First Period: 1.1
Olivia Chance sat at the back of the classroom silently wishing for an extinction level event. Nothing fancy. A planet killing rock the size of Paraguay would be fine.
“The board awaits, Miss Chance.”
Someone tried to hold back a snicker. But then didn’t.
It was maybe three or four months into the school year before Olivia realized that her teacher had twisted her name into a class joke. It wasn’t until Mrs. Taranow, who’d probably started snacking on sixth graders only minutes after graduating Nosferatu Teachers College, hit the class with one of her patented “treats” that it finally sank in. Taranow’s treats were preadolescent land mines cleverly disguised as pop quizzes and when the word “mischance” appeared on a vocab treat, Olivia knew she was in for a year of cauldron dodging.
mischance [mis’Chans] (noun) 1. Bad Luck 2. An unlucky occurrence.
“Miss Chance,” Taranow hawked. “Will you be coming to the front of the class, or shall I send armed escorts to bring you forth?”
“But… I didn’t raise my hand, Mrs. Taranow.”
“Willingness means nothing to fate.” Taranow’s teeth clicked together on that last word like it was a particularly delicious bit of fingertip.
Olivia’s chair gave a long, slow death cry as it scraped against floor tile. She stood up.
The whole sixth grade thing, it wasn’t really her strongest area. No matter what Olivia’s mother told her, middle school was not opening any doors. There was nothing door-openy about it. Just a bunch of awkward bus rides and dry lunches with boys who sat too close and girls who wanted to sit on thrones. And Taranow.
Olivia wasn’t sure why Taranow had zeroed in on her. She wasn’t a troublemaker. She wasn’t loud. She kept to herself and, for the most part, was invisible. Olivia was so good at invisible most teachers still had to give their class rosters a quick glance before calling her name at attendance. Not Taranow though. Olivia was like a blinking neon sign in Taranow’s room.
She walked to the front of the class, careful to keep her head turned down at just the right angle. Too high and she’d lock eyes with the Medusa. Too low and she might accidentally stare into Bryce Tanner’s face, which was the easiest way to get buried in poetry covered in an older brother’s Axe cologne. At the board, Olivia took way more time than necessary deciding which color chalk to use but Taranow was wickedly patient.
“Fortunately for us, today is a double period.”
Olivia was sure that Taranow’s English class was the only place in the world where a person could find red chalk. Not pink. Red. She took a deep breath, picked up a sky blue nub of chalk, and attempted to underline all the correlative conjunctions on the board.
And that’s when the fire alarms went off.