I’ve only been to first period on Monday when Sister Anne finds me in the hallway. She’s younger and generally more friendly than Sister Bertha, but she’s very uptight when it comes to planning.
“Miss Reeding, do you have a minute?”
I tell her yes, because what on earth else am I supposed to say. Clearly I have a second period to be getting to, but I know Sister Anne would write me a pass.
“I could’ve probably waited until our class time, but you know how I get.” I get a good look at her teeth as she laughs, and I stand in the hallway clutching my books nervously as I wait for her to continue.
“I wanted to remind you about the school service,” she says. “I’ve spoken to everyone you had signed up to read except for Pearl. I haven’t seen her yet today. So, if you see her first, don’t forget to remind her! I want her to look over the reading before Wednesday.”
I swallow nervously. I hadn’t had a chance yet to ask anyone else to be a reader. I’d had it all planned out to ask Maggie or John during science class.
“Yes--” I start, then jump as the bell rings, marking the beginning of second period. Crap, now I’m late. “I’ve actually decided that I’d like to read instead. Of Pearl.”
Sister Anne doesn’t hide her look of surprise fast enough, but she does try. She smiles widely and pats me on the shoulder. “Oh, lovely, Trinity. Well, I’ll give you the passage to look over during class. Do you need a pass to your next class?”
I give her as much of a smile as I can muster, but my insides are roiling. “Yes, please, Sister.”
Weirdly, I don’t see Pearl at all that day. She must be sick.
. . .
It’s Wednesday, the day of the all-school service, and we all have shortened class periods so that we have time for the service in the middle of the day. What this really means is that none of the teachers teach anything, because classes are only half an hour and there’s honestly no point in trying to squeeze in a lesson in that amount of time.
It’s fine with me, because I spend my first two periods reading and re-reading the passage I’m meant to read aloud later. It’s not long, and it doesn’t have any particularly hard words or anything, but I can’t think about it without also feeling nauseous.
It doesn’t help that we presented our project on Isaac Newton yesterday in science class. Despite my two hours of rehearsing the night before, I’d forgotten what to say and John had had to fill in for me.
What if I choke? What if I just stand there like an idiot, and the whole school is just staring at me?
By third period, I’m convinced everyone can see pit stains on my school blouse. Then again, they’re white and pretty hard to visibly sweat through. Thank God for that, at least.
Pretty soon, we’re all filing outside and across the campus to the chapel. Sister Bertha has the gall to tell me that I don’t look so good.
I’ve got to find Pearl and tell her she has to read in my place.
The unfortunate thing is that, although the ninth graders all have religion third period, Pearl is in a different class than me. And we always sit with our third-period class for assemblies and services, no exceptions.
Before I reach the chapel, I slow down and look around at the other students, trying to find Pearl’s blonde head. I’d seen her earlier this morning between classes, but we hadn’t spoken very many words. Now, though, I need her.
But I don’t see her.
Sister Bertha catches me dallying and herds me into the chapel.
During the service, I can’t decide what’s worrying me more: the inevitable disaster that will be when I attempt to speak in front of the crowd, or the fact that I can’t find Pearl in the sea of green and blue uniforms. I’ve scanned the row of students that is the rest of her third period class, but she’s not there.
When the time comes, I make my way to the lectern and shakily read the passage without looking up. In that moment, nothing exists but me and the page of words. I don’t know if it goes terribly or not.
All I know now is that it’s over.
I sit down and tune out the rest of the service, trying to calm my nerves. But I still can’t find Pearl. And, weirdly, I can’t find Henry Foley either.
. . .
Pearl’s already seated when I arrive to Mr. Gleason’s class. She grins at me and leans over to whisper, “Gleason’s got a coffee stain on his tie, look.”
I do look, and she’s right, but I don’t find it very amusing. I don’t say much at all, and Mr. Gleason gives us silent homework time, emphasis on the silent, so we don’t speak the rest of class.
. . .
After school, I find Pearl at her locker. She’s trying to squeeze a textbook into her already-full backpack.
“Hey, Trinity,” she says as she works to zip her backpack closed. “What’s up?”
I watch her struggle with the zipper. “Yeah! Well. What did you think, me reading in front of the school? I was terrible, wasn’t I?” I laugh, and it sounds tinny.
“Ha!” she exclaims triumphantly, her backpack successfully zipped. “No, you were great!”
We start down the hall, and I have to walk extra fast to keep pace with her. She takes the bus every day but Friday, and she’s missed hers more than once because they leave so soon after school. They take off about five minutes after the final school bell, or that’s what it seems like, anyway.
“I was looking for you before the service, and I didn’t see you,” I tell her as she pushes open the school’s front doors.
Pearl turns and squints at me, but I think it’s just because it’s bright outside. It’s hot out, and I can already feel the sun roasting my skin.
“Sorry, but I’ve gotta catch the bus, Trinity. Talk later!” she calls, already jogging away.
I watch, wondering if she’d ever lie to me.
(first part: https://theprose.com/post/432343/trinity)
(previous part: https://theprose.com/post/432869/trinity-3)
(next part: https://theprose.com/post/434641/trinity-5)