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by Sam Payne

Mrs Henderson has you by the hand and is leading you into the teacher’s lounge.

“Now you sit here, Natalie.”

You sink into the soft cushions on the armchair. Mrs Price, the school nurse, is standing by the kettle and Mrs Henderson gives her a look and she nods back at her. You’re really smart. You know all about those looks. It means the two of them share a secret.

Everyone has secrets. Some secrets are good. Some are bad.

Mrs Henderson pulls up another chair and places her hands neatly in her lap.

“You’re not in trouble, Natalie. I just want to have a little chat.”

She has a mole above her lip. It is large and shaped like the body of a woodlouse. You focus on that because looking into her eyes makes your face feel hot and your head itch.

“Gosh, it’s hot in here, isn’t it?”

You nod slowly. You’re wondering what the secret is.

“Now,” she says, “why don’t you tell me how you got that bruise above your eye?”

Your hand goes up to your eye because you’d almost forgot it was there. It’s stopped hurting now and in the mirror this morning you thought it looked kind of pretty. Deep purple in the middle and yellow around the edges like the pansies in Nana’s window boxes.

“It looks sore. Is it sore?” asks Mrs Henderson.

Now don’t go telling anyone our business, Nana always says, but Nana’s not here anymore. She’s in heaven. Even so, you shake your head.

“Natalie, did something happen at home?”

All you wanted to know was how Nana got up there. To Heaven. All you wanted to know was if there was a hidden staircase somewhere or a glass elevator like the one in the shopping centre. Just because you thought it might be nice to go visit sometime and you wanted to know so badly, because you missed Nana, you kept asking and asking but like Mummy says, Sometimes you just gotta shut your mouth or take whatever comes your way.

Both Mrs Price and Mrs Henderson are looking at you and smiling. They’re waiting for you to say something. Your belly feels funny and you can hear other children laughing in the hall outside the room.

“It’s ok, you’re not in any trouble,” Mrs Henderson says, and you notice how the mole moves every time she talks. You keep staring at it because it feels like any minute now it will uncurl its legs and crawl away.


Sam Payne is a writer living in Devon. She has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and her work has appeared in various places online including AtriumInk, Sweat and Tears, The Open Mouse and Literary Mama. She tweets at @skpaynewriting.