By Anthonia Nicol
It was Monday.
As she opened her classroom door, Penny was unsure whether or not to go in. Somehow, she felt she had to check with the principal if she was still a student, but since no one said anything to her at the gate, she assumed all was well, and that pesky bully’s parents didn’t file charges.
Halfway into her English lessons, the principal strolled into her class with a grim look on his face. Her heart skipped a beat. He was talking to the teacher, and she was looking at her. A few minutes later, he approached her.
‘Penny, please come with me,’ said the principal quietly.
She followed obediently.
Fiona, the bully, was waiting in the principal’s office with her parents.
‘Penny, Fiona’s parents have decided not to press charges if you apologize to Fiona’, explained the principal.
Penny was outraged because of his request and Fiona’s wicked smile.
‘But she started it! She called me a reject and other horrible things! She said my mother was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. She even tore my sweater’, she cried, showing the principal the patch on her sweater.
‘If you don’t apologize, little lady, today will be your last day at school,’ he warned.
‘Why? Because my mother can’t afford a lawyer as they can? She should apologize to me!’ snapped Penny.
‘That’s it, young lady! We will hear no more from you. You will go to detention right now!’ ordered the principal.
She started to go out the door then remembered that the principal always called her mother every time she was in detention, and there was, of course, the leather belt.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said through gritted teeth.
‘What was that?’ asked the principal, motioning her to speak louder. ‘I’m sorry, Fiona. I promise to behave from now on’.
‘What an unruly child!’ Fiona’s mum said to the principal. ‘Do you admit just anybody to this school? It came highly recommended!’
The principal was embarrassed. ‘We are sorry, Mrs. Copperfield. Penny is on scholarship. She is one of the brightest in the school’.
‘Doesn’t look that way,’ she added as she left with her husband and daughter.
The principal gave Penny a stern look. ‘I need to have a serious talk with both your parents. This situation with you is getting out of hand’.
‘I’ll be good, I swear,’ Penny pleaded.
‘How many times have I heard that?’ he asked. ‘If you were not one of our brightest pupils, I would have expelled you a long time ago. Now go back to class!’
On her way out, she added, ‘ If you must call anyone, please don’t call my dad …..and please wait till the end of my mother’s shift before you call her. I don’t want her to lose her job again.’
She left the office.
The principal fell back on his chair. She was a prodigy, but she was also troubled. He had heard stories about the delinquent that was her father, he had seen the poorly hidden belt marks on her body and had advised her mother to leave him, but she wouldn’t.
She was a victim heavily dependent on her abuser.
He looked at his phone and thought about Penny’s request. Somehow the way she made it haunted him with a hint of fear and hopelessness. He invited the school’s psychologist to have a serious talk with her mother after her shift, which he knew very well.
Mrs. Wilcox dragged Penny ferociously out of her classroom.
‘Why are you always getting into trouble?’ she asked as Penny’s classmates looked on.
‘I didn’t get into trouble,’ she said. ‘I apologized to Fiona. I promise’, she assured her mum.
‘Then why did I have to talk to a shrink?’ Sarah asked.
‘I dunno,’ she said, shrugging her shoulders. ‘They didn’t tell me you were going to talk to the shrink.’
Sarah rolled her eyes.
‘I’m tired of going to your principal’s office. I’m tired of coming here. Why must you always draw attention to yourself? Now the shrink is telling me how to live my life? What is the matter with you?’
She stopped, halfway between the gate and her car and shook Penny vigorously. ‘What will I do with you? Why do you always bring trouble to my life? Why can’t you be like your sister?’
Penny blinked away the tears.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, seeing the anguish on Sarah’s face.
‘I don’t want to hear it!’ Sarah snapped.
She started to walk away.
‘Dad is sleeping with Daisy,’ Penny added, and her mother froze.
Penny walked up to meet her. ‘I thought you might want to hear….’ A slap followed.
‘Don’t you ever repeat such nonsense!’ warned Sarah. ‘What do you know? You are a small child. You know nothing!’
‘I saw them!’ Penny cried. ‘Don’t believe me, but it’s true!’
Sarah looked like she was in a trance because she got into the car and sped off, leaving Penny crying at the gate.