I watched the clock tick on the white wall behind him while he studied his notes, shaking his balding head. There was a mixture of amusement and disbelief in his amber eyes, the first emotion, I knew he was struggling to suppress. Mr Tomlinson rested his clean shaved chin on a bony arm, propped up on the plastic arm of his swivel chair, not disguising his concern.
He had dealt with so many students in this manner, many of which on a daily basis, but I, the neatly dressed student with the thick framed glasses and long blond plait down the middle of her back, was not one amongst the array of ‘types’ that sat opposite him, scruffy in their uniform and scowling as they waited for their punishment to be handed down.
“This is not the sort of behaviour I would’ve expected from you, Jasmine.”
His voice was soft spoken and he even sounded so sympathetic when he spoke that my gut sank even lower with guilt than what it already had been.
I knew what he meant. For so long I had been the good student – straight A’s, impeccable attendance and behaviour records and was the student most likely to be elected School captain in my senior year.
“How are things at home?”
We both knew they really weren’t, but I was in no mood to talk about it. No amount of talking would under the damage I’d done and bring my sister back – nothing would. She was gone.
“Jasmine, you cannot go on with this behaviour. Stealing clocks? Bells? Traffic cones? Defacing school property? It’s not you. What could you possibly gain from that?”
I shrugged. I even stifled a giggle, recollecting the thrill I somehow found in committing these ‘crimes’ that had finally caught up with me. It was short lived as the principal continued his speech and I wondered if this was how he spoke to all the students who sat before him, summoned, as I had been to be reprimanded.
We both knew it wasn’t my usual behaviour, but I couldn’t begin to express how much I wanted to forget what had happened, even if it meant forgetting who I was.
I could feel the emotion swirling around the pit of my stomach, threatening to surface in a flood of sobs and tears, but I sat there, staring into my hands, hoping the principal would not see through my blank, cold face into the sadness I was squashing down.
“I can see you don’t want to talk about… things, so I will not push you, however I am concerned about your behaviour and the damage it is doing to your standing in this school. I am also concerned about the example you are setting to other students, who are looking to you for leadership. What does this say to them?”
I shrugged again wishing Mr Tomlinson would just hand down a ‘sentence’ and let me go so I could get out of there.
“I would expel most students for this sort of behaviour, but I don’t think that’s the answer here. Neither is suspension.”
I sighed, half relieved, but somehow cheated when he finally said, “Because of your outstanding records I am simply going to recommend you see our guidance officer and you will have a week of detention.”