Rain bounced off the metal stairwell as I descended with a mixture of contentment and purpose, something I hadn’t felt all morning. I’d say I have a strong belief that the first day back at school is always the worst, and on that bleak Monday, I believed such a statement more than ever. Drilled into my head from the get-go were the words ‘five weeks’, an incomprehensible time frame that filled the gap between that morning and the beginning of my final exams, exams that would apparently decide my entire future. So when my English teacher leant across the desk to ask if I’d collect some photocopying, it was an opportunity to depart from these stresses bred and shared by my classmates - impossible to refuse.
I reached the bottom of the stairs and swiftly ran the five or so metres of open playground before the door to Block C. On entering, I checked my hair in the reflection of a display case, apprehensive of what the weather had made of it, but promptly carried on when I realized the inhabitants of a nearby music class were probably watching from their one-way window.
I felt free traversing the empty corridors, which were filled only with irate teachers’ voices from behind classroom doors and the occasional muffled giggle of children with their phone out behind a calculator. It was hard to believe that in five weeks, I’d be sat in the hall I was passing sitting a paper I still knew so little about. The whole idea of it consumed even this golden moment of liberty; I struggled to escape the structure of such a rigorous timetable - exams were literally starting to consume my life, and yet what could I do about it?
“Hi, Miss.” I said as I passed a teacher who hadn’t taught me in quite some time, as if she’d remember my name or even my face.
Soon, none of them would have to. And to think that was a two way equation! I wouldn’t have to remember them. I wouldn’t have to remember the way circle theorems spun (or whatever they did, I was yet to revise them), the way the clocks in science ticked or the way the hallway breathed silently as I headed to reprographics that day.
“Yeah, it’s for-“
I showed the photocopying lady the lesson pass, embossed with my English teacher’s name. She didn’t speak, instead ambling over to her categorized trays and flicking through documents to identify the order.
“There you are, love.” she declared and she shoved a wad of freshly printed sheets into my hand.
“Thanks. Have a nice day.”
And that was it, I was off. I tried to take my time, stop myself from running,because this was one of very few moments I’d have in the next five weeks to simply exist without the fear of what was ahead. And yet the fear was what took me back. Exams in five weeks: don’t forget.
"Five weeks" (Short Story Competition Entry)
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