I like getting to school before the kids arrive. It gives me time to have a cup of coffee, to catch up with my friends, and to go through my lesson plans for the day. I like the stillness when the only sounds are the faint cacophony of the marching band practicing on the field behind the school and the crack of colliding football helmets as the players run at each other like bighorn sheep in shoulder pads – and even those are muted once I get inside. This morning, I parked in my favorite place under the live oak trees, and I was in a pretty good mood until I reached my classroom and saw that the door was already open.
I stopped. The lights were on and the door was definitely ajar – at 7:00 a.m. on a Monday morning. In six years of teaching, not once had my classroom door been opened before I arrived, not even the time I’d had a flat tire and been an hour late. That day, my kids had been left sitting out in the hall until I could get there.
I hesitated only briefly, then walked in.
A middle-aged woman was sitting at my desk going through my file drawer. My desk. My drawer. She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t hear me. I kicked the door shut behind me with a bang like a cannon that echoed through the halls and probably knocked the hat off the drum major. She jumped a foot and a half, little hands splayed, mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish’s. I tried not to let the satisfaction I felt take the edge off my anger.
“Who the hell are you?” I asked.
Gasping and red-faced, she struggled to regain her dignity. No more than that, she was struggling to establish her authority. She drew herself up to her full height and stared at me with ice blue eyes. The height thing wasn’t working for her, since I topped her by a good three inches. And no one who’d grown up with my cousin Kyla, who’d invented the ice in ice blue eyes, was going to be intimidated by this piece of work.
“I am Mrs. Stanovich. I ….”
“I know who you are,” I interrupted, recognizing the last name. “You’re Steve’s mom.”
“What are you doing in my classroom?” I asked.
“I’m here to complain to you about your appalling…”
I cut her off again. “I didn’t ask what you wanted to speak with me about. I asked what you were doing in my classroom. Also, how did you get in?”
“The grade that you gave Steve this last quarter…”
“Mrs. Stanovich. How did you get into my classroom?”
Her eyes darted from side to side. I pulled out my cell phone and tapped in three digits. “I suggest you come up with something quickly before I call the police and report you for breaking and entering.”
She gasped. “You can’t! I…I have every right to be here. Mrs. Middleton let me in.”
I certainly be having a talk with Kim Middleton before the day was over, I thought, although probably this insufferable woman had bullied her into it. I’m sure she hadn’t counted on my arriving so inconveniently early.
“Well, Mrs. Stanovich, I don’t have to tell you that attempting to see confidential student papers is highly illegal, and I really should call the police. However, since you’re Steve’s mom, I’m going to let it go this time. I’ll certainly be bringing this up at our next staff meeting, and the principal can decide what to do. In the meantime, should you wish to speak to me about your son’s grades, his problematic behavior, or the three detentions that I gave him last week, I suggest you call me to make an appointment. I’m always happy to meet with parents.”
“You…you.” She was so angry she was incoherent. I now had a little more sympathy for the little turd she called a son. It couldn’t be easy growing up with the Mother from the Black Lagoon.
“Get out,” I suggested, stepping aside.
She drew a breath as though to argue, glanced at the phone I still held ready, and got out.
I went to my desk and glanced at the folder she’d been reading, then put it back with a shrug. Two things I was sure about – it was definitely Monday and this was definitely going to return to bite me in the ass.
You can read more about Jocelyn in Death Makes The Cut, the second book in the “Jocelyn Shore” mystery series. The first book in the series is Death on Tour.
Meet the Author
Janice Hamrick is the author of the Jocelyn Shore mystery series. Her first novel, Death On Tour, won the Mystery Writers of America / Minotaur Books First Crime Novel award and was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark award. Her second novel, DEATH MAKES THE CUT will be released in July 2012. Janice lives in Austin, Texas, where she is currently working on the third novel in the series. For more information, see www.janicehamrick.com or follow Janice on Facebook.
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