Staff Room Gossip and Machinations

by Dawn Steele
Copyright 1998

Okay. So I just watched Becoming, and I'm depressed.

So it's fight back time (partially). Just a piece of fluff that hasn't even been beta-tested.

Papers littered the collection of wooden desks shoved together in the middle of the room. Red, green and purple pens were everywhere, and the eternally refilled coffee pot was going another round about the room.

It was exam marking time. It was teacher conference time... It was gossip time.

"What's the latest word on the Summers kid?" Mr. Reynolds asked. Deep lines crossed his forehead, and he tapped a red pen absently against his ear. He crumpled the edges of the exam he was holding thoughtfully.

Ms. Gomez looked up from her Biology exams. "Isn't she the one who killed that girl in the library last week? I was supposed to get her in the fall for Earth Science."

"Here..." Mrs. Mack walked up to the desks, and held out the coffee pot. "More?" At their nods, she filled their half-empty cups with more of the black sludge. "You're not talking about Buffy Summers again, are you Jack?"

Jack Reynolds tossed the paper on the desk and smiled sheepishly. "I've got her math final right here. And besides -- why should I stop now? We've talked about her all year. She stares at the walls during classes, gets into fights, hardly pays attention in class, squeaks through...."

Mrs. Mack settled heavily into her chair and picked up her favourite green pen. "Squeaking through when she hardly pays attention? The girl must have brains if she's doing that." She sighed heavily. "Likely problems at home or in her social life."

Ms. Gomez picked up her coffee mug and took a deep breath. "Last fall, one night when I was staying late, I saw her smooching it up with this tall, nice-looking guy. Didn't recognize him though." She looked inquiringly at the other two teachers. "You see her with anyone else? Maybe he's treating her bad."

"Never noticed any bruises, or stuff... well -- any more than anyone could get it this building. It's a deathtrap. I wish I could get a job somewhere else...." Mr. Reynolds picked up Buffy's final and started absently putting red marks all over it.

"Hmph!" Mrs. Mack stared at him for a minute disapprovingly, and then silently started marking again.

"I don't even know why I'm bothering!" He threw down the final. "She's skipped town, and Snyder's shoving the expulsion papers through as fast as he can get his buddies in the board office to look the other way."

Mrs. Mack reached out one long, cotton-swathed arm and handed him the exam back. "You'll mark it, and you'll put the grade in her permanent records. And you'll do it not only because it's the right thing to do, and not only because Buffy Summers is only seventeen years old and her life is screwed up enough without having to take your math class over again just because you're lazy.... No. You're going to do it because by dear boy -- our little dictator in the head office won't succeed."

"Huh?" Ms. Gomez ran her hand through her long black hair. This was getting far more interesting than trying to interpret student representions of pine tree life cycles. "Give. What's your hubby in the police office been telling you."

"Just that they're not pressing charges, and they've dropped everything but the missing persons report her mother's got out. Her friends, and our own Mr. Rupert Giles, backed her up with a story of a gang coming in to wreck a little havoc. Plus a little matter of some forensic evidence."

"Yeah? Well, she didn't even bother to finish my exam after that crazy woman came in and spontaneously combusted." Mr. Reynolds red pen had stopped. It was black pen time as he started counting up the numbers on the pages. "She may or may not come back, but she got a 46 per cent on the exam. That..." He consulted his red teacher's book, flipping to the evaluation record sheet, "gives her a 48 overall. Looks like she's repeating."

"Jack..." Mrs. Mack's voice had lowered, catching his attention.


"Use your personal discretion my dear boy. There's always the "class mark" to play with." She smiled, showing the sharp gold tooth that made her famous among the students, and the demeanor that had stood her safely through decades of teaching at Sunnydale High. "Think of your duty to our dear Buffy Summers, and remember what it was like to have her in your class. The incidents, the calls from the principle's office, and the stress you probably gave her by having you peer down her shirt every day."


"Think about it." Mrs. Mack turned her gaze away, and started marking her paper again. "I know you'll make the right decision."

Ms. Gomez edged her chair a fraction away from Mrs. Mack, and started marking again. Maybe she would have Buffy Summers in her class in the fall, or maybe not. She did know that she was never going to get on Mrs. Mack's bad side. Life in this high school was dangerous enough. No one knew when Mrs. Mack had started teaching at the high school, and she never, ever talked about retiring.

Word had it that she was even related to the mayor.


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