Del finished and stopped, dropping the sheet of paper awkwardly so that she could fiddle with her hands, a bad and unkillable habit. She looked around sheepishly, hoping that nobody would object to her poem too much. "It's about life in general," she added, trying to be helpful.

"I think we gathered that..." Ms Alper wasn't quite sure what to say. It had been original, yes, but slightly unconventional ... and as for the subject matter, well. Had this new girl really been through all that, or was she just guessing? She might need a bit of therapy at this rate.

"I'm sorry -- is it too much?" Del looked down again, staring at the poem. "I did think it wasn't the best to read out on my second day at a new school." Then she turned to Spook. "Mind you, if I hadn't been made to read it out by someone..." Her meaningful glares did not go unnoticed.

"Now, now, girls, no bickering." Ms Alper looked back at her students. "I think we can all agree that's a very interesting poem, can't we? You can sit down." She tried to cover up her shock and made a mental note: don't make Del read out her poems again.

As the class ended and they left for their next lesson, Delorfinde turned to Spook. "Was it really that shocking?" she asked. "It's not as bad as some things. My poems about drugs, for example."

"No, no, it's just that Ms Alper ... well, she doesn't like things that are raw and open and emotional. She likes them a little more rounded and thought about, not so blunt." Then Spook grinned. "My, but you gave her an eye-opener! Was that based on one of your books by any chance?"

"It might have been ..." said Del. "Or it might not. Guess which." She tried to find her timetable but it had vanished into the deepest depths of her black-hole of a bag. "What've we got next?"

The End

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