arrived with little fanfare for Tabitha, having elected to simply spend the evening reading with Hannah and then retire to bed at her usual time. Waiting until midnight to watch the celebrations on television and count down to the ball drop had never interested her much—and as fourteen-year-olds, none of her friends were doing much of anything for New Years Eve besides spending time with their families. The Williams family threw another lakehouse party, but invitation was only for drinking-age folk, and even Mrs. Macintire declined to attend this year.

An empty bottle and a pair of champagne glasses in the sink on the morning of January first was Tabitha’s only real reminder that they were entering into a new year. She wasn’t put out about it, as she’d seen it all before and the kind of New Years excitement one shared with friends and family had never had much to do with her. Perhaps that would change in the next few years to come, and maybe she had some romantic notions of having someone special to kiss when the clock strikes twelve in this lifetime… but not just yet, not while she was still so young.

“Did you stay up until midnight?” Tabitha asked.

“Just about,” Mrs. Macintire chuckled, smiling over her cup of coffee. “Might’ve dozed off a bit—hubby woke me up just before the countdown, though. I think I’m gettin’ old.”

“What’s that say about me, then?!” Tabitha teased. “I think I went to bed before nine.”

“Eh, you’re not missing too much,” Mrs. Macintire shrugged. “We usually go to the Williams’ for their big thing, but wasn’t really feeling it this year. Too much excitement for Darren, don’t want him goofing around at a party and popping out his cork.”

“Right,” Tabitha grimaced. “Gross.”


She wasn’t sure who had started the joke, but one of the topics the Macintires kidded Hannah about over dinners was that Officer Macintire simply had a wine cork plugged into the bullet hole in his sternum. He still wore a small bandage covering up the area, and of course refused to let the little girl peek under them to check to see if he actually had a cork there or not. Hannah was extremely skeptical, but that just seemed to make the whole thing even more amusing for the pair of parents. Tabitha put on polite smiles for their more macabre humor but offered no comment.

“You ready for your big day today?” Mrs. Macintire asked.

“Today’s not the day I’m worried about,” Tabitha quirked a smile at the woman in return to show her confidence. “I can even just fail each of the make-up finals miserably and still be fine. Springton final tests for a semester only count for twenty percent of the final grade.”

“Well, it’s not just the finals, right?” Mrs. Macintire gave her a look. “Weren’t you out for, what, two full months? Two and a half? October, November, December?”

“I was told it wouldn’t be held against me,” Tabitha tapped the scuffed fiberglass of her cast. “Given the circumstances. If I do fine on the make-up finals, I think they’ll sweep everything under the rug and just have me start second semester like nothing happened.”

“Hmm,” Mrs. Macintire nodded. “And, you think you’ll do okay on the tests?”


“I know I won’t fail them,” Tabitha assured her. “Even if I do poorly, I don’t see doing worse than a B minus. I’m not worried at all.”

“Well,” Mrs. Macintire paused. “That makes this awkward, but… to encourage you, I was going to say we’ll do something special if you do well.”

“Something special?”

“Yeah. It’s—I know it’s kind of sudden to bring up now, right before you do your make-up tests, but it’s something we should have talked about. When Hannah gets all E’s on her report cards—E’s are exceeding or exceptional or something, it’s an elementary school thing apparently—we reward her. The Williams have always done the same thing for Matthew. A lot of parents do. I, uh, well I hesitate to even ask, but did your parents…?”

“I don’t think so,” Tabitha shook her head. “I feel like they would get cross if my grades were bad, but they were never really bad. They were happy for me when I started to do well recently, but… that was it, really. How I do in school never really affected them.”

“Hmm,” Mrs. Macintire frowned. “Well. I’m not gonna judge them, because it’s not my place to—but if I were to judge, this is the face I’d be making. Hah. Oh, Tabitha lighten up, I’m kidding. It’s fine if they don’t care, I guess, but we care. Alright? What I mean to say is, I know this is sudden, but if you ace all of your exams, we’ll do something special. Spoil you a bit—whatever you want. You doing great in school is something that should be a big deal.”

“Um,” Tabitha gave her a nervous smile. “Just. The problem with that, is—you already spoil me. Tons. You’ve given me a place to stay, you, you handed me all of that money—”

“Uhp uhp uhp,” Mrs. Macintire held up a finger to stop her. “That was your money, it was just a little advance from your settlements. All of that’s getting transferred into that account thing, and your medical expenses will draw right from that. Remind me later this week, and we can go down and get you some checks and a balance book so you can start learning that stuff yourself.”

“Checks?” Tabitha repeated, going pale. “...A balance book?!”

“Of course,” Mrs. Macintire took another sip of her coffee. “You’re old enough to learn how to start managing your money and totalling your balance. Right?”

“Right,” Tabitha hid a wince. “I just—it’s a lot to wrap my head around?”

Writing out personal checks just wasn’t something people did much after the early two thousands. Nor was physically penning out numbers to calculate your own account balance like some sort of neanderthal scratching tally marks into the wall of their cave—digital banking tracked all of that with perfect accuracy and absolute convenience.

I only ever HAD one checkbook, way back when I opened my first account with Commonwealth Kentucky Bank, Tabitha remembered. Don’t think I wrote a single check from it. I think I scribbled in like, two whole pages of my little personal balance book, and then just ignored it? Even back then it must have been 2002, and I could just click to the website and see my current balance, or grab one of the bajillion bank statements I kept getting in the mail. After that, everyone was just using debit cards for everything, and setting up automatic payments for bills online. They… they don’t like, actually write out and snail-mail checks to pay their bills here in the late nineties… do they?! PLEASE tell me they don’t.

“Don’t be overwhelmed,” Mrs. Macintire seemed to misread her expression. “When we sit down with the bank people they’ll walk you through everything.”

“I can handle it,” Tabitha promised with a sheepish smile.

Okay, so maybe my parents never spoiled me… but future conveniences ABSOLUTELY have. It’s no big deal. Write down the numbers, subtract what I spend, keep track of it. Simple stuff. Just a necessary hassle for a few more years.

“Well, let’s get this show on the road,” Mrs. Macintire said, finishing her coffee with one last swig. “You’ve got your backpack? Number two pencil, eraser?”

“I’m all set!”

School wasn’t back in session from winter break until the third, so Springton High was once again still, eerie, and quiet when they arrived. The bus loop was empty, but the adjacent parking lot was half-full, and Mrs. Macintire cruised on in and found a spot close to the offices, right where the spaces reserved for staff gave way to the ones for parents and students. The Student Parking sign had a laminated sheet next to it detailing how those with permits or driver’s licenses could apply for a student parking tag, and Tabitha nearly gave herself whiplash attempting to quickly scan through the large print as they pulled past it.

I could… actually have a vehicle in high school this time through, Tabitha realized. Not sure why that never really occurred to me. Casey drives already, Matthew’s just starting to. In my first life dad taught me to drive when I was seventeen, but buying a car was just absolutely out of the question, no one even considered it.

“Here we are,” Mrs. Macintire said. “I’m comin’ in with you, but I might not stay.”

“Oh—you can just drop me off, if you want,” Tabitha said. “You don’t have to—”

“Not just gonna dump you here and say ‘yeah good luck, figure it all out,’ and have you call me when you’re done,” Mrs. Macintire snorted. “Again, Tabitha. It’s a parent thing. Humor me.”

“Sorry,” Tabitha winced.

“Sorry?” Sandra arched an eyebrow as she switched off the engine.

“I mean—I shouldn’t be your problem in the first place. If—”

“Oh, stop,” Mrs. Macintire blew a raspberry at her. “C’mon. What happened to calling me ‘mom,’ huh?”

The pair left the Acura behind and walked on into the main office. To Tabitha’s surprise, she wasn’t the only teen there, a boy off to the side was waiting with his mother as well.

“Make-up exams?” The woman behind the counter asked.

“Yes… I think,” Tabitha said. “I need to re-enroll first, though, probably. And um, and also put in a change of residence, if I need to register or anything to be put on the list for a bus stop.”

“Hoo-boy, alrighty,” The woman said. “Name?”

“Tabitha Moore.”

Enrollment turned out to be such a tedious process that they had to interrupt it so that Tabitha could be led down the hall into a room to take the make-up exams. The boy from earlier was there, as well as two girls—one of the girls recognized her and clearly kept eyeballing her, the others paid no attention to her. None of the students there spoke with one another or otherwise seemed familiar with each other, and Tabitha wasn’t even sure what grades they were all in. In the end, it didn’t matter; their testing proctor passed out different packets for each of them, and in no time at all Tabitha was immersing herself in the whimsical world of high school algebra.

Write each expression in a different way using the commutative law of addition.

+ 4 =