Holly was good at cricket. Playing cricket on the oval at lunchtime was the closest she had come to making friends so far at her new school. When she played, some of the older boys talked with her and joked with her—no one else ever did. But today she didn’t play. She just sat on one of the old truck tyres under the gum trees and watched. Well, she pretended to watch. Her attention was fixed upon the classroom door. Twenty minutes into lunchtime and Miss Harvey had still not left the room. Maybe she was reading Holly’s story. No, probably not—she still had all those papers to mark. But you never know… Finally, Miss Harvey emerged and shut the door behind her; her high heels tapped along the concrete as she walked away along the path. Holly watched her with an eagle eye. She carried only her keys. Hmm. No matter. You can’t expect too much straight away. At her old school, Holly’s teachers had often taken her writing with them at lunchtime to the staff room to show the other teachers. They always returned after the lunch break full of pride and gushing with praise. Then came the gold stars. Rarely did a story of hers earn less than two. Twice a year, on average, her teacher would read one of Holly’s stories to the whole school during assembly. Last year she reached even greater heights: her story about the magic mailbox was published in the school yearbook.
But Miss Harvey didn’t know all that. Holly had only been at the school a month. That was okay. Miss Harvey would discover Holly’s gift soon enough.
The afternoon dragged on unbearably. First, a boring science lesson that grabbed Holly’s attention for only a few seconds, when it introduced her to a new word: tundra. After that was a maths lesson revising the previous two weeks’ learning. The final twenty minutes of the day was spent on a test about fractions. If Harold eats four equal slices of watermelon, and two equal slices are left over… who cares? Buy another watermelon if you’re hungry. Holly found it hard to concentrate.
With ten minutes to go before the bell rang to signal the end of the school day, Holly heard a soft jingle from the front of the otherwise silent room. She glanced up to see Miss Harvey reaching across her desk and taking her notebook from the pile. Holly filled in a wildly incorrect answer to question seven as she watched her teacher from the corner of her eye. Miss Harvey opened Holly’s book and began reading. A few seconds in, Miss Harvey’s eyebrows raised. Holly smiled to herself. Miss Harvey’s face became serious, and curious, and her eyes were glued to the page. Holly felt good, but she wasn’t going to get ahead of herself. This was a different school after all, and she was not yet familiar with her new teacher’s mannerisms. Her anxiety was set as ease, though, when Chantelle Berry raised her hand to say she had finished the test. Without looking up, Miss Harvey told Chantelle to check her test, and then, if she was happy with her answers, she could read silently until the bell rang.
Holly peeked up at Miss Harvey a few minutes later, and saw her wiping a single tear from her eye with the back of her finger. A tear. Holly’s funnier stories had once or twice evoked a chuckle from her teachers, and her more serious works had inspired looks of empathy, but never had her writing moved a grown-up to tears—well, a tear.
The bell rang.
The students packed up and received their homework instructions from the teacher, before converging at the doorway and pouring out like a boisterous liquid through a funnel. Holly made herself last to leave. She wandered past the teacher’s desk, but Miss Harvey didn’t look up or speak to her: she was back to marking papers.
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