Trisha Pays the Price
By Geffers © 2009
Trisha sat gloomily at her desk and stared at the blue letter in front of her, neatly folded into a square. It was, she thought, at least a real piece of her mother's stationery, but the contents were far from the genuine article and would not fool Mr. Mitchell under close scruitiny. On her desk was a plastic sandwich box: she had only eaten one triangle out of the generous set provided by her mother, not feeling much like eating with her current predicament in mind.
Others started coming in for afternoon registration: Doyle with a contemptuous look in her direction; Penny with her haughty air of superiority; then Tucker and Alan who sat behind her. Cathy arrived, and took her seat next to Trisha.
"Moment of truth," said Trisha, twirling the blue notepaper nervously.
"He might fall for it, you never know," said Cathy sympathetically.
Alan was reading a photocopied note about the Chess Club. Tucker snatched it from him.
"Oi, I was reading that," complained Alan.
"Boring old chess. What d'you want to bother with that rubbish for?"
"It's not rubbish, it stretches your mind," said Alan.
Tucker frowned, and folded the paper into a paper dart. He made to throw it at Trisha, but then changed his mind. He leaned forward.
"Here, Pongo - give us one of your sandwiches, I'm starving!"
Trisha was in no mood for Tucker's cheek.
"What are you, some kind of charity case? Why didn't you bring your own, or eat in the canteen?" she replied.
"Lost my dinner money didn't I?"
"Shouldn't be so careless, should you?"
Alan grinned. "He lost it playing cards with a third former."
"He was cheating, I'm sure of it," said Tucker. "Look at that, a whole box of sandwiches, and lunchtime nearly over. What a waste!"
"Well they're my sandwiches to waste, anyway, I'll eat 'em at afternoon break," countered Trisha and put the lid on the plastic box as if to make a final statement on the matter.
"Why you so grumpy anyway? Even more than usual that is," asked Tucker.
"Mind your own business," snapped Trisha. Mr. Mitchell entered the room, and Trisha's heart sank. She thought back to how it had started...
It was Monday, a warm day in the middle of May. Trisha looked out of the window, and saw the bright blue sky and came to a sudden decision. Today was just too nice a day to spend in stuffy old school. Fresh in her mind was a conversation she had with Melanie Whitchurch, the show-off girl from over the road who went to Brookdales. Trisha was not exactly friends with Melanie, but because they lived near each other they did occasionally chat about things. Melanie said she often bunked off, and when the teacher asked for a note from her mum, she just said she forgot, and the teacher forgot too. So that's what she would do, and there would just be a nice day away from Maths, History, Games and the likes of Tucker Jenkins and Michael Doyle.
Trisha carefully packed some jeans and a white sweater into her bag. She decided she would change at the precinct loos. Yes - the Precinct, that would be fun to spend some time there.
Trisha headed off to school, but didn't take her normal route, taking the shortcut down to the town centre to reach the precinct as soon as possible. No-one gave her a second glance, after all, it was early enough for a schoolgirl to be buying something before school started. In the toilets, no-one else was around, and Trisha quickly changed into her casual gear. Trisha spent the morning working around the shops, browsing the records, window shopping the posh clothes in the new boutique, and watching people near the fountains from the balcony above. She could have stayed longer in the record store, except the assistant gave her a "I know you're never going to buy anything" look, and Trisha did not like to stay where she was not welcome. Trisha had a little money with her, and bought a coke from the cafeteria. She was about to eat one of her sandwiches, but noted the sign "No food to be consumed unless purchased here", and didn't want to attract attention to herself.
At first, being off school was fun. How great to be able to what she wanted. A businesswomen carrying a briefcase walked briskly past her. Trisha envied her sense of purpose, her essential freedom combined with being paid to do something that was probably enjoyable and interesting.
Bored by the precinct, Trisha headed down to the park, and sat for a while looking at the ducks in the pond. She might have been tempted to throw a sandwich at them, but decided instead to eat one instead. Then there was a horrifying moment. She looked down the path and saw her mother coming in her direction. Trisha stood up immediately, and headed down the path until it bent round and reached some trees. Trisha glanced behind her and seeing that she was now out of sight of the woman, headed behind the trees and stood still, waiting. The woman appeared along the path, and Trisha breathed out in relief - it was not her mother - just someone with a similar build and outfit. When the woman was at some distance, Trisha went back to the path, but decided to leave the park.
By Two O'Clock, the truth was that Trisha was now very bored. One shop window was much the same as another - she should, she thought, have confided in Cathy first - it would have been a million times more fun with a companion. She headed down to Brookdales, wondering if she might spy her old friend Judy there, perhaps out in the grounds somewhere. There were some boys playing football on the fields. One of them wolf-whistled at her - Trisha scowled and blushed, and moved quickly away. She headed back to the precinct. I am so BORED - she thought. She spent the last of her money on a cup of tea and made it last so long that it was cold by the time she was finished. Finally, it was late enough to start heading home. Trisha almost forgot that she had to change back into her school clothes, and turned back towards the precinct. She used the toilet in the shopping centre once again. Trisha reached home without incident, and reported that her day had been "all right", when her mother asked, dreading that her mother might say something like "Well young lady, the school phoned and ... " or "So can you account for Mrs. Andrews seeing you down the road when you were supposed to be in lessons".... But her worries were unfounded.
Tuesday rolled round, and Trisha was relieved to be back at school, and smiled to herself at these strange feelings.
"What you so happy about?" Cathy said in the cloakrooms. Trisha explained about her day off. Cathy looked impressed. "Good idea. I might do the same thing, myself," she said.
Mr. Mitchell took the registration.
"Penny Lewis. Anyone seen her today?" No-one said anything, and Mr. Mitchell marked her as absent. "Must be something going round."
For a moment Trisha thought that he would not even ask her about her absence... but then...
"Trisha? You're back. Not here yesterday?"
"No Sir," said Trisha. "Off sick - had a temperature. Mum thought it best to keep me home. Feel better now."
"Glad to hear it. Can I have your note please?"
"Yes. You know the rules by now. You must bring a note from your mother when you are away."
"Oh yes, sorry Sir, I forgot."
"Well, tomorrow then. Right?"
And there was a look in Mr. Mitchell's eye that said to Trisha that her teacher would not forget so easily as had Melanie Whitchurch's.
Wednesday morning was dull and grey. Why couldn't it have been dull and grey on Monday, thought Trisha gloomily - then the prospect of bunking off would have not seemed so good. Shall I tell mum, she asked herself, beg her to write a note? Not a good idea - her mother was in a frosty mood with her because Trisha had broken her favourite plate at the weekend.
At registration, there was a brief moment when it seemed that Mr. Mitchell might dismiss the class when all the names had been ticked off - all present and correct, except that Penny was missing again. He had closed the registration book, and told the class about the change to one of their lessons - a room was being painted, and was out of bounds. Under the desk, Trisha crossed her fingers, hoping... hoping...please don't mention it, please don't...
"And before I go - Trisha. Note please."
Trisha's heart sank. She forced herself to smile.
"Knew there was something I meant to bring. It's on the kitchen table."
"Hmm. Is it? Not much good there is it?"
"Yes, Sir. I'll bring it tomorrow. Sorry Sir."
"All right. Tomorrow. Don't forget."
And so the day's reprieve had passed by, it was now Thursday, and Trisha sat with her last ditch hope - a contingency plan in case Mr. Mitchell still had not done the honourable thing and forgotten about Monday's absence. Trisha had taken her mother's smart notepaper from the bureau and carefully written an excuse note. She had looped the letters carefully, mimicking her mother's style, and signature, but Trisha was no calligrapher, and the results were not very convincing.
As Mr. Mitchell entered the room, register in hand, Trisha covered the faked letter with her hand, not willing to actually offer it up, except as a last resort. From behind, Tucker observed her, puzzling over what the letter might be. He strained his ears to hear what Cathy was saying to her neighbour.
"With any luck, he'll have forgotten," she whispered. Tucker frowned for a moment, his stomach rumbled, and this spurred on his brain to work out what the girls were talking about. He remembered her absence, her subsequent nervousness, and the blue piece of paper. The penny dropped, and Tucker nodded to himself, understanding what Trisha's situation was, and what was on the blue notepaper. He poked Trisha on the back of the head with the paper dart made from the chess club notice, and she turned around irritably.
"What d'you want now?" she snapped.
"Got any pickle in those sandwiches?" he asked
"Or, more like - it's you that've got yerself in a bit of a pickle I'm thinking," he said.
"Oh get lost." Trisha turned back round.
"Be quiet now," cautioned Mr. Mitchell, sitting at the desk and opening the register. He looked at Trisha, noting the letter she held, and raising his eyebrows.
Mr. Mitchell marked off the people present, and closed the book. Penny Lewis was holding up her hand.
"My note sir. I was off sick."
"Good, thank you, Penny, and I'll have yours too Trisha," said Mr. Mitchell walking over to Penny's desk.
With the teacher on the left side of the room, Tucker took careful aim and launched the paper dart at Trisha's desk. It landed neatly in the middle. Trisha turned around and scowled at him, and Tucker gazed back with an innocent look.
Mr. Mitchell looked round with annoyance in his voice.
"Jenkins - what's with the sudden aeronautics?"
"Go and collect your rubbish from Trisha's desk at once and dispose of it. Do that again, and you'll have a week's detention!"
Tucker stood up and walked forward to Trisha's desk. He picked up the paper dart, scooping up the sheet of blue notepaper too before Trisha could react. He then tore both pieces of paper up into small strips and walked over to the waste bin in the corner.
"Hey, what you doing? That's the letter from my mum you've just ripped up!" complained Trisha.
"Oh. Sorry. Picked it up by accident. Do you want it back?"
"Show me," said Mr. Mitchell, and Tucker handed him the fragments, mixed together with Chess Club leaflet. The teacher made a face - Tucker was quite an expert in shredding paper. "Plea - excu - not w- learn - gambit - become - grandmaster - Never mind, Trisha, we'll take its contents as read."
Tucker walked back to his desk, catching Trisha's eye on the way back with just the slightest of smiles. He nodded slightly to her, and patted his stomach meaningfully. When the class was dismissed, Trisha opened up her sandwich box, and Tucker took the contents without a word being said by either of them.
Cathy looked quizzically at Trisha, not quite understanding what had happened.
"Maths next," said Cathy with a grimace.
"Good," said Trisha absently.
"Good? What do you mean 'good'? You hate maths!" said Cathy, but Trisha wasn't really listening. She smiled for the first time in a long while, a weight now removed from her shoulders. Behind her, Tucker happily took a large bite out of Trisha's sandwich.