Finally! Everything in the classroom washed and put away, every staple removed from every board, six weeks of bliss ahead and a mini heat-wave forecast by the Met office. Completely delicious! School is most definitely out for the summer!
The children left just after three and then the hardest thing to do was work out how to get fifteen boxes of chocolates home on the bus! I’ve had some wonderful presents over the years, cable ties, a bikini – just the top, a paper maché gold hand to put my rings on, a hug (from the dad), and one of the best – a bracelet made out of a fairy liquid bottle that a little girl called Chantelle had made all by herself. She loved bracelets – spent all her time threading beads, tying bits of wool together, she’d sometimes even draw them on her wrist with felt-tips.
‘You’re my best teacher ever, why can’t I keep you?’ She’d asked tearfully as I explained that classes have to move on and that she’d have lovely new teacher (my mate Keri as it happened) next year. It took about two days into the September term before Chantelle had a new ‘best teacher ever’!
That was eleven years ago now, Keri left last year. I still wear the friendship bracelet she gave me – she made it after I admired the one she always wore. I think she must have gone travelling after she left. I was sorry to lose contact with her, she was a laugh.
Nearly finished! Scooping up the leftover sheets of backing paper I returned them to the stock room. As I was putting the stuff away I could have sworn I heard a child crying. They should all have been collected by now, maybe someone had popped back in to use the loo. I really didn’t want to be cleaning up puddles, all any of us wanted now was to get home.
I checked the loos but no-one was there apart from the cleaner calmly pushing a mop around; her head bobbing to whatever music she was plugged in to. But I definitely heard crying – so I followed the sound. It appeared to be coming from the caretaker’s cupboard. Maybe he was going to miss us all more than he let on?!
‘Come on sweetheart, you need to go back to mummy’, I said to whichever child was lurking in there – probably fallen out with a nasty older brother or sister and came in for a quiet little whinge. The sound was coming from a little door at the back of the store cupboard, I didn’t even know there was a door there. Must be where our caretaker hides his secret stash of bin-bags.
Pushing the door open I called out impatiently, a bit louder this time, – ‘You really need to come out now darling, mummy will be getting worried.’ That was when I felt a quick shove and tumbled down the steps, I heard a cackle of laughter, and the lock being pushed across. Brilliant! It had to be those boys in 4D; their idea of a practical joke. ‘This isn’t funny!’ I shouted up at the retreating footsteps.
I could hear the sound of cars being loaded up as staff made their farewells and drove off. We’d never let one poor girl hear the last of it when she got locked in the ladies and had to phone one of the ladies in the office to come and let her out. This would be even worse! I shouted and banged the door but there was no window. Even if the cleaners returning their hoovers could have heard me it was no good – they all had their earphones in. I had just finished banging on the door and yelling when I heard it being unlocked. Finally!
‘I wouldn’t bother doing that Miss, she tried, and it didn’t make any difference.’
Blinking in the unaccustomed light I saw a young woman coming down the steps. I couldn’t see her face yet but what I could see on her slender arms was a variety of home-made bracelets. Among them was one that looked just like the one Keri used to wear.