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“Why are you always studying? We don’t even have any tests this week.”

She looked up from her notebook to see her friend Amelia staring at her inquisitively. Apparently the second wave of students had been let out for lunch and it was later than she thought. Amelia was still looking at her expectantly, waiting for an explanation as to why she was wasting her lunch break/study block on actual studying, heaven forbid it.

I’m actually studying the intricacies of my father’s criminal organization so if you wouldn’t mind, I have more reading to do about the hit that was carried out last Tuesday...

“It never hurts to brush up on things so you’re ready for unexpected tests.”

It was best to just pretend that she really was studying since revealing the truth would not only get her in trouble, it could result in Father going to prison since his...activities...were less than legal.

“I think you are probably the only one that actually studies during study break, well except for the nerd squad but I guess they don’t really count toward the normal population.”

Amelia nodded her head in the direction of a group of girls huddled around a table in the corner of the sunny courtyard. All the girls situated there had at least two books open and were studiously taking notes and turning pages. They weren’t talking to each other very much, most likely only to ask a question about the current subject they were studying or to answer someone else’s question.

It seemed like a boring way to pass the time to her though she did have to admit that those girls were consistently the highest scoring in all the classes she had with them but she would draw the line at adopting the girls’ clothing habits. Their uniforms were always in a state of disarray and that was something she just couldn’t tolerate. Her uniform, custom tailored and not that off the rack nonsense provided by the school, was always crisp and spotless.

“Well maybe if you took a leaf from their book, you wouldn’t be failing chemistry.”

Actually even if Amelia did study, she would still fail due to her inability to stop talking in class. Any points she would gain on her tests and homework would be deducted by Ms. Winderson for disrupting class. The aging chem teacher had no tolerance for disruptions in her class, she was almost like Mother in this respect.

“Oh, the only reason that I’m flunking that class is I can’t possibly do all the homework that the old bat assigns. I mean really, how am I supposed to read an entire chapter a night, take ‘adequate notes’ and finish her horrendous study guides when I have very important things to do after school?”

“Very important things like going over the the public school and drooling over the football players while they practice you mean?”

It was Amelia’s afternoon ritual which, thankfully, she wasn’t forced to be a part of because she had to be home promptly at 3:30 to endure Mr. Aren's piano lessons. She had hoped one she was able to play parts of Chopin’s 2nd sonata with reasonable accuracy, the lessons would have stopped but unfortunately they continued.

Amelia blushed and scuffed the ground with her shoe.

“Well, someone has to make sure those lovely boys know they are appreciated. I wish there was someone I could just pay to do my homework for me, it would make my life so much easier.”

The bell rang indicating it was time to return to class. All the girls in the courtyard began to grab their bags and books and head into the school. While Amelia was occupied by applying one last coat of lip gloss for the strenuous walk to class, she began to put away her special notebook.

Her special notebook was a compilation of everything she knew about Father’s business and a log of all the activities that had occurred since she had found a way into the locked study about five years ago. Ever since that night, she made a habit of sneaking into the study at least once a week to update herself on the recent changes in Father’s empire and update her personal log so she can look at how to improve things, if she were actually allowed to do so that is. The notebook was hardly ever out of her sight and if it was it was secreted away in the hiding spot behind her bookshelf.

After her things were in her bag, Prada of course, she and Amelia parted ways; Amelia had Chemistry and she had English Literature.

I wish I could just pay someone to do my homework for me…

Amelia’s flippant remark kept repeating itself in her head on the walk to class. It made her wonder just how many people would pay to have their homework completed for them and how much they would pay for it. It seemed like there would definitely be a market for this type of service if one could provide it and the discretion that would be necessary for such an enterprise.

Maybe it was time to try out her own ideas for a business model.



It turns out, implementing her plan for a ‘homework assistance service’ was much easier than she thought it would be.

After a few days to think about the logistics of providing homework to those who had no interest in doing themselves and money to spend, she concluded the first step was to find people who would actually do the homework. The answer to that question was easy: the nerd squad. The hard part was going to be persuading them to join her little scheme but she had an idea of how to go about it. Phase one was going to involve a bit of patience.

During study break the next day, she bypassed her usual bench near one of the bushes lining the courtyard and went over to the nerd squad table.

“Would it be alright if I joined you?”

It was as if she had asked if it was ok to cut off their arms from the expressions on the other girls’ faces. She supposed their shock was warranted; she and the nerd squad definitely ran in separate social circles but phase one required her to earn their trust.

“Y...Yes, that’s fine.”

A tall gangly girl with mousy brown hair and a crumpled uniform shifted over to allow her to sit at the table. She joined the girls and, after pulling out a history textbook from her bag, began to read.

She didn’t talk to anyone during her time at the table that day. She had decided to slowly acclimate the squad to her presence so for the next week, all she did was go to the table, ask if she could sit with them and read a textbook. Eventually the girls began to expect her and left an empty seat.

Amelia was shocked by these events to say the least.

“Are you insane?! Sitting with the nerd squad is a one way ticket to being a loser!”

Her friend had cornered her in the bathroom in the afternoon two days after the beginning of phase one.

“I like being able to study without interruptions.”

This excuse wasn’t too out of the ordinary, Amelia knew her parents expect her to have very high scores in school.

“Well I won’t be joining you. If you want to talk to me, it will have to be away from your new study buddies.”

And on that note Amelia flounced off and left her standing in front of the row of sinks. She didn’t think Amelia was angry, just concerned for the effect that sitting with the school nerds would do to her reputation and popularity.

Well, if the plan works out, I’ll be the most popular girl in school despite sitting with the nerdier selection of students.

 

Two weeks after she had started sitting at the table with the nerd squad, she began to talk to them.

Small conversations at first: did you get an answer to question four on Mr. Robinson’s study guide? What do you think about the novel Mrs. Hart assigned? Anything focused on school.

At first the girls answered hesitantly, not sure if this was all part of some ruse. Oddly enough it was but not the sort of ruse they would actually expect. Eventually they became more and more comfortable with talking to her. They were almost very good acquaintances.

Another week would pass before she decided it was time to close out phase one. She invited the girls over to her house for a study group. Mother and Father would be out of town so she wouldn’t have to worry about them nosing about. The girls were extremely excited about it, they had never been to a “popular” girl’s house before.

Once they were all situated in the sitting room, books strewn across the expensive throw rugs and a few trays of snacks that Cook had helpfully provided, she finally took her gamble.

“While you girls are here, I wanted to tell you about a proposition I have.”

The all looked at her confused, a natural reaction, but no one protested so she pressed on.

“I’ve noticed there are a lot of other girls in our school who aren’t doing as well as we are in class and it got me thinking that maybe we could help them out, maybe start a tutoring service after school.”

“Why would we want to do that?”

That was Jo-Anne, the gangly girl from her first day at the nerd table. If there were a “leader” of the nerd squad, it would be her. She was looking back at her with a expression of slight suspicion.

“Well we wouldn’t be doing it for free of course so obviously you would get a cut of the profits plus helping girls in their classes is bound to be beneficial to your reputations, I mean who wouldn’t be nicer to the person who helped them ace a test?”

This comment made a two of the girls look a bit more lively. She had figured the promise of slight popularity would hook them, the short blonde named Jenny and dark-haired Laurie. Her observations had shown they were a bit desperate to be accepted by the rest of the student body. She knew they would be the easiest to manipulate.

“I suppose some extra spending money would be nice but what if these girls think we’re just there to do their homework for them?”

Susan spoke up this time, playing with the braid that kept her riotous curly hair in check. One of the shyer girls, she kept her deep brown eyes focused on the coffee table. Louise and Megan nodded along, they too were definitely followers and would easily fall in line with the right encouragement.

“Well now that you mention it, I had another idea. Something that would make us a lot more money and make our little enterprise super popular.”

They all leaned towards her slightly. She was drawing them in, hopefully she wouldn’t lose them with the next part.

“Another thing I’ve noticed is that some of the girls in our school struggle with their homework loads, they get too distracted by the boys at the public school or by shopping. They would probably pay a lot of money to someone who could...help lighten the load a bit.”

This statement predictably raised quite a few eyebrows, all of them really except her own.

“You want us to help people cheat?”

Jo-Anne again, she was beginning to realize this girl might be an issue in the future, she seemed a bit more willful than the others.

“I suppose so but hear me out first. I know that some of you already do other people’s homework.”

She looked at Louise and Jenny. They looked at the other girls then at their laps, embarrassed and a bit afraid. Two of the more unpleasant girls from the field hockey team were forcing them to do their Algebra homework for them. They were probably worried about rocking that boat.

“Don’t worry girls, those hags won’t be a problem . I think it’s unfair that you are treated that way. One way or another, all of you have been intimidated by the “popular” crowd and, every once and awhile despite your morals, you’ve caved and did what they wanted.

The girls, even Jo-Anne, looked down at their laps, faces pink with embarrassment. Time for the big speech.

“Fear of being involved with cheating shouldn’t stop you girls from being a part of this. You’ve already either been humiliated or threatened into doing it, why not set the terms and get something out of it? You deserve it, without you, most of these girls wouldn’t have even passed their classes. It’s time you got some sort of benefit from this.”

Some of the girls were looking determined and a bit empowered but there was still some doubt. Time to make them feel secure.

“I know that you probably don’t really trust me, after all I am part of the crowd that treats you like dirt, but I think that I can help you. I can use my influence to protect you, you would only have to help the people who pay us. If anyone who didn’t want to pay for help tried to make you, I guarantee that I can make them cease and desist. And you wouldn’t have to worry about being caught, no one would be invited to partake of the more...exclusive...services we would provide without being checked out by me.”

There was a bit more interest showing in their faces now, she figured it was time for the closing argument and then time to let them decide. She looked at each of them one by one, studying their faces for a moment.

“I could have gone and found other girls to help me with this service but I chose you. You’re all very intelligent and I think you have the skills to help me start this business. I also chose to present this idea to you because you all deserve to be treated better, our classmates look down on you and expect you to be happy as their little worker bees, maybe it’s time for a change in the status quo. So I guess the question now is, do you want to be a part of this or do we just go back to our study session and forget this conversation took place?”

There were quite a few moments of silence, enough that she began to worry that they might actually say no. The nerd squad, hopefully soon to become her agents in her first enterprise, looked at one another, taking part in a silent conversation.

Jo-Anne, predictably, was the one to speak.

“If you can deliver everything you’ve promised and guarantee that we won’t be caught, we’re in.”

She walked over to each girl and shook their hands firmly, giving them each a small smile.

Excellent. Now all we have is just a few housekeeping items to deal with first and then we can call it a night for now.”

 

They spent the rest of the study session hammering out some details about the actual operation. Jo-Anne was very good at mimicking other people’s handwriting so it was decided she would be the one to copy the answers down on the final copy that would be given to the customer.  Jenny and Louise would handle essays and English assignments while Megan, Laurie and Susan would handle math and the sciences. She also told them to be on the lookout for any other girls they thought might be interested in joining the enterprise as ‘researchers’. They were not to approach them on their own, she would handle any recruitments that were necessary.

After showing the girls out at the conclusion of their planning session and informing Nanny, who by now was less of a nanny and more of a governess who was to keep an eye on her while Mother and Father were away, that she was going to bed, she retreated to her room. She changed into her pyjamas and completed her other bedtime rituals before reaching behind her bookshelf and grabbing two notebooks.

The first notebook was well worn around the edges and, despite the great care with which she treated it, a bit scuffed, it was the special notebook. The second notebook was much newer and more pristine. This one had only been added to the secret hiding place three weeks ago and didn’t have much written in it but she planned on filling it up.

After all, she kept track of Father’s business, it only made sense to do so with her own.

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