As the door slowly opened, Lucy grasped the hem of the dress she was now wearing and self-consciously tugged it downwards, not that it made any difference, but it made her feel a little better.
In through the open door walked Becky, clutching a rucksack in front of her, and Lucy quickly realised that it was her schoolbag, which she’d left behind in her hurry to get away from the classroom.
Becky’s eyes widened in shock as they fell on her friend, struggling to take in just what she looked like. If she hadn’t been so very worried about Lucy after what had happened at the end of their lesson, she may have laughed at the sight which befell her, but instead she understood from the pained expression across the girls face the deep shame that she was feeling at that moment, and she was not about to make her feel any worse.
Sensing that Lucy needed her, Becky dropped the bag and rushed across the office, putting her arms around her friend and pulling her into a tight hug.
“Oh Lucy, are you ok? We were all so worried about you.”
Feeling this warmth and hearing the non-judgemental words, Lucy again crumpled and allowed her tears to fall once more, but this time in relief more than devastation. Her friend hadn’t abandoned her, wasn’t repulsed by her, wasn’t even laughing at her. She returned the hug, burying her head in Becky’s hair and whispered “Thank you” so that only her friend could hear her.
As Dorothy looked on at this scene of friendship, she felt a lump rising in her own throat, and even had to blink back a couple of stray tears herself. No, it wouldn’t do to cry in front of the children, but she was incredibly moved by this simple act of kindness, and could see immediately the uplifting effect it was having on Lucy. Truly heartwarming.
Not wanting to break the spell, but feeling that the girls could maybe do with a few minutes to chat openly, and selfishly realising that her all too short lunch-cum-toilet-cum-cigarette break was ebbing away, she decided to go out on a bt of a limb.
“Girls, I know it’s been an incredibly difficult morning, and I’m sure you could do with being able to talk without me sitting here listening in. Can I trust you both to keep an eye on things here for a few minutes, whilst I nip down to the staffroom?”
Lucy and Becky looked at one another, and then to Mrs Johnson, amazement sparking behind their eyes. They weren’t even supposed to be in the classrooms or corridors on their own, never mind the school office! Wow, was this what it felt like to be grown up, trusted?
They answered in unison “Yes Miss, of course you can trust us”, smiling warmly at her and scarcely able to believe their good fortune.
“I know I can. Don’t worry girls, I won’t be more than a few minutes. If anybody comes in looking for me, please tell them I’ll be right back. And please, please don’t touch the telephone or computer, or we will all be in lots of trouble!”
Winking at the dumbstruck girls, Dorothy grabbed her handbag and coffee mug before sweeping deftly out of the door, pulling it closed behind her.
Looking at each other again, almost a little sheepishly, the girls let out a quick giggle, before Becky broke the ice by asking her friend “So, Luce, what the heck happened?! And what on earth are you wearing?”5
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