“Liam hired a bike at 2:25pm –”
“– and has to return it by 3pm.” Ms French writes the numbers on the blackboard. Her hand moves quickly and the five ends up looking like a six. “How many minutes does Liam have his bike for?”
Sady slides further down in her seat, her hands disappearing into the pocket of her hoodie and her chin tucking in under the neckline.
“Is it seventy-five, Miss?” asks Ann.
Ms French doesn’t get angry at Ann for talking when she didn’t have her hand up. “Not quite, Ann.”
Ann swings around so that she’s glaring at Sady over the desk between them. “Maybe I’d know the answer if someone would stop those dumb noises.”
The class starts to giggle. When you’re ten, any sound coming out of someone else’s body is funny. Sady slinks further down in her seat.
“Sady, go to the toilet.” Ms French ignore Sady talking without her hand up. When Ms French looks at Sady, she always tilts her head so that she can look down her nose and over her glasses at the same time.
“But Miss –”
“You’re disrupting class, Sady, do as you’re told.”
The class keeps giggling and Ann, satisfied that Sady and the growling noises have been dealt with, turns back around.
Sady pushes herself away from the desk and straightens up, careful to have both hands in her hoodie pocket so that no one can see any lumps. Ms French shoves a bathroom pass into her chest and she scrambles to catch it without exposing too much of her belly, before leaving as quickly as she dares and half-sprinting to the toilets at the end of the long corridor outside – moving so fast that her shoes nearly slip on the linoleum.
When she gets to the bathroom, Sady checks under all the doors to make sure the coast is clear. Satisfied, she reaches into her pocket and withdraws her creature.
“You’ve got to be quiet,” she tells him.
He might be a him. She can’t tell for sure. She’s never met something like him before. He’s soft brown and scaly, with big eyes and a long snout that sniffs the air curiously, looking for food, his tail curling and uncurling as a soft tendril of smoke pours out of his left nostril.
“I’ll feed you when I get home, alright?” she says. “Just – just shut up while I’m in class or you’ll get me in trouble.”
He snuffs and a tiny flicker of flame flares in his chest. But then he looks her in the face with droopy, dissatisfied eyes and gives her a quick nod. He seems to get it.
Sady sighs and drops her creature back into her hoodie, looking over the sink at the faded, stained mirror and vowing that, no matter how much he begs, she will never to bring him to school again.