A/N: Thank you to those who reviewed and a hefty case of puppy dog eyes to those who didn't. Now, may I present the longest chapter to date, 1135 words. I never meant to get above 1000 but technically, these are two chapters rolled into one and I'm too sick to really give a damn. Have fun.Rumor Mill
By the time Richard made his way through the halls to his classroom, mug of tea firmly clasped in one hand, the rumors were already spreading like wildfire.
“The same clothes, can you believe it…”
“….a man’s shirt, that skanky ho….”
“What kind of loser….anyway?”
It took until he stepped into his classroom to find Elisabeth slouched at her usual desk wearing a shirt that smelled strongly of Jason and the general odour of the Circus, that he realized just who the high school Inquisition was picking on again. To his surprise, the tired looking blonde actually rolled her eyes at him in weary amusement. Maybe she just did it because he was the only other adult in the room and even he was younger than her, or she was actually trusting him just a bit.
Either way, he set his mug down and slipped into teacher mode with a vengeance, stopping all teenaged cruelty before it even started. Well, at least until he noticed that he’d left this lesson’s work sheets on the table in the teacher’s lounge.
Quickly he assigned the kids a chapter to read before slipping through the school just a bit faster than human speeds would have allowed. Ms. Trace, the PE teacher seemed to have a free period as she sat next to his stack of sheets, sipping coffee and telling the maths teacher, “Personally, I think the girl probably earns a little money on the side, if you get what I mean.”
Mrs. Johnson looked scandalized, “Sophie! She probably just has an older boyfriend and forgot about the time!”
Sophie shook her head, “No way. Look at how she acts. There’s something seriously wrong, don’t you think, Richard?”
Taking a slow, deep breath Richard counted to five before snatching up his forgotten work sheets and glaring at the two women, “What the hell it wrong with you? She’s a student at this school and as such your damn responsibility! Has anybody bothered to ask
why she acts the way she does? Or has it occurred to you to offer help
if you’re so sure she’s prostituting herself?!”
Both women looked sheepish.
“And you dare call yourselves teachers,” he hissed in disgust as he slipped out of the room. He had known that even the teachers took part in the spreading of juicy rumors, but he hadn’t been aware that they preferred to use their students as subjects of wild speculations instead of helping them. Whether it was prostitution or an older boyfriend, someone
should have cared to ask! Especially since it was common knowledge that Summers was on her own and coupled with her behaviour…. It wasn’t often that Richard felt actively ashamed for someone. But his colleagues had just done it.
He stomped back into his room to find everyone jerking back to their tables. If he quizzed them now, no-one would have an answer because they’d been too busy chatting and teasing a fellow student. If he hadn’t known Elisabeth could take it, he would have blown up yet again. As it was, he simply slapped the worksheets into the hands of the first boy in the front row and ordered him to pass them around.
“I want them completed when the bell rings. No talking. You may use your books. Summers.”
She looked at him, head cocked to one side, before nodding. She’d gotten the hint and would stay behind after class yet again. They really needed to stop having these little meetings or the next rumor flying around would be a teacher student affair. Not that he cared. Someone
had to give a damn, after all. Even if the student wasn’t really a student, it didn’t take much to see that she wasn’t okay either.
He sat back and closed his eyes to the gentle scratching of pens on paper.
“I know that shirt,” he offered by way of greeting as the final sheet was dropped in front of him, accompanied by the sound of a bag hitting the floor as Elisabeth got comfortable on a front row desk.
She shrugged, “Asher gave it to me.”
“You spent all night there then?” He couldn’t help it, he didn’t like it.
“Yeah. We talked. I might have found someone with more hang ups than me.”
He had to snort at that. Asher certainly beat most people in the hang up department. Once again, Richard was startled by how open the girl suddenly seemed. She was practically joking with him.
“What brought the good mood on?”
Another shrug as she pulled one of her legs under herself and stretched like a cat. “I earned a hundred bucks in tips and then spent all night talking to someone who doesn’t depend on me to keep them alive.”
The Ulfric suddenly found himself reminded of another conversation they’d had in this room. About people always expecting too much from her. “He doesn’t expect anything from you,” he said as realization dawned.
She nodded. “Been a long time since I met someone like that.”
“I don’t expect anything from you.”
“You’re my teacher, Mr. Zeeman,” she managed to make the title sound teasing, “Of course you expect things from me.”
Which brought him to another thing he had been meaning to ask her. “Why are you here? Why didn’t you just get your GED and be done with it?”
Placing her elbows on her knees she pulled a face before offering slowly, “I think…it seemed smart at the time. It’s been a long time since I went to school and I never even had some of the subjects you teach here. And now…I hate to leave things unfinished. Also, it’s actually kind of nice. I never used to have time for this sort of thing. I might even go to college, who knows.”
“But you hate the kids.”
“I don’t hate them. They annoy me. Most people do. It’s not age specific.” She shot him a grin before stiffening for a millisecond as they both heard someone come to a halt in front of the almost closed door.
Richard took a moment to make sure they’d said nothing that could incriminate either of them before offering a sincere, “For what it’s worth, I’m happy that you’re making…friends and that you’re trusting me, at least a bit. You seem like you deserve some happiness.”
She slid off the table and picked up her bag before turning to him with one of those half smiles he had come to expect of her. “Let’s see how long it lasts, huh?”
No eighteen year old on the planet should ever sound so defeated.
“And be careful with Asher, alright?”
She rolled her eyes as she opened the door, ducking past the principal on the way, calling, “Yes, Dad!”
Look, I answered the GED question people have been asking!