As she hurried to sit back down, Becky failed to notice that Drew had pulled her chair away. That left her sitting back into an empty space, causing her to tip backward, and land heavily on her back. Her legs flew up in the air, and her skirt flapped up around her waist. The whole class roared with laughter at the sight, and the girl who couldn’t do the sums roared “Look at her cute little knickers!” Becky struggled back to her feet and grabbed the chair back from Drew. She was cursing herself for wearing some old knickers with a pattern of small teddy bears. Mrs Waring looked over, shaking her head. “Stop messing around, Rebecca Webster. And the rest of you can shut up too”.
After the morning break, the class had History, with Miss Franzetti. She was very nice, a slim young woman with shiny black hair, and an amazing mouth. She explained that they would be studying the Industrial Revolution; how machines, steam power, and new inventions changed the industrial face of Britain. Becky liked the sound of that, and it gave her an idea too. Then Drew put his hand up. Miss Franzetti looked at the sheet of names. “Drew Tyler, you have a question?” She was smiling, and sounded friendly. Drew grinned. “Can’t we do the Nazis, miss? They were cool”. The teacher didn’t rise to it. “No, I’m afraid Nazis are not in the syllabus this year, Drew. Perhaps in third year, but I make no promises”.
The lesson went well. Miss Franzetti was not bothered by the occasional giggling and obvious lack of attention from some pupils. She got on with the subject, and was quick to answer any questions, explaining things such as how Cotton Mills did away with the need for spinning by hand. As they got to the end of the lesson, she stood up from her desk. “There’s no homework this week, to allow you all to settle in. Does anyone have any questions before you go to lunch?”
Becky’s hand was up before she had time to consider her actions. “Miss, I live in an old watermill. It’s obviously very historical, and I wondered if I can use a school computer to research it. It would be a personal project, and would not affect my other work”. As the teacher thought about her request, a girl called Jessie sitting right at the back muttered. “Ooh, I have a project. Ooh, I live in a watermill. Ooh, I’m so posh. Ooh, and I wear teddy bear panties…”. Everyone else roared with laughter, and Becky sat red-faced, wishing she had kept her mouth shut.
Lunch was eaten alone again, ignoring the jibes about teddy bear panties made by everyone who walked past. Becky was learning when to be quiet.
The afternoon started with science, and they had to go to the big laboratory, in building three. Mr Houghton was a serious-looking young man, and he insisted that they all put on some uncomfortable rubber aprons and plastic safety glasses before he even started the lesson. Becky didn’t care that much for science, but like most things, she found it fairly easy to do. The recent experiences in the school had made her think hard though. She would act dumb for a while, especially in subjects she didn’t care much about.
Mr Houghton made a big speech about dangerous chemicals, before allocating everyone to places around the benches in the laboratory. He stuck pretty much to the arranged seating plan, having to make it more of a standing plan of course. That also meant she was paired with Drew, for the experiment. They had to do something with funnel-shaped jars, adding an acid of some kind to the clear chemical inside, to see if it turned blue. Then the teacher would tell them why that happened, and they would have to write is all down as a record of the experiment. Becky was almost tempted to join in with the groans and head-shaking done by the rest of the class. She really couldn’t see the point of any of this, unless you were set on a career in some boring test lab in the future. Mr Houghton was talking loudly, to make himself heard above the mumbling of the schoolkids. “Be careful with the smallest jar now. That’s acid, and can burn you at that concentration. It should only be handled with the gloves provided”.
Drew slid the big rubbery gloves over to Becky. “You do it, I can’t be arsed with this crap”. He held the larger funnel jar steady, as Becky dripped some of the acid into it. Shaking his head and smirking, Drew shouted. “Oh what a surprise, it’s turned blue! Who would have thought that?” The others laughed, and even Becky had to admit she found it amusing. When every pair had finished, the teacher called out again. “OK class, stand away from the benches, and watch the screen. This will show you what just happened and why it happened”. He turned to switch on the powerpoint projector, and Becky suddenly felt a pain on her foot. Jumping to the side, she saw that the small acid bottle had been tipped over on the bench, and some had run down onto her instep. It had already burned a hole in her tights, and was starting to really hurt her foot. She turned to look at Drew, who was smiling. He spoke very quietly. “Oops”.
At least it got her out of the lesson. She was sent to see Miss Franzetti, who it turned out was also the first aid expert. She took her to the toilets, and made Becky take off her tights, and run her foot under cold water for a long time. When it had stopped hurting, the teacher put a clean adhesive dressing on it, covering the red mark. “It’s not going to scar, don’t worry. I will give you some of the dressings so you can change it, but that acid isn’t as bad as Mr Houghton says it is. I will ring your Mum, and get her to pick you up early. You won’t miss much today now”. Becky smiled at her. “But it burned through my tights miss”. Miss Franzetti just nodded, as if it was nothing at all. “Come with me to the office, and we can call your Mum”.
Mum made a big deal about it when she turned up, and Becky had to plead with her not to go into the school and make an official complaint. Back at home, Mum soon forgot about it, when someone called her from Scotland, asking about a hunting lodge she was designing. Becky decided to go for a walk, and see if she could find Charity. She had a good idea where to look for the girl.
Under the weeping willow, Charity was sitting with her back to the trunk. She pointed at the injured foot as Becky walked up to her. “I warned you about that Drew, I warned you, didn’t I?”
“Show me how the tree tells you things. I want to know all about Drew Tyler”.