Period Two fills as quickly as Period One empties. I notice Mia, always the last student to arrive. She slithers in, Starbucks glued to her mouth. The steam rises from the uncapped cup.

“Ms. Dunn, can I talk to you?” Her face is low and sad. I take a deep harried breath.

“Mia, I’d love to have a chat with you right now.” I drop a box of pencils as more tardy students come trudging in. “But the only thing I can talk to you about now is that we will have to talk later.”

Mia is one of those kids who hate school. She chooses to not be in Honors anything. The only class she enjoys is music theory. I look up and the girl is still standing by my desk. She plays at pleading.

“I still don’t have an idea. Ms. Dunn, you know I can’t speak in front of people. Pretty please I have nothing to say.”

I erase the board. My back to her. I giggle out loud remembering how much I loved playing school in my playroom. It was easier in those days, I had far fewer students and way more supplies. Mom kept my playroom stockpiled with scrap paper and pencils, crayons and chalk. I had an assortment of bright stuffed animal students whom I placed in individual wooden chairs. We had infinite hours to chat.

I spot a rudimentary chalk drawing of a penis in the bottom corner. I sigh aloud and roll my eyes as I rub feverishly.

“Ew, gross! Who drew that?” Mia squints.

“Someone who lacks the talent for life drawing!” I laugh.

Mia smiles. We are at ease with one another. I wipe the chalk onto my jeans and check in with other students. The girl slides her rings up and down her fingers as I approach her again.

“Mia, listen, this is a drama class and performance is a major grade. You have a great deal to say. We all do. You just haven’t found it yet.” I pause to think and say. “Let’s try the brainstorming activities together again.”

She stares at me. Her earbuds are in. She is not listening.

“Mia, loose-leaf, a pen?”

She pulls out a bud and digs through her bag as I bonk her head with a pencil, “Somewhere in there is a story to be told.”

A line of students form at my desk and I realize that I’ve spent an unfair amount of time with Mia. She senses my concern, gathers her bag, coffee cup, blank paper and says faintly but loud enough for me to hear.

”It’s okay, Ms. Dunn, school sucks.”

She knows I can’t leave her that way, so I follow her to her little corner of the room leaving a line of eager students leaning against my chair spouting requests. Squatting awkwardly by Mia’s desk my skirt is draped in between my thighs and my pen is running out of ink. I write the word MUSIC on the front cover of her notebook.

…… be continued.