Mademoiselle Grond complimented each student as they turned in their homework. I watched the stack grow with each set of papers. I was wa
iting for Melissa to notice me.
“Psst! Melissa!” I motioned to my French workbook. “What’s that mean?” I’d finished all the assigned activities last night, except for the last two pages, which hadn’t made any sense at all.
Melissa glanced at Mademoiselle Grond before inching between the desks to take a look. Her expression brightened at once. She understood what I did not. She pointed to a line of jumble. “They’re asking about your best friend’s favorite desert, and what they like to eat.”
“What they like to eat?”
“Yeah…you know…this chapter was on food?”
The last filmy piece of the puzzle clicked for me. I managed a weak smile. “Oh right. Thanks, Mel.”
She winked. “Anytime, hon.”
I frantically scribbled answers across the lines, hoping to finish before the classroom emptied. My brain struggled and sputtered, giving out when the classroom door clicked shut. My stomach half-churned, stilling when a new emotion spread over me.
I bit my lip, wishing for single line of nonsense to translate to French.
Mademoiselle Grond moved busily around me, having already stuffed the newly collected homework assignments into her already overflowing Vera Bradley tote. “Lita, move for a moment? The chairs…”
“Sure. Sorry.” If she didn’t insisted on forming a circle with the chairs, there wouldn’t have been any need to change them back. But of course, I could not tell her that, so I simply slid out from the desk and stood to the corner to let her bustle.
“Never mind. Straighten yours when you’re finished.” Mademoiselle Grond flashed a tight smile, brushing past. It was only a half-second later before she spoke once more. “Lita, turn the lights off before you leave. The door’s locked, pull it behind you.”
I blinked up at her in surprise. She’d interrupted the train of thought just as I’d puzzled out a sentence to write on the skinny black line. “I’m almost done. I just have one more line to finish here, then I’ll tear it out and staple and that’s it.”
The expression on her face changed from the permanent polite smile to a look of irritation, followed by contempt. “That’s fine. Slide it under my office door, you know where it is.”
My face flamed red as my headache tripled itself. “Sure.” I heard myself say. “Okay.”
The fake smile was more forced, as she paused half-way to the door. “Actually, just leave it on this desk. I have a class at eight here tomorrow. I’ll pick it up then.” The door closed hollowly behind her.
I dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, needing the immediate pain to counter the familiar rush of emotions I didn’t want to deal with. I hurriedly scribbled out the sentence, systematically ripping the pages out of the workbook to staple together. The repetitive action pushed past my defense and I felt the first tear trickle out.
It shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. She was one way to everyone else and so…strange to me. Today wasn’t a good day. My empty stomach was forgotten in the wake of this new pain.
The pages were gathered, stapled and neatly set on the desk. I collected my things, turning the light off and checking the door.
Why does she hate me, Daddy? I asked the question, but did not want His answer. I wanted to hate her back.
It was easier.
Does she hate you?
I never did anything… Thoughts failed me and I struggled to keep my face blank, smacking off the tears before I rounded the corner and ducked out of the college. In the darkness of the back walkway, I let the tears stream freely down my face.
Why does she hurt me? I demanded.
Why do you let her hurt you? He countered.
I didn’t have an answer for that.
Breathing was getting rather difficult, so I pinched my arms until the pain caused the tears to subside and blew my nose. There was a point there. I didn’t have to let her get to me. I didn’t have to take the little snipes she threw in my direction. I didn’t have to care if she picked favorites.
I squared my shoulders, lifting my head to night air. The end of her hold over me. The beginning of a new choice.
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