My name is Leonardo, but all my friends just call me Leo. I'm a high school student, and my grades aren't the best, but I manage. I mean, I have to maintain at least a C- in all my classes to stay on the football team. And the baseball team. And the wresting team. So I play a lot of sports. I have to keep in shape somehow. And with all the different practices and scrimmages and games, I have like no time to go to the gym.
The only thing I have time for is school, which, I don't particularly enjoy. There are too many classes and too much to worry about. I don't really care about math and science and everything else I'm forced to learn. It's a waste of my limited time. And then after all my practices, I have to spend the rest of my night doing homework. Then to sleep, and I have to repeat the whole thing over again. I have no time to hang out with my friends, and my relationships never last because I run out of time to spend with girls.
Life as a teenager is pretty stressful; I'm not sure how everyone else manages. But I do know that I'm about ready to kill over. I have huge research papers to do, maps to memorize, math to understand along with all my sports practices. I don't know how some people have a social life. It's impossible for me. I've tried, and every time I do, I end up failing my classes. It's like a win and loss system. I have to choose what's more important to me. Grades or friendships? Sports or sleep? There's no in between.
But at least I get to spend time in this dumb Chemistry classroom. Mrs. Vicci is choosing the groups for this huge experiment assignment thing, and I'm sitting here looking back and forth between my three best friends in this room, hoping she pairs us all together. There is no one else in this class I'd rather work with.
"This assignment will be due one month from today." Mrs. Vicci announced standing up from her desk. She started passing out packets that explained the assignment. There was like 30 pages or something very close to that. I started to skim through it. It looks like we have to experiment and research something, do a write-up, then explain our experiment to the rest of the class using PowerPoints and pictures and demonstrations and stuff. She was explaining in more detail in front of the classroom, but I wasn't exactly listening. Her high pitched voice annoyed me, so I'd learned to tune her out. When I tuned her back in, she was announcing the groups…kinda. "The groups were randomly drawn and are not up for discussion. I will be posting a paper on the door at the end of class that lists your groups. Tomorrow, when you come into class, please sit with your groups. Now, let's start today's lesson. Please open your text books to page…" And I tuned her out again.
Randomly assigned and not up for discussion. Usually, that means she knows that someone isn't going to like their group. I started thinking of my worst case scenario group. I looked around the classroom to spot the people I'd be least thrilled to work with. Before I knew it, class was over. As the bell rang, everyone ran to the door to see who their project partners would be. I hurried along with everyone else, my popularity putting me before some of the other…less popular…kids in the class. I saw my name grouped with three other guys. That's good, at least their guys. There will be no girly distraction. I looked again. Mike, Don, and Raph.
I scribbled the names on my inner forearm and walked off to my next class. I sighed, knowing that my group was the reason it was not up for discussion. These were not my friends. I'd actually never talked to any of them in my life. Not that I remember anyways. I did know a little bit about them, though. And it worried me more about working with them.
Mike. A short blonde hippie. He sits in the back of the class trying to get away with whatever he can. Sometimes, when it's really quiet in the room, you can hear his handheld portable videogame music in the back. Or his headphones aren't fully plugged in and his reggae music blast through the classroom. He's a typical skater kid hippie. I've heard rumors that he smokes weed like crazy. It wouldn't surprise me. He always seems high when he answers questions in class. He always talks about peace and unity and happiness and all this shit that high people talk about. He carries his skateboard everywhere and wears a Jamaican themed beanie all the time. I remember once he was riding on his skateboard down the street and ran into me and he just kept going like he hadn't just knocked me on my ass.
Don. The tall dark haired dork. He sits in the very front of the classroom, right behind Mrs. Vicci's desk. He blocks my view of the board with his hand raised all the time. He basically lives in the school. Every time I go to the school's library, he's there reading or using the computers or doing something. He raises his hand for every question, and even when the teacher doesn't call on him, he whispers the answer to the guy next to him. I was a little excited to work with him actually; maybe he would do all the work and let the rest of us put our names on it.
Raph. The spikey red-haired badass. His hair has more gel than you could imagine so it stands up stiff on end. He sits in the very back corner, when he's in class anyways. It seems that he has an in-school suspension every other day. He's always causing trouble in every class and getting in trouble like it's no big deal. He gets sent to the principal's office on a daily basis. I've heard that he and the principal are on a first name basis. He's been in and out of juvenile hall at least a hundred times since he was only 11-years-old. The rumors about him go on forever. I've heard he deals drugs, he's a thief, and he killed his parents and lives in their house alone. Okay, so I don't actually believe that last one, but I don't know anymore. I have to consider everything if I want to stay alive with this guy. To be totally honest, I'm not looking forward to working with him. He'll just slow us down.
I spent the rest of the day thinking about what the others are saying about me. What really is there to say? The quarterback of the football team, star wrestler, the best pitcher in the history of NYCHS. That's all there is to me. I'm in the in-crowd. My people start the rumors, so nothing goes around that I don't know about. And nothing goes around about me. There's nothing but good things to report.
After school, I went to football practice. My teammates were making fun of me because of who I was grouped with. I guess news travels faster than I had expected. Only then did I realize what spending time with these guys would do to my school reputation. A skateboarding stoner, a kiss-ass dork, and an irresponsible bad-ass. My reputation is out the window. I kept telling myself that after the project, I would never talk to them again. We would do our work, and then go our separate ways, never to speak to each other again.
I went home after my practices that night and read over the packet thoroughly. It didn't look that hard. Nothing Don wouldn't be able to talk us through, I assured myself. I started to think about how much time we would actually have to spend together. By the looks of the assignment, it would be quite some time. Especially because of that Don guy. He would want everything to go perfectly. Like a 0% error or whatever the proper chemistry term is. This could take longer than I'd hoped. At least it's a guaranteed A, an A that I really need at this point.
XxXxXxXxXxXxXxX The Next Day XxXxXxXxXxXxXxX
I took a deep breath when I walked into my Chemistry class the next day. I looked at my friends paired with the cheerleader that tops the pyramid every time our team scores a touchdown. Then I looked to where Don, Raph, and Mike were sitting in the back of the classroom. I shuffled my feet slowly over to them, dropping my book bag down heavily and taking a seat.