My hand drifts upward. It carves a path, parting the air like curtains. Halfway upon its journey, I slice it down again, hiding it behind the curtain I’ve created.
I can feel their eyes staring, despising my willingness to answer. I hear Bonnie’s sigh of relief, knowing she won’t be picked on. It’s our unwritten accord. If she sits behind me, Miss won’t see her and then she won’t have to answer any of her stupid questions. Except I don’t think they’re stupid, I want to answer them, it makes me feel clever. But the staring eyes stab at someone who’s clever. So I say they are stupid questions too.
From the corner of my eye, I perceive Bobbie’s enthusiastic endeavour to gain the teacher’s attention. Perceive is a good word. I learned it out of the book that sounds like a species of dinosaur. The book told me it is another word for ‘see’. Miss likes the words that I take from the book.
Miss barely disguises her groan. Bobbie never answers the question properly and Miss doesn’t like to tell anyone they’re wrong. I’ve noticed that. Like, sometimes I get it wrong when I take a word from the book, but she doesn’t say I’m wrong. She asks me what the word means. She did that when I used the word prodigious to describe mum’s fat belly. I didn’t want to say fat, as I know she doesn’t like it.
Miss asks Amanda instead, but Amanda has it wrong.
“That’s an interesting idea, let’s all consider it. Think back to our plant experiment, what did we find out that would suggest Amanda’s idea works?”
Bobbie waves again.
Bobbie’s ideas never work.
Miss is a doctor of philosophy and she loses her patients. I’m not sure how she does it, I don’t think philosophers have patients, but my mum says she loses her patients too when she’s annoyed. And she’s not a doctor. Once I tried to be helpful and told mum she should look in a surgery. That only made her lose more patients and she had one of those rants about me being too clever for my own good. I promised her I’ll try not to be clever in the future, but that made her babble on about how I made her lose more and more of her patients. She mustn’t have any left. It’s been two days since she lost any.
One day she got like that and I ran away to the bathroom and locked the door. I spent a long time looking at myself in the mirror. I was wearing those blue and silver ribbons in my hair that Rebecca is jealous of. Her cousin told me that she thinks I show off too much. The blue and silver ribbons were one of the many examples she gave me of my show-offiness. As I looked in the mirror, I got an answer that explained everything.
I am an alien.
My mum and dad aren’t really my parents. They don’t look like me. They don’t think like me. They prodigiously tell me I don’t act like them. No-one likes me, except Miss, but she doesn’t count. If she likes you, you get teased about being her pet.
Miss has eyes that perceive everywhere. Her attention shifts around the room until it rests upon me like an unwanted flea. I look at my hand as if it has a will of its own and frown at its obstinance. In vain hope, I look behind me to see who she is looking at. I don’t want to answer now. I’m an alien and I need to keep it a secret.
Bonnie shrinks, but Miss isn’t looking at her. Everyone is looking at me. In my mind, I am escaping in a ship to the darkest reaches of space reporting on Earth’s lost patients and wrong answers to questions. But the eyes don’t go away. I make another report. Humans have eyes that dig into your skin like the tips of a monster’s fingers. The teacher says something I can’t decipher. She doesn’t speak alien language. I look hopefully toward Bobbie who is furiously waving his hand.
It occurs to me Bobbie has one single idea that works. I don’t want to steal it, but I do.
I straighten myself up, and take note of all the eyes narrowing, accusing me of being teacher’s pet. I clear my throat and proudly turn to face my tormentors.
“Please, Miss, may I go to the toilet?”
Written as a combined response to Calen’s Sandbox Challenge No. 60 and the University of Iowa’s ‘Storied Women’ online course assignment.