Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Four

“Thank you, Mr. LongDog,” Dr. L. said, shooting nervous glances at the brown-bunned woman peering over her clipboard.

A few members of the class laughed again; Wil barely refraining from snickering, herself. She felt sorry for Dr. L. He was clearly flustered and the laughing didn’t help. That sympathy, however, vanished with what happened next.

“We’ll, erm, need to break into groups,” Dr. L. continued. He looked faint at the idea, then scratched the back of his head and cast his glance around the room for inspiration. Something must have hit, for then he raised his pointer finger in a pose of scientific discovery. “Ah!” he announced, “I’ll sort you like they did at the training.”

Looping his lab coat-shod arms in a wide air gesture, he said, “You six, here, are one group.” He walked to the cluster in which Wil sat. “You -um- seven are a group…”

Wil didn’t hear the rest. She was too mindful of her stomach dropping in dread. Kind, patient Jenny Sanders was fine. Even that quiet kid she barely knew (Bobby? Something?) wasn’t bad. The problem was that Dr. L.’s sweeping loop of her seven desk group included the ever-obnoxious Carl Hurn. She felt sick. “Uuuhhrrg.”

“Did you say something, Wil?” Jenny asked. She seemed concerned, although maybe that came more from a desire to avoid infection. Wil noticed Jenny’s eyes flit the distance between their desks.

“Fine,” Wil answered. “I’m fine.” She tried not to glance in the direction of Carl’s desk. Instead, she focused on reading over the paper of instructions.

Bobby cleared his throat. “Looks like,” he began in an unsteady timbre -Carl snickered and Bobby ignored him- “Looks like we need to circle up first.”

They all acquiesced a grumble and moved the class furniture accordingly.

“Then,” Bobby continued, “we need the things on this list.” He raised his own paper and pointed at the bullet point words.

“I got it,” a girl, whom Wil didn’t know, volunteered. She rose, grabbed her own paper, and headed to the supply cupboard.

“I wonder if it’ll even open,” Wil muttered.

To her surprise, Jenny giggled. She met Wil’s eye. “This is kind of odd for Ol’ Lombard,” Jenny said. “But, it’s also nice to not spend the whole period trying not to sleep.”

Someone snorted. It was Carl. “Says the Teacher’s Pet.”

A boy to Carl’s left punched him lightly in the arm. “Shut the -” he glanced up and paled a bit, causing Wil to whip around and see that their ‘visitor’ was peering in their direction. She whipped back forward. The puncher cleared his throat and leaned closer to Carl. “Shut up, alright?”

Carl’s expression looked sheepish. Wil was amazed, up until she turned back to Jenny and caught the open admiration on the girl’s face.

“Got ’em,” a voice said, interrupting Wil’s observations. The girl who’d volunteered to collect materials had returned. She set two glass phials, a few strips of colored paper, and several opaque bottles on her desk. Plopping into her seat behind the supplies, she asked, “Now what?”

 

Continued from Eighty-Three.
Keep reading to Eighty-Five.

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