I’ve gone back and forth about posting this one for
a couple of weeks. It falls squarely in the category of “things I wish I’d had the guts to do in high school.” Feedback, as always, is welcome.
Victoria was in danger of turning into that most hideous of beasts: The Perfect Child. Her natural intelligence had predisposed her to PC standing, and here she was at fifteen, ostracized for being a “smart kid.” The way she saw it, she had two main problems: her mother and her religion teacher, Mrs. Bead.
Oh, yes, Victoria counted down the days until she could get her driver’s license because her mother refused to take her anywhere if it would conflict with a Bible study, lay missionary meeting, or any of the other myriad activities that the Catholic cult (Cc) her mother had joined demanded of her time. Any complaints were met by, “You don’t want to be the reason I’m going to confession!” Consequently, Victoria ended up with during-school only activities only unless her father, who traveled frequently (more so since Mom had joined the Cc), could pick her up.
Then there was her “Religion and Morality” teacher Mrs. Bead. The woman with the uncanny resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West minus green skin had a penchant for telling the class they’d be damned, usually preceded by a “lookit!” Apparently Mrs. Bead felt herself to be exempt from such a fate, particularly since she delighted in sharing her and her husband’s sexual exploits with the class as excuses for failing to grade their papers the night before. Not that sexual congress among married people was sinful, but rubbing it in the faces of your hormone-hyped sophomore Morality class? Cruel, especially because no boy would touch Victoria because “her mother was a nun, and she wouldn’t do anything, anyway.”
Victoria’s opportunity to escape PC status occurred at the nexus of the clash between the two forces of Mrs. Bead and her mother. When she’d gotten out of the car that morning, her mother had told her, “I have a meeting at the Monastery at four today, so come straight out after school. No delaying, or I’ll be so upset I’ll have to go to Confession, and you’ll be grounded for a month!”
The cute guy in the saxophone section in the band had actually approached Victoria at lunch the day before, so being grounded was out of the question. She needed that chance to fail her Morality homework and have to go to confession!
By the end of Morality class, Mrs. Bead had, miraculously, run out of things to taunt them about. She had resorted to the generally ineffective “Peer Pressure” method of discipline and control:
“You may work on your homework, but if anyone makes a sound, the whole class will have to stay after school for fifteen minutes!”
Victoria took out a book. The rest of the class started out quiet, but soon whispering emerged. It spawned giggling, which grew to laughing, taunting, and finally…
“That’s it!” Bead shouted. “You’re all staying after, and if anyone says anything, it’s going to be another fifteen minutes!”
With her mother’s threat echoing in her head, Victoria raised her hand.
Bead glared at her. “Not. A. Word.”
Victoria’s stomach tightened. Then her heart pounded between her tonsils, and she tasted something sour at the back of her mouth. This wasn’t fair! She hadn’t done anything, and now she’d be grounded for a month! She glared at Bead, who calmly surveyed the now silent classroom and ignored the dirty looks from all sides.
“That’s it!” Victoria’s voice sounded high pitched, and squeaky even to her, but she stood. No spotlight shown on her, but the surprised looks of everyone including Mrs. Bead warmed her neck and cheeks. “My mother told me not to be late, and whatever punishment you give out, it’s not going to be worse than what she’ll do to me.”
Bead opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Victoria continued.
“Oh, and in case you’re wondering if I care about punishing the rest of the class, yeah, I do. More than they obviously cared about punishing me. What you have to realize is that they don’t give a rat’s ass about how their actions affect me. I’m a nobody, just one of the smart kids that no one sees beyond the GPA on the honor roll board. So, sorry y’all have to stay to 3:30, but my mother is waiting, and keeping us all here because of the actions of a few is patently ridiculous!”
She grabbed her book bag and walked out of the class with hasty but deliberate steps — no point in tripping and ruining the moment. She heard a single clap, and then a few more, like fat raindrops on the edge of a thunderstorm. Then applause rained down, and a few cheers rolled through the noise. Everyone grabbed their bags and marched out after her. She smiled, but she was breathing too hard to respond to the murmured congratulations. Oh, there’d be hell to pay the next day, maybe that night after her parents got a call from the Principal, but for the moment, she relished being the Not Perfect Child. Maybe the cute band guy would hear about it and call her…
“How was your day?” her mother asked when Victoria got into the car, only a few minutes after three.
“It was good, but I think I may have to go to confession.
Oh, I almost forgot the dessert. Since I waffled on posting this, it’s a Belgian waffle with Nutella sauce and whipped cream: