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Chapter Twenty-three

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The vibe was strange now.

We didn't talk at all when Henry came back to bed two hours after his breakdown, and we avoided each other the next morning. Two days later, and things were very much the same with me skirting around the subject, and him completely avoiding it.

And to top off my rubbish mood, Vanessa Porter decided today was the day to throw her weight around in my classroom too.

"I need a word," she said, dragging poor Samantha along with her towards my desk.

I tried my best not to scowl in her presence, but it was near impossible, especially when she slammed a bunch of worksheets down on my desk. "What seems to be the problem?" I said.

She narrowed her eyes. "Your teaching is my problem."

"Excuse me?"

I watched her peel her hand from the sheets of paper to point a blood-red stained fingernail at several bubble facts. "Are you seriously teaching our kids the wrong thing?"

The wrong thing? I absorbed the numbers printed out on the page in front of me and saw no wrong. "I'm not quite following what you mean."

"Are you stupid?" She exploded, slamming her knuckles against the wooden desk. "Who adds up like that? It's the wrong answer on several sums, not counting the many spelling mistakes! Did you get a kid to do it for you? It's disgusting."

I winced at her sharp tone, flicking my gaze over to Samantha who was cowering next to her mother. "It's wrong?" I asked.

No matter how many times I read it, everything on the page came back correct in my mind.

"Are you for real right now?" she asked.

I unbuttoned the top of my blouse, feeling the need to run away from this situation. I didn't like confrontation at the best of times, but when someone, a parent, was unhappy about the job I was doing, it sent me into a spin.

I answered her honestly. "Yes, I see no wrong here."

She turned to look behind her shoulder and to my mortification smiled at the sea of parents. Henry being one of them. "And this is what the school employed to teach our kids, folks."

I bit my lip so hard I could taste blood and pulled my calculator from the other side of the desk, forcing my fingers on the buttons to add the sums up that way. "I'm going to work it out now."

"You shouldn't need to use a calculator," another parent said.

Vanessa loved this as she nodded her head. "Correct. I think you're in the wrong job if year two maths is confusing you."

"Oi," Henry growled, and it sounded like a lion protecting his pack. "Back the hell off, Vanessa. Can't you see she's upset?"

"She's upset?" She held Samantha close to her side for effect. "I'm upset that this simpleton is teaching my daughter."

"Enough!" He almost bared his teeth, the pink tinge to his skin giving away his anger. "People can make mistakes."

I looked down and pressed the buttons several times, seeing all the shapes jumble into one big blur. "It won't work. Why won't it work?!"

Vanessa leant over to collect the calculator from my hands, smirking as she did so. "Here, honey, let me."

While I blinked back the tears, Henry lunged towards the thick-set woman with his fingers drawing the calculator from her hands. "Back off. Right. Now."

Vanessa lifted her head as if to dismiss him, which pissed Henry off more by the way his veins bulged in his forehead. But scoping the room, he knew it wasn't the place to start an argument that would only stress me out more.

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