We split up for our next classes. I was just thinking how lucky I was avoiding Haley and her friends for a whole day when I heard her high laugh from behind me.
I sped up to try get to Mz Gregory’s lesson. Haley wasn’t in that class so there was a good chance I could avoid her.
When I got to the door I gave a sigh of relief and went in, saying hello to Mz Gregory. I was the first person there.
“Alexis, hello. What happened to your face?” Oh god not again. I rolled my eyes.
“Don’t worry Mz, I just got in a fight. No it didn’t happen at school,” I said.
“It still happened, do you want to the nurse or something?” she asked.
“No, It happened on, like, Saturday night – I’ve been fine since then.”
“Alexis… Well, if you’re sure.” She sighed. “I heard you were having counselling.”
“Yeah, does everyone know about that?”
“Just the teachers, we have to be told,” she said. “Have you talked about your trouble at school?”
It was my turn to sigh. “Yes, I have.”
I didn’t want to talk about it so I was happy when a couple of others came, I gave Mz Gregory a pleading look and she nodded at me to sit down.
With a feeling of relief I picked a tablet out of the stack at the front and went to find a desk. I’d been letting myself fall behind, I actually had to listen to some of the explanations on multi-threading and pay attention to the example. Once I got it into my head I powered through the exercises and got finished half way through the lesson. I emailed them to Mz Greggory. I got a reply after 5 minutes.
Looks good. You could have done it slightly more efficient if you did something like this:
Are you planning on staying after school again?
I opened the file and ran through the algorithm in my head; it was a much more elegant solution. I must be losing my touch. I spotted a few improvements and sent it back with a reply.
That is much better than my solution. I made a few improvements, see the attached.
I was planning on staying back like usual, is that ok?
I hesitated before pressing ‘send’, I wasn’t sure why. I always stayed back, why was she asking? The reply took a while:
Of course it’s fine,
I was just wondering if you wanted to get out of school for once, I could take you for a coffee or something.
If that’s ok.
That was strange. Are you allowed to go for a coffee with a teacher? I guess it must be or she wouldn’t be asking.
I thought back to the last ‘coffee’ I’d had, it was quite an experience, I don’t think I ever really got to have more than a few sips of that tea, and it was nice. I couldn’t afford it, but she would offer to pay right?
After a moment’s hesitation, I sent an ‘okay’ as a reply.
The rest of the lesson went really fast as I kept thinking I’d maybe made the wrong decision. This wasn’t like getting to know Beth, she was a teacher. She might make trouble, could I trust her?
But then she already knew I was being bullied and hadn’t said anything yet.
When the bell rang I nearly jumped out of my seat. Like usual for when I had my last class in the Lab I stayed in my seat while everyone else headed towards the door. Mz Gregory stayed at the front at her tablet.
“I have a few things to finish, do you mind waiting 20 minutes?” she said in the now-quiet classroom.
“Okay,” I said.
I opened the internet browser and had a look at different helmets. I also checked out the guy Jim had told me about but there wasn’t much apart from an advert on a local business directory.
After a while Mz Gregory got up and started putting her coat on. I slipped on my jacket and we headed out.
Outside the classroom we bumped into Haley. She didn’t say anything, but her glare worried me. If I had to guess I’d say she was hoping to get me coming out on my own, having to wait 20 minutes then have me walk past without being able to touch me? Yeah, she was pissed.
I kept Mz Gregory between me and her just in case she did dare do anything.
The rest of the school was empty apart from a few teachers. Mz Gregory’s car was just like I remembered it from when she took me ‘home’ all those weeks ago. Now that I wasn’t in such a bad state I noticed things I hadn’t before – it was really quite messy. There was a lot of candy and sandwich wrappers shoved in the cup holder and glove boxes. It made me smile when Mz Gregory hurried to grab a few of the most obvious and shove them in a carrier bag on the back seat.
It was a contrast with the other car I’d been in, Beth’s moms was as neat as her house. There were no crumbs rolling about on her seats.
We drove in silence, though it was only a ten minute journey. Mz drew into a parking space and we got out. I followed her to a small coffee shop called ‘Anna’s Coffee House’.
“I come here after work sometimes,” she said. “It’s usually quiet around this time.”
The door opened with an electronic chime, we found a seat in one of the alcoves along the side. Mz Gregory ordered a Latte and I asked for some tea.
I sat fidgeting with my hands until the drinks arrived in the hands of a thin woman with a smooth stride.
“Heya Jane, who’s this lovely lady? A bit young for you eh? Still, what a catch!” the woman said, well shouted really. It made me jump.
“Hi Anna. No, nothing like that. This is Alexis, she’s one of my students,” Mz Gregory replied, smiling.
“Oh, a student. Jane, what have you been up to.” She winked at me. “You gotta to watch out for her, lass. Enjoy your coffee!”
She lay the tray on the table and walked off shouting jokingly at one of the other waitresses to stop chatting and get working – even though there wasn’t anyone else to really serve.
Mz Gregory was still smiling. “Don’t mind her, she’s always like that. I’ve known her for years.”
I took a sip of my tea.
“That girl we went past, she’s one of the ones… giving you trouble isn’t she?” she said.
I looked down at my drink, I knew I’d been too obvious. It wasn’t hard to work out I guess.
“Yeah.” I said, not really wanting to talk about it. There was an awkward silence.
“I was bullied you know. When I was in school,” she said. “It wasn’t anything like what you have to deal with. They never hit me.”
She was twirling one of her brown curls around her finger nervously.
“They used to call me things though. I know how hard it can be. There is an end to it though. However difficult it can be… Even if you decide not to do anything about it – which you should do – in a few years you will be off to college and things get a lot better.”
Was she trying to cheer me up?
“It’s ok Mz, I’ve been having… a better time lately. I’ve made some friends.” Plural if you could count Mike as a friend, but I didn’t really know him and I wasn’t sure I liked him. “I’ve never really had that before.”
“Good. If things get bad though… you can come talk to me.” She looked at me. When she didn’t stop I figured out she wanted me to answer so I nodded, not really wanting to speak. She smiled at my reply.