International Writers Magazine:
I loved our teacher,
Mrs Hill. She was plump and cuddly, and her kind face, framed by soft
curls, was nearly always smiling. She was never cross; well, she was sometimes
with some of the others, but never with me. I was a compliant, diligent
pupil. She always told my mother how well-behaved I was. But she wasnt
smiling now; and I was terrified that she was going to discover that I
was actually wicked and deceitful.
the boy or girl who did this owns up, said Mrs Hill, the
whole class will stay in and miss playtime. She stood at the
front of the classroom and slowly scanned the room for a confessional
Oh, the misery! The whole class kept in because of me?
Miss! Martin had called out. He had just placed his model
on the long cupboard where we displayed our artwork. Someones
models got broke.
Mrs Hill hurried over. She picked up the pieces and looked for the scratched
Oh, dear, Im afraid its yours, Barbara, she said,
and Barbara started crying. She wasnt all that good at art and the
dragon was the best thing shed done in ages.
It wasnt really my fault. The green clay dragon was rickety. I didnt
know it would topple over if I touched it. I only moved it to try to make
space for my own model, but it tipped over and fell to the floor, breaking
into five pieces. There was so much chatter going on that no-one else
seemed to notice.
Who knocked over Barbaras dragon? said Mrs Hill, looking
round, her voice stern.
Geoffrey, in the act of placing his model on the cupboard, looked worried.
I done nuffin, Miss! he piped up quickly.
Immobilised by the awfulness of what I had done, I hadnt yet returned
to my desk, but now I was edging away from the cupboard. Mrs Hill spotted
Do you know anything about this, Carolyn? she said.
Mute, I kept my eyes fixed on the floor and shook my head. But I knew
my face was aflame.
Are you sure?
I nodded, slowly, torn between a natural sense of honesty and the horror
of having to admit that I had been careless. How could I say Id
broken Barbaras best model? I couldnt bear to.
Very well, said Mrs Hill, returning to her desk. Three times
she repeated her warning about missing playtime, but I couldnt bring
myself to own up and my friends had to spend twenty minutes reading in
I kept my face bent over my book, my hair forming a short curtain that
hid my shame and the occasional tear that I was struggling to hold back.
I watched Barbara out of the corner of my eye, her grubby face streaked
with dried tears, her podgy hands making a hopeless job of trying to fit
the dragon back together. Mrs Hill came over to comfort her.
Can we stick it back, Miss? said Barbara.
Mrs Hill shook her head, but Barbara started sobbing again.
Please, Miss! she wailed. Its my bestest ever!
Mrs Hill sighed, went to get some strong glue, and spent the rest of the
break reassembling the dragon.
Occasionally I stole a glance at the others too: I peeked from behind
my curtain to see children turning and whispering to their neighbours.
And were they pointing at me? I couldnt be sure.
The next lesson was history, my favourite. But I couldnt concentrate
and had no enthusiasm for answering questions.
Carolyn? said Mrs Hill, I am sure you know the answer.
I did, but I could only stare miserably at my desk and shake my head.
But Mrs Hill knew the truth: shed read it in my anxious face and
tense shoulders. At the end of the day, she asked me to stay behind.
Well, Carolyn, she said gently, do you have something
to tell me?
The dam of remorse burst in great heaving sobs. With big splashy tears
wetting my cardigan, I poured out my shame and guilt, relieved at last
to be able to unburden my misery at the end of a long unhappy afternoon.
© Carolyn Hughes October 2007
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