Making the Grade
by H.G. Sotzek
Riley is the luckiest guy in his class. He has top grades, great friends, and rich parents.
His future seems bright - until he takes up a secret hobby. Midnight adventures and pretty girls fill his time now. School just doesn't seem as important. Riley realizes his future is at stake. The pressure is building. Will he crack?
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This book is part of the Bayview High series.
H.G. Sotzek is also the author of The Edge.
To read the first chapter of Making the Grade, click here. Enjoy!
Making the Grade
A hush came over the busy restaurant. Bodies were frozen in place. Pieces of soft white paper floated to the floor. Then it happened again.
"WOO HOO!" Riley Jackson yelled for the second time. "I AM BACK!" He was standing in the aisle. Both of his arms were raised in the air. Paper napkins were now scattered around him on the worn tile floor.
Everyone was staring at Riley. The only person not staring was Lulu Fontaine. She rolled her eyes and sipped her chocolate milk shake.
Riley grinned playfully at his main rival for top grades as she ignored him. "Don't you have anything to say?" he said. Riley leaned over the top of her wooden booth. "Are you ignoring me because I'm going to be number one again?"
Lulu looked up at him and put on her sunglasses. She gathered her books and leather bag and calmly walked away. She paused in the aisle for a moment and then kept right on going. Lulu pushed open the heavy glass door and walked into the September sunlight.
The clatter of dishes and clinking of glasses filled the room again. Riley's voice now faded into the noise of Lee's Restaurant. The food servers called out orders to the kitchen.
Riley ran his fingers through his thick, blond hair and fell back into his own booth. He gave a broad, glowing smile. Today was the first day of his last year at Bayview High. This was going to be his year. It had taken a lot of hard work to stay on top. Next year he was off to university. He was going to be very important in the business world. Everything was all planned out. His parents were making sure of it.
"It's a good thing that you don't like to make a scene!" Tyson Richards said with a grin. He was already spread out in the booth. His long arms were stretched across the back of the wooden seat. Tyson shook his head, smiling. "It's a good thing that Lulu can take a joke."
"Good old Lulu. I'm surprised that she didn't give me one of her classic comeback comments. Maybe she was appreciating how great I really am," Riley laughed. "Ah, it's good to be the king!" he said. Riley picked up an onion ring and popped it into his mouth.
"Ah, you should be thanking me, your highness," Tyson said.
"Thanking you?" said Riley.
"That's right. You do so well because I inspire you!" Tyson said, as he pointed to himself. A playful grin spread across his face.
"Please!" Riley said. He waved him away with his hand.
Now Tyson was laughing. He threw an onion ring at Riley. Riley tried to duck but got hit in the forehead. He leaned across the table to give Tyson a jab on the arm. Tyson raised his right eyebrow, and Riley stopped in his tracks.
Riley looked up and saw Beth Sanchez come down the aisle. Her long, dark ponytail swung from side to side as she walked. He slid over to make room for her.
Riley and Tyson had known Beth since grade five. They had met her by accident. Riley had just pitched his famous fastball during a baseball game. Like always, Tyson struck it hard. The ball flew across the schoolyard. It was going straight for the principal's shiny gold sports car. The boys could only watch it whiz through the air and wait for the crash. The next thing they knew, someone jumped up and made a dive for the ball. Beth caught it with her bare hands! For once, Riley and Tyson were speechless. Beth became their hero. She never let them forget it either.
"Beth, my love, where have you been all my life?" Riley sang.
Beth glanced at Riley with his arms wide open. She pretended to ignore him.
"What's with Riley?" Beth said to Tyson. She sat down and plopped her keys on the table. Beth rarely carried a purse. She usually stuffed things in the pocket of her jean jacket. "If it doesn't fit, then I don't need it," she often said.
"He's the 'king of the world,'" Tyson said.
"I don't remember crowning him," she laughed. "I guess it's better than the 'Mr. Wonderful' stage he went through."
"True. Or the 'Master of the Universe' thing last year," Tyson said.
"You people just don't appreciate the magic that is me," Riley said. Then he winked. Riley leaned happily into the corner of the booth. He loved to hang out with Tyson and Beth. He really liked being with people who understood his sense of humor. He knew that some people thought he could be a bit of a clown. Not Tyson and Beth, though. They got it.
Beth rolled her eyes and grinned. "Hey, what did you guys think about the timetable change? What course are you in now?"
Tyson looked puzzled. "What are you talking about?" he said.
"The advanced debating course was cancelled at the last minute," she said. "I found out at registration this morning. People who were signed up for it have been moved into other courses instead. I'm in photography now," Beth said. She pulled a piece of paper from her pocket. "The new class starts tomorrow."
Tyson read over the notice about the change. "Oh," said Tyson. "I didn't hear about that. Then again, I wasn't signed up for debating. Weren't you supposed to be in that course, Riley? Did they put you into photography, too?"
The smile drained away from Riley's face. "Yes, but I'll have to do something about it. There's no way I can take photography."
"What's the problem?" Beth asked. "You'll ace it like you do everything else."
"I'm not worried about the grade. I'm worried about my parents," Riley said. "I'm supposed to take debating. It will really help me out in my career. Plus it will look good on my university applications." He pushed aside the onion rings. "My parents will not like this change at all. I am doomed." Riley leaned his head on his hand.
Beth and Tyson exchanged looks.
Riley's parents were lawyers. They had built up their own law firm. They worked long hours all day and then came home and worked some more. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson demanded the same from Riley. They expected him to be perfect. They wanted nothing but the best.
Beth reached out and put her hand on Riley's shoulder. "Don't worry about it," she said. "You never know, they may even like the course change. Maybe it will be okay."
Riley knew she was only trying to cheer him up. "Thanks, Beth, but this is a losing battle. I'm supposed to take debating. A new course is not acceptable!" he said.
"Whoa! Did you just say that it's 'not acceptable?'" Tyson leaned back and studied Riley. "You're starting to sound like your parents. You need to relax. Beth is right. Photography is okay. I took it last year. Remember? The teacher is picky, but the class was good. Why don't you come over to my house after school? I'll show you my photographs. They should inspire you!"
"Well, maybe," Riley answered. "Are you coming too, Beth?"
"No. I've got to get to work soon," Beth said.
"I thought you only worked on weekends," Tyson said.
"That's my job at the variety store. I just got a second job at the public library. I'll be stocking books to help pay for university next year," Beth explained. "It looks like you won't be seeing much of me this term." Beth's father had lost his job last year. Now she always seemed strapped for cash.
"Well, don't work too hard. Maybe we can pencil in some time with you before winter break!" Riley teased.
"Thanks a lot!" Beth said, and she threw an onion ring his way.
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