The story so far: Second-year Vera is the youngest resident at the Mortierstraat house. Luckily, the ambitious Elise and the eternal student Jan-Willem can advise her on exactly how to deal with coursework emergencies.
‘What is it?’ asked Elise.
‘I forgot to write one of my reports and now I won’t be allowed to take the exam.’ Willem-Jan rolled his eyes theatrically.
‘Tough luck, better luck next year.’
Vera was already rattling on.
‘The teacher’s explanation was so unclear and then to be so strict about it – it really is stupid. I’ll never get it finished, it’s loads of work and the deadline is tomorrow.’
‘So you are not even too late yet, actually?’ Now Willem-Jan looked up. ‘Just work through the night, get a five and a half and you’re done.’ Vera looked stunned; there was a moment’s silence.
‘Have you ever done that?’
Everyone except Willem-Jan laughed. No one could ever have accused him of normal sleeping habits.
‘But how do you go about it then?’ Vera pursued the subject. Even Willem-Jan grinned now.
‘Very simple. You get a pack of red bull, sit at your desk, unplug the internet cable and only stop when the job is done. Bingo.’ A blushing Vera retreated to her room. Was it really a good idea to listen to Willem-Jan? In no time there was a knock at the door and in came Elise.
‘I don’t want to interfere,’ she said, ‘but I can’t get through a whole night without help and I always use this.’ She displayed two white pills on the palm of her hand. ‘Modafinil helps you concentrate fantastically and sometimes you feel really happy too.’ Vera was speechless now, and she lowered her eyes. ‘I’ll just put them down here,’ said Elise. ‘Two pills will definitely get you through the night. It’s up to you whether you use them’
Covered in confusion, Vera sat down at her desk. She hated feeling like such a naïve little girl. She thought she had said goodbye to that Vera when she left her village. She hesitated for ten minutes, then she swallowed the first pill before she could have time for second thoughts. And she set to work on her report. Elise’s claims had been no exaggeration. She felt cheerful and did not get in the least bit tired. Around four thirty she took the second pill and at around quarter to seven she was done. Wow, she thought as she scrolled down through her report. It was all done and dusted. Half an hour later Elise knocked again.
‘Thanks for your help,’ said Vera. ‘Those pills work really well.’
‘Sure, you can do more than you think you can,’ said Elise deadpan, putting a bottle of vitamin pills on the table. ‘As long as you keep taking your vitamins.’