There’s a silence as a new wind blows across the grass, all by its lonesome, as if saying, Don’t mind me.
“Dad told me once,” I say.
Mel looks down to her laptop and starts typing in more homework answers. “And what would Dad know, I wonder,” she says.
The wind picks up a little more ( Terribly sorry, I imagine it saying; apparently, the wind is British, wondering how it got all the way over here) and Henna has to snap her hand down on a page of an assignment that’s threatening to fly away. “Why do we even have paper any more?”
“Books,” Jared says.
“Toilet paper,” Mel says.
“Because paper is a thing,” I say, “and sometimes you need things rather than just thoughts.”
“I wasn’t really looking for an answer,” Henna says, tucking the page – a handout on the Civil War that we’ve all got – under her computer tablet.
I tap the four corners of my textbook again, counting silently in my head. And again. And one more time. I see Jared watching me but pretending not to. Another gust of British wind tousles my hair. ( Top of the morning! Oh, no, wait, that’s Irish.) It’s a sunny day for it to be so windy all of a sudden. We only come out here when the weather ’s nice enough, and it’s been a weirdly warm April and early May. The Field isn’t really much of a field, it’s more like a property plot that someone never built on because they died or lost it in a divorce or something, a big grassy square at the end of the road from my house with some handy sawn-off tree stumps scattered here and there. Rows of trees block it off from the rest of everything else, too. You’d have to make a point of coming back here to know about it, which nobody does as we’re so far out in the boonies it’s only actual super-thick forest beyond anyway. You can hear coyotes at night and we get deer in our yard all the time.
“Hey,” Jared says, “anyone doing the Reconstruction After the Civil War essay or is it just me?”
“I am,” I say.
“You are?” Mel says, distressed. “I’m doing it, too.”
“Me, too,” Henna says.
“Everyone?” Jared says.
Mel looks at me. “Could you not? I mean, could you really, really not?”
“I’ve got all these notes, though–” I say.
“But I’m really good on the Reconstruction.”
“So do the Reconstruction essay–”
“We can’t both do it. Yours will be all brainiac and I’ll look stupid by comparison.”
My sister always does this. She thinks she’s stupid. She’s so, so not.
“It’ll be better than mine,” Jared says.
“Mikey, just let me do it.” And here, I know, most people would be thinking, Bossy older sister, and most people who don’t know us would be wondering why we’re both seniors even though she’s more than a year older than me and most people would think they could hear a spoiled tone in her voice.
Most people would be wrong. She’s not whining. She’s asking, kinda nicely for her. And most people wouldn’t see the fear in her eyes over this exam.
But I can.
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll do Causes of the Civil War.”
She nods her head in thanks. She turns to Henna. “Could you do Causes, too?”
“Hey!” Jared says. “What about me?”
“Seriously?” Mel says to him.
“Nah, not seriously,” he laughs. Jared, despite being big and tall and shaving by age eleven and a linebacker on the football team since we were all freshman, is a math guy. Give him numbers, he’s great. Give him words and sentences to put together and his forehead creases down so you can see exactly what he’ll look like when he’s eighty.