The rest of the day dragged on as Sebastian made his way through his class schedule. There were sideways glances, stares, and muttered comments since his arrival at school, but he ignored them the best he could and went about his business. When the last bell chimed at 2:45, signaling the end of the school day, Sebastian navigated his way to the study hall. He was there to meet the genius tutor his mother had arranged for him. He wasn’t in the mood to study and all he really wanted was a cigarette, but he was mindful of Nanny’s instruction to blend in and buckle down, so he dutifully awaited the arrival of his savior.
Tess Hamilton promptly entered the study hall at 2:50 and walked up to him, laying her textbooks on his table.
“You?” Sebastian blurted out, slightly startled, but with a broad grin on his face.
“They didn’t tell you I was your tutor?”
“Well, at least you look pleased—that’s half the battle. Why didn’t you ask who your tutor was in the dean’s office? Weren’t you curious?”
“I don’t care who is doing the tutoring. My job is to listen and learn. I’m not interested in your body, just your mind.”
Tess did have a nice body, he observed, finally able to get a full view of her standing next to him. She was petite, about five-feet two inches, with an hourglass figure.
“Gee, way to make a girl feel wanted,” she teased.
“If you’re looking for sex, I’d be happy to oblige. This table looks sturdy, and I like a girl who doesn’t have an aversion to public displays of attraction.”
“Public displays of affection,” Tess corrected, not missing a beat.
“I hardly think carnal desire has anything to do with affection,” Sebastian countered.
“Then it’s a good thing you’re not interested in my body.” She placed her hands on her hips and shook her head. “What did I get myself into?”
Sebastian didn’t reply, but stood up and pulled out a chair for Tess to sit.
“You’re charming,” she commented.
“Yes,” he merely agreed, with no sense of false modesty.
“I prefer aloof,” he corrected her.
“Well, with a vocabulary like that, you should have no problem with the English portion of your SATs.”
He smiled to himself. He liked her straightforward attitude. Tess was not one of those polite socialite types he was so used to, who smiled demurely then quickly gossiped behind your back. She was a breath of fresh air.
“I printed out a schedule for you. We’ll meet on Tuesdays and Fridays. I have yearbook and the school paper on Mondays and Wednesdays. I can probably squeeze you in if you need a few SAT prep sessions before you take the exam in October. What was your last score?”
“What score are you referring to?”
“Your SAT score.”
“I haven’t taken it yet.”
She didn’t hide the surprise from her face. “What universities are you planning to apply to?”
At least he could answer this question. “NYU and Princeton.”
“Why did you just ‘hmm?’ It is absurd to think that I could attend either one of these schools?” Sebastian spat back, slightly annoyed.
“I didn’t say that. I just find it curious that I’m tutoring you this late in the game and you have such lofty aspirations. You’ll have to work hard to get into these schools. What type of extracurricular activities have you been involved in?”
Again, she was speaking a different language he didn’t quite understand. He was sure she was not talking about parties, drugs, and sex. These were the only extracurricular activities he knew. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I don’t quite understand.”
She gave him a mystified glance. “You need activities to put on your application. You know—student council, honor society, school paper.”
“Yes, well, I can’t really say I’ve done any of those things.”
“Okay, it’s your lucky day,” she replied. “Since I’m editor of both the school paper and yearbook, I can get you on the staff.”
“I would appreciate that.”
“Let’s get started. We have a lot of work to do,” she instructed him, opening her calculus book to chapter one.
Sebastian buckled down, as he’d promised Nanny, and survived the first week of school. He honestly liked Tess, so studying alongside her wasn’t so bad. Even when he tried to give her a hard time, she gave it right back, unfazed and resilient.
He walked Tess to her car after they finished his Friday afternoon tutoring session. “Do you think you could spend some time with me tomorrow to help with the SAT prep?” he asked her as they stopped in front of Tess’ brown Chevy Chevette. It was well used, with a few scratches here and there, but clean and tidy inside and out. She kept it in good condition, which did not surprise him in the least.
“I’m working with Habitat for Humanity tomorrow afternoon, but I could squeeze you in during the morning.”
“What’s Habitat for Humanity?”
She looked at him as if he were from another planet. “They build and rehab houses for those who can’t afford to do it themselves.”
“I could do that,” Sebastian offered.
“Sorry, you don’t look like you’ve ever touched a hammer or paint brush in your entire life,” Tess said, looking at his perfectly manicured hands.
“Well, there’s a lot you don’t know about me, Tess," he responded, putting his hands in his pockets. “What time should I come over?”
“Ten o’clock.” She neatly printed her address on a piece of notebook paper and pulled it out of the tablet, tearing it smoothly along the perforation. “Here’s my number and address.”
He took the piece of paper and slipped it inside his blazer pocket. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
She unlocked her car, got inside, fastened her seat belt, backed out of her space, and drove away. Sebastian was left behind, watching her car disappear around the bend.