Bernadine did not have long to cry. It felt like just a few minutes had gone by from when she put her head down on her desk in the silent, empty classroom until she heard the loud voices of room 3b coming back up the hall, followed swiftly by a lot of “shhhhhhhh’ing” from an exasperated sounding Ms Crabbe. Bernadine thought that Red Rover might not have been as much fun as the substitute teacher had remembered it being when she was a little girl.
Ms Crabbe came into the classroom first as the rest of the kids changed back into their indoor sneakers and hung up their jackets in the hall. Bernadine hoped that maybe somebody had told Ms Crabbe what a jerk Charlotte was being outside and maybe she would come over and pat her on the head and say “There, there, everything will be ok. Just ignore that Charlotte kid, oh, and she is going to get detention in the basement for a year for being so mean to you” but...that’s not what Ms Crabbe said at all. Bernadine still had her head on her arms but was peeking out just a little bit, enough to see Ms Crabbe come and stand right in front of her desk with her arms crossed tight across her chest. Arms crossed tight across your chest was never a good sign. Arms crossed tight like that meant mad. And maybe yelling. And maybe going to the principal. And definitely not patting-you-on-the-head-to-make-you-feel-better. Bernadine sighed.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” Ms Crabbe barked.
Bernadine was quiet. What could she say? The other kids were starting to file back into the class now. That stupid Charlotte was even pretending to limp. No one was saying anything, everyone was watching the teacher standing tall and cranky-looking over Bernadine’s desk like a dragon who ate sad little girls for breakfast. Bernadine’s belly hurt and she just wanted to go home. She closed her eyes really tight and tried to picture home. Her bed. Her blankets. Her dolls. Her mom. Her belly hurt even more now.
“Are you even listening to me? Little girl, look at me!” the substitute teacher’s voice was shrill now, like a broken siren.
Bernadine sat up and looked at the teacher. She wished more than ever that Miss Edwards was here, Miss Edwards with her soft sweaters and sweet voice. She would have understood what happened. She would never screech at Bernadine, she would have taken Bernadine aside and asked her for her side of the story. And she would have listened.
But she was not here. And this shrieking screeching vulture of a woman was. But Ms Crabbe was now pointing one bony arm at the door, telling Bernadine to go to see the principal, he would deal with the likes of little girls like her. Bernadine stood up and walked slowly towards the door staring at her feet the whole time. If she had looked around, she would have seen that only Charlotte looked smug and happy that Bernadine was in trouble. She would have seen that most of the other kids looked worried for her...especially Sally. Sally felt tears burn her eyelids a little and had to blink a whole bunch of times to keep them from spilling down her cheeks. Not because she didn’t want Charlotte to see her cry, but because she didn’t want Bernadine to see because that might make her feel even more scared. But Bernadine didn’t look up. She just shuffled out of the door slowly and sadly and then Ms Crabbe clapped her hands sharp and said “Now. Let’s start silent journalling.”