Bitter 341

By the time the end of the week came round, the school was at fever pitch, and there were still seven days to go.

Mostly it was boys, but the girls had also started getting worked up about the game’s release. With so much buzz, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of this earth-shattering event, although it was the boys who were being the most annoying. They acted like this was a gift from god directly for them, and them alone.

Everything about the game so far had been aimed at a male audience, though. Fighting, claiming treasure, becoming a manly man with muscles — it wasn’t subtle. Which surprised Britta. Why ignore half your potential audience?

There were plenty of things girls would find interesting to do. Girls played games, too.

It was clearly a deliberate decision. Perhaps with the limited slots available, they didn’t want too much interest, as hard as that was to fathom.

The marketing had been surprisingly restrained, which had made anticipation even more intense. Maybe that was the plan. When you had a hot product, you didn’t have to shove it in everyone’s faces. They would come to you.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Mr Maxwell in English. “None of you even attempted to come at this from an original angle. The first thing that springs to mind isn’t always the best, you know?”

It was the last lesson on a Friday, so he wasn’t getting very much reaction to his complaints. The assignment had been to discuss the phrase ‘Write what you know.’

It had meant to be a jumping off point for their imaginations, but what could you say about it? The meaning was self-evident. Either write what you already know about, or do some research so you sound like you do.

Even if you were writing stories about things that didn’t exist, which seemed to be a fair amount of books, they still involved basic universal themes. How people interacted, what they wanted, what they would do to get them. It was just a matter of making it feel real.

“I thought there were no wrong answers,” said one of the more serious-minded girls. Janine, who was pretty and smart. Britta tried not to think about her if at all possible.

“There aren’t,” said Mr Maxwell. “There are plenty of boring ones, though.” He handed back the papers with a press of a button.

Britta’s essay appeared on her screen. Her grade was an A. Even if Mr Maxwell wasn’t very happy with their work, he wasn’t petty about it. If you had put in the time, he awarded you a fair mark. An A for effort.

“I’m not sure what he expected,” said Rashida. “Ask people to use their imaginations, and what do you think will happen?”

Mr Maxwell sat at his desk looking depressed. It was a bit unfair of him to let his disappointment show so blatantly. This was what he was supposed to know. If he wanted them to believe in the power of imagination, he needed to be more convincing.

What exactly had he expected?

Britta had her hand raised before she even realised it.

“Yes, Britta?” said Mr Maxwell.

“Can you give us an example?” she said. Not in a confrontational manner, she didn’t want to prove herself smarter than him. She knew she wasn’t. She just wanted an idea of where he had thought they might have gone with something like this. It didn’t seem like there were many options. “I mean, what other areas could we have looked at?”

“Yes, you’re right. It would be unfair to leave you all thinking I had asked the impossible.” Mr Maxwell stood up. He seemed to have got some of his zip back. “Yes, yes, well done, Britta.”

The compliment, vague and random as it was, drew some dark looks in Britta’s direction.

“So, in the spirit of Britta’s question, another essay.”

There was a loud groan, and more dark looks.

Mr Maxwell sat down, all fidgety as he typed. The words appeared on the whiteboard at the front of the class.

Write what you don’t know.

“This one isn’t for discussion. I don’t want any deliberations on the meaning of the phrase. I want each of you to pick a subject you know nothing about, and write about it with no research. That’s it.”

Murmuring drifted around the class.

“Does this count towards our final mark?” asked Janine. She didn’t even wear makeup.

“Everything counts towards the final mark,” said Mr Maxwell. “That’s how life works.”

Britta ignored the glares and went home. She would do the English assignment and get it out of the way. She had no idea what she was supposed to do, but she’d make sure she did a lot of it. A for effort.

She got home to an empty house. Dad had taken to going to the gym, which was somehow meant to help him be better prepared for the game. Britta went up to her room and found her computer was on.

She was sure she had turned it off last night. And that it had been off this morning when she had left for school. Had Dad turned it on for some reason? If he was snooping around her stuff, he would have hidden his tracks better than this.

It was probably nothing, but she found some Hello Kitty stickers in a drawer and put one over the webcam lens. Just to be safe.

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