The evening coaching classes had been running for two weeks now on alternate days. Assignments were becoming a habit for Miles and Aayan and surprisingly they were liking them. A week ago Miles had heard that Laura had returned home for summer vacation from her boarding school. Her mother had been keen to make them friends again but Miles’ grudge against Laura was strong. Even Aayan hadn’t brought up the topic of Laura up again.
George was a brilliant teacher but something about hin bugged his students a lot. Aayan had found out from his mother that George had failed 12th grade somehow and then rebuilt himself from ground up after that and even secured a certified position as a home tutor in Studext Offical. He had searched their website but unfortunately they didn’t list all the their teachers online with lots of personal details. Later, Miles had called Studext Offical from her father’s work landline to “complain” about a certain George Hitch but received the message that all such complaints had to be made personally. Miles really loved this kind of detective work being a Sherlock Holmes fanatic and Aayan loved tagging around and displaying his googling skills.
Aayan and Miles reached at the office of Studext Offical, they had skillfully hidden this little trip by booking a 11:45 show of Pirates of Carribbean with their schoolmates. When they asked about George at the reception, the receptionist lady was a little taken aback at first but then called someone fron her mobile phone. Which was strange as she had at least two landlines in front of her. She then smiled and said, “Hello, yes George, your friends are here.”
Miles looked blankly from the receptionist to Aayan who had started sweating all over. The smile behind the desk creeped the hell out of Miles, she didn’t like the fact that this lady knew more about George than she did.
“George is waiting for you guys in the MacDonald’s near the mall.”
Miles gulped hard and her breaths started getting shorter and shorter. She could almost feel the blood flow in her veins as her heart thumped nearly audible. Aayan kept his hand on her shoulder, to signal her to calm down. This wasn’t anything, maybe he was genuinely in this coaching class and friends with the receptionist.
“Yes, but does he work here?” asked Aayan, work wasn’t the best adjective but it was better than nothing.
“All our tutors are certified by us, they don’t work for us.” And conveniently she started going through the folders on her desk. This being Miles’ and Aayan’s cue to leave.
When they were back on street and Miles had calmed down enough Aayan said, “Dude, that guy is up to something.”
“Yeah” shrugged Miles, her shoulders still shaking.
“He’s definitely an alien. Or like a mind control mutant like in Jessica Jones. Controlling the receptionist back there.” Aayan was trying so hard to make Miles smile. Normally she would have given two-three more examples of her own. But this guy felt so similar to her and yet everything about him was different from her.
Miles’ head was spiraling into the possibility of George being a serial killer on loose who kidnapped girls like her. And he was on a mission to overtake the company he worked at.
Miles and Aayan entered the MacDonald’s, George was sitting at a corner table-for-four, typing on his laptop with a shake and fries left un-attended at the side. He looked like any other working man, taking a brunch break from office. His standard light blue shirt and slightly puffy hair-do felt almost normal to Miles, but her gut knew better. And it kept sending her signals, as if nothing was normal anymore.
“Hey, guys.” smiled George. He had been waiting here since Miles and Aayan had left their house. The receptionist, Sally was a good friend and she had told George the moment she had received the call. She could have just confirmed their suspicions on the phone call but George had better plans, he always had better plans. He hoped that Miles and Aayan would have enjoyed this little mystery he had set up for them. This was all a set-up to finally tell Miles all that he had found about her and how she had changed his life the moment she had entered this world. But seeing her face now he felt like he had made a mistake. She looked terrified and Aayan was almost dragging her over to the table.
“Hi, George” said Aayan as he sat at the table. Miles held on to the back of Aayan’s chair, supporting herself as her body stopped feeling her own. Sitting so close to this person, there was no proof he was really name George and she didn’t know the reason as to why he was here.
“Who are you?!” Miles almost screamed as tears started flooding her eyes. “Why are you here?”
George straightened himself, “Look, I am George Hitch, 26-year old guy, born and raised in Lywen County. I failed 12th board once, and passed it by a thin margin the next year.”
“Hmm…go on.” said Aayan, who then proceeded to pull a chair for Miles. She didn’t resisted this thought but somehow surprisingly George’s voice calmed her down and she sat down.
“I didn’t go to college, but I am kind of smart, not everyone knows that. And when I learned from my Boss, Ms. Freck, that her son”, he looked directly at Aayan,”was not particularly good at studying, I felt like I should step up and help a troubled guy.”
“So….” Aayan gave Miles a slight look from corner of eyes, “but….then…..why all this”
‘Oh, this” smirked George. “I was just testing your detective skills Agatha Christie fans.” He looked content with himself.
“Get yourself whatever you want, my treat.” said George and went back to typing at his laptop. Then as the kids still hadn’t moved he gave them a credit card. Miles still wasn’t fully satisfied with this interaction but she definitely was hungry. Aayan still hadn’t picked up the credit card, maybe George was just being generous and was low on money. But Miles took the card and got up.
“Do you have enough money?” she said as she turned towards the counter. This was her move, George’s face would tell how much he was okay with spending and if their investigation had been worth pursuing or not.
George knew exactly what Miles was trying to do. He thought almost a second to which expression he needed to give, his face had shifted to poker for default. Then he just laid back in his seat and tried to give a care-free smile.
“Yes, ma’am.” He folded his arms and looked directly into her eyes.
Miles was thrown off by this, she hadn’t expected such a collected look. It was as if he didn’t even care for the money. She went to the counter and stood in the line, looking back for Aayan, who was still sitting and he wasn’t fiddling with his phone, which was out-of-character for him. She had seen him this focused in forever without a video game on.
“I have a hitch, I guess” a brief smile came and left his lips, “I think you are lying, Mr. Hitch.”
He looked straight into George’s eyes.
“So…” George leaned into the table, not shying away from this discussion in anyway.
“So…when are you really going to tell us the truth. You are a great tutor, but we are no longer taking your lame excuses, mister.” Aayan’s voice cracked at the last word. George, was a middle sized man, almost skinny, there was no way he should have been intimidating, but he had an aura of control around him, as if his every action was calculated and curated.
“Fine. Let’s make a bet. But first get something to eat.” He then pointed towards Miles who had come up to front of the queue, Aayan got up and went to the counter.
George knew these kids were smart. He was happy that Miles had turned out to be so observant, he was sure going to have fun with that. And Aayan covered up for Miles whenever she lacked courage, George had grown envious of their friendship. He liked them both as individuals but he couldn’t bear anyone being so close to Miles, his Miles. Even if she didn’t know it yet, their connection went way back. He was ready to do anything to prove to Miles that he was worthy of her, even if he had to deceive her to start off their relation. The lengths he was ready to go to, sigh, he hoped he never found them out.
Miles and Aayan came back with two burgers, cokes and fries. Miles had paid for the meal herself, she couldn’t do anything bad for George. She couldn’t let a broke guy pay out of generosity. She just handed back the card and started eating, so did Aayan.
After 2 minutes of utter silence,
“What’s the bet, George?” Miles had regained her confidence as her empty stomach started filling.
“A math problem after each class. If you both solve and explain the problem to me individually during the class after that, I would let you ask a simple question about myself and I will answer it truthfully.” His gaze shifted from Aayan to Miles.
“How will we know you are not lying?” asked Aayan.
“You will know. My secrets are too much unrealistic to be lied about.” He chuckled, and then looked directly into Miles’ soul and said again, “You will know.”
There had been three sessions since their discussion at MacDonald’s. Miles was so fed up solving this elaborate fractional integral, that she opened her journal. It was filled with stuff she wanted to watch on television or books she wanted to read and some Detective Conan and Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction. She turned over a knew page and wrote George Hitch Facts.
From the three answers they had learned that his name was indeed George Hitch, his current job was as an assistant to Ms. Freck and he had indeed bought his sports bike from his own money. He had cleverly deflected their question about his real job by only saying his current job. His past was still a mystery.
Aayan and Miles mostly just discussed math problems and what question to ask George next. They were now going to ask about his educational background. He was hiding his real job, and if asked the same question again he would first answer being their tutor and they didn’t want to waste time like that. He was waiting for something, he wasn’t against telling them the truth. He was just waiting around for the right time. But when was the right time?
Both of Miles parents were impressed by her dedication towards studying. She was concentrating better and for longer amounts of time. Being too busy to watch TV was a new thing to happen to her. And they thanked Ms.Freck on the phone and then she went on to mention that Laura was back from her boarding school for the summer and it would be a good idea to have them all meet up again.
Aayan told his mother that they would all certainly meet at a local cafe for lunch tomorrow, as it was their off day from coaching. He had come up with a full-proof plan which even Miles could not deny. They both were finding their homework problem quite difficult this time around, George had went passed what he had taught in the class and Laura being the smart-ass topper she would be able to easily solve this problem overnight. He had sent the problem to Laura and told her that only he was going to meet her. Miles was told that he was going to a family function for the night and next day they would meet for lunch to discuss the problem further and even snoop around for George near his suspected address. The suspected address was all made up, he had just followed George two squares and selected a good cafe around there.
Miles entered the cafe, she had come up here almost a quarter of an hour before the decided time. She had gone to a few places like the grocery store and medicine store, she wanted to feel how it was like to live here. She wanted to feel how George felt. Miles was becoming more and more obsessed about George. It both terrified her and satisfied her to the core.
Miles sat at the corner table and ordered a lemonade, waiting for Aayan to order more. She took out her notebook and started working on the integral. Ten plus pages had already been wasted to crack this problem, but she was not giving up easy. Her life finally felt like it had a purpose, that maybe her being a miracle baby wasn’t her performance peak. This arc was for her own satisfaction, rather than material success.
The bells at the cafe door chimed, Miles looked up to check if it was Aayan. A girl with long black hair, in lemon yellow sundress and a big bag full of books walked inside. She scanned the whole area and then pinpointed her gaze at Miles. They both looked at each other for five whole seconds, just frozen in time.
Laura walked up to the two-person stall in the corner. She had figured it out that Miles would be here. Aayan had been friends with Laura even after she had changed schools. He had never asked her to meet him alone, and since Miles was still his best friend, there was no avoiding this occurrence. The new school had been challenging for her as only top students got scholarships to attend classes their and everyone around her was just too smart. Being fake nice had always made Laura popular in middle school, the only thing being she didn’t knew she was being fake. She just thought she was being nice to everyone. Seeing Miles again in person after almost four years brought back a lot of good memories and one very grey incident. They hadn’t talked to each other since then.
“Hey, Miles.” Laura smiled, showing all of her front teeth.
“Hey, you are back.”
“Yeah, just for the summer.”
“Are you meeting Aayan today?”
“Yes. And you? New friends?”
“No, I am here for Aayan too.” Laura sat in the opposite chair.
“Okay–” Miles got back to solving the problem, trying so hard to ignore her annoying ex-friend sitting only four feet away.
“You know, Aayan asked me to solve a integration problem for him.” She took out one notebook, three books and half a dozen colored pens from her enormous bag.
“Do you when he is coming? I will just call him I guess.”
Laura texted Aayan, who replied 5 mins away. Realizing she had to address the elephant in the room before he came in. She took a deep breath, clutched onto Miles’ notebook and pulled so hard she almost fell backwards.
“Oh-Ha” Miles smiled, as Laura grabbed the table and adjusted her body.
“Come..On….Miles.” Laura’s tone changed from irritating aloof to a more realistic frustrated. “Why do we have to do this? I am sorry, okay.”
“Yeah, whatever.” She took out her phone and called Aayan, “Get here!” she yelled “Now!”
Miles then proceeded to read a back-up novel she always had on her phone. The vampire kingdom was heating up very much.
“Fine.” Laura turned slightly and stared at the door.
After two minutes which felt like an eternity, Aayan came in.
“Sorry, humans. ‘was busy, missions, ‘ya know.” he pulled up a chair and sat between the girls.
“Clan war?” asked Miles, as she pocketed her phone.
“Yes, and we are looking good, my Queen.” Bringing up his hand to receive a high-five.
“And how have you been?” smiled Laura extending her hand for a handshake.
“Great. And you?” He shook her hand for a bit too long, noticed Miles.
“Oh, amazing. And I solved the integration.” She turned a few pages on her notebook and returned Miles hers back. “Had to go through a few books. But great questions. Uses at least three different concepts.”
“Miles, see.” Aayan pointed at the answer at the end. “We get to ask another question tomorrow all thanks to Laura.”
“Wow” it had a hint of sarcasm.
“I can explain all this if you guys want. But–” she looked at Aayan.
“Miles, you have to accept her apology and talk like normal people for once.” There were a thousand thoughts in back of Miles’ head, but she needed answers, she could give anyone a second chance for something this important. And it wasn’t all Laura’s fault to begin with. She needed to show she was all fine about this second take on their friendship, Sherlock Holmes also faked a lot of interaction to get what he wanted, she could certainly do the same.
**Two days later**
The conference call had been going on for three hours now. Not a single solution. They had checked the internet but the question was so complex they couldn’t type it out. Laura had searched every book her fancy school had given her. They had tried all trigonometric reductions and every concept of fractions. They had also tried differentiating funny looking problems to get a similar result. Miles and Laura were a great team when they worked together, Aayan was happy for this arrangement. They all had been good friends in eight great, before the “incident”.
George had replied that he had not taken a single college course in his life, and his highest education was indeed 12th board. He had been proud of the kids as they had solved a rather advanced problem given their past performance. Sp, he had tweeked this grand problem which gave them an answer to the questions they really wanted to know. How the hell did he get enough money to by a sports bike, or better his secret job.
They had ended the call and made a Whats-app group for whenever someone had a “aha” solution.
[Miles]: What if this one is unsolvable?
[Aayan]: Like in those games where they just make you think you can finish it, but you never come close.
[Laura]:Yes, its possible.
[Laura]: But why would your tutor do that?
[Miles]: He’s crazy. He just doesn’t want to give up his secret.
[Aayan]: What do you think is the craziest job in the world?
[Laura]: Maybe, like theft, or something
[Aayan]: He’s not a criminal, guys
[Miles]: Unless he’s caught
[Laura]: Secret agent
[Miles]: Nah, he has lot of free time, like an author.
[Aayan]: Ooo…Sciency author
[Miles]: could be
[Laura]: Tech writer
[Aayan]: Sounds legit to me.
Miles felt the secret super tech writer stuff could be true. He maybe is working as an assistant for Ms. Freck to get more inside news, and his elaborate plans to test them had been pretty crafty. So, they were more than 50% sure about this, which was a lot better than their not so complete solution to the integration problem.
Aayan kept looking out of the window, when he cued Miles that George had entered they stood at the sides of the room door. And as George entered they yelled into his ears, “We got the answer.”
George’s brain just stopped working, how could they have solved an impossible integration, if that was true, his suspicions on Miles’ true origin would also ring true now. He trembled with fear due to this fascinating possibility.
They both stood in front of the guy who had been steps ahead of them, now it was payback time. Aayan wrote the problem on the board and begin doing some vague steps and Miles started to explain with a lot of over-induced confidence.
When George tried to stop them, and hit of a smiles crossed his face.
“You’re a secretly famous tech writer.” announced Aayan.
“And the integration is impossible. We are no Gods.” Miles folded her arms, displaying she hadn’t been quite found of this little trick he had pulled.
“Ha-you guys.” George took in a long breath. “Almost had me, and I guess its about time you know.I am a– conspiracy theorist.”
This is the first chapter of a novel I am currently writing on a chapter a week basis. (Hopefully)
Do you believe in parallel universes or time travel?
How high are the stakes for every small decision you have been making without giving it a second thought?
What is that defining moment your life changed that you possibly can’t go back?
Would you change anything in your life if you could go back?
Get ready to experience the life changing stories of three almost human beings.