What I loved most about boarding school is that everyone had to be friends. It didn't mean that we necessarily got along all of the time, but we had our moments of unity, especially in instances of getting out of trouble. Like any normal school when a student got into trouble they received a detention. During the warm sun-drenched hours of the day, students would report to the eighth grader’s math classroom, their names written neatly in a column in the glossy copybook lying open on the desk.
It was a sweltering summer day. Puffy white clouds sailed over the steaming jungle to hover over the mountain tops on the horizon. Children of all age, race, and nationality were spread throughout the sprawling campus. Girls sat in small huddles chatting while the boys roared around the soccer field. The buzzing of insects and the quiet murmur of activity could not quite fill the silence of the mountains, so the warm dry breeze fluttered against skin soundlessly.
The sounds of a soccer game; shouting, scuffling and the thump of the ball being kicked drifted into the classroom where detention was being held. The Indian heat made the students spread out through the classroom lethargic and unusually undefiant. There were more students in detention than usual, the new math teacher was a big fan of giving out detentions. Miss Prabha would give students detention for the littlest infractions like not doing homework on time, or answering a question incorrectly.
The teacher saddled with the unfortunate task of monitoring detention today was Mr. Oleg, the woodworking teacher. He was a gangly stork of a man, very much resembling a tree he would get wood from. He had curly caramel hair and lively brown eyes. He was wearing the native garb of the mountains, a light cotton kurta, and fitted cotton pants. It was only a half hour in and Mr.Oleg was on the verge of slumber. his legs were propped up on the desk and a book hung loosely from one hand. It wouldn't really matter if he fell asleep, he mused drowsily. It was warm, the kids were quiet and he had stayed up late last night watching movies with the other teachers. He did one last check on the students and promptly fell asleep.
In the back of the classroom a portly ten year old, broader and shorter than most of his classmates lounged at his desk. His sandy hair was cut short and close to his head making his straw like hair stuck up at all angles. He had a wide set face with sharp brown eyes constantly evaluating his surroundings. Raphelle wore his frenchness like a cloak and somehow managed to make his worn school uniform look neat and posh. This detention was making him restless, he wanted to get back to ruling the other fifth grade: stealing food, terrorizing the girls and sneaking into town for sweeties. Two of his cronies sat at the desk beside him, holding a whispered conversation about trading Pokémon cards. So caught up in his scheming, Raphelle didn't notice that Mr. Oleg had fallen asleep until the book that had been slowly slipping out of the teacher's lax grasp hit the floor with a quite thwap.
The students broke out into fierce whispers about what to do, do they stay in case he wakes up, or do they chance an escape? Raphelle was having the same train of thought from his vantage point in the back of the classroom, and having weighed the pros and cons, decided to make a break for it. Making eye contact with his friends he gestured wordlessly to the door with a nod of his head. Half way out of his seat Priya Singh, whose curly brown hair had doubled in size from the heat, looked over at Raphelle sharply and hissed,"You can't leave, detention isn't over."
Raphelle shrugged, "He's asleep, and it's not even like he would care if we left."
"You'll get the rest of us in trouble if you leave," the girl next to Priya added. Raphelle glared at the two girls, "I don't really care."
The trio silently exited the classroom, his lackeys jeering at the girls from outside as they passed the windows that faced the balcony. A couple more boys, emboldened by his exit, got up and followed him out, but headed in the opposite direction. The girls were furious, whispering hotly to one another. The other students in the classroom went back to what they had been doing; sleeping, doodling and chatting.
Leela had been daydreaming before Mr. Oleg had fallen asleep. She was seated near to the front, right next to the window facing the sports field, her head cradled in the arm she had propped on the desk. She had been watching the students play on the field through heavy lidded stormy green eyes, her mind's eye filled with far off lands and fantastical adventures. Her stick straight blond hair was braided into two heat mussed braids with a few stands floating around her face. She had the quiet countenance of someone who could not be bothered by reality. She watched the boys leave and considered doing the same. Leela thought idly of the book she had left in the dorm, it was a good one and she really wanted to get back to it. Raphelle was right, she could just leave and Mr. Oleg wouldn't care at all.
Leela wasn't as bold as the boys. She waited a few moments watching Mr.Oleg for signs of wakefulness but also listening for the sound of other teachers approaching. No one was coming, the coast was clear.
"I'm going to go to Mr. Prabha and tell on them," Priya told Daisy. She didn't get up though.
"Yeah! It's not fair that the boys always get us in trouble." Daisy cried, she also made no movement to get up.
Leela rolled her eyes and stood up. Priya and Daisy were so caught up in their discussion about the awful boys that they didn't even notice her leaving. The other students who saw her said nothing. She was turning the corner to the dorms when she hears a familiar teacher's voice. By her shrill tone, Leela could tell she was reprimanding someone. Leela ducked back around the corner and listened.
"Raphelle I know that you are supposed to be in detention right now because I'm the one who sent you there." It's Miss Prabha, Leela thought disdainfully. Too bad for Raphelle, he got caught so fast, he really should've been more cautious.
"Mr.Oleg let us out early for good behavior Miss", Leela heard him reply.
"Well, I'm sending you back. You are going to sit in detention for the full three hours. You set a firecracker off outside the classroom during the class I was teaching. I know you are just enjoying your boyish youth, but you need to learn how to respect your elders," Leela could hear Miss Prabha getting closer, Raphelle and his two cronies in tow. Leela had to think fast, as much as she disliked Raphelle for tormenting her, she hated Miss Prabha more.
Leela rounded the corner and walked up the group, "There you are Raphelle! Mr. Oleg just sent me. You guys were supposed to go clean his workshop for him, not leave early!”
Miss Prabha smiled triumphantly, "I knew you boys were just trying to pull a trick on me,"Leela turned to her least favorite teacher, a sickly sweet smile plastered on her face. She simpered, "I'm glad you found them Miss Prabha but can take it from here. I'll make sure they go to the woodshop."
"Such a good girl! Okay, take them,", Miss Prabha told her. Leela smiled at her one last time before she goaded the boys down the hall.
From next to her Raphelle watched her out of the corner of his eye, "Tattletale." He hissed. Leela ignored him, when they got to the stairwell she stopped them. "You can go now, but be careful this time."
"What?" The lackey in the back asked.
"Mr. Oleg is still asleep, you don't really have to clean his workshop."
Without waiting for a response Leela turned and walked away, the door to her dorm was just down the hall.
Raphelle considered the girl for a moment. She was Mishka's cousin and though Mishka was one of his boys, Raphelle didn't expect rule breaking to run in the family. Leela seemed so quiet, she was always reading or gazing blankly at walls, he didn’t even think she registered the world around her. He had tried to tease her once but she didn’t even notice his pranks. She was just about to go into her dorm when he called out, "Thanks, you're not a tattletale baby like the other girls."
She shrugged and disappeared behind the metal door. Raphelle and his cronies continued on, down the staircase. Tomorrow the food for the week was being delivered and Raphelle needed to prepare for the heist.