Carissa's Law

By: Misty Boyd

Chapter 1

Carissa Schultz pulled into the parking lot at the front of the huge university campus in Houston with what she hoped was plenty of time to make it to her 8:00 a.m. class. Still, she sat for a couple of minutes, wondering what her future held. What would it be like to change hundreds of years of ignorance about people like her? What would it take to change minds and hearts? Could she even do it? Was she strong enough? Well, today was the beginning of what she knew could be a momentous journey.

Finding her class was step one and she needed to make it on time. A glance at the schedule laying on the console reminded her of the room number. “College Algebra, Room 163, here I come!” She’d googled the campus layout the night before, and knew that Room 163 was in the math/science building.

If her pre-law degree hadn’t required it, she would have steered away from algebra but, if math was necessary to meet her goals, she would tackle it, just like every other problem in her life so far. She’d seen her share of obstacles in her first eighteen years. Because of ADA laws, she knew the campus would be easily accessible, though she wondered if she’d have trouble finding the ramps that went from the parking lot to the buildings.

She grabbed the lightweight wheelchair from the passenger seat, pulled it over the top of her, and placed it on the ground outside her car. Snagging her backpack out of the back seat, she tossed it over the handlebars, then slid over into the seat.

She used this chair in her everyday life; it had been custom-built for her and was as comfortable as a wheelchair could be. It was manual and, because it was a hot, humid day, it might be a tough push. That’s all I need, she thought, to arrive damp and sweaty for my first impression on the university world. Oh, well, minor problem.

She pasted a big smile on her face. “Change the world,” she murmured. “Change the world, one quadratic equation at a time.”

When she reached the math/science building, she pushed up the ramp and, as she rolled through the university hallways in search of her death room… ahem… classroom, she felt the familiar heat of all eyes on the girl in the chair. She should be used to it by now. It happened everywhere she went. Carissa, The Live Show, showing all times, day and night, for your viewing pleasure. Free, for a smile. Double price if you make a racecar joke.

There it was—Room 163—the Doom Room. She was a bit early, but that gave her time to settle into the new surroundings.

Rounding the corner, she spotted the most dreamy guy she had ever laid eyes on. Ever. Brown hair, brown eyes, chocolate skin, short but stocky. Definitely able to lift her… ahem… or other things, if needed.

She realized she’d stalled in the doorway like some kind of idiot, and he was looking right at her.

“Hi,” he said, peering up from his notebook. “Looking for Algebra?”

“Uh… yeah, Algebra. Looks like I made it.”

She rolled in, moving across the room from him to take a spot near the back. “Oh, my God, Carissa,” she thought, “you have no chill. You see a cute boy and can’t remember how your face works. How are you going to change the world?”

She did a quick survey of the classroom. Whiteboards covered three of the light gray walls. A short wooden lectern sat squarely on a long white table at the front of the room. The classroom chairs were silver metal with black plastic seats, lined up in neat rows of six at more of the same long tables. The rest of the class filed in, taking seats randomly. Her classmates were an eclectic mix of boys and girls: a couple of white kids, a trio of Hispanics, several blacks―including the cute guy she saw when she entered the room―an Asian couple and a girl from a Middle Eastern country. Some wore nice jeans and polos; a couple of the girls and one boy wore khaki shorts with tee shirts, and one guy wore bright, rumpled pajamas, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed.

The professor entered the room, wearing a harried frown and toting an oversized briefcase. He strode to the table with the lectern, ignoring the students, and set the briefcase to the right of the lectern. He was a short chubby man with steel-rimmed glasses, and what was left of his salt-and-pepper hair was pasted to his head as perspiration poured off his red face and down into a sparse black beard. Plopping a notebook on the lectern, he peered at the class over the top of his spectacles.

“Answer when I call your name,” he ordered, his voice gravelly, as if he smoked a lot of cigarettes. Opening the notebook, he read a list of names, making checkmarks on a page as students responded.

Next, he reached into the briefcase and pulled out a thick paperback book. He held it up. “If you haven’t already purchased this book for my class, pick it up at the Student union   bookstore by tomorrow.” He turned and wrote the name of the book and the author on the whiteboard directly behind him. “And here’s your assignment for tomorrow’s class.” He wrote a chapter number and a page range under the other information, then began the lecture abruptly. Kids started taking notes.