Alex was most worried her mum would scratch her arse crack in public. She so often did. It wasn’t the sort of thing she could mention to her for fear of harsh rebuke toward her teenage disapproval. Patricia Giddis had a lethal tongue after a couple of cans of Shandy Bass (her standard Tuesday post work requirement) and they were in public. The room’s stench was a unsetting clash between mothers in Chanel no 5 and daughters in Kiss My Ashley (the latest pop sensations sweet floral mess of a scent). Patricia was wearing Timberland boots which was another thing Alex dared not contest. They were easy on her bunions, apparently.
The Great Hall was filled with dark wood chairs topped with old green cushiony seats that
were laid to to form a giant U shape. They were localised in the middle of the room for all the guests to sit and wait their turns between appointments. Teachers were dotted about on desks, grouped together by subject. Patricia had her restless younger daughter, Ruby by the hand who had been dragged along because her dad was working late and her older brother Will was out snorting cocaine.
“Oh bloody hell. I always forget how big this place is” She barked upon entrance, overwhelmed by the astronomically high ceiling.
“Not so loud” Alex pressed.
“Bloody bloody bloody!” screeched Ruby. A ginger girl turned around and looked with disgust at the child.
“Ru-bay, don’t swear!” Patricia shout-whispered, shaking her daughters limply held hand, which caused the whole little arm to jiggle.
“But you swear” the 5 year old contested.
“Do as I say, not as I do” she replied poetically, in her thick cockney accent.
Alex pulled out her phone and texted the only other scholarship girl she was close with, Renika, saying
-I literally can’t. my mum needs to be caged-
Five minutes later she got a response saying
-Don’t even. I spent 10 mins translating what my dad was saying to my english teacher because she couldn’t understand his overly nigerian accent. Instead of speaking slower he started speaking louder. Im done-
“oo’s the first one then?” Patricia asked, as she let Ruby’s hand go and crossed her unproportionaly slim arms over her vast expanse of sagging breast.
“Well?” she said louder to Alex, whose fingers were still darting across her phone screen. Alex rummaged around in her algae green blazer pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. Her round blue eyes honed in on the tiny typeface and her tongue poked out of her mouth in concentration.
“Lem-me read it” Ruby begged, arms flailing toward the scrap
“Oh my god no. Shutup. It’s Mr Toaden. He’s…over there” she spun around and pointed her skinny finger north. Aside from her baby faced cheeks, Alex at 14, still had the body mass of a 12 year old boy. The cheeks and her rounded eyes did afford her the title of “cute” which would take 4 more years and a crash weight loss (of what she would gain through puberty) for her to finally shake it off.
“Is he a frog?”
“Yes Ruby, my teacher is a frog. You don’t even mean frog you mean toad. So stupid”
“A toad is a frog, you stupid. Its the same thing. One of my teachers is a horse”
Alex looked up toward the face of God
“make it stop”
“Shutap you two. Wheres this toad man then? Go on, lead the way”
The awkward threesome shuffled their way through the sea of green-blazer-garnered girls and the mostly coupled up parents. Alex kept her gaze floor bound so as not to make eye contact with any girl she recognised. She wasn’t ashamed of her mum it was just that she had her Argos gold hoop earrings in, a nose stud and a high pony tail. Where-as, the blonde mother ahead of them definitely had had a mid day blowout before she picked up some acai for little Tarquin (from Waitrose) in the Jag. Alex looked at the Mother’s Louis Vuitton bag then at Ruby’s scuffed My Little Pony backpack. Ruby and her cheap back pack didn’t matter as much, though. Squalor could be endearing on small, gap toothed children.
They had to stop their parade when the blonde lady stopped and turned around. Ruby’s eyes widened vast when she saw for the first time, a face frozen by botox.
“Mummy why does that lad-“ Alex snatched her hand over Ruby’s mouth.
She looked up, at Kayleigh who was peeking out from behind her gazelle like mother.
“Hey Kayleigh” she said, her hand still over her sisters mouth. Ruby began frantically licking at Alex’s fingers to get them off.
“You must be Alex’s mother. Hi. Jane Riggerton. Pleasure” Jane Riggerton said in a soft, composed voice, offering a manicured hand to Patricia’s
“Pat. Pleasha. Allo there Kayleigh!” beamed Patricia, hunching over to get a good look at one of Alex’s new friends.
“Hello Mrs Giddis. Who are you seeing, Alex?” Kayleigh asked, sick of adult company.
“Toaden” Alex replied, removing the hand from Ruby’s mouth. Kayleigh rolled her eyes.
“I know right”
“I’m going to see the toad man” Ruby announced to Jane Riggerton, who laughed politely.
“You’re going to see a teacher!” she replied, with slightly patronising upward intonation at the end.
“I’m goin-ta see where the nearest pub is in a minute” Patricia said, ready to let out a belly laugh at her own hilarity.
Kayleigh and Jane Riggerton laughed in small, awkward spurts.
“We should go” Alex said, glancing up at the giant clock on the wall that read 8pm”
“Well, enjoy the rest of your night” said Jane Riggerton through slightly gritted teeth.
“Lovely to finally meet you Alex, and you, Pat”
“You too” both Alex and her mum said in unison. A feeble smile stretched across Jane Riggerton’s marble-like face.
“Me too” Ruby said to herself, as they all exchanged further polite (attempts at genuine) smiles and the threesome squeezed past the blondes.
“See the bow-tocks on that” Pat gushed to Alex under a whisper once the blondes were out of sight.
“It was freaky” Ruby squealed
“You get used to it” Alex said nonchalant, studying Toaden’s station intently.
Toaden was finishing up with his last girl when they approached. His face spoke of ease and relaxation, at the knowledge he was one of the cooler, better looking teachers in the school. He revelled in the chance to spend an evening with well groomed mothers looking to impress their neighbours. Patricia, upon viewing him squinted her eyes in suspicion.
“I swear I know’im”
“You probably met him last year” Alex said quickly. He had very dark skin and a strong, rectangular jaw. The top of his shiny bald head was what Alex was hone in on when she was bored during his science lessons. The way the light bounced off it.
“I need my unicorn” demanded Ruby
“What’is first name?” Patricia asked Alex intently.
“Bloofy” Ruby replied
“I don’t know” Alex replied just as intently
The other student and her parents left their seats and Alex’s stomach began to churn.
“Alex!” he greeted with a large grin.
Her cheeks flushed red. She smiled and looked over at her mum who was still squinting at him without subtlety. He beckoned them over and invited them to take a seat.
“sorry we don’t have a seat for you little one” he said to Ruby, who had had a wave of shyness wash over her.
“It’s okay, I suppose I’ll sit here” she said precociously, jumping atop her mother’s lap who was still in a suspicious daze. Toaden laughed, with charm, and flashed his clinically white teeth. He was in his late 50’s but still saw himself as the 20 something womaniser her had been during his university heyday. Still dressed like it too.
“So” he began, beaming and looking between Alex and Patricia.
“Neil Toaden, by the way” he offered his hand to Patricia who took his suspiciously and nodded
“So, we’ll start with the good stuff. Alex has quite a natural ability in science. She picks things up quickly and works well with others and though her and her friend Ronnie do talk a tad too much sometimes, they both got two of the highest test scores in physics. Physics really is Alex’s strong point and she shows particular interest in space. Now I think, in terms of improvement, Alex could take more of an active role in group activities and-“
“Neil Toaden?” Patricia cut in
Confusion registered across his face.
“Yes, Ms Giddis” he said softly
“Neil?” she spat
He became visibly uncomfortable. Alex was wilting in her seat and looking around for some sort of rescue.
“…She could also put a bit more effort into homework assignments. As it is a key…key part of the modules the homework, is very important that all girls, to an acceptable standard complete-“
“Neil Toaden, St Andrews Class Of 69? That Neil Toaden?”
“Pardon me how do you-“
“Patricia, Lippy Pat. remember? We dated, remember?”
His eyes widened to true toad like form. All the memories began to flood back in terror; the Lambrinis on the playing fields, the drunken nights where they ended up puking in Mcdonalds, the turning up to lectures secretly wearing Patricia’s thong from the night before
“Then you cheated on me with that poshy Phoebe Bottoms-hag-face-” she continued
“I thought your face looked familiar. An you sitting here pretending you don’t recognise me? I know I’ve ad a few too many sunbeds and take outs since then but its me. Ow did fings end up between you and er anyway?”
“Divorce” he said.
“As what I thought. What you get that is. An now, you’re teaching my daughter! Karma, that is. C’mon Alex lets go” she said with triumph, grabbing both her daughters by their wrists and yanking them off their seats. Alex’s eyes were wide in shock and horror. Ruby was grinning from ear to ear.
“Mummay was rude to Toadman”
“Toad man was rude to MUMMAY” Patricia howled, raising a middle finger violently to Toaden who sat squirming in his desk, shrinking into miniature form.
A text came in on Alex’s phone
-Omg my night just got a whole lot worse you have no idea- Renika
-YOU HAVE NO IDEA- Alex