Top three percent is difficult, but not impossible. But when she made the honors class in 513 for that first time, top three percent suddenly meant something. Top three percent anywhere.
The odds were against them in third year Strat. Huge project, actual community involvement, transferred into a new class, two people doing the work of four.
She came up with the mechanics for the early-education alternative agriculture program, and he pulled together the numbers that justified its benefits to the population in the long term. She was impressed, and totally convinced of the project after he practiced his presentation (and it was her idea).
It could have been that easy. If not for the seven or ten things that screwed up on the day of their final. Like the materials for the teacher panel getting lost. The child wandering into another room and was thankfully found half an hour later. Soggy seedlings, a late panelist, and everything else in between.
She burst into tears on the bus ride back to the city.
“It’s not as bad as you think, Lousy,” he said, in a tone that almost passed for comforting. “We pulled it together.”
Just barely. Not enough.
To this day, it is the only class where she was merely above average. The post-semester evaluation blamed it on the circumstances beyond their control. The evaluation made note of their Traditional Learning Scores and Psychological/Social/Other metrics. First of all, very few even in the elite honors class at 513 received scores over 90 on either. High TLS indicated great potential in disciplined learning, respecting authority, and capacity to follow instruction. PSO tried to account for the “other” qualities that made people successful, recording items like change adaptability, charisma, persuasiveness. The exceptionally high and similar scores were red-flagged; there was a risk of being “too volatile” when together, and left little room for compromise. It was recommended that AMJ3 and MLR2 not be required to do schoolwork together again, or engage in social activity.
So they continued to see each other.
No such thing as a prom in 513. Because government budgets didn’t have a budget item named “prom.” But private schools still had them, and she never really wished she were studying somewhere else until she realized that there would be no chance to dress up and just hang out with him in the same room without having to be sneaky. With a combined average of 95.5 TLS/PSO, they were successfully sneaky.
No such thing as a high school graduation in 513 either. At the end of senior year many simply moved on to their first year in their Public Administration degree. Recent performance dictated next semester’s classes, and they were never assigned together again.
During one hectic semester, the only possible time they could have together was between ten p.m. and midnight, twice a week.
She needed to tell her older sister Mel about him. It was the only way she could sneak out and come back, those two nights a week, for a whole semester, without anyone noticing.
But first she had to endure the expected: Him! You can’t see him! Not AMJ3! Do you know what mom and dad will do to you? I can’t be part of this! Not after everything they’ve sacrificed for us — for you!
But she was ready with: I know what I’m doing. My course work isn’t affected. I will be all they need me to be. I know when to end it. Just trust me, and let this run its course. We’re young.
We’ll get over this, she told Mel.
At some point Mel was turned over to her side. Lourdes was not, after all, a 97 PSO for nothing. The accomplice became useful because the following semesters weren’t any easier. Andres
Miguel took internships, uncredited, and worked twice the number of hours in civil service immersion than the curriculum required. Maria Lourdes signed up for additional advocacy classes, which made sneaking out difficult, but she pushed her luck. Whenever she had a free hour, she’d be in his room.
Studying. Reading laws.
Whenever she had a free hour, she’d be in his room. Studying. Reading laws. But also kissing. It was almost unfair, how naturally good he was at it, on top of everything else.
But also kissing. It was almost unfair, how naturally good he was at it, on top of everything else. You’d think that they would have found a test to measure it, qualify it, and rank him alongside all the kissing performance of all public servants in training at 513, but he would have to have been near the top of the list, as he was with everything else.
When she joked about it one time, like whether he practiced on anyone else because why was he an expert, he rolled off her and pulled a notebook from what looked like a mess under his bed.
“Finally she noticed,” he said. “Ten days later.”
He had a handwritten chart. Perceived Levels of L’s Satisfaction. And then rows of fours and fives, a six, and then, more recently, a small spike to eights and nines.
“Did you notice what I did differently?” he asked, amused.
“You let me lead,” she said. “Pacing. I controlled it. I just thought…”
“You like to be in control, Lusty. Definitely more satisfying for you when you are.”
“I don’t…How do I contest these results? What are you basing your scale on? I would never have ranked us a four ever.”
He smirked. “I set perceived level of your satisfaction low because I wanted to challenge myself to take it higher.”
“This better not be for a final,” she said, studying his chart some more. “There’s no ten.”
“There’s no ten yet,” he corrected.