Lies We Tell Ourselves: Shortlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal
Жанр: Детская литература
Год издания: 2018 год
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“If we separate they’ll only split up and follow us all,” I whisper.
I wonder if Mr. Lewis knew this would happen. If that’s why he kept us late. I want to trust him, but it’s hard to trust anyone in this place.
“What’re you doin’ here, niggers?” one of the boys says. “You know you don’t belong in our school.”
“It’s our school, too,” Chuck says. “So what are you doing here?”
That sets the boys off. Two of them run at Chuck.
“Hey!” comes a loud voice behind us. Mr. Lewis. The boys stop in their tracks. “What’s this about?”
“That one started it,” one of the boys says, pointing at Chuck.
“He didn’t,” I say. “He wasn’t doing anything, he—”
Mr. Lewis raises his eyebrows at me. “Young lady, I think you and Mr. Mack had better get to class. Charles, Bo, Eddie, come with me.”
Ennis takes my arm and pulls me away before I can finish.
“What will happen to Chuck?” I whisper when we’re far enough away. Behind us Mr. Lewis is leading Chuck and the two white boys who charged him toward the front office.
“Probably nothing,” Ennis says. “That teacher got there before anything happened. He’ll get a lecture, that’s all.”
“Will anything happen to the white boys?”
We’re walking up an empty staircase. Ennis is looking around in every direction, and I remember I’m supposed to do the same thing. We have to be extra alert in the stairwells. In Little Rock that’s where they set off the firecrackers.
“Keep an eye out for Ruth, will you?” I ask Ennis. “If you see her in the halls, make sure she’s all right?”
Ennis leaves me at my classroom door, walking as fast as he can down the hall. I hope he doesn’t run into any other white boys.
I hadn’t thought much about Ennis before this morning. Chuck was in my group of friends back at Johns, but Ennis mostly kept to himself. After the way he helped Ruth in the parking lot, though, I’m going to be watching out for him, too.
The door to room 218 is closed. I’m scared to push it open, but if I don’t I’ll get a tardy slip. So I take a long breath, say a quick prayer and open the door.
Inside the room it’s dead silent. Then, as one, twenty heads jerk up. Twenty white faces gaze up at me. The door latches closed behind me like a gunshot.
I want to drop my eyes. Instead I look out into the sea of faces. Every one is looking back at me.
First come the stares.
Next, the pointing and the whispers.
Last, and most frightening, are the grins.
Lie #3 (#)
ALL THE GRINNERS are boys. They’re looking at me as if it’s Christmas morning and I’m the biggest present under the tree.
My legs are so weak I’m sure they’ll give way. I’ll wind up sprawled out across the floor on my backside while the white people laugh.
I keep my chin up as I move toward an empty seat in the front row.
“Who are you?” a woman asks. She’s tall, with gray-streaked hair, a sour look on her face and a stack of textbooks in her arms. She was the other teacher handing out schedules in the auditorium. Mrs. Gruber.
We have to be polite to the teachers, no matter what. We can’t do anything they could discipline us for. Especially not today.
That’s easy for me. I’m always polite to adults. I don’t know how to be any other way.
“My name is Sarah Dunbar, ma’am. My schedule says room 218.”
Mrs. Gruber dumps the stack of books on an empty desk and snatches my schedule out of my hand. She frowns at it. “Did you write this yourself? How do I know you’re supposed to be here?”
After Mr. Lewis, I’d thought the teachers might be nice to us. I should’ve known better. Mr. Lewis is just one white man. This school has plenty more.
“No, ma’am, I didn’t write it,” I say. “Mr. Lewis gave it to me. He said the office had to write out our schedules by hand at the last minute.”
Mrs. Gruber gives the paper back to me. “That doesn’t give you an excuse to take until the last minute yourself. Maybe at your school students can show up for class whenever they please, but at Jefferson you get detention when you’re tardy.”
I bite my lip. Mama and Daddy will be so disappointed in me. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mrs. Gruber writes out a detention slip and thrusts it at me. “Take a seat.”
I go to the empty desk in the middle of the front row and put down my books. Before I can sit down, the white girl at the desk next to mine bolts out of her chair.
She’s moving so fast I don’t recognize her at first. She sweeps up her books and her coat and glides to an empty seat on the far side of the room. Her hips swing under her pleated skirt and her lips curl in a smile. Everyone is watching her. And she knows it.
It’s the red-haired girl from the auditorium. With the smattering of freckles across her nose and the bright look in her blue eyes.
She’s even prettier up close. Except for the hateful look on her face.
Her frizzy-haired friend is in the seat right behind mine. She has a heavy layer of makeup on one side of her face and a stricken look in her eyes.
Only when the boy in the seat on the other side of mine gets up to join the red-haired girl do I understand what’s going on.
Everyone sitting within two desks of mine is gone in seconds, scurrying to find other seats. Soon there aren’t any empty desks left except the ones near me. The extra white students perch on the radiator at the back.
Mrs. Gruber studies a pile of papers on her desk. To look at her, you’d never know students were running around as though the classroom were under siege.
The seat behind mine is the only one near me that’s still occupied. Everyone looks at the frizzy-haired girl.
The girl looks fast from side to side. She meets my eyes for a second. Then she cups her hand over her made-up cheek. The red-haired girl whispers, “Judy, come on.”
The frizzy-haired girl, Judy, jumps out of her seat, dropping her books in her haste. A few boys laugh as she kneels to gather them up. She goes to the back of the room and sits on the radiator with the others.
I keep my chin high. At least this way I won’t have to worry about anyone drilling pencils into my back.
Mrs. Gruber passes out our textbooks as though nothing happened, dropping mine onto my desk with a thud. She’s turning toward the blackboard when the door swings open.
Every head in the room jerks up again, mine included.
I should be glad to see Chuck standing there. Instead I wish he’d turn around and walk right back out. I don’t want to watch it happen all over again.
“What now?” Mrs. Gruber slams a textbook down.
“I’m sorry I’m late, ma’am,” Chuck says in his most polite teacher voice. “I’m Charles Tapscott. I was talking to Mr. Lewis in the office about—”
“Sit down.” Mrs. Gruber sighs and writes out another detention slip.
Chuck takes the empty seat next to me. Two boys sitting near him get up and join the others in the back of the room.
Chuck doesn’t ignore it the way I did, though. He turns to watch them walk away, his mouth open in an O.
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