#12

Olivia Gardner opened the message from her mother: We have to talk when you get home. It was a simple message, but loaded with implications. Olivia knew that her mother had caught her in a lie, and she had no way out of it.

“Problem?” Tom asked, not really all that concerned.

“My mom. She–” Olivia paused. “I’m about to get throttled when I get home.”

“Throttled? Your mom sounds like a badass,” Tom said. “It’s about last night, isn’t it?”

Olivia turned away. She felt her cheeks warm. All she wanted to do was leave. There was hardly a chance to begin with that Tom would go to the homecoming dance with her in the first place, but her little fib to her mother might squander it anyway. Tom’s parents probably didn’t ever know what he was doing or who he was with. A pang of jealousy made her clench her fists.

“My parents smelled the smoke on me when I came home. I didn’t know what to do, so I told them I was with someone else. My mom did a little fact-checking, apparently, and now I’m probably grounded until I graduate college.” She watched Tom’s face for some kind of reaction. It never came. Someone like him didn’t put too much thought into college, especially when he could go anywhere on an athletic scholarship and a few forged tests.

“You’re still my date to the dance though, aren’t you?” Tom asked.

Olivia was a little surprised to hear this. It was the first time he had seemed concerned about the two of them together. “Of course!” She sounded over-eager. “I mean, yeah sure thing. I’ll figure out my mom some way or another. It’s not like she’s going to stop me from going. She’s looking forward to this just as much as I am.”

“Good,” Tom said. “I plan on having a good time with you.”

***

The school day had come to an end, and Kelly Calloway had almost everything packed into her purse, ready to leave for a much-needed break. Her accidental lunch date with Mr. Temple had been bothering her all afternoon, just like she hoped it wouldn’t. The thought of him with Bonnie Bristol drove her crazy, and she didn’t know why. It’s not as if she and Rick Temple were dating, but she felt a strange sort of ownership over him. Miss Bristol was cramping her style.

Miss Calloway heard a knock on her classroom door. “Kelly, it’s Bonnie,” said Miss Bristol, as if Miss Calloway didn’t recognize her. “Mind if I come in?”

She did mind. “I’m actually on my way out, Bonnie. Can it wait?”

Miss Bristol leaned against the door frame, crossed one foot over the other, and placed her hand on her hip. Flipping aside her dyed blonde hair, she said, “You’re always in a rush, Kelly. Why not take some time to chat and get to know your coworkers?”

Because I hate you, Miss Calloway thought. “I just have to get home to feed my cat,” she said. She’d never owned a pet a day in her life.

“You know Rick and I had a wonderful time at the concert last week. Really got to let our hair down, you know?” Miss Bristol said.

I’m sure that’s not the only thing you let down, Miss Calloway thought. “He said the two of you had a very nice time,” she said. Miss Bristol caught the cold breeze in the air.

“Kelly, I think it’d be wonderful for the two of us to be friends. The art and music departments really should be partners, don’t you think? We’re always the first things to go when they make cuts, so we’ve got to stick together,” Miss Bristol said.

Miss Calloway couldn’t argue, much as she wanted to. “I agree, Bonnie. Is that all you had to say? I appreciate the thought, but my cat is probably starving by now, so I really should be going.”

“He’ll be fine,” Miss Bristol said. “I wanted to ask what you thought about the departments forming a club of some sort. Maybe something where we could really get the students together to remind them that there’s more to life than math and science. Mr. Rigley in the English department is on board, and so is Jackie from History. What do you say?”

Miss Calloway felt a pit form in the base of her stomach. She wanted to hate Bonnie Bristol with every fiber of her being, but she wasn’t a bad teacher. She couldn’t fault her for not being interested in the kids, hating her job, or not caring about the system. Miss Bristol, on all fronts, was a good educator. It killed her to think that.

“I–I think that sounds great, Bonnie. Just let me know the details and I’ll do what I can. I’ve got to go.” Miss Calloway rushed past Miss Bristol. She couldn’t be in the room anymore. Bonnie Bristol stood there, very pleased with herself.

END

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