“So do you really like that Gil kid?” Harriet asked. She was washing the yellow bowl after making—and eating—the dozen or so pancakes that remained.
“He’s nice,” I said, not really committing myself.
“He must be.” She sprayed the bowl, rinsing it. “Because you really spend a lot of time with him.”
“We have to do your science project together,” I said, feeling a little defensive. Where did Harriet get off criticizing me for how I spent my time?
“I guess you want to go on that stupid field trip.”
“Stupid? Any field trip is better than being in school,” I countered.
Harriet couldn’t answer right away: She was draining a large glass of orange juice. She finished it, wiped her mouth, put the glass in the dishwasher, and slid into one of the chairs at the kitchen table. “True,” she said, “but you don’t have to get all defensive about it.”
Harriet was really getting annoying. She came barging in my house, began eating all our leftovers, then criticized me for working with Gil. She didn’t make me angry very often, but that Saturday she was getting close, very close. I sat down across from her, trying to control my temper.
“So,” said Harriet after a few moments, “do you think you have a chance of getting a Superior?”
“Who knows?” I replied. “Anything is possible.”
“I was just wondering a couple of things,” she said.
“Well, for one, I was wondering why you’re working so hard on this project. You don’t usually try your hardest on school things.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked. I was surprised; I’d had no idea that Harriet was aware that I usually took it easy.
“Come on, Vickie,” she said softly. “I know how smart you are—how really smart you are. You fool most people, but you don’t fool me.”
I didn’t say anything.
“And the other thing I was wondering,” she went on.
“I was wondering if, you know, you could help me a little bit on my project.”
I just sat there in what I can only call a “stunned silence.” For the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single occasion when Harriet had asked me for anything—except food, of course.
“Why, sure,” I stumbled. “I mean, whatever you want … if I can help …”
“You know who my partner is, don’t you?”
“Eddie Peacock,”[i] we said simultaneously, then laughed explosively, our tension forgotten.
“I don’t know why I’m laughing,” Harriet finally managed. “I mean, I can see why you are … but you don’t have to work with him.”
“Gil Bysshe looks pretty good right now, doesn’t he?”
“Bysshe? Is that really his last name?”
“Rhymes with fish,” said Harriet. She seemed to ponder that a moment. “And fish would be good for lunch, wouldn’t it?”