How tough do you need to be?
|Miss Freudlinger paused midway through a quadratic equation, her fingers tipped by manicured nails motionless at the board, minute chalk dust from her last stroke floating through a shaft of afternoon sunlight to the classroom floor. Her students waited in silence, barely breathing. The chalk gripped in the fingers of Miss Freudlinger was full length, a new piece every day. Ms. Freudlinger would tolerate a short pencil in the hand of a student, but she would not employ a short piece of chalk on her blackboard. Not today. Not any day.
“Melissa,” Miss Freudlinger said. “Please remove your gum.”
No one, least of all Melissa Kemp, had a clue how Miss Freudlinger, with her back to the class, could have known that Melissa was chewing gum. Whatever was about to happen to Melissa, she deserved it. Everyone knew to never chew gum in the class of Miss Freudlinger. Ever.
Flame-faced, Melissa shot from her seat toward the wastebasket next to the desk of Miss Freudlinger. While Miss Freudlinger remained frozen in place, Melissa made her deposit. Flashing a smirk, she tugged on the leather cord around her waist, the fashionable companion and exact color match of her calf-length boots, and sauntered back to her seat.
Miss Freudlinger didn’t move. Melissa settled loudly into her desk, then noticed the gathering silence. She looked to the front of the room, at the tight black curls covering the back of the head of Miss Freudlinger. Finally Miss Freudlinger said, “All of it, Melissa.”
Melissa Kemp hurried to the wastebasket and dropped in the rest of her gum.
That night, Miss Freudlinger smiled while grading the assignment of Melissa Kemp. She wrote a neat A at the top of the page. Niece or no niece, Melissa was still the best student in the class.
(Word count: 300)