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Amber gave one last, wary look behind her before she slipped into the staff toilet. She never failed to be amazed by how much cleaner they were than those the students had to use. She couldn’t tell if the teachers were lucky enough to have their bathrooms cleaned daily, or if her fellow pupils were just scummy bastards. It was probably the latter.

She entered a stall and marvelled at the lack of stomach-churning brown smears on the walls. There wasn’t even a hint of graffiti. She felt an inexplicable urge to change that and almost reached into her bag to retrieve a pen and write a tiny “Fuck U” above the toilet roll dispenser, but thought better of it. If the teachers found graffiti in their pristine bathrooms, they’d amp up security. And she needed to be able to pee in peace – and cleanliness – at least once a day.

She dropped her bag on the floor, safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t accidentally soak up rogue urine – or something more sinister – like it would in the student bathrooms. She settled down on the toilet and breathed a sigh of relief. She’d needed to pee the entire third period, and Miss fucking Horton wouldn’t let her go, no matter how much she mouthed off at her. She wouldn’t even send her out when she dropped the C word, something which usually guaranteed a free pass to wander the halls. Until a teacher picked her up and put her in isolation, of course.

Bladder empty, she flushed and wriggled back into her trousers. As she reached for the lock, she heard the main door open and tensed. She’d have to wait for whoever it was to enter a stall before she could leave unseen.

But they didn’t. She heard enough footsteps to know that the person had approached the sink, but that was all. She began to panic that someone had followed her and was waiting to catch her out of bounds. She wondered which teacher she’d have the pleasure of being scolded by.

Then she heard sobs.

They were muffled, as though the person responsible for them was trying to hold them back, or trying to avoid being heard. Amber rolled her eyes. The last thing she needed was to witness a teacher turning on the waterworks. It was always awkward when teachers appeared human.

But she couldn’t stay there forever. The bell would ring for fourth period any minute, and if she was marked late for another class she’d be destined for detention. And who knew how long the pathetic teacher would stand around crying for?

Amber squared up and applied her best “fuck you” face. A crying teacher would probably feel too vulnerable to call her out for sneaking into the staff toilets. She may as well just be brazen about it. She slung her bag on her shoulder, unlocked the door and faced the crier head on.

It was Miss Horton. Her face was red and splotchy and her mascara had blended with her tears to draw pale grey lines down her cheeks. Amber dropped her eyes to the floor and approached a sink to wash her hands.

Miss Horton came over in a fresh wave of sobs and her attempts at silencing them only made her sniffle all the more.

“You alright, miss?” Amber asked quietly as she rinsed soap suds from her hands. It was nice to have soap – the soap dispensers in the student toilets always ran dry.

Miss Horton simply shook her head in response. Then she took a deep breath and found enough anger to compose herself.

“It grinds you down spending hour after hour with a class full of 35 kids who don’t give a shit. Class sizes are too big. There’s not enough teachers to go round. We try our best. But sometimes being called a cunt is enough to send you over the edge.”

Amber nodded. It was the best apology she could muster. She dried her hands on her trousers as she left, and resigned herself to peeing in filth.

This short story was inspired by a prompt from 642 Things To Write About.

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