I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but all my life I’ve been a pushover. Good little Anastasia, always does what she’s told. At the orphanage I always made my bed with the tightest corners in the dorm. When that freaking clown showed up, it was Roman who defended me. I never stood up for myself. Here at Forest Grove it’s the same story.
Not today, Chummy.
I stomped past Sandy Copes’ desk and into the office of Stella Chumwith. She slammed the door behind me.
“Sit,” barked Principal Chumwith.
I started to comply. Habit, you know. And Chummy was bigger than I’d realized. Six foot two at least. She looked like she could deck the football coach and string him up by his whistle chain.
I folded my arms. “I’ll stand.”
I swear at that moment a bolt of red rage shot out of her eyes. Those red lips, though, they curled into the phoniest smile this side of a used car dealership.
“Suit yourself, sweetie.” Chummy pulled a crumpled scrap of paper from the pocket of her blazer. “Do you recognize this?”
I took the paper and smoothed it on her desk. The big-footed doodle from English Lit. The one I’d tossed in the trash. By the end of class the figure had gained a big round nose and mismatched plaid clothes, too.
“Yeah, so, you took my scribbles out of the garbage can? If you need art for your walls, try the Discount Emporium in town. Get a velvet Elvis or something.”
Her lips got redder, as if she’d just taken a bite of something still alive and the blood stained her mouth.
“You may think this is a joke, Anastasia, but Ms. Crandall tells me you’ve been inattentive and rude. What do you have to say for yourself?” Chummy spoke slowly, her fists clenching and unclenching.
I shouldn’t have said it. I know that. What would it have cost me to just toe the line again? Tell them what they want to hear? But I couldn’t. There’s a point, you know, in everybody’s life where they open their damn eyes and see who is standing in front of them. They figure out that somebody else is running the show, and doing a miserable job of it. Sometime you have to take control of your own life. How long can you let those clowns be in charge?
“Well?” Chummy demanded. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“Bite me.” I said.
“Excuse me?” Chummy grabbed the paper out of my hands.
She crumpled the drawing. “Well, Anastasia, such insubordination cannot be tolerated. Thanks to your insolent manner, I’m placing you on restriction.”
I shrugged. I didn’t much care about going into town and buying gossip mags like the other girls.
“That means,” she went on, “that you will be staying right here at Forest Grove for Christmas break.” Chummy’s smile looked genuine this time—genuinely nasty.
“WHAT?” My composure broke. “You can’t do that. I’ve got to go to Portland and see…”
“See whom, dear? You haven’t got a Mum. No one to complain on your behalf, I’m afraid. I’m sure you’ll be quite comfy staying here, though we do turn the heat down to save on costs while most of the children are away. Now run along back to class and do pay attention to the lecture this time.”
With an enormous hand on the back of my neck, Chummy propelled me out of her office and past the reception desk to the outer door. Just before she shoved me into the hallway I caught a glimpse of Sandy Copes. She put a hand on her chest and frowned behind Chummy’s back. Before the door closed all the way she pitched a chocolate kiss through it so it landed at my feet and skittered to the far wall. I stomped it flat.