The strict line of students stood silently awaiting their coming orders. Their chins were up, their eyes wandered only slightly for all their efforts to remain at attention, and their hands were behind their backs.
There was a rattle of metal, and the office door swung open. The cold and sinister woman known as 'Miz' strode stiffly from the room within, a meter-stick tucked under her arm, and her thick army boots thudding along the tiled wood floor beneath her squat form.
"Lis' up!' she cried. She had a tendancy of dropping whole sylables in her attempt to yell words as shortly and sharply as she could.
"I've news!" she roared, turning to face the quivering row of students with a solid stance. "We've a new kid!" She paused to slam her fists upon her hips. "We--all us!--gonna make 'em a student!"
There was a general response of extra shifting eyes and even a few turning heads. If they'd been free from Miz's gaze, there would have been a general excitement and an explosion of whispers.
Miz peered with suspicion at the row of students. "His name is Peta. That's all."
And she strode from the room, down the long line of students, the ruler under her arm sweeping back and forth as she walked without swinging her arms, her large chest piveting with every step.
As soon as the door had shut behind her, a tremendous breath was let out in a single stream of excited whispers. The entire line of students fell apart as running limbs brought them into a huddle. There were twelve of them in total, but the two older ones quickly gained control over the discussion.
James was forteen and so it was his voice that soon gained a respectful silence. "I say we give the welcome book a look," he announced. "Ther'ain't been a new student since Ernie, and he didn't last long enough. We gotta make certain this new student is set straight from the beginning. He's gotta know what's what as soon as he walks in."
The other leader spoke. "Someone fetch it. We'll have a go-over." Her name was Trina, and she was thirteen and a half with a kind voice and a dreamer's gaze.
Little Tim fetched the book from under his mattress, and the group soon began to pour over its contents, fighting over the wording of each warning, and wondering how much they should tell the student. They didn't want to scare him, but there were some things he would need to know.
Unfortunately, the book of warnings and welcomes was soon put aside as the metal knob rattled once more from the office. Ten seconds passed, and then Miz reentered the room.
She stood at the end of the row of students and announced, "Peta will be here tomor-mornin'!"
And then the door was slammed shut.
The group let their breath out, and the activities returned to normal. It was always like this. Every time the knob rattled there would be ten seconds until they had to be in a row. And if someone missed the call, there'd be punishment for sure.
But now, as Miz was safely in her office, they were free. And so, after only a few chaotic moments, they came to a final draft of the welcome book. The new student would at least have a fighting chance. And they had finished only just in time. Miz soon returned to demand them to sleep. And then they slept.
Or at least, they tried to sleep.