By the Numbers (Love Logic #3) by K.M. Neuhold
I always enjoy a good challenge.
Class ends and we all pack away our things and start to file out. Elijah walks quietly beside me, fidgeting with his glasses and the strap on his bag the way he always does when there’s something on his mind.
“Pax is still out of town, right?” I ask. His boyfriend travels nearly every week for work, which means Monday through Thursday, he’s usually on his own at their apartment.
“He’ll be home tomorrow.”
“You should come over for dinner tonight. It’s Theo’s turn to cook.”
“Sure,” he agrees. “I should probably work on this stuff for a little while first though.” He nods his head back toward the class we just left. “I’ll come by in a few hours?”
“Perfect.” That means I can swing by the Math Center for a while first. That thought is enough to energize me more than hours and hours of sitting through lectures on aerospace engineering and astrophysics.
I really shouldn’t have signed up for summer classes, not that my parents would hear any of that nonsense. Sometimes it’s easier to go along with what they want rather than starting a fight about it. And by sometimes, I mean, I’m hoping eventually I’ll grow a spine and tell them to back off and let me make some of my own decisions.
Elijah and I part ways and I head toward the Math Center a few blocks away. I randomly walked past this place right after I moved here last year, and I remember having the strangest flutter of excitement at the thought of tutoring younger kids in math. So, I went inside and signed up as a volunteer. Since then, I’ve been tutoring a few nights a week, whenever I can manage to fit it into my schedule. Which is another great reason to de-prioritize sex right now.
A smile automatically spreads over my face when the building comes into view, Alfie, one of my favorite students standing right in front of it, shuffling his feet against the sidewalk.
“Aw, waiting for me, kid?” I ask when I get close. He looks up and his frown turns into a halfhearted attempt at a smile.
“Just hoping if I stand out here long enough, I might magically become good at math before I go inside.” He stuffs his hands into his pockets and lets his shoulders sag.
“First of all, no one here is good at math, that’s the whole point,” I say with a wry grin.
“You’re good at math,” he argues, shaking his head to get his bangs off of his forehead without having to take his hands out of his pockets.
I roll my eyes. “That’s why I’m the tutor. If I was bad at math, we’d all be fu-in trouble.” Phew, close catch. Can’t be dropping the f-bomb in front of ten-year-old kids. At least I’m pretty sure you can’t. He’s probably the only ten-year-old I’ve been around since, well, not even since I was ten. I was already in advanced classes at that age and spending most of my time either studying or trying to fit in with older kids.
“I guess,” he grumbles.
“And second of all,” I add, “no one is bad at math. We just haven’t found the right trick to fit your way of learning. Which makes this really all my fault, not yours.”
He smiles a little again, just barely a tilt of the corner of his mouth like he doesn’t want to give in that easy. “You suck then,” he jokes.
“I’ll try harder,” I promise. “Ready to go in and give those multiplication drills another shot?”
“I guess,” he agrees, scuffing the toe of his sneaker against the sidewalk again before finally pulling a hand out of his pocket and reaching for the door handle. I’m about to follow him in when my phone starts to vibrate in my pocket.
“Go on in, I’ll be right there,” I tell Alfie before stepping over to the side to lean against the building. Taking a deep breath to brace myself for the conversation I know is about to happen, I then reach for my phone. “Hi, Mom,” I answer lightly.
“Hi honey, you’re finished with classes for the day, right?” she asks as if she doesn’t have my schedule taped to her refrigerator at home along with my exam schedule and copies of each syllabus.
“Oh good, I wouldn’t want to interrupt you if you were on your way to class. How’s the semester going so far? Are you studying hard? I know it might be tempting to start coasting, but you’ve made it this far, and if you play your cards right, you—”
“Can do great things,” I finish for her. It has been her and my dad’s constant refrain since the second I was born, probably while I was still in the womb actually if I know them. “I’m working hard.” Well, hard-ish. Hard enough.
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