Janet Philo

Parents’ Evening

The skirt was heather tweed. Smart and practical for school. It fit me then; the hips were straighter. It rustled when I walked. I liked that – it felt a bit posh when you rustled. The rustle was so loud, I didn’t hear him behind me. His gaze was hot on my back.

I’d shown him the bite marks. The bruises were under thick tights – not for showing. I wondered about human saliva – isn’t it poisonous when it enters a wound? I told him about the boy; autism still controlled his flailing arms, and kicking feet. He was young. I would guide him towards an understanding of the rules. Eventually.

The tall grey man smiled; sovereignty spread across his face, like jam – too thick.  He could help – he said.

A pair of eyes, in a seven year old face, screamed for help. The corner of a wooden building block hovered above her skull. It was my job to shield skulls from bricks, shins from shoes, and arms from teeth. I wrapped my adult arms around this small, hot ball of energy; he was a power-surge; a circuit working on a different set of switches.

Later, parents waited outside. The door would open at seven o’clock. My professional mask hung, freshly ironed, on the back of the classroom door. Fingers wrapped a mug of tea. It warmed the teeth marks; a reddening landscape, rippling across the back of my hand. I accepted the thought of infection. No help was coming.

Six fifty five. The door opened. I was putting on the mask – still vulnerable. I stood up as he came in, made room for his authority. He took my vacant space. My chair had wheels – he moved easily towards me. The movement of his arms was quick, strong and unexpected. I questioned reality, or my understanding of it. We were somewhere else now.

His lap was soft and warm – I didn’t stay long enough to feel it harden. His arms were hard enough. I had no breath left; he had squeezed it out of me.

“That’s how you restrain them – you don’t need to go on a course – no money in the budget.”

It was the cold eyes I hated most. He never spoke to me again.