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The Bad Descision
I shouldn’t have done it. I should not have done it. Resentment flooded my mind, distracting me from the test I was trying to focus on. It had just been meant as a joke, but I knew this time I had gone too far.
The clean scent of freshly cut grass wafted into my seventh grade social studies classroom, carried in by a gentle breeze that blew through the open window. Golden sunrays illuminated the room. The beautiful weather cruelly mocked my panicky, remorseful mood. My stomach felt uneasy and I glanced at the clock for the fifth time. There were still fifteen minutes left of class. I could only hope that Mr. McC, who was meandering through the rows of desks on the other side of the classroom, would evade my side of the room until the bell rang. Then I would make my escape before he noticed anything. Assuring myself that I was in no danger of being caught, I resumed my test. Within five minutes, I had fallen into the rhythm of filling in multiple choice bubbles.
Mr. McC had always favored his students who were on the wrestling team. I guess this made sense, considering he was one of the coaches, but still, his bias had always irked me. He managed to get the wrestlers out of detention, and always treated them with the attitude of a proud parent. Now was the perfect chance for me to get back. Directly to the left of my desk was a long table which was occupied at the moment by five cardstock frames. Mr. McC had never made any mention of these, but I assumed they had to do with wrestling. Each frame was covered with dozens of red signatures- all belonging to members of the wrestling team. A red, uncapped sharpie lay on top of one of the frames. I suddenly got an idea- a shifty, devious idea. What if I were to sign one of these frames? I doubted he would even notice, what with all of the other signatures. Weighing the options, I decided to consult with my friends first.
Before I could even think of what to say, though, Madison, who sat near me, slyly remarked, “Hey Sarah, I dare you to sign that frame over there!”
Everyone in our row of desks turned to look at me. I froze like a deer in the headlights. I was at an unexpected loss for words. “Um, really? Don’t you think it’s a little bit risky?” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do it anymore.
“I don’t know…” Madison replied, and I could tell that for whatever reason, she definitely wanted me to sign it. At this point, the next row of people had begun to listen in. I saw no way of weaseling out of this without being teased.
“Alright,” I finally managed, “But no one tells him, okay?” They all nodded, smiling in an amused sort way. Circumspectly rising from my seat, I drew in a deep breath, the scrawled my name across the cardstock with the open sharpie.
As I flipped my test over to the other side, my eyes flashed to the clock once again. Just over five minutes left of class. There was a good chance I would be safe. That, sadly, was to be short lived. Halfway through the back page of the test, I saw someone move out of the corner of my eye. Alarmed, I whipped my head around to see who it was. Instant dread swept over me as I saw the glasses with the thick, rectangular frames. Mr. McC was indeed coming over to my side of the classroom. Before he had even reached my row of desks, I knew that my fate was sealed.
Although I maintained my composure on the outside, my disposition on the inside was becoming increasingly frantic. Leaning so far forward that my nose almost touched my paper, I desperately tried to avoid my teacher’s line of sight. He was fast approaching. By the time he finally reached my row, my eyes were shut tight with the irrational belief of a three year old that if I couldn’t see him, then he couldn’t see me.
I opened my eyes for a moment to find exactly what I had worst feared. His back was to me; he stood silent and motionless in front of the very frame I had signed. In a mix of fear and shock, I couldn’t take my gaze away from him.
Slowly, he turned around. His sharp blue eyes stared at me, but gave no hint of emotion. “Sarah,” he began, “did you sign this frame?” In his hands, he held the cardstock frame that bore my signature.
My voice trembled when I tried to speak. “YesandI’m veerryy…sorry.” Some words were mashed together while others were shaky and stretched. I suddenly realized I had stood up.
“Unbelievable,” he whispered, in an icy tone. Before I could say anything, he spoke again. “Do you know what this is?” he stammered, trembling with rage.
Utterly ashamed, I murmured, “No.” I had never seen him this angry before, and braced myself for his answer.
Again he whispered something under his breath. Then, in a forced calm tone that is far worse than yelling, he stated, “This frame that I’m holding is going to be presented at the wrestling banquet tonight. All the boys on the wrestling team are signing it to present to the coaches. Look what you have done!” He gestured to my large scrawl. “Do you know how much each of these frames cost?” I shook my head no. “$30. Now may I ask, what were you thinking?”
Trying to earn some sympathy, I willed tears into my eyes. This wasn’t too hard. “I wasn’t.” My voice quivered in the effort to keep it steady.
“You’re right, you weren’t thinking,” he admonished. “Now I expect you to fix this problem. Do you have any ideas?” I honestly couldn’t think of anything. I told him so. “Well, we will have to try white-out. I would send you to look for some, but you need to finish your test. I will see if Mr. A has any-and as he is one of the wrestling coaches, I’ll be telling him about what just happened.” And with that, he strode out of the room.
My heart sank lower. Mr. A was my favorite teacher, and I really looked up to him. What would he think of me now? As I turned to sit back down, I became aware of the captivated stares of my classmates. I looked at my friend Meg across the room, who smiled at me a kind of oh-you-really-did-it-this-time look. While I was relieved that Mr. McC was gone at the moment, I was grudgingly forced to accept the fact that this gossip would surely make its way around the school in no time. I could only hope that my peers would find it more humorous than my teacher had.
Within an instant, Mr. McC reappeared through the open door. “Okay, guys, it’s time to pack up now. Put your tests on my desk and you can go,” he announced. I let out my breath. Freedom at last, I thought. “But Sarah, you’re going to stay behind for a few more minutes,” he added coldly. Clenching my fists, I made no effort to move from my chair. As everyone vacated the room, I caught several people whispering while fleetingly glancing in my direction. When everyone else had left, Mr. McC stalked back into the room yet again. I hadn’t even noticed him leave. Behind him was Mr. A. He looked at me with a blank expression, but didn’t say anything. The silence was becoming awkward.
“I can repay you for it…the frame, I mean,” my voice trembled.
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Mr. McC responded. He seemed to be slightly less angry. “Now, I’m not going to give you a real punishment, but I want you to think about what you did, and what this means,” he instructed.
“I will,” I assured him, my voice still weak.
“Well, then, you’re free to go.”
Gathering my books up as swiftly as I could, I bolted out the door and into the deserted hallway. Here in the brief peacefulness I was able to collect my thoughts. Out of everything that had just happened, my non-punishment was what stuck out the most to me. In fact, it hung over me for the rest of the day. For some strange reason, I almost would have preferred a detention or even a referral. Then I wouldn’t have to wallow in guilt and remorse. I shouldn’t have let myself be pressured into what I did; I shouldn’t have even considered it myself in the first place… those things were obvious. What I really learned from that day is that guilt itself can often be the most merciless punishment.