fry_sandhu: (age 6-7 frustrated)
After being shouted at for fifteen minutes by Ben's mother, Mrs Patel sends Ben and his mother to wait in the secretary's office, and calls in Fry.

As Fry enters, Coral comes in with him.

"We don't need you, thank you, Coral." Mrs Patel says.

"I'd like to stay please. Mum isn't here yet, so I'm his avocado." Coral says politely.

Mrs Patel just about keeps a straight face. "Advocate, I think you mean. That's fine. Fry, Ben and his mother have been in with some very serious allegations that you have been bullying Ben. I am going to ask you whether each thing they have accused you of is true, and then we will deal with the matter, all right?"

Fry nods.

"Did you punch Ben in the face on his first day?"

"Yes." Fry says, surprised that Mr Mags hasn't already reported that to her.

"Why?"

"Because he stuck a wet finger in my ear, and he scared me. I didn't mean to punch him, and I said sorry after. Mr Mags, I mean, Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, said that was okay."

"Did you on the same day threaten to break Ben's arm?"

Fry has to think about this one. "No. I said it was lucky I didn't, when he startled me, but I meant it was lucky I didn't do it by accident."

"I see. The way you said that sounds like a threat. Did you glue Ben's desk shut?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because he kept banging it to make me and Joram jump and Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald told me I should stand up for myself. I didn't think it would stick so well. I confessed but lots of the others took the blame with me."

"So you knew that was the wrong thing to do. Did you and your friends read Ben's diary?"

"No." Fry says. "Tommy looked in the desk to see what he was hiding, but we didn't read it."

"Would you have read it, if Ben hadn't caught you?"

"No. Well, I wouldn't, I don't know about the others."

"On that day, did you threaten to break Ben's teeth?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because he called me lots of names in the toilet and wouldn't let me out and kept making the driers go off and it hurt."

"Did you mean it?"

"Yes. They were only baby teeth."

"I understand why you were upset." Mrs Patel says. "But you can't do that."

Fry nods.

"This afternoon, did you push Ben to the floor?"

"No. I took him down in a controlled way that I knew would not hurt him."

"Why did you do that?"

"He scared Joram with a loud bang and laughed at him. I think that's a horrible thing to do to a refugee. I took Ben down to scare him but not hurt him."

"But Fry, Joram hasn't told the other children he's a refugee, has he?" Mrs Patel asks. "So how could Ben have known that?"

Fry hesitates for a moment. Oh. Yes. Good point.

"It's still mean." he says.

"Yes, but it would be less mean if it was just a joke, than if it was meant to scare a victim of war, wouldn't it?" Mrs Patel says.

"I understand." Fry says, after a momentary glance at Coral.

"Did you make a hole in Ben's jumper."

"No." Fry says. "It already had a little hole. I didn't make it bigger."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Last question. Did Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald see you fight Ben this afternoon and not punish you?"

"Yes." Fry says.

"Thank you Fry." Mrs Patel says. "I will take it from here. You must not threaten, hurt, or 'take down' other children unless it is truly in self-defence; for example, someone is trying to hit you right now and you need to block them. If you had broken Ben's arm or his teeth I would have suspended you, even if it was provoked. You are a big boy now, Fry, and you must learn to use non-violent and non-destructive methods to solve conflict."

She sighs. "I do not think this situation is entirely your fault, though. Did Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald give you any guidance on how to stand up for yourself?"

"Not really." Fry says.

"Perhaps you can work on that with Mr Irons." Mrs Patel says. "Can you and Coral wait outside while I speak to Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, please?"

Fry and Coral go out into the secretary's room and sit the opposite side to Ben and his mother. Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald shoots both culprits a glance before going inside.

"Magnus, this is the third complaint I've had today." Mrs Patel says. "The first being Bethany Sharpe being in here in floods of tears with her mum because you apparently allowed one of the other children to bribe their way to being class president. The second was Anna's mother complaining that you compared her daughter to the Phantom of the Opera."

"Objection: I said to Anna's mother that Anna shouldn't have to cover her scar because she wasn't the Phantom of the Opera, and I apologised when she took offence." Mr Mags says. "It was far less offensive than what her mother said about her losing the election because of the birthmark."

"Still not appropriate. And now it appears that there's been a lot of other things happening in your class that I wasn't made aware of."

"Let's be fair." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "Every kid in my class learned this week that bribery is a feeble way to win an election."

"You can't allow the children to beat each other up, emotionally or physically." Mrs Patel says. "This is a school, not Lord of the Flies. Ben's mother has made a serious allegation that Fry is persistently bullying Ben, and there is some degree of substance to that claim."

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald snorts.

"Fry is no bully, and his behaviour is fine. His only issue in this matter is that he doesn't know how to stand up for himself. Ben on the other hand is a jealous, lying, bullying little snot who picks on vulnerable kids because it makes him feel like a big man."

Rather unfortunately for Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, Ben's mother happens to be near enough to the door to be eavesdropping, and on hearing this speech, bursts into the office and starts screeching again.

"Look." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says after a minute of this. "I could have hauled Ben in weeks ago for all the rubbish he's put kids in this class through. It's not just Fry, he goes for other kids - a girl who's a bit overweight, a lad who doesn't speak much English, and a girl with a birthmark. Maybe I wanted to give him a chance to realise he was making a bad start for himself rather than labelling him a bully?"

"I think you just couldn't be bothered to intervene." Ben's mum retorts.

After a very tense half hour, Mrs Patel eventually calms Ben's mum down, calls the children back in, and suggests that Ben and Fry both shake hands and write one another a letter of apology. Both the boys, suspecting now that they have got their teacher into trouble, meekly comply. At this point, Mum catches up with Fry and Coral, and Mrs Patel decides to send them all home before Fran can turn lioness too.

She motions to Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald to stay behind, and once the parents have gone, closes the door.

"Magnus, I believe there is some method in your madness. I agree that sometimes the children need to learn to solve their own problems. However, I don't feel that you supervised their efforts to do so nearly enough on this occasion. That I could have worked with."

She turns to him. "But I will not have you calling the children names like that, let alone in earshot of the parents, and for that reason I am suspending you while I conduct a full enquiry. Since it's half term, that will give me time to establish the full facts."

"You'll have my resignation in writing by tomorrow morning." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says.

"That may not be necessary." Mrs Patel adds, hastily. "It will need to be brought before the governors but you are likely to get off with a written warning."

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald shakes his head.

"Conduct your enquiry, take whatever action you need, but I'm still resigning." he says. "I make a better substitute than a long term class teacher. If your investigation leaves you satisfied I will be happy to come back to do supply work if you want me to."


***


A few days later, during half term, Mum calls Fry over to the living room with her and Dad. Mr Mags is on the laptop, skyping them.

"What's going on?" Fry asks, sitting between his parents.

"I want to tell you something important." Mr Mags says. "And I wanted your parents in on it so that I can make sure there's no misunderstanding. When you come back after half term, I will no longer be your teacher."

"Why?" Fry asks.

"Because I said some things in front of some of your classmates' parents that was inappropriate." Mr Mags says. "I wanted you to know that me leaving was in no way your fault because of the business with Ben. Not Ben's fault, either."

Fry has mixed feelings. He'd just started to get used to Mr Mags, and kind of felt that he was at least on his side, but it's been a difficult half term.

"Thank you for your teaching." he says, after a moment. "It's not going to be Mr Morton, is it?"

"No, I made sure of that when I discussed how long I would stay." Mr Mags says. "Or I would have carried on as a substitute for a few weeks. Your new teacher will be called Ms Owlswick."

"They found a replacement so quickly?" Dad asks.

"Ms Owlswick is a teaching student who was looking for a placement transfer." Mr Mags says. "I've met with her and she is very capable." He looks back at Fry. "Now listen, little dude, because I have one more bit of advice for you. I might not have advised you very well on how to stand up for yourself, you needed more help with that than I knew to give you, but I don't want you to stop standing up for yourself, all right? Mr Irons will help you learn now. Otherwise, you will be bullied all your life, and you do not deserve that."

Fry nods.

"Thanks sir."

And with that, they part ways. Fry looks at his parents.

"Are you disappointed with me?"

"No!" Mum says. "Fry, Mr Mags may have been your teacher only briefly but he does have a point. But it's okay to ask advice as to how to tackle these things, okay?"

"And it's definitely not my fault he's going?"

"No." Dad says. "Mr Mags had to be the adult here, and he didn't do that. It's not your fault, Fry."

Fry looks back at the blank screen. He wonders whether the rest of the class will be so sure about that.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
After the desk incident, Ben appears to back off Fry a little bit. For one thing, the desk no longer bangs when he shuts it, on account of the fact that it's still caked with glue. For another, given that each table now gets Points for quietness, Ben finds he's under pressure from his own table not to keep losing them points.

But as the weeks pass, his original reason for discontent returns, in the form of his jealousy of JJ.

JJ started the same day as him, and for a glorious few moments, Ben was the centre of attention, being new and American and reasonably cool. But moments later that was snatched away by the arrival of JJ, who was also new and cool but also happened to be the son of a Holby City Footballer, which meant he could bribe anyone with free tickets that he wanted.

At the end of the first week, JJ was already in the running for class president, largely as a result of said bribery. Ben, who hadn't been nominated, had felt particularly cross. It was bad enough having to move away from all his friends and be in a weird foreign country where all the rules were different and the candy tasted wrong and he was stuck in a stuffy private school - though he would have liked Mr Mags had Mr Mags not poorly disguised the fact that he found him so irritating. And when he was upset, he poured his annoyance into his diary, and took it out on anyone he thought was an easy target.

Mr Mags spoke a few words to the class before the election, saying that the purpose was to pick someone who would be a good leader. In the running were Zack, JJ, Bethany and Anna. Fry had wanted to nominate one of his friends, but Teddy didn't want the job, Joram felt he was too new, Noah and Tommy had both had turns last year and said it was someone else's turn, and Kasha said the whole election campaign had got very silly. He didn't ask Pixie, for which she was very grateful.

As he listens to the one minute speech of each candidate, Fry considers his vote with great care. On one hand, Zack can still be a bit obnoxious, but out of the four he's the one who has worked most to try and be president. JJ is out of the question - Fry isn't remotely interested in football. Bethany, he has never got on with, though there's no doubt that she can order people around. Which leaves Anna, who Fry quite likes, although she's not in his immediate group of friends. Anna has a birthmark on her face, and battled the whole of last year with her mother about whether or not she had to cover it. This year, judging by the presence of the birthmark, Anna has won said battle.

In the end he votes for Anna. The results come out very close, and JJ wins with only six votes.

There is a rumbling of discontent among other members of the class who feel that bribing a mere six of their classmates is a rubbish way to win an election, with only just over a quarter of the votes. When Tommy, an ardent Holby United supporter who couldn't give a stuff about Holby City, brings it up with Mr Mags, the teacher only laughs.

"Welcome to politics, kid."

JJ shows off in the playground. Ben, who still wishes he could have run for president, turns his attention back to Fry and his friends.

It hasn't escaped Ben's notice that Fry isn't the only one of his group who jumps at loud noises, Joram does too, and Joram was apparently involved in the desk gluing incident. So one afternoon, just before the end of lunch, Ben constructs an origami paper banger, then waits quietly behind the classroom door.

When the class file in, he waits for Joram, then jumps out and bangs the paper loudly. He then laughs when Joram dives for cover under the nearest table.

Ben had no idea that Joram is a refugee, or that he escaped from a war, because Joram hasn't told the others, and has asked Fry to do the same. If he had, he might not have done it. As it is, Fry, observing the whole thing, grabs Joram's outstretched arm and very neatly puts him on the floor without hitting or hurting him, just quick enough to give him a scare.

"Apologise." he growls. "Now."

"I'm sorry." Ben says, looking actually frightened. "It was just a joke."

"All right, break it up, you two." Mr Mags says, casually, entering the room. Fry lets Ben go, and tells Mr Mags why he pinned him. Mr Mags makes a disgusted noise.

"Right, you stop being a pain." he points at Ben. "You stop being a ninja." he points at Fry.

This does not satisfy Ben. Why isn't Fry getting punished for 'violently pushing him onto the floor'? And in front of a teacher too!

As he quietly seethes, he notices a little hole in his jumper sleeve, around his thumb. It's been there for a while, because he tends to fiddle with it. Just before the end of school, he has an idea, goes to the bathroom, and pulls at the hole as hard as he can, making a much bigger hole in the sleeve, before going out to find his mother.

Fry is just gathering up his siblings when he hears an angry American voice.

"THAT BOY AGAIN? I'M NOT STANDING FOR THIS. YOU TELL ME WHICH ONE HE IS RIGHT NOW!"

Fry looks around. Ben is pointing at him.

"What did you do?" Brooke asks Fry.

"I think I'm about to find out." Fry replies.
fry_sandhu: (fry 8 study)
When he glued Ben's desk lid with PVA glue, Fry hadn't expected the effect to be that dramatic. It was just PVA, after all, which isn't exactly the stickiest glue he's ever done revenging with.*

Later, on reflection, he would realise the reason the desk stuck so well was because he sealed all the tiny gaps. He is however rather surprised the next morning when not only can Ben not open the desk, but Mr Mags can't prise it open either.

This was not exactly what he had in mind.

Fry bites his lip slightly as the rest of his class laughs at Ben's predicament. He'd thought the desk would stick for maybe a minute, and with a bit of luck, not make quite such a bang if he started dropping the lid again. But after five minutes, Mr Mags still hasn't got it open.

"Right, you'll just have to borrow stuff this morning until we find some tools." Mr Mags says, eventually.

"You will be able to open it, won't you?" Ben asks, looking slightly more upset than Fry had hoped for. "It's got... stuff of mine."

"Oh yeah, don't worry." Mr Mags says. "Just borrow these for now and we'll stick the pages in later."

He walks to the front of the class and turns around.

"Stop laughing." he says, in a low voice.

Somehow, Mr Mags' low voice is way more scary than any yelling. Everyone is quiet at once.

"I like a practical joke as much as the next person, but when it interferes with someone's schoolwork, or causes someone to be upset, that's a joke gone too far." he says. "I believe that that perhaps wasn't the intention of the prankster. I'd like them to own up; if they can't do it in front of the class, they can come and see me at the end of the morning."

Fry swallows hard, and stands up.

"I did it."

Before Mr Mags can respond, Joram stands up, across the table from him.

"Sir, I did it."

"No, I did it." Teddy says, standing up next to Joram.

"I was in it too." Noah says, getting to his feet.

Fry stares at them in confusion. Did they come in afterwards and apply their own glue? Then Kasha, who wasn't even there yesterday because she had a cold, stands up and says she did it. Even Pixie, who is usually too shy to speak in front of the class, makes a confession. And then Tommy stands up.

"I glued the desk, and so did my wife!"

Mr Mags, who is having difficulty not dissolving into laughter, waves at everyone to sit down.

"Okay, okay, I think that's enough confessions. You can all stay in at break and sharpen the pencils in the pencil box." He glances at Fry. "And if there's no more of this sort of thing, we'll say no more about it."

At break time he goes to find the school handyman to get the desk open, leaving Fry and his friends sharpening the pencils.

"I don't understand." Fry says, when Mr Mags has gone. "Why did you all take the blame with me?"

"Because we're your friends." Teddy says. "Ben's been a jerk to you, and we're on your side."

"I did also not like the big bang." Joram says.

They watch with interest when the handyman comes back to unstick the desk, which doesn't take terribly wrong. Then Tommy gets up and peeps in the newly freed desk.

"Tommy, you can't go in someone's desk!" Kasha says.

"I just wanted to see what Ben was in such a paddy about." Tommy says, pulling out a big leatherbound book. "Ooh, a secret diary!"

"Put it back, Tom." Teddy says. Tommy rolls his eyes and puts it back without opening it, but unfortunately Ben comes into the classroom at that moment and sees him.

"What are you doing?" Ben demands.

"I didn't read it." Tommy says, hurriedly. Ben goes to his desk, snatches the diary, and heads back out of the classroom.

Fry, still feeling uncomfortable about the whole thing, goes to the bathroom before the start of class. Unfortunately, just as he's washing his hands, Ben comes out of another cubicle, still holding his book. The two boys stop in their tracks.

"I know it was just you, really." Ben says. "So does Mr Mags, just you're his little pet and he didn't punish you properly."

Fry dries his hands with a tissue. Ben puts his hands under the drier, which makes a loud noise. Fry stops and puts his hands over his ears. Ben, watching him, sticks his other hand under the other drier, so they're both on. Fry tries to leave, but Ben blocks his path.

"Do not mess with me." Fry says, suddenly, ferociously. "Or you will regret it, Ben. What's your stupid problem anyway?"

"What's my problem? I hate you!" Ben says. "You act like you're four years old. You're pathetic, and you're a tattle tale. Everyone laughs at you, and you deserve it! Even your 'friends' only back you up because they think you're retarded."

Fry just restrains himself from headbutting Ben.

"Don't use that word. You know, I miss Bradley. He was an asshole too, but at least he challenged me intellectually."

"Are you calling me retarded?" Ben asks, getting up in his face. "You're the one that's retarded."

"No, just Bradley was smarter than you." Fry says. "Now get out of my way or prepare for a visit from the tooth fairy tonight."

Ben, who has learned about Fry's level of combat training the hard way, gets out of his way, still clutching his book. Fry goes to stand at the fish tank to calm himself down. Little snot! At least he got the last word.

He knows Mr Mags will help him if he asks. But part of him knows that Mr Mags was right - he is always going to have quarrels with other kids and he is at some point going to have to learn to deal with it himself.

He doesn't notice Ben return to the class behind him with slightly red eyes. And if he had noticed, he wouldn't have known what to make of it.



[*Fry's reputation for sticking things together with superglue was well known at the school, to the extent that a memo had at one point been sent to all staff forbidding anyone to leave the stuff anywhere kids could reach it.]
fry_sandhu: (Default)
After Fry's little escapade onto the roof to escape the classroom noise, Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald went first to grovel to the head, and then consulted Mr Irons for some more guidance.

"I understand what you're trying to do." Mr Irons said. "You want the kids to learn to make their own rules, so that they think and challenge why we do things a certain way. But you can't let them go all Lord of the Flies when you have special needs kids involved. Kids like Fry, and Bethany, they need rules and stability, and they need you to be the adult."

"Bethany's loving it." Mr Mags said.

"She might be loving it now, but if you don't keep her in line she'll struggle to adjust to Mrs Patel's class next year." Mr Irons said. "She might not have a formal diagnosis of ADHD but I can tell you, that little girl needs teaching correctly first time."

"I've got a plan." Mr Mags said. "I'll let you know if it doesn't work."

***

The next day he calls Fry into the classroom before the start of classes. Fry comes in, a little wary, wondering if he's going to get told off.

"Right." Mr Mags says. "Firstly. You don't go climbing any more ladders or buildings in this school, unless we tell you to, okay?"

Fry nods.

"Secondly, sit in your seat for a moment." Mr Mags says.

Fry sits in his seat. He's moved away so that he's out of reach of Ben, but he doesn't want to change tables, so Ben is still pretty close. To his surprise, Mr Mags measures a distance from him, gets out his phone and plays what seems to be some sort of background noise.

"Tell me when this gets too loud." he says, gradually turning it up.

"Now." Fry says.

Mr Mags walks around the other side of the table, measures again, and repeats it. Then he goes over to where Ben sits and repeats it again.

"What is that?" Fry asks, as Mr Mags goes over to the smart board. A collection of little speedometer-like things has appeared at the right hand side.

"Make a noise for me." Mr Mags says.

Fry hesitates, then starts singing a song they're doing in music. He notices the needles on the little dials go up.

"You know how we have attention points?" Mr Mags says. "Which I award to you lot for various things? Every table that keeps the dial under the red line for five minutes gets a point."

Attention points are a bit like credits. Fry doesn't like them as much, because the rules for getting them seem to be more random. But you do get prizes, like sparkly pencils, and this could certainly be useful to him. And he likes the way that your points flash up next to your mini-me on the class screen.

"How does it know which table is making the noise?" he asks.

"Because the detectors are on the ceiling, the same distance from the centre of each table." Mr Mags says. "It doesn't record what you're saying, just the volume. In fact, the software can even tell if the noise is coming from a different table, so you won't lose your points if the next table made the noise over the line."

"That's clever." Fry says.

"Thanks." Mr Mags says. "Now, let's see how long it takes your classmates to figure out how it works."

"You're not going to tell them?" Fry asks.

"Nah. Be patient. By the end of the morning, they'll be quiet as mice." Mr Mags says. "Including Ben."

Fry is doubtful about this. But to his surprise, his classmates spot the dials pretty quickly, and set about trying to work out what they are.

"Hey, table two just got attention points for not doing anything!"

"Our needle went over the line when you yelled that!"

"Say something again, see what happens..."

By the end of the morning, sure enough, everyone is being really quiet.

***

It doesn't last quite as Fry hoped. Within a couple of days, Ben quickly realises that if his table do go over the meter, that this is the perfect opportunity to make another loud noise, which he decides to do by dropping his desk lid with a BANG. After the third time he does this, seeing not just Fry jump but Joram also, Mr Mags intervenes.

"Whoever's doing that, knock it off."

"Sorry sir, my hand slipped." Ben says.

At the end of the class, Mr Mags calls Fry over again when the others go out for break.

"Mr Mags?" Fry asks, when the others have gone out. "Why do you pretend you keep forgetting everyone's name? I know you know who Ben is."

Mr Mags grins at him.

"You ever pick your nose when nobody is looking?"

Fry blinks. "Yes."

"People don't act the same when they think they're invisible. It shows you who they truly are." Mr Mags says. "Well, most people anyway, you're an exception."

He puts his feet on the table. Fry moves slightly away from them. He doesn't like Mr Mags' horrible hairy feet. Why can't the man wear shoes like everyone else?

"Fry, did Mr Irons ever tell you that whole 'Everyone has a story' thing?"

"Yes." Fry says.

"Want to know the next line?"

Fry nods.

"Everyone has a story." Mr Mags says. "But that doesn't give them the right to pick on you." He puts his feet down and leans forward. "Let me tell you something, Fry. In this world, some people are going to be mean to you. When you hit secondary school, you'll probably have a dozen Bens in your life. They will pick on you for being different. And that's NOT okay. And you are going to have to learn how to handle it."

Fry isn't sure what to say to that. Mr Mags continues.

"Some people have problems and act like jerks. Some people just are jerks. You need to learn how to handle either because Fry, in a few years time, you will not be able to run to a teacher without getting a rep as a tattle tale. Now that said, if you want an adult to step in here, now, you just say the word. You can come talk to me about anything. But I also want to arm you with skills to deal with things that are unreasonable and unexpected. Do you understand?"

Fry nods.

"So tell me." Mr Mags says. "Ben calls you a baby. What could you do?"

Fry considers this.

"I could ask him to stop."

"Good. What if that doesn't work?"

"I could ignore him." Fry says.

"Right. You could go off to find a friend."

"I could say something back."

"Yes. Though that might make things worse." Mr Mags says. "Because then it becomes an argument. So if you're going to do that, at least try and make it clever and amusing. And if anyone asks, you didn't get that advice from me. If you let Ben get under your skin, he'll see and keep doing it." He picks up his bag of marking. "I don't think Ben is going to do anything really foul to you, so why don't you have a go at fixing it yourself first, and then give me a shout if it doesn't work?"

Fry considers this advice over the course of the rest of the day. Ben lets his desk lid drop another couple of times. Hm. How does he reply to that? Asking him to stop and ignoring him hasn't worked, but what do you say back to that? It's not a word, it's just a noise.

Just at the end of school, as he's packing up his things to go, he suddenly gets an idea. He pretends to need the bathroom, and when he gets back to the classroom everyone else has gone. He goes to the craft drawer and pulls out a big tub of PVA glue, opens Ben's desk, and thoroughly coats the underside of the lid with the glue around where it sits on the bottom half of the desk. Then he carefully puts the lid down, making a rather satisfying 'squish' noise, grabs a paintbrush, and seals any gaps with glue.

He washes the brush, quickly replaces the glue, and runs out to the playground before anyone can catch him.
fry_sandhu: (age 6-7 frustrated)
The most important thing to do, when trapped on the roof of your school, is not to panic.

Fry digs into his inside pocket and consults his book of rules and guidelines, which do not cover this specific scenario. They suggest that in an emergency he calls Mum or Dad or 999. However, Fry at this moment in time would rather none of those people know that he's on the roof. It would be better to get off the roof.

He lies down flat and crawls over to the nearest edge. The school has a ground floor and a first floor, so it's too tall to just jump off, and he knows that. But maybe there's a fire escape or something. He looks around; but the fire escape is not something he can easily drop down onto either.

He gets out his phone. He wishes he'd actually asked some of his classmates for their number. They're all filing into the dining hall now for lunch break, and because he only left fifteen minutes before the end of the class, he suspects that people might assume he's gone straight to lunch.

And then he realises it's worse than that. Sometimes he takes his lunch and eats it in the kitchen on his own, because the dining hall is too noisy. So his friends might not notice he's gone right away.

Maybe he can climb back down the way he came up. He crawls back over to the miniature door he climbed out of, and tries the handle. But it doesn't turn. Hm. Maybe it's burglar-proof. Then he realises it's not a real door, so much as a vent, and you're probably not supposed to actually go through it.

He's starting to panic a little bit now. He wants his lunch, and it's colder up here than he expected.

***

It's not until the end of lunch break, when everyone returns to class, that Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald notices that Fry is missing. He frowns slightly, then begins to make some enquiries.

"Anyone seen Fry?"

Noah puts his hand up. "Mr Mags, I last saw him when he went to calm down at the end of the last lesson."

"All right, and he goes to the fish tank?" Mr Mags asks.

"Usually." Teddy says. "Or he goes to the bathroom and watches the tap run."

Ben sniggers from the table behind. Teddy and Noah shoot him a glare.

"It's not normal for Fry not to come back at the start of the next class." Kasha says. "Fry follows timetables very strictly."

"He'll have gone somewhere quiet." Tommy says.

"I didn't see him at lunch."

"I don't remember seeing him in the playground."

Mr Mags tells them to get out their reading books and read, then goes across the corridor to Mr Irons' room.

Back in the classroom, there is a lot of noise. Ben, Jamal and Zack are making sarcastic remarks about Fry's absence. Suddenly, Teddy stands up.

"SHAME ON YOU!" he yells at Ben's table. Everyone goes quiet. Teddy glares at the whole class. "Shame on all of you! Fry has been in this class since he was four years old, he's one of us. You all knew you were being too noisy, you knew it was upsetting him, and you all carried on! Even the new kids knew, and if they didn't, we should have stopped them."

"It wasn't a rule." Ben says.

Teddy goes over to the rules board and writes 'Don't be noisy' on it.

"Now it is. And now we have to find Fry. So you lot start looking in cupboards, and me and Noah'll go down the corridor."

Teddy goes off down the corridor with Noah, looking in cupboards. Joram gets up and follows them.

"Watch." Joram says, after a minute.

"Watch what?" Noah asks.

Joram points to his wrist.

"Oh yes!" Teddy says. "Fry wears a watch with a tracker on it."

***

In the other corridor, Mr Irons and Mr Mags have come to the same conclusion. Since Mr Irons has been Fry's special education teacher for a few years, Mum and Dad have installed the app that tracks Fry on his phone, in case of emergencies.

"It appears he's still in the building." Mr Irons says. "Unless he's taken the watch off."

"How accurate is this?" Mr Mags asks.

"In good GPS conditions, it'll track him to the nearest metre."

"So he's right here. Or on the floor above." Mr Mags says.

They look in the cupboards, then go up to the first floor and look there. No sign of him.

"What's this thing here?" Mr Mags asks, knocking on part of the wall that sticks out towards them.

"Vent." Mr Irons says. "There's no opening on this floor."

"Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald!" Teddy comes running up. "We've found Fry."

"Oh well done, where is he?" Mr Mags asks.

"On the roof." Noah says. "We looked for him behind the school and he peeped over and waved."

"Noah, please go and get the head." Mr Irons says, as he and Mr Mags rush out back and climb up the fire escape. "Fry, do not move, we're coming to get you."

Fry peeps over.

"I didn't mean to get up here." He says.

"Don't worry about that." Mr Mags says, taking his shoes off and shimmying up the drainpipe.

"Magnus, wait for the fire brigade!" Mr Irons hisses. Then, on second thoughts, tries to climb up after him.

"Whoops, careful." Mr Mags says, reaching down from the top of the roof to help Mr Irons get on. "Why are you coming up?"

"I was worried you might startle him." Mr Irons says. "Are you okay, Fry?"

"I'm in a lot of trouble, aren't I?" Fry says, shivering.

Mr Irons takes off his jacket and puts it round him.

"I think we'll decide if you're in trouble when we're all safely on the ground." he says.

"Fry, why did you take off?" Mr Mags asks.

"Because you said I could leave the class at any time if I needed a time out." Fry says. "And I couldn't go to the fish tank so I looked for a quiet place, and then I climbed the ladder into the vent and I got stuck."

"Did you know it was wrong to climb into vents?" Mr Irons asks.

"I never heard a rule about it." Fry says.

"Okay. You must not climb into vents." Mr Irons says.

Mr Mags stares at him. "Isn't that sort of obvious?"

"No, Magnus, it's not obvious to him." Mr Irons says. "I know you like the kids to make their own rules in your class, but Fry needs more structure than that. And if the whole class votes to be noisy, he can't just accept that, any more than if the whole class voted to eat peanuts but one person had an allergy."

Mr Mags nods.

"Hey, I'm sorry man." he says to Fry. "I'll give your classmates more help with the rule-making, okay?" He smiles slightly. "Well, assuming I'm not fired."

"You might get fired?" Fry asks, watching as the fire engine comes up the road towards the school.

"Maybe. Hopefully not." Mr Mags says. "There's so much I want to teach you guys. But don't worry, man, I'm a substitute teacher by trade, even if I do get fired I'll be okay."

Fry looks at Mr Irons as Mr Mags gets up to direct the crane.

"He won't really get fired will he?"

"I don't think so." Mr Irons reassures him. "But you gave us a scare, so please tell him where you're going next time."
fry_sandhu: (Default)
Life in Mr Mags' classroom isn't all bad. In the first few days, they do vote on some actual classroom rules, and they decide the timetable together. Of course, they have to do things like maths and English, but their new teacher also schedules in ten minutes of yoga first thing in the morning, and some wooly-sort of things like 'Question Box', where he answers questions that you put in the box.

A few times a week, they work on their pretend country, Fortland, which as far as Fry can work out covers bits of history, geography, maths, art and nature. Fortland is growing on Fry, though he wishes Mr Mags could just decide all the rules himself. It is quite interesting, though, hearing about all the weird places Mr Mags has been to and all the different ways a country can be. And sometimes Mr Mags asks them interesting questions to get them thinking.

"So, what national language or languages should Fortland have?" he asks, one day. And there is a bit of a stunned silence for a moment, before Tommy pipes up.

"Well, English of course."

"Why?" Mr Mags asks.

"Well, because most of us speak it." Tommy says.

"How do you know most of you don't speak another language too?" Mr Mags asks. "I mean, like, if it suddenly turned out that three quarters of you spoke something else, wouldn't it be a cool thing to learn, so you could have secret messages other countries couldn't understand? Who here knows another language?"

Fry puts his hand up for Punjabi. Joram speaks Arabic, Kasha speaks Polish, and by the time Mr Mags has gone around the class, they find a handful of other languages. Pixie speaks Welsh, but keeps her mouth shut because she's not used to all the new people yet.

"But English is the most common language in the world." JJ says. Despite being new, he's not shy of saying anything.

"It's not actually, there are more speakers of Mandarin Chinese." Mr Mags says.

They have a vote, and decide to make English the official language, but decide to make everyone who speaks a second language an 'Official Translator of Fortland'.

Mr Mags seems happy with his work too, having high praise for Fry's bean project (though he wasn't the winner, as Pixie beat him by three points). Unlike Miss Havisham, Mr Mags loves technology, and uses the smartboard and devices for almost everything. To the class's delight, the main screen of his smart board is a model of their classroom, with little cartoon figures of each of them. Clicking on your miniature figure will bring up your scores in his various games, such as the maths and spelling apps he writes himself.

Nobody had ever completed the maths game until Fry was let loose on it; he beat every level in fourteen minutes. The next day, Mr Mags had created another ten levels. Fry likes that.

There's really just one thing Fry can't stand in the classroom, and that's the noise.

One of the new kids, Ben, is particularly loud - and also after their fight on the first day particularly keen to wind Fry up. Mr Mags doesn't appear to immediately notice, but after a few days suggests that one of them might like to move. Fry isn't big on moving, so he swaps only with Noah in the next seat.

"Ignore him, he's being a git." Teddy urges Fry the next day from his other side. "He's just annoyed because he's jealous of JJ."

"Jealous?" Fry asks.

"Yeah. When Ben arrived at the start of the week, he was the centre of attention as the cool new kid for all of five minutes. Then a moment later, JJ turns up, people recognise his famous father the footballer, and Ben's moment of fame is over." Teddy says, in a hushed tone. "You can tell by the way he looks at JJ."

Fry glances over at JJ, who is surrounded by all the kids he would consider to be fairly popular, aside from Tommy, who is a lifelong Holby United fan and wouldn't go to a Holby City FC match if you paid him. Still, Fry is indifferent to JJ for now, whereas Ben is thoroughly irritating.

"What's that got to do with me?" he asks Teddy.

"He can't take it out on JJ, so he's taking it out on you." Teddy says.

"That's stupid." Fry says.

"Yes. Just ignore him." Teddy says.

Fry tries. But even when Ben is not being so noisy, he still finds ways to wind Fry up. His favourite one morning being to go 'Shh, don't disturb the baby', which is earning him some giggles on his table behind Fry's. Fry eventually gets fed up with this same joke after the fourth time, and fifteen minutes before the end of the class excuses himself to have a time out. Mr Mags lets him do that, as he needs.

But there's a group lesson going on in the resources room, where the fish tank is, so he can't stay in there. Instead, he wanders into the corridor, looking for somewhere to get away from the racket. And that's when he notices something unusual.

There's a stepladder, leading up to a hole in the ceiling. A trap door that Fry has never noticed before. At the end of the corridor, a handyman is just going into the toilet, and the ladder is therefore quite, quite unattended.

He steps forward, climbs up the ladder, and disappears into the hole. It's nice and quiet up there. He steps forward and goes further into the attic. It's not a very big space, and not quite as exciting as he anticipated, but there is a fan to look at, and he watches that spinning around for a bit until he feels better.

And then, suddenly, there is a bang, and a click, behind him, and it goes pitch black.

Uh oh.

He gets his phone out and uses it as a torch. Where was that trap door again?

He hears the bell go for break. He can't climb down the trap door now, even if he finds it. He'll be seen. He starts checking if there's any other way out, climbing through and around a few things and suddenly he finds a very little door in the wall. He tries the handle, and it opens to bright sunlight. He crawls through the hole and looks around.

It's the flat roof of the school.

Okay. No need to panic, all he needs to do is figure out a way to get down without being seen...
fry_sandhu: (Default)
It's a relief to be going back to school, even if Fry is worried about going into a new, potentially chaotic class with a weird teacher.

Mum and Dad have tried to get him to 'get to know' Rowan and Hazel, the new neighbourkids during his last few weeks of the holidays. He might have stood more of a chance with their older brother Flint, who is a much quieter lad keen on gardening and the outdoors, but Flint must be at least fourteen and just isn't interested in getting to know Fry.

Things with Rowan started to go downhill within the first week. Fry was out in the garden, watering his flowers, when he heard Rowan arguing with his mum next door.

"No, I'm not going to go and play with him!" Rowan complained. "He's a big sissy wimp and he's boring, boring, boring!"

Fry glared through the fence. Just because he hadn't wanted to go over the back fence (where there are dangerous holes you can fall in), and because he didn't like it when Rowan laughed at his new phone (and said he was going to wee himself it was so funny) and just because he didn't think it was funny when Hazel soaked him with the hose while he was gardening. It wasn't funny. He got wet.

He's relieved that Rowan isn't going to his school. At least the only new person he's expecting there is Joram, who isn't new to Fry, at least.

He meets Joram at the school gates when Dad drops him off. Joram's aunt waves him goodbye, and Joram stops Fry for a moment.

"Fry? Can I ask a present?"

Fry stops. "A present?"

"No, I mean... to do something for me."

"A favour." Fry says. "Sure."

"If the other children ask, please do not tell them I am from Syria." Joram says.

"Why?" Fry asks.

"At my old school, when they hear I am from Syria, some call me a terrorist." Joram says. "Or they ask many question about the war. I do not want to talk about war, about being a refugee. You understand me?"

Fry nods. Mum had said that Joram might not want to talk about the war. "Where do I say you're from if they ask?"

"Saudi Arabia." Joram says. "Because they speak the same language there and nobody will have anything to ask about it."

Fry doesn't like to lie. But it's a fairly straightforward lie, so he thinks he can do it for Joram.

When they go into the classroom though, Fry is in for a shock. Joram isn't the only new face; there are two other boys he doesn't recognise. The volume of the classroom hits him like a wall, with everyone talking to the new kids at the tops of their voices.

There shouldn't be any new kids here. For new kids to arrive last minute, it means someone has left. Fry looks rapidly around the room to work out who.

The first person he can't spot is Peter. But then he realises Peter has probably gone up into Year 6. Miss Havisham had said at the end of last term that he might, because he was doing so much better. The second person he can't spot is Bradley, who is usually easy to spot in his wheelchair. And nearby, Tommy suddenly gives an alarmed shriek.

"Guys, I just got a text! It says 'Bradley died last week, his spirit will haunt the classroom for eternity'."

Bethany screams. A couple of other people scream. Fry puts his hands over his ears. Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, their new teacher, looks startled as he comes into the room.

"Woah, what's all this?" he asks, looking at the now sobbing Tommy.

"Bradley died!" Tommy says, handing the teacher his phone.

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald reads the message, then takes the phone to the front of the class, puts it on speaker phone and calls Bradley's number.

"Whooooooooooo!" Bradley answers. Bethany screams again.

"Hi Bradley, this is Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, you're on speakerphone live in Year Five." the teacher says. "I heard you moved schools, that's too bad man. I think you're going to be really missed. You shouldn't pretend to be dead though, that's not cool."

"Aww..." Bradley says. "Fine, I'm not dead. I have to go to class now, see you around, losers."

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald sends Tommy out to get a tissue, then when Tommy is back takes the register.

"So we have a few new faces." He says at the end. "Joram, Ben and JJ. Bradley as you have gathered just now has moved schools."

Bradley hadn't said anything about leaving, but he'd threatened to 'go to a normal school' as many times as he'd joked that he was going to die. Fry still can't believe that Tommy fell for that. Even he knows dead people don't text.

"We've also lost Peter, who has gone into Year Six, and Georgina has gone to America for a year while her parents take part in a teacher exchange program. Ben has come over from the States with his parents to take George's place this year."

Fry realises suddenly that with Bradley and George gone, that's both his closest rivals out of the picture! He still has Xiao, in Year Six, but she's got entrance exams to work for and probably won't have time to challenge him. Suddenly he feels indignant. How could they leave him without even so much as saying goodbye?

They hand in their 'bean projects' from the summer, where they had to find as many uses as possible for ten bean seeds. Last night at the end of the project, Fry planted all his beans in the garden to grow, rather than wasting them. He hopes he's done enough things to win the prize.

"Right, so, I like to have you guys as much in control of your own learning as possible, in this classroom." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "And the way we usually do that is to make this classroom like a little country. We'll give it a name and a flag, and you'll all help decide the rules and laws. But first things first: can anyone tell me the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship?"

There is hesitation, and then Joram raises his hand.

"Democracy is where people have the vote."

Fry glances across the table at Joram, marvelling. Last year that kid didn't speak a word of English, and now he's beating Fry to answer difficult vocabulary questions! But then he remembers the war. Maybe voting is something that comes up a lot when your home country is in a war.

"Very good." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "We're going to run this class as a democracy, that means you get to vote on things rather than me telling you what to do all the time. That said, I'm like the judge, and I will step in if things get out of hand." He holds up a miniature gavel. "So if I bang this on the table listen up."

He shows them the blank sheets covering the notice boards right now. One big board he says is for 'expressing yourself' and that anyone can draw on it, but to try not to draw over other people's stuff. One sheet on the front board he says will be for the class rules, when they decide them together. Then he sets them off designing a flag and thinking of a name for their country.

"We'll vote on the designs at the end." he says. "But try and come up with something that others in your class can replicate later."

As they get started, Joram goes up to the front to ask what 'replicate' means, but try as he might he can't quite pronounce 'Magnesium-Fitzgerald'. After explaining the word, and thinking for a few moments, Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald bangs his gavel.

"Before I forget, if anyone wants to, you can call me 'Mr Mags' in here, just try and use my full name in front of other teachers." He shoots a grin at Ben and JJ. "It's actually less of a mouthful than the name I was born with."

"Then why don't you change your name again to Mr Mags?" JJ asks.

"Because then I'd have to change all my mail and bank cards and stuff." Mr Mags says. He shrugs. "Seemed like a good idea when I did it. Learn from me, kiddos."

The classroom is uncomfortably noisy for Fry, even though he understands the idea of designing a flag. He makes a plain green square and stares at it for a bit.

On the table behind, the two new kids are having a loud discussion. Ben's American accent stands out, not least because Ben is sitting right behind Fry at the table, facing the other way. Ben is speaking extra loudly to compete with JJ who, by the sounds of the conversation, has a father who used to play for Holby City Football Team. Fry isn't remotely interested in this, but the rest of the table behind him apparently are, since JJ is talking about being able to get them free tickets and stuff.

After about twenty minutes, he turns around to Ben.

"Do you have to make so much noise?"

Ben turns and stares at him. Then goes 'oooooh!' and makes a mocking face.

"What's his problem?" He asks Zack, as Fry turns back around.

"Oh, he's not big on noise." Zack says.

After what happens next, it occurs to Zack that this was probably the time to tell Ben 'Oh, by the way, he's autistic and he doesn't like to be touched'. Unfortunately, it doesn't occur to Zack until Ben licks his finger and leans over to give Fry a 'Wet willy'.

He doesn't get far. As Ben's wet finger touches Fry's ear, it startles him. He doesn't even think; five years of martial arts training kicks in. He shrieks, grabs the wrist, twists it, and swings around with a punch which lands hard on Ben's face. And then he clutches his ear and carries on screaming.

Mr Mags descends upon them, looking somewhat bewildered as to what just happened. And then Noah suggests he take Fry to look at the fish tank, which Fry decides is a good idea, and by the time he calms down it's break time.

"Fry, come back in please." Mr Mags says. Fry goes back into the classroom, beginning to worry now he's starting to calm down. He's just hit someone. He's bound to get sent to the head for that. Ben is sitting with a cold pack on his face, and the rest of the class have gone out to break.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to." Fry says. "He scared me."

"It was just a wet willy, we did them all the time at my last school." Ben says, glaring at him. He looks back at the teacher. "How was I meant to know he's autistic?"

Mr Mags shrugs.

"What rule could we put in place to prevent this happening again?" he asks.

Fry and Ben look at him blankly. Mr Mags continues.

"How about from now on, you keep your hands to yourself?" he says to Ben. "You heard him. He didn't mean to hurt you, you scared him."

Ben looks bewildered.

"He punched me." he protests.

Mr Mags shrugs expansively. "Well I guess accidents happen when you do something in class you're not supposed to do." He gets up to write 'Keep your hands to yourself' on the Rules Board.

"See that it doesn't happen again, either of you, or I'll have to send you to the head, which will be boring and annoying for all of us. You can go out to break now."

Fry and Ben head out to the playground. Ben glares at him.

"Freak." he mutters.

Fry glances back at him.

"I've been doing martial arts since I was four." He says. "You're lucky I didn't accidentally break your arm."
fry_sandhu: (fry 8 study)
"I think maybe you would have a better day if you stop crying." Fry says, helpfully, as he sits on a log with his neighbour Archie, watching the moving van.

Archie is moving. For real this time. He's pretended to move a couple of times, so that he could change schools, the latest being Berry Hill Top where Joram goes. Berry Hill Top is very oversubscribed, so they prioritise the children who live closest. Joram had accidentally let slip one day that Archie didn't live where his parents said he did.

Things had gone downhill rapidly after that.

Archie and his siblings had made life very difficult for Joram. Archie had argued, in a moment of anger, that it was no less fair than Joram getting bumped up the waiting list for being a refugee. By the next day, Archie had come back and apologised to Joram, realising that Joram couldn't have understood the situation and that the comparison he made was unreasonable; but it was too late. Joram had told his uncle, who had gone ballistic.

"I don't want to leave our lovely house." Archie says now, tears running down his cheeks. "But someone's told the education authorities that we're in the habit of lying about our address, so if I want to get into a good secondary school next September we've got to move for real."

"Aren't there good schools here?" Fry asks.

"There are. That's why we moved here in the first place. But I'm going to be bottom of the waiting list now." Archie says. "Which means I'll probably end up at Farmeade."

Farmeade was the roughest, toughest council estate in Holby. It was well known for gangs and trouble.

"Maybe it won't be so bad." Fry says. "I know you're not mega popular at Berry Hill Top but you've not been beaten up since you went there."

"I wouldn't last five minutes at Farmeade." Archie says. "I'm a posh kid with a posh voice. Everyone will hate me there."

He wipes his eyes. Fry watches him. He feels slightly sorry for him. But not very, because Joram is his friend too, and he knows Joram didn't come out of this unscathed either. And because lots of people can't just move house to get themselves into a different school.

"Have you tried not being posh?" he asks. "It seems to cause you a lot of problems."

At that moment, Archie's parents call him to come and get in the car. Archie offers Fry a handshake. Fry, for once, accepts it.

"Can I write to you?" Archie asks.

"If you want." Fry says.

Archie turns to go, then hesitates.

"Take care of Joram. He's starting at your school next term."

Fry stares after him in surprise. Then he goes into the kitchen to ask Mum about that.

"Mum, is Joram going to my school next term?" he asks.

"Yes." Mum says, looking up from the cakes she's making. "His uncle said he was being bullied at Berry Hill Top. I didn't tell you in case Archie was involved. He would have gone to your school last year, but they didn't have a TA to help him learn English from scratch."

"How can he afford it?" Fry asks. "Being a refugee."

"Well his British uncle and aunt are both doctors, remember." Mum says. "If there was a war here and you had to flee the country, you'd be a refugee. It can happen to anyone." She looks at him seriously. "Fry, Joram may not want everyone to know he's a refugee. Remember, his family in Syria were killed. It might be too painful for him to answer lots of questions. You mustn't tell anyone in school about him being a refugee. If he wants to tell people, he can do so himself. Just be a good friend to him."

Fry nods seriously. Okay, all of that makes sense.

"Fry, come and see!" Coral yells, suddenly, from the front window upstairs. "The new neighbours are arriving!"

Fry runs up to the window. Brooke and Gil come and join them, and Fry lifts Gil up to sit on the windowsill.

"Do you think they'll be posh like the Beauchamps?" Coral asks. "It's a big house so they'll have to be quite well off."

"I hope not, posh is boring and YUKKY!" Brooke declares.

"Look, a noo!" Gil shouts, pointing.

"A noo? What's a noo?" Coral asks, as the moving men come out of the van with a long object.

"Canoe." Fry says.

The moving men bring another canoe out of the van.

"I don't see any people yet." Brooke says. "Except the moving men."

"You don't pack the people in the moving van." Fry says.

Just then, a jeep pulls into the long driveway next door. The four children watch as the family get out of the jeep.

"Look, they're a gay couple!" Coral says.

"No they aren't, that's a woman with short hair, silly." Brooke says.

"I agree it's a woman." Fry says.

The back car doors open and three children come out of the car. The first is a teenage boy, followed by another boy about Fry's age, and a girl who looks to be about six, between the ages of Coral and Brooke. The three children have an 'outdoorsy' look about them.

"Well they don't look like the Beauchamps." Fry decides, after a few minutes.

"Shall we go and say hello?" Coral asks.

"Why?" Fry asks. "We can see them from here."

"I think that's what we're supposed to do." Coral says. "And you have to take a cup of sugar."

"A cup of sugar?" Brooke asks. "What for?"

"I don't know. I think it's tradition." Coral says.

They troop downstairs and get a cup of sugar to take with them. Then they go to the little gap in the hedge in the front driveway, and go through. Gil insists on picking some dandelions as a bouquet on the way.

"BAAAANDITS!"

The boy about Fry's age leaps out at him as he goes through the hedge, brandishing a stick. Fry squeals, much to the boy's surprise, and Coral drops the sugar. Brooke giggles and picks up her own stick.

"Who dares trespass into our newly claimed kingdom?" the boy asks, grinning and circling the four Sandhus. "Hazel, have you unpacked the keys to the dungeon?"

"You haven't got a dungeon." Fry says. "I've been in your house lots of times."

"EN GARDE!" Hazel shouts, jumping out at Gil brandishing another stick. Gil drops his flowers.

"Wee-wee!" he squeaks, running back through the gap in the hedge and abandoning his siblings to the scary neighbours.

"We come in peace. With sugar." Coral says, offering the half empty cup.

"Oh all right then." the boy says, dipping his finger in the sugar and licking it. "I'm Rowan, that's Hazel, my older brother is Flint."

Fry introduces them. "And the littlest of us is Gil."

"Cool. So, have you built anything epic in those woods behind our houses?" Rowan asks. "What are the climbing trees like? Any good ones?"

"Oh no." Fry says. "There's a danger of falling down holes, so we don't go there."

"Oh." Rowan looks disappointed. "So what do you do?"

"I like the piano, and computer games, and maths." Fry says. "Coral likes playing with toys and gardening, and Brooke is on the under fives ice hockey team."

"Oh good, one of you isn't a softie then." Hazel says, grinning at Brooke.

Fry isn't convinced that he likes Rowan and Hazel very much. A part of him suddenly wishes Archie would come back. But another part of him doesn't. It's like as they've got older, he and Archie haven't got on as well.

As his sisters play with the new neighbours in the canoes, he excuses himself and goes back home. It's four o'clock so it's time for piano practice.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
The end of the year is approaching. Fry had never imagined he'd miss someone like Miss Havisham, but he finds he's glad she's not retiring after all.

She's still a good way behind Mr Irons in his favourite teacher list, but he would take some beating.

There are a few loose ends to tie off. The first is to announce that he has, indeed, won the credit chart for doing the most extra work. He hasn't beaten the all-time record, held by Rosie Sinclair, but he gets the trophy and that's more than enough.


The second, is the class gathering in the garden to do the last harvest of their garden box challenges.

"You have learned many things." Miss Havisham says. "You have learned that growing crops requires year-around dedication, and space, and money. You learned that you can achieve more working in co-operation with one another, sharing seeds and knowledge and work.

I want you to remember that I set you a challenge of five pounds because some people have even less than that spare income. Remember how difficult it is to do things, however hard you work, with very little money, and be understanding of how difficult it is for the poor.

"But if you are unlucky enough to ever be poor yourself, remember how to do things like this. One potato plant is better than none."


Finally, Miss Havisham tells them that they will be spending an afternoon with Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald, their new class teacher for next year. She says a few words to them first.

"Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald is not the sort of teacher I am." she says. "In fact, I doubt you will ever have another teacher like me, who doesn't use technology, and puts so much emphasis on self-directed learning. I am a dinosaur, the last of my kind.

"If you want to get the most out of education, then you can continue to learn independently outside of school. You have all the books and resources and, dare I say it, even the internet. If you do not understand something, look it up. If you are poor at a subject, do more of it. If you want to achieve something, and you are not on track to, do something about it. Just because your next teacher will not, as I do, push you to do extra credit assignments, does not mean there is no benefit in you doing so, if you choose to."

She takes them through to the classroom next door. Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald gives them a friendly wave.

"Sit wherever." He says, gesturing to the tables.

Fry pauses. He's never not had an assigned seat before. Maybe it will at least be his own seat once he's chosen one.

"Fry, let's sit here, with Noah." Teddy suggests, seeing him looking lost. Fry sits gratefully at the little table.

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald waits for them to be quiet, and when they are still chatting, holds up a hand.

"Right, this is a thing we did in the Boy Scouts. If I put my hand up, you all put your hand up, and you stop talking. Last one to stop talking is a rotten egg."

They all put their hands up and stop talking. Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald puts his hand down again.

"Awesome. I don't like to shout over a class. Let me tell you a few things about the way I work.

"Number one. You are children. I want you to use your imaginations. I want you to ask questions. I want you to ask stupid questions. I want you to tell me what you want to know. That's what this box at the front is for. If you don't tell me what you want to learn, we will do dull stuff from text books.

"Number two. I want you to be comfortable. If you need to take off your shoes or your tie or roll up your sleeves, or wear shorts in summer, or wear a dress if you're a boy, you do not need to ask, go ahead. You do have to put yourselves back together again before you leave the room. You can use fidget spinners or anything you need to concentrate so long as you're not bothering anyone else. You do not have to ask permission to go pee. And..." he pauses to make sure they are paying attention. "You can have your phones or devices or whatever in class, and you can use them to look stuff up, so long as we're not taking a test. If you start mucking around or texting, then they'll go in the box.

"Number three. Don't assume that just because I can't remember your name that I don't know anything about you.

"Number four. Punishing you is a waste of your time and mine. I'm pretty relaxed, so if I do tell you to do something, do us a favour and just do as you're told, okay? Any questions?"

Fry puts his hand up.

"May I stay sitting here for the rest of the year?"

"Yes, sit where you like." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "I don't move anyone unless they're being a nuisance."

Everyone seems very happy with all of this. Fry looks over at the long-haired, bearded teacher, with his feet on the table. He still feels unsure.

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald then goes around the class, passing around some envelopes and scrapbooks.

"This is your holiday assignment." he says.

Fry opens the envelope. Inside are ten bean seeds.

"I want you all to find as many different uses for these beans as possible. I want you to use your imaginations. Each thing you find to do with them, you write in your scrapbook. Pictures even better. The only things you can't do are eat them - these are seeds, they're not edible unless you plant them - or stick them up your nose or in your ears or anything dangerous that will get me into trouble with your parents. Prize for the winner at the start of next term."

Fry stares at the beans. What a stupid assignment! Bean seeds are for planting. What else would you ever do with them?

When the rest of the class goes out to play, he hangs back.

"Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald?" he asks, when they've all gone. "Did Mr Irons or Miss Havisham tell you about me?"

"Yes." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. Fry had half-expected the teacher not to know his name. "Your name is Alexander Jefry Sandhu, you prefer to be called Fry, and you have Asperger Syndrome which causes you some sensory issues and affects your ability to adapt to change. You learned to overcome change slowly with Mr Irons. I am going to help you develop imagination and the ability to deal with surprises."

"Surprises." Fry says flatly.

"Nice surprises." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "And I won't be mad if you can't use your imagination, I just want to help you try."

Fry takes his beans and his book. He's not sure about this. But he knows Mr Irons trusts his new teacher, and Mr Irons hasn't led him wrong yet.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
The headmistress of Fry's school is not, one would consider, someone to cross, and very few would try.

But this is important. And so, after spending a bit of time thinking about the news that Mr Morton - ugh - would be a full time teacher at school next year, Fry takes himself to see the head, and knocks on the door.

"Come in!"

Fry enters. It's unusual for him to come here when he's not in trouble, but still. Important.

"Mrs Patel." he says. "I did not set Mr Morton up. It wasn't a misunderstanding. He was bullying Mr Irons and I caught him. I don't think he should be allowed to come back and teach here."

"Who told you Mr Morton was coming back?" Mrs Patel asks.

Oh. Was he not supposed to know that? Fry isn't good at lying, and he'd rather Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald continued to give him information, so he avoids the question.

"I just heard."

"It's not up to students to choose their teachers, Fry." Mrs Patel says, watching him closely.

"But I defeated him, it's not fair!" Fry wails. "You're not supposed to have to deal with your arch-enemies after you defeated them."

Mrs Patel holds up a hand. "Thank you, Fry. I will take what you have said into consideration, and the school will be informed of the teaching arrangements in due course."




***TEN MINUTES LATER***



There is a second knock at the door. Mrs Patel looks up.

"Come in!"

Miss Havisham sweeps into the room. Mrs Patel recognises the sweeping motion. It usually occurs before Miss Havisham gives someone a detention.

"Mrs Patel. Am I dead?" Miss Havisham asks.

"...no." Mrs Patel says.

"I thought not. May I please withdraw my request to semi-retire?"

Mrs Patel raises an eyebrow. "It isn't finalised, but we've already found your replacement."

"You have not." Miss Havisham says. "Over my dead body will I stand by and let that slimy toad-weasel Mortimer Morton take my job after what he did to Jim. Misunderstanding my foot! Morton is a scoundrel and a liar, and Jim won't say anything, it's not in his nature."

Mrs Patel holds her hand up again. "Belinda, please, we had only two applicants and two jobs, teachers are in short supply right now. The local authority cleared Mr Morton..."

"I wish to un-retire with immediate effect." Miss Havisham says. "I'd rather work full time in pain than spend hours a week at home sitting waiting to be dead anyway."

The two strong women lock eyes. Mrs Patel nods.

"I respect your strength of feeling. I will reinstate you and inform Mr Morton that the job has been withdrawn. We may still need Mr Morton for some supply work, though, we're dreadfully short."

"Thank you. If we must have him for supply, I shall tell him he can bring his own teabags." Miss Havisham says, turning and sweeping back out of the room. Mrs Patel, who would not have let any other teacher get away with such demands, smiles slightly to herself and prepares to do a lot of paperwork.

Outside, Fry is hovering at the end of the corridor. Miss Havisham comes over to him.

"Thank you for that information, Alexander. I can't guarantee that Mr Morton will never return, but he won't be here permanently."

"Are you staying?" Fry asks, making a rare moment of eye contact in his excitement. "How long will you stay?"

"As long as I can. Thank you, Fry."

"What for?" Fry asks.

"Well, I didn't really want to retire that much anyway." Miss Havisham admits, as they walk back to the classroom. "It's rather dull being retired. And I've been at this school since I was just a little younger than you. I went to live with my auntie after my parents died, and she taught here as you know. I was in her class." she smiles fondly. "I was a bit of a rebel back then, I must admit, so it's funny that I turned out so converted to her methods."

Something connects, in Fry's mind. As soon as he gets back to the classroom, he goes to his locker and gets out the Miss Havisham Strategy Guide. Then he goes to the corridor with all the pictures and looks for the one of the right date.

"What's up?" Tommy asks him, passing a few moments later on the way back from the toilet.

Fry runs his finger along the names of the 7-8 year old students of the year the book started, 1956-7. Then he stops and taps one.

"This book we've all been using. The original author was 'B', right? There's only one name that starts with a B." he says.

"Who?" Tommy asks.

"'Belinda Havisham'." Fry says.

"Wait, what?" Tommy asks, squinting at the picture.

"She wrote the strategy guide to use against her aunt, and everyone carried it on when the current Miss Havisham took over teaching." Fry says. "She was the one helping us all along."

Tommy looks at the book, and then at the photo, and then begins to laugh.

"Do you think she knows it's still going?" Fry asks.

"Oh yeah." Tommy says. "Miss H doesn't miss a thing." He looks at Fry. "Let's keep this discovery between us. Some school legends are worth keeping going."
fry_sandhu: (Default)
It's interesting to Fry. At the beginning of this year, he figured he would spend it all trying to beat the credit chart score. But it turns out that a lot of other things have distracted him. Helping Tommy and Pixie, the school play, his garden box, detectiving...

At the start of the new term, the credit chart is blank again. Fry knows that he was in the lead the first two terms, so he's probably going to win overall, but he's not sure he's going to beat Rosie Sinclair, a former student who holds the current top score of all time.

Somehow, it doesn't matter any more.

For a fleeting moment, he wondered if he might get made Form Captain this term. It would certainly be a way of broadening his skills. But he is vaguely disappointed when Miss Havisham makes the announcement.

"And this term's form captain will be Georgina Runt."

George looks completely startled. Everyone else claps, even Zack, who had spent the whole of last term being angry about not being Form Captain.

"Thanks." she says, going slightly red.

Fry has more pressing concerns. As soon as it's break time, he makes his way straight to the next door classroom and knocks on the door.

"Enterino."

What is that supposed to mean? Fry pushes open the door and approaches the teacher's desk. He scoots carefully around the bare feet that are currently on top of the desk, and faces the man there.

"What-up, little dude?" Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald asks him.

"Hello." Fry says. "I need to know whether you defeated my arch-nemesis, Mr Morton, to get a permanent job here and become my teacher next year."

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald gives Fry an amused grin.

"You must be the kid that dear Mortimer said set him up, huh?"

"Set him up? What a cheek!" Fry says. "He was bullying Mr Irons."

"Hey, I believe you." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "But he smooth-talked the head into believing it was all a big misunderstanding."

Fry suspects that Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald isn't supposed to be telling him this. He also suspects that the teacher doesn't care. He has a bad feeling about this.

"So you're saying that I have Mr Morton next year."

"Nope." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "You've got me."

"Oh good." Fry says.

"Hooooowever. Mr Morton will be taking Year Four, owing to the imminent semi-retirement of Miss Havisham." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says.

Fry feels his stomach sink. Mr Morton will be back after all! Not as his teacher, but still in the school.

"I was hoping Miss Havisham would stay long enough to take on Brooklyn." he says.

"Brooklyn?"

"My sister."

"Oh, right. How old is she?" Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald asks.

"Four."

"Hm, well, Miss H is pretty old." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says. "But in any case, she will still be coming in to do supply teaching and a few classes, but she won't have her own class any more." He looks at Fry's expression. "She can't keep going forever, little dude, that back of hers isn't getting any younger. But she'll always be part of the school family, okay?"

Fry isn't sure if he likes Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald or not. But at least he's not Mr Morton, so he's prepared to give the teacher a chance.
fry_sandhu: (fry 6 smile look up)
Peter was back in school the next day. He was reluctant to answer questions as to what happened after he ran away, but at break time he finally caved in.

"All right, all right, listen up because I'm only telling the story once." he says. "I ran away because I was fed up with my mum and stepdad and my dad and stepmum. I hate living with my stepsiblings. I don't even have my own room any more. And none of them were coming to the play. And they won't let me talk to Grandma because she doesn't approve of divorce. After Zack teased me, I just decided I'd had enough."

"Weren't you scared?" Tommy asks.

Peter shakes his head. "I know how to get to Grandma's. I just got on a bus. I didn't know the school were going to call the police."

"Did you get arrested?" Fry asks.

"No. I had to talk to a social worker though." Peter says. "They said I should stay with Grandma until they can talk to my parents."

Miss Havisham appears in the doorway, and calls Zack inside. Peter shoos everyone else off, and refuses to answer any more questions, but Tommy persuades him to go over and play football.

"If you're staying with your Grandma, you can get back on the team, you'll be able to come to practice." he says.

"I'm glad he's safe." Fry says, going back to join Noah and Pixie in one corner of the playground. Noah has some new cars, and they've been racing them down the slight slope at the front of the playground.

"Me too." Pixie says. "Even if I was hoping they might cancel the play."

"Oh, you did really well at the dress rehearsal!" Noah says. "You sang beautifully. You can really do it, Pixie."

"But what if Dad makes a big fuss?" Pixie says.

"He won't. Can you imagine what Miss Havisham would say to him?" Noah says.

Inside the classroom, Miss Havisham sits down, and tells Zack to do the same.

"Zack, yesterday you did something I have not seen you do before." she says. "You showed signs of leadership. You admitted that you had done something wrong, by yelling at Peter, and you co-ordinated all of your classmates to get as much information and do a search of the school. It appears you make a better leader when you aren't trying to be than when you are."

Zack goes a big pink. Miss Havisham continues.

"You understand that your behaviour this term has not, otherwise, been what I would expect of a leader, don't you?"

"Yes Miss Havisham." Zack says, sighing.

"I know that you want to be Form Captain very much." Miss Havisham says. "If you continue to work on being a good leader, by setting an example, and by valuing the contribution of people you otherwise consider different to you, one day you may make a good Form Captain. But you are not ready yet. I don't say that to be cruel, but because I want you to understand. If I made you a leader now, you would just boss people around."

"So I won't be Form Captain next term either?" Zack asks.

"No, you won't. I have already picked next term's Form Captain." Miss Havisham says. "But that is no reason to go back to sulking. Next year, whether your class is taught by Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald or Mr Morton, I understand that both of them appoint Form Captains by election. All you need to do is keep up the good behaviour, and I think your classmates will be able to see you as the leader you hope to be."

Zack leaves the room feeling a little bit brighter. He's still sorry that Peter ran away, but maybe it's not all bad.

He tries to help in little ways. He encourages Pixie before the big performance of their play, and helps Fry with his costume. And he finds when he gets out on the stage for his role, he does the best he's ever done just because he's happy again.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
"I'm very proud of you for doing this play." Mum says, one morning as she drops Fry off at school on the day of the dress rehearsal.

"Why?" Fry asks, curiously.

"Because at the start of the year, I was worried all you would do is try and get credits." Mum says. "And you're being much more balanced now."

Fry smiles slightly. He's still heading for the top of the credit chart, and keeping on top of the play. Okay, maybe he won't beat Rosie Sinclair's end of year record, but he's starting to feel that maybe he doesn't need to quite so much.

He still wants to, though. But he's beginning to realise that you can't do it all. Sometimes that's hard. It has meant things like deciding only to enter the local round of mathletics this year, even though he was offered a place at the regionals. It would have clashed with the play, and he's determined to be a great Simba.

In the classroom, things have settled down somewhat between Zack and Noah. Zack is now feeling rather ashamed of trying to sabotage Noah's homework, and has found himself starting to think about how he can get his leadership ambitions on track. He'd also felt rather guilty for his outburst at Peter. Not because Peter has had a go at him back, if anything it's the opposite; he's isolated himself away from everyone else.

"Look, Pete? I'm sorry I said none of your family would come to the play." Zack says sheepishly, at the dress rehearsal. "I... I pretty much screwed up everything this term but that bit I didn't mean."

"It's fine, it's true." Peter says flatly.

"Even if it is I shouldn't have said it." Zack says. "Sorry."

"They'd only yell at each other if they did come." Peter says.

For the dress rehearsal, they have an audience from the local nursing home. It's their first time to meet Miss-Havisham-The-Even-Older - the aunt of the current Miss Havisham and the teacher mentioned at the start of the strategy guide. After ten minutes talking to her, the class can see where the current Miss Havisham gets her teaching style from.

"Right, I think we're all ready to start." Mrs Donkey says, looking around the class. "Where's Peter?"

Everyone looks around. Mrs Donkey sends a few people to go and look for him.

But Peter apparently doesn't want to be found.

When Peter isn't found twenty minutes later, Zack suddenly starts to worry. Is Peter really hiding? Or was all the mean stuff he said to him the last straw? He feels a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"Guys, I think Peter might have run away." he says, in a small voice.

"Run away?" Tommy asks in alarm.

"Yeah." Zack says. "I... I said something to him about his parents not bothering to turn up to the play a couple of days ago and he's been acting weird since."

"You apologised for that, right?" Noah asks.

"I did, right after you said." Zack says. "I was ashamed. But he wasn't angry, he was just all weird."

Tommy glares at Zack. "You butthead, you know he's got problems at home since his mum and dad split up."

"Yeah, I know, it was the wrong thing to do." Zack says. "But now we've got to fix it, and I can't do it on my own, so we're going to need to work as a team. I'll go and tell Miss H what I did in a minute, but we need to think fast. If he's run away, he might get in trouble crossing the road, so she'll need to know where he might have gone. Does anyone know if he has any friends outside school, or anyone else he trusts?"

They are quiet for a moment. Then, remembering something he saw last term, Fry pipes up.

"He phones his grandma in secret at lunch time?"

"In secret?" Noah asks. "Why would it need to be secret?"

"Maybe he's not allowed to see his gran." Tommy says.

"Right, Fry, you and I will go talk to Miss Havisham." Zack says. "Everyone else, search round the school."
fry_sandhu: (Default)
The play is not going well.

Well, from Fry's point of view, his part is going excellently. He knows all his lines. But Bethany, who plays young Nala, is proving to be very unreliable. She doesn't know her lines, and it's nearly half term, and she's constantly talking and mucking around.

So Fry isn't very surprised one day when Mrs Donkey snaps. She takes Bethany aside at the end of drama.

"Bethany, I'm sorry, but I've given you chance after chance. The play is too soon now. You will have to let your understudy take your role, and have a minor part."

Bethany bursts into tears and pleads, but Mrs Donkey is unmoved.

"No." she says firmly. "I told you last week that I would take the part off you if you did not learn your lines, and I told you the week before too."

Pixie isn't too thrilled either. She's just about psyched herself up to go on stage at all, let alone do a big part singing.

"It could be worse." Noah says to her gently. "At least Bethany didn't drop out at the last minute. You'll have lots of time to practice now. You have a lovely voice."

"I can't do it. You don't understand." Pixie says. "Some people just don't have confidence!"

"But some people learn to do public speaking and all sorts." Noah says. "We'll still be your friend if you couldn't do it but don't give up yet, Pixie, you've already got loads more confidence than you used to have!"

Fry thinks Noah is a good form captain. He seems to know the right thing to say. Pixie seems to take it to heart, and manages to do the performance in the next drama lesson, albeit a bit quietly.

"See, you couldn't have done that at the start of last term." Tommy says, clapping her on the shoulder.

They head back into the classroom. Noah goes to get his book bag, only to find it's full of ink.

"Oh no! How did that happen?" he groans, fishing out his homework.

"Isn't this like the third time this term your homework got ruined?" Tommy asks.

Fry nods. If even Tommy has spotted this, it's starting to look very suspicious.

"We should check everyone's hands." he says. "Ink's hard to get off, I bet the culprit has it under their nails."

"We can't make everyone show us their hands." Noah says. "Do you really think someone did it on purpose? I mean, pens do explode sometimes."

But Fry has already gone to the front of the room to where Miss Havisham is, and blurts it out. He's had enough of this; Noah doesn't deserve someone messing with his things.

"Miss Havisham, I don't think Noah's homework is getting damaged by accident. His book bag is full of ink and I think someone did it, and they'll have ink under their nails."

The whole class goes quiet. Miss Havisham makes everyone stand up and hold out their hands. Sure enough, when she gets to Zack, there's a lot of ink still under his nails.

"Zack, did you do it?" Miss Havisham asks.

"No." Zack lies. "I just got inky this morning when my pen leaked. It happens all the time."

But nobody believes him. He evades punishment from Miss Havisham, who can't prove he did it, but at afternoon break, he finds some of the other kids aren't very impressed with him. After being cold-shouldered by his mates, he tries to play football with Peter, but finds Peter equally unsympathetic.

"I can't believe you were ever running for form captain." Peter says, kicking his football against the wall. "Everyone knows you're the one targeting Noah, and now you're lying about it like a baby. You're not fit to be captain of anything."

"Well at least I'm not some thicko who had to be kept down a year." Zack snaps, annoyed that even Peter is against him. "At least I'm not the one that got kicked off the football team for never turning up to practice."

Zack probably wouldn't have said it if he wasn't annoyed. As it is, he continues.

"At least I'm not the one whose mummy and daddy didn't bother to turn up to the Christmas concert and I bet won't bother to turn up to the play."

"Shut it!" Peter yells, kicking the football hard into Zack's groin and storming off.

"That was really mean." says a voice behind Zack. Zack turns around and sees Noah.

"Oh get lost, won't you, God Boy?" Zack snaps.

"No." Noah says. "If you want to hate me then fine, but don't take it out on other people. Besides, Peter's right, you'll never be captain of anything if you go on like this."

"I'm way more popular than you." Zack says.

"It's not just about being popular." Noah says. "A leader has to be someone that you trust will lead you to do the right thing, whatever the right thing for you is. I might not be the type of person you want to be, and I wouldn't expect to be. And I might not lead you to be the most successful, but you can be sure I'd never lead you into trouble."

"You and Fry snitched on me this afternoon." Zack says.

"No we didn't. We never mentioned your name." Noah says.

Zack pauses. Oh, wait. They didn't. He was caught blue-fingered.

"If you want to be a leader, if you want anyone to respect you again, you need to start putting this right." Noah says. "It's not too late to be form captain next term, or the term after, or any of the other terms."

"There's other chances after next term?" Zack says.

"Sure. Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald is having form captains, but they're electing them, and he's bound to get the permanent job again for next year." Noah says. "Since his only rival is Mr Morton. But you're going to have to start doing things right, like going and apologising to Peter."

To the amazement of Fry, who has been watching this exchange nearby in case Noah is about to get beaten up, Zack goes off to try and find Peter. But he's heard something in the middle of that which stops him from congratulating Noah a second time.

"Did you say Mr Morton might be coming back?"

Noah nods. "Word in the playground is that he convinced Mrs Patel that it was all a big misunderstanding and he was interested in becoming a special needs teacher, and that's why he was going through Mr Irons' room."

Fry looks horrified. "Are you telling me he could be our teacher next year?"

"Yeah." Noah nods. "But what can we do?"

"We need to make sure Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald gets the job." Fry says, setting off immediately for the school. "I'm going to ask Mr Irons to lend him some shoes."
fry_sandhu: (age 6 techie)
The spring term is proving enjoyable. Fry is finding that rehearsals for the play are going better than expected. Copying the film has proven to be helpful for a lot of the acting. The only difficulty is working opposite Bethany, who is proving over-excitable and unreliable.

"Bethany, you must learn your lines." Mrs Donkey says sternly. "This is the fifth rehearsal and you hardly know any!"

Bethany sighs slightly. The novelty of playing young Nala is wearing off already. She hadn't realised there would be so many lines. Pixie, Bethany's understudy, attempts to help teach her, but Bethany proves ungrateful.

"Why do you keep pestering me?" she snaps, eventually, when Pixie interrupts her clearly more important conversation with Lucy and Sophie.

"Because if Mrs Donkey takes the part off you, I'll have to do it." Pixie says. "And I'd be terrible."

Zack, playing Scar, is finding the part more fun than he had hoped. But as the weeks pass, he finds his resentment towards Noah remains. Noah isn't just proving to be a good Form Captain, but his role in the play as Rafiki is leaving everyone in stitches, and Mrs Donkey is singing his praises. Zack only comes in for 'Not bad, keep learning the lines' at the end of his part.

One day, Fry comes into the classroom to find Noah in an unusually stressed state.

"What's the matter?" he asks, even obvious to him that Noah is close to tears.

"My writing homework's all screwed up." Noah says, trying to smooth it out. "Miss Havisham will make me do it all again, and it took ages."

"How did it get screwed up?" Fry asks.

"I don't know. I'm sure it wasn't when I put it in my book bag." Noah says.

"Maybe a book squashed it?" Fry suggests. "You know, like if it catches the edge when you put it in."

"Maybe." Noah says. "But it looks like it got screwed up in a ball and then unfolded again."

They look at it together. It's weeks now since Noah was made form captain, and Zack hasn't expressed any of his displeasure out loud since the start of term. It's not immediately obvious to either of them that he'd still be jealous now. Otherwise, Fry would be the first to tackle him.

"Maybe we can iron it?" he suggests. "Miss Havisham has an iron in the resources room, for when we do sewing."

They go into the resources room and look for the iron. Between them, they get out the ironing board.

"Maybe I should do it." Noah says. "No offence Fry, but you're a bit clumsy."

He plugs in the iron and switches it on. Seconds later, the ironing board, which isn't properly clicked together, collapses in a heap, causing both boys to squeal in alarm.

There is a quick movement from one of the classrooms, as a hairy figure shoots out, gently pulls them away from the board, and switches the iron off at the wall.

"Did it burn you?" Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald asks, looking them up and down.

"No, it was only just turned on, it just made us jump." Noah says, recovering first.

"Good." the teacher says, straightening up the ironing board and putting the iron safely on the rack. Fry expects him to tell them off for using the iron, but he doesn't. Instead, he shows them how to put the board up properly, at a suitable height.

"Probably shouldn't be doing this unsupervised." he says, turning the iron back on. "What are you trying to iron?"

"My homework." Noah says. "It got squashed but I don't know how."

Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald looks at the screwed up sheet sceptically. "Hm. Right, put a tea towel over it, now hold the iron like this... that's it, good." He lets Noah and Fry have a go.

"Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald!" The headmistress, Mrs Patel, is in the doorway. "I really don't think the children should be ironing, that iron gets very hot."

"Oh, they're all done. Here's your towel." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald winks at Noah and hands him the homework inside the towel. He switches the iron off at the wall. As the boys thank him and go back to their classroom, she approaches him.

"I see you've put in an application for Miss Watts' permanent position." Mrs Patel says. "Since she won't be returning here from maternity leave now her husband has a new job in Scotland."

"Oh, yes." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says.

"We will consider your application, the children do seem to like you." Mrs Patel says. "But if you're going to be a permanent member of staff, we're going to have to have a couple of improvements. Firstly..." she glances down at his bare feet. "Firstly, I'm not sure precisely what you have against shoes, but I would like you to please wear them. Secondly, you've been here over a term now, and we would appreciate it if you could please try to learn the children's names at very least in your own class. You can't keep referring to them by vague physical descriptions."

"Duly noted." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald nods solemnly. "Thank you for considering me."

As the head leaves, Mr Irons pops his head out of the next classroom.

"Make sure you get it, please?" he says, startling Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald. "The other candidate is Mr Morton."
fry_sandhu: (Default)
"I can't do it." Pixie says, glancing at the door out of the hall.

"You don't have to be auditioning." Fry says. "I just need you to do the other half of 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' with me." He looks at her, then adds a bit more pleadingly. "Please Pixie, I need to do it with someone who can sing in tune or it'll put me off."

Pixie nods. Okay, maybe just this once, just for him.

Fry proceeds confidently to the stage. He's not the only one auditioning for 'Young Simba', though Mrs Donkey has said anyone who auditions will be considered for any singing role and not just the one they went for. Mrs Donkey is now sitting at a table in the centre of the hall, with some of the rest of the class milling around behind her.

"Mrs Donkey?" Noah puts his hand up. "We're here to help Fry with his audition for Young Simba, but I want to audition for Rafiki in a minute please, is that okay?"

"Yes, that's fine." Mrs Donkey nods.

Fry takes a breath, and begins.

"I'm gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware..."

Mrs Donkey watches them. She's already watched a few auditions for Young Simba today. Zack hadn't been too bad at acting, nor his friend Michael. Teddy had quite a nice singing voice. Her sharp ears pick up three good singing voices here. But they also pick up some whispering just behind her, between Zack and Michael.

"Well, he can sing, but can you imagine how long it'll take to show him how to do all the acting?"

Mrs Donkey hushes him, irritated. Then applauds the three on stage.

"Well done, all of you. Noah, do you want to do your audition now?"

Pixie hurries off the stage. Mrs Donkey jumps when Noah launches into the Zulu beginning of the Circle of Life. Somehow, sung by someone who actually speaks the language, they sound just that much more powerful. She writes Noah down for the role on the spot.

Just as Noah is finishing, Pixie sends Fry's little brother Gil onto the stage, and Noah picks him up to dangle him. Mrs Donkey gasps momentarily, hoping Noah isn't about to dangle the toddler off the stage, but fortunately he doesn't.

"Thank you Noah, and Gilbert."

"Can Gil be in it?" Fry asks.

"Maybe, I'll have to have a chat with your parents." Mrs Donkey says. "And it will depend who I choose for Simba." she adds, since Gil looks like a little Fry but not at all like a little Zack.

***

Zack hadn't fully got over his disappointment at not being form captain, but his mates had reassured him that it wasn't such a big deal, and Miss H was a big stupid meanie, and he was bound to be either Simba or captain of the football team. He'd realised that if he carried on moaning about it, they might get bored of it, so he decided in the end to just wait for Noah to fail.

Except Noah didn't fail. If anything, people seemed to be liking him more, now that they were seeing him in a slightly different light. He was leading by example, gently, and though he still talked about his faith, he didn't use it in a preachy way. Annoyingly for Zack, Noah seemed to be blossoming.

After the audition, he goes to look at the sports notice board. Mr Coach had said he was putting the new football teams up today, and there's bound to be a few changes, because a couple of the members of the B team will be too old after Christmas, including the old Captain, Lucas in year 5. And that means he's got a good shot at being Captain. Kasha is already at the board, and grabs him and drags him over.

"Zack, look!" she yells.

"Am I captain?" Zack asks, excited.

"Better, we made A team!" Kasha says, pointing to the list. "You and me and Lucas."

"All of us?" Zack asks. "How come?"

"Well let's see." Kasha looks at the list again. "Harry moved away, didn't he? And Christopher was captain last term but he's on crutches. And there's that other boy in year six who got the music scholarship for Holby West, looks like he's quit the team." Her face falls suddenly. "Oh no!"

"What?" Zack asks.

"Peter's not in the B team any more because he's too old." Kasha says. "And he's not been put in the A team. He's going to be gutted, he loves football."

"He never comes to the practices any more." Zack says. "It's his own fault."

"He can't, his mum lives one side of town now, his dad on the other, neither of them can pick him up after training." Kasha says, sadly.

"Oh." Zack says, without much interest. He has just looked further up the A team list. "Oh no, they've made Ursula Wolfe the captain."

"What, you don't want to be lead by a girl?" Kasha folds her arms. "Ursula's really good! She's the best goalkeeper we've had in years."

"No, just she's really bossy!" Zack says.

Kasha tuts. "If she were a boy, it'd be called 'leadership skills'."

***

When he goes into the drama lesson, Zack's mates are the first to congratulate him on making the A team. He grins, but inside, he feels empty and tries to shake it off. He'd been imagining leading the B team all holiday, but he knows he should be happy to be on the A team, except now he'll be one of the youngest on the team and everyone else will be telling him what to do.

"Well, you all auditioned very nicely." Mrs Donkey says, when they're all sat down. "The singing parts will be as follows."

She clears her throat. They all sit up expectantly.

"Rafiki will be played by Noah." No surprises there, and a few people clap Noah for his efforts earlier. "Zazu - Michael. Timon and Pumbaa will be Bradley and Jamal respectively."

"Wait, we didn't audition!" Bradley protests. "I can't stand on stage for an hour."

"I heard you in the playground, you were very good." Mrs Donkey says. "And I don't expect you to stand."

Bradley opens his mouth to protest, but on the other hand, it's kind of a cool role, even if it does mean he'll have to learn lines.

"Adult Simba will be played by Teddy, and Adult Nala will be Anna. I trust both of you to be able to do the role sensibly." Mrs Donkey says. "Mohammad and Maisie, you have minor roles but you will be their understudies. Young Simba will be played by Fry."

Fry grins in delight. A couple of his friends clap on his behalf. Mrs Donkey assigns him an understudy, Jack, but he's confident he won't need one.

"Young Nala will be played by Bethany."

Fry's grin dampens slightly. Oh. Well, he's still got a good role. Hopefully she won't mess it up. Now, Mrs Donkey turns to Pixie.

"Pixie, you will be Bethany's understudy."

Pixie goes red and looks horrified.

"Ah, and one more singing role - Scar will be played by Zack."

Zack, who had been looking a bit upset, perks up a bit, but still feels disappointed. He'd told Dad he was bound to get the role, just as he'd told him he was sure to be Form Captain or Football Captain. Dad was always doing things like that when he was a kid. Still, at least he might get to push Fry off something.

Mrs Donkey hands out the non singing roles - Peter finds he's going to be playing Mufasa, and looks alarmed at the amount of lines he's got to learn. Tommy and Kasha get to be hyenas, both of which they find funny.

"Oh, and Fry, I spoke to your mother on the phone." she adds at the end. "And she is happy for Gilbert to play you as a newborn, so long as he wants to."

Fry grins. Okay, this is a very good outcome. Gil will be really happy.

As they start the first rehearsal, he gets praised for the fact that he knows all the lines. Not only does he know all the lines, he's doing it in the same way as it is in the film.

"Wonderful, we won't need to show you how to do it at all." Mrs Donkey says, smiling at him, and casting a glance at Zack.

Zack feels his stomach sink again. That's why he didn't get the role. He'd meant her to overhear her, but it hadn't worked as he hoped.

He turns back to his script and looks over his lines.

'So prepare for the coup of the century
Be prepared for the murkiest scam
Meticulous planning
Tenacity spanning
Decades of denial
Is simply why I'll
Be king undisputed
Respected, saluted
And seen for the wonder I am
Yes, my teeth and ambitions are bared
Be prepared!'
fry_sandhu: (Default)
'Spring term
If you thought that the workload last term was stiff, you're in for a shock. Last term was just getting you in shape! If you don't do the work well, you'll do it again, so take your time and check your spelling.
If you're doing the garden box project, forget trying to make anything germinate from seed until about March, unless you're making your box some sort of lid, in which case you might just manage something in February.'


Fry tucks the Miss Havisham Survival Guide back into its hiding place in the classroom as the other children start to filter in, not for the first time marvelling at both the amount of detail the original author went into, and the fact that decades on, their curriculum is still mostly the same.

"What tips from our rebellious 'B' have you got for us this term?" Tommy asks, leaning back on his chair with a stretch.

"He says we'll have to work harder." Fry says.

"Not me." Tommy says. "I slogged last term, no exams this term, and I'm not Form Captain any more. This term's going to be a breeze."

"How do you know B was a boy?" Teddy asks, sitting down near to Tommy. "I thought B was a girl."

"I don't think it says, does it?" Tommy asks Fry.

"It doesn't." Fry says. "But it was written in the olden days and girls were expected to be better behaved so I thought the class clown would be a boy."

"It's a theory." Teddy acknowledges. "But I don't think B was a class clown. I think B was a smartarse. It's like something George would write."

"Hey!" George hits Teddy playfully over the head with her homework diary. "You're as much a smartarse as me, we're both neck and neck after Fry on the credit chart."

They all look over to the credit chart, but suddenly, realise it's blank.

"Oh, new term, new chart." Tommy says.

"They keep the old credits for the end of year total, don't they?" Fry asks anxiously.

"Yeah, they do." Teddy reassures him. "This must be just for a fresh start for the people who were lingering at the bottom."

They look over at Bradley, who has just come up in time to hear that remark, bearing the scowl of someone whose father left strict instructions that he should put his wheelchair by the door during class in order that he exercise his legs.

"I wasn't lingering." he says. "I'm just not playing her stupid game. She had a right moan at my parents because I don't do the extra credit spelling questions."

"That's because you don't do them even if you can spell the word." Teddy says. "Just to make a point. Everyone knows you're the best speller in the class. She wouldn't be annoyed if you were stupid."

Bradley looks vaguely pleased with this remark, but at this point Miss Havisham sweeps in. They all stand by their seats until she tells them to sit down.

"Welcome back." Miss Havisham says. "I hope you've all had a good break. Now this term I want to see you all step up a gear - you've had plenty of practice in how this class works now. You will find if you have been working steadily that it will soon be paying off. Who did the extra credit word of the day exercises over the holidays, for example?"

Fry puts his hand up, with Teddy and Noah and George. After a moment, Pixie shyly raises her hand too.

"Excellent. Keep that sort of thing up, and you will find this term easier." Miss Havisham says. "Now, I expect you're all wanting to know who will be form captain this term."

Everyone waits with interest, except Bradley and Bethany, who put on a bored expression.

"Well, it was quite a close run thing." Miss Havisham says. "But after discussion with the headmistress and with Mr Irons, who of course also knows most of you well, I have decided that Noah will be form captain this term."

There is a moment of surprise, since well over half the class had thought it was going to be Zack. Hadn't Zack said he had this one in the bag? Noah goes almost as red as his hair, even moreso when Tommy leans over and thumps him on the back.

"That's well good mate, well done!" he says.

There is a little ripple of uncertain but polite applause from the class. Zack gives Noah a cold stare, which Noah is too overwhelmed to notice.

"Of course, not all of you can be form captain." Miss Havisham goes on. "That is the way of the world, and is true of many things. But there are plenty of other things you can strive for. Not least, next week Mrs Donkey will be holding auditions next week for the year 4 play."

"Does that mean we don't all have to do it?" Pixie asks.

"No, you will all be in it." Miss Havisham says. "But the auditions will be to see who plays the lead parts."

"What play is it?" Anna asks.

"You will be doing a version of The Lion King." Miss Havisham says, and is met with noises of approval. "Auditions will be, I believe, for the singing roles: young Simba, adult Simba, young Nala, adult Nala, Zazu, Scar, Timon and Pumbaa."

Fry listens eagerly to this. He wasn't remotely interested in being form captain, but being Simba? That is definitely up his street. Definitely young Simba though, otherwise he might have to sing about love with a girl. Also, he's relieved that it's The Lion King, as looking at the survival guide he had predicted it would be Oliver Twist, and he didn't fancy playing a criminal.

Miss Havisham gets Noah to pass around the copies of the play script so that she doesn't have to do any heavy lifting. Noah pauses at the end, with his own copy, before raising his hand again.

"Excuse me please, Miss Havisham, will there be an audition for Rafiki?"

"I can check with Mrs Donkey, why?" Miss Havisham asks.

"The beginning of the first song is in Zulu." Noah says, aware that he's attracting some stares again. "I can speak Zulu. If I don't get the part maybe I could help anyone else auditioning with the pronunciation?"

***

At break time, Zack mooches around angrily in the playground.

"How could she pick Noah?" he grumbles in disgust to Bradley and Jamal. Then, he imitates in a mocking accent. "'Jesus is my best friend. I'm the only white person in Africa. I speak Zulu, can I have a piss of paper?'"

Bradley and Jamal laugh.

"Ignore Miss Havisham, she's crazy." Bradley says. "My mum's about ready to march in and demand I get taken off her stupid chart because she thinks it's 'too strenuous' for me, but I'm just trying to get the lowest possible score to prove she can't boss me around."

"Be a shame if teacher's pet Noah fails." Zack says, with a nasty smirk, before he goes back to scowling. "I bet he only got the job because he ratted me out for teaching my sister to stand up to Fry's sister. Stupid religious freak - he shouldn't be allowed to bang on about God at school."

Bradley nods. Jamal shifts slightly uncomfortably, and hopes Zack never meets his very Christian mother.

"Still, you could go in for a lead role in the play." Bradley suggests to Zack. "You could go for adult Simba, then you get to go with a girl."

"Maybe." Zack calms down a bit. "If it's one of the good-looking girls like Maisie, or Sophie, or even Bethany. I'm not singing love songs with Anna with that thing on her face, or Pixie, and George looks like a boy."

"It won't be Pixie." Bradley says. "She won't audition for a lead role. She'll probably end up a tree or something."

Jamal mutters something about her playing a hippo. Zack snorts, but Bradley gently punches Jamal on the arm. "Lay off her, Jamal, she's all right. She can't help having a crazy parent." He looks back at Zack. "And if you don't get Simba, well you know what they say..."

"What?" Zack asks.

"Hakuna matata..."

"Don't you dare."

"What a wonderful phrase..." Bradley sings grinning.

"That's the spirit, boys!" Mrs Donkey says, walking past the group.

As she walks across the playground, she notices they aren't the only ones who are doing some Lion King songs. But what particularly catches her eye is when she sees Pixie helping Fry practice 'I just can't wait to be King'. Hm, so, she'll sing in front of him, now. Maybe there's more potential there than she's let on.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
It's school concert day.

Fry likes the school Christmas concert. This year he missed out on getting to do a piano solo, but he has got a singing solo for In The Bleak Midwinter, accompanying the school orchestra, who are just doing the first verse.

Miss Havisham, who has organised the choir part of the concert for many years, took a long time convincing to not do a whole set of Christian carols. In the end, the show was a sort of compromise; only the final two songs are allowed to mention God, and anyone who wants to opt out sits on the far right side of the choir so they can remain seated for those last two. Everything else is compulsory, much to the horror of Pixie, who had been hoping to get out of doing the concert at all.

"I don't know how you do it." she says to Fry, after he's just practiced his solo.

"I guess it never occurred to me that I couldn't." Fry says, after a minute. "Everyone has to do solos or readings or sing sometimes."

Pixie looks all the more alarmed.

"You have ever such a nice singing voice, Pixie." Coral chips in, coming up to them. "I'm in the row in front of you and it's all Welsh and lovely."

Pixie goes red. "Don't tell Miss Havisham, she'll make me sing louder."

"I won't." Coral says. "But we do two concerts and the music festival every year, and your class is doing a play next term. Do you play an instrument?"

"Not in front of people." Pixie says.

"It's less scary the more you do it." Coral says. "Didn't they make you do it at your old school?"

Pixie shakes her head. "No, they just decided I was hopeless, I guess."

They look up at the stage. Anna is up there, marking the floor with a spot, so that she'll know where to start her dance. They don't normally have a dancer in the Christmas show, but Anna is so incredible, and has a solo routine to 'Let It Go' from Frozen, that the kids begged Miss Havisham to let her perform so they could sing it.

Just before the concert this year is going to be the Nativity, with the little children. Miss Hewitt and Miss Brimstone march them in for a final dress rehearsal.

Fry and Coral both know that singing is not one of Brooke's talents, and presumably this is why she has been given a set of bells to hold. But perhaps they should have waited a bit to give her, as as soon as Miss Brimstone has gone to sort out another child, she starts to shake them violently.

"JINGLE BELLS JINGLE BELLS JINGLE ALL THE WAY!"

"Brooklyn!" Miss Brimstone calls over. "Why must you do everything so noisily?"

"I'm a strong female character." Brooke says.

Coral giggles. "That's what Mum says."

They sit together to watch the nativity dress rehearsal. Brooke manages to behave herself through the practice. Gil doesn't come off quite so well; his sheep trousers won't stay up, and eventually Mrs Donkey the drama teacher has to run up and sort him out.

At the end of the nativity Coral does lots of clapping because she feels Brooke needs encouraging. Fry puts his hands over his ears because he doesn't like clapping.

The concert isn't until the evening, so they go home for tea first, but they soon get back with Mum and Dad. Fry and Coral go and get ready backstage while the nativity is on.

Anna's mum is backstage with them, plastering cosmetic make up over her birthmark. Since Anna's fight with Bethany a few weeks ago, Anna's mum has insisted on her wearing her cosmetic camouflage to school, much to Anna's disgust. But this time, as soon as Anna's mum has gone back to the front of the hall, Anna starts wiping it all off.

"Aren't you going to get in trouble?" Coral asks.

"I'm not going out with this on." Anna says, shrugging. "Mum needs to watch the film."

There is suddenly a loud CRASH from the stage, and a couple of the nursery kids scream. Fry and Coral move towards the wings to see what happened, and Gil runs off the stage into them with only the top half of his sheep costume and his little shorts on.

"What happened?" Coral asks, picking him up.

"Fell over twowers!" Gil sobs.

Apparently he's pushed the stable over at the same time. Tilly, the girl playing Mary, is crying too. Brooke, still standing being the star, edges over to Gil's sheep trousers and chucks them off the side of the stage to him, to a ripple of laughter from the audience.

Coral helps Gil put his trousers back on, but it looks like the loose button has come off, so she clips him to his top with her hair slides. He skips back onto the stage, with a round of applause.

"Uh oh." Fry says, peeping through a gap in the curtain. "Pixie's Dad's putting up that 'Team Pixie' banner at the back of the hall."

A teacher hustles them backstage. Fortunately, by the time they go on to do the concert, Miss Havisham has made Pixie's dad take the banner down, which is probably helpful for her nerves.

Anna goes on the stage second, doing her dance, while the choir sings Let It Go. She doesn't look at her mother, who has forbidden her ever to dance without her make-up on, except during the line 'I don't care what they're going to say'.

Fry finds himself hoping that maybe Brooke will one day turn out like Anna - rebellious but in an awesome way.

The rest of the concert goes without a hitch. At the end, there's just one piece of unfinished business left. Fry had been a little doubtful about this, but Tommy and Noah had agreed it was probably the right thing to do, and Fry certainly trusted Noah to do the right thing at least.

Pixie has survived the concert, to her relief, and looks around for people coming to her after-party, which her father is throwing with a chocolate fountain and fireworks and all sorts. But George comes up to her, handing her an envelope.

"Hey, Pix?" she says. "I need to tell you something, but I want to just say first, that I did this because I feel sorry for you, not to be mean."

"What is it?" Pixie asks, warily. George hasn't been her biggest fan by any means.

"I've organised a boycott of your party." George says, casually.

Pixie goes pale. "But... but you all said you were coming. My Dad's bought all the food and the fountain and everything."

"Yeah, that's the only way he'll learn, sorry." George says. "Money can't buy you friends. It's time to go stand up for yourself. But read the cards first. Merry Christmas, Pix."

Pixie sits down on a chair and opens the envelope. It's full of the invitations she sent out, with her picture on the front with a frozen grin of terror. But on the back, there are messages.

'Dear Pixie,
I don't like parties and you don't like parties. But I like you. So I'm not coming. Merry Christmas from Fry'

'Pixie. You ROCK! I know you hate parties so I'm not coming, but if you want to meet up over the hols you should come round to mine. Your mate, Tommy'

'Dear Pixie, you should talk to your Dad, I'm sure he'll understand. You're really sweet and we like you. Merry Christmas, love from Kasha'

'Can you bring the chocolate fountain to school? Merry Christmas, from Jamal.'

'Pix - don't let your parents push you around. Merry Xmas from Bradley'


She flicks through - they're all positive. Okay, not the whole class has done it, but even so, it's... really sweet.

"Ready for the party, star of the show?" her dad says loudly, clapping her on the back.

Pixie looks at him, then at the cards, then at the other kids. No. At her friends.

"Dad, I need to talk to you about something." she says.

Fry watches them go. Huh, guess they did do the right thing after all.
fry_sandhu: (fry 6 smile look up)
Most of the class were secretly a little glad, and a little relieved, when Miss Havisham came back in later in the week. Her back was still a little stiff, but she didn't miss a beat.

"Today's word of the day is 'innocence'." she says, writing it on the chalk board. Everyone hurries to look it up in the dictionary and starts trying to think of three sentences.

"Miss Havisham?" Bethany asks. "Do we have a spelling test this afternoon? I mean, you weren't here on Wednesday or Thursday so we didn't have word of the day."

There is the sort of hushed silence that you only get in a classroom when you suspect someone is going to be in trouble.

"The words were all on the extra credit notice board, all week, as they always are." Miss Havisham says, icily. "I told you all at the start of term that I expect you to learn two words a day - word of the day, and one more, and an optional third word. Who here has been doing word of the day of their own accord while I was away?"

Fry puts his hand up quickly, along with most of his friends, except Kasha who had also been off sick. George puts her hand up too. The rest of the class suddenly look a bit sheepish.

"Well." Miss Havisham says. "Some of you will have a very busy lunchtime. You are all quite capable of doing word of the day yourselves."

Kasha doesn't dare put her hand up to say that she wasn't there. At break, she sits in a corner with her list of the spelling words and whispers them to herself.

"Do the extra credit ones." Fry says.

"It's enough learning these six!" Kasha says. "You know what she's like, if you get them wrong you have to write them out twenty times. I keep getting the 'i' in the wrong place in 'friend'."

"But she puts them in groups." Fry says. "Friend, Friendship, Frighten. Mystery, Mysterious, Misery. Innocence, Innocent, Sense."

Noah comes over to join them and suggests that they leave Kasha to it. They head over to the other side of the playground, pausing to watch a commotion among some of the smaller children.

Brooke is standing among a crowd, with her chin jutted out as she does when she's being defiant. Opposite her is a smaller girl, who Fry now knows as Tilly, Zack's little sister. Zack has been complaining at him for a while that Brooke is bullying Tilly, which Fry suggested that he should escalate to a teacher.

Privately, Fry suspects Brooke probably has been bullying Tilly. Certainly the chants of 'Silly Tilly Tell-Tale' are commonly heard in the playground, and when Tilly isn't telling tales, there is the chant of 'Silly Tilly Smell-Snail'. He had been hoping to leave it to Miss Brimstone to sort out.

But today, it's Tilly doing the shouting.

"You look like a... a lemon!" she's shouting at Brooke's shaven hair. "Lemon, lemon, lemon!"

None of the children seem to understand what Tilly's getting at, but they soon join in with the chant of "Lemon, lemon!".

"I think she means lesbian." Noah says, after watching this for a moment. "Though I shouldn't think she even knows what that is. Someone's told her to say it."

Fry debates whether Brooke needs rescuing, but she just laughs and starts taunting Tilly again by saying she wets her pants. Then he debates whether Tilly needs rescuing. But after a moment, Noah charges into the crowd.

"Shame on you!" he declares. "Shame on both of you!"

The little children all stop and look at him. Noah continues.

"Matilda, you shouldn't call names, and you especially shouldn't call anyone names you don't understand. Brooklyn, you shouldn't tell lies about people, because if you tell lies nobody will believe you and people won't like you. And the rest of you, shame on you for standing there watching and laughing! Laughing with a bully is as bad as being one. Now you two apologise to each other or I'm taking you both to your teacher."

"Miss Brimstone won't do anything." Brooke says.

"I'll tell Miss Havisham then." Noah says, folding his arms.

Brooke and Tilly, suspecting Miss Havisham would have a particularly horrible punishment, resentfully apologise to one another and go their separate ways. Noah comes back over to Fry.

"Come on, let's find Zack." Noah says.

Fry follows him, feeling guilty for not intervening himself. Then another thought occurs to him.

"Noah? You don't think it's wrong to be gay, do you? In your church I mean."

"Oh no." Noah says. "In South Africa we made gay marriage legal years before they did here, and our church supports gay rights. But being out can get someone hurt or killed there so you have to be careful."

Fry nods. He often forgets that Noah, who is pale with red hair, comes from a country where his parents must have had to bulk buy sunscreen.

They track down Zack in one corner of the playground, with a sheet of paper, which he thrusts at them.

"Sign this." he says. "It's to support me being form captain next term."

"No thanks." Fry says.

"Zack, did you tell your sister to call Brooke a lesbian?" Noah asks.

"So what if I did?" Zack says. "She's allowed to stand up for herself. I told him to deal with it and he didn't." he says, pointing at Fry.

Noah refuses to sign his sheet and disappears off inside.

Ten minutes later, Zack gets called inside by Miss Havisham, along with Brooke and Tilly. Noah comes back out.

"Did you tell on them?" Fry asks.

"Of course." Noah says. "You should have, really." he adds. "But it doesn't matter so long as one of us did. I didn't think she'd haul in Brooke and Tilly though."

Zack makes a rather foolish move when entering the classroom with Miss Havisham by choosing that moment to present her with his petition. She looks at it with disdain then puts it on the table.

"This isn't America." she says, icily. "I choose form captain."

She sits the three of them down and hands them a sheet of paper each.

"Noah says that you two apologised to each other." she says to Tilly and Brooke. "Are you going to stop calling each other names from now on?"

Tilly nods. Brooke looks defiant.

"I'll stop calling her names when she stops being a tell tale." she says boldly.

"Two wrongs do not make a right." Miss Havisham says. "Matilda, you may go."

Tilly flees. Miss Havisham hands Brooke a pencil.

"Can you write, Brooklyn?"

"Yes."

"Yes, Miss Havisham."

"Yes Miss Havisham."

"Write 'Silly Tilly Tell Tale'" Miss Havisham says. "And Zack, you can write 'Lesbian'. I expect you to spell it correctly."

They do as they are told, slightly bewildered, then look back up.

"Write it again." Miss Havisham says.

"How many times?" Zack asks.

"Until you are tired of it." Miss Havisham says.

Zack, who is well aware that Miss Havisham always follows through with her at times bizarre punishments, gets the point very quickly.

"I won't do it again." he says. "Sorry Brooklyn."

"That's better." Miss Havisham says. "There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, so it is homophobic to use it as an insult. Zack, you may go, but anything more like this will be punished severely."

"Will this affect my chances of being form captain?" Zack asks.

"No." Miss Havisham says. "You were not in the running."

Brooke smirks and continues writing the phrase over and over again.

Silly Tilly Tell Tale
Silly Tilly Tell Tale
Silly Tilly Tell Tale
Silly Tilly Tell Tale


When she gets to the bottom of the page, she turns over and carries on.

"Not learned your lesson yet?" Miss Havisham asks, raising an eyebrow.

Brooke doesn't answer. She fills the second page.

"Can I have more paper please?" she asks.

"Are you not tired of it yet?" Miss Havisham asks.

"No, Miss Havisham." Brooke says, jutting out her chin.

Miss Havisham snorts.

"You are an extraordinarily stubborn child."

"Yes, Miss Havisham."

"But I am an extraordinarily stubborn woman." Miss Havisham adds. "So it's fine by me if you spend every break in here from now on doing this until you have tired of it."

Brooke debates this.

"I'll stop calling her it." she says.

"Good choice." Miss Havisham says, coming to collect the paper. "If I hear you are name-calling again, I will have you back in here again." She looks at the paper in surprise. "You have good handwriting, for a four-year-old."

Brooke exits. She's already worked out her next plan, anyway.

Miss Havisham makes her way to the staff room. It's time someone offered Miss Brimstone some assistance.
fry_sandhu: (Default)
"So what did Pixie do to solve your problem?" Fry asks, as they wait for lessons to start one morning.

"She's getting her dad to build a community tennis court on the car park of that derelict pub down the road." Tommy says, going slightly pink. He'd been rather touched when the painfully shy Pixie had gone to all that trouble for him. "She presented him with a 'business plan', said it wasn't fair that only kids who went to posh schools got access to tennis courts in the daytime, and it should be opened up to kids from other schools too. She designed a way to book it and smart cards and everything. Her dad was dead impressed, said he first started his own business when he was a bit older than us, but nowhere near as complicated as that."

"If other kids use it, how will you know you can get on it?" Fry asks.

"Because I get to do my booking first before it goes live." Tommy grins. "My coach is going to come to the school and take me on it twice a week in the afternoons when the rest of you have PE, then I can use it at lunch time if I book it quick enough, but I'll have to share it then. But that's okay, it might give me someone to play with."

"Won't it be very expensive having a court built for you?" Fry asks.

"I asked that." Tommy says. "She's going to sell advertising space and people can hire it for parties. Says she got the idea about income and outgoings from Miss Havisham's Advanced maths lessons. I bet she'll be well impressed when we tell her. Oh, here's Pixie - don't ask her about it for now, she said she didn't want to make a fuss."

"Where is Miss Havisham?" Fry asks, as Pixie comes to sit between him and Tommy. "She's late. That's not like her." There's nobody on his other side now; Xiao has gone back into the year above.

After a couple more minutes, the classroom door opens and the RE teacher, Rev Todd, comes in.

"Good morning children." she beams at them. "Miss Havisham isn't here, so we'll do RE this morning."

Fry freezes up. It's not supposed to be RE this morning. It's supposed to be RE this afternoon. And sure, he likes Rev Todd enough normally - most of the kids call her Rev God for a joke - but it's not right to have RE now. It's supposed to be Word of the Day.

Some of the kids are watching Fry with interest. The last time Fry got into a complete meltdown, he started throwing things, which was quite entertaining.

Being presented with a picture of a gurdwara to colour does nothing to alleviate his tension. Rev Todd watches him rather nervously, not quite sure what to do.

"Excuse me, Rev Todd, may I take Fry to watch the fish?" Noah asks, coming to their rescue. She nods, gratefully, and Noah takes Fry out to the resources room to watch the fish until he calms down.

At break time, they notice Mr Irons and Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald set off down the road towards Miss Havisham's house. Everyone knows where Miss Havisham lives, because it's just around the corner, and she walks down the road with her little wheeled trolley each morning.

"Maybe she's ill?" Noah suggests, peering through the fence.

"Hope she's okay." Teddy says. "She's quite old..."

"She has a bad back." Fry says. "Mr Irons said."

Indeed, the children were correct that Mr Irons and Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald had been sent on a rescue mission. It was half way down the road when Mr Irons noticed that Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald had no shoes on.

"Um, Magnus?" he says, raising an eyebrow. "If you need shoes, I think we're about the same size."

"Hm?" Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald looks down at his feet. "Oh yeah, no, I have shoes, I took them off in the first class and forgot to put them back on."

"It's December. It's freezing." Mr Irons says.

"I don't feel it."

They pause outside Miss Havisham's house.

"So, is there like a key?" Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald asks.

"There used to be one at her aunt's down the road." Mr Irons says. "But she's gone into a home recently. She has dementia, Miss Havisham can't lift her any more."

They pause again, digesting this. Then Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald walks up to the house and looks through the windows.

"She's not on the ground floor, give me a boost Jim."

"A boost?" Mr Irons asks, blinking.

"So I can climb on the porch roof." Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald says.

Mr Irons hesitates, not really wanting to touch the feet, but eventually puts his hands out to let Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald use him as a step.

"Can you see her?" he asks, as his colleague climbs up the roof to the window.

"Yeah, she's on the bed, making that face at me. Think it's her back."

Some time later, after explaining to the nice officers that they really aren't burglars, Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald heads back to the school while Mr Irons makes Miss Havisham a cup of tea.

"I can pop back later, if you need." he offers, handing her the tea.

"Thank you Jim." Miss Havisham says, feeling somewhat better with the painkillers kicking in.

"Maybe you ought to get a mobile phone." he says, tentatively. "In case you can't get up again." She doesn't bite his head off, which he sees as a good sign. "I can help you set it up if you like." he adds.

"I may have to take you up on that." Miss Havisham agrees.

"Anyway, I hope you feel better." Mr Irons turns to leave.

"Jim?" Miss Havisham calls out to him, just as he's leaving. He hesitates, and sees she looks just a little upset.

"I don't want to retire." she blurts out. "I've been teaching since I was sixteen, I'd just be sitting at home on my own until I die."

Mr Irons comes back over. He's not sure what to say to that.

"Would you like to spend Christmas with me?" he asks. "We'll work out the rest of the year later."

She looks taken aback. Then nods.

"Yes, thank you. I'd like that. I'm sorry for blurting that out, I'll work it out."

It remains unspoken between them to keep this plan to themselves. The idea of the young Mr Irons and the elderly Miss Havisham spending Christmas together would no doubt cause some tittering in the staff room. He walks back to the school soberly, but gives a little smile to the concerned crowd at the school fence.

"Did she die?" Teddy asks.

"No!" Mr Irons exclaims. "She just has a bad back, is all. She'll be back soon."

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