This is part of Ben’s story. The poor kid has had it rough since one of the red headed men tried to kidnap him. He was packed off to his father’s place , which wasn’t much fun for him, just when Mrs. D was driving him nuts with her unfair practices. Not that Gene has had it much better. Then the principal put a special substitute in Mrs. D’s class, and Ben’s mother let him come home. But like he said week before last, his luck just isn’t that good.
“I can’t wait to show it to her.” Ben twisted around in his seat to talk to Gene.
Now that Mrs. D wasn’t teaching English anymore, they could sit closer. Not that Miss Spring? put up with a lot of talking in class, but that was OK by Ben. Gene spent so many nights over at his place anyway. Even school nights, though Mom still pulled a face when she let him stay.
“Yeah, well, my story is just as good,” Gene said, though he got that look – all stiff chinned and belligerent – like he didn’t really believe it.
“It’s a great story. It’s got lizards from Alpha Centauries with lazar eyes and it’s got a psychic dog with three legs and everything.”
“Mine only has a father and his son.” Gene looked doubtfully at his paper.
“It’s OK.” Ben patted Gene on the shoulder, reaching across the front of Gene’s desk. “She said we could write about anything we wanted to. It’s not like last time when we had to write about something from our past.”
Ben had written about living with Dad and not being able to go home to Mom. It was a tough assignment, but Miss Spring was right about feeling better afterward.
Gene nodded seriously. That had been a hard assignment for both of them. (link to Gene’s dad)
“Class! Attention please.”
That voice! Coming from the chalkboard. Ben whirled around in his seat. It was her. Mrs. D was back.
Miss Spring stood beside her, looking none too happy.
“You will all be glad to learn that I have returned.” Mrs. D’s smile made Ben want to strangle her it was so smug, but it didn’t last long. Her eyes darted around the classroom and the smile slid away.
It took Ben a moment to realize that no one wanted her back. Not a single soul in that room smiled or said anything. He thought the words “stony silence”. For a moment, in spite of himself, Ben felt sorry for her. Imagine going someplace where you expected everyone to be glad to see you and no one was.
The sympathy went away fast as Mrs. D raised her chin and pursed her lips.
“My little vacation is over.”
Vacation? Is that what she expected them to believe? No one had given any reason for her being gone, but he’d heard rumors of a psych evaluation. He’d also heard she’d been locked away in a nut house, which he knew was wrong because he’d seen her, so who knew what to believe?
“I will be with you for the remainder of the year. Miss Spring, please turn over the classes assignments.” Mrs. D held out her hand.
Miss Spring reluctantly took a stack of papers from her briefcase and handed them over to Mrs. D.
“No!” The word escaped without volition. That stack of papers included their last assignment. Not today’s assignment. The one where he wrote about his dad.
There was no way Ben would ever have willingly given so much about himself away to Mrs. D. If Mrs. D had made the assignment, he’d have made up something about going to school or something. He wouldn’t have said anything about anyone that mattered.
It felt like betrayal. He’d given Miss Spring his soul in that paper. It was like watching an angel hand his beating heart to a devil.
“No, please.” Ben stood up. He was the only one. He looked around for support, but everyone, even Lisa looked away. “Couldn’t…. couldn’t Miss Spring grade them? It was her assignment.”
Mrs. D looked undecided. Could she actually have grown a conscience since she’d been gone?
“No. I’m sure I am up to the job.” Her smile was as sickly-sweet as too much perfume.
Ben slumped over his desk with a groan. If he could have made himself die right then and there, he would have done it.
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