She didn’t think it was possible, but the second day of Year Seven started worse than the first. At least on the first day, everyone was lost and had the wrong books and was late to all the classes. Today, it seemed like Sonia was the only one who didn’t know what she was doing. To begin with, Nan dropped her off late. She told her that school started at 8:40, but Nan didn’t believe her.
“8:40? What school starts at 8:40? School starts at 9:00. Everyone knows that. Now eat your porridge.”
Wait. No, that was the first thing that had gone wrong. Nan’s porridge for breakfast. Nan didn’t believe in adding anything to porridge. It was always gluggy and sticky like warm Clag, and that taste couldn’t even be disguised with milk or sugar. Sonia forced it down, but spilt some on her school dress. When she’d tried to change into her other school dress, Nan stopped her and tried to wipe away the mark with the wet corner of a tea towel. The mark didn’t go, but now seemed to float in a huge, wet puddle.
“It will be fine. Once it dries, no-one will notice.”
By the time she got to school at 9, the wet patch had dried leaving a bright, white stain where the porridge had been. She tried scraping at it, but it was stuck. Sonia heaved her backpack out of the car and flung it over her shoulder. It was only then that she realised that she hadn’t done up the zip, and half the books fell onto the nature strip. One even fell under the car. Kneeling to retrieve them, she felt a sting on he knee, and when she stood, she saw that she’d knelt on a bee. The sting was still hanging out. It hurt. She started to cry.
“Don’t worry, no-one else is even here yet, see, there is no cars here. Stop crying.”
“Nan, a bee stung me.”
“Just spit on the sting, it will stop stinging.”
“Euw… gross, Nan.”
“Right, I’ve got to get to yoga. Have a fun day sweetheart. Shut the door!”
Sonia wiped her eyes, shut the door and her Nan drove off. Over her Maths book. The cover tore off and tried to chase the car as it drove away. Sonia automatically chased after it, grabbed it and her book and got out of the gutter just as a car approached. The car beeped as it sped away, and a voice shouted out the window “Get off the road!”
Sonia looked at the car, shocked. She started to walk back to her bag and felt the sting in her knee. She looked at it and took a deep breath. Just as she was about to get ready to think about attempting to remove it, a loud voice interrupted her.
“What time do you call this?”
Ms Brubank stood at the fence. Sonia looked up. She’d only seen Ms Brubank at assembly yesterday. She was someone important… not the principal, but someone else. Maybe the assistant principal? Sonia couldn’t remember and was petrified of her.
“Do you know what time school starts?”
“Ms Brubank to you.”
“Yes, Ms Brubank.”
“And do you know what time it is?”
“Yes, Ms Brubank.”
“So, why are you late?”
“There’s a bee sting in my knee.” Sonia’s eyes welled up and she lifted the edge of her skirt.
“What? Right. Wait there.”
Sonia started to cry again, scared to drop the edge of her skirt in case it hit the sting, scared that Ms Brubank was going to hit her or something worse, scared of everything. Ms Brunbank had walked to the gate, and was making her way back to Sonia.
“Ok, calm down. Not a good start to the day, eh?” She leaned down and flicked the sting out of Sonia’s leg. “Now, you’re not allergic, are you?”
Sonia stopped crying and her eyes became huge.
“You should be fine. Is all of this yours?” She pointed at the mess of books and stationery spread from Sonia’s bag. Sonia nodded. Ms Brubank scooped it all up. She noticed the wrecked book in Sonia’s hand.
“I’ll take this. Here,” she zipped up Sonia’s bag. “you take this and come with me.”
This had all happened before Sonia even got into the school ground. Ms Brubank had taken her to the office where she had made sure there was no record of Sonia being allergic and left her to wait until the start of the next class, because she was so late. Sonia sat in the seat which was usually used by the kids who were in trouble. She stared at her knee, where a big itchy red bump was growing. She scratched all the way around it without touching it. It was so itchy. She thought of what her nan had said, and she leaned over and dribbled onto the sting. She then heard footsteps suddenly stop. It was Jen and Sal Harris. The evil twins. They were carrying a box of books back to the library before the end of class. They had seen her dribble, one of them pointed at her and they chuckled to each other. They walked away. Sonia rubbed the saliva into her knee, then wiped her fingers on her sock. She pulled out her planner and checked the timetable. Maths. She hated Maths. And she didn’t know where Room 16 was. The bell rang.
Sonia sat in the chair with every teacher of the school walking past and giving her a look – they were remembering her face, the student who was already in big trouble on the second day of school. She hadn’t been sure if she was allowed to go to class. The hallways started to quiet down as the classes settled in. Sonia stared at the door that Ms Brubank had gone through earlier, willing her out. As if by magic, Mrs Brubank came out.
“What are you still doing here? Ah, for crying out loud… right, I’m going to take you to class. What do you have now?”
“Maths. Room 16.” Sonia managed to squeeze out the words. Mrs Brubank disappeared into the office and returned with a tissue.
“Come on, clean up. Let’s go.”
Sonia wiped at her face, stood and hitched her bag onto her shoulder. She followed Mrs Brubank down corridor after corridor. Finally, they stopped at a classroom and Ms Brubank rapped on the door.
“Hello, Mr Joseph. Got a stray one for you. This is Sonia.”
Sonia took a step into the room. She saw Jen and Sal Harris, sitting apart, both turn to their deskmates and whisper something. They all looked scandalised and laughed. Sonia looked at the ground.
“Thanks, Ms Brubank. Sonia, is it?”
Sonia nodded, still looking at the ground.
“I take it you’ll put all this in your locker at recess. In the meantime, pop your bag in the corner and grab what you need out of it. Then take a seat next to Isabella.”
Mr Joseph turned back to the board and returned to his teaching. Sonia smiled as she went to the corner. She liked Isabella. She’d been nice to her yesterday. She hoped she was still nice to her today. She put her bag down and grabbed out her Maths text book and her pencil case. She then realised she didn’t have her maths exercise book. Ms Brubank had taken it. She thought for a second about what to do.
“Come on, Sonia, Christmas is coming!”
Sonia was confused. It was January. Christmas was ages away. But she got the idea, and grabbed her English exercise book. She rushed over to Isabella.
“Hi, Sonia. I’m so glad you’re here! When you weren’t in Music I thought you might have left the school and I was really sad.”
“Isabella! How about you follow what I’m doing on the board so you don’t fall behind in your first Maths class at the school?”
“Sorry, Mr J.”
He nodded and continued with his work. Sonia opened her text book and her exercise book, and got out her pens.
“That’s the wrong book!” Isabella was shocked.
“It’s ok. This will do.”
“But, what about your English work?”
Sonia took a deep breath, but couldn’t keep the stress out of her voice.
“It’s fine, ok?”
Isabella stared at her for a moment, then went back to listening to Mr Joseph.
“…but if you don’t start with the… hang on, Ms Brubank is back! How delightful, two visits in the one day! Ms Brubank, how can we help you this time?”
Sonia stared at her book. She must be in trouble. Perhaps Ms Brubank had forgotten earlier.
“I accidentally took this from Sonia. She must need it now. Here you are, Sonia.”
Sonia stared at the brand new Maths exercise book in Ms Brubank’s hand.
“How about I just put this here.”
She placed it on Sonia’s desk. Sonia sat, mouth open.
“Perhaps Ms Brubank would like a thank you, Sonia?”
Sonia gaped at Mr Joseph, then back to Ms Brubank.
“That’s ok. Have a good day, class. Learn well!”
The class giggled as she left. Sonia opened her book. Inside the front cover were two lollipops and handwritten note.
“Sonia. I hope the rest of your day is better than the start. Ms Brubank.”
Sonia read the note, and handed a lollipop to Isabella. Isabella gave a huge smile.
“Thanks, Sonia. You’re the best!”