I Saw Her

February 24, 2012
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The room fell silent. All eyes were on the teacher, who glared at us, shook her head and stormed out, leaving us alone to gawk at each other, like deer in headlights. It was scary how silent it was for our usually rowdy fifth grade class, and I guess I wasn’t the only one scared, because everyone looked horrified. I still couldn’t believe what was happening. Someone in that room stole a pack of Trident gum, a Tootsie Pop and a few Jolly Ranchers. And I knew who. I saw her. But what I didn’t know was if I had the guts to turn her in.


For the most part our class was a good one, a class the other teachers and even principal regarded as a model class, a class the fourth graders could look up to. Which is why it came as a huge shock when, just a few precious seconds before school let out, the teacher made her way to the front of the classroom and announced to us what happened.

“Candy doesn’t just disappear, does it. Someone stole it. Until someone fesses up or leaves an anonymous tip on my desk, no one is leaving this room. I would hope the culprit herself leaves a note,” she said, almost emphasizing the word herself, leading me to believe she knew it was a girl. But no one took any notice to it. Then the teacher left, and a few moments later, the end-of-the-day bell rang. The silence quickly faded into whispers, whispers into talking. There was a lot of blaming and finger-pointing, which I didn’t particularly mind, provided they weren’t pointing at me, although we all were suspects. A couple of daring kids were taking it a step farther, with backpack and desk searches and frisks. I never thought I’d see my fellow students giving pat-downs. It felt like some convoluted version of COPS where unlawful tactics and searches without warrants were occurring and the big charge you didn’t want to be nailed with was possession of stolen property.


I fidgeted in my desk and fished out a lonely index card. I slipped out my pencil and pressed the perfectly sharpened point to the card. I started to write her name. D… A…

“Hey,” someone said. I flipped the card over nervously, almost paranoid. It felt sort of like the world would collapse if I ratted her out, which I knew was kind of silly, but still, it felt next to impossible. A friend of mine stood behind me. She didn‘t seem to notice the index card or didn‘t find any significance in it. I smiled and was about to say hi back to her when she opened her mouth and said, “Do you know? Who did it. I do, I think.” I stared at her, slack jawed. “It’s her, isn’t it?” she said, motioning towards the perpetrator. I shrugged, goggling at her. “Nothing like this has ever happened, right?” I nodded. “Then she comes around and Bam! this happens.” I nodded again. And with that she sauntered off, probably to blurb with some other kid, leaving me alone with the index card laid face down on my desk.


My hands were white and clammy and I was probably squeezing the pencil too tight. N… I… E… L… L… E… I drew out the name, first and last, carefully, slowly drawing out the suspense. It was a nerve-wracking experience, which only scared me even more, because I was never really nervous about anything. Finally, I had her name written neatly. The letters seemed to dance along the lines, beautifully yet simple, taunting me. Now all that was left to do was get up, walk to the desk and plop the note down. Summoning all my courage, I staggered to my feet, wobbling slightly. Then it was the walk of shame, a few excruciating step long. Finally I was there, standing beside the teacher’s desk, essentially the crime scene, or at least to anyone who saw the theft. I knew I had to drop the note. So no one would miss their bus or be late for soccer practice or miss a doctor’s appointment. I glanced left and right, checking to see if anyone was watching. No one was, as I should have expected. Everyone was too absorbed in their own conversations to notice as I reached my hand over the desk, clutching the index card with her name on it. I shivered. I had witnessed plenty of small-time crimes at school before but never bothered to bust the culprit. Why now? And then it hit me. Someone would figure it out. Someone would find the candy shoved deep in her backpack. And everyone would know. This would be anonymous. The teacher, the girl and I would know, not the entire class. And with that I loosened my grip on the card and let it make it’s painfully slow way to the desk. And with that, I turned to the class, put on a fake smile and announced loudly,

“Hey, look, there’s a note!” With that the students cheered and clambered out of the classroom, whooping and cheering, hi-fiving one another.


I pressed my face against the cool glass of the window, staring out with mild interest at the sights that flew by. My mind was mostly on what had happened earlier, however. What was going to happen to the girl was a great unknown. But I did the right thing, which provided little comfort. None the less, I felt relieved, almost proud. The bus went over a bump, jostling me a bit. Then it slowly rolled to a stop. I leapt to my feet and fought against the rush of kids to get to the front. I took the stairs two at a time and hopped to the asphalt. It felt good to be rid of all reminders of school until I had to return the next day and face whatever the consequences of yesterday might be. My dad met me at the door, and greeted me with a smile.


From what I heard, the girl got detention for a week. The teacher managed to keep the incident low-key, just as I had hoped she would. While I never really got a definite answer on what happened to her, I got a little bit, which was closure enough. And no one ever said another word about it for the longest time. I’m sure most of them don’t even remember it, al least not as clearly as I do. But that’s because they didn’t have to make the choice I did. Overall, I would do it again. Ratting her out was the right thing to do. And it wasn’t tattling. If you report someone to the police for robbery it’s not tattling, is it? So why would this be? But I would never want it to happen again. To me, to you, to anyone. Sometimes doing the right thing feels just as wrong as the other option. Next time, though, I’ll pretend I never saw her.





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8tephanie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 27, 2012 at 5:13 pm
Wow, this was really good! Like reading a professional article! My favorite line was "Sometimes doing the right thing feels just as wrong as the other option." Very well-done and I really hope it gets published!
 
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