“It’s time,” said Nate. He stood just inside the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest.
“I know. Give me just a few more minutes,” Beth answered. “I promise, I’m almost ready.”
“You said that fifteen minutes ago.” Nate said. He came further into the room and stood beside Beth’s desk. “Will a few more minutes really make a difference at this point?”
Beth grimaced. He was right, of course. Nate would appear at the door to tell her it was time. Beth would promise that just a few more minutes would do it. Nate would leave and return in fifteen minutes to repeat the conversation. They’d done this four times already this evening.
“I’m treating you like a snooze button,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
If that remark confused Nate, he didn’t show it. Instead, he reached out and gently lifted her reading glasses from their perch on her nose and set them down on top of her notebook. Then, he clicked off the reading lamp.
“Come on, Beth. It’s time to get some sleep.”
Beth rose and followed Nate out of the room, down the hall, and into their bedroom. She moved along mechanically, going through her nightly preparations for bed, but her mind was still on tomorrow’s exam. Silently, she recited facts, definitions, and sample problems as she climbed into bed.
“Enough for tonight,” Nate said. “Stop running it over in your mind. You’re ready.” He drew her close and pillowed her head on his shoulder. “You’ve done everything anyone could ask of you.”
“I know,” she said, again. “It’s just so important.”
“It is,” agreed Nate. “It’s important and that’s why you’ve spent every possible moment in the last two weeks in preparation. You’re ready. They’re ready.”
“I hope so,” Beth said. A sudden yawn nearly split her skull. “They’re freshman so this is new to them.” She yawned again. “What if I made it too hard?”
“It won’t be too hard. Besides, have you never heard of curving an exam?”
“Ugh,” she said. “I hate messing with the calculations. I hope I don’t have to do that.”
“Are you going to freak out over every final exam you ever give?” asked Nate.
“God, I hope not,” sighed Beth. “Just this first one. My first, their first. That’s a lot of first, you know?”
“You’ve done everything short of actually taking the test for them,” Nate said. He squeezed her lightly. “The rest is up to them. Now, go to sleep.”
Beth yawned again and squeezed her eyes shut. “Do you think they studied as much as I told them to?”
“Go. To. Sleep.”
“I tried to keep the review list short enough to manage.”
“Go. To. Sleep.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll be quiet.”
Silence reigned for nearly three minutes.
“Maybe I should give them ten minutes to review before we start the test.”
“You’ve completely lost your mind.”
“I’m sorry. Good night, Nate.”
Again, there was silence for a few moments. This time, it was Nate who spoke.
“Go ahead, if it will help you sleep.”
“Thank you,” Beth said, hugging him.
Nate sighed and closed his eyes, listening as Beth quietly murmured lists of test questions and answers until, at last, she lulled herself to sleep.