Kendele was day dreaming when Mrs. Keagan passed out their tests from the previous week. She had always been terrible at math. It was so hard, what with all of the numbers and such. She was struggling through algebra II when she found out that of the cutest boys on the baseball team was offering tutoring as part of the team’s community service project.
She had worked with him until the late night on Saturdays, going over math equations, talking about life, and making a real connection. But it always ended with him bidding her goodbye and going to pick up his girlfriend for a late dinner or late movie or something else. Kendele was over math and baseball team boys by the time the test arrived.
After hastily filling it out, she had turned hers in early and gone to lunch without a second thought about it. She really didn’t care about her grade. Kendele knew that the fashion design school she was applying to for college weren’t going to hold her straight D math average against her. They understood.
“You did a really great job, Kendele,” Mrs. Keagan said, holding out the test paper for her. “I’m super proud of you,” she added with a smile.
Kendele took the paper from her, mainly on reflex. She had never heard a math teacher say that they were proud of her. Or any other teacher, for that matter. Mrs. Keagan moved on to continue passing out papers and Kendele flipped the sheet over and found herself staring at her first A on a math test ever.
She gasped slightly. How had she managed this? Totally shocked, she realized that she must be even more awesome and more intelligent than she had ever thought. Kendele had always had a suspicion that she was smarter than some of her friends, but this just cemented it. There were no other YOLO Girls that could boast this high a math grade.
“What did you get?” Kimmy Johnson asked, leaning over.
“Oh nothing, major,” Kendele responded, showing her the paper. “Just an A.”
“Wow, that’s amazing,” Kimmy said, her voice tinged in jealousy. “I got a C,” she admitted.
“Well, we can’t all be geniuses,” Kendele said, tossing her hair back.
By the time the math period ended and everyone went to lunch, Kendele was convinced that she was the most intelligent person in the world. She had gone from just a girl with a motorcycle to being a super smart girl with a motorcycle. When she met the other YOLO Girls at their regular lunch table, outside the blazing California sun, she firmly believed that she was better than all of them.
“Hey Kendele, what did you bring for lunch?” Aala asked, taking out her tofu and soy noodles.
“I don’t really want to talk about lunch,” Kendele said, sniffing slightly. “There are so many more important things that I could be thinking about right now. I just don’t want to waste my energy on something that superficial.”
Her friends exchanged curious glances. “You feeling okay?” Casie asked.
“I’m wonderful,” Kendele said, taking out her Lunchable and opening it. “I’m better than wonderful, actually. I’m…. magnanimous.”
Jaliyiah raised an eyebrow at her friend. “Uh, so who wants to see the new Channing Tatum movie?”
“I don’t,” Kendele said, immediately.
“Are you going to go riding later?” Denelle asked. She had one of her ear buds in and was swaying slightly to the music that she was listening to.
“I might, but I really just don’t want to sully my brain with anything that simple,” Kendele informed her friends.
“What are you talking about?” Darena finally asked after a long, confused pause.
Kendele reached into her backpack and pulled out her math test. She showed her grade to the table. The girls looked on in shock.
“That’s amazing!” Kadyn said. “Algebra is so hard!”
“I know, and now that I know I’m gifted, I can’t squander my gift on Channing Tatum movies,” Kendele said.
“You just got one good grade on a test, that doesn’t meant you’re gifted,” Aala pointed out.
Kendele stood up in a huff. She grabbed her backpack and her Lunchable. “I knew you’d be jealous of me!” She declared, before walking off.
The girls watched her go, unsure of what had just happened. With less than 10 minutes left before the end of lunch, Kendele ate her Lunchable on the way to her locker, then exchanged her books and went to her next class. Her history teacher was already in his room, writing some notes on the board.
He looked up in surprised when Kendele walked in. “Hi there, Kendele,” he greeted his student. “How are you doing?”
“I’m wonderful, Mr. Jenner,” Kendele said, smiling. “I just wanted to get a head start on the reading for today.”
“That’s great,” Mr. Jenner said, looking slightly surprised. “We’re going over the Romans again today. It’s the second half of the chapter.”
“Wonderful,” Kendele said, opening her book and starting to read. Within a few seconds, she was bored. Being gifted sure was difficult. Reading was so boring and who cared about people that had died thousands of years ago? Besides, they killed Jesus, so who really wanted to learn about them anyway?
Kendele looked up and watched Mr. Jenner write some more on the board. She pondered her new life as a gifted student. It was going to be tough, but she had this ability and she simply couldn’t waste it. She paused for a second, thinking about calling her parents to tell them the good news. But she knew that they weren’t allowed phone time until after 5pm, so there was no point.
After school, Kendele went to the coffee shop to do some of her homework. The burden of being so intelligent was starting to get to her. While she worked her friends kept texting her about going to the movies or hanging out afterward. She tried to ignore them as she had more important things do, but soon she couldn’t concentrate from her phone going off.
She quickly answered the group message.
I’m busy doing homework right now. Maybe if all of you did the same, you could be as intelligent as I am.
Putting her phone down, Kendele returned to her government report. She had almost regained her concentration when her phone alerted her again. She picked it up in annoyance.
That was really hurtful, Kendele. We all care about our homework, we just want to have some fun too.
Kendele’s temper flared. They didn’t care about their homework at all. They just wanted to be boring teenage girls and go watch movies and eat popcorn. On one hand she felt sorry for them. They might never know the greatness that she had uncovered. They might continue to lead their hollow lives and never know what it’s like to be touched by such brilliance.
I don’t have time for this. Maybe when you all grow up a bit, we can hang out. Right now, I have work to do.
We’ll miss you, but okay.
Setting her phone down, Kendele turned the sound off, then returned to her work. She sighed in frustration. Being a genius was so taxing. She had to write about Thomas Jefferson and there was just so much work to do. Kendele decided to get another cup of coffee and start doing her Wikipedia research.
Over the next week, the girls adjusted to the idea that Kendele was their intellectual superior. Although her behavior had hinged on unbearable, the girls had been quick to treat Kendele as the intelligent young woman that she was. They regularly called her for advice and asked her opinion on matters, knowing that she would lead them down the right path.
Kendele’s grades were higher than ever. Her report on Thomas Jefferson garnered her another A and her government teacher told her how proud he was of her progress. Kendele could only tell him that being hyper-intelligent was a huge responsibility.
Finally satisfied that she was far enough ahead in her studies, Kendele agreed to meet up with the other YOLO Girls for dinner. They went to their favorite diner and all ordered veggie burgers without the bun. During the conversation, Jaliyiah brought up a problem that she had been having at the pet rescue that she volunteered at.
“I really love working there, but Ms. Jessica is so hard on me,” she said, sadly. “She makes me do everything just perfectly and she’s so critical. The other day I left one of the dog cages open and the dog got out and she blamed me for it!”
“She’s probably jealous of you,” Darena offered, licking some ketchup from her thumb.
“She has to be,” Jaliyiah agreed. “She’s super old. Like, 30 or something. So she’s probably seething with rage every time she sees how young and beautiful I am.”
“You should stand up to her,” Kendele said.
“Are you sure? I mean, she is my boss,” Jaliyiah reminded her.
“Of course,” Kendele responded. “You’ll never get her to respect you if you don’t tell her to back off and let you work in peace. You’ve been at that rescue for ages, right? You could run that place.”
“I am pretty good,” Jaliyiah said, nodding.
“You need to be confident and direct and tell her how you feel. Then she’ll respect you as an equal,” Kendele said, nodding.
The other girls looked at her in admiration. They couldn’t believe what great advice she was giving out. Kadyn cleared her throat.
“I could use some help, too,” she said. “Everyone knows how well I always do at tennis, right?”
“Right,” the other girls chorused.
“Well, Coach Lasher says that I’m not applying myself enough. She wants me to do extra practices and improve my backhand. She says that I could get a scholarship if I worked really hard,” Kadyn explained. “But I’m working so hard already. It just feels like it’s too much. Besides, I’m the best player on the team. So why do I really need to keep practicing so hard?”
“This is really the same problem that Jaliyiah has,” Kendele said. “An older person thinks that just because they’re older, they can push you around and make you do things. But they can’t. You need to stand up to Coach Lasher and tell her that you are doing everything you can and she needs to back off.”
Kadyn nodded, transfixed by Kendele’s confidence. “That is such great advice,” she murmured.
“Of course it is,” Kendele said, as if that fact was blatantly obvious. “Girls our age suffer from a lack of confidence, but it’s time for us to stand up for ourselves and assert yourself as a woman.”
“Do you think that will work with Jared Barb?” Denelle asked, suddenly.
“Jared?” Darena asked in confusion.
“Yeah, I mean, he’s in the DJ club with me and I think he likes me. But he never asks me out,” Denelle said, frowning. “I don’t know what to do. Should I ask him out?”
“Of course!” Kendele said, taking a sip from her sparkling water. “You need him to see that you’re the kind of girl that takes charge and knows what she wants. Guys just love that. So walk up to him and tell him that you’re going on a date this weekend. Don’t give him an option. Tell him to pick you up at 7 and arrange everything. He won’t be able to resist.”
“Are you sure?” Aala asked, furrowing her brow. “Most guys I know want to make the first move.”
“That’s why you’re still single,” Kendele informed the girl, her nostrils flaring. “Boys love confident girls and telling a guy how it’s going to be is really sexy to them.”
“That sounds great,” Denelle said. “I mean, I would just love to go out with him and I’m tired of waiting for him to ask me out.”
“Just tell him that you’re going out,” Kendele assured her. “It will work perfectly.”
“You’re so smart,” Darena said in awe.
“I know,” Kendele shrugged.
When that weekend rolled around, the YOLO Girls had a sleepover at Aala’s house. They listened to some of her belly dance music and chatted about their long week. Darena was late, but she had texted earlier to say that she was on her way with the pizza. Kendele was having such a good time teaching the other girls things that she had recently figured out after becoming gifted that she didn’t even hear her phone ring.
She was just telling the girls that she had applied to skip a grade and submitted to an IQ test and an aptitude test. Jaliyiah nudged her and pointed at her ringing cell phone. Kendele saw that it was Darena calling and rolled her eyes. What did she want now?
Kendele picked up her phone and hit the talk button. “Where are you?” She asked. “We want to start the chocolate fountain, so hurry up.”
“Uh, I’ve been stopped by the police,” Darena explained, her voice shaking. “They are shining this light on my car and they told me to step out of the vehicle and lay down on the ground.”
“But it’s been raining!” Kendele objected.
“I know! That’s what I told them,” Darena explained. In the background, she could hear a voice ordering her friend out of her car again.
“Look, you have to stand up to them,” Kendele said. “Cops are entirely too power hungry these days. You haven’t done anything wrong and you’re an American citizen.”
“What should I do?” Darena asked. There was a pause. “Oh my god, they’re getting of the car.”
“You need to get out and go up to them and order them to leave you alone,” Kendele said.
“They have their guns drawn!” Darena gasped.
“Oh hell no,” Kendele said, rolling her eyes. “You get out of your car and walk up to them,” she ordered her friend. “You tell them that they need to back off and show some respect. They work for YOU, remember?”
“Okay, okay,” Darena said, sounding even more nervous now. “I’m going to go do that, okay?”
“Remember, be confident!” Kendele reminded her.
“I will,” she promised. “Thanks so much, Kendele.”
“No problem,” Kendele smiled.
The girls said their goodbyes and hung up. Kendele returned to her friends who were still talking about the Channing Tatum movie that they had all seen the previous day. Kendele wrinkled her nose. She hadn’t seen it. They needed to talk about something else.
“Denelle, how did it go asking Jared out?” Kendele asked, interrupting Jaliyiah in mid sentence.
“Oh,” Denelle said, looking down at her newly polished nails. “I told him that we were going out and well, he said no.”
“What?!” Kendele demanded.
“How rude,” Aala said in disbelief.
“He said that he’s gay,” Denelle confessed.
“Ooooh,” Casie said, slowly. “That’s why he was holding hands with Dante Williams the other week.”
“That shouldn’t matter,” Kendele sputtered, her face turning bright red. “He should be honored that you asked him out.”
Denelle shrugged. “He just wasn’t interested. I can’t force him to go out with me.”
Annoyed, Kendele turned to Jaliyiah. “How did it go with your animal rescue group.”
Jaliyiah sighed. “I stood up to Ms. Jessica and she told me not to come back until I was ready to follow the rules.”
“What?!” Kendele exploded. “What is she talking about?”
“She said that we have rules for the health and safety of the animals and the volunteers and that everyone has to follow the rules if they want to work there,” Jaliyiah said. “I told her that I was following the rules, but she said that I slack off sometimes and sometimes don’t do things.”
“Like what?” Kadyn asked.
“Well, I told you about letting one of the dog cages open,” Jaliyiah admitted. “Then there was the incident where I left one of the ferrets out while I was cleaning his cage and I lost him. Apparently one of the dogs ate him. Which wasn’t my fault! I mean, why do we have such vicious dogs in the shelter anyway?”
“Were you confident?” Kendele asked, in disbelief that her advice hadn’t worked.
“I was really confident,” Jaliyiah said, defensively. “I told her how it was and that I wanted to be treated like an equal and everything you told me to say. She said I was dismissed for the day and I shouldn’t come back until I was ready to follow directions.”
“What a bitch,” Casie said, shaking her head.
Kendele turned to Kadyn. “Did you stand up to Coach Lasher?” She asked, desperately. Some of her advice had to have worked out. She was too confident and intelligent for it not to work.
Kadyn bit the inside of her lip. “I talked to her on Friday about my work load. She said that she was really disappointed in me.”
“For what?!” Kendele shrieked. “You’re the best player on the team.”
“Coach said that I’m in a small school and if I play in college, I’m going to need to be much better because the competition is going to be tighter,” Kadyn explained. “She also said that she’s on my side and she wants to see me succeed.”
“That’s what all teachers say,” Aala said, rolling her eyes. “Whether they mean it or not.”
“I know,” Kadyn said, rubbing her arm, self-consciously. “But Coach Lasher said that if I want to do something with my talent I have to be really dedicated. I can see her point, though. I mean, professional athletes have to practice a ton. Even if they’re the best in the world, they still practice.”
Kendele sat in stunned silence. None of her advice had worked out. What had she done wrong? She told the girls to be confident and stand up for themselves. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Why hadn’t it worked?
“Hey, let’s see what’s on pay-per-view,” Aala suggested, grabbing the TV’s remote and switching it on. The TV opened to a local channel and Aala started to look through the guide.
“Yeah, Darena should be here in a few minutes,” Jaliyiah said. “She wanted to see that new kid’s movie that just came out.”
Aala located the movie channels and started flipping through them. Kendele was about to suggest a horror film when she saw something on the minimized box. She paused.
“Hey Aala, can you go back to the news?” She asked.
Aala exited out of the guide and the box enlarged. The girls watched the screen for several seconds in silence. “Isn’t that Darena’s car?” Casie finally asked.
“Shh!” Kadyn hissed as the reporter started talking.
“We have some tragic news from downtown tonight,” the anchor said in a solemn voice. “Earlier tonight a black Hyundai Elantra was reported stolen. Police believed that they had cornered the vehicle and ordered the occupant to get out.”
The camera zoomed in on the pavement, which had a dark stain on it. “The occupant was not compliant. When she finally emerged from the vehicle, she approached the police shouting. The officers thought they saw a weapon in her hand and opened fire. It turned out that she was holding her cell phone. She was declared dead on arrival after she was taken to the hospital.”
Kendele looked from one friend to another. Her heart pounded. None of the girls said anything to each other as the scene went back to the newsroom. “We have just received word that the girl has been identified as Darena Montoya, a local high school student.”
“Fuck,” Kendele muttered, mostly to herself.
“We will have more on this story as it unfolds,” the anchor said. “Right now, it’s unclear why Ms. Montoya was so agitated and approached the police so aggressively.”
The newsroom faded and a commercial for McDonald’s. The girls exchanged glances. Slowly, they all turned and looked to Kendele. Kendele turned red again.
“What?!” She demanded.
“Weren’t you just talking to Darena?” Aala asked.
“So?” Kendele shrieked, her voice raising several octaves. The girls just stared at her, no one was sure of what to do or say. Kendele, remembering that she was more intelligent than everyone else, decided to redirect the conversation. “Let’s pick out a movie,” she suggested.
Wordlessly, Aala went back to the guide and they started looking through the movie options together. Kendele wiped her sweaty palms onto her PJ pants. How could all of her advice gone so horribly wrong? She was far too intelligent for this to happen.
The next day to school, Kendele went to the guidance counselor to get the results from her IQ and aptitude test. The counselor, Mrs. Perry, smiled at her when she came in.
“So good to see you, Kendele,” Mrs. Perry said.
“You too,” Kendele said, her mind racing with thoughts of her tests results. She was ready to discover just how intelligent she was. She wondered if they would let her sick senior year or even just suggest that she applies straight to college next year. Maybe they would ask her to go to graduate school.
“We got your test results back this morning and I have some good news,” Mrs. Perry told her.
Kendele smiled, she knew it. She was a genius. “What’s that?” She asked, innocently.
“Well, you are a perfectly average girl,” Mrs. Perry said.
Kendele froze. “Average for a genius, right?” She clarified.
“No, average for average,” Mrs. Perry assured her, her smile never wavering. “Your IQ and aptitude scores were dead center on average. So this means that you’ve got a lot of potential and you’re perfectly on course with your education right now.”
Kendele stared at her, flabbergasted. “But… But I got an A on an algebra test,” she sputtered.
“That’s great!” Mrs. Perry said, enthusiastically. “You should be very proud of yourself.”
Unable to do anything else, Kendele sat, staring at her hands. Her thoughts raced. But she was intelligent! She had spent the last week being so intelligent and so confident. How could she not be a genius?
“Are you okay, Kendele?” Mrs. Perry asked.
“Yeah, I’m great,” Kendele said. She grabbed her backpack and left without saying goodbye. Slipping her backpack onto her shoulders, she walked down the hallway to lunch.
Thinking back over the week, Kendele examined her actions. She had studied for a test, something she had never done before, and had gotten a good grade. Maybe she had gotten that good grade because she had studied, not because she was gifted.
She had given advice about confidence to her friends, but none of her advice had worked out. Maybe she didn’t have wisdom beyond her years. Maybe she was just a regular girl that had given her friends bad advice. Kendele’s eyes burned with the threat of tears. She didn’t want to be normal again. She liked thinking that she was smarter than everyone else.
When she finally arrived to the YOLO Girl’s table, the other girls were already seated. They were talking and laughing. Kendele approached and sat down next to Casie. She stared at the wood panels on the table in silence.
“You okay?” Casie asked her.
“I think I owe everyone an apology,” Kendele said slowly. The girls looked at each other. “I thought I was gifted because of that math test and it looks like I’m not. I just thought that having confidence and standing up for yourself could solve all of your problems and I was wrong.”
Casie hugged her friend. “We all forgive you,” she announced. “We’re BFFs, we know that we all make mistakes.”
Kendele’s frown didn’t waver. “But I got Darena killed. She was listening to my advice when the police shot her.”
“It’s okay,” Kadyn soothed. “No one is perfect.”
“Yeah,” Jaliyiah added. “We’re all human. No one knows everything.”
Kendele smiled at her friends. They truly were the best BBFs that she could ask for. She pulled out her lunch and started to eat.
Casie reminded the girls that her salsa dance contest was coming up and she wanted to have a sleepover that night to celebrate. She suggested that they all get dressed up as salsa dancers and do each other’s makeup before the show. The girls all started planning the big night. Kendele relaxed with her girlfriends. She might be average, but she has above average friends.
Want to read more in the YOLO Girls series? Click here.