60 minutes for this one in a 90 minute timed exercise. It was spawned from a larger YA novel I’ve been dabbling with.
Gracie twirls her hair around her finger, her attention riveted on Mr. Hamer. It’s all I can do to hold down my lunch because Mr. Hamer is our chemistry and study hall teacher. He’s thirty-three, married and has two kids, one of whom is only six months old. He’s also screwing Gracie.
She’s sixteen like me.
As soon as I hit send on this email, my life at Skyview High as I know it now will come to a screeching halt. My mouse hovers over the send button but before I press it, I double-check my recipients. Mr. Gleason, our principal. Check. Mrs. Goldstein, our guidance counselor. Check. Gracie Underwood. Check. And the most difficult one of all, Mr. Hamer. Check.
Mr. Hamer already knows I’ve discovered his affair with Gracie. We had a long chat yesterday during which time he offered me a check to keep my mouth shut. Five hundred dollars he offered me, begged me to take in exchange for my silence.
A niggle of temptation darts through me as I catch his eye. That kind of money can buy an iPod or cover a down payment on a car. I imagine four weeks’ worth of groceries that include meat that isn’t canned or ground, name brand products by Kraft and Campbells and Heinz and not the stuff they sell in the plain white cans with black lettering.
His silent pleas bore their way into my head.
I’m such a hypocrite. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Sixteen year old girls have sex all the time. But not with their teachers.
Gracie turns to stare me down. Has he told her? Of course he has. She rises and walks slowly to the back of the room, her pencil in hand and a grim expression on her face. I click over to another browser page. On her return trip, she drops a note onto my computer’s keyboard.
I open the note. “Ellen, Take the check. Forget what you saw. We didn’t do anything wrong. Love is never wrong. But remember this, if you breathe a word, you’ll be sorry. Remember what happened to Tracy…” On that ominous threat, I stop reading and carefully refold her note and stuff it in my pocket. I may need it later.
Tracy Langford is a persona non grata at Skyview. Last year, she called the cops on her next door neighbor and star quarterback. They busted him for drug possession, kicked him off the football team and expelled him. Her life is a living hell now. Skyview has a no tolerance policy for bullying but that policy is conveniently ignored for snitches.
Mr. Hamer is watching me. He withdraws his checkbook with slow, deliberate motions. In his movements, I read his message loud and clear–his offer still stands.
I wonder if Gracie realizes he’s put a value on her. Five hundred dollars is a lot of money to me, but it’s a pittance for a young girl’s affections, her youth and innocence. If I could be sure he’d never do it again, I might have opted to remain silent. But I know he’s incapable of stopping until he is stopped. I know this because I was Gracie last year and I wish someone had spoken up for me.
I click “send”…for Gracie and for me.