The Social Deductions room is quiet. Evan couldn’t make it today; he’s going shopping for homecoming clothes. Please don’t choose lazy, couch potato clothes…no sneakers, nothing like that please… I’ve been helping Evan for the past few weeks with shopping, but I didn’t want to miss Social Deductions, just in case someone came in.
The downside is that it’s really, really boring. Ugh. This is so dull. Help. Help!
The door finally swings open. I gasp and look up suddenly to see someone new… No. Two people. Two girls.
“Hi,” the first one says. She has jaw-length blond hair and looks up at me right in the eyes. The other one lingers behind her, but I can see that her hair is so ginger, it’s almost orange. She says nothing until the blond nudges her. “H-h-hello?” she stammers. Her neck suddenly jerks around, and then her shoulder twitches violently. What is this?
As they walk closer, I make some observations, first about the ginger: the twitching could be a sign of Tourette’s. Her shoulders are slumped, and she looks down; unconfident and insecure. Her nails are nearly bitten to the bed, and there are clear bite marks on her lips; nervous and unhappy. Add to that the lines on her arms that she’s covering up with fingerless gloves; could be a pet, but why would you cover up pet scratches? Means she probably has depression, most likely because of the Tourette’s.
I look at the blond; she looks people straight in the eyes when she talks to them; confident and secure. Has black fur on her white skirt; most likely a cat, though it’s possible that it’s a small dog. Her shoes are new and shiny; in fact, they look expensive. It makes sense that she has a reasonable amount of money if she can get frivolous shoes like that. The fact that she’s trying to help the ginger means she probably has a kind heart.
They sit down. “I’m Natalie Curtis, and this is…” the blond trails off and looks at the ginger.
“T-T-Tabitha Smith.” She looks down before her eye twitches rapidly.
“Do you have Tourette’s?” I ask bluntly. Tabitha’s face flushes and her eyes widen rapidly.
“Tabby. It’s all right. That’s why we’re here, yeah? We’re getting help. Okay?” Natalie touches her shoulder lightly.
Tabitha looks up for a moment, opens her mouth, and suddenly starts yelling out more cuss words in one sentence than I’ve ever heard.
After she finishes, Natalie asks, “Are you done?”
Tabitha nods and then twitches some more.
I sigh and look at them. “I understand that the swearing isn’t intentional, Tabitha. But Miss Winston, my club supervisor, doesn’t like cursing. I don’t want her to get mad.”
Tabitha blinks a little. “I-I-I-I’m sorry. I try, I’m trying…”
Natalie touches her shoulder again. “We know, Tabby.”
“I-I should go! This is a waste of time! I’m sorry!” Tabitha gets up and starts towards the door.
“Tabitha-” Natalie rises too, but I stop her.
“Natalie. We may be able to get more done if Tabitha isn’t hear to listen.”
Natalie stamps her foot. “No! She needs to hear this!”
I think for a moment. “Ask her to wait in the hall while we talk in private. She won’t be helpful if she’s this unwilling. Even my last case, who didn’t know about his problem at all, was at least willing to come here by himself. Tabitha isn’t even willing to do that. Tell me her problem, and I’ll talk to her after you.”
Natalie nods, but she looks as though she’s sucking a bitter lemon. “Okay.” She walks out into the hallway and talks to Tabitha for a moment before coming back. “Well, she has Tourette’s,” she begins.
I nod. “I noticed.”
“She’s also so depressed…she doesn’t think anyone notices, but I do! I’m really worried about her!”
I scratch my head. “Natalie, I can’t help with psychological issues. I’m not a professional, and I can only help with social problems. If you’re worried about the depression, just go see the school counselor.”
Natalie nods. “Yeah, I was planning on that, but she does have social problems.
“Kids here aren’t exactly kind to those with physical problems. I don’t mean like wheelchairs, or blindness. I mean, like, they’re mean to Downs kids, or to Tabitha. Mainly ‘cause they don’t have ‘tools’ or something. She’s teased a lot for twitching, and the swearing. She doesn’t think she’s good enough to be respected.”
I write this down. “Okay. So it’s self esteem problems, then? I may be able to help with that.”
Natalie brightens a little. “You can? Thanks!”
I raise my hand up. “Wait. I dunno for sure, okay? I may be able to help boost her self-esteem. What’re some things she’s good at?”
Natalie thinks for a moment. “Singing. She sounds amazing.”
I think for a moment. “There’s a talent show in a week. It’s to help get funds for homecoming and other dances through the year. She could audition.”
Natalie thinks for a second. “That’d be good, especially if she wins one of the awards…”
The talent show typically has three categories; best singer, best dance routine, and best skit.
I nod. “That sounds good. Now, can you go get her, please?”
Natalie gets up and walks outside to talk to Tabitha.
She walks back in, pausing once to twitch. “W-what were you talking about?” she asks.
“We were talking about your depression and self esteem,” I answer.
She looks down at the ground. “Y-you can’t h-help with that. I’m not g-good at anything except tw-twitching. And swearing.”
I lean back. “Natalie says that you’re a good singer.”
She wrinkles her nose. “Not really. My voice breaks at the higher notes, and I sometimes stutter a-at times. N-Natalie’s so m-much be-better than me.”
I shake my head. “No, don’t compare yourself to others so much. My dad told me something once; everybody’s good at something, and everybody’s bad at something. Like, okay; he told me that there are five basic talents; intelligence, physical abilities, like sports, good looks, emotional strength, and people skills. He says that if you rank highly in one, like a near 10/10, you will suck in at least one of the others; like a 1/10. You will also be okay in the other areas. Or maybe you’re a 7/10 in one area, but you don’t have anything lower than a three in the other areas. D’you understand?”
Tabitha twitches her shoulder and eye before tugging on a strand of hair. For a moment, I think that I’ve gotten through to her, but then she says, “What if you rank lowly in all areas?”
I resist the urge to roll my eyes, but I answer, “It’s impossible. Just as it’s impossible to be a near 10/10 in almost every area but one, it’s impossible to be a one or two out of ten in every area. Honestly, a lot of people have a nine or ten out of ten in one or two areas, and then stink in one or two other areas. From what I can tell, you don’t strike me as dumb; I’d say you’re pretty smart.”
Tabitha snorts. “Tell that to my teachers.”
“Grades aren’t the only indicator of intelligence.” I adjust in my seat for a moment. “Natalie and I have a plan, Tabitha. But I’ll tell you later; there’s someone I have to talk to first.”
As I’m walking home, I take the time to call Evan and tell him about the latest case. “Huh. So you want her to try out for the talent show?”
I nod before remembering that he can’t see me. “Yeah. Sharra’s your homecoming date, right?”
“Is she also the Junior class president,?”
“Yeah. Wait, you’re not asking her to rig the show so Tabitha can win, are you?”
I snort. “Are you kidding me? That’s cheating! No, I want her to advise Tabitha.”
I can almost feel Evan’s confusion. “Advise about what?”
“I want Tabitha to win on her own accord. That doesn’t mean she won’t have help, though. Sharra could advise her on stage presence and songs. I couldn’t do that alone.”
“You’re gonna advise with her?”
“Yeah! Tabitha’s my customer, after all!” I cry.
Tabitha isn’t the most willing customer I’ve had, but thankfully, she isn’t too stubborn. I can tell that she likes singing a lot more than she’d like to admit.
“Okay, slow down a little, Tabitha. You’re slurring,” Sharra says, much more gently than I could.
Tabitha nods, then her eye twitches. She starts the scales again. Natalie wasn’t lying; with coaching, I honestly think that she could be on Broadway some day. Well, if she can fix her mess-ups.
“Ugh!” she shouts. “I k-keep s-stuttering! This is c-crap!”
Sharra wheels over to her. “Tabitha. You need to be patient-”
Tabitha throws her hands up. “Patient! Y-yes, I know! T-they always say that! I suck at this! I can’t stop t-twitching or stuttering! I’m damn near nothing!”
Silence. Slowly, Tabitha starts to realize what she just said, and her face becomes closed. “I-I’m sorry for w-wasting your time,” she says, and turns to leave.
“Wait,” I say. “Yeah, you stutter. Yeah, you twitch. You may not be athletic, and your grades are so-so. But that’s okay. You are a musical genius. You can read music notes like I read mysteries. I can’t tell an A note from a C note. I may be book smart and people smart, but I’m not athletic. I’m not particularly attractive. It all balances out.”
I take a second to breathe. “See? For everything you’re bad at, there’s something good, too. Now, are you going to keep practicing?”
Tabitha licks her lips. “B-but, Sh-Sharra. Isn’t she one of the j-judges?”
Sharra shakes her head. “No. I’m the Junior class president. I organize the events, but I don’t judge.”
Tabitha noticeably relaxes. “Okay. Sure. I-I’ll try. I’m not gonna make it, but if I do, I’m not gonna win, but…okay.”
Tabitha’s worries are for nothing; she makes it into the talent show.
Sharra is a nice, but merciless, singing coach. Once they finish the first meeting, we meet before school, during lunch and after school. “We have until lunchtime on Wednesday. The talent show is after school that day. We have to hurry,” Sharra reminds Tabitha when she complains about having to get up an hour earlier.
“And how is this supposed to help? Like, are p-people gonna want to be my friend more? I-is that your l-logic?”
I shake my head. “No, it isn’t. But the motive is a secret. I’ll tell you once the show is over.”
Tabitha huffs a little. “Okay.”
Finally, Wednesday comes. Tabitha manages to sing her song with just one twitch, and I think it’s the first time I see her really smile. “I-I barely t-twitched! I can’t believe it!”
I smile a little and give her a high-five. “Congratulations, Tabitha!”
Her smile almost looks too wide for her face. “I can’t believe it. I’ll see you two at the show, right?”
Sharra smiles gently. “We wouldn’t miss it.”
“Thanks so much.” Tabitha practically skips out of the door.
I turns towards Sharra. “The plan’s still good, yeah? He said he could make it?”
Sharra nods. “Yeah, he said he could make it.” That’s good. I was worried he’d flake out or something.
I smile a little. “Okay, as Evan’s honorary sibling-”
“What?” Sharra’s giggling a little, but she looks confused.
“Well, me and Evan have been best friends since we were four. Our parents used to joke that we lived at each other’s houses, we hung out so much. So we decided to call each other our honorary siblings.”
“That’s funny,” Sharra says teasingly.
I laugh. “Well, it’s a good thing! Evan’s an only child. Who else could tell you funny stories about him?”
5:30. I check my watch worriedly as I look for Tabitha, Sharra, and Evan. Don’t be flakes please…. I text Evan for the seventh time, but he still hasn’t responded.
“Sage!” I hear Natalie’s voice.
“Oh! Hey,” I say. “Is Tabitha here?”
Natalie nods. “Yeah. I’ve never seen her so excited, Sage. What’d you do? I’ve been trying for over a year, and you succeeded in a week.”
“We’ll see,” I say.
Finally, Sharra arrives. “Where’s Evan?” I ask. “He said he was gonna be here…”
“Sage! Sharra!” I turn around to see Evan running towards us.
“You’re late! And you never responded to my texts,” I snap.
Evan nods. “Sorry about that. I’d left my phone in the car, which is why I was looking for it, and why I didn’t respond.”
Sharra suddenly laughs. “Eh? What’s so funny?” Evan demands.
She can’t stop laughing for a moment. “I’m sorry…it’s just…Sage told me the potato story…”
Evan glowers at me. “Oh God. Did she really?”
I smirk a little at him. “Sorry…. Couch Potato.”
Sharra bursts into a fresh bout of the giggles. “I can’t believe you were that lazy, Evan!”
He sighs and rolls his eyes. “All right already. We should go inside.”
Tabitha nails it. She stutters once, and twitches once, but no harm done; it didn’t disrupt the song in any way. In fact, she sounds even better than she did in practice; she catches every single note, and her voice, an alto, is deep but gentle. I’m not surprised when she gets second place for ‘the best singer’ award.
Afterwards, I’m looking around for her when I see her talking to a dark haired man in a suit. Is that the guy Sharra said would be here?
I suddenly see Tabitha gasp and clutch her mouth. She jumps around, even when her shoulder twitches. As she jumps, she notices me and waves me over. “S-Sage!” she screams. “He says he’s a theater director who works with Sharra’s dad! Was this the motive?”
I nod and clap her on the back. “What’d he say?”
“He said he’d like me to audition to be in his next m-musical! He can’t guarantee how big a role I could get, or even if I’ll make it, but I don’t c-care!”
I smile. “Still feel like you’re ‘damn near nothing’?”
Her smile wavers. “N-not in the m-moment…”
I sigh. “Tabitha, the majority of the talent show were singers. There’s was one skit, and five dances. There were 25 acts total. Nineteen people sang. And many more auditioned. You got second place. For the whole school. You’re a far cry from nothing. Heck, you’d be impressive, even without the Tourette’s.”
She nods slowly. “Thank y-you, Sage. I j-just… I may need to b-be reminded every so often.”
I smile a little. “I think we all do sometimes, Tabitha. But, can you do me a favor?”
She nods. “Sure.”
“Please see a counselor for the depression. You need a professional for that. And Natalie’s really worried.”
She takes a breath. “Okay. I mean, I wouldn’t have done this show if you hadn’t forced me to.”
I laugh. “That’s the spirit.”
After she leaves, Evan sprints up to me. “You’re still gonna do the photographs for me and Sharra on Friday, yeah?”
I nod. “I forgot! I’m still okay, though. I can do them.”
He grins at me. “Thanks!”
As people start to leave, I’m forced to go as well. Things are looking up; I’m doing photographs for two friends, and Social Deductions is doing better than I thought it could. In fact, I’m hoping for more customers.
Impressive. I always thought that this would be drudgery. Instead, it’s the opposite.