“Hey, what’s up? You’re home early.”
I looked up from the mushrooms I was watering to see Samuel walking down the porch steps. I shrugged. “Skipped my last class.”
Sam frowned. “Again? Are you serious?”
I didn’t answer him. I’d been in a bad mood all day and silently moved past my younger brother to water some grapes.
Sam sighed and sat down on one of the bar stools. “Let me guess – you failed the test that you took last week, right?”
Again, I stayed silent and tightly pressed my lips.
“Mom and dad are going to freak,” Sam said dryly.
“I know that. You don’t think I know that?”
“Why do you hate school so much?” It was a genuine question, not meant to torment me. Just curiosity. “I don’t get it – you’re so smart. You could be anything. A brain surgeon, a space scientist…”
“But that’s not what I want,” I snapped. “Nobody gets it.” I softly touched the delicate green leaves, rubbing them between my fingers and releasing the smell of basil. “This is what I want. Growing my own produce, making my own ingredients, and then experimenting with them and making dishes and have people enjoy my amazing food. Bring people together over a meal. I don’t need math or English history or stupid tests for that.” I scoffed. “Uncle Enzo is the only one who understand. He never went to college and look at him now. He runs one of the most successful gaming companies from the last ten years with his wife. He didn’t get there by finishing high school.”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t agree with you on that.” Sam patted the stool next to him. “Come on, leave those things alone and talk to me.”
I made a face while I sat down next to him. “You like pretending to be the older brother, huh?” “No, just the smarter one,” he grinned. “Look, Ollie, I get it. School sucks. It sucks for me, too. But you’re seventeen, you’re a senior, you’ve got like six months to go. Don’t mess it up now.”
I sighed. “Fine. You’re right. I’ll try not to skip class so much anymore, okay?”
Samuel nodded, looking pleased. “Good. And if I find out you do, I’ll tell Jennifer on you. She’d probably give you a harder time than mom and dad about it.”
I laughed. “She really would. I wish I could be more like Jen. She’s so driven and motivated to do well in school, make the best of her life, be successful…” I smiled. “How did I find a girl like that?”
Sam made a gagging sound. “Okay, gross. Cut it out before you I puke.”
“Sorry,” I laughed apologetically.
“So things are going pretty well between you two? She’s very nice. She survived Christmas pretty well, I think.”
“Yeah, things are great,” I said, unable to stop myself from smiling. “Jen’s great.”
“So…” Samuel lifted his eyebrow and gave me a suggestive look. “How is the…. Y’know.”
I chuckled and shook my head. “We haven’t done that. Yet.”
“Really?” Sam looked surprised. “So she really is as prim and proper as she looks?”
“And you don’t mind?”
“Wow. It happened. A woman turned Oliver Fiore-Horton into a man with morals,” Sam teased. “Hey, I’m not saying we’re waiting forever. Just for a little while. Until Jen’s ready.”
“All right,” Sam said. “But you’re not telling me you’re not even a little frustrated. I mean, even I can see that Jennifer is a pretty attractive girl. Having to wait must be getting to you a little bit, right?”
I shrugged. “Maybe a little. But I just keep telling myself that the longer we wait, the better it’ll eventually be.”
Samuel grinned. “Whatever works, dude. Until then, you might want to take good care of those tomatoes over there. I’ve been told they feel a lot like boobs when they’re soft.”
That joke earned him a punch in the ribs, and a good laugh for both of us.