Entertain Me

Becca concentrated on her breathing, in through her nose, then a long controlled exhale. She hugged the wall as she speed-walked the hallway. Her sea foam green eyes were cast down, giving her a view of her once-white Chuck Taylors. She had thrown a shapeless dress over her slight frame that morning, pushing aside her disappointment as she faced her reflection in the mirror. She would never fit in with her sharp features, her shapeless figure, and her awkward mannerisms. Her only hope was to pass through her teen-age years as a ghost, invisible to peers. It was better to be ignored than ridiculed.

She made it to her 5th period class and slid into a chair. She ran a hand over her head, trying to smooth her dark, frizzy hair. Bobby rushed in as the bell rang, jostling Becca’s desk as he slid down the aisle.

“Way to go Bobby. You made it!” Of course, Mr. Simms would frame Bobby’s near miss as a success. From Becca’s perspective, it seemed the cool crowd could do no wrong. Any faults were forgiven, overlooked. What she wouldn’t give for that kind of absolution. Bobby waved off Mr. Simms’s comment. As if he needed a teacher’s approval.

Mr. Simms began the day’s lesson and Becca fought to concentrate on his voice. She felt her classmates eyes on her, heard the whispers. She forced her face into a neutral expression, hiding her emotions. She prepared herself for an hour of boredom, was surprised when she heard Mr Simms say, “Today, class, I’m going to give you a very different sort of assignment.”

“I’ve decided to mix things up a bit,” said Mr Simms. “I know you guys are bored. Hell, even I’m bored. So…. Today we’re going to have an impromptu variety show!”

The students all sat up straighter, looks of horror on their faces. Becca felt bile in her throat.

“I know you haven’t time to prepare, but you’re all good at something. Entertain me!” Mr Simms exclaimed.

What followed was an hour-long ham session. Becca was not surprised to see her classmates confidently recite poems, perform dances, dribble basketballs, deliver makeup tutorials. They came from happy homes. Their feelings were validated. They wouldn’t understand her life, her father long gone and her mother an exhausted shell.

She sat quietly, tried to hide her disappointment in Mr Simms. This seemed like a betrayal of sorts, the easy way out. He indulged his students desire to be seen and admired and bought himself a day off. The only thing she would take from her time in high school was knowledge. She was a good student and she would be a successful, productive adult. It was her only way out of an untenable situation.

As the minutes diminished from sixty to forty to twenty, as student after student demonstrated their talents, Becca calmed. There would not be time for everyone to perform. Becca felt vindicated. After all, she was good at being invisible.

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