Three students have accused you of taking it. Hundreds of pounds probably. They say they saw you. Say it wasn’t a surprise. Why wouldn’t someone like you steal that amount of money? Maybe you did. Maybe you were hypnotised by it, winking and flirting with you. Maybe you took it without realising. But you know it doesn’t matter. Whether you did or you didn’t.
‘What do you have to say for yourself?’
You swear on your life. Not sure if that’s worth more or less than a faded plastic bucket half-filled with grubby coins.
You know who the three are.
Charlotte, whose hair you twisted into a fist and pulled. Slowly. Until it tore.
Leo, whose nose you spilled with a fast sharp flick of a hockey stick.
Rory, whose lunch clogged like mud, but you ate it anyway.
The Headteacher doesn’t believe it when you say they’ve lied. Bright stars in this school. Why would they? Nothing to gain.
You stare at her flowery mug, but not for long. Don’t want to be charged with planning your next heist. She rattles away, fingers magnetic, snapping back to the keyboard again and again.
‘So, you aren’t going to admit it?’
In her eyes you’re as guilty as the bear covered in honey. The lion with blood-stained paws. She wants to get back to the raffle, try to win that hamper of wine. That’s why all the teachers were busy when you committed your crime.
What was your crime? Thinking you could’ve had fun today? Existing? You swear under your breath, mutter the word Dad calls you, doesn’t think you hear it, or understand it.
‘Excuse me, who do you think you are?’
You know who you are, never allowed to forget it.
Charlotte holding her delicate little nose closed as you walk past before you reach for her hair.
Leo saying he doesn’t want someone in trainers like yours on his team before you lose control of the hockey stick.
Rory laughing that you eat dinner from a bin, before you shove his sandwich in whole. Try not to heave.
You’re suspended. You’ve got the letter to take home. Probably won’t. It’s already scrunched up anyway. Just get dressed in your uniform on Monday and walk around until the afternoon. Who’s going to notice?
You kick a dust bunny across the tiles, watch it skitter along like a bug. Wish it was a bug. Want to crush something. To feel bigger than something.
Laughter bounces off the corridor walls. You recognise the cackles. They box your ears. In a hidden corner, three shadows share a burgled fortune.
The blame you’re wearing, heavy as a suit of armour. You imagine their faces, the Head looming over them, making them apologise one by one. Each ‘sorry’, buttery toffee. Then you imagine their faces, you looming over, prising every penny from their reluctant fists, their stolen smiles the sweetest treasure of all.
Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her work has appeared in Perhappened Mag, Northern Gravy, Free Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine, and Reflex Press among others. Balancing too many projects is her natural state.
Lies Over the Ocean by Martha Lane is out now. – amzn.to/43621P1