Marie raises a bushy eyebrow but that’s the extent of her reaction. How he doesn’t get a rise out of her, I don’t know. Marie is always a lot tougher on the guys in the class than the girls, but with Blake she seems to let things slide.
“Right you are, Mr. Crawford,” she says. That’s the other thing. Always calling him Mr. Crawford, as if he’s not just another college student. Must be the accent. It gives him an air of respectability that fogs out all of his other shortcomings.
She clears her throat and eyes us all. “Excuse me. You know I’m prone to a tangent with the best of them. The point of the final assignment is this—to make writing hard. To force you to think outside the box. And to ensure you learn to work well with others. Your final assignment is to write a twenty to thirty-thousand-word novella with another person in class.”
There are a few gasps. I look over at Rio with wide eyes, hoping we can pick our partners. Writing with someone has never been on my agenda, but I think if writing with Rio were an option, we could really make it work. We’re on opposite sides of the spectrum, but that might just bring out the best in both of us.
Marie goes on. “I know you have a short time span, but this will also help hone writing under a deadline. My hope for all of you is to share the work evenly. Whether you trade off chapters or point of views, or collaborate on each and every sentence, you should hope to contribute ten to fifteen thousand words each, which is about the same length as the last assignment. The only caveat here is…” She pauses, and this is when her sympathetic smile comes back into play. “That you don’t get to choose your partner. I will choose them for you.”
Ah. Shit. Rio grimaces, even though I know it’s more for me than for her. She has this easy ability to get along with almost everyone, girls, guys, animals, plants. Me, on the other hand, I’m not so lucky. I’m not socially awkward, but to be honest, most people are total morons, and my tolerance for them isn’t very high. Some have patience. I do not. And especially not when it comes to writing.
Marie twists behind her and picks up a piece of paper, clearing her throat before she starts going down the list. Rio gets paired with Ali, who of course isn’t here. She’s lucky though—Ali is one of the smart ones, and after whatever happened with Blake, she probably has enough emotional torment driving her to take on the whole project by herself.
“Holly McGuire, your partner will be Alice Oakes,” Marie says, and while those two come to terms with it, her eyes meet mine, and not only do I know I’m next, I know I’m in deep shit. “Amanda Newland,” she says, drawing out the pause, “your writing partner for this assignment will be Blake Crawford.”
Silence sinks over the room.
Then someone titters.
“Oh, this should be lovely,” Blake says from across the room, his voice dripping with sarcasm, his accent somehow amplifying it.
I can’t even look at him though. I’m frozen in place, stuck staring at Marie with my mouth open a few inches. She can’t be serious. There has to be some mistake.
But there is no mistake because Marie keeps going, listing off the rest of the partnerships while I’m left reeling. I can tell Rio is saying something to me, and I know that Blake is probably hurling British insults under his breath, but I honestly can’t hear a thing because all I can think is that if this isn’t a joke—and sadly, it doesn’t seem to be—I’m not really sure what I’ve done to deserve it. Has Marie hated me this whole time? Maybe she has. Maybe she thinks I’m untalented, or a hack. Maybe all those As were just pity grades and now her real feelings are coming out. Maybe I’ve done something to her or said something or written something that she’s found offensive, and this is her chance to get back at me. I mean, this is turning something I love into a living hell. I would rather get a bad grade than have to work—fucking write—with Blake.