ma'am?"
Mrs. Verde collected the observation papers from the students in the front row as they stood to file out. "When you're finished with that, would you meet me in my office please."
It wasn't really a request; more of a gentle command. Tina nodded and fastened the buckle on her pack. "Coming, ma'am," she said as she stood and pulled the backpack on, then followed her professor through the door behind the desk.
"Have a seat, Tina," Mrs. Verde said, loosening the professor-student formality now that they were behind closed doors.
Tina did as she was told and toyed with her braid. So far in the term, only two students had been called into Mrs. Verde's office, herself not included. One of them had been expelled and the other had dropped out. Tina didn't like her odds.
As Mrs. Verde poured a glass of water for herself, she met and held Tina's gaze. "I'll be frank with you, Tina," she said as she sat opposite her, "I'm worried about you academically."
Tina blinked-she'd been doing well in her classes, or so she thought. "Ma'am?"
"Don't get me wrong-you're doing well on your tests. But that isn't enough to make this academy worth the financial obligation, do you understand?"
Twisting her braid, Tina shook her head. "No, ma'am..."
Mrs. Verde sipped at her water. "You can't expect to receive good marks if you're missing homework assignments. I haven't received any work from you in the last week; your other professors tell me that they haven't, either." She stopped and eyed Tina evenly. "Is there anything you want to tell me, Tina? It's perfectly alright to not understand the work. I'd like to help you."
No way. Tina could have accepted low test scores or bad marks because she still hadn't managed to tame Rowan. But missing /homework/? She'd been spending hours a night completing every assignment, documenting her Pokemon's progress or writing book reports. How could it be missing?
"You're sure?" she asked. "None of it?"
Sighing, Mrs. Verde shook her head. "Would I jest about something like this? I wish I could say that I was, but I'm afraid that you won't pass my class if you don't start turning in your work again. In fact, I'd feel much better about giving you the grade that you deserve if you completed in the work that you're missing."
Tina bit her lip and wrung her hands in her lap. "Yes, ma'am," she said, staring at her knees. "I'll finish it. If you'll excuse me..."
Mrs. Verde nodded and Tina stood and collected her belongings to leave.
"I'm very sorry that I had to bring this up, Tina, but I would prefer not to fail you." She put her glasses on and began grading the day's observation papers. Tina squeezed her eyes closed and left as quickly as her shaking legs could carry her away.
~ ~ ~
As soon as her bedroom door was between her and the rest of the world, Tina let herself collapse. She tucked into a ball against the door and set her forehead on her knees.
It just didn't make any sense. She'd done the homework. She'd sat at the desk, working until it was done. Then she'd torn the pages out of her workbook and tucked them in her folder. The folder went in her backpack; the backpack went to class with her. She'd take her seat, do the in-class work, listen to the lecture and pass her homework to the front for collection. How could it get lost in the time it took for Mitchell to-wait...
Tina beat her head softly against her knees. Mitchell. And Penny in front of him, and Elaine in front of her. That was where her work was coming up missing.
Balling her hands into fists, Tina stood and made her way down to the phone in the lobby. Headmaster Bennet would be hearing about this one, she swore to herself as she picked up the receiver. She'd bring an end to this, just like she had with the Houndour.
Tina stopped, finger poised to dial the Headmaster's office.
No. That was what had started this whole chain of events. No headmasters, no professors. She had to handle this one on her own.
She set the receiver back in its cradle and made her way back to her room.
Tyler wanted a war, then. Well, she didn't want to disappoint him.
Back in her room, Tina took a notepad and a pen from her drawer and started jotting down all the work she was missing from the last week, assignments she'd have to do again. Only when she'd finished her list did she start making plans to combat her classmates.
The main question was, how could she fight back without digging herself deeper? Not offensively, obviously. That would only get more retaliation from them, or expulsion. But what else could she do?
Tina flipped through her primary battle text as she thought, looking for anything that might jar an idea loose. Eventually, she came across a chapter on ways to shut out an opponent that was based in strong attack power. After turning on her desk lamp, she leafed through the pages and scanned the headings. Eventually she found the section she wanted, prefaced with a photo of a Persian clawing at a Squirtle that was using its Withdraw.
Sometimes the best offense is a good defense; her grandpa had told her that once as they watched a Fearow peck futilely at a Cloyster with its shell closed up tight. It was time to put that theory into practice.
~ ~ ~
Tina cleared her throat as loudly as she dared, but Mr. Rivera didn't deviate from writing the day's outline on the board.
"Sir?" she said, a little louder.
"Schedule." He turned, eyes narrowed. "You are throwing me from my schedule, Miss Oak."
"Yessir-I know, sir." Tina hunched up her shoulders; Mr. Rivera was more likely to give her what she needed of he felt he was in control. "I was just wondering if you would mind rewriting your outline a little bigger, sir. It's difficult to read from the back of the room, you see."
He rolled his eyes, turned back around and continued writing in his usual, measured script. "I will not change my writing, Miss Oak. If you cannot see, then move your seat nearer to the board.
"A vacant seat, if you please," he called after her as she made her way, beaming, to the front row. "I don't want to have to change two on the seating chart."
"Of course not, sir," Tina said with a smile, settling into the desk. As she took her books and homework from her backpack, she shot a grin across the aisle at Elaine.
'See?' the smirk said silently. 'Oaks are made of stronger stuff.'
Turning the right way in her seat, Tina pulled the pen from behind her ear and settled in to take notes.
Who knew war could be this satisfying?