“Don’t turn these over until I tell you to,” Mr. Carita warned as he came around the room, slapping down stapled sheaves of paper on every desk that he passed. Somehow, Kiki thought it made the desk, already bare of the usual books and notebooks, even starker. All the blank spaces made Kiki dizzy.
“The first page, you will fill in the missing word or answer. The next two pages are multiple choice. On the fourth page, please choose one of the three essay questions provided. And make sure I can read it. I’m looking at you, Mr. Doyle.”
Essay? Kiki thought. There was going to be an essay? Had she known this? Did he say? She wasn’t prepared for an essay. She studied basic facts to memorize as best she could. She tried to go over them in her head, searching for one that would be expanded into an essay form.
Kiki started at the sound of the sheaves of paper her teacher put on her desk.
Breathe, Kiki, she ordered herself. It’s just a stupid test. Just like all the others.
All the others you failed.
“All right,” Mr. Carita said. “You can now begin.”
Tests were flipped in a mad rush of papers that made Kiki’s heart rate pick up anxiously.
Ignore them. Focus.
Even as she turned over her test, she could hear the tappings of ballpoint pens hitting paper and Formica desks. The sound filled the otherwise silent room. That and the damn clock.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Kiki made herself ignore the tiny noises filling her head and read the first question.
- The type of chemical linkage between the monosaccharide units of disaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides, which is formed by the removal of a molecule of water is a __________.
That was the first question?
Was that even a sentence?
Kiki tried reading it again, slowly, but that didn’t help her understand it any better. The big, scientific words all placed next to each other were making her head swim. Okay. Maybe if she broke the sentence down she could get it. The type of chemical linkage. Was linkage even a word? It had to be. It was on a test. Not that this was an English test, but . . .
She heard a few papers flip.
People were already done with the first page?!
All right, she told herself. Skip question one. Taylor always told her to do the answers she knew first and then come back to the more challenging ones.
- A bond between two sugar groups and a phosphate group is a ________.
Oh, God. Oh God, she knew this. She knew she knew this. It started with a P. She remembered trying to figure out how to pronounce it. She totally forgot to memorize how to spell it too. She tried printing it out a few different ways, but nothing looked right.
- A covalent bond joining two amino acids is a _________.
Pepto bond! she thought triumphantly and started to write it down.
She went through the rest of the page, filling in the answers she knew and skipping the ones she didn’t, which, to her dismay, was a lot.
The next page was the multiple choice. The good news was she didn’t have to spell anything. The bad news was multiple choice confused her.
This test no different. The first two questions had the same options given as answers and that made Kiki second guess what she had circled for the first answer. She got caught up in making sure she didn’t circle too many A’s or not enough False’s, all the while trying to ignore the way the clock ticked down her time or how her classmates scribbled their answers or flipped their pages, making the room both too noisy and too quiet.
Finally, she reached the last page. The essay. She read through each question, but they all seemed long, complicated and once again, it took her a few minutes to work through each one slowly as she tried to understand what was being asked.
Just as she decided the second question was her best bet, just as her pen wrote down the first word of her first sentence, the bell rang.
Kiki’s head shot up. No. It couldn’t be. This had to be a fire drill. A prank. Anything but the awful fact that the period was over and her test was half finished.
“Bring your tests to my desk on your way up,” Mr. Carita said, not even looking up from whatever he was working on.
Students filed up, some looking relieved the rest was over. Most looked bored. Kiki could guarantee that not one of their faces held the burning humiliation, deep disappointment, and agonizing failure that hers did.