Mrs Richards’ Year

by Caitlin Catheld Pyper

The chairs –
They were blue and curved and scratched your legs in the morning chill.
But they were snug;
A familiar, unchangeable presence,
Despite the fact you would swap them like secrets.
So really, it was a new chair every week.
Then there was that odd sensation when you found your very first one –
Like being reunited with a lost friend.

But no one ever spoke of that strange feeling.
The last year was about proving you had changed;
You weren’t the weird child who collected and named worms anymore.
However, the feeling of watching the last Christmas roll by –
Well, that was a gut-wrenching pain that you shoved down, singing the
           carols louder.

Mrs Richards smiled at you as you handed in your book,
And you suppressed a grin of your own.
Pride, you were taught in church that morning, was a sin,
But if that were true, you should have had to repent for weeks.
Compare your scores;
Curse as you see how well your friends did,
Rejoice, nonetheless, at the smiles on their faces.

In RE, Mrs Richards talked with vigour about God, Jesus and the Virgin
           Mary.
You tentatively raised your hand, ready to voice the class’s thoughts.
“What is a virgin?”
The question seemed to echo against the bright walls of the room.
Mrs Richards glanced to a poster stating the importance of dental hygiene,
           then back.
“It means she was very clean,” she spoke quickly, “and you should all be
           very clean, for as long as possible.”

The air in the field was heavy with the weight of summer.
The sky was a thousand hues that you yearned to know the name of.
You wanted to know why the seasons changed as they did.
You wanted to know why the Earth orbited the Sun.
You wanted to know why books smelled so inviting.
Why.
Where.
When.
Who.
What.
How.
The sky stared back down at you, but answered no questions.

The end was near;
You could feel it in the electric charge that pulsed through your veins.
You could feel it in the way Mrs Richards smiled sadly every time you
           raised your hand.
A strange sense of time washed over the class you sat in:
Monday to Friday –
Eight till three.
It was all a daze of heat and sun and dappled light,

Seeping like syrup through the blinds.
These people had been your family since you could talk.
Now, your wits snapped their mouths shut.
You had seen the world through the words they taught you.
Now, you were writing new worlds with every day that passed.
The walls were not big enough to hold you.
The fields you played in no longer felt endless.

And you had outgrown your chair.