Chapter no 45

The Teacher


IT WAS a mistake going to Nathaniel’s house last night.

I should never have done it. I have never done anything like that before. Okay, that’s a lie. It’s not even close to the first time I’ve gone to a teacher’s house without them knowing. That’s what got Mr. Tuttle into so much trouble.

Ugh, I still feel awful about that. I don’t know what I was doing outside Mr. Tuttle’s house that night. I should never have gone. It’s just that I was having a bad night, and my mom was crying about my dad, which was ridiculous because he was the worst father in the whole world and an even worse husband to her. I don’t know why she still loves him. She’s still got all his clothing in the closet, and she won’t sell his car, which is sitting inside our garage.

I just wanted to be around an adult who would be kind to me, but then I got to his house, and when I looked in the window, he was having a nice meal with his wife, and I figured he wouldn’t want to talk to me. But then I decided maybe I’d wait until after they finished eating, and by the time I made up my mind that I should probably leave, somebody had called the police.

I thought I was in big trouble, but then it turned out that Mr. Tuttle was the one in trouble. Principal Higgins started asking me all these questions about him and our “relationship.” I didn’t know what she was talking about at first, but then she started asking me if Mr. Tuttle ever touched me. And that was when I knew what she meant. She was asking if he ever touched me in an inappropriate way, which he never did. But he did touch me. Like one time when we were studying after school, I got to talking about my father and how hard it was when he came home drunk, and I started to cry, and Mr. Tuttle touched my shoulder. So yes, he did touch me. But not like that—not even close.

Still, she saw my hesitation when answering her questions, and she seized on that. And then before I knew it, everyone in the school thought I was having an affair with Mr. Tuttle. Or else they didn’t, and they thought I was a liar trying to get attention.

But the worst part of all is what happened to Mr. Tuttle. He was just trying to help me. He felt bad for me because of my dad and because I had no friends and was in danger of failing math. I tried to tell everyone he was only being nice, nothing more, but then the parents started calling on him to resign. He had no choice.

And now I’ve done it again. Even worse, it’s not the first time. I’ve been to Nathaniel’s house twice before without him knowing.

I don’t know exactly what I was thinking except that I missed seeing Nathaniel after school like I usually did. And I started to get curious about what a dinner at his house would look like. It was only a five-minute bike ride from my house, so when my mom went up to her bedroom for the evening, I slipped out the back door and rode over there.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

It was depressing to watch Nathaniel having a happy couples dinner with his wife and Mrs. Maddox and her husband. The only positive thing I could say was that Mrs. Maddox’s husband was very affectionate with her, but Nathaniel barely touched Mrs. Bennett. And believe me, I was watching.

Anyway, I’m super lucky I didn’t get caught. There was a moment when Mrs. Bennett was taking out the trash, and I was terrified that she saw me, but then nothing happened. She thought she saw something, but it was too dark out. She didn’t know who it was.

Or so I thought. Until I get a message from Nathaniel through Snapflash during second period:


You were at my house last night. That was a big mistake.

I stare at the words on the screen until they disappear. It wasn’t even a question. He knows I was there. Either he saw me out the window or else Mrs. Bennett told him I was there. I write back:


I’m sorry.

Then I get worried my history teacher is going to catch me on my phone and confiscate it, so I shove it back into my pocket, even though it’s killing me not to see what Nathaniel is writing back to me. I’m sure he’s angry with me. How angry? He couldn’t possibly be so upset with me that he would end things.

Would he?

No, I can’t believe that. But the idea of it gives me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Our relationship is risky for so many reasons. He warned me that if anyone catches wind of it, we would have to stop seeing each other immediately. The idea of never being close to him again is physically painful.

I would rather be buried in a tomb in the sea.

As soon as the bell rings, I practically rip my phone out of my pocket.

Sure enough, there’s a message waiting for me, which I click to open:


The principal is going to talk to you about it. I did what I could to stop this. Deny everything.

And then a second message:


My entire life is in your hands.

Sure enough, I’ve barely made it to third period when an announcement over the loudspeaker instructs me to go to the principal’s office. My legs are super wobbly as I walk down to the ground floor, past the main desk where Annie the receptionist sits with her bucket of oranges. Annie’s smile is strained when she greets me, and it’s no surprise when I get to Principal Higgins’s office to find Mrs. Bennett waiting. I expected Nathaniel would be there too, and I’m not sure what it means that he isn’t.

“Adeline.” The principal looks at me through her half-moon spectacles and gestures at one of the plastic chairs in front of her desk. “Have a seat, please. And close the door behind you.”

Close the door behind you. This is not looking good so far. Especially because I can see Mrs. Bennett has that pissed-off look on her face. Her already thin lips have completely disappeared.

As I sit in the squeaky plastic chair, I try to make my face blank. I remember what Nathaniel told me. Deny everything. It must mean Mrs. Bennett isn’t entirely sure she saw me.

“Addie.” Principal Higgins doesn’t look any more pleased with me than Mrs. Bennett does. I remember when she first called me into her office about Mr. Tuttle, she was so sweet and gentle with me—but that changed when she found out I was stalking him (a bit). Now she just looks like she’s had it with me. “Mrs. Bennett says that she saw you in the bushes outside her house last night. Is this true?”

Deny everything. “No, of course not. I was home all night last night with my mom.”

Mrs. Bennett lets out an angry huff. “I saw you, Addie. You were in the bushes, and then you ran across my lawn.”

Deny everything. “I… I don’t know what to tell you. I was home all night. Like I said, my mom was home with me. You can ask her.”

If they do ask my mom, she will confirm that I was home all night. It’s so easy to sneak out without her knowing.

A twinge of doubt passes over Mrs. Bennett’s face. I’m glad Nathaniel texted me to warn me, because if he hadn’t, I probably would’ve confessed everything. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that denying it is the right thing to do. It was dark last night. She doesn’t know what she saw.

Principal Higgins continues to look skeptical. “Mrs. Bennett tells me that you have been having some conflicts with her. That you have been struggling in the class, not putting in an effort, and she even caught you trying to look at another student’s paper during an exam.”

“I… I did take a peek,” I admit, hanging my head in shame. “But Mrs.

Bennett was nice about it. She even helped me find a tutor.”

I chance a look over at Mrs. Bennett and offer her a smile. She does not return it.

“I’m sorry you thought I would go to your house,” I say. “I would never do that though.” I realize how weak my words must sound, given I was literally picked up by the police outside another teacher’s house, so I quickly add, “I learned my lesson after last time.”

Principal Higgins flashes Mrs. Bennett a look. Neither of them seem thrilled with me, but it’s not like she has any proof.

Deny everything.

“All right, Addie.” The principal leans back in her chair. “Whatever happened last night, I expect there will not be any repeat episodes. You can return to class now.”

I get up from the plastic chair, astonished that nothing more has come of this. And most importantly, they didn’t ask me anything about Nathaniel. I was so sure it was going to be like last time, when Principal Higgins was grilling me about me and Mr. Tuttle. I expected questions about whether Nathaniel has ever touched me, and I was already anxious about trying to answer them because I figured they would see the truth all over my face.

But Mrs. Bennett assumed I was there entirely because of her. Because she knows that I despise her. That I wish more than anything she wasn’t in my life.

And in that sense, she is right.

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