A Rock and a Hard Place by Rachel Smith

Kieran slung his slate-grey school bag over his shoulder and slipped his hand inside, searching for his cigarettes. He started as his questing fingers touched upon something soft and furry. After a quick glance to make sure nobody was watching, he opened his bag wide to investigate and what he saw laced his gut with dread. 

A light pink, fuzzy pencil case festooned with glittering stars and sequins. “This isn’t my bag,” he muttered. Some girl has my bag… and cigarettes. A forbidden item sure to land him in detention for the remainder of the school year, or worse. The afternoon bell had not yet rung and there were only a small number of places she could be. If he moved quickly, he might just catch her. Immediately dismissing the playground due to the incessant autumnal downpour battering the common room windows, Kieran strode into the main hallway and turned right, his trainers squeaking on the linoleum floor. Giggling floated out of the girls’ toilets, mingled with the smell of hairspray and sweet, flowery perfume. 

The door was slightly ajar, allowing him a sliver of gleaming white tiles and pleated, grey skirts. He stifled a gasp. His bag was there, on the floor surrounded by shiny, black shoes. 

Suddenly, a rough, calloused hand gripped his collar from behind and hauled him backwards, slamming him up against the hallway’s reddish-brown bricks. Mr. Morley, the Headmaster, glowered, looming over Kieron like an executioner’s axe, “And just what do you think you’re doing, lad?!” 

“It’s not what it looks like.” 

“Oh?” he released his grip but did not step away, “Enlighten me.” 

Kieran panicked, furiously trying to deduce what was worse: spying or cigarettes. And as Mr. Morley dragged him away, he cursed inwardly at the smell of cigarette smoke blending with girls’ laughter.

Published in Issue #12

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