Not fell off the face of the earth (again) so here is something I submitted for one of my university assessments.
The day started as always. Walking to work like any other muggle, her white cane skimming along the pavement until it happened. It always happened. Some idiot yanking her away from the curb with a shriek of terror as if she would hurl herself under the next coming bus. Or some snide comment whispered behind her back about faking her disability. The same routine every single day, only conducted by different people like some shit orchestral concert.
If she were to decide that would be the best way to go, it would be an inconvenience for everyone involved. It would totally ruin the bus schedules too. Best not.
So here she was letting everyone off the 7:30 bus to Derby, keeping her head tilted so she could hear the shuffling movements and meaningless conversations passing. Someone sneezed as they walked past, kicking her shoe and not apologising for spreading germs. Anna recoiled. Thank God she always had a bottle of hand sanitizer on her. She got to her feet slowly, one hand gripping the rail. She steadied her steps in case there were any empty plastic bottles until she got to the door.
“Take care, love,” the driver said somewhere to her right. She forced a smile in response and stepped off the bus and into the station. Mindless chatter buzzed around her head and the footsteps pounding on tiles mirrored her thumping heart. How many times would she get verbally abused or manhandled today? It had been a running joke which someone turned into a bet at the last staff party, how many times she would be unhelpfully assisted on her journey to and from work each week. Not including weekends though, that was clearly a free for all. She had the unfortunate mistake of popping into town to run some overlooked errands. Never again. Whoever had the most accurate estimate would win a mysterious prize at the next staff party.
Anna smirked and hitched her bag higher on her shoulder as she moved through the station. If she was lucky, she might check the cupboards in the staff room to see if there were any remains of the Victoria sponge that had been brought in yesterday. A goodwill gesture from Miss Simms, the head-teacher. No doubt there’s another inspection looming, she thought as she stepped out into the warm spring sunshine and turned right towards the traffic lights. The ground was smooth under her boots. Why else would the old cow be bribing the staff with treats?
Frowning, she slowed her pace as the pavement became more congested with commuters. Someone knocked hard into her shoulder, her bag slipped into the crook of her elbow. She scowled, ignoring the incoherent shout. Why hadn’t she brought her sunglasses, she’d have a cracking headache before lunchtime. Her cane knocked against something hard.
“Do you need any help?”
The voice came from somewhere to her left, she could hear footsteps matching her own pace. Anna shook her head, keeping her gaze down. There’d been too many times someone had distracted her, causing her to walk into something. The number of bruises on her shins and arms were a testament to the vicious advertisement boards littering the city centre streets.
“I’m fine,” she said, part of her wishing she’d taken her earphones out of her pocket, but her mother’s scolding voice always permitted her from doing so. It was dangerous and silly, she wouldn’t be able to hear the cars coming and then she really would get ran over. Is that what she wanted? She shook her head, blinking in the sunlight. It’d been six years since she last saw her parents, they were too busy sunning it up in Spain. All right for some.
A hand on her wrist made her jump, a shriek left her lips before she had a chance to stop it. Someone yanked her left, and she stumbled, hand outstretched and cane dangling from the wrist strap. A sharp squeal of brakes whistled past.
The hand tightened on her wrist and she closed her eyes to slow her whirling mind. “I’m sorry, there was a biker, one of those couriers you know, with a massive bag strapped onto his back. He wasn’t looking properly, they never do, do they? Sorry, well I didn’t want you to get hit. That’s all, are you alright? I’ve not broken your stick, have I?”
It was the same voice from before, male. Same south Derbyshire accent as her, he didn’t sound very old, a student? He was rambling, talking too quickly. Nervous?
God who cares?
Clearing her throat, she wrenched her arm away and readjusted her grip on her cane. She blinked slowly, wincing at the sunlight. She tilted her head slightly to the left, so she could hear the pedestrians marching by. A pigeon was pecking the pavement close to her. If she was standing on some strewn food or something, the council would be getting a strongly worded email about the state of their pavements.
“Well, thanks but a little warning if you try it again, you nearly gave me a heart attack,” she said, inching slightly to the right as the pigeon cooed.
A breathy chuckle made her frown harder, her lips pressing into a thin line.
“Do I know you?” She winced at her bluntness and screwed her nose up. She’d been told on numerous occasions she could rub people up the wrong way. Not her fault, she didn’t have the time or energy to deal with people tiptoeing around her. Better to get to the point, everyone knew where they stood then.
Another laugh, more nervous this time, almost shaky. He cleared his throat again. “Well, no. Not as such. I don’t follow you around or anything, well in the mornings I do, I get the same bus as you every day, you get on a couple of stops after me,” he said. There was a slight murmur in his voice, his words tripping over one another.
She shrugged when a sudden blast of sirens made her jump. “Every bloody time,” she muttered. There was another rustle of fabric. Shakily she raised a hand to her chest and pressed her fingers against her thudding heartbeat. The sirens veered off, echoing along the high street. Inhaling deeply, the smell of doughnuts and hurried footsteps grounded her.
“Are you ok?” The hand was back on her arm, gently nudging her elbow.
Shaking her head, she clenched her jaw. She’d be late for the staff meeting at this rate. She tugged her mobile out of her pocket and swiped up. Pressing it to her ear, she winced as it read the time aloud in that stupid electronic voice. Her arm brushed his, how bloody close was he standing? Close enough to smell sweat, deodorant does exist, you know.
“Look,” she sighed and shoved her mobile back in her pocket, taking care to zip the pocket up, she’d lost one too many phones. Shaking her head again, she swept her hair away from her forehead. “I’m running late so if there isn’t anything else.”
There was another rustle of fabric, probably checking his own phone. A pause before he spoke this time, debating his words.
Hurry up, I’ve got better things to do. Ushering kids into form is more fun than this.
She frowned at his gentle laugh. “My name’s Harry.”
Sighing, she hitched her bag onto her shoulder, cane tucked under her arm and held her hand out. She could be in the completely wrong direction, but he grasped her hand firmly. His skin was soft like he didn’t work with his hands. Interesting.
“Anna,” she replied, tugging her hand away. She brushed her hand on her trousers as she got her bearings. Ten-minute walk and she’d be safe at work.
“I err, might see you on the bus tomorrow then yeah?” His voice was farther to her left, footsteps echoing away. She scoffed and set off towards the school.
Well, that’s something to announce at the staff meeting. An incident where she wasn’t treated like a child or questioned if she totally was blind.
Smiling, she was grateful for the warm sun casting shadows on the pavement. Her cane swept along checking the path. She didn’t want to walk into a bench again.
“So, this guy appears out of nowhere, grabs you out of the way of a courier and you’re absolutely fine with it?”
Anna tucked her hand around Linda Anderson’s arm, soft wool tickled her fingers. The staff meeting was uneventful, she made the necessary notes and just had to type it up before circulating them around the staff. She was slightly smug to have learned touch typing at an early age. It had worked out well. Unlike trying to learn braille. The dent from when she threw the braille machine was probably still on her parent’s front room wall.
“I can’t believe you! Usually, you’re fuming about some idiot not looking where they’re going or treating you like a kid. What’s with this one?” Linda asked as they made their way through the school to the humanities department on the second floor.
“Nothing. He just didn’t sound like the regular idiots,” she replied, her right hand slightly outstretched in case there was a bin or trolley Linda didn’t warn her about. Her knee was still tender after she walked into a desk which had been moved to create space for the Year 8’s geography presentations.
Linda grunted as they increased their pace. Anna scoffed. She shouldn’t be complaining. Linda immediately took her under her wing when she started at Cowry comprehensive three years ago.
They got along well despite being at either end of the campus. They came to the stairs; she skimmed her fingertips over the cool metal railing, the smell of bleach making her eyes water as they ascended. Whoever had the idea to put the toilets right outside a set of stairs clearly had no sense of smell.
Clearing her throat, she was led through a set of double doors. Her boots scuffed the thin carpet, they were near her classroom.
“He gets my bus apparently, sees me most mornings,” she said, her fingers plucking at the fuzzy wool of Linda’s jumper.
“Well, you watch how you go. You never know what people are like, men especially,” Linda said. There were footsteps approaching. It had to be Ella Hollins, the history teacher she was shadowing. Anna recognised the perfume, Chanel no.5.
Shaking her head, she slid her hand away from Linda’s arm and crossed them over her chest. “Oh, so you think I can’t look after myself then?”
Linda scoffed, there was a loud scuff on the carpet like a shoe being dragged. “I said nothing of the sort. I know you can look after yourself. Unless there’s a slight breeze.”
“That was one time!”
“I thought you were going to snap in two.”
“You two really do squabble like an old married couple.”
Anna raised her eyebrows as Ella’s unmistakable stomping echoed down the hall. There was a reassuring squeeze on her arm as Ella stopped beside her.
“She started it,” the words were out of her mouth before her mind caught up. She could just imagine Linda’s face, probably somewhere between amusement and irritation. Ella tutted.
“I’m ending it. It’s too bloody early and it’s Monday morning,” she said, stifling a yawn. “Shall we get set up? After form, we have Year 7’s and I’m not looking forward to it. Glue should be banned until after lunch, I’ve said it all along.”
“Enjoy, I’ve got my lovely Year 11’s to torment before their exam next week,” Linda said, a snigger dripping off her words. Ella tutted again as Linda hurried down the corridor with a hasty see you at break if you’re still alive thrown over her shoulder.
“Cheeky bugger,” Ella said, shaking her head so a curl of hair tickled Anna’s bare shoulder. “Shall we, Miss James?” A light tug on her arm prompted her to move towards their classroom. They had a solid half hour before form but there were a few kids who liked to get settled early to enjoy the peace and quiet before the day began.
She couldn’t blame them, the only peace and quiet she was going to get would be when she got home. Ella pressed her down behind a desk and was quietly humming to herself, muttering every now and then under her breath from the other end of the classroom. Anna drowned her out and listened for the creak of floorboards and the scuffing of furniture on the carpet as she typed her staff meeting notes. Frowning at the direction of the clock, it ticked obnoxiously back.
The silence after the break-time bell had rung was almost deafening. Anna had no idea where the kids got their energy from, she was still half asleep and in desperate need of caffeine. Ella stayed behind to talk to a student, leaving her somewhat in the lurch. But she had been at the school long enough to find her way to the staff room, it’d just mean using her cane, something she rarely did inside the school because it drew unwanted attention. She’d already heard a handful of older students comment behind her back. She’s not blind, she’s faking, I saw her on her phone.
She crept into the humanities corridor with her cane sweeping the carpet and one hand brushing the wall. Hurried footsteps knocked into her, a male shriek followed and what sounded like books clattering to the floor. Fluttering paper gently settled to the carpet, something hard landed on her foot, pain ricocheted up her leg. One hand gripping her cane and the other splayed on the wall. Her heart threatened to jump out of her chest. Scrambling and muttered curses followed.
“Sorry! Sorry, hang on.”
Anna frowned and inched forward. She felt a hard object knock against her foot. She recognised that voice, too young to be a student unless it was a Year 11. There were more footsteps, two sets this time.
“Miss, is everything alright?”
Belle Clarkson, that soothing Welsh accent calmed her racing heart. The Year 10 prefect nudged her arm. There was still some muffled movement on the carpet and creaking floorboards. She cleared her throat. The movements stopped as if the person had only just noticed her and the prefects.
“I’m fine, Belle, thank you. Would you mind?” She didn’t bother finishing the rest of the sentence and simply gestured to the floor. The prefects knew when and how to explain what the bloody hell was going on. There was snigger before Belle spoke, increasing Anna’s intrigue.
Male voice. She opened her mouth, squinting. Like that was going to make any difference. She could barely make out dark shapes on her good days.
Belle nudged her elbow again. “It’s the new languages teacher, miss-.”
“I met you this morning, can you remember? Sorry, of course you can, it’s just I had no idea you worked here too.”
Her skin prickled as the early morning commute flashed before her eyes-poor choice of words-what the hell was he doing here?
“It’s Anna, isn’t it?”
“Miss James,” she snapped, heat rushing up her neck. She could feel the two prefects watching with eagle eyes, desperate to snatch any titbit of gossip to circulate around the school.
The anxious laugh was back. “Of course, it’s Mr Greenwood,” he said. “A real teacher, it’s going to take some time for me to get used to being called sir on a regular basis.”
Biting the inside of her lip, she tried to remember when she was a new teaching assistant. The anxiety of worrying you were going to make a fool of yourself in front of the kids. Kids are buggers, always ready to point out your mistakes. There was some sympathy. But languages? Good luck to the poor sod, having to deal with kids mispronouncing words and generally sounding like fingernails on a chalkboard.
“Girls, maybe you should go and finish your duties. You know some Year 7s like to sneak upstairs,” she said, turning to her left.
After a muffled agreement, footsteps bounced away and stifled giggles echoed. A sudden waft of tuna made her stomach twist, who the hell was eating?
“Are you going down to the staff room?”
Of course, Harry was still lingering, how could she forget?
Readjusting her grip on the cane, she leaned left towards where the smell of tuna was coming from.
“Is there a Year 8 boy behind you eating a sandwich?” She whispered edging around Harry as silently as she could.
“Shh! Has he noticed us? He’s wearing glasses?”
“Erm, he’s not noticed and yeah, black glasses. Why are we whispering?”
She cleared her throat. “Pip Matthews, no eating upstairs! You have to go to the hall if you want to eat,” she called, moving a couple of steps forward. Harry stumbled, feet scuffing the carpet.
“How did you know it was me?” Came a squeaky shout from the end of the corridor.
“I know everything, I’ve told you before,” she said, stopping near the double doors leading downstairs, she could feel the draught around her legs. Scrunching her nose up as the smell of bleach intensified, she shook her head. “Now get down to the hall if you’re not finished eating.”
“Do you have like superpowers or something?” Pip asked.
She tapped the side of her nose and leaned on her cane. “I can never reveal my true identity,” she whispered, winking. There was a giggle before her. “Now hop it before the prefects catch you, they won’t hesitate to throw that sandwich in the bin.”
Another giggle followed as footsteps hurried down the hallway, the slam of a door on the wall told her Pip hadn’t learned to slow down despite the number of warnings he’d been given since he started.
“Staff room?” she asked, holding her hand out to where Harry was last standing. There was a creak of floorboards. The smell of bleach tickled the back of her throat. At least it wasn’t tuna anymore, she thought as Harry took her hand and tucked it into the crook of his elbow. His sleeve was soft, a cardigan? The older students were going to eat him alive if he was all dressed up.
“You’ll have to let me in on your secret,” Harry said to her left as he led her through the double doors and downstairs to the first floor. “Mind your stick.”
“It’s called a long cane, Mr Greenwood.”
Kids were shouting outside, letting off steam before the next period and causing chaos whether they went. She really needed a coffee.
head, her boots hit the last step. “What secret?”
“How to get kids to like you?” He replied, tugging her left as the squeak of wheels on tiled flooring swept past. She could smell the cooking oil; the kitchen must already be prepping for lunch.
“You’ve been here a morning, get over yourself.”
Harry tensed as he paused to let a group of giggling students past. Squealing and muttering under their breath, something about the new teacher trying to flirt? The smell of bleach had finally gone, leaving only the mix of body sprays and sweat lingering in the hallway.
“You’ll get used to it,” she said. Heels clicked on the tiles ahead of them and suddenly voices echoed.
“Miss Anderson, are we in the computer room today?”
Tuning the conversation out, she increased her pace. They were nearly at the staff room, she could hear the murmur of voices from reception to her right. There had to be at least ten minutes left of break. Plenty of time to abandon Harry and let him fall prey to the wrath of the faculty whilst she drank her weight in caffeine.
Warm fingers curled around her own. Her first instinct was to snatch her hand away. The clicking had slowed. Linda was watching them, she could smell Linda’s pine perfume. She’d be breathing down Anna’s neck, asking about what they were doing, when she and Harry were going on a date, when is the wedding?
Hell would freeze over first.
Harry cleared his throat. “Listen, Anna, I was wondering-.”
“I see my guiding services are no longer needed.”
Anna yanked her hand away and took a step backwards, her back hit the sharp edge of a filing cabinet. The clicking heels stopped. Her heartbeat was in her ears as hot pain shot down her back.
“Am I interrupting?” There was no mistaking the smirk in Linda’s voice.
She glared in Harry’s general direction and rubbed her back where she hit the cabinet. That’ll leave a cracking bruise.
“I don’t think we’ve been introduced. Linda Anderson, head of ICT,” the older woman bumped into Anna’s right shoulder. Harry choked on a high-pitched laugh. There was no hope or him, he was going to get eaten alive before the week was out.
“Harry Greenwood,” he mumbled. “Languages, but I mainly teach French, though I’ve never actually been to France. Not very good at German, though I’m pretty decent in Spanish if needs be. Sorry. Are you ok with your stick, Anna?”
“It’s a cane!” She snapped. The smell of tuna was back. Growling under her breath, she spun on her heel. “Pip! Hall or outside or I’m going to chuck that abomination you call a sandwich in the bin! Go!” She slammed her cane on the ground. The sound echoed down the hallway. A muttered apology washed away her anger as she turned back to Linda and Harry who had remained silent.
“How do you know our Anna, then?”
“Erm sorry,” Harry squeaked. “Do you know where the toilets are?”
“Straight down that hallway and turn right. You’ll pass the staff room on your way down,” Anna sighed. She started walking and gently swept her cane along the tiles. Harry rushed past with an apology as Linda gripped her elbow.
“For the love of God, piss off,” she said, the edges in the flooring changing to thin carpet once more. She could hear teachers chatting and the delicious smell of caffeine as she stepped soundlessly into the staff room. She made a beeline for the small kitchen at the back of the room.
“Ah, the wanderer returns,” Ella said over the gentle hum of a kettle. “Thought you disappeared off the face of the earth.”
“Sod off. I’d probably just end back upstairs; the classroom is my purgatory. Is there any coffee going begging?” She tilted her head towards the steam wafting over her.
“Maybe, what’s it worth?” Ella asked, kicking her cane out of the way so she could retrieve a mug from the cupboard. At least that’s what it sounded like. It wouldn’t be the first time someone gave her an inadequate mug. What was the point of teacups?
“Me not killing anyone, that’s what a coffee’s worth.”
Ella tutted. “Depends who you wanted to murder. A certain ICT teacher who’s heading this way?”
“So, Anna. Harry, eh?”
She scowled. “You’ll get that kettle over you in a minute.”
“Good luck finding it,” Linda retorted.
Hurried footsteps deepened her scowl, muttered apologies and whispers confirmed Harry had re-joined them. She gripped her cane, looping the strap around her wrist and leaned against the kitchen counter. The kettle whistled as Ella hummed over the clinking of crockery.
“There’s so many students here, I’m never going to remember anyone’s name,” he said over a rustle of fabric. “Is there any green tea?”
“Back of the cupboard,” Ella said. Gentle fingers wrapped her own around a mug and held it steady whilst she adjusted to the weight. Anna sighed happily as the heat seeped through her skin as she lifted the mug to her lips.
“Shit!” Harry shouted.
Her cane yanked forwards, her mug slipped from her grip and scalding heat hit her stomach. Crockery smashed on the tiles, sending shards slicing into her palm as she crashed to her knees, someone’s legs cushioning her fall somewhat.
“I didn’t see it! Your stick, are you okay? I’m sorry, I’ve not broken it, have I?” Harry spluttered. Chairs scraped and rushing footsteps bounced in her ears as she took deep breathes, eyes closed. Her stomach was on fire and her hand throbbed.
Snapping her head up, she snarled towards Harry who was wriggling under her.
“It’s a bloody cane!”