Under normal circumstances, I’d probably have sat there blushing and trying not to cry, waiting for the floor to open up and swallow me. But normal
circumstances these were not. My blood began to boil. There’s really no better way to describe it. As I was getting angrier and angrier, holding my breath and biting my tongue, my bum involuntarily clenching the seat, it felt as if my blood was progressively heating up to a gentle simmer, then to a brisk boil until it became an aggressive, red-hot throb under my skin, my head pounding apace, as I fumed at the crazy injustice of it all. I’d never been so damn mad in all my life. I wanted to jump up and tell her to stop being such a loony. I wanted to punch her on the nose. I didn’t for a minute imagine myself doing it, though. Of course not. Good Girls Do Not Shout At People In Authority. But, wooh boy, was I wrong. They do. Sometimes they do worse. And when Good Girls Disobey, you had better bloody well get out of the way.
I was having a really crap day – it was my birthday, I was pregnant, nauseous, scared and angry. And here comes a mad woman accusing me of something I hadn’t done. I’d had enough. If this were a cartoon, my face would’ve been bright red and steam would have been billowing out of my ears.
Suddenly my clenched bum gave up its valiant struggle – it could keep me on my seat no longer. I shot to my feet, stumbling away a few paces. Ms H stopped in mid-harangue, stunned into silence. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The whole class sat enthralled: this was good stuff. The mousy little girl nobody ever noticed was about to get herself into some deep shit and they were fascinated.
I stood at the table, shocked that I’d even gone this far. Oooh crap, what the hell now? I couldn’t very well sit down again. That would look stupid. Besides, I was still angry. Wild-eyed, I was running on adrenaline now and not thinking straight at all. Sensible Tracy was cowering in a corner somewhere, gibbering and terrified. She was no help.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Ms H asked. She had recovered enough composure to rustle up some face-saving sarcasm. She truly thought I’d surrender, but we were both horrified to discover that this was not going to happen.
“I’m … I’m … I’m going out! I’m leaving!” I declared, all overblown bluster and pretend confidence. The high-noon moment ticked away as we stood staring each other down, eyes narrowed and fingers twitching. The class sat breathless: who would fold first? As the adrenaline and anger drained away, it left only dismay and terminal embarrassment. I had to get out of there before I burst into tears. I started towards the door.
“You’re not going anywhere, young lady! Get back here this instant!” yelled Ms H, nostrils flaring and panic rising. Clearly, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I ignored her this time – if I’d tried to talk, I would’ve cracked. I swept out of the class in what I hoped was dramatic fashion, tripping over a small wastepaper basket and nearly breaking an ankle. As I slammed the door behind me, the nausea and flashy lights started. I almost passed out then, but I staggered into the library and sat down to catch my breath. I skulked in the teen fiction section for two hours before anybody found me.
Ms H didn’t drag me to the principal demanding a public hanging for gross insubordination. Oh no, it was far worse than that. She sat me down in her office (a grand name for the printing room, a dusty cavern with ancient printing machines lurking threateningly in the corner) and flicked the Concerned Mentor switch.
“Tell me, Tracy. There must be something going on. This isn’t like you…” She was actually being kind, or at least trying. I was silent, sullen, miserable. I wouldn’t tell her, I wouldn’t. If I blabbed now, it would spoil everything. It would all be over. They’d send me away and our Plan would be ruined.
I tried to hold onto my anger, hoping it would keep my mouth shut. I thought she was trying to trick me, acting concerned so I’d spill my guts all over her yellow shoes (they were yellow! I remember now! So she must have been wearing her yellow suit that day, after all! I knew it!)
She started guessing.
“Is everything All Right At Home? Are your parents getting divorced?” I shook my head. Good grief.
“Are you eating properly? You haven’t been starving yourself have you? You know, you girls and your diets, I just don’t understand it.”
Jay-zus woman! Do I look like a freaking anorexic to you? I nearly laughed at that one, but just shook my head again. It was the Spanish Inquisition without the instruments of torture, although I was beginning to wonder about those printing machines.
She ran down the list of Society’s Ills, trying to get me to admit to something. Abusive parents, drugs, depression, bulimia – everything except pregnancy. I don’t know why she didn’t think of it. Perhaps, like everyone else, she couldn’t quite believe that Dreary Virginal Tracy had ever been within spitting distance of a boy.
I was starting to lose it. Somewhere around, “Are You Trapped In A Polygamous Religious Cult?”, my strained self-control snapped and shot across the room like a cheap elastic band. Twang! I’d tried so hard to keep quiet, but she was like a Jack Russell with a bone and I was no match for her.
“No! No! It’s nothing like that! I’m pregnant!” I barked. Shock. Horror. Damn.