When Jackson Pierce cheated on his math test, he did it for love. If he wanted to win the heart of Lily Mills, the smartest and prettiest girl in class, he had to look smart, too. That’s why he wrote answers from his older sister’s test on the bottom of his shoe. Her friend Robin had told him that Mrs. Snodgrass used the same tests every year. Robin didn’t tell him this so he could cheat on his tests. She thought it was an interesting fact, which she learned from her brother, who was two years older. Jackson appreciated the tip all the same.
Until he got caught. It wasn’t even by Mrs. Snodgrass. It was by the substitute teacher who filled in when Mrs. Snodgrass was at home with the flu. With nothing to do while the students tackled their tests, the stupid substitute had decided to pace the room. Jackson wished Miss Goody Two Shoes had brought a book to read, like all the other substitutes. But no, this one wanted to pretend she was a real teacher, one who was all too happy to drag Jackson to the principal’s office and tattle on what he’d done.
Jackson was devastated. Now Lily would know the truth that he didn’t understand math – English and history were his easy classes – and she’d never give him the time of day. This is what drowned his thoughts in sorrow as Mrs. Snodgrass asked him to pull up a chair during recess the next day. The principal thought she should be the one to punish Jackson, not that horrible substitute who didn’t know how to mind her own business.
“Jackson, I was very shocked by the principal’s call,” she told him. “You were the last student I’d expect to cheat in my class.”
Jackson stared at his hands in his lap.
“I only wanted Lily Mills to love me because I was smart in math,” he admitted. Then realizing what he’d blurted out loud, to his teacher no less, he slapped a hand over his mouth. Oh no! What if she told someone and the whole class found out?
A small smile perked up the corner of Mrs. Snodgrass’s frown. “I think I know an appropriate punishment for you, Jackson.”
Then she sent him back to his desk without saying another word about what kind of punishment she had in mind. For five long minutes, he dreaded what she was going to do. When the class returned from recess, she pulled Lily Mills aside and whispered something to her in the hall. Jackson’s stomach fell on the floor. So this was his punishment. Mrs. Snodgrass was confessing his secret crush to Lily and humiliate him.
Lily barely glanced in his direction when she took her seat across the room. When the bell rang at the end of the day, Mrs. Snodgrass called them both to her desk. Jackson picked up his stomach and trudged to the front. Lily looked perfect as always in her pale blue dress, but when she looked at Jackson, she had a serious expression on her face. She thought he was a loser, Jackson thought. A big fat loser who didn’t understand math.
“Jackson, Lily is going to tutor you for one hour on two afternoons each week,” Mrs. Snodgrass informed him. “I think she will be a perfect fit to help you understand the equations and formulas you’re struggling with.”
It took Jackson a minute to absorb what she’d said. Two hours of Lily’s undivided attention, every week? Was this a dream?
“Why don’t you start this afternoon?” Mrs. Snodgrass suggested, nudging them toward desks in the front row.
Dazed, Jackson sat down and pulled his math book from his bag. His stomach crawled back into its rightful place.
“Okay, turn to page sixty-four,” Lily said in her best teacher’s voice.
Seeing her students were getting work, Mrs. Snodgrass excused herself from the room to speak with another teacher down the hall. As soon as she left, Lily whipped her head around and glared at Jackson.
“Jackson Pierce, if you ever cheat on anything ever again, I’m never ever going to speak to you for the rest of your life,” she snapped. Little white sparks flashed in her big brown eyes as she uttered her threat.
Jackson nodded. “I promise I’ll never ever cheat again,” he swore.
Thirty years later, as his wife dressed for their anniversary dinner, recalling that moment of first love made him smile.
“Are you ready, dear?” his wife asked.
Jackson glanced at the vision in front of him. Still ravishing in a pale blue dress.
Although he had kept his word to Lily and never cheated again, he had to admit that cheating on his math test had been the best wrong decision he’d ever made in his whole life.
– Written by Miss A