It Was Always Going to be Bittersweet

Shreya Kale and Jessica Lund

The integral of e^x + 4x +9  was definitely e^x +2x^2 +9x. Well, at least the 2x^2 +9x part was correct. e^x staying e^x was too easy wasn’t it? No, no, she was definitely right. It was still e^x. Mara snuck a glance to her left. Tate was nearly done with her problem, which meant Mara needed to hurry up.

“Done!” Mara grinned a moment later. Tate whipped her gaze to the problem that Mara completed first. Tates dark eyes roamed the board as she analyzed Mara’s work. She sauntered over to Mara’s side, tapping the part where Mara had messily scratched her answer. 

“Where is your + c?” Tate asked calmly.

Mara felt her stomach drop. How could she forget the +c?

Mr. Zuke cheered. “Looks like we have our winner! Tate, that’s a bonus point on the next test for you.”

Mara walked back to her desk, devastated, but with her head held high nonetheless. Out of her peripheral vision, she saw Tate saunter across the room, hi-fiving a friend on the way back to her seat. A spark of anger lit itself in Mara’s chest. Not at Tate, but at herself, for having allowed Tate to one-up her again over a missing letter. She felt foolish, but swore that her revenge would come in the form of a win next time they duked it out.



On her walk home, Mara had the events of math class running on repeat in her mind. How smug Tate had looked once she noticed Mara’s mistake – How did I miss the +c? Stupid. She shouldn’t have missed the +c. She was too distracted looking at Tate’s side. Her hand flying across the board, as she silently spoke her thoughts, the tiny handwriting that reminded Mara of her doctor’s illegible scrawl. That was such a ridiculous mistake, and Mara wasn’t sure if she was more humiliated that she forgot the +c or that Tate was the one who noticed and called her out. Ever since elementary school, Mara and Tate had competed for the top spot in their class. For the last three years, Mara had lost, and she was not willing to accept another defeat. Much less one caused by missing the +c. 

Mara walked in on a familiar scene. Her dad sitting on the couch, feet on the table, the TV tuned in to their local news station, her mom standing in the doorway of the living room in her apron, favorite spatula in hand. Miles was likely in his room, doing whatever seventh graders do in their spare time. Video games probably. On the television, the reporter was all smiles, beaming at the support and inclusion the town was showing. Mara couldn’t help but share the sense of pride in her hometown. Her father on the other hand, scowled at the screen, his displeasure unmistakable.

“Those people are an abomination. It is not right,” her dad all but growled. 

“God will never accept them. Why should we? Let them burn in hell, that’s what they deserve,” her mother agreed. 

Mara felt like she was going to throw up. 

A couple weeks ago, when pride rallies and parades started becoming more and more frequent in her little town, Mara was flooded with hope – hope which was quickly snuffed out as she witnessed her parents’ reaction to the rallys. Instead of taking the advice on the activist’s signs and finally learning to accept people for who they are, her parents cursed the news anchor and wished Satan’s wrath upon the pride supporters. 

She supposed she should have expected this, given how her parents stood by old school religious ideals.  

She was naive to think they might change, suddenly open their minds and be accepting, or at the very least willing to learn. Then maybe she could come out to her parents, and maybe they would accept her. As of now, she couldn’t see that in the future. 

Despite their continuous rivalry, Mara was jealous of Tate, how open she could be about her sexuality. The whole twelfth grade knew she’s gay. Something Mara could never do. Not when the chances of the wrong person coming in contact with her parents and outing her was so high. Then bam, her cover blown, and who knew what the hell would happen. Definitely nothing good.

As Mara shut the front door behind her, both parents turned towards her. 

“Hey love!” Her mom beamed at her, shuffling over to offer a bear hug. Mara accepted. “How was school?”

“It was okay,” Mara shrugged. She couldn’t bring herself to feel excited at school being over and finally coming home. 

Her mom pouted. “Just okay?”

Well, it was actually pretty good, even though I lost to Tate again, until I came home and heard you literally say that I was an abomination and deserve to burn in hell. 

Mara wriggled out of her mothers suffocating embrace. “It was fine,” she insisted. 

“I made mac and cheese for dinner,” her mother ruffled her hair. Mara felt the urge to shove her hand away. “Your favorite.”

“Yay,” Mara gave a half-hearted smile. 



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