Any moment now she’s going to call my name.
She’s going to call my name and everyone is going to swivel around in their seats, and look at me. Stare straight at me.
They might have, only moments before, been scrolling through their mobiles trying to find the latest gossip or news, only glancing up every few minutes to show they were still present and paying attention, while trying to stifle a yawn.
Or they could have been texting each other, making fun of the people presenting.
A few of them probably are just staring out of the window, looking at the sunshine, wishing themselves elsewhere.
But they’re all about to stare at me.
Maybe they’ll text each other, or even film me as I slowly walk to face them, all alone, hoping that I trip or stutter.
My friends are all looking in other directions, trying not to meet my gaze.
They've already stood at the front of the room.
I wonder where Bert is? He said he’d be here, right next to me. He knew I’d be nervous. But he wasn’t there when I was having breakfast. Must have left the house before me.
“…..and as you can all see by my next slide, the prolonged after effects are…’, a calm voice echoed through the room, the person holding a long pointer and waving at a power point display, obviously done very professionally.
Listen to that calm voice, so confident and assured, maybe even arrogant. Why can’t I be like that? Although no one is paying any attention.
Where did she get her power point display from?
What do I have?
Only a crummy poster, colored in all last night and only finished at midnight, the edges frayed and torn slightly where it’s been stashed in my bag.
The smell of the ink on the paper so strong I can feel a sneeze coming.
Sniff quickly. That will stop the sneeze.
No, I mustn’t fidget or wipe my nose. Even if no one is watching me, they might still see that.
Oh, did the girl next to me just look at me?
She did, I can see her smile just in the corner of her mouth, dimples showing on her cheeks.
Smile back. Just a small one.
Maybe she’ll be my friend, seeing as Bert has deserted me. Probably had a better offer. Or maybe he slept in. Or still having breakfast.
My mouth is so dry. That’s weird, it’s never normally dry.
Where’s my drink bottle gone?
Ahh, that’s better. Ice cold water. I can feel it trickling down my throat.
Maybe I have time to go to the toilet, before my name is called.
No, she’s nearly finished.
It’s almost my turn. I’m going to have to do this. On my own. Without Bert. I’m sure he’ll make it in time.
I’ll just close my eyes. Imagine that I’m outside in the sunshine with all friends, and that it isn’t my turn next.
Was that a cough?
Oh no, the person at the front of the room is looking at me. Why is she just looking at me? Glaring, really? I’m not the only one trying to imagine I’m elsewhere. It’s not my fault she has the most boring presentation.
Just smile and clasp your hands, she’ll think you’re paying attention.
Good, she’s glaring at some one else now.
It will all be over soon. And then we can all……
Wait, is the teacher calling my name?
Yes, the other girl is already sitting back in her seat, a smug grin across her face, the pointer folded up and lying across her desk.
Oh no, it’s time. Where has Bert gone?
Why does my mouth feel so dry? I just had that drink.
No, I shouldn’t have thought about that drink. My bladder feels full and heavy, my whole stomach feels like it’s about to explode. Maybe I can run to the toilet quickly.
No, they’ll definitely notice.
There’s no time.
I’ll just have to hold on. Maybe I’ll stand with my legs really close together.
Okay, just take a deep breath. That’s better.
Ignore the shaky knees and sweaty palms. Just walk to the front of the room, with the poster. You can do this. All alone. Without Bert.
Just place one foot in front of another. Watch out for the bags scattered around and people’s feet stretched out in front of them, trying to make some one trip.
They’re all looking at me. Staring at me. Waiting.
None of them are glancing out the windows or scrolling through their phones anymore. They’re all looking at me, even my friends who are pulling faces and going cross eyed, trying to make me laugh.
I won’t laugh, I’ll need to pee.
The girl who was smiling, is smiling again, the dimples showing in her cheeks.
Smile back. Just a small one.
“Anytime you’re ready Milo’ the teacher says, tapping a pen against her notebook already covered in crosses and scrawls, and trying hard not to yawn, ’ we’re all waiting”.
She’s already written notes. Lots of them.
I wonder what they say? Am I going to fail? Has she already failed me?
“Of course, I’m sorry”.
Was that really my voice? Why is it all high and squeaky?
Where is Bert? I can’t do this without him.
Okay, just take another deep breath.
My hands really are shaky and sweaty.
I wish Bert was here with me.
The kids at the front are staring at me, looking at my hands. They must be really shaky and sweaty.
I’ll just put them in my pocket, then they won’t be able to see them. It’s not like I need a pointer. I don’t have a power point display, only this crummy poster that I spent all last night coloring.
Wait, what is in my pocket?
Don't jump, everyone's watching.
It's something small and fluffy.
“Excuse me a moment”, I mumble and turn around.
No one can see me look in my pocket although the teacher is craning her neck trying to spy on me.
I look down. Hopefully it's not something scary or i will really need to pee.
Bert is looking up at me, a grin stitched onto his furry face.
He made it after all! He didn't let me down.
I’m not alone.
I can do this!
Sometimes a teddy bear really is all the friend you need.
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I liked your story; well-written. The reader feels the nervousness with the character. At first I thought the furry friend was a tiny pet, and when I read 'teddy bear' I thought that was so cute😁🧸
Thank you so much for the lovely comments
Cool description covering the mania, panic, disarray of thought, physical and emotional breakdown. You cover the senses well and as someone who's guilty of overthinking a lot, I laughed quite a few times by the brain-wracking of your protagonist. Cute punchline!
Thank you for the comments.