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Photo by José Luis Rodríguez Martínez on Unsplash

Nina struggled to hear the tutor over the chattering of the other students in the small after-hours class.

She stood up and moved closer, bringing her paper with her. Others vied for the attention and a waiting line had already formed around the table.

At this rate, she’d never really master History. It was her worst subject: she didn’t like it, she didn’t seem to retain any of the information she read no matter how many times she read it, and her marks were low.

Her parents had insisted that education was mandatory for her. “This is for your future!”

Most of the other children where she lived had instruction in useful skills and practical abilities and here she was, just learning a bunch of useless dusty old facts she’d never be expected to remember or use in the future…

Soon, it was her turn.

She put the paper down and tried to explain how she got her answers to the mock essay questions. The tutor nodded, then shook his head and explained carefully why she was wrong. 

Nina just ducked her head and examined the grain of the table in minute detail and folded one corner of the page over and over. Unfold, fold, unfold, fold.

Nothing connected in her head, it was just a bunch of random people and reasons and events. 

Nina felt exactly like the yokel she had always feared she was. Dumb ignorant farm girl. Never going to make it inside the town limits.

“I think this line here explains that you’re starting to get it,” the tutor said, maybe picking up on the despair written all over her face. “You’re getting better. Don’t worry.”

Nina just looked around at all the expectant faces of the other students. She had no friends in this class and they all looked impatient and bored. 

The tutor didn’t have enough time and attention to really devote to her to improve things.

Why couldn’t they learn about why things happened and actually interesting things? Like when one of the leaders was killed in the middle of the night, stabbed by an assassin hired by a jilted courtesan. 

That was interesting.

The tutor’s words were hollow and her mind felt clouded. She trudged to the designated waiting spot.

The steamcart puttered along loudly and belched mist into the air, visible and audible from a long way before it actually arrived. Nina trudged up to it as it stopped and got inside.

“How was your lesson?”

“Went fantastic,” Nina replied dismally. “Tutor said he saw some improvement from last time in my writing.”

“Isn’t that good?” her mother encouraged.

“It’s easy to improve when you’re so bad any little development looks huge in comparison.”

No one really had an answer to that so the trip was quiet and awkward. Nina wanted to say more, but it would have just started a fight. She kicked her legs in the air and gazed at the clouds aimlessly.

“Your father has good news,” her mother broke in again.

Nina grunted. Her father, Zip, grunted too. Another grunt, and her mother’s elbow moved back to her body.

Tell her.”

“We won a prize. They came to tell us about it. They said we just have to pay a fee for the courier and it would arrive soon.”

“What’s the prize?”

“Oh, it’s a new set of books about farming. We looked over the catalog and they seemed very helpful.”

Many days passed, but the package with the books never came.

“What happened to those books?” Nina asked one day. Her mother shushed her and pulled her aside later to whisper to her.

“We were tricked. Don’t bring it up, it will just hurt his feelings more.”

At that time, Nina believed that she had learned not to trust anything too good to be true and that her parents were just as fallible as anybody else was.

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Published by Watercolorheart

Artist, animator, painter, writer, aspiring musician. Working on short stories for an animated series called Sparse. Pen name Lyn Mitre.

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