“ok, Its Monday so hall traffic will be pretty heavy. Its 6:23. That gives me Four minutes to get to my locker, open it and then three minutes get to home room before first bell. Class is two minutes from my locker. Ohhh Whats my combination again? 8, 17... No that’s Aunt Ruths birthday. 5, 14, 32? No no no that’s Boron Silicon and Germanium. Stupid Metalloids. Was the combination related to the periodic table? What are the other metalloids? Arsenic… Antimony, Tellurium and… and what? Oh no this is taking too long. I only have two minutes. Come on Ester Think, think.” Even though she was outwardly quiet Ester found herself drifting further from the answer each time she tried to think of her locker combination. Her paw gripping the knob and turned it franticly, passing it around in circles without even really stopping on a number. The bell hadn’t gone off yet, and most of the other girls were milling about the halls content and confident in the time remaining before class. Ester did not have that psychological time buffer and could already feel tears of frustration starting to drip down her cheeks.
Ester yelped loudly and nearly fell on her butt, the sudden action catching her totally off guard. She glanced up from the lock proper to see the dark furred fist of her girlfriend embedded into the locker door. The metal bar for the inset combination lock now rested outside of its intended hole and a slight indentation to the metal implied that putting the door right again might be a chore. “Every fucking day, you know that Mousie?” Diana chuckled. “Ya know its getting kinda old. I may just have to bust that lock for good if you can’t keep three numbers straight in your head.”
“S-sorry Diana.” Ester stammered out bashfully. Her hands didn’t stop for a moment, somehow she managed to glance at Diana while juggling her oversized backpack off one shoulder and balancing a frozen ‘Irish creamer coffee’ flavored slush in the other. She managed to get most of the books and her backpack switched around with only a tiny bit of the drink falling onto the floor. “Wow, I can’t believe I actually got everything moved around without any major disasters. Maybe Mommy is right. All I need to do is feel a bit more confident and I won’t have so many accid-eeep!” Before she knew it the poor mouse found herself slumped down on the floor, gazing up into those beautiful blue eyes she knew so well and just barely starting to notice a wet, cold, sticky sensation seeping into her hair and clothing.
“Jeeze Mousie, you go though all that and still almost end up smack dab on your ass?” The munk just smirked as she brushed a few flecks of partially melted coffee slush off of her girlfriends cheek. Her grin grew predatory for just a moment, but then she thought better of it and just lapped along that tawny fur happily tasting the third rate gas station pick-me-up her little love had such a thing for. “Mmmm not bad. Next time you make your usual stop pick me one up too. You can think of it as me taking your lunch money if you wanna.”
Ester watched her girlfriend walk off slowly and swallowed hard, unable to resist her gaze moving down just a little too close to Diana’s jeans. “Oh… oh gosh Diana’s rear is really cute! I really wish I could just reach out and… Darn it no. I can’t. can’t think about that now!” She whimpered loudly, lingering there like that for a few moments. She knew she had to go, had to hurry. But unfortunately it wasn’t until the dreadful magic of the first bell that her body responded to her once more, driving Ester quickly towards the nearest girls room.
The poor mouse garnered a glance from everyone in the school as she finally, reluctantly moved her way into the room. She didn‘t dare to look up, nor did she have to. She just knew deep down they were all glairing at her. Her cloths patchworked with spots of melted sticky sugar coffee goo, as well as the few good sized splotches in her hair. It was clear from a few motted brown spots on her clothing that she had attempted to get the stuff off of her, but with the threat of being late looming down on her Ester had left the job half-done, which somehow made her look even more disheveled.
Ester didn’t say anything, nor did the rest of the class. The mouse girl walked past a few of the people with her eyes on the floor and slumped down into her seat not daring to look up.
“Est, Hay Est.” Jamie called out in a loud whisper, trying her best not to stir any unwanted attention. It was a tall order considering the spectacle her friend had made coming in, and a few urgent sideways glances proved her efforts futile already. “What the hell happened to you? Ya look like someone was chuckling milkshakes at you.”
She may not have been too fashion conscious, but now getting a mental picture of how something like that must look made Ester feel even more out of place and uncomfortable than she had. “I spilled something. I was worried about getting to class.” she whimpered. Ester glanced around quickly. Now the other girls were making no effort to hide their staring, and for once it wasn’t with aloof aggravation or cold amusement. They all seemed worried, maybe even scared, something she wasn’t exactly used to without Diana around. “Jamie whets wrong? Why is everyone looking at me like that?” she whimpered as a knot started to grow in her stomach.
“Ahhh Miss Peterson. I am glad to see you finally decided to join us.”
The smooth, unfamiliar voice quickly answered Esters question. With a reluctance she had not felt in months the disheveled young mousette slowly peeled her eyes away from her best friend and turned them towards the apparent speaker. Seeing the source of that cold, even voice Ester knew exactly what had shaken the rest of the class. Standing before her was not the kindly if age worn racoon woman whose gaze Ester had instinctively assumed she was trying to avoid. Instead her eyes met those of a sharply dressed white rat woman, arms crossed and face locked in a calm yet strangely menacing glare. It wasn’t exactly right to say she was towering over her. While she was clearly taller than Ester it was also safe to say several of the other girls in class matched this woman’s height if not exceeded it. It was more a strange mix of confidence and a palpably ill intent. It was a poor description, but the best Ester was capable of when she was the one at the focal point of that wicked glair.
“The attendance records left by my predecessor noted some problems with you and tardiness early on in the school year, Miss Peterson.” the woman said flatly eyes never leaving Esters “I trust that those problems are not threatening to crop up again?”
Ester wondered, just for a moment, what the woman could have been talking about, and then her eyes widened. “She… couldn’t mean. Oh no she doesn’t think that I was out with Diana does she? No of course not. It wasn’t that late… wait what time is it? Oh no I’m four minutes late. Wait no I got here one minute ago, or two minutes maybe? Two minutes isn’t that bad. Oh no she’s looking at me again. Ok Ester calm down.”
“I dropped something, maam. I dropped my drink, so I had to go in the bathroom and try to clean it up. I… didn’t do a very good job I guess. T-that’s why I have all the, all the wet splotches.”
“I see.” the harsh woman’s voice echoed smooth as glass, unphased by the pathetic whimperings of her tardy student. “So that is what smells like stale coffee. Let me ask you something Miss Peterson. In eight years or so when you are out of college and just starting in the real world, and you are expected to be in a meeting on time, looking presentable and professional. What do you think will happen when you walk into that meeting fifteen minutes late looking like… that.”
Ester shrank back and unconsciously started to squeeze a bit at one of her skirts bigger wet spots, trying like hell to wring out as much of the sticky sugary mess as she could. “I… well…”
“This isn’t a trick question, Miss Peterson.” The woman hissed though her teeth. Those cold blue eyes seemed to glimmer with an icy shimmer, locking on to their targets emerald hughed orbs for a moment and then turning upwards to survey the rest of the stunned class. “I can tell you all exactly what will happen. It is the end of your career advancement. I know you girls think that just because you are in school right now, everything is just an exercise in facts and figures. You go though the motions for a few hours before you go home and spend the rest of the day doing whatever you want. It’s a quaint little concept I suppose, but not the mind set I am sure your parents are paying for. You are all here for one reason and one reason only, to prepare yourselves for the real world. The real world is not a nice place. It is not about meeting someone’s minimum expectations so you can go off and do whatever you wish in your free time. Each and every one of you is starting off with a handicap, you are a woman. Like it or not that will make everything harder for you, and I do mean everything. I don’t think its right, nor do I think its fair. But I do think it’s the truth and the idea that ‘it should be fought against because that is not how things should be’ won’t solve anything in your lifetimes.
She paused for a moment, seemingly expecting some sort of response or rebuttal. When none came, she continued. “The bare minimum will no longer cut it here. Anyone who thinks they can get away with less than perfection may as well get up from their seats and walk out that door right now, enroll yourself in a public school and float along with the rest of the underachieving masses.”
Not a single girl moved. Not one desk pulled back, not one hand went up. There wasn’t even so much as a cough as the new teacher surveyed her charges like a General inspecting her troops. Even Jamie, unwavering idealistic Jamie seemed to be utterly flabbergasted by the relentless display.
Finally satisfied the rat woman all but marched her way towards the blackboard, her sharp designer business skirt fluttering a bit from her haste. “My name, is Miss. Linda Dubois. I will be your home room teacher for the remainder of the year. More importantly I will not be following Missus Fairfax and her obvious philosophy of individual improvement and hand-holding. It may have been nice for her, but I can promise you that it won’t do anyone here any favors. From now on any class you have with me shall be about one thing and one thing only. I want to know who here is the best, the brightest. I want to see all of you clawing and fighting your way to the top.” She paused a moment and returned her gaze to Ester, a particularly sinister smile on her face. “After all if you find yourself incapable of out performing anyone in a classroom of twenty something odd peers, how do you expect to make it when every temp and intern has their eyes set on smashing you into the dirt for a new title and another dollar an hour?”
It took several minutes before anyone even dared to cough, let alone consider speaking. Miss Dubois soon turned back to the white board that had replaced one of the class’ two big traditional chalk boards and began to scribble some sort of Diagram, writing out words like ‘appearance’ and ‘professionalism’ in a near flawless script. Ester tried her best to keep her attention on the board, while at the same time avoiding as much of the woman doing the writing as she could.
“Wow that was scary. I really need to talk to Mommy about all of this. Maybe I‘m doing something wrong. I mean it really seems like she‘s mad, a-and mad at me to boot. But what did I do? Its not like I‘m ignoring her or anything. I didn‘t mean to be late either. This isn’t fair. What is this the Inquisition? I mean is she going to punish me? Or… or declare me excemunicatus Traitorus? Dohhh Ester this is no time for jokes come on. You have to focus.” It was then that Ester noticed the teachers gaze quickly turning back towards her. She quickly ducked her head just as Miss Dubois reached down to pick up another marker drafting out some kind of pie chart on the board. “Phew that was close. At least she isn’t looking at me anymore. At least I don’t think she’s looking at me anymore. I… I guess I could look. After all it can’t be that bad.”
“Miss Peterson” The now familiarly cold voice snapped with enough authority to make everyone gaze up at the new teacher instantly. “since it seems clear I am boring you already, perhaps you would like to come up here and explain to me jut why this chart is so important to your future?”
She had not been listening really, and as Ester gazed up at the chart all the years of isolated study and learning from her home schooling suddenly fell flat, offering absolutely no help in deciphering the seemingly random words on the board, all linked together with lines and arrows and other strange cryptic symbols. Ester suddenly realized that she was indeed scared, and worse still that she was so scared her legs were finding it difficult to move. She placed both hands on either side of her desk, took a deep breath and with far more effort than it should have required pushed herself standing and slowly, very slowly, started making her way over to the white board.
“Allright, she doesn’t need to know that I don’t understand any of this. Just calm down and think. If I can figure out the HERO system I can figure out… wait I never actually got that well enough to play it. I need to do that when I get home. Ok ok just relax Ester it won’t be that hard, focus. It starts with Success, or I guess ends with success.” Her finger moved to the word and slowly traced its way down the leftmost branch first, arriving at the word opportunity. She then traced her finger down towards the word assertiveness, and kept moving along the chain “So its talking about success, and I guess what you need to get it. That’s something. I guess she could be saying these are all the things you need to succeed? Or maybe its success gives you these things? B-but then why is the word danger on here? And what does Proactive mean? Isn’t that achne medicine? Wait I’m not breaking out am I? Gahh why do I have to have such short fur. Mama keeps saying I need to wash my face better in the shower.” “I… er um… well…”
Miss Dubois just chuckled softly and shook her head. “So you can’t figure it out hmm? I can’t really say I’m that surprised. Looks like I was right about your previous teacher. The seemingly sterling grades she’s been giving you in her classes suddenly make sense.” Leaning down slowly, deliberately, the woman scoffed right into Esters ear and let out the smallest murr of satisfaction. “You may be able to get by on pity in high school, Miss Peterson. But I can promise you things will be quite different once you leave this sheltered little slice of academia. Better get your act together now before its too late.” With that bitter little comment still wafting though the air, Miss Dubois simply waved the young mouse off and turned her attention to the rest of the room who all sat in shocked silence. “That goes for the rest of you too. I have seen all of your transcripts thus far, and to be honest Miss Peterson is quite a bit higher academically than the rest of you. Now is your one chance to prove that it was a fluke, or that the curriculum itself is not imparting anything of real world importance. If neither of these are the case, well at that point I can only say that you may end up struggling quite a bit for the next Seven or eight years years.” having said her piece Miss Dubois turned her pointed muzzle back towards Ester and just murred out in an almost mockingly sweet tone “You may sit down now, Miss Peterson. I look forwards to seeing how you fare the rest of the day.”
Ester didn’t say anything. She slunk herself over to her desk and sat back down glancing intently at the diagram as she tried her best to make sense out of the damned thing. In truth the more she looked at it, the more possibilities arose, which only lead to more questions and possible answers starting to crop up. It wasn’t until the bell rang and everyone else started to pull themselves out of their seats that Ester finally snapped her head back and blinked, a rather shocking thought striking her. “Wait a second… she didn’t even let me answer the question.”
“I’m saying she should get fired for it is what I’m saying. Or at the very least put on suspension.” Jamie spat out as she watched the lunch line inch forwards once more, lunch card twisting between her fingers anxiously. “First day out and she decides to intimidate the hell out of everyone in class, she basically slams Ester and humiliates her in front of the class, and then proceeds to tell everyone there that they have to start getting ready for the business world now or they will be fucked over and relegated to gas stations and fast food.”
Diana glanced over the top of Esters head and chuckled a bit, shaking her head as the line moved forwards once more putting the lunch room clearly in sight. “Wow, a teacher who decides she can be a bitchy bully and get away with it. What a novel concept. Next thing you know the school will decide it would rather look out for its own interests and image than that of its students.”
Jamie gave her best friends girl a sour look and shook her head, taking a few deep breaths to calm her already trembling fists. “I figured you of all people would want to do something about this Diana. Weren’t you the one who body checked the last girl to harass Ester? I thought that kind of shit didn’t fly with you.” the line moved forwards once more, Jamie was finally able to snatch a couple slices of the mid-range frozen pizza that the school always put out, setting them on a plate and putting that onto a plastic tray.
“That’s not fair Jamie. I mean she is a teacher, a grown up. There isn’t much she can do” Ester whimpered softly “I don’t think there is anything we can do. I mean I suppose I could as Mama though, or talk to the principal. I mean it worked when I used to get picked on and stuff… but I dunno” she bit her lip looking between the two of them and then moving forwards a bit more pulling her own lunch card out of her jacket pocket, only to have it yanked away a moment later.
“Well since ya don‘t have any money, I guess this will have to do.” Diana smirked a bit and grinned wickedly at the whimpering mouse girl as she put down a tray and started to pile it high with several desserts and a couple of the re-heated cheese steaks that were put out for those lucky enough to nab them up. “Now you weren’t gonna forget, or try to hold out on me were ya? You know I can’t have that happening.” Diana just smirked and wrapped her arm around Esters middle pulling her along the line a bit, those fingers drifting perhaps a bit lower than they should as the other arm continued to pile the tray high with all sorts junk food and snacks.
“Didn’t you bring your own lunch today?” Jamie grumbled giving the small lump at the back of Dianas backpack a sideways glance.
“Trust me, if you saw what it was, you wouldn’t consider it lunch. Mousie can have it though if she’s that hungry.“ Diana shook her head and quickly pocketed the card as she put two large cokes down on her tray, grinning ear to ear
“Whatever… Look Ester, hun, it really isn’t ok to have people treating you that way regardless of age. She was just fucking disrespectful of you, and of us. I mean hell even the girls who normally tease you when they get half a chance were calling her a bitch for talking to you that way. Something has to be done about it.” with a grace that could only be described as ‘ironically catlike’, Jamie reached over and tried to pluck the card from Dianas hand, missing it only by a fraction of an inch. “Ya know I would think you of all people would be concerned Diana. Seriously you are way too laid back about this. Aren’t I the one normally acting as the voice of reason?”
“Look Mousie, your troublesome new teacher? don’t you worry. Something will be done.” she chimed in just as chipper as ever. “Ester is having a problem with a Teacher, you know how many teachers I have problems with? All of em. THe good news is I am willing to teach my young apprentice how to handle the stuck up pigs.”
Ester whimpered loudly at that and pushed a bit closer to her girlfriend, even as they all pushed their way to the small card reader and register at the end of the lunch line and swiped them for their respective meals. “Even if she is doing something wrong, we can’t just go doing something worse to her. Then you’ll get in trouble. Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Ester swallowed hard even as she said that, glancing down at the floor and biting down on her lip hard. “Not that it wouldn’t be kinda nice… I mean Diana already picks on me and does mean things to me from time to time, like, like taking at least four days worth of lunch money.” She thought glancing at the tray now piled so high it was hard to tell what all was on it “And she loves me. That teacher would probably end up getting punched in the face. Or, or maybe getting some of her supplies broken. Or if Diana was feeling really mean she might decide to blackmail her. Getting a camera and walking into the classroom… and…” the loud sound of snapping fingers before her face and a slight nudge from a tray edge quickly pushed Ester both back into reality, and pushed her forwards, making her stumble and trip nearly falling on her face.
“Pay attention mousiemouse.” Diana chuckled “You make a better door than a… ok that analogy doesn’t work. Just move it. We do have a time limit on lunch you know.”
That being said the three girls made their way to the far end of the table closest to the window, the little spot that had been Ester and Jamies spot since the first day of high school. Ester sat in the middle as usual, with Jamie sitting at the end and Diana on the next seat in, only Ester lacking any sort of food before her. This was soon remedied however as Diana set a large Tupperware container full of sloshing red fluid down in front of her girlfriend, placing a plastic spoon on top of it.
“W-what is that?” Ester whimpered as she poked at the container hesitantly watching the goo slosh around a bit.
“Is it… is it still alive?” Jamie asked soon pushing her friends hand away from the container.
“Its borsht” Diana replied “Its my Packed lunch, Ruth made it...I think she called it borshit.”
“Again I ask you, is it still alive?” Jamie’s eyes narrowed as she pushed down on the lid as if the whole thing contained a nice big liquidy batch of T virus.
Diana smirked and shook her head placing one of those big boots up on the seat across from her, just leaning back a bit “Ever since we got back from Grandm… from Ruths folks place she’s been obsessed with learning how to cook the kind of food her mom does. Its been nothing but Kugel and Beef Strogenov and a whole bunch of other things I can’t pronounce for over a week.” She sighed remorsefully and picked up one of the cheese steaks, folding it over and taking a nice big bite out of it, chewing softly “I miss the days when all we got to eat was takeout pizza and Chinese.” She mumbled, though with the half chewed food in her mouth it didn’t come out quite that clearly.
“Gahhh! Good God, that is no excuse for talking with your mouth full Diana.” Jamie winced and covered half of her face and pulling her tray to the side.
Taking a few moments to look over the confusing plethora of items on Diana’s tray Ester soon grabbed the tip of the Tupperware and slowly started to pull it open. An exceptionally pungent and slightly musky odor pushed its way out of the container and struck her perpetually semi-stuffed nose with the full force of a smell one would never be capable of associating with beets in any way shape or form. “I don’t think I’m that hungry… and I don’t think it is a wise idea to do anything about the new teacher either. It really won’t end well, and I don’t want anyone getting in trouble.”
“This isn’t just about you Ester.” Jamie said firmly “She singled you out today because you were the easiest target, but tomorrow it could be any one of us. Its not ok behavior for a teacher. Next thing you know she’s going to be telling the whole class that they wont ever amount to anything, shooting down every hope and dream they have just so the few she considers ’worthy’ will make it out with her mentality. Its something that we have to take up with Principal Moss and get this bitch straightened out. You can’t act that way as a teacher. Having some kind of chip on your shoulder is one thing, but the second a teacher starts treating kids like shit its time to deal with it or find a new career.”
“Oh come on. Every teacher acts that way. I just think its hilarious that this one is so freaking up front about it even my brown nosing lil mousie gets it.” The Munk girl ruffled her girlfriends hair and smiled softly watching that blush growing just a bit darker.
“Seriously every teacher is a bitch or a bastard in some way. Hell my math teacher won’t leave me the fuck alone about writing out my work. I may not be an A student, but fuck if I’m gonna write out third grade multiplication.”
A few girls at the next table glanced back at Jamie, and her little socially driven outburst, causing the young feline to pause for a moment and relax herself back into her seat. Ester whimpered a bit and shrank down more until she was sure everyone had turned their attention away from their little corner of the cafeteria once more, ears folded flat against her head. “Guys, don’t you think we should maybe.. Y-you know discuss this at the card shop or something?” she said, voice barely getting past a whisper. The obvious lack of concern on the faces of her companions was more than a little unsettling, and the poor mouse quickly sat back up and glancing back at the Tupperware of red goo now resting in front of her. Admittedly Ester never really ate that much to begin with, but considering what was resting there in front of her she could almost feel her empty stomach growing for just about anything else.
“Ya better hurry up and eat mousie. Class starts up again soon. I don‘t think it would look too good for lil miss perfect if she got two absences in a row without a big mean bully to blame it all on.” Diana murred softly and scooted her way in closer chomping down on her last bit of cheese steak while rubing Esters now slumped sholders. “Now come on, are ya gonna eat? Or do I have to get insistant? I’m sure I could give you lots of reasons for why you’re late…”
This of course caused Ester to stiffen up and glance to Diana once more, those words giving her a few moments of pause, before she finally turned her head and let out a meek little whimper. “S-she can’t really mean that can she? I mean she promised Mommy and Aunt Ruth and Aunt June and… Wow this could end poorly. Diana hasn’t gotten to really do anything in a while, and I bet shes already mad after hearing about Miss Dubois. If I’m not careful Diana might get really mad and yell or call me names or, or something. Oh but that soup doesn’t look good at all, it probably wasn’t made right. Aunt Ruth doesn’t know that much about cooking either. She probably didn’t read up on how important the beet was to the initial Ukranian culture that invented it. Actually now that I think about it there are a lot of things about the ukrane I don’t know either. I should probably read up on it when I get home. Maybe I should start with.. Wait… is that Diana’s hand? Its still moving down . I-its heading for my hip. Oh know what if someones watching. What if they tell? Oh gosh this isn’t good. Well it does feel good but still.”
No sooner had Ester realized how close she was being held than she felt that warm, strong body start to pull itself away. Diana glanced down into her girlfriends face, seeing the amusing mix of shamed dread and thinly masked disappointment which she always found so cute. “Mmm now hurry up and finish eating cutie” Diana grinned gripping that muzzle hard and gazing into those emerald green eyes “You know if your late again and they blame me, I’ll have to let you have it. Now come on, hurry up and eat.”
Looked down to find that the Borsht.. well the theoretical Borsht, had been replaced with a large salad, two packs of croutons, a pack of ranch, a bottle of Vanilla coke and one of those chocolate malt cups.
After being late for one class already, Ester wasn’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of taking another ten minutes of her day to wait around the office for a new set of cloths. Of course no matter how bad she might feel about missing out on more class the prospect of sitting though the last three hours of the day in sticky wet cloths smelling of stale frozen sugar coffee really wasn’t in any way appealing either.
“I really wish aunt Ruth could have stayed around a bit longer to take these dirty cloths back. Wow this coffee stuff really gets in deep. I’m gonna have to get Mommy to help me get all this stuff out.” She pulled the skirt up to her nose and gave another tentative sniff, almost able to taste the muted bitter notes of vague coffee flavor though her perpetually semi-stuffed nostrils. This instinctively caused her to reach back and touch some of her similarly soaked strands of hair, causing her shoulders to slump. “and I guess that means I have to take a shower when I get home too. That’s going to cut into homework time, which means I’ll have less time to work on that campaign. I really hope Diana likes this system. Well, Diana has actually taken to Roleplaying pretty well, like that time she spared that guys life, admittedly she broke all his fingers but, Oh! I know, I could get her to play a Inquisitor...nah, no one wants to play something that broken”
By the time Ester realized she was once again lost in thought, the young mousette found herself standing in the doorway to her social studies class with the bag of dirty cloths in hand, looking once more into the stern judgmental eyes of Miss Dubois.
“Ahh Miss Peterson, hello. I got word from Principal Moss that you would be a bit late to this hour. Amazing how you only have two classes with me today, and have been late for both thus far. I do hope you won‘t be making a habit of this.” The white furred woman strode towards Ester and narrowed her eyes, smart designer heels tapping impatiently though the silent classroom. “Class, Not to single out Miss Peterson here, but it is important for you all to recognize that punctuality is perhaps the most important thing you can observe in your professional lives. If you cannot be punctual then your employer will assume that you cannot be trusted. If you can't be trusted, don't expect to keep your job, much less get a promotion over the others.” her eyes didn’t leave Ester as she said this, Miss Dubois making sure that her statement was clearly directed at Ester even if she did not say so outright. Once it was clear to everyone just how serious she was the rat woman took a step back and allowed Ester to pass arms still crossed.
Ester didn’t wait for her new teacher to say anything else, instead simply running to her desk at the middle front seat of the classroom. A few seconds of frantic fumbling passed, and without really knowing how she did it the young mouse finally managed to pull her text book out of the bag and throw it open where she had placed a sticky marker for the week and day. “ok this won’t be so bad. Just keep quiet and pay attention. Don’t do anything too out of the ordinary. If I listen and stay quiet when I’m not answering a question then she can’t get mad about anything. Well ok maybe she could. I shouldn’t have to worry this much about a teacher. I mean its not like she’s a vampire or something. Oh crap she‘s looking this way again! Don‘t look don‘t look don‘t look don‘t look… Just leave me alone, please. I‘m not doing anything. I‘m being quiet and staying out of the way please just don‘t look.”
Even though she was lost in her own fear-filled thoughts, Ester and the rest of the class all did their best to pay attention to the teacher as she continued to map out more charts and diagrams on the white board, this time putting a time line covering points from the turn of the century to modern day. “Now class the one thing that is most important to remember is that economics have driven everything, and I mean everything, for the past century. Everything from the advent of the automobile and personal transportation, all the way up to the advent of the internet. Every Major war after World war 1, the great depression, everything. Progress in modern society is only made when there is an economic force driving behind it. That is why it is important to learn about the real world and what it takes to succeed in it. Now in terms of Sociology this will mean…” Miss Dubois stopped in mid sentence and slowly turned back to the class, eyes narrowing at the lone hand now standing out from the rest of the class. “Yes, Miss Peterson you have a question already?”
Swallowing hard Ester let her hand drop and felt the courage slowly draining from her stomach. “I… well I am sorry to interrupt Ma’am but, its hard to say economic factors were the main cause of absolutely everything. I mean speaking form a historical standpoint wouldn’t it be safe to say that general rivalry between hardline established order and the inevitable counter culture might have been more important? Or maybe the Xenophobia between democratic and non-democratic societies as both tried to convert each other for their own sense of security? I mean Iran Contra for example.” every word of her last sentence came slower than the last, weighted with the dreadful realization of how much Ire she had just stirred up in the new teacher. It seemed that the businesslike young woman tensed so hard she was almost ready to snap in half.
“Iran contra… you mean the sale of arms to Iran in order to continue funding the Contra?” she asked eyes narrowing “Correct me if I am wrong, miss Peterson, but I was under the impression that the whole affair was centered around the ‘sale’ of military hardware in order to ‘fund’ another militant faction?” Her voice had an amused venom to it now. Every word seemingly aimed right at Ester, as if the very notion of being corrected was an inexcusable offense. “Please enlighten me, what was the driving force behind that sale, if not financial.”
It took a few moments to recover from that, for Ester and the rest of the class alike. A few girls in the back snickered at first, but that was quickly quelled from another of Miss Dubois stern glances. She stood there for a moment with marker still in hand, menacing scowl plastered on her face. “Allright fine. Since miss Peterson is convinced that she knows more about our current culture and what got us here than I do, perhaps she would Like to teach the class.” As if to punctuate her point Miss Dubois slammed an eraser down on the white board and started to wipe everything away quickly soon leaving her elaborate charts totally gone. “Well? I am waiting. Come, lets hear what it is you have to say about all of this.”
Every eye in the classroom soon found itself on Ester, and she could feel it. Everything inside of the young mouse was screaming for her to simply withdraw the comment, begging to shrink out of sight an hide in some dark corner. Ester swallowed hard and gripped her text book prepared to do just that, when something struck her. Without even realizing it the young woman pulled herself out from behind the desk and walked slowly towards the board picking up a marker and slowly tracing out her own rather awkward Diagram.
“W-without getting into the morality of the actions, I can say that the primary motivation behind Iran Contra, and many of the actions during the cold war, involved bringing democracy to other nations by supplying the people who were willing to fight for it. When congress cut off funding to the contra a plan was devised to get them the funding they needed to continue fighting.” As she noted this Ester started to write the word America as high as she could, while writing Contra down ad to the left, drawing an arrow, and then crossing it out immediately. “See the Contra were Anti-Communist rebels, and during the cold war America w-was, was kinda looking to stop all the communism they could. Well speculation aside, what happened was when Congress decided to cut funding To the Contra Rebels in Nicaragua, Oliver North conspired to divert funds from within an elaborate ’weapons for hostages’ bargain already conceived of by the executive branch. Originally it was basically supposed to be a way to supply weapons to influential Iranians in order to free hostages, using Israel to supply the weapons themselves and avoid some of the bureaucracy. By the end of it though the weapons were being used as a bargaining chip and Mister North was using some of the funds set aside for those weapons to provide funding for the Contras, which was more or less an act of treason I guess…”
Once again the classroom was totally silent, this time however it was more from the normally timid mouse than the teacher who now stood there looking at the little chart. With far more elegance and restraint than she had before. Once the white board was blank she glanced back at Ester and strange, slightly cruel smile. “Well then. I suppose that makes some measure of sense. So then miss teacher, what about World War 2 hmm? Mitigating factors or not, I would say that it was driven heavily by economic depression resulting from World War 1, wouldn’t you? How else would a charismatic madman have been able to so fully rally the people and cause such a horrible amount of death and destruction?”
“W-well there have been currents of anti-Semitism all throughout history in Europe. I mean, that is the whole point of ‘the Merchant of Venice’. Its mainly because Jews could not lend money to Gentiles, and Gentiles could not lend money to Jews due to religious reasons. Because of that a lot of people saw the Jews as wealthy and aristocratic, and because they had been established as wealthy due to a religiously driven ethnic monopoly that had by then become more of a bitterly remembered antiquity…” Just as the little rant left her lips Ester got the sinking feeling that everyone was watching, and worse, listening. The sea of attention once again crashed against her with every painful ounce it could muster, leaving the young mouse’s hands trembling as she nervously twisted and fiddled with the marker she held. “W-well cause of that… a-and the collapse of the German economy, it was, it was easy for them to rally behind someone who inspired hope. A-and if that person just happened to find a scapegoat, in the form of ethnicities and social practices t-that were considered bad… I mean it wasn’t just Hitler either. A lot of people were… bad… were calling for people to be hurt or killed. They blamed a lot of people for the problems because it made everyone feel like if they removed the perceived… source… of the problem…” Ester swallowed hard and whimpered loudly barely able to glance up from her own shoes now.
“Yes, Miss Peterson?” the teacher cooed. The sight of seeing Ester slowly break apart seemed to put an even wider smile on that sharp pointed muzzle. “But still it seems like you could easily claim financial distress as the root cause of World War 2. After all if the people had not fallen on hard times, then there would not have been a need to rally them in such a way to begin with, now would there?”
Ester swallowed once more and took another deep breath. Her hand shook, eyes blurring a little and legs started to feel weak. She had gotten over much of her social anxiety in the years before coming to this school, but with just a few hours of this new teacher all of those nervous anxious feelings came flooding back. She bit down on her lip and swallowed hard fighting the growing urge to run before she just collapsed, refusing to let this overwhelm her now, no matter how much it terrified her. “W-well still those are incidental too” she whimpered softly, still not daring to glance up at their teacher. “The economic depression was still a result of an antiquated Monarchy system that depended on social and political maneuvering along with awkward and often strained familial bonds. Wilhelm threw way too much of his nations resources into the war… a-as did the other participants. Really it was more a matter of stubborn pride and a flawed system that brought about a depression to begin with.”
Rather than impress the hard nosed teacher, this comment only seemed to frustrate her further. In one quick and seemingly practiced motion Miss Dubois snatched the marker out of Esters hand and smirked, scribbling another set of boxes at the top of the board “Those are all interesting assessments Miss Peterson, but the fact remains that an economic undercurrent still runs though all of them, and though every other major event in the western world. I can promise you that every single major event in the past hundred years has indeed been in some way a matter of simple money and resources, which is why I will be teaching the class from that standpoint. If anyone has any further complaints about that, well then they can take it up with the principal. I was hired here in order to teach you what social and economic tools you will need as young women in a competitive work force. Not because you are women and it is harder for you, but because anyone hoping to have a serious career when they graduate needs to have every edge they can, because it only takes one simple mistake to fall, and believe me when I say when you fall in the real world you do not get back up.”
For two or three minutes Ester just stood in place, wondering if she should go sit back down or not, and far too nervous to bring up any other questions or comments. Noticing that the teacher wasn’t indicating in any way that conversation would continue she finally slinked back to her seat and lowered herself a bit. “Wha… What did I do wrong? This doesn‘t make any sense. I presented my argument logically, I‘ve been doing my best to be courteous and view both sides of the argument. I‘ve been doing everything right and she‘s still mad at me. That… that isn‘t fair! Even if she‘s a teacher she has to respect reason and rational thought. That‘s what teachers do! She can‘t just… just…” Ester blinked a bit and gazed back at her teacher, a sudden strange feeling, a flash of frustration and desperation and outright betrayal coming over her as she looked at the woman. “Maybe Jamie and Diana are right about her. Maybe she shouldn’t be a teacher…”
Diana gazed intently at the strange new character sheet and gnawed at her penicl a bit looking between Ester and Jamie intently. “So I start out by putting five dots in one thing, four in another and three in a third. But there are only four blank dots to begin with. So do I spread it out more? I mean it seems like there is already a dot in each one already so…”
“Yeah you don’t count those.” Jamie quipped, the feline quickly scribbling in some of the dots on her own sheet and glancing up to an open book. “Ok since your running this game Est, I am gonna ask now. Do you allow the Armory book? I mean I know it’s a bit cliché but I figured my character would probably have a couple nice high end guns considering she’s a century old. Mind if I grab some stuff that’s within my wealth dots?”
“Yeah sure, go ahead.” Ester was already filling out her own sheet, just gazing at it with her trusty green tipped mechanical pencil in hand. “Just remember you are going to need to find or discuss an ammo supplier with me before we start. Also if you want a melee weapon it has to either be modern or late Victorian unless you have a reason for it.”
“Wait a second” Diana called out quickly “so not only does Jamie get to be a vampire, but she gets guns too? And I get… wait what do I get again exactly? A sword? What about…” leaning over and glancing at the armory book and running her finger down the section on machine pistols “I mean come on can’t I have like some kind of supernatural machine gun or something? I mean a Tek 9. Those are cool right? If it was The Highlander that would be one thing but come on, you can‘t tell me a gun with magical stuff wouldn‘t work better on… whatever monsters we fight.”
Pulling the book away and grumbling a bit Jamie flipped back a few pages and started to run her finger over the pistols section once more until hitting the page she wanted and nodding “You can figure out your gear next, once you figure out your wealth merit. Besides, I’m a vampire, I gotta have some cool weapons. That’s why I’m going to get a sword cane, and Jo’s Desert eagle.”
“A Desert Eagle should be fine…” Ester stated
“Jo’s. I have her Desert Eagle. Same finish, same grip, everything.” Jamie gazed at Ester, giving their Storyteller to be a fixed and unwavering glair until Ester finally nodded and put a note for it into her big spiral notebook of game notes. “I’m also going to have most of my skills in social, and have a decent number of contacts. Just so you know she’s also something of an anime buff… though if anyone asks its cause the feeding is easy.”
“Yeah that stuff you said right there, that’s why this game is weirding me the fuck out.” Diana sighed softly. “I Have no idea what any of that really means past ‘Desert Eagle and Sword Cane. And I have… well Est you said I could get a few weapons without this finances thing right? Cause I used to be a vampire slayer before I died?” The proclamation brought a little smile to Dianas lips as she nudged Jamie and chuckled a little “hear that? I used to go around shooting your people with garlic and wooden sticks! Eat your heart out blade.”
“Well sorta, but you were killed by a werewolf you were hunting, and then a woman in plate mail offered you a second chance to survive. That’s why now your kinda in a… different position, as one of the super natural. The sword belonged to your Geist while she was alive. That’s why one of your keys is the sanguine. She was a martyr and you…” Ester glanced at Jamie trying very hard to contain her amusement.
Jamie chuckled loudly, something quite uncharacteristic for her. “Well you went toe to toe with a werewolf, as a normal fur… that pretty much says it all. Granted I haven’t read the Geist book yet but I can tell you right now that sure as hell qualifies you for anything blood-related you might get.”
Diana was clearly a little frustrated, but blew it off quickly and returned to her intent study of the Geist book, and Jamie worked at deciding where to put her last couple of merit points. Ester, who had already finished with her Mage sheet, was now nervously drumming the back of her pencil against the book and moving her eyes along its elaborately drawn pages paying less than half attention. Every moment seemed to make that tension in her stomach grow, make it that much harder to ignore, until finally it felt like some large bitter fruit pit pushing down on the bottom of her stomach. “Um guys, I know its probably a really odd question, I mean really odd… but have you ever made a teacher mad at you? Like, really mad?”
Both girls just sat there gazing at Ester for a few moments, as if the question was an absolute and utter absurdity… which it was. “Really Est? Really?” Diana laughed as she reached over and rubbed her girlfriends ear “You’re seriously asking me that Est? Me of all people?” Diana scooted her chair in a bit closer and wrapped an arm around Ester, grinning and kissing her cheek “God you are so cute when you are nervous as hell, you know that? Are you gonna need me to take care of this big bad teacher for you?”
“Oh no you don’t.” Jamie chimed in quickly “Revenge is only going to make things worse. Its pretty clear this bitch is bringing a lot of her own issues into this whole thing, and we need to build an actual case against her. We already have one instance of behavior that’s arguably emotionally abusive, and we have witnesses too. If you start pulling stuff on her now its only going to make her look a whole lot better.” Jamie leaned forwards and nodded a little bit glancing to Ester “What we need to do is just have total and objective proof that she has it in for some students, that she has prejudice and biases that make her unfit to teach here. Now come on Hun, why don’t you tell us what you did. Give me enough and I may even be able to pass it off to the Principal or the Superintendent. Not much chance they will take it serously of course but it’s a start.”
“That’s just it though.” Ester whimpered tentatively “She made me stay after class today, and she told me that she’s trying to help me. I mean she seemed really upset, and annoyed, but she kept talking about how things work in the real world. I dunno that really just seems to be her biggest hangup, and it was kind of scary.” She glanced back down at the book and just pushed her fingers together, taking a few nervous breaths to calm her nerves. “Jamie, I know I usually ask you a lot of dumb questions but I really have to ask… do you have to be ruthless to survive in life? I mean if your, if your like me?”
Diana’s amused expression shattered almost instantly upon hearing this, eyes furrowing and fists tensing up so hard the flesh under her chestnut brown fur turned painfully white. “What did she say to you mousie? What did she say, exactly?” The amused playfulness that had occupied her potential revenge plotting was gone, replaced with a sudden clear anger as she saw just how upset Ester really was.
Hands gently rested on Diana’s shoulders and pulled her back a bit, attempting to unclench some of those now rebar-tight muscles. “Calm down, flying off the handle isn’t going to solve anything. Look Hun I’m telling you right now that this bitch just has a chip on her shoulder. Whatever reasons she gives you about how its for your own good or how the real world works or whatever are just her own way of coping with the situation.” Jamie’s calm, rational psychiatrist tone settled perfectly into place as she moved around the table taking the seat across from Diana and holding her best friends right paw tight. “Now come on, do your parents, or my parents, or your godparents for that matter?” She offered her friend a smile and pulled three wrinkled of dollar bills from her jacket pocket. “here, Diana, go grab a couple of sodas from the machine. I think we could all use something to calm us down.”
"Diana glared at the dollar bills for several minutes before snatching them out of Jamies hand, apparently having decided to let cooler heads prevail. Still, as she was leaving the room she couldn't help but give the door frame one good hard punch, the wood actually giving a small sound of protest before she slipped into the game shop beyond.
“That’s about the reaction I had expected at lunch.” Jamie said glancing at her friend with a smile “Guess she wrote the first time off as a fluke. Well at least that means she’s getting her temper in check… kinda.” She glanced back at the wall where Diana’s fist had impacted, noticing a few cracks in the paint where the chipette had clearly hit a stud head-on. Jamie could only imagine how much that hurt, and considering that Diana had yet to show any signs of pain, it seemed like her job was only going to get harder from here. “Now Est I want you to tell me exactly what happened that you think made the teacher so upset, and what she did in response. Don’t’ worry I already saw the way she works once. I doubt you are going to surprise me with anything.”
Ester sighed and took a few more breaths, the whole issue of her confrontation flowing over and over again in her head without the normal tangents and sidebars her mind came up with. For once the whole situation was totally at the fore and inescapable in any way, something she knew that she had to deal with. “Well in Social Studies, she started to talk about how everything in the past century has been based on economic growth or pressure. She began drawing out a time line and trying to tell us that in order to succeed we need to understand how important being financially stable is, and how hard we have to work in order to stay on top because if we don’t then we won’t be able to get anywhere in life. I… I actually…” Ester went quiet for a minute and shut her eyes tight as she tried to pull the words from her normally over nimble mind. “I tried to protest it. I tired to tell her it wasn’t true. I knew it wasn’t right since she’s a teacher and its her class but…”
“Good for you!” Jamie gave her friend a playful shot in the arm and smirked “Maybe that will knock the bitch down a peg or two. You know there’s nothing wrong with calling it out when someone is talking out of their ass. Remember Kitchen Nightmares? The guy who owned the black pearl? We both knew he was talking shit, so did Chef Ramsay. Hell if I told grandma this guy thought Canada lobster was the same as Maine lobster…”
“But She’s the teacher.” Ester protested softly, fearfully, as if the fact itself was enough to put her so far into the wrong. “I’ve never had to behave that way to a teacher before. They have never… I’ve always assumed they were here to help, that they knew what they were talking about.”
A can of Vanilla coke and another of Canada Dry hit the table as Diana came back, seeming in far better spirits than she had before. She turned her gaze to Ester for a moment and just slumped back down into her seat. “Hell Jamie, do you remember Mister Flaxem? The third grade Art teacher? You know the one with the…”
“Oh yeah! Flaxem. Oh god that guy was really in the wrong job wasn’t he? I still say he must have been high half the time, and bitter as hell. I remember one time he just ripped one of my paintings to shreds because I didn’t have enough ‘vision’… I was trying to draw one of the characters from Anamaniacs.” Jamie just shook her head and smirked a bit more “Trust me Est this guy was so unstable he makes this Dubois lady look tame. Apparently he got fired after that year too. So it shouldn’t be too hard to do the same with this lady. At the very least she should get a scare, and hopefully realize her behavior isn‘t ok.”
Ester shook her head and tired her best to smile, failing rather miserably. “Well its more than that though. I mean yes she’s a bit obsessive and maybe she doesn’t want to be here. But after that, after the whole issue in class she had me stay after, and…” Once again Esters mind tried to wander, tried to set into motion that long convoluted thought process she was so used to, the constant flow of often useful information that had been her way of functioning for so long. Once again she found herself stuck, uncomfortably obsessing over one small thing. “She told me that I was right, but that it didn’t matter. She told me that she was trying to help the class, and especially me, live up to our potentials. That the only way to get ahead in this world is to latch on to the corporate ladder and claw your way up. It all sounded really scary, and really unsettling. It was worse because she didn’t seem really angry…”
“She doesn’t have to be angry.” Jamie interrupted “She’s got some sort of bizarre chip on her shoulder and she’s taking it out on her class, and on you specifically.”
Diana smiled a bit and wrapped a hand around the mouse girls shoulders “Miss Kitty has a point.” she said once again seeming relaxed enough to joke “Much as I fucking hate to admit it. The bitch has a hang up with you, and whatever it is we need to figure it out sooner or later. Then we can decide if we go in for Jamie’s plan of getting her kicked out of the school or opt for my little alternative.”
“Your alternative being to make a martyr out of her?” Jamie sighed as she shook her head “In any case it’s probably not a good idea to obsess about this stuff now. You two let me worry about keeping Miss Dubois under check, I think our brave story teller has bigger things on her mind than telling that bitch off doesn’t she?”
Diana smiled proudly, saying nothing but still nearly radiating an aura of pure satisfaction. Ester picked up on a rather clear ‘tell me later’ look and turned back to her books with a wide smile, mind once again starting back up to its full thousand mile per hour rate of movement. “You guys are right. First thing is first Diana, about your other gear.”