Chapter Twenty-Seven, And So It Begins

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Bennie sat in her geometry class, sighing as she flunked yet another quiz.

This just isn't my grading period. Maybe the next six weeks—

She snapped out of her thoughts again. Mr. Franks was going over the problems on the quiz. She had to figure out what she did wrong.

She looked down at her quiz. This step was right, that step was right-ahh, she'd totally skipped putting pi into the calculator when getting the area of the circle.

Too busy thinking that I should take Sean some of my aunt's apple pie...

The bell brought her back to reality. She stuffed her quiz into her binder and made her way to the door. Sarah would be waiting at the bus circle with Rachel. She was spending the night at their house.

"Bennie, can I have a moment?"

Mr. Franks' voice made Bennie's stomach drop with the dead, aching weight she always got when she knew she was in trouble, or could be.

She sat down on the edge of one of the desks.

"I've been concerned about your quiz grades," Mr. Franks said. "Your homework is okay, but I'm not sure if you're not getting the idea of the work or you're just distracted by something."

Bennie fiddled with the zipper on her backpack.

"It's just distraction," she said. "I know what I'm doing, I just can't focus. The slightest thing sets my mind off these days."

"Any idea what it is?"

Bennie fiddled with the zipper some more. She didn't feel like talking, but Sarah and Rachel were waiting. She had to get this over with.

"I lost someone I loved recently," she said.

"Ah," Mr. Franks said, his tone softer. "Before school?"

"No, about a week and a half ago, actually."

Mr. Franks looked at her with the same gaze she saw in Aila's eyes.

"I think you've been distracted longer than that. You've looked lost since you first came into my classroom."

Bennie looked up at him. Now that he mentioned it, she realized she had been lost to the world since her first days as a Guardian.

"Different things, I guess," Bennie said. "I've had a lot of change going on since the summer, and losing my friend...I just don't know anymore."

"Anyone you trust advice from?"

"My dead friend," Bennie remarked, smiling mirthlessly.

Mr. Franks grinned.

"Bennie, I'm an old guy. My daughter just left for college, so I know about the trials of teenage-hood, as well as personal loss, and while I can't tell if everything you're going through is normal, I can tell you no matter what it is—guys to mascara to saving the planet—you can't go it alone. Don't be afraid to trust people, and don't be afraid to trust yourself, because half the time you already know the solution to your problem, which is, in this case, stop worrying. You'll make yourself sick, as well as mess up your good grades. Focus on the now, and think about the future, not the other way around."

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