“I hate math!” Reagan exclaimed. Wil’s hand was delivering pork substitute to her mouth, but stopped in surprise at this announcement. The rest of the lunch table’s occupants laughed or smiled, commiserating with Reagan.
“Yeah,” Art said. “I feel you. I’d much prefer English any day.”
Reagan was stirring her instant potatoes. She looked at Art in surprise. “English?” She questioned. Her eyebrows raised and her mouth twisted distastefully. “I didn’t say that was much better.”
“I like English,” Stephen supplied quietly.
“Well, of course you do,” Reagan responded, a bit sarcastically. Wil noticed that Reagan’s tone was almost always sarcastic.
“Guys, guys,” Derek said, his hands in a calming gesture. “We can all agree that math sucks.” The others laughed, except Wil. She blinked.
“What, Wil?” Reagan asked her. They all turned to look at Wil, and she blushed.
“I… um, I like math,” Wil said quickly. She looked down, wishing her reheated frozen vegetables were interesting enough to keep her attention the way she was pretending.
“Really?” Reagan asked, in an unusually sincere tone. Wil glanced up. Reagan’s face also seemed sincere, even curious.
Wil noticed the others bore looks of interest, while Hope wore her kind and humorous smile. “Yeah,” Wil said; then, a bit more loudly, “I don’t have a problem with math.” She cleared her throat a bit. “Maybe it’s the teacher?”
“I know you have a different teacher,” Reagan stated, as if Wil’s class schedule were common knowledge. “Hope told us.” (That explained things, Wil thought.) “But, I don’t think that’s why math sucks.” They laughed again, at Reagan’s bluntness.
“Oh, duh,” Art said, acting like he was smacking his forehead. “You’re in the higher math class.” He smiled, then chuckled a bit. “We need to add that to your talents, Wil. Cool.” He turned his smile to her.
Wil was surprised, then pleased. If they all really didn’t like math, and were not in the higher math class, then here was a talent she really did have. The Talented Teens were nodding and making sounds of agreement. She watched Stephen pull their secret paper from a folder, then carefully pencil “Mathematics” on the line with her name.
“Um,” Wil began. Everyone except Stephen looked at her. “Um, speaking of… um, why did you?.. I mean, how did you?” She felt flustered, and their staring did little to help calm her thoughts. She couldn’t even bring herself to say the word imaginative.
Reagan understood. “I’m in your English class, remember?” Wil looked at her, then did remember. How could she have forgotten? Reagan had composed and read a truly terrible poem about a woman waiting for a phone call that had turned out to be a salesperson.
“I told them all about that story you wrote, that Mr. P. liked so well.” Reagan stuffed a wilted bean into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and added, “He kept saying ‘imaginative’ so many times, that’s what we wrote for your talent.”
Wil was surprised. She had forgotten about that story.
“In fact,” Reagan added, “It was kind of an inside joke for a bit with us.” She looked at Wil and gave a sarcastic half-smile. “Sorry.”
Wil wasn’t hurt. She felt relieved.
“Well, that’s settled then,” Derek said. He smiled at them all, then pulled out his sandwich and began unwrapping it. Reagan turned to Art and began discussing a book they had to read for class. Stephen showed Derek his latest sketches. Hope watched silently.
Joining in the group’s happy feeling of resolve, Wil ate the remainder of her food with a contented feeling. She listened with half an ear to the snippets of her friends’ conversations.
Glancing up, she caught a meaningful look from Hope. Remembering the events of the morning, Wil ate more quickly. She had work to do.