“I heard she was called to the Dean’s office,” said Kate Morris. She tossed the long strands of her strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder as she leaned closer to me in her desk.
I stared at the shut classroom door for a long moment before surrendering my attention to Kate. We’d been friends and roommates since her arrival. She was one of the few girls actually older than me at the Institute, though I had a year’s seniority on her in my stay. I glanced around the classroom. Most of the girls were smart enough to use the few minutes of our teacher’s absence to read from the textbook. Kate and I had used our free period Sunday evening to read the first three chapters.
“Ms. Rutherford?” I asked in a hushed voice.
Kate nodded. “Amy heard Ms. Chambers talking to Mrs. Rosecliff. Apparently, Ms. Rutherford went into town last night and didn’t come back until like 3 AM.”
My thoughts immediately ran toward Paula and I Saturday afternoon in town. It sounded like Ms. Rutherford had a boy of her own. Obviously, teachers and staff have a bit more flexibility, well not physically, than the students when it comes to relationships. Still, on school nights, Sunday through Thursday, the houses are supposed to be locked down by midnight. Either Ms. Rutherford spent the night on the front steps or she snuck into the building and got caught. Regardless, it was considered out of bounds and subject to discipline from the Dean.
I glanced toward the door again. Still no sign of anyone. “Wouldn’t Ms. Chambers be here to sub if she knew Ms. Rutherford would be detained?” I asked.
Kate shrugged. “It wouldn’t be the first time Amy exaggerated, but you got admit it has credence given Ms. Rutherford’s absence.”
“She could just be running late,” I said.
The click of the door closing startled me. Ms. Rutherford, leveled her brown eyes on me from the front of the room. She held the textbook under her arm. “Britney Pearce isn’t it?”
I straightened in my chair, facing the front of the classroom without meeting Ms. Rutherford’s intimidating gaze. “Yes, Miss.”
“You’ve been here four years and counting, correct?” she asked.
“Yes, Miss.” I could have broken it down into hours and minutes for her, but the details seemed unimportant.
“I would think you’d have learned the rules by now,” she said.
“Sorry, Miss,” I said, biting my lip. There was always hope to avoid discipline on the first day of a new term, but Ms. Rutherford’s reputation mostly squashed that hope. It also seemed Amy’s eavesdropping lacked any ties to reality. Ms. Rutherford wore her typical stern expression and a complete tan skirt suit, including a white blouse, nude stockings, and beige heels. Not a thread out of place, suggesting that the worst part of her morning was walking into the room and listening to one of her students casually talk about her tardiness. “I was just thinking aloud.”
Ms. Rutherford rolled her eyes at me. “You were talking. The only question is who else was talking with you?”
I swallowed hard. Giving up a friend for punishment is not the sort of thing a girl does at Rosecliff. At least if she doesn’t want to spend her entire sentence being abused by the other girls. Keeping quiet didn’t always work with the teachers, but most of us figure out its better to turn ourselves in when push comes to shove than force a friend to do it.
Kate cleared her throat. “It was me Ms. Rutherford. I started the conversation. Britney was only answering my question.”
Ms. Rutherford nodded. “Thank you, Kate. I appreciate your honesty.” Her gaze shifted between us. “Strip down to your panties and come to the front of the room, girls.”