The freckle-faced little girl with red hair and ponytails fidgeted nervously, squirming in the hard wooden chair. One sock lower than the other, a grazed knee and a telltale smudge of chocolate on the side of her mouth.
"I’m very disappointed in you,” the headmistress said, sternly. “You seem to be getting into lots of strife recently.’" The little girl stared defiantly back, a steely glint in her pale green eyes. "It wasn't my fault, Miss."
The headmistress glanced down at her notes. What was it about girls these days? So cocky and self-assured. Not like in her day. "Well, Julia, Kevin says you stole his chocolate crackles."
Under the chair, Julia clenched her fists tightly. So that's what this was all about. Yet again! Mr Smarty Pants himself! Kevin-bloody-goody-two-shoes. Just wait till she ambushed him on the way home. She’d punch him so hard he’d blub all the way back to his stupid cane farm.
Julia swallowed. She could still taste the yummy, chocolaty, crackly taste in her mouth. She forced herself not to smile. She’d trained herself to never show emotion, no matter how much trouble she got into. “I don’t even know what chocolate crackles are, Miss. I’ve never even heard of them.”
The headmistress shook her head wearily. “Well, Kevin’s not a very happy little vegemite today. Did you know he brought them in specially for the whole class?"
“That’s coz he’s a crawler, Miss.”
“Just answer the question, Julia.”
“Miss, I've just given the best answer I can to your question.” The headmistress sighed. “My question was simply whether or not you knew…”
“I heard your question and I've answered it,” said the young girl, folding her arms defiantly across her chest. “You have not answered the question,” snapped the headmistress. “Don’t make me go and fetch Mr. Slipper!”
“Well, I've given you the answer I'm going to give you.”
The headmistress muttered under her breath. Kids! She glanced back down at her notes. “And what about that dust up on Australia Day outside the tuckshop? Kim says you made her go and tell the indigenous kids that Tony said they should all get lost, which wasn't true. And then you told Kim to tell them where Tony was sitting during lunch break so they’d go and bash him up.”
Julia glowered, her thin lips sealed tightly together. If there was one thing she’d learned in this place it was to never own up to anything. "Kim’s a dobber. And I’ve never met her anyway."
"I'm sure I've seen you two together in the playground," replied the headmistress tentatively. “Often.”
"Lots of girls hang around me all the time, Miss. Doesn't mean I know who they are, does it?" the seven-year old said, triumphantly. She prided herself on her ability to think on her feet. That's how she’d stayed top girl in the playground for so long. “And what about your science project?" sighed the headmistress. "Before the holidays you promised everybody you wouldn't do a carbon tax this term but then on the first day back that’s exactly what you did!” Julia felt a tingle of perspiration on her top lip. She quickly licked it away with a flick of her tongue. As she did so, she again tasted the tantalizing chocolate taste still lingering all down the side of her mouth. She quickly rubbed it away with her fist, hoping the headmistress hadn’t noticed. "I've dealt with that question on numerous times before, Miss. I had to save the planet."
“I see. But there does seem to be a bit of a pattern here. Bobby Brown says you promised you'd look after the trees in his backyard but then you went and chopped them down. That nice Wilkie boy says you broke your promise to him that you’d help him stop the other kids playing marbles so often. On top of that, Nurse said you promised the private school kiddies they could keep their pocket money rebates but now you’ve said they have to give it all to you.” The headmistress stared at her sullen pupil, hoping to see some signs of contrition.
“Yes but I’ve already told you! Everything is Tony’s fault. He keeps picking on me!” The headmistress took a deep breath, wondering what on earth would become of this young thing. It was time to try another tack. “Well, let’s just see if we can do better from now on, shall we? Think you can be a good girl and always tell the truth from now on?”
The young girl smiled sweetly. “Of course I will, Miss.”
“Promise?” said the headmistress.