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Thursday, 25 August 2016

A Step Too Far - Chapter 2

The entire third grade sat in a daze on the first day with their new teacher.  Some looked blankly out the window, others fidgeted with whatever was to hand.  The middle aged man droned in a monotone about the subject of the hour - math - not expecting anyone to learn a thing and long since past caring if they did.  One boy near the back intently picked his nose with all the gusto of a miner during a gold rush.  One girl, Stephanie, looked desperate, like she was about to cry.  It was a struggle to keep up with math before, but she could never learn this, and would be in trouble for it.

The entire class, but for one that is.  At a casual glance, Annie could have passed as just another student in the room, but anything more than that and the illusion would quickly shatter.  While the other children struggled to remain on their seats, Annie sat comfortably and straight in her chair.  Head down, her bright green eyes were a strong contrast to her dark brown hair, and to the dead looks on every other face in the room.  They were focused intently on the notepad in front of her.  The pencil in her right hand flowed swiftly over the page she was holding gently flat with her left hand to ensure an even surface.

Her hand danced over the page, effortlessly forming shapes that became faces, and trees, and animals.  From her nine years of experience, she knew not to look too interested in what she was doing, or it would draw attention to her and likely upset her teacher.  She certainly didn’t dare use colours.  Sometimes it was hard to look bored, as was expected of students in class, but in a way it was a skill, like acting, and it was fun to practice.  Truth be told, she wasn’t very good at it.

She already knew the math from when she was little, but still listened as she drew, to ensure she missed nothing of importance.  The words the teacher used were long and grand, forcing even Annie into her dictionary once or twice - the only times her attention went off her drawing.

The drawings she made quickly filled the first page with characters all of her own creation, with careful shading and texturing giving an almost lifelike sense of dimension and motion to the simple grey and white characters.  Lines of perfect cursive, that would have been calligraphy if such a pen were to hand, crafted a short, simple story.  Just something she dreamed up some days ago and hadn’t got around to giving life to yet.

Annie paused for a moment as she heard a quiet sniffle come from Stephanie in the corner, and knew she was holding back tears.  She was a nice girl - they played together sometimes - but she was often sad, and struggled to keep up at the best of times.  From the moment the new teacher introduced himself, Annie knew Stephanie would be in trouble.

She quickly resumed her drawing and kept her attention on that, not wanting to have it incomplete by the end of class.

The remainder of the class went by with Annie silently, swiftly, yet carefully drawing and writing away, her work done as the bell rang for the end of the day.  Even that wasn’t enough to bring the children out of their daze immediately, but as Annie neatly packed away her things and carefully folded her drawings, most of them brightened up remembering it was time to go home, and the sounds of chatter and laughter quickly filled the room.

Stephanie was the last one out of the room besides Annie, walking slowly and bumping into a table as she headed to the door.  Annie walked up beside her and gently put a hand on her arm, giving her a smile and handing her the pages she had been working intently on during the class.  Stephanie took the pages, saying nothing as Annie walked away.

Stephanie went and sat alone outside, not having the energy or the desire to get her things and walk home.  She had no idea why Annie had handed her those pages, she was always a bit strange, but was never mean to her, unlike the other kids.  Not yet anyway.  She hoped Annie hadn’t noticed her in class, sniffling away, and made one of her drawings, but with her as some kind of stupid character, sobbing and looking useless.  She didn’t think Annie would do that, but if any of the other kids could draw, they certainly would.

She unfolded the pages and glanced over the images.  No stupid looking girls with drool, or snot, or horns, and as pretty as all her drawings were, if not as colourful.  She started reading the story Annie pulled from who knows where.  The story of a young girl who needed to learn a great secret, to save her lost brother.  It must have taken her days to draw and write such a thing.  And almost hidden amongst the story, the basics of numbers, and symbols and all the complexities of long, impossible to remember words, woven into the simplest of images and ideas.

Stephanie sat reading the pages over and over again for half an hour, hardly able to believe what she was seeing.  Annie had taught her the entire lesson without speaking a single word.

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