New Life by Maggie Iribane

British Sister Ursula would say, “The cheek of it!” 

Walter, with that old fashioned, uncool name, turns to his friend and asks about Sunday’s football game, in the middle of my math lesson. 

He says, “Did you see the Lions play?” Full voice, no regard. 

At age 52, I am a new teacher. I have been placed here, away from my cloistered convent, my true home, due to elderly parents and a bad back. 

“Walter, I’m teaching right now,” I say, my voice cracking. 

His face twists in sarcasm, like he pities me. He just goes on talking. 

I yank open one of my desk’s wooden drawers with force, pull out a reflection sheet, scribble his name on top, toss it down in front of him. See that? It’s pathetic, I know. 

“Give me a break. This sucks,” he says. 

“Get out of my classroom,” I seethe. He smiles and stands, slams the door behind him. I’ve been trained to passively accept, but I want to get out of there. Never return. “Silent reading for the rest of class,” I announce. 

As soon as the bell rings, I head to the principal’s office, storming in, interrupting whatever she’s doing. 

“The cheek of it!” I rant, overusing this foreign expression. 

Shirley raises an eyebrow. 

“Sister, Miss Gibbons, they’re just children, you know,” she says. 

I sit down, feel the shame of my mistakes. 

“You will get the hang of it,” she says, “It’s a lot of change, all at once,” she says, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. 

My breath steadies at this, the first kindness bestowed on me in my new life, a moment I will regard as a turning point. 

Published in Issue #21

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