She felt ill as she walked into the hall with her friends. Instead of studying, last night she’d gone to the movies with her best mate. After watching the first, they snuck into a second and then a third. Now, she was tired and she couldn’t recall exactly what was going to be on the exam.
Another friend grabbed her arm as they walked through and gave it a squeeze of solidarity.
She walked the aisles of desks looking for her number, and finding it, she sat. The exam paper was on the desk and the old biddies who did the exam supervision walked the aisles ready and eager to catch anyone cheating.
Reading time was called and she turned over the page. She opened straight to the first question and stared at it. She couldn’t concentrate to read it. Then writing time was called, and she almost got her pencil in her hand when pens down was called and she was ushered outside.
The two birds chased each other through the forest, ducking between trees and skimming the undergrowth. Just as the second threatened to catch the first, it would twist away, and turn as it flew as if cheekily sticking out its tongue.
But then, the second bird disappeared. When the first looked back, all it was saw a few feathers floating in the wind.
The driver had almost slowed when the bird hit the grill. Almost.
‘No point now,’ she thought.
School was crap. She’d left her homework at home at her teacher was now going to take off ten per cent for every day it was late. Her mother had just texted to say that she was going on a date tonight may not be home. The food in the freezer was the revolting vegan crap her mother loved and she’d used the last of her pay on phone credit that morning. She pulled her beanie lower, flicking her hair out from the bottom in a way that she thought was totally hot. As she adjusted her bag, the earbuds of her iPod unplugged and her music stopped. She found the iPod, plugged in again and flicked through for the music she wanted. Jay-Z. She turned it up so she could no longer hear the traffic and she strode off. Her mood sank as she saw a group of teenage boys hanging out across the whole path. Despite her hate of the alley, she turned into it off the main road. It was the only was to avoid them. She fumbled in her bag for her cigarettes and lighter and, not finding them, she threw her bag on the ground. A dog started to bark. She was angry and the world was against her.
He watched the rubbish truck amble down the road. It was gone. He wouldn’t have to think of it anymore. None of it. He’d given her a chance to collect her stuff and she hadn’t. Hell, he’d given her several chances. If she couldn’t organize her time to come, it wasn’t his problem.
He wheeled his bin in and made a cup of tea. Extra sugar. She always told him off for taking sugar. Wait, this wasn’t supposed to happen. He’d thrown out her stuff, he’d removed her and all her friends from Facebook and from his mobile phone and he’d even started flirting with one of the girls from work. She wasn’t allowed to keep popping into his head like this. He didn’t know what else he could do.
The tea tasted odd. He went to the fridge to check the milk. As he went to open the door, he saw her photo peeping out from under the pizza menu. That was it! He grabbed that photo and the three others from the fridge door, then tried to remember where else he’d put photos. Eight years. There would be photos everywhere. He’d just have to burn the place down.
The room seemed to spin around him. He’d just have to burn the place down. He wouldn’t lose much – everything was insured. Anything that wasn’t insured was worthless anyhow. He’d just have to burn the place down.
‘Don’t be an idiot. You can’t smell rain.’
‘I can. When it’s been hot. And there’s rain, and the steam comes up off the hot bitumen.’
‘That’s the smell of the bitumen. Not rain.’
‘It’s the smell of rain.’
‘No, you can’t smell rain. Full stop.’
‘Yes, I can.’
‘No, you can’t.’
‘Yes, I can.’
‘No, you can’t.’
‘Yes, I can.’
‘SHUT UP BOTH OF YOU OR YOU’LL BE WALKING HOME!’
The car went quiet. The mother rested her head on the steering wheel and hoped the traffic would clear soon.
The crunch of the leaves under her feet made her feel a little ill, remaindering her of the egg he father had opened that morning that had some solid matter floating in the yolk. She had stared, feeling dread and nausea push through her body; thinking that it was the start of a new little baby chicken. Her father had quickly scraped the bowl empty into the bin and offered her cereal.
She always hated walking her dog through this part. Last night, she’d watched three episodes of CSI something and she was convinced that she would let Fido off the leash and he’d come back with a hand or an ear or something.
Of course, he never had. She wondered what she would do. Call the police, or course. Would she scream first? Throw up? Make a wise crack? She wasn’t that clever. Plus no one would hear.
The clasp stuck as she tried to let him off his lead, and when she got it free, it snapped onto her finger bringing up a blood blister. She waved her hand and cursed her dog. The dog looked at her with sad eyes.
She pulled a ball out of her coat pocket and threw it for the dog. She sat on a log and checked her phone for messages. Nothing. Guess the movies were off for tonight – shame, she’d been looking forward to getting out of the house. She needed something to break the tedium.
The dog came running back and she took the ball from its mouth. Only, it wasn’t a ball.
Mindy stood under the shade umbrella in the children’s playground and hoped that it would provide her with some shelter from the rain. It didn’t. It was a loose shade cloth with many small holes though which the rain dropped, but at any rate, the wind was blowing the rain almost horizontal.
Tim watched her from the car. He was due to pick her up in ten minutes. She told him that she was stuck in a meeting for the afternoon. Until he spotted her holding hands with another man in the food court, he had believed her. When he’d seen her, he’d nearly choked on his milkshake. He hadn’t believed that was possible until it happened.
They’d left the food court, still holding hands. They browsed through a sports store, a picture framing shop and a stationery shop before he pulled her into a kiss and they’d left in a hurry. Almost fast enough for Tim to lose them, but not quite. He’d spotted their car, and the direction they went, but unfortunately his car was in a different car park and he couldn’t chase them.
So here he sat, two hours later, watching her. The rain whipped through her summer dress and she held her hand, looking to the street for him, not knowing he was just around the corner, watching.
His smile grew as the rain turned to hail and he began to make up reasons for being late.
Her foot broke the surface and began to sink. It was a slow sink as she held onto a branch above her head. The murky water covered her boot and she shuddered as the water rushed into her boot, quickly drenching her sock and snaking its way right through to her toes. The hem of her jeans started to soak up moisture and then disappeared, and before she realised it, her knee was under. Her foot hit the ground when the water was mid thigh. She rolled her eyes when her brother asked from the bank, ‘So, is it deep enough?’
‘…which is when you finish writing and hope to God that you read the question properly in your reading time which you used well.’
Hannah put a full stop at the end of the last sentence on the whiteboard and took a couple of seconds to stand back and look at it. Her board writing had improved so much since she started the teaching course, and this was her last class of the last round. She was ready to walk into the classroom.
She’d dealt with rude students, with indifferent students, with angry students. She no longer cared if the students liked her, and had a strong focus on getting them learning process and content. Her grip on the most up-to-date pedagogy was strong and she could teach the more traditional chalk-and-talk as well as student centred, student based and student directed learning. VCE, VCAL, VET, IB. She was ready.
She turned to the class. ‘Any questions?’
A student at the front slowly raised her hand with an expression on her face somewhere between afraid and amused.
‘Isn’t that a permanent marker?’
With panic, Hannah looked at the pen in her hand. She walked back to the board and rubbed at that final, victorious full stop. It remained.
It was minutes since the sun had gone, yet the streetlights hadn’t turned on. The houses were quiet and there was no sign of any cars. She shut her eyes and listened. Nothing. A slight breeze. None of the usual sounds – birds, people, technology. Normally, she’d hear the highway in the distance, or the clanging of the level crossing bells as a train approached. She felt uneasy and wondered what she should do. Should she call someone? To say what? ‘Everything’s stopped?’
She walked to the middle of the oval and lay on her back. Even the sky was quiet. No moon, no stars. And then a few drops of rain. The sound of the rain hitting her face seemed to break the spell and everything started again. Sadly, she stood and went home.