Chapter One — Horticulture at Hasty High 

1.1 — Ripping Paper

The edict that there shall be no phones allowed on the field trip is bad enough, but I reread the second line of the form one more time, internally screaming. The form reads: “Girls who attend this field trip will be staying….”

I put my arms in a circle on my desk surrounding the offending piece of paper before putting my head down on top of them and briefly running my fingers over my shorn brown hair, enjoying the feeling. There. The sensation helps still my body, and I place my hands on my desk next to the form. Now I don’t have to read it any longer. My fingers idly flick the edges of the paper for a while before pulling slightly, tearing, making the most lovely scritching sound I’d heard in a long time. I bask in the after-noise glow for just a moment before I raise my head just slightly and peek over the edges of my arms to make certain nobody has noticed.

The teacher, Ms. Carrolton, is still talking on and on about this field trip. Of course she is. The other students are listening, pretending to listen, or making it clear they don’t care at all by turning in their seats or even whispering to each other. I imagine that they wish they could put their heads down the way I do, but it’s against school rules. I only get to do it because I get overwhelmed easily and sometimes need to block out some of the sensory input. My mother had a meeting with the school about it last year and arranged everything.

I duck back down where my fingers are still playing with the torn edge. Ripping paper had been a favorite thing for me to do when I was younger, but I’ve somewhat fallen out of the habit in recent years. Carefully, as quietly as I can manage, I tease the paper, tearing it just slightly more until it tears straight down the middle of the word “girls.” I am pleased, but in my pleasure my hands move too quickly and the sound becomes much louder all of a sudden.

I stop immediately. Outside my arms I hear nothing but utter silence. I gently close my eyes against the darkness of my surrounding arms, and wait, my anxiety mounting.

I don’t have to wait long.

1.2 — Getting Caught

I hear Ms. Carrolton’s footsteps approach briskly and can feel her presence towering above me before she even says one word.

“Adrianne.”

I hate how when she says my name it sounds as though it’s spelled incorrectly. I mentally correct the spelling: Not Adrianne. Adrian. At this point I cannot imagine that this exchange will go well and brace for the worst, squeezing my eyes more tightly shut and putting pressure on my head with my arms. My mind silently repeats my name, with the correct spelling: Adrian, Adrian, Adrian…

“Adrian, I need you to look at me.”

With great effort I pull my head out from my arms and up from my desk. I look at my teacher’s forehead in a valiant effort to appear as though I’m looking in her eyes, a trick that usually works well, and wait expectantly for my attempt to pay off.

“That’s better.” She leans on my desk, palms downward, staring into my eyes so intently that I can feel her uncomfortable, violating stare even though I’m looking just above and between her eyes. I move my gaze to her bright pink lips as she continues to speak, “Adrian, what was that noise? What were you doing?”

I have no available words to explain what I was doing, but I know what the noise was. Maybe I can answer that part. I sigh heavily to give myself a moment to find the words for the noise and look up at a large water mark on the ceiling that looks a bit like a cat, splayed out, belly up. I think about how lovely it will be to go home at the end of the day and snuggle with my orange tabby cat, Mr. Whiskers. Of course the water mark isn’t quite the right color, but I know that some cats are mocha-colored instead of orange and this is a fair representation of those cats, at least.

“I’m waiting, Adrian.”

I’m startled by the words intruding on my thoughts and heave an even bigger sigh, still staring at the ceiling, “My-my field trip paper tore.” This is the truth, I hadn’t intended to tear the paper at first, it just kind of happened that way. Once I get started it can be difficult to stop so the initial accidental tearing was to blame for all of it really.

“Are you being disrespectful? Sighing at me! Using passive voice with that tone! Papers don’t tear themselves!”

My head shakes back and forth until she finishes and then I holler a vigorous “NO!” I’ve lost track of whether I’m in control of my body or if it’s acting more of its own accord. Disrespectful? I responded the way she wanted me to as soon as I could and as well as I could, how could that be disrespectful? I don’t understand?

With questioning thoughts swirling through my brain I’ve not enough attention to notice how Ms. Carrolton responds to my “no” until she raps her knuckles on my desk three times, which brings my eyes back to her mouth so I can understand what she’s saying.

“You’re going to need that paper, you know. Or you won’t be allowed to go on the field trip.”

“I’m not going anyhow.” I shrug, looking down at the jagged line in my paper while hearing the giggles of my classmates roar in my ears.

Ms. Carrolton reaches out her hand, “Give me the paper, please, young lady.”

My face flushes and I stand as I thrust the paper towards her, “I’m not a young lady!” I manage to force the severely whispered words from my mouth just before grabbing my backpack, turning, and heading towards the door amidst the harsh whispers of my classmates and the intensifying buzz of the fluorescent lights above. It’s all too much. Time to leave.

“You’ll be expected in Mr. Grundle’s office.” Ms. Carrolton calls after me. I don’t have the energy to acknowledge her words in any socially accepted and appropriate ways so I just keep walking. Through the door, into the hallway, never looking back. It’s safer that way, not to react at all if I know I won’t be able to do it “properly” in the first place even if I wanted to, which I really don’t.

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