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After the meeting with Mrs Fraser Nicole had to clear the school texts she had in her possession and there were a lot meaning Mum had to accompany her since Nikki couldn’t carry them alone with the injuries she had. From the office they headed to the classrooms.
History was the first stop. Along the way they passed a few kids in the corridors all of whom greeted my sister with a bright, “Hi Nikki!” clearly delighted to see her around after everything and a three week absence.
An entire first year class crammed the windows when they saw her just to take a glimpse at her. Even the presence of a parent didn’t diminish their enthusiasm.
“Hey Nicole,” some of the girls whispered excitedly.
“Hey,” answered Nikki with a smile and a small wave.
“Are you okay?” another kid asked in touching concern.
“I’m getting better thanks,” responded my sister gently.
“What about your hand?” one girl asked on seeing the plaster.
“Oh it’s still healing, otherwise everything’s okay,” responded Nicole pleasantly.
“Oh cool get better and come back soon,” said the girl who’d greeted her first.
“Thanks,” was all Nikki could say, knowing what she knew, “I have to go guys, ta,” she said.
“Bye Nicole,” chorused the class happily as she walked away.
Nikki grinned and said, “Shh,” so that they wouldn’t disturb the other classes.
I’ve often wondered what went on in Mum’s mind as she stood there, a witness to the affectionate interest in her daughter’s wellbeing from a class of first years. I suppose she must have felt terrible for wanting to remove Nikki from Holyhead and in a way Nikki made it worse by not saying a thing about what had just happened, not one complaint or protest about having to leave passed her lips. She was too lost in her emotions to do that and she doubted whether saying something would make a difference.
Still Mum’s curiosity forced her to break the silence.
“Is that a first year class?” she asked.
“Yes, it’s 1A. I did a lot of debate and quiz with them and I’ve had to watch them more them a couple of times,” said Nikki calmly, “this is it,” she added as they turned and reached Mrs Whaley’s class.
The calm voice and usage of the past tense could have fooled anybody but Mum who knew her daughter well enough by now. Nikki knocked on the door and she heard Mrs Whaley say, “come in,”
My sister opened the door and stepped in.
“It’s Nicole,” someone murmured.
The entire class looked up as one at Mum and Nikki just as if they’d never seen them before. My sister smiled and returned Stacy Reynolds wave. Mrs Whaley wore a bright smile. She got up and embraced Nikki then shook Mum’s hand.
“Hello dear,” she said to Nikki warmly, “hello Sue,” she continued before hugging Mum as well.
Anybody could tell she was overjoyed to see her star pupil.
“How are you Nikki?”
“I’m almost okay ma’am,” answered Nikki cheerfully.
“That’s so nice, what brings you here, I hope it’s not to discuss your last assignment,” teased Mrs Whaley referring to my sister’s habit of discussing her work thoroughly with her. Lately Nikki had been emailing her and she’d been kept busy answering her, her diligence and enthusiasm made her a favourite with Nikki in the same way my sister’s dedication made her teachers love her.
“I wish I was,” said Nikki sadly before handing over the clearance form.
Mrs Whaley’s face clouded. She looked at Mum, a question in her expression.
“You want to pull Nikki out?” she said quietly, clearly disappointed.
“I’m afraid so,” said Mum.
“Is it because of what of the attack?” Mrs Whaley returned.
“Because no one’s been no one’s been caught. I’m afraid to let her come back Nancy,” said Mum.
“I completely understand, any parent would do that but it’ll be such a shame to see her go, especially like this. Do you know I think you’re the best student I’ve ever taught but don’t let it go to your head,” remarked Mrs Whaley kindly.
Nikki blushed, coming from Mrs Whaley that was something. She had twenty years teaching experience under her belt with numerous teaching awards to boot.
“Thank you,” replied my sister, “I won’t let it go to my head,” she promised.
“I know you won’t,” said Mrs Whaley with a smile, “now where are those books?”
The entire class watched as Mrs Whaley cleared my sister’s books. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out what was happening but since this was Mrs Whaley’s class no one sent notes or murmured at all though they were itching to say something. Fifteen minutes after their arrival; Mrs Whaley signed in Nikki’s last textbook and cleared her.
“There,” said Mrs Whaley handing back the form to Nikki.
“Thank you,” said Nikki.
“Thank you,” said Mum.
“Don’t mention it,” said Mrs Whaley, “Nikki I want to wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Don’t rest on your laurels at your new school or spend time thinking about this place okay,” she remarked gently, knowing how much Nikki loved Holyhead.
My sister nodded, unable to speak thanks to the emotion constricting her throat.
“With your brains you can do anything honey, the sky’s the limit,” she went on Mrs Whaley, “do not let yourself down,” she advised.
“I won’t,” Nikki agreed.
Both of them stood up and Mrs Whaley gave Nikki a long hug before it was time to go.
“All the best,” said Mrs Whaley.
“Thanks,” murmured Nikki with a sad smile. Mum shook hands with Mrs Whaley before walking out the room with her daughter, every eye in the room following them.
Once outside Nikki sought Mum’s hand and on finding it was comforted by a firm squeeze. They walked to Art hand in hand, Mum knowing what an ordeal it was for Nikki at that moment. Neither of them said a thing though there was so much they longed to say, they were unable to say it right them so they remained silent.
When they reached the studio they found Nikki’s class in the midst of a lesson with Mrs Marston. This was my sister’s favourite subject because it was the one she found most challenging since it all depended on your talent and not how much you studied, the fact that she excelled in it despite this only strengthened her love of art. Anyway the entire class came to a standstill when they saw who was by the door.
Clara glanced at Vicky and Michelle, clearly worried.
Was Nikki really leaving? Clara wondered.
When Nikki and Mum entered, my sister immediately sought out her friend and looking into her eyes and seeing that sad smile told Clara all she needed to know and her heart broke though she gave her buddy a wave in support, guessing what she must going through.
Mrs Marston went over to give her favourite student a warm welcome.
“How are you Nikki?” she greeted warmly after giving her a warm hug, as everyone looked at Nikki and Mum and stopped the work they’d been doing.
“I’m fine thanks,” responded Nikki as brightly as she could in the circumstances
“She’s made a quick recovery hasn’t she? Considering everything,” remarked Hazel Corrigan happily, it was obvious she was glad to see Nikki back.
“Yes,” Vicky answered, “She’s almost okay,” she added.
“It’ll be great to have her back,” remarked Sally Cohen kindly, she was quite fond of Nikki and admired the way she’d held her head high through every provocation from the taunts to Sameera’s veiled barbs against her. Besides she thought my sister was a sweet likeable girl who didn’t deserve any of the treatment she’d received.
They weren’t close but they’d always talked to each other about clothes and art, something they had a passion for whenever they could.
Clara turned and faced her, “She’s not coming back Sally,” she told her.
“Why not?” Hazel and Sally stunned while Nikki and Mum walked to Mrs Marston’s little office cum storeroom.
“Her mum,” said Clara watching her best friend go.
“That’s Nikki’s mum?” Dikgang Phillips asked upon overhearing them. Her mother was from Botswana which explained her unique first name.
“Yes,” answered Clara.
“She’s gorgeous, no wonder Nikki’s so pretty, they look so alike,” observed Dikgang.
“You hear that Jasmine, that’s Nikki’s mum,” she told another classmate, who she’d evidently been talking to about Mum.
“Really,” said Jasmine astonished, “wow, she looks great,” she commented.
“What’s she up to then?” Dikgang queried.
“She’s here to clear Nikki’s things so she can switch schools,” answered Clara sadly.
The other girls were stunned.
“Are you serious?” Hazel said in amazement.
The rest of the class that is the boys had all drifted to Clara, Michelle and Vicky’s table, drawn by the conversation. Nikki was one of the year’s most popular topics apparently.
“It’s true,” Michelle confirmed, “Nikki told us two weeks ago, in fact her dad wanted to take her to the States,” she added.
“Why?” Natasha Peroni asked, voicing everyone’s thoughts.
“Nikki nearly died you guys. Whoever attacked her did his best to hurt her, if you’d seen her in the hospital you’d appreciate how incredible it is to see her today,” explained Vicky before wiping her eyes.
“No one’s been arrested yet so her parents think letting her come back is to risk another attack,” added Michelle.
“So their transferring her,” finished Clara leaving a stony silence.
“Shame,” murmured Dikgang, “this is so unfair,” she observed.
“Yeah what a pity, Nikki’s had such a hard time ever since she came here first for because she was different from the rest of the boys and then for being a girl,” remarked Sally.
“Yeah some people think it’s their duty to give her a hard time,” said Dikgang vehemently.
“Yeah what is it with guys treating Nikki badly, what’s she ever done to you boys?” Natasha asked, eyeing the six boys in class with an accusing glare.
“I have nothing against her,” objected Tristan, “I always got along with her,” he added.
“Is it,” said Bruno De Grassi with a raised eyebrow.
Thomas Chievo and Sean Keogh grinned.
“Oh sod it,” Tristan told them, “because whatever you’re thinking is twisted. Nicole’s okay,” he said firmly.
“But why are boys the ones who give Nicole hard time, if you weren’t mocking her or scrawling shitty things in your loos you were treating her like she’s got an infectious disease besides George and Carl most of you either pretend she doesn’t exist or only talk to her when forced to,” observed Dikgang.
“Hey we wore hairbands that day,” Bruno pointed out.
“I’d bet a million quid that wasn’t your idea. Besides that was the only thing left that you guys could have done to show if you’re decent human beings but how about the small things in everyday life?” Natasha retorted.
The other girls nodded.
“Small things like what?” Sean queried.
“Like being civilised to her towards her,” said Vicky.
“Treating her like she’s a person,” added Michelle.
“Not calling her names behind her back or sending little brothers to ask for her books coz you’re scared to be seen with her,” said Clara.
“Or staring and staring and making sure she’s the only on duty with girls because you can’t be seen with her,” added Sally, recalling how some of the male prefects had found sudden excuses not to be on duty when Nikki was, meaning Nikki had to work with Dikgang and Sally instead of two boys.
“Do you ever wonder how that makes her feel?” Vicky asked pointedly.
To be continued
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