Working around a broken slat was somehow her problem. She angled her head to look at broken bench as explanation enough.
“Oh, the bench.”
That was it. No offer to switch seats happened. Why had she expected more? Cam liked to refer to himself as a practical man. It sounded better than the ways the frat guys described each other..
“Go on, what’s the favor?” Already she regretted asking. Once he told her then she’d be obligated to do it if she could. Isn’t that what friends did for each other? It went double if the people were dating.
“Remember I asked you if you could get into staff files. Have you ever got into the gradebooks?” He lowered his voice on the last word as if someone might hear. Since the nearest living creatures were ducks, no real issue.
“Well,” she hesitated, already disliking the conversation. “Most of that stuff is automated. You take a test in the testing center, and the grade goes into the teacher’s gradebook. Even the teacher doesn’t touch it.”
Actually, the teacher could change a grade if they wanted, but no need to tell him that. She’d entered grades before for an older prof who found the computer gradebook overwhelming.
“Hmm, I was afraid of that.” He released her hand to cradle his head between his hands. He sighed loudly.
Part of her wondered if this wasn’t another episode of bad acting, but she asked anyhow. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh nothing.” An audible sniff, then a choking gasp as if attempting not to cry.
Couldn’t be. He didn’t even get choked up when the shelter dog commercials came on. Nothing was a typical male answer. “C’mon, tell me. What’s wrong?”
A few more blubbery noises filtered out through his fingers. “I will lose my scholarship if I can’t get my art history grade up.”
“Is that all? All you need to do is study. Ask for extra credit.” It seemed like an easy enough solution. Her mind caught on the word scholarship. He’d never mentioned being on one before. Instead, he just bragged about how rich his family was.
“Yeah, that might be easy for you, but studying isn’t my thing.” He sat up long enough to give her the soulful puppy dog eyes. Her heart hurt similar to watching a shelter dog commercial knowing she couldn’t adopt the dog.
“I’m not sure what you want me to do. Your family is rich. Even if you lose the scholarship, it’s no big deal.” Not like it would be with her. She barely scraped by with her scholarship and work-study job. Her mother was always quick to remind her that no money was coming since her father blew it on the cheap skank he chose over his family.
Cam’s lips became a little trembly as if he might cry, then he looked away. “I lied about my family being rich.”
She wanted to ask why, but he kept talking. It was hard to hear him since he was facing away and the wind decided to whip up at that moment.
“Were rich…lost it…that’s why the scholarship important. I need you to change my grade.”
She had no trouble hearing that last part. None at all. How horrible. Cam had pride, tried to hide it from her. He probably kept it from her as long as he could. Her hands passed over each other as she wringed them desirous of solving his problem. A deep sigh escaped her lips as she wrestled with her internal dilemma.
“I can’t do that. Each worker has an ID. Any changes come back to that person. Changing your grade would cost me my scholarship and my job. Knowing her refusal piled even more aggravation, she searched for a reason, which would make sense. “It might even be illegal.” It might not be exactly illegal, but it would cost her dearly. No reason to put it to the test, especially for a guy who couldn’t come up with one grand gesture. Her heart skipped a beat. The unreliable organ was probably anticipating the fallout from turning down Cam, not that she ever had before if you discounted the times she turned him down before they first went out.
Cam gazed at the pond. The ducks took his action as an invitation and started waddling toward him. The birds initially ignored them when they realized they weren’t eating. Could be they expected him to pull something out of his pocket. His lips moved, but whatever he said was too soft to hear.
“Pardon me. I didn’t hear you.” She hated asking afraid her words might anger him. She wrapped her fingers under the bench hunching her shoulders forward as if expecting not a physical blow, but a verbal one.
Cam continued to stare off in the distance. “I asked who worked with you at the computer lab?”
A peculiar question, but one she could answer, considering he asked in a normal tone of voice. “You know. I’ve told you before, Noah, Mitch, Lauren, Prashant, Del, and Simon.” It wasn’t as if she hadn’t talked about them before. Obviously, he hadn’t been paying attention.
He looked back at her and grinned. “Of course, I remember. Isn’t Mitch, that geeky guy who has a crush on you.” His laughter punctuated the comment.
Before she had a chance to deny it, he elaborated. “Too nerdy to get laid. It must kill him to see you with me.”
Her eyes rolled upward. Why did everything have to come down to sex? True, Mitch might exemplify geek fashion with his bad haircut and glasses. Still, he was a decent guy, better than some. “Please, don’t talk about him like that. He’s a sweet guy. He’s even going to copy his notes for me.”
This tidbit made Cam laugh even harder. Finally, he slapped his leg and leaned back against the bench. “He’s got it bad. Doing little errands for you in hopes of endearing himself to you. Guys like him think that’s the way to get lucky.”