‘No, I’m sorry Mrs Morrow, you’ve had your say. I think it’s time you listened to me. Alexander is a high-spirited boy, but he’s not violent or malicious.’
She watches herself in the mirror over the mantelpiece, pushing her hair behind her ear, and imagines the plain face of Mrs Morrow at the other end of the line. She widens her lips and bares her teeth in a professional smile that stiffens and vanishes as she listens.
‘That was not Alexander, you know very well it was that Kennedy child. Oh, yes it was, whatever Tracey Kennedy says. And that business with Mrs Anderson, that was just a misunderstanding. Oh, don’t bring that up again. Are you saying my child is an arsonist?’
She raises and lowers her hand as the other voice broke in, looks sideways with her lips folded, taps her finger.
‘I don’t care what the school psychologist said. That Kennedy child pulled the wool over her eyes. The police? Oh, now you’re being ridiculous. If Mr Shallice can’t manage his class without threatening them with the police –’
She leans closer to the mirror, unable to keep the furrow from appearing between her eyebrows. She smooths it with her little finger, waits for the other voice to stop. She counts to ten and smiles again, not as widely, so that her voice is mixed with a little ice.
‘Clearly you can’t cater for gifted children. I think that’s a pity for both of us, don’t you?’
As she hangs up something in the almond tree outside the window catches her eye.
‘Pusskins? Pusskins? Oh my god, Pusskins!’
The limp black shape dangles at the end of a school tie.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arslan/2042453661