T hrough the haze in my head, I hear Mrs. Marcus talking.

“I’m afraid this puts us behind schedule. Leeba, you’ll have to go tomorrow.”

Leeba gives a little shrug.

I sit down and toy with my papers. My sweaty fingerprints are all over the pictures of the whales.

What now?

The bell rings and girls start to cluster around the desks.

“Too bad, Leeba, you were all ready to go, huh?” Shaina says.

Rikki answers for her.

“Well, what do you expect? Omura took ages…”

I scrunch into my seat.

What was it worth?

Not only didn’t they get me, somehow I just made it worse.

I look down, not at my papers but through them, through my desk, vaguely aware of the shuffle of girls making their way down to the cafeteria.

A tap on my shoulder.

I start.

“Naomi,” Mrs. Marcus says, “that was an incredibly thorough report. I can see how hard you worked.”

I shrug her away.

“I’m looking forward to marking it. All that research…” Her eyes twinkle.

I still haven’t said a word.

“Naomi, if you don’t want to go down to the cafeteria just yet, maybe come have your lunch with me in the lab.”

It’s not the first time she’s extended the invitation.

But it’s the first time I’m really desperate.

I nod shakily.

I put the hours and hours of my report into my desk, and get my sandwich. I follow Mrs. Marcus out into the hall.

When we get to the lab, she sits herself down on one of the high stools and motions for me to do the same.

“You seem to really like science,” she says.

I still don’t trust myself to speak. I try for a smile.

She clicks on the computer and opens something.

“I think you might enjoy this.” She presses play, then picks up some papers and begins grading. I like that she leaves me just like that.

On the screen I see a stretch of arid soil, and then a shoot pushing its way through. It rises through the soil, higher, higher, grows thorns and leaves, and, in wonderful fast-motion, it is a rose. Red. Gleaming with dew. Everywhere, more roses push through and blossom, until there’s a field of flowers bursting with color.

Someone appears in the doorway.

“Kayla, do you have your written report for me?” Mrs. Marcus asks.

“I do now,” Kayla says, and she pulls out some scruffy pages from her bag.

“Good,” Mrs. Marcus says. “Try to be more mindful of deadlines in the future.”

Kayla gives her a lopsided smile.

I turn back to the screen. Bees are hovering above the flowers, honeybees. Yellow and flapping.

“Hey, what are you watching, Naomi?” Kayla calls.

“You can join us if you want, Kayla,” Mrs. Marcus says casually, without looking up from her papers, as though students sitting around with the teacher during lunchtime is the most normal thing in the world. (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 680)