Good morning. My name is Miss Quinn. Q – U – I – N – N. Choose a pen that writes the colour of your curiosity, mark your books with your name and mine.
Lessons start on time. Latecomers will have their dreams extracted and sealed in manila envelopes, to be returned at the end of term. Do not complain if your envelope is empty; a dream will escape if it is determined enough.
In my desk drawer there is a postcard from Australia, some withered daffodils tied with string, an assortment of goodbyes from former pupils, and a resignation letter written two years ago, never sent.
This, children, is a smartboard. It snatches your thoughts as they drift around the stale air and spits them out as printed hieroglyphs on a page. Try to hold back the pheromones that your adolescent hearts throw across the room like streamers. Your desire will be printed onto poster-sized sheets in blood-red ink, then blu-tacked to the walls for all to see.
Talking is not permitted in class. Nor is flirting, the telling of secrets, or the whispering of threats. Promises of friendship should be taken lightly; they will be forgotten by half-term. You may bring me broken pencils to be sharpened, but you must mend your broken hearts yourself.
Mobile phones will be confiscated. If I seize one I shall drop it from the bell-tower to smash on the ground and release the devil inside that clasps your soul through its glowing window. When your parents complain I will look them in the eye and say a magpie did it.
Incorrect apostrophes will be crushed like bugs and swept into the incinerator.
Homework will be set on Friday and collected on Monday. Excuses will not be tolerated, not even if a tidal wave has swept through your house, a three-headed dog has eaten your books, or you have spent two exhausting days and nights dancing in the grip of a pair of enchanted shoes. Detention will be spent writing a list of lost opportunities. Spelling tests may include these words: transcendent, irretrievable, renunciation, chimera.
If you need me out of lesson times I may be in a forsaken corner of the staff room, staring into the winking darkness of my coffee. Or I may be in the car park, sucking at a menthol cigarette and watching the years dissolve like smoke.
When the bell rings you must wait for my signal before gathering your books. Do not speak as you jostle for the freedom of the corridor where the ghosts of past pupils flow by, white as milk.
I will remain in this classroom, where you will remember me amongst the echoes, the fingerprinted desks, and the chairs still warm.
Angelita’s short fiction has been published in literary magazines including Litro, The Cabinet of Heed, and The Fiction Pool, as well as anthologies including Nothing Is As It Was, a collection of stories about climate change. She won the 2017 National Memory Day short story prize and has been shortlisted or highly commended in other competitions including the Fish Prize. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and lives in London. Website: angelitabradney.com. Twitter: @AngelBradn.