The Teacher's Pet: Part One
"I can't believe it's really the day." I repeated this to myself over and over as I triple-checked my backpack for the right supplies: two sturdy binders colored blue and green, a set of metallic pencils, a notebook for math problems, folders for homework, a pencil sharpener, a solid pencil case, erasers, some scissors, and a couple of glue sticks. I wanted to make sure nothing went wrong on my first day at a new Neoschool.
I was both dreading and looking forward to Neoschool. I had been stuck in the Pound for a year, trying in vain to cope with what my owner had done to me. I'd only been a sad, sniffling little blue Pteri, heaped in the corner of her cage, when Georgia had found me at the start of summer. The human girl was lovely in her own awkward, klutzy way: she was tall and lanky, with feet just a tad too big and eyes an unusual kind of sea green. She had shoulder-length mahogany hair that was cut slightly crooked, like an amateur barber had taken to it.
And I loved her right away.
Georgia had paid the cheap adoption fee without blinking and carted her new - and only - pet off to her humble Roo Island abode. The cottage was quaint and cozy, and though I was a city girl from Neopia Central, I had learned quickly to love the rolling hills and sapphire skies. My new owner and I got along fine from the start. Georgia was smart, funny, and mischievous in a meek kind of way, always buzzing with an idea. Over the summer, she and I had hit lemonade stands, bake sales, and petpet washes just for fun.
But now the difficult part came.
Summer was over. The hazy, sticky August heat was just passing, and it was time at last to start Neoschool. I was practically sick with nervous energy when Georgia had sat me down and told me that she worked at the Neoschool - as the eighth-grade Language Arts teacher.
"Really?" I had thought my owner was joking. "You really work there? At the same Neoschool I'm going to?"
"Absolutely." Georgia grinned. "Central Neopian Neoschool, only a short ferry-ride away from here. I'll be teaching your Language Arts Class, Asha."
"That's amazing!" I exclaimed. "I'm gonna feel a lot better about Neoschool with you there the whole time."
Central Neopian Neoschool was, as Georgia mentioned, a ferry ride away from our Roo Island, open to islanders and residents of Neopia Central. Its location, at Neopia's hotspot, made it a crowded and well-attended Neoschool. It was for pets Kindergarten through eighth-grade age. After completing eighth grade, the older kids would go to a Neoschool on the island, within walking distance from almost everywhere. King's Castle Neoschool and its students were the envy of all of us 'underlings' who had to take a ferry to school every day.
So that brings us to where we began: the first day of Neoschool. That day that I would remember as the day everything began to go haywire.
"Hey, Asha!" called the turquoise-furred Xweetok, waving and hopping excitedly up and down. Her Faerie wings kept her aloft just a little longer than a regular jump. "Asha! Over here!"
I turned around and scanned the throngs of pets in the Neoschool hallway for the one who was calling me. Spotting her, I smiled and waved back.
"Hi, Kelsey!" I said loudly, trying to be heard over the chatter of the excited students. "Maja with you?"
"Miss I'd-Rather-be-Home-Collecting-Bugs?" laughed Kelsey. "Oh yeah, she's here."
Sure enough, MajaLeone, a desert Xweetok and Kelsey's sister, was trudging along next to Kelsey, trying to shrink into the crowd. She scowled and grumbled to herself. Maja was more of an outdoors pet, and didn't like being reigned in to Neoschool. She was famous for her pranks and practical jokes - and though she was smart enough not to try them on teachers, her older brother wasn't so lucky.
"Maja, cheer up," Kelsey said encouragingly to her sister. "See? There's Asha!"
Maja muttered something. Kelsey grabbed her paw and pulled her over to where I was fighting the student stampede.
"This is so exciting!" exclaimed Kelsey. "Haven't you been looking forward to this all week?"
"Yes and no," I admitted. "It doesn't look like Maja has."
"Are you kidding? My owner had to drag her to the ferry and throw her on at the last minute, we were so late. You didn't see us on the way over because I had to restrain her." Kelsey smoothed the slightly mussed fur on her head back.
"You're exaggerating, of course," I said.
"No, no, that's literally how it happened."
With Maja, I could believe it. She was a nice Xweetok, if not somewhat feisty and stubborn. I had met the Xweetok sisters over the summer, when I had first moved to Roo Island. They lived on my street, and had used to be the only family on the block until lately, when a few houses had begun to be built. Georgia had been the first buyer.
Kelsey was a great student, straight As and all that. Maja was more of a B student, but she always had an A in biology (Maja loved bugs, frogs, and the like). Kelsey and I had an understanding of sorts, since we both had spent time in the Pound. Our owners were great friends, and it was Kelsey's owner's idea in the first place that Georgia go see the pets at the Pound - that was the day she brought me home.
"They can't hold me here forever," declared Maja. "Never!"
Kelsey rolled her eyes. "I hear we dissect Mortogs this week," she said.
Maja perked up immediately. "Mortogs? Really? Dissect? As in... cut them open and poke around at the insides?"
"Yes, Maja. And label the organs."
"Ohh, sick! I can't wait! When do we have biology?"
"Right before lunch." Kelsey winced. "Ew. Like I'm going to want my sandwich after cutting open a Mortog."
I laughed. "But guess what?" I said happily, remembering I had something I wanted to tell Kelsey and Maja. "Our first class is Language Arts."
"I knew that, Asha," Kelsey held up her schedule for me to see. "We all got one, remember?"
"But guess who's going to be our teacher?" Kelsey studied her list of classes. Her eyes widened.
"Wow! Your owner is teaching Language Arts?!" Kelsey seemed just as ecstatic as I had been. "That's great! It's such a relief that..."
The ends of Kelsey's mouth dropped, turning her grin into a dreading frown.
"What? Kelsey? Are you alright?" I worriedly poked her in the arm. "What's such a relief?"
"Maja..." Kelsey handed her schedule to Maja and pointed at the first line. "Take a look at this."
Maja snatched the paper. She obviously hadn't touched hers since it had been handed out to her. But she, too, looked grim when she had finished reading the line Kelsey pointed out.
"Guys, quit it! What's the matter already?" I was getting sort of scared. What could've gone wrong?
"No way," breathed Maja. "I had no idea that Georgia was the same person as... her."
"Who? Who is her?" I waved my wings around in the air, exasperated. "Somebody please tell me what all the fuss is about!"
"I hate to break it to you, Asha," Maja said gravely, handing the paper back to Kelsey and shoving her hands in the pockets of her jeans. "But your owner is that one teacher nobody in the school likes."
"Huh?" I furrowed my brow. "How do you mean? Georgia is the best owner I've ever met. No offense, guys, because yours is awesome too."
"No, I hear you," Maja continued. "It's just... Georgia is the teacher who lets everything pass."
"But wouldn't the students like her, then?" I was way too confused.
"You don't understand," sighed Maja. "She believes everything - every excuse, every lie, everything! The troublemaking boys and the snotty girls torture her during class. They throw paper airplanes, make annoying sounds, some of them even ask to be excused to the restroom and just loiter around the halls until the class is over. Georgia lets it all pass."
"It's really awful," Kelsey murmured sadly. "And so unfair."
"You said nobody in the Neoschool likes her," I pointed an accusing finger at the sisters. I was trying to talk so to draw attention away from the shock that must've stood out on my face. "What about you two?"
"Maja was exaggerating," Kelsey said calmly. "A lot of people love Georgia. We just feel bad for her because she seems... nervous during class. Sort of like she's afraid of what will happen if she corrects one of the misbehaving students."
"Georgia? Nervous?" I tried to laugh, but nervous was how I was feeling right then. Clammy, too - I'd broken into a cold sweat. Poor Georgia! My beautiful, wonderful, perfect owner, the laughingstock of the school? Tortured by her students for just being meek? And if she was the world's easiest-to-fool teacher, what did that make me?
"I know it's hard to believe, Asha." Kelsey put a paw on my shoulder, which I shrugged off. I couldn't let them know how upset I really was. "I've tried to make them leave her alone before, but they didn't listen. They just called me 'teacher's pet' for the next couple days."
"Why didn't you tell me this before Neoschool started?" I asked. "Didn't you recognize her?"
"She moved to our neighborhood in the spring from Neopia Central," Kelsey said. "She was already teaching at Central Neopian; she just wanted a change that would still allow her to work here, I guess. Georgia is such a different person outside of Neoschool - I didn't even realize it was Ms. Hallie until a few minutes ago."
"Personality, heck," Maja added. "It was the new haircut that threw me off. I'm really sorry we didn't make the connection earlier, Ash."
"I-It's okay," I stammered. "Everything'll be fine. Maybe the students won't remember what they thought of her."
Maja and Kelsey supported this, but we all three knew it was a hope as cold as a Fishpop.
I walked into eighth-grade Language Arts feeling like I was going to throw up. I set my backpack, which seemed to weigh at least eighty pounds now, beside my desk. The desk had seen many owners - this was proven by the pencil marks, indents, spots of glitter glue, and pieces of un-sticky tape in random spots. Somebody had done an illustration of a stick figure with shoulder-length hair and a crown on her head. Past her was flying a paper airplane, and even though the figure's eyes were drawn wide open, she didn't appear to notice the prank. Beneath the illustration was written in regal lettering, "Queen Gullible".
"Please," I whispered. "Please don't let that be..."
Just then, Georgia walked in, dressed just like she had been that morning, but looking totally different. I could see sweat on her forehead where an awful cowlick parted her bangs, and she walked stiffly, like a robot pet. I wanted to sink into my chair. This was awful; Kelsey and Maja were right. She DID look nervous.
"It's just the first day," I told myself silently. "Everybody's nervous on the first day."
Then I heard a male Mynci sitting two desks to my left whisper, "Hail, Queen Gullible!"
A rippling giggle went up from most of the class, and many others took up the phrase. "Hail, Queen Gullible!"
Kelsey and Maja had neglected to tell me about the nickname. My dread multiplied a million times. How many Neopoints did I have? Five thousand? I needed to do some serious saving for an Invisible Paint Brush.
"G-Good morning, c-class," Georgia began in a squeaky voice. "Welcome b-back. You might remember me as M-Ms. Hallie from l-last year."
Georgia looked at me, smiled a tiny, worried smile, gulped, and continued.
"I taught s-seventh grade Language Arts this p-past year," said Georgia. "A-And I had s-s-s-o much fun with you all that I d-decided I'd l-like to teach y-you this year as well."
Then Georgia looked at me again and realization slapped me in the face. Oh no, for the love of the Monoceraptor, don't tell them who I am. Georgia, you can't seriously be about to ---
"I m-made another big decision over the summer," Georgia fidgeted, trying to compose herself. She cleared her throat and started over, more precise and less stammery: "I took a trip to the Pound a couple of weeks after Neoschool let out in June."
"Poor sap who's got her as an owner," whispered the same Mynci sitting down the row to my left.
"Yeah?" said a pink Kyrii girl near the front of the class. "Who'd you pick? A big ugly Skeith? That'd suit you just fine."
I looked in horror at Georgia and saw fear in her eyes. Was this how it had always been, class after class? Do something, Georgia! I thought. Don't just stand there!
But she did just that. She stood there, not knowing what to do, and the murmurs of "All Hail Queen Gullible" began to start again.
"Her first meltdown of the year," snickered a Poogle boy behind me. "Jan always comes up with something good. Hey, new girl." I turned and scowled at the Poogle, who had poked me in the shoulder. "You heard of her? Queen Gullible? You can get away with anything. Wanna see?"
"No," I said solidly, and faced the front.
Jan, the pink Kyrii, wasn't finished with my owner. "Or maybe not - I forgot how fond you were of Quiggles. Things that slime, am I right, Ms. Hallie? You'd be best friends."
I couldn't take it anymore. I stood up, drawing the startled gazes of everyone in the room, including my owner.
"Stop it," I cried, angry and upset. "She picked me, alright? I'm her pet. So just leave her alone, got it?" I took my seat.
Another murmur, started by the camouflage Mynci, "All Hail the Teacher's Pet."
"Teacher's pet," chanted most of the class. Jan, sneering at me, said only just loud enough for me to hear, "Princess Gullible."
"O-Okay, everyone." Georgia was near tears by now. "Open your b-books to chapter one. L-Let's begin our l-lesson."
To be continued...