It was Thursday when we had gone into the medical center. It was Saturday when we left. During that time, the camera had somehow managed to remain in my shoe, undetected by all except me. Finally, around 2:30 AM on Saturday, we staggered out of the med center. For once, it was not cold or precipitating. Despite my tired haze, I was exceedingly thankful for the nice night.
“Now,” Charlotte said, when we were outside Marine and Squire, “I know that my idea was stupid, unnecessary and, well, quite moronic…”
“Like tryin’ t’get with that older bloke ‘oo was always by the school because you liked his white van,” Eliza murmured, shooting her adopted sister a withering glare.
“…So, to make it up to you,” Charlotte said, “I want to take you to get coffee at…”
“I’m sorry, Charlotte,” I said, “but I just want to go to sleep. I haven’t slept in about forty-eight hours and have only had two wish sandwiches in the past day. Plus, there are midterms.”
“I’d like some coffee!” Cross said.
“But…” Charlotte protested, glancing around hurriedly.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I need sleep.”
“Yeah,” John said, “me too.”
“You ‘eard ‘em, Char,” Eliza said blearily. “They need rest. I need some bloody rest.”
“Speaking of rest,” May said, pointing over her shoulder, “I’m going to head back to my dorm. I’m beat, and I’ve still got chills.”
As she walked off, Eliza grabbed her by her hood. “Oh no ya don’t,” she growled. “I’m not about t’let you walk home alone so some ax-murderin’ wanker can give you a couple new scars. You’re staying in my dorm.”
We walked into Marine as May was dragged into Squire. “Well,” John said, “that was a waste of time. Why’d you have to go in there anyway?”
“Remember that meeting with our scholarship people?” I asked.
“Yeah?” John said grumpily. Then he woke up a bit. “You didn’t…”
I had bent down, pretending to tie my shoe. When I came up again, I was holding the spy camera. “I did,” I said as I showed it to John. Then I shoved it into my pocket.
“Do… do you have any idea what you’ve done?” John asked. “If they find out…”
“I know,” I said. “That’s why we aren’t going to mention it again until we’re as far away from this God-forsaken shit hole as possible.”
John sighed. “Do I want to know you found?”
“There’s a clone army in North Korea,” I said quietly.
“Not sure I believe that,” John whispered. “I mean, if North Korea could create a clone army, they’d be flaunting that shit left and right.”
“Could be they don’t control it,” I said. “Anyway, let’s go to bed.”
The weekend, after we had gotten some sleep, was the definition of awful. Due to the fact that midterms started next week, we had a lot of work to do, and when we weren’t working, we had to be studying. It was kind of a nightmare.
At least the projects were interesting. My Military History and my Sociology course both had midterm projects instead of tests. For instance, I had to take two famous generals from my country’s history in Military History and compare them. I had been assigned Grant and Lee.
However, the thing that bugged me was that my English class had assigned both. That, and studying for the math test, was the toughest part of the weekend. I barely left the dorm room, only occasionally going out for the purpose of showering or eating.
I also noticed that Eric went out of the room more than the other three of us combined that week. One time when he was packing, I asked him, “Dude, where do you go?”
“I have a study group with the rest of my crew,” he said.
“Cool,” Cross said. “Can we come too? Because we’re…”
“No.” With that, Eric closed the door behind him.
“Damn,” Cross said, sighing a bit wistfully. “I was kind of hoping to see Doc.” I remembered a time very soon after Hell Semester was over when Cross and Doc had sort of been rushing into the elevator. Combined with the fact that they had been kind of handsy, and some things were starting to make sense. “Anyway,” Cross asked, “you ready for the driving test on Monday?”
“Wait,” I said, “the test’s on Monday?”
“Well, an optional one is,” Cross said. “If you feel like you’re good enough, you can take it now. Assuming you signed up for it, of course.”
I suddenly remembered a list I had signed at the start of the lessons. Was that the list of who would take the early driver’s test? If so, I wasn’t ready.
At the exact moment I was wondering this, the message notification on cNet showed that I had a new message. I looked at it. It was a message from my driving instructor saying I had an appointment on Monday at 6:00 AM.
“Apparently I did,” I said. “I don’t remember signing up, but it says my appointment is tomorrow.”
Cross and Eric both looked at their computer screens. Eric sighed in relief. Cross, however, asked, “Does yours say 6:00 AM?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Let me guess, you’ve got that same time too?”
“Yep,” he said confidently. “Wanna bet I get it on my first try?”
“Not really,” I said. “I just want to finish my English paper, then get some sleep.”
I ended up only getting one of those done. By the time I had gotten my English paper all finished and had given it at least one look-over, it was 5:05. I grabbed my clothes and shower stuff and staggered across the hall to the bathroom to take my shower.
When I opened the door to my room, Cross was standing there with nothing on below the waist. He was facing towards me, hairy scrotum and all. Pointedly looking away, I said, “I’ll be back in five minutes.” I hurriedly closed the door and went to the common room area and sat down on one of the couches. As soon as I sat down, I decided a rest couldn’t hurt.
What felt like a few seconds later, Cross was nudging me. “Hey,” he said, “time to head down.” After glaring at him for a few seconds, I got up and walked over to the elevator, giving the down button a good slap. Cross, understandably, shut up for a while.
We were supposed to meet the guy outside of Squire. When we got out of the building, we saw Eliza bundled into her old army jacket by Sir Galahad’s and nervously nursing a hot drink. There was no car. I looked just in time to see a four-door Bentley come driving down the street. I quickly realized that it was our test car.
The car parked, and out got Sergeant Burra. Sergeant Burra was a blond, very athletic Australian woman who had been a drill sergeant during Hell Semester. I assumed that now, since Hell Semester was over, I should refer to her as Professor Burra. I had also heard she was a Lupine like Eliza. However, she was either the kind who was born without dog ears, or had the surgery done on them.
“Good morning!” she said cheerfully as she bounced out of the car. Despite being in her thirties, she had the air of a teenager. The pink coat with white fur trim only enhanced her image. “So you guys are taking your driver’s test, eh?” she asked as she walked around the car. “Is one of you lot Nate Jacobs? ‘Cause you’re up first.”
“That’s me,” I said.
She threw me the keys. “Great!” she said happily. “Now get in and show me your stuff!”
“This… this is a Bentley,” I said as I caught the keys. “This is almost two hundred thousand dollars. Without any options.” My stomach dropped into my shoes. Judging by Eliza’s face, so had hers. So far, the most expensive car they had put me in was either the Boss Mustang or that Mercedes-Benz.
“Oooh! You’re a car guy!” Burra said happily. “That means I don’t have to give you a talking-to about what happens if you crash it. We like to make tests a bit interesting for a few students. You crash it, you pay to fix it. You pass the test, you get a gift certificate to The Veranda. You break the car, you pay for damages.” The Veranda was a fancy restaurant, the fanciest on campus, in fact. I heard it was the kind of place where you could run up a hundred dollar bill just by sitting down.
Taking a few deep breaths, I got into the plush leather seats. “Wait,” I said, “are these heated?”
“It better,” Eliza said as she got into the seat behind me. “It cost more than my biological parents ever made…”
“Who cares?” Cross said, also entering. “Let’s see what this thing can do!”
“Top speed on this campus is forty kilometers per hour,” Burra said. “Anyway, let’s see your hand signals!” After a few of these little pre-drive checks, we were ready to go. I closed the window and turned the key.
“Ok,” Burra said, “First thing we’re doin’ is makin’ a noice K-turn. Remember ‘ow to do one of those?”
“Yeah,” I said. I drove forwards a bit, then did a perfect K-turn.
What followed next was about half an hour of driving. I was a little tense, but the seat helped to loosen me up a bit. Cross and Eliza’s wise-ass remarks, on the other hand, were a bit counter-productive. When they began chanting “Don’t mess up,” over and over again on the final part of the test (parallel parking,) I shot them a dirty look. They shut up instantly.
After I parked, Burra said happily, “Congrats! You passed! Your IDP will be sent to you within the week and I’ll message the coupon for The Veranda by dinner. Miss Henderson, your turn.”
Eliza’s time was more nerve-wracking. As soon as she got in the driver’s seat, she started shaking. After a few deep breaths, she began to back the car up.
“Hey Eliza…” Cross began, a smile on his face.
“If you aren’t going to say something nice or encouraging,” I said, “I will place a curse on your driving that makes Eliza look like she drove an F1 out of her mother’s vagina. Do we understand each other?”
Cross looked at me for a moment, then, still staring me right in the eye, said “…Watch out for the bus.” Eliza squeaked and hammered the brakes.
“Congratulations, Cross,” I said, turning away, “you’re cursed.”
Cross laughed. “You can’t curse people.”
Eliza actually managed to do well, despite several people running out in front of the car and another car (a Mercedes) suddenly swerving towards us. When she finished parallel parking, Burra said, “Great job, Eliza! Your license and coupon will probably arrive around the same time his does. Now Mr. Cross, was it? Your turn.”
When Cross got in, Burra said to Eliza and me, “Dining hall’s opened up. The one we’re parked in front of, Mandela, has some right good grub. You can go in if you want.”
“Nah,” I said. “He sat through mine, I might as well sit through his.” At this point, I had kind of forgotten about my threat. However I was soon reminded of it.
“Hey guys,” Cross said cockily, turning back in seat, “watch me pass on my first try.”
Now, when backing up, our teachers had taught us that we first needed to visually confirm the car was in reverse. We also had to look over our shoulder and not totally rely on the backup cameras and mirrors. We also were taught only to give the car a small bit of gas.
To his credit, Cross did turn around. However, he had accidentally put the Bentley in drive. He also had slammed the gas. The car jumped over the curb, knocking over the orange cones we were supposed to be avoiding. He desperately tried to brake, but it was too late. The Bentley hit a lamppost, causing every airbag in the car to pop.
We were all silent for a moment. Then the light fell over, smashing in someone’s dorm window. “Well,” Burra said, “I think we can safely call that a cock-up.”