*This piece is part of an ongoing short story*
You can read parts one through sixteen HERE!
Helena sits in the mint colored booth, dressed in a flannel plaid shirt and jeans that most women Mrs. Statton’s age would consider tights. She moves the straw around slowly through her vanilla shake and waits for what she knows is the inevitable question.
“So, how long have you liked reading?”
Helena’s brow instantly furrows. It’s not what she was expecting.
“The first day we met, you said Book Club would be social suicide for you. There’s a difference between that answer and simply saying you’re not into reading.”
Helena’s furrow turns to a blush.
“I dunno. I’ve always liked reading. Since I was little. Probably ever since I could, I guess.”
“I enjoy reading too. It gets me away from my real life crap.”
The word crap, coming from Mrs. Statton, surprises Helena yet again but she recovers quickly.
“Well, it’s probably not your idea of crap, but there’s definitely crap.”
Stephanie’s sip leaves a faint strawberry smear on her lower lip, which she licks away instinctively. She’s starting to perspire despite the cool air of the ice cream shop and hopes Helena can’t detect her discomfort.
“Speaking of crap, maybe we should discuss the essay you handed in to Mr. Crawford.”
“Oh, okay. So an F.”
Helena hangs her head, embarrassed at having put herself out there only to receive a failing grade. She should’ve known better. She did know better.
“God, no.” Again the counselor is bold, using language not common for school admin. Their eyes meet and Helena has to look away, realizing in the moment, that Mrs. Statton knows everything. Knows all her crap.
“It’s just,” Stephanie plays with her wobbly wedding ring. “When a student writes about something like that, it’s our responsibility to follow up on it.”
“Our? Who else has read it?” Helena doesn’t have time to mask her panic-stricken face.
“Well, Mr. Crawford, of course. But when that type of material is passed to me, it’s my duty to bring it to Mr. Anass’ attention as well.”
Helena cringes and her hand flies up to her hair. She’s disliked Anass since shaking his sweaty, flimsy hand in front of the office that first day and has done everything possible to stay off his radar until this. She somehow hadn’t understood the big picture upon handing in her essay and sitting here now, she’s baffled by her own naiveté. Anger surfaces at having brought herself into the forefront, the opposite of where she likes to be.
“I’m sorry,” Stephanie starts to apologize, “I had to. But, I’ve told him I’ll deal with it from…” A shrill chime cuts her off mid-sentence.
“I have to go.” Her face looks pained. “I can drop you…actually, no, I think you should come with me.”
Helena has little choice but to follow behind her counselor, wondering why in the world she’d ever put pen to paper.
“Anyway,” says Stephanie, rushing to get to her car. “I have no choice but to bring your mother into the loop too, but I wanted to talk to you first.”
Her mother. Gladys is the one thing Helena had kept to herself. After all, that wasn’t her crap to tell.