My first day back at the school was fine. I was teaching my old class but Alice was not in class. She had called in sick. I tried to be as normal as possible and halfway through the class I realized there was no need to be tense. I was teaching children. I don’t know how Mr. Dawson did it but he brought me down to earth again. He had the best explanation for what happened and delivered it to me perfectly. It totally put me at ease. I guess the money I pay him is worth it after all. Oh yes his theory. He said that I cared a lot about Alice because she and I had a lot in common and my inability to have a child drew me closer to her. The building almost collapsed because of what they said in the news (poor maintenance) and when I went to look for Alice the stress and anxiety affected my memory of what happened. It sounded cheezy the first time but when he explained it, it began to make sense. He also repeated my story to me and it sounded really absurd. My life was back on track until Alice came back to school the next day.
As always she sat in a corner at the back and didn’t utter a word. I warned the whole class to treat her nicely. The class was smaller now. About five children had left the school from my class. In the middle of the painting class, I heard someone scream from the back and turned around sharply. I walked over and saw Alice holding on to Karina’s hair. “Alice, what are you doing?” I asked with a little quiver in my voice. She let go of Karina’s hair and looked away. “Nothing.” She muttered. Karina was almost in tears. “Mrs. Hanson I didn’t do anything and she…” Karina complained bitterly. “It’s ok Kari, come and sit here.” I said and led her to an empty seat. I turned around and walked to my table. “Won’t you let her sit in the punishment box?” Cecil, another child asked. “Keep quiet and continue painting.” I said, feeling very bad.
“Doreen, can I have a word with you?” Patricia, the Principal said. I was sitting in the canteen with two new teachers. I took a last bit of food and hurriedly excused myself. I walked into her office and closed the door behind me. “Doreen, hope everything is fine with you back in school.” She started. I nodded and sat down. I knew what she was going to say wasn’t pleasant because she was looking down the whole time. “I have been getting some complaints from some parents. I wouldn’t call you here if it isn’t serious. Four parents said you did nothing when their child was bullied in class. I know the kids have been through a lot but being too lenient isn’t a good idea.” She said. My heart missed a beat. “Why are you shielding Alice Taylor?” She asked again.
My eyes opened wider. “I..I..I’m not.” I stammered. Patricia folded her arms and looked directly at me. What was I supposed to tell her? “I’m sorry, I had it all wrong. The class used to pick on her because she was new so when they complain that she does something I usually think it’s a prank.” I lied. Patricia seemed convinced. “Oh ok, but I think you should keep an eye on this Alice girl because the complaints are very disturbing.” She said. “I will but could you do me a favour? Could you schedule a meeting with her parents? So I can have a word with them.” I added. She nodded and walked to the place she kept all the pupils files. “Taylor, Taylor…ah yes. Here we are.” She muttered and walked back to her seat. My heart was racing as she took out her glasses and flipped through the file. “Oh.” She said. “What?!” I exclaimed. “Her parents are deceased. She just moved in to this neighbourhood with her Aunt. I’ll call her then.” She replied.
To be continued...