Justine Geist had never been anybody's idea of a great beauty, but the purple bags that had shown up under her eyes this year were particularly offensive to the girls in her 8th grade English class. Her kids knew that she had a brand-new baby at home who took sick pleasure in waking her up multiple times in the night, but they had little sympathy for the way she had let herself go.
"You know, if Mr. Portis can manage to show up to work looking halfway decent, you'd think Mrs. Geist might be able to slap on a little make-up before she heads out the door," muttered Courtney Hopkins.
"Yeah," snickered her best friend, Lara. "Maybe she ought to worry a little less about whether we've read some dumb book she's assigned us and a little more about showing up for work looking like that."
Justine heard them, of course. Whatever she was lacking in the Sephora department, she had excellent hearing. Like most teachers, she perceived quite a bit more than she let on to her students. Privately, she thought that Lara would find out sooner rather than later what it was like to wake up to a screaming baby in the middle of the night. The girl would do just about anything to run with the popular kids. As for Courtney, she was one of those spoiled pet-poodle types. The ones who couldn't figure out why they were so unhappy despite being given everything they ever wished for.
The homeroom bell rang, the class quieted down, and Dalia Paxton slipped in with a tardy pass just a moment before the principal came on over the P.A. system for morning announcements. Justine bit her lip. It was Dalia's fifth tardy since the start of the school year, and it was only November. Last year she'd racked up something like thirty tardy slips and fifteen early-dismissals.