Ann-Marie sat in class gazing at Chris Brown, she watched as he leaned over to his friend, Nelly and passed him a note. Her small school blouse and shorter-than-normal skirt defined her curvaceous body. Nelly saw Ann-Marie watching his friend, he giggled and motioned to Chris to look behind him. Chris turned and looked back at Ann-Marie. She was caught out and her elbow slipped on the desk and dislodged his small tin pencil box, it crashed to the floor making a loud noise. The entire class turned and laughed at Ann-Marie, she felt the heat of a crimson blush as a rush of prickles ran up her back from embarrassment.

She glanced back at Chris and Nelly who were still looking at her, giggling. A quiet fury surged inside her; she hated it when people laughed at her, it was worse when Chris did though as he seemed to know she liked him. Humiliated, Ann-Marie slumped in her chair and lowered her gaze to her desk. Surely no more ridicule would eventuate if she lay low for the rest of the lesson. ‘Ann-Marie Lawal! ‘ shouted the Legal Studies teacher, Mr Carlson. ‘Would you stop daydreaming and concentrate! I don’t like your attitude young woman. I’m trying to inform the class about the Queensland court system and all you can do is stare at your desk?

Please pay attention. I’m sure if your attitude does not improve you’ll learn more about the courts first hand! ‘ Ann-Marie could hear muffled laughter around the classroom, the other students were careful not to exacerbate Mr Carlson’s aggravation. ‘Sorry siiUGHr. ‘ The class erupted in laughter when Ann-Marie’s voice faltered; she had been keeping quiet in the last few weeks because she knew that she couldn’t trust her changing voice. The class struggled to regain composure. Ann-Marie sank back in her chair and looked straight ahead at the white board. Mr Carlson chuckled to himself seemingly pleased at the humiliation he caused Ann-Marie.

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As the class settled down a little, Mr Carlson extracted a pile of papers from his briefcase. ‘I’ve marked your mid term research essays on the “Constitutional Rights of Australians” and I was generally pleased with the effort. Some of you, however, have let your own opinions get in the way and have been marked down in that respect. If you are unhappy with your marks come and tell me, I’ll see if I can help you understand where you went wrong. ‘ Ann-Marie knew she’d included some of her own opinions in her essay, she hoped that it wouldn’t be too obvious.

She remembered how Mr Carlson didn’t like it when people did things differently. Surely she should get a reasonable mark; she put a lot of work into this essay. She needed better marks in Legal Studies so she did the best to submit a very good paper and only hoped Mr Carlson would recognise her effort and mark it accordingly. Mr Carlson walked around distributing the papers amongst the class. Ann-Marie watched the expression of the students as they discovered what mark Mr Carlson had given them; most showed some degree of disappointment.

Mr Carlson handed Chris his paper, he immediately turned to Nelly to tell him that he got an ‘A’. Mr Carlson tossed Ann-Marie’s paper in front of her. ‘Yet another unsound piece of work from you Ann-Marie – I wish you had a better attitude towards this subject. ‘ Ann-Marie blushed and again she felt a rush of prickles run up her back. Some of the students looked at her with smirks on their faces, while others had more sympathetic looks. Ann-Marie read her mark. She felt nauseous when she learned Mr Carlson had given her a ‘C-‘ for her paper.

She swallowed hard, managing to contain her disappointment, dejection and anger. The bell rang for the end of class. There was no time to see Mr Carlson about her mark and she already knew there was no point in seeing him anyway as it was unlikely the mark would be altered. Ann-Marie hated Mr Carlson for all the humiliation and frustration he caused her and she hoped tomorrow would be better. Ann- Marie got home at around 9:45 when her mother began questioning her about her late whereabouts. As Ann-Marie lay in a ball on the floor in self-pity, she heard the front door’s lock open and turn.

Followed by the heavy footsteps of the 16 stone Officer and her mother leading the way; walking down the corridor, passing the lounge, the kitchen, coming towards her room. She opened her eyes and with a huge sigh pulled herself to her num feet. She heard her heavy bedroom door open and the Officer’s footsteps drawing closer, his hand on the door handle as he twisted its smooth round nob. The door opened, she quickly turned and washed her hands trying to relief her skin from the blood of her enemy. The Officer came close and said boldly, ‘Ann-Marie… is it? I believe you own the 1950 Sigma’.

Ann-Marie replied wonderingly, ‘yes. May I gain knowledge of why you ask? Officer… ‘ ‘Well a Mr O’Neil Carlson was severely injured tonight’, answered the Officer. Pretending Ann-Marie closed her eyes and covered her hands over her face, repetitively saying, ‘OH my God!!! No… Why- OH my God!!! No… Why’. Then she continued saying, ‘… but where do I come in on this matter? ‘ The officer said, ‘well that car of yours was spotted by a passer-by at the scene… not to worry we continue the inquest tomorrow as it is getting late. ‘ The Officer made his way to the door leaving Ann-Marie.

The following day Mr Carlson was not there to take Legal Studies. The school Principal, Mrs Golding took the class instead, she addressed the class; ‘Mr Carlson is unable to come to school today,’ Mrs Golding explained. ‘He was involved in a brutal hit and run accident last night when walking home from school. He suffered severe head injuries and is currently lying in hospital in a coma. I know his family would appreciate any thoughts and prayers you might have for him in this time of grief. ‘ The class sat in stunned silence.

Chris proffered his hand, ‘Will Mr Carlson be alright Miss? ‘The doctors can’t be sure at this time Chris. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to teach again if he ever wakes up because he may have sustained brain damage. I don’t want you all to dwell on this tragedy too much. I think it’s best you concentrate on your studies because your final year is very important. I’ll take you for Legal Studies for the remainder of the year. ‘ Mrs Golding seemed quite uneasy. She was obviously still coming to terms with the news of Carlson’s accident. Ann-Marie noticed there was something else bothering her as she looked out the window – the same window Mr Carlson had caught her gazing out many times before.

She noticed a police car parked in front of the school office. Mrs Golding continued, ‘The police are aware of threats that have been made to Mr Carlson in the past by some of his former students. I’m also aware that his popularity among the student body leaves something to be desired. I pray that his accident was not an attack by a past or present pupil of this school. It’s very likely that the police will want to ask some of you questions regarding the incident. ‘ Ann-Marie was feeling very uncomfortable. It was good news that they had Mrs Golding for the rest of the year.

As she liked Mrs Golding as she was quite friendly to Ann-Marie. She couldn’t remember her ever trying to humiliate her in anyway like Mr Carlson used to. Ann-Marie didn’t, however, like the fact that the police were around asking questions. If they were looking for students with personal vendettas against Mr Carlson, she was a prime suspect. Everyone knew Ann-Marie hated Mr Carlson and they knew how Mr Carlson treated Ann-Marie. ‘I understand all of you are stunned and upset to hear of this tragedy. I’m going to let you all go home for the rest of the day.

The class remained silent as it moved out of the classroom. There were quiet discussions between some of the students, still shocked by the news. Ann-Marie walked to her car, she was one of the few students who drove to school. On many occasions she would give one of her friends a lift home. Not today. She looked at the dints in the fender and the bonnet of her clapped-out, rusty-brown Sigma. She examined a smaller dint closer to the windscreen and noticed a trace of blood that she had failed to hose off last night in the dark. Ann-Marie smiled and began walking to the door of the car. Sigh of relief.


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