I sat in one of the plastic blue chairs and put my feet up on the desk. Altair looked at me from his place in the group of my classmates. He smiled hopefully. I grimaced. His smile dropped and he turned back to the others.
Spike opened the door, with Rollin just behind him. Mr Robinson pushed past them and grumbled something about not blocking doors.
“Feet down, Ingrid,” he said.
I glared at his back as he went and sat down behind the desk at the front of the room. He dropped a plastic folder onto the wood and got a pen from his pocket.
“Sit down now, everyone,” he said. “Chantelle?”
“Here,” she said.
“Emily? Altair? Ruby? Oliver? Jimmy? Spike? Jo? Cathleen? James? William? Ingrid? Jessica? And Thomas?” Everybody was in. “So we have form time this morning, instead of assembly.”
A small cheer went up when he said that. Nobody liked assemblies, they were boring.
“Today, we’re having a, um... a pet day. Evie, Altair, Ruby and Chantelle have brought their pets in and they’re going to tell us a little bit about them. Evie, you’re first.”
Everybody turned to look at her. She stood up and took a cage up with her. She placed it down gently on Mr Robinson’s desk. She lifted out a guinea pig. So that’s what the ham smell was. I looked at Spike. His eyes were filled with worry. He glanced at Rollin, I did too. Rollin was staring at the guinea pig with a hungry expression. We were hungry.
I reached over and shook Rollin’s arm desperately. His pale green eyes flicked to me and he broke out of the trance he was in. He looked at the desk and went completely still. I grabbed Spike’s hand and stared at him.
What are we going to do? I asked him telepathically.
Just keep looking at me, he said.
I kept my eyes trained on his while Evie was talking. I hardly noticed Evie sitting down and Chantelle going up with her hamster. I just kept looking at Spike. He didn’t let my eyes waver once. The time flew by and soon Ruby was going up with a budgie. It’s flapping wings almost tore my gaze away from Spike. He gripped my hand tighter. I looked at him again. Finally the rodents and birds were gone and Altair stood up. The smell of meat – food – faded so I released Spike’s hand and looked towards the front again.
He carried a box the front. Inside the box was a snake. Altair lifted the snake out.
“This is Guthrie. His name means ‘war serpent’. He’s a Californian king snake,” said Altair.
“What does he eat?” asked Emily curiously.
“In the wild, king snakes eat rattlesnakes, but I feed him a mouse or two once a week.”
The snake stared at Rollin, Spike and I. He opened his mouth wide, trying to scare us. Altair spoke a bit more about his snake before bringing him round for everyone to touch and hold.
William and Jimmy held the snake and kept holding it near Ruby’s face. She started crying so Emily had to take her out. Altair came to us. He held the snake out to me. The snake struck out and sunk its fangs into my arm.
“Ow,” I said without emotion. It didn’t really hurt.
Several people screamed at the sight of the snake’s teeth in my skin. Oliver even fainted. Altair grabbed the king snake’s neck and squeezed slightly, making the snake release its grasp.
“Oh, my God, I’m so sorry, Ingrid!” exclaimed Altair.
“Don’t worry about it; it didn’t hurt.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked worriedly.
“I’m fine, don’t worry.”
At that moment everyone swarmed around me, even Mr Robinson, checking I was okay. I got sick of it after a few seconds and showed everyone I was fine by doing a cartwheel. Everybody seemed to calm down after that. I sat back down next to Spike.
Altair put his snake back in the box. He left the room to give it to his mum to take home. Evie, Chantelle and Ruby went with him for the same reason.
“And just in time for lessons,” said Mr Robinson. “I’ll see some of you later for chemistry.”
And we all moved off to double Spanish.