Tessa, by Melissa Wiltrout

 School days were always a challenge. I was sure if my friends found out what I was like, they’d want nothing to do with me. So I pasted on a smile, laughed at all the jokes, and worked hard in an effort to blend in. I wasn’t an exceptional student, but I could pull passing grades if I put in the time. The only subject in which I couldn’t was algebra. I hated algebra. 
   Gary was a short, fat kid with a pimply face and thin straight hair that was so pale it looked white. Everything came easily to him -- math, science, art, even music. Unfortunately, one of his favorite pastimes was picking on people who were less gifted, like me.
   On this particular day, I’d just gotten another test back -- with red marks all down the front and a “54” marked at the top. It wasn’t my fault. I’d tried my best to battle the beastly problems with guesswork, at one point even making up a sample problem with numbers in place of the letters in a desperate attempt to rediscover the rules of algebra. But Mr. Stone didn’t care how hard I’d tried; he only cared whether my answers were right. And they weren’t.
   When the bell rang, signaling lunch time, I closed my book in relief and joined the general surge toward the door. All of a sudden, I felt the books shift under my arm. I glanced down. My notebook was missing.
   What in… I turned in disbeli ...

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