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She sat behind her desk, trying to stifle a yawn. She wished that she was somewhere else – anywhere else, as long as it wasn’t work. She was sick of it. Maybe she’d made the wrong career choice.

Still, at least her work wasn’t exactly taxing. She could pretty much sit there and do nothing for the next hour, at least. She had that dinner to plan, so at least she had something to think about instead of listening to them drone on. She’d decided on a main course, but she hadn’t tried the recipe before – never a good idea, when you’re trying to impress. If she went shopping after work, she could try it out this –

“Miss?”

She blinked and looked at the boy.

“Miss, I don’t know how to say this word. It’s too long.”

She sighed. You’d think by this age they’d be able to manage reading aloud without constant help.

“Try breaking it down into little pieces,” she said. Honestly. This book was specifically recommended for eleven year olds, how difficult could any of the words in it be?

He looked at the book and frowned. “Anti,” he started, looking up at her nervously. She nodded in a way she hoped was encouraging, while she thought about steaks.

“Dises. Tablish. Ment. Arian. Ism,” he said. “Antidisestablishmentarianism. Is that right?”

She didn’t care. “Yes, well done. Carry on.”

“But what does it mean, miss?”

She looked at him for a moment, silent. She had no clue. She’d never heard it before. Don’t show them fear, she thought. Never let them know you don’t know something. They have to believe you know it all, or you’re doomed.

“It’s just lots of little words strung together,” she said confidently. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Miss?”

A voice came from the other side of the classroom and she looked. It was that girl. With her pigtails and broken sellotaped glasses, she looked the picture of innocence, but she wasn’t fooled. The other teachers had warned her about this kid; just like her brothers, they said.

“Miss, it means being opposed to the disestablishment of the church, miss.”

There was silence. She was doomed. The entire class knew. She could feel them all staring at her. They were laughing at her. They knew, and they would question everything she said for the rest of their school careers. It was like that bad dream where she was completely naked in the staff room.

“Carry on reading, Jamie,” she said coldly, glaring at the obnoxious little girl.

Forget about the steak. She’d just buy a big bottle of wine.

© Kari Fay

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