CONTINUED FROM PART 1
Vicky’s face expressed raw determination as she removed her glasses, yet Miss Dunning couldn’t help but notice a hint of timidness as her student stared her down. She didn’t blink a single time, but it was obvious she immediately disbelieved what she saw. Her face began to contort with one cringed expression to another. Miss Dunning looked away, but only for an instance. She had to keep the situation under control while trying her best not to exacerbate Vicky’s present condition. Eye contact was key.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked, but Vicky was too dumbfounded to answer. Before her eyes were Miss Dunning and Miss Dunning’s ghostlike apparition, both a perfect representation of each other. Every movement and expression perfectly coordinated together.
“This… this has never happened before,” Vicky said.
“That’s it!” Miss Dunning declared as she threw up both arms in surrender. “We’re heading to the guidance department. That, or the school nurse, because I just don’t know what to do now.”
“Wait!” Vicky protested. She placed the sunglasses back over her eyes. “I know I sound crazy, but please trust me. I know that you’re, like, super worried about me, and I totally get it. It’s just that you’re… you’re not a fake.”
Miss Dunning wasn’t surprised. “Miss Hemingway, you don’t need to see inside of me to know how I’m feeling right now.” Her hands began to shake. “It’s all out in the open, dear because I can’t hide how worried I am about you.”
Vicky paused with a realization. “Yeah, I guess you can’t.” Her mouth hung open a bit as she looked into her teacher’s eyes. A thought occurred to her. “There are just some things that happen to us that make us unable to hide how we’re truly feeling.”
“Like being deathly afraid for the well-being of one of your students?” Miss Dunning asked in a speedy whisper. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “Look, Vicky,” she said, tiredly. “I was in no way ready for any of this. Who could be? I was just about to go home, make some tea, recline on my couch and read a book.”
Vicky instantly wanted to know which book but kept the question to herself. “I don’t know why you are doing this,” her teacher continued, “and believe me, it all sounds so amazing from my point of view. Supernatural and fantastic things have been something I’ve cherished for years, but only in books. The words have always been just a foot away from my face, but the stories take place in another land and another time. You have to understand what I’m dealing with, if at all possible. I’m trying to understand what you’re telling me, I really am, but I never imagined I’d have to deal with something like this. Is it a mental condition? Is it a medical condition? Is this even real?” She noticed Vicky about to speak but put her hand up to stop her so she could finish her thought.
“I mean, this isn’t a normal school problem,” she stated, firmly. “A disruptive student or even something like a fight is a normal school problem. This is nothing like either of those. This is… this is hard, and to be very honest, the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with since I’ve become a teacher. At least, from one of my students. You kids aren’t bad at all in my opinion. It’s the other teachers, staff, and parents who don’t mind their own business that causes me most of my problems.”
Vicky let a small laugh escape. She desperately regretted it, but not as much as Miss Dunning regretted what she just admitted. “See,” she said to her teacher. “You aren’t a fake. I don’t have to take my glasses off to know that you meant that.”
“Vicky,” Miss Dunning pleaded but was interrupted by a knock on Miss Dunning’s open classroom door. Mr. Johnson, a sixth-grade science teacher from down the hall, stood in the doorway studying a piece of paper. He was dressed in his trademark corduroy pants, white button-up shirt, and red bow tie, but his white beard and balding head gained him the nickname of, “Science Santa.” He peered up to speak but was startled to see a student still in Miss Dunning’s class. His expression showed no sign that he had heard any of their conversations, but it did show remorse.
“Oh,” he said, “sorry about that.” He held up the piece of paper and was about to ask a question of his own, but noticed the obvious importance of whatever they were discussing in Miss Dunning’s expression. “I can come back later,” he announced.
“Please don’t!” Vicky screamed, causing both Miss Dunning and Mr. Johnson to jump in shock. Miss Dunning, hand to her heart, yet again, turned to calm her student. She immediately froze when she saw Vicky with her mouth wide open and her sunglasses in her hand.
“No way,” Vicky quietly said. She was bouncing her gaze back and forth between Miss Dunning and Mr. Johnson. Her astonished expression revealed to Miss Dunning that Vicky was not only telling the truth about her ghostly gift but that she also knew about her secret relationship with Mr. Johnson. Vicky finally fixed her eyes on Miss Dunning and spoke.
“Your dating Science Santa?” Her words were both a declaration and a question, a natural mixture that comes from an eleven-year-old who has discovered a secret concerning her teachers. She gazed at Mr. Johnson and giggled. “You’re her Secret Santa.” Mr. Johnson was horrified.
“You told a student?” His face became very red as held his breath, waiting for Miss Dunning to answer. Vicky turned to see Miss Dunning’s reaction but was met only with the gaze of someone that she knew truly believed her. Miss Dunning snapped out of her state and cleared her throat but she never took her eyes off of Vicky.
“No Stan, I didn’t. She figured it out all on her own.”
“Now what?” Mr. Johnson asked. He looked down at Vicky and asked a question that he wasn’t sure he wanted answered. “Have you told anyone else about this?” Miss Dunning noticed Vicky turn her head slightly, as if embarrassed, and put her sunglasses back on.
“No sir,” she answered. “I… I really just now figured it out.” Mr. Johnson gave a sigh of relief and returned his gaze back to Miss Dunning. “Now what?” He asked again.
Miss Dunning’s manner appeared to change instantly. She no longer carried any signs of worry across her face. She made it very obvious to Vicky who was in charge of her and Mr. Johnson’s relationship as she spoke. “Oh Stan,” she began, reassuringly, “it was going to come out some time or another.” She turned, eyebrows raised and surveyed Vicky. “Students nowadays are more gifted at seeing these things then we were at their age.” She enunciated the word, “gifted” in a way that solidified her understanding to Vicky. “Why don’t you head on back to your room and let me and Miss Hemingway talk for a little while longer.” He didn’t budge. “Go on,” she said walking towards him. “It will be alright, and I’ll be down there as soon as we’re through.”
“Okay,” he finally conceded. He glanced at Vicky, gave another sigh, and turned to walk back to his classroom. Miss Dunning closed the door and turned to face Vicky.
“What did you see?” she asked with anticipation growing in her eyes. Vicky frowned and turned away.
“I don’t think it’s right for me to say.” Miss Dunning blushed.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, slightly embarrassed at the thought of what Vicky had witnessed between her and Mr. Johnson’s ghosts. “Now I see why you wear those sunglasses.”
“I can’t believe you believe me,” Vicky said. Her body slouched as if resting from finally releasing a weight she had been carrying.
“I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I do.” Miss Dunning smiled. “This is like a dream come true. I feel like a character in one of my fantasy novels. What else do you know?”
“Too much,” Vicky said quickly, eager to talk. “I know enough that I don’t hang around with the people that I used to think were my best friends.” She began to talk faster. “I know that most people who say they’re happy to see you really aren’t. I know my mom is always scared, that my neighbor’s a drug addict, that all guys are perverts…”
“You know everything,” Miss Dunning interrupted.
“Yeah,” Vicky agreed. “Yay me,“ Vicky deadpanned.
“Who would have thought that knowing everything could be such a curse.”
“What do I do now?” Vicky asked.
“I don’t know,” Miss Dunning answered. “You certainly can’t live the rest of your life hiding behind a pair of cheap sunglasses, can you?”
“Maybe I can,” Vicky proposed.
“Maybe you could,” Miss Dunning agreed. “It’s just… it’s just that… it’s just that it’s crazy for you to have something like this and it be so devastating for you. There has to be a reason you have this.”
“All this does is tell me the truth about everyone,” Vicky relented, “and I found out that I’d rather not know.” Miss Dunning frowned at Vicky’s lament. She couldn’t help but hear the negativity in her words, and she couldn’t help but agree. She quickly shook her head.
“No,” she firmly stated. “I won’t accept that. I can’t accept that! There’s a reason you have this and we are going to figure it out.” She began to pace, an action all of her students knew she did when she was trying to concentrate. “I just have to think about this from my own personal perspective.” She stopped and closed her eyes “I mean, what would I do if I had this ability?” She quickly opened her eyes and blinked rapidly. “No that’s not the right way to ask that question.”
“What do you mean,” Vicky asked.
“Sometimes,” Miss Dunning explained, “The answer to the question is found in how you ask the question itself.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Dunning,” Vicky apologized, “but I still don’t understand what you mean.”
“What I mean… ”Miss Dunning said, her face beginning to shine as if she just had a revelation. “What I mean is that I’m phrasing it all wrong.” She stared up into the empty space between Vicky and the ceiling as if all of heaven was forming before her. “We’re looking at it all wrong. It’s not about the ability. This isn’t an ability that you have. This is a power. The question is, ‘what would I do if I had this power?’”