CHAPTER THREE – THE SUBSTITUTE TEACHER
Cory Jansen’s vivid green eyes sparkled and he and Pierce Desrosiers readied the traps in their classroom, the dreaded section B-13. The principal was expected for his routine monthly visit this morning, and the entire class wanted to be especially…welcoming.
“Yo Cory, I think we should’ve gotten green paint instead of red,” Pierce commented, struggling to balance the paint can on the makeshift platform they had rigged up on top of the doorway.
“That’ll do,” Cory replied, checking in on Tatsouya Sagara and Jeff Querada as they set the snake cage by the door. Two de-fanged rattlesnakes hissed from inside their prison.
Dave Barker snickered as he set the timers for the smoke bombs by the door, right next to the rattlesnakes. Without doubt, Principal Murray was going to have a very memorable, very explosive visit to B-13 this morning.
Taylor James and Rommel Croft ran into the room just then, flashing a thumbs-up sign to Cory, the leader of the rebellious contingent in their section. “Everyone to their places! And look nice,” Rommel called out, running a hand through his mussed-up hair and trying to look as normal as possible.
And so twenty-eight students posed in their various and usual positions around the room. Seeing the entire B-13 class looking still and studious, so different from their usual state, was creepy to say the least.
“Ready,” whispered Cory, as the footsteps began to increase in volume. “NOW!”
The classroom door opened.
The explosives gave out a heroic bang, smoke billowed throughout the room, and the rattlesnakes slithered onto the floor around the ankles of the principal’s entourage (were there really only two snakes?). And last but not the least, the paint can began teetering and tottering and finally fell in a splash of brilliant colour.
“Bloody hell!” A muffled, outraged voice boomed. When the smoke finally settled down, a very wet, very angry, very red Principal Murray reemerged right before their eyes. “BOYS!” he roared. “Is that what we teach you here? Such delinquency! Such disrespect! I will NOT tolerate behaviour like this! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
The drenched man began marching off in a huff. “Mrs. Barrow,” he spat over his shoulder. “Please introduce Mademoiselle Dereveau to that…that…that class.”
“Bye-bye!” the boys called out, waving gleefully. “Come again soon!”
Two straight-faced aides rushed into the room and began cleaning up the spectacular mess. They put the snakes back in captivity and began mopping up the paint. Jeff grabbed the cage and ran back to his seat before anyone could protest.
“Well, well. What a nice way to welcome Miss Dereveau to her first day of class,” snapped Mrs. Barrow, the school registrar. “Step in, Miss Dereveau. And please forgive their plebeian behaviour. So mischievous, non?”
Zelda stepped in uneasily, all her courage oozing out at the sight of the tall, scrutinizing seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds staring at her. She did need her gun, all right. And so much more. They looked to her like monsters waiting to swallow her whole.
“Good morning,” she said faintly, attempting an apprehensive little smile.
“This is Miss Karyna Dereveau,” said Mrs. Barrow, her voice like a whip. Zelda flinched, allowing the older woman to lead her to the front of the room. “She will be your new homeroom adviser, as well as your intro to psychology teacher. Miss Dereveau, I leave you in charge.”
With that, Mrs. Barrow sailed out of the room, leaving Zelda to steel herself and face the class. All of them were a good five inches taller than her, so she had to look up at them.
She was inwardly freaking out, but thankfully had the ability to remain absolutely solemn and expressionless, no matter the situation. Breathing in deeply, she summoned common sense to her side and attempted a light smile. “My name is Karyna Dereveau, and I’ll permit you to call me by name. I’m new to teaching, and I’ve just turned 21 a few weeks ago. Um, we’re going to start by checking attendance.”
Zelda quickly spun around to retrieve the attendance sheet in her desk. Her hand landed on something cold and squishy. She picked up the rattlesnake (so there was a third one) and held it out to the class. “Pets are not allowed in class, so please keep that in mind. Okay. Ted Armstrong?”
A boy with a fauxhawk and a t-shirt spray-painted with an anarchy symbol scowled at her. “Here. Whadda ya want?”
Zelda’s anger momentarily surged. Why, you disrespectful little punk… She cleared her throat and faked a smile instead. “Ivan Avdeitch?”
“Present!” A brown-haired boy with smudged eyeliner and wild hair yelled.
“David Barker…?” and so on and so forth. Halfway through the roll, someone began strumming an electric guitar and the classroom erupted into chaos. A slightly pink flush of anger appeared on Zelda’s white face.
Nobody paid attention to her. They kept on shouting insults at each other across the room.
“I. Said. Keep. Quiet.” Zelda’s eyes were black with anger. Confused by her quiet rage, the class settled down.
Reminding herself to rein in her mounting rage, she calmed down and resumed checking attendance. “Is Bryce Blythe here?” Another one of the punk-rock contingent, the one who had threatened to hit David with the guitar, looked up and raised his hand.
“No hitting in the classroom, especially with guitars. Barry Bronson?”
All went as merry as a whistle until she called on Ren Monteiro.
She looked at Cory, who was the obvious ringleader. “Where is this person?”
Cory shrugged. “Why’re you asking me? Ask the goth guys over there at the back.”
“Oh. Um, goth guys?”
They all glowered in response.
They glowered again.
Impatiently, Zelda began cracking her knuckles out of habit. “Mitchell Varona,” she called out, glancing away from her wafer-thin tablet computer. “Where is Ren.”
Mitch, one of the ‘goth guys,’ opened one eye and looked at her languidly. “Sleeping.”
“By the basketball court.”
Groaning, Zelda told them to read three pages of their psych textbook and left the room to find Ren Moteiro. Whoever he was, she hated him already.
It was hot outside, and Zelda didn’t really want to risk sun exposure. Her eyes roamed over the vast expanse of the school grounds, mentally mapping out a route that would be sunlight-free. Sighing, she set to work scaling the wire fence of the football stadium to take a shortcut across, completely unaware of the stares from her students, who were by now clustered around the classroom windows.
After all, what teacher could climb wire fences that fast? And who would risk it? Didn’t the principal forbid climbing fences? No doubt this teacher was strange, far weirder than anyone paid to teach them before. What a pity she probably wouldn’t last – the record so far was six weeks.
“Maybe she’s not too bad,” suggested Kyle Louis, one of the skaters.
Everyone glared at him.
“Where in the world is that guy?” muttered Zelda, looking around the covered court. So far, there was no sign of human life anywhere. Angrily, she stormed out of the court and squinted in the bright daylight. The sun was merciless today, despite the fact that it was technically still winter.
Her ears pricked up at a slight scuffling noise, and her gaze suddenly zeroed in on the soccer field, where a tall boy was asleep, reclining on the bleachers.
“There you are, you pain in the neck,” murmured Zelda, sprinting over, sun or no sun.
Ren Monteiro couldn’t express his feelings when he was jarred out of a peaceful nap by an odd, tense-looking girl. “Wake up,” she had ordered, prodding him with a sneaker-clad foot.
“Who are you?” he challenged sleepily, sitting up and raking back his platinum blonde hair.
“I am your new homeroom adviser. Get up. Go.”
Surprised, he got up and gaped at her. What were the school trustees thinking, giving them a young, pretty, fragile-looking thing? Did they think that sweet, coaxing methods would instantly turn them into little angels?
“Let’s go back,” Zelda said, heading back towards the fence “and stop staring. I’m not as helpless as you think.”
“Are you crazy? We’re not allowed to climb fences!”
Zelda reached the top of the ten-foot fence and jumped down on the other side. “Well, I’m telling you to.”
“I’ve never climbed a fence in my life,” Ren informed her crossly. “If I fall and break my neck, it’s gonna be your fault.”
“I’ll risk it. Now don’t look down, and don’t jump. Scale down.”
Ignoring her, Ren carefully held onto the top of the fence. He started to get ready to jump, but his foot slipped suddenly and he ended up on the ground sooner than he intended to. As he sat there groaning, Zelda raised an eyebrow and began to walk towards the school building. “That’s why I told you not to jump, idiot.”
“This is all your fault!” he accused. “I can’t walk. I’ve broken my ankle.”
If the teacher was the least bit alarmed, she didn’t show it. Ren watched her slow down and look back, however. “I remember telling you specifically not to jump,” she repeated, somewhat testily. She bent down and began feeling his ankle with her slender fingers, which were cool to the touch. “Wait. Nothing’s–“
“Sucker!” He cried, springing up and running ahead, leaving her white-lipped with anger and embarrassment.
Great. Just great. On her first day, she had witnessed a deliberate commando attack on the principal, almost got caught in a clash inside the classroom, and had been made to look like a fool. In three hours, they succeeded in making her feel more moronic than ever in her life.
Please, she prayed ardently. If there are any deities listening, please let the ground open up and swallow me alive before I start killing these kids one-by-one.