Chapter no 20

The Teacher


FOR ONCE, I have worked up a sweat in gym class.

I’ve been running laps, which is my least favorite thing to do. We spent the entire class running, with the requirement of doing fifty laps. I’m almost entirely sure that Kenzie did half of that, but when she told Mrs. Cavanaugh she was done, the teacher just waved her to the bleachers to sit down. But when I tried to tell Mrs. Cavanaugh I was done after forty-eight laps, she shook her head at me and told me to keep running.

So today, I’m grateful to take a shower after class is over. I can’t believe I still have three periods left before I can go home. Except the worst part is that I can’t even just veg out on my sofa for the rest of the evening. Mom has the day off, and she said when I get home, she wants us to visit the cemetery and see my dad. It’s been two months since we’ve been there, she reminded me. As if he’s lying in that grave, looking at the calendar on his watch, and wondering why it’s been so long since we came by.

Whatever. After I turn eighteen, I’m never visiting that grave ever again.

I shower quickly. I’ve been trying to shave my legs more frequently so the girls won’t have a reason to make fun of me, but at the same time, it seems kind of dumb to shave just for gym class. Especially since they make fun of me whether my legs are baby smooth or not. Today, unfortunately, my legs are on the hairier side, so I try to be as quick as possible.

I trudge back to my locker, to retrieve my jeans and oversize sweatshirt.

Except when I get there, the lock is hanging open.

I rip the locker open, my stomach sinking. Right away, I see my backpack is still there, so that’s good. And my gym shorts, underwear, and sweaty T-shirt are still lying on top of the backpack. But that’s it. The clothes I came to school with are gone.

That’s when I noticed Kenzie and her friends at the other end of the hallway, watching me and giggling to each other.

I square my shoulders and turn to look at them. “Can you please give me back my clothes?”

Kenzie blinks her big blue eyes at me. She’s already dressed and ready to take off to our next class. “What’s wrong? You’ve got clothes in there.

Wasn’t that what you were wearing all day?”

I grit my teeth. “No, it wasn’t. Look, I need my clothing back, okay?”

“I have an idea,” she says. “Why don’t you write a poem about it? Isn’t that what you’re good at?” She taps one of her manicured fingers against her chin. “Woe is me, my clothes were let free, and now everyone will see my hairy knee.”

Kenzie’s friends burst out laughing and then head for the exit. For a moment, I am seized with the almost irrepressible urge to run after Kenzie, grab a handful of her blond hair, and rip it right out of her skull. I bet she’d stop laughing if I did that. And bonus: I’d probably be expelled.

Honestly, the only thing that keeps me from doing it is thinking about how disappointed Mr. Bennett would be.

I look back at my locker, weighing my options. I really, really don’t want to put on my sweaty gym clothes again. But what am I supposed to do? Go to class wearing a terry cloth towel? All the other students have already gone to their next class, and in a second, the next group will be filtering in.

I decide to do a lap around the locker room, figuring that Kenzie likely would not have thrown my clothing away. I check every single aisle, but I don’t see any sign of my jeans or sweatshirt. It isn’t until I get to the showers that I spot a little ball of clothing in the corner. I dart into the shower, and sure enough, it’s my outfit from this morning. Except now absolutely soaked from the shower.

Well, my options have just gotten a little more limited.

The next group of students are coming into the locker room. There’s no way I can put on my sopping wet clothes, so I have no choice but to put my gym shorts and sweaty T-shirt back on. The T-shirt smells terrible, but what can I do?

And the worst part of all? I’ve got Mrs. Bennett’s math class next.

The hallways are empty as I trudge up to the third floor for math class. The sweat on my T-shirt is not quite dry, and it feels uncomfortable on my skin. Also, I didn’t know what to do with my sopping wet jeans and sweatshirt, so I stuffed them into my backpack, and now it weighs, like, a thousand pounds.

I can see from outside the door that Mrs. Bennett is already in the middle of her lesson. She’s writing on the blackboard, and she turns to address the class. Ugh, this is going to be awful. I almost consider skipping,

but she told us in no uncertain terms at the beginning of the semester that an unexcused absence would drop our grade by ten points (which would make my grade minus ten points). So I open the door to the classroom, sweaty T- shirt and gym shorts and all.

Mrs. Bennett swivels her head to look at me. She does not look happy. I mean, she never looks happy, but even less than usual right now. She folds her hands across her chest and glares at me. She doesn’t seem impressed by my gym clothes and hairy legs.

“Nice of you to join us, Addie,” she snips at me.

“Sorry,” I mumble. I drop into my seat as quietly as I possibly can.

I expect Mrs. Bennett to go back to teaching the class, but instead, she is still staring at me with her hands across her chest. I don’t know what she wants from me. Yes, I’m late, but there’s nothing I can do about it now, unless she wants me to somehow turn back time? Does she want me to start flying around the earth backward until I can go back to ten minutes earlier and be on time for her class? Is that what she expects from me?

“Your homework, Addie,” she says impatiently. Oh.

I fish around in my bag until I find my homework assignment on a piece of looseleaf paper. But as I pull it out, I realize I have made a dire mistake. The paper was not in my binder, because I was working on it during lunch, and because I put my soaking wet clothes in the bag, the water has completely obliterated all the writing. It’s totally illegible, but I have no choice but to hand it over.

“Really, Addie?” Mrs. Bennett says as she looks down at my soggy homework assignment.

“It got wet,” I say lamely.

“I can see that.” She balls it up in her hand and tosses it into the trash. “Well, since I can’t possibly grade this, why don’t you give me another copy tomorrow?”

It takes all my self-restraint not to groan out loud. It was enough torture doing the assignment the first time. Now I have to do it again? This time on top of tonight’s impossible homework as well? But what can I do? I can’t afford to get an incomplete on the homework. I need every point I can get. “Yes, ma’am,” I say.

Mrs. Bennett shoots me a look, then she goes back to teaching the lesson. I would say that she hates me more than anyone else, but truthfully,

she doesn’t seem fond of any of the students. She just seems like a miserable person. Honestly, I feel sorry for Mr. Bennett sometimes.

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