There was something creepy about Mrs. Salow. She lined her pencils along the edge of the desk. “I have decided to admit a few select students into the advanced writing program from this very class.”
Murmurs rippled through the room.
“Your skill and your talent will set you apart—one shared cold prompt, fifteen minutes.” Mrs. Salow intoned, beginning to scribble on the black board. “This is a very simple test, you either have it, or you don’t.” She smirked. “I cannot wait to put your…talent to good use. Greyson High could use more creative individuals—this is an excellent opportunity, think of the experience!”
Meena watched the wrinkly hand move fluidly across the blackboard. Red fingernails. Those have to be fake…ugh…why can’t they just give me an A and let me go? I don’t need experience. Why would I want to spend my summer playing ambassador for the good of this stupid school? They’re all like her. She called me a cheater over the perfect, redheaded Jessie. Jessie couldn’t write to save her life…I don’t cheat. It took some effort to keep her expression open and vaguely interested as her fingers fidgeted with her pencil.
Mrs. Salow threw the stub of chalk in the trash, dusting her hands on the back of the chair as she offered another eerie smile. “You may begin.”
Squinting, Meena read the elegant script.
She fell up the stairs. And then she got up. What kind of prompt is that?
Restless murmurs echoed her unspoken question. Mrs. Salow glared at them. “Do whatever you like…your time has already begun.”
It's a trap. Meena fiddled with her notebook. Her fingers itched to start. A half-smile registered and her hand began to leisurely move across the lined paper.
She fell up the stairs.
It registered as a throbbing ache in her left knee, matching scrapes on her hands and a dull pain in her chin.
She’d been two inches away from a humiliating faceplant on the school’s concrete sidewalk.
How embarrassing, she thought, how incredibly embarrassing.
No one stopped to help. No one seemed to have noticed.
She scrambled to her feet and limped to the girls’ bathroom. Thankfully, it was empty and she had time to run cool water over her hands, lightly pressing the paper between them to dry it as she examined her face in the mirror.
The bathroom door opened. Girls from second period entered.
She hurried to the farthest stall, not quite ready to face the world with her confidence left on the sidewalk.
In the safety of the stall, she hung the backpack on the purse hook and gingerly eased the jeans over her left knee. It was a lovely dark-pink-ish sort of color. That had to be bad.
Biting her lip, she wrapped a handful of toilet paper around one hand and tried to blot it.
Ouch! That hurt and the paper clung to the flecks of bruised skin. Not good.
Her eyes darted to the toilet and she grimaced. Before she could think herself out of it, a clean wad of toilet paper was lightly dabbed in the toilet bowl, soaking up the cool water—a welcome relief on her sore knee.
Leaning against the stall, the tears of shame finally trickled down her cheeks. Hot, they seemed to burn her face as she muffled the sound of her sobs in the side of her backpack. What a pathetic loser.
Mrs. Salow turned several shades of purple as she glared from the paper to Meena. “What is this?” Her voice was a hiss. “This is disgusting! Disturbing, even! This isn’t what you write!”
Meena crossed her toes inside her sneakers. Right. Now you acknowledge I can write decently…you’re giving me the creeps. A wave of goosebumps rippled through her.
“You were supposed to…I was counting on—we were counting on…you didn’t cheat after all, did’t you? They told me you deserved another chance. But, it appears you really cannot write after all!”
“Nope. But I try.” Meena flashed a smile. “Have a good summer, Mrs. Salow.”
The door squeaked shut behind her as she trotted down the nearly empty hallway.
School’s done. Score! Summer, here I come! A shiver registered. Mrs. Salow is weird…thing from space weird…ow!
The thought was interrupted as she blew on her hands to cool them. Inspecting the tiny scrapes across her palms, she made a face.
Note to self. Put band-aids in backpack.
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