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The Dirty Headmaster
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The headmaster’s lesson felt so good.
My dad sent me to reform school because I was a bad, bad girl.
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Dad’s voice got louder and harder to ignore. The hoarse tone that had trailed me since childhood was starting to go up in volume, and now it was accompanied with muffled banging on my bedroom door.
Sighing, I yanked out the earbuds and set my iPad aside to face the nagging of my only parent. Sure enough, the door opened to reveal Patrick’s face, puffy and red.
But Dad is always mad at me for some reason or other. This wasn’t anything new. My eyebrows rose in response.
“What’s wrong?” came my patient tone. “What’s going on Dad? Is everything okay?”
I already knew what was wrong. Dina had texted me that our grades were out, mailed home in specially sealed envelopes. And sure enough, the portly man shoved a white paper into my face.
“Explain this to me, Minnie Evans,” he rasped, face almost purple with rage. “Explain to me why you’ve been getting C’s and D’s and not straight A’s. I put you in a good school with the best teachers and this is what you do?” he roared, eyes bulging.
I closed my eyes for the briefest of moments. I hated how he always brought up my grades. Pat made it seem like I’d committed some kind of heinous crime, like murder or arson. In fact, I suffer from dyslexia, with p’s turning themselves into q’s, and letters literally swimming before my eyes sometimes. So I took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry Pat. I did my best, but you know that reading can be hard for me. Even numbers are difficult too because they seem to dissolve and then re-form as squiggly lines.”
The man snorted in disbelief.
“That dyslexia shit again?” he scoffed. “Please that crap is made up. Don’t tell me you have ADHD too. Just. Pay. Attention,” he barked, waving the paper around wildly again.
I’ve been through this a thousand times now. ADHD and dyslexia are real. They’re not made-up ailments pulled from thin air. Besides, how would I fake it? And why would someone do this to themselves? It’s no fun to struggle every day, looking like an idiot again and again. It’s pure torture in fact, enough to make tears spring to my eyes on a regular basis.
But there’s no way to get this across to my father. I’ve tried to explain again and again, only to come up against hard, unyielding concrete. So hanging my head, I went another route.
“Sorry,” was my low mumble. “Next time.”
Unfortunately, my dad continued to rage.
“These grades aren’t going to get you into any college, Minnie,” he thundered. “What then? You think I’m going to support you? You’re going to end up in the gutter!” he spat.
I sighed. We’ve been over this before. College isn’t my thing, and I’d explained that over and over again. But as always, my voice fell on deaf ears.
“Dad, please calm down okay? I tried as hard as I could. I did all my homework and turned in all my projects. I studied, but my brain can’t pull off straight A’s. This is as good as it gets. I’m sorry.”
Pat’s face pulled into a disbelieving grimace.
“Well then try harder, Minnie,” came that hoarse rasp, shaking his head. “It’s because you’re not using your potential. It’s because you’re so focused on those stupid makeovers and whatnot.”
Pain lanced through my heart, swift and hot.
“It’s not stupid, Dad,” I managed in a calm voice despite the fact that my stomach writhed with snakes inside. “It’s something I love to do.”
“Your mother loved it too, and look where that left us,” the man spat. The comment stung because my mother abandoned us long ago, running off with our next-door neighbor. The memory was painful even now, years later.
But life is life, and shit happens sometimes. After all, Dad loved Elaine. Even I could testify to that. And he didn’t ask for this either. I remembered how he used to randomly bring her flowers or sweets when she was working late at the beauty salon.
But I also remembered the night I found out Elaine had left us. The memory was crystal clear in my mind, filled with sharp edges and jagged shards. I’d come home from a football game, the house quiet and still.
“Mom?” I asked, peering into the dark. “Elaine?”
Maybe she’d fallen asleep early, although it was only just past nine. But as I inched closer to our living room, my foot bumped into something. An object rolled and there was a light thud. Suddenly the lights flew on overhead, blinding and harsh.
Because Pat was sitting on the couch. Bottles of beer surrounded him as he gazed my way, eyes bloodshot. He was still in his work clothes, tie hanging askew over a rumpled work shirt.
“Hey,” I began cautiously. “Where’s Mom?”
The question set off a trigger, and suddenly Pat hurled a bottle against the wall, glass shattering with green shards flying everywhere.