“Ms. Sarah Scott”
The golden words glow proudly before your desk. Oh, great Scott. So you came back, like the rich Gatsby, like brave Simba who have just defeated Scar. And yet in the same place, the same school. You chuckle as you imagine what your old schoolmates would say if “Great Scott” had became boring old teacher Mrs. Scott.
Things certainly do change in twenty seven years. You are given a chance to renew your name in this school, like Jean Valjean who had become the Mayor. You will have tear out the previous horrible pages of your life, but you have fat chance of succeed. No one would know how your past used to be, right?
You shake your head and walk through the corridors. You roll open the door that is marked Grade 7. This school had not changed even when the generation changed. A chubby boy with his mouth full of creamy chocolate. Shabby girls gossiping happily together and stylish young woman picking her lipstick. Unknown student snoring loudly in one corner.
And a dreamy little girl gazing out of the window with her mouth slightly open.
Her eyes are in a shade of soft, rich dirt. It has its riches and tenderness capable to grow out healthy trees of imagination. It is usually plain dark brown, but whenever she travels to the unknown land outside the window, golden gleams of sunlight sweep by the rich soil.
And yet that slightly opened lips, that brown eyes reminds you of someone you used to know.
“Good morning class,” you stand before the whiteboard. The girl wakes up from her dream and faces you. The brown eyes meet your eyes. No, no way. There’s no way anyone would know you in this school.
To your relief, first class passes away without anything unusual. Letting out a sigh of relief, you head to the bathroom. You open the door and-
For heaven’s sake, who dumped a notebook to the toilet?
You look around to see if anyone is looking for it. You find couple of girls standing before the bathroom wall. They are laughing mockingly at the girl who is leaning on the wet wall. Rains of sweat are all over her face, and she is rubbing her red arms and knees with painful groan.
Is that the same girl who was looking out of the window this morning?
Your stomach gives you an unpleasant jolt. Army of past and memory screams at you fiercely. You want to run away. The memories kick you inside your belly and shout out at you furiously.
But you can’t make same mistake twice.
You run to them and spit the circle of girls apart. You pick your sternest tone and say:
“What are you girls doing, huh?”
Laughter fades. They stare at you, and several gulping sounds hovers around the silence. They are probably swearing inwardly. Meanwhile, her brown eyes widen with surprise at you. The sun beam hid behind and the dirt is wet under gray clouds.
“When I see this ever again-“what would be the greatest threat to them?-“I’ll call your parents to have a conference. Understood?”
They nod and shuffle away, grunting and tut-tutting. You grab the soaked notebook out of the toilet.
“Is this yours?”
The girl nods timidly. She rise up and lingers to the door. Hesitantly, she looks at you and murmurs something under her breath.
“Sorry?” You raise your eyebrows, but not in an ungentle way.
She flushes. She is drawing back her tears.
“I mean…thank you Ms.”
You wave your hand. “It’s nothing. Can I ask your name, dear?”
“I’m Annie.” She smiles shyly and flees out of the bathroom.
You can’t focus during the whole class. This isn’t a great start. This is not what your return was supposed to be. Notebook floating…and the bullies…….the girl with familiar shade of brown eyes…….your stomach gives you another unpleasant jolt. Oh, bless your heart. No, it can’t be. It was a long time ago.
The bell rings and school’s over. As the students get out of the classroom one by one, you call Annie to come before your desk. She creeps slowly to your side.
“Those girls….” You point at the classroom door. “Do they do it to you often?”
“At the bathroom?”
Series of timid nod.
“Fine,” you sigh, tapping at the desk, “don’t let them get you down, all right? Come straight to me if they do this again.”
She hesitates for a moment but finally gives you a nod.
“Does your mother know this?”
She shakes her head.
“Okay, then….um, well, I’ll meet your parents tomorrow. Do you have your mom’s number?”
She goes back to her desk and comes back with a sheet of paper. You take that and stare at the numbers for a while.
“Great. I’ll try to fix things right ASAP. And don’t care what those girls say about you. There just…well..”
You don’t know what to say. How do you describe them?
“Ms. Scott, have you been bullied too?” Annie opens her mouth for a first time. Curious eyes peer straight to your eyes.
“Huh?” Now your heart gives you a sharp prick. Oh, great Scott. The brownness of those eyes. The familiar shape of her lips. Another temptation to run away pulls you strongly.
“Well….no. I have not been.”
Annie nods with a sigh. She grabs her bag and walks out of the door.
“Bye Ms. Scott.”
You stare at the soggy notebook beside you and grab your phone. You dial the number nervously.
Why is that voice so familiar?
“Hello Ma’am. This is Sarah, Annie’s teacher at the East Star Junior High.” Oh, great Scott. You left out your last name.
“Oh, are you the new teacher, Ms. Sarah? How very nice is it to meet you.”
She didn’t meet you, actually. Should you say ‘nice you meet you too,’ if you don’t want to be rude?
“Nice to meet you too, Ma’am. I’m very sorry to bother you, but can I visit your house tomorrow? I have something to discuss with you.”
“About Annie.” Oh, you should’ve said that earlier after the “discuss with you.”
“Why don’t you come today, Ms. Sarah? We’re very free today.”
Did she just say “we?” Oh, yeah. You might have to discuss it with her father, too.
“Great....can I come at seven?”
“Anytime! But Ms. Sarah, have we known before?”
You gulp. No, no way. It can’t be the same person, right?
“I do not think so, Ma’am.” And why is your voice so shaky?
“Alright…see you soon, Ms. Sarah!”
The call ends.
You sigh and grab your bag. You search the address of Annie from the office and head to her house. After all, it’s just a conference, right? Nothing really fishy is going to happen.
You ring the bell. The dreadful waiting and that unbearable silence. Oh, what if she just changed her mind and decided to not open the door? Worse, what if she……
The door opens.
“Good evening, Ms…..” A woman with dark brown eyes runs out to the fence. Suddenly, her smile fades. She is frozen beside the door, with her fists trembling.
The words bounce out of your mouths at the same time.
So it was.
You got everything wrong. No, literally from the very beginning. You wanted glorious return. You wanted totally transformed version of you to march around the school corridors like Napoleon who just won a battle but things start to twist when you don’t get the first knot right. You didn’t set things right with yourself. You didn’t set things right with your past and you didn’t set things right with her either. This is worse than Lord Voldy’s return on the back of Quirrell’s face.
“I ask you to leave, Ma’am,” snarls Gloria, shutting the door. Inside the room Annie peeks curiously at you, not knowing what on earth’s going on right now.
What on earth’s going on right now, actually?
There’s something that’s often mistaken by the busy modern people. Your sins don’t dissolve away as the time pass by. No, time isn’t a solvent for that. Sometimes the flow of the time may dig out the old things from the past and make the beasts roar louder inside you.
And the time wouldn’t dissolve away what you did.
“Wait!” You shout to the door, knocking desperately at it.
“I’m not the one…well….you used to know….I have…well….grown!”
“Have you?” The cold, trembling voice answers.
Why wouldn’t she understand? You are all mature Ms. Scott. You’re not that Sarah who used to chewed gums noisily at the school corridors and the violent little teenager who used to throw other’s belongings to the trashcan and beat your classmate with your ‘gang.’
But you’re still the same Sarah before her. The same Sarah that humiliated her. The same Sarah that stamped on her artwork at art class and the same Sarah that bullied her. You dug inside that sweet, rich soil of hers and planted curses and bruises in it.
What have you done?
What were you thinking when you did that?
Perhaps you were too young to know what’s wrong. But, no, it can’t be. You surely did know that it was wrong. Nevertheless, it looked cool. You thought you would have power over everything if you can hurt others. So you chose violence rather than justice.
And time did not dissolve it.
“I’m so sorry!” You shout, firing your fists at the door. “I am very very sorry! Sincerely! I shouldn’t have done that….I was a fool….”
None of that does work. You stare at the silent door in front of you. If time isn’t a right solvent, what would be? A bunch of good works? Or forgiveness? Or rather…..
A second chance?
“Please! Give me a second chance!”
The door opens with screeching sound. The dark brown eyes stare right at you. It is the same eyes you used to know.
She sighs. Does everyone deserve a second chance? Even a criminal like you?
“Well….if you would say so…”
She opens the door and lets you in. She sinks on the sofa casually.
“This is the last chance you will have,” she announces firmly, with her lips twitching.
You’re given a second chance.
Your return has just begun. Not as triumphant and glorious as you dreamed to be, but at least you’re having a total new start. A chapter of totally different book is about to begin.
Suddenly you are reminded about Nicodemus who went to Jesus at midnight. He said, rather puzzled:
“How can a man born again?”
Well, you’re not that great Pharisee Nicodemus and the woman beside you isn’t Jesus, but you believe everything will turn out as it should be.
Annie comes out from her room and sits cautiously at the sofa. She gives you that “deep brown glance,” non-verbally asking you what’s the matter. You answer her with a wink. After all, this is the Great Return of Sarah Scott.
Or rather, a process of a young, reckless teenager turning into a boring old teacher.