Andi got up from a game winning slide to home plate and started brushing herself off, sneezing as a cloud of dust formed around her. I turned to go inside when Cory said,
“You’re... um... awfully dirty, Andi. I wonder what the teacher’ll say.”
I saw my chance to once more irk my schoolmate. “I know what my father
will say,” I said. “He’ll say he’s never seen such a dreadful sight.
Then, he’ll probably send her home from school.”
I could tell Andi knew I was right.
“You needn’t rub it in,” she said, shaking the dust from her braids.
I stepped forward, wrinkling my nose. “You look like one of those dirty little beggar boys I used to see in the city, roaming the streets and picking through garbage. A shame, really. You come from such a fine family.”
Andi straightened up and glared at me. She didn’t move, trying to decide what to do, just glaring at me.
“You gonna let her insult you like that, Andi?” Johnny called out, a grin on his face that showed he was thoroughly enjoying this.
My eyes widened. How dare she insult me like that in front of the whole class! I reached out and slapped her across the face. There. That would show her, I thought smugly. Yet I was not prepared for what came next.
For a moment Andi stared at me, and I was afraid she would slap me back.
But she did something else: Andi tackled me.
We landed on the ground with a thud that knocked the breath out of me, and I shrieked with surprise. She straddled me.
“Don’t ever hit me again!” she shouted. “Don’t lie to me. And stop getting me into trouble with your father! Understand?”
I squirmed and tossed my head from side to side. “You’re crushing me,” I whimpered. Although she wasn’t heavy at all, it was quite uncomfortable, and why not make it as dramatic as possible? “I-I can’t breathe. I’m going to be sick.” One of my flailing hand caught and ripped away some of the lace trim on Andi’s dress. It dangled in my face.
“Stop it, Andi!” Cory yelled. He grabbed her arm and dragged her off of me.
As I regained my breath, I saw my father striding across the schoolyard.
“Why has no one returned to class?” he called out. “The bell rang. Is someone injured?” He pushed his way through the crowd of gawking students. “You will be marked tardy if-” He stopped short at the sight of Andi and I sprawled on the ground.
I began sobbing, though not because I was hurt; it melted my father’s heart toward me every time.
Father gave a low moan, then flung himself down beside me. “Virginia, what happened?”
I just clutched Father and wailed, sobbing my heart out; or so it seemed to him. I was quite proud of my performance, and I was sure that when Christmas came, I would get the leading role in the pageant.
Father looked at Andi. “What is the meaning of this outrage? Two young
ladies- my daughter- sitting in the dirt. For shame! Rise at once and return to the schoolroom.” Then he rounded on the other students and roared, “All of you. Back to class.”
Andi scrambled to her feet, breathing hard. I rose shakily, took a few halting steps, and staggered against Father with a moan. “She called me a liar,” I said between sobs. “She attacked me and sat on me and was beating-”
“You are a liar,” Andi interrupted me.
“Enough!” Father held me close. “Not another word. I have eyes, and I know very well who’s to blame for this incident.”
Andi turned and dashed to the schoolhouse.
“Virginia, dear, can you walk?” Father asked me.
“I-I think so,” I replied, leaning heavily on him as we walked back to the schoolhouse. I had stopped crying by the time we entered the building, and I’m sure I looked completely awful, with tear streaks down my dusty face, my hair hanging wildly about my face; and for once I was just fine with it.
Father marched to the front of the room and slammed his hand down on his desk, making me jump. “I have never, in all my years of teaching, been witness to such a sight as I saw today. It is a disgrace that a young lady under my instruction should behave in such an unseemly manner.”
He paused for breath. “Andrea Carter, you make a mockery of your family’s good name and their position in this town. You are unruly, short-tempered, and lack any shred of self-control. You have bullied another student, without thought for her delicate constitution. I have no choice but to punish you.”
It was about time Andi got punished for calling me a liar.
“It’s true I knocked her down, Mr. Foster. But Virginia slapped me first,” Andi said hopefully; but I knew my father wouldn’t buy it.
“That’s right!” Cory came to the rescue, as usual. “Virginia was doing her own share of name calling, and Andi never touched her. It’s both their faults.”
“Why don’t you be fair and punish ‘em both?” Jack called.
Father hit his ruler across his desk so hard that it broke in half. He shook the half in his hand at Cory and Jack. “Enough.” He tossed the ruler aside and looked and Andi. “A well-bred young lady does not attack a schoolmate- especially another young lady- no matter what the provocation.”
He stepped to the corner and picked up the switch; I mean, the switch. The one that was the terror of all the children in the class. “Since you have behaved like a rowdy boy, you will be punished as one.”
Andi became pale, and I became uneasy. A rap with the ruler would have done it, but a switch? Perhaps Father was taking this a bit too far.
Father held up the switch. “Rise and pass to the front, Miss Carter.”
I could see the fear in Andi’s eyes as she said, “P-please, Mr. Foster, couldn’t you send a note home instead?”
I began to feel sorry for her, which surprised me; I hadn’t felt sorry for anyone for a long time. I was about to speak up and suggest to Father that perhaps the switch was a bit too much when Father himself spoke.
“Certainly not. I handle my own disci-” He broke off and stared at the back of the room.
“Leave her alone.”
I turned around in my seat to see who dared challenge my father. I wasn’t surprised to see who it was, and I was somewhat relieved to know that Andi wouldn’t be getting a whipping.
Chad Carter didn’t look happy.