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at least hold my hand while you drag me through hell

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The atmosphere in the restaurant set Yasmin Khan at ease straight away. She can’t remember the names of the people she’s sitting with even though she’s sure she’ll learn them quickly soon considering they’re her new co-workers. Thanks to her old school mate Ryan Sinclair, who also works at the school, she knew about the job opening before anyone else and got in first. Now she’s here, watching everyone getting a little bit too drunk considering it’s the first day of term tomorrow, listening to them laugh and joke and try to include her as much as possible. They’re sweet people and Yaz can see herself getting along with them, it’s just that a nice meal out isn’t going to make bonds happen straight away.

Danny Pink, the head of the department and the only name Yaz can remember, stands and taps his beer bottle with the spoon he’ll soon use to eat the ice cream he’s ordered.

“Alright, okay everyone. A toast to another year of ‘sir, I’ve forgotten my kit’ and ‘can all three of my friends come to the toilet with me and disappear for half an hour’.” There’s a rumble of laughter at the relatability of his examples; Yaz joining in too as all students, no matter the school, all have the same excuses. “And an extra wish of good luck to Yaz Khan who is starting with us, especially as she’s holding form time in Doctor Smith’s lab.” 

A louder more exclusive round of laughing breaks out that yaz can’t relate to. She pushes down her flush of embarrassment. 

“Should I know something about this?” Yaz says, managing to keep her voice steadier than she feels.

“Now that you’re officially part of the PE department you hate the science department with a vengeance.” Danny informs her.

“Why?” Yaz smiles, still trying to tame her confusion.

“Just an age old tradition. They don’t like us, we don’t like them.”

“They’re annoying and arrogant.” The plump brunette with age lines all around her mouth chimes in. 

“And you have your tutor group in the most frustrating scientists lab.” The six foot black haired man adds, chuckling into his gin and tonic, making Yaz’s heart rate increase. What the hell is she in for?

“Stop, you’re gonna scare her off.” The man sitting next to Yaz with long blonde hair that smells of strong deodorant and seasalt attempts to make his co-workers calm down. “She’s not that bad, love. You just have to get used to her.”

“Science department apologist!” Danny points at him accusingly.

“Ooooooo!” 

 

Driving home, Yaz is thinking through everything she’s been told tonight. Specifically about Doctor Smith. By the time she pulls up to her house she’s almost convinced herself that they’re just setting her up to think working with her is going to be horrible. Kind of like a reverse psychology in that it’s not going to be as bad as she thinks and therefore she’ll be more relaxed. However there’s still a five percent chance in her mind that this character her whole department has something to say about is going to make her life difficult. 

Entering her semi-detached house Yaz doesn’t bother flicking any lights on since she knows the path to the kitchen so well. She’s been living here since term ended for summer at her last school, having moved straight away out of the city and into the countryside. It’s the furthest she’s ever moved away from home but she’s old enough now not to need the comforts of home close at hand; be it friends, family, or her favourite Chinese take out place. Thanks to her swift move she’s settled comfortably by now and can navigate her way to the cold bottle of water in the fridge waiting for her. She pours a glass, then heads up to bed. 

Tucking herself into her covers, Yaz reaches for her phone to set her alarm for tomorrow since all staff are due early to receive a quick meeting before the students arrive. On her lit up screen she notices a good luck text from her dad and strangely from Ryan. Ignoring her dad’s words of encouragement for the moment she presses on Ryan’s text of well wishes, saying he’s looking forward to seeing her tomorrow and Yaz gets an idea. 

‘Thanks mate. Is there anything you can tell me about Doctor Smith?’ Yaz types and sends. Within moments the three little dots telling her he’s typing back appear in the corner. 

‘Bit weird tbh. Don’t call her Jessica or Miss Smith; she'll only take Doctor or Doctor Smith. I don’t really talk to her to be honest.’

Yaz frowns, unsatisfied with the information she’s been given. ‘Is that it??’

‘It’s hard to describe her. You’ll see. Her brother’s better to get along with if I’m honest.” Ryan tells her. Before Yaz can ask what his significance is, Ryan adds another part to his text. “It’s easier if I just show you tomorrow. Meet me outside the school hall at 7:15.’

Yaz acknowledges the plan with a thumbs up and throws her phone onto her bedside table, urging herself to get some sleep in preparation for whatever tomorrow throws at her.


The next morning Yaz rises a little earlier than she normally would to read over all the first day documents that have been emailed to her personal account. She’s more or less completely prepared for today in theory, but put a prepared adult in a classroom full of teens, or in her case a gym hall, and any plan will soon have to be altered or thrown out the window altogether. However, the structure of the day should remain and that’s enough of a guideline for Yaz. 

She gets herself some breakfast- a healthy bowl of fruit with porridge- brushes her teeth, washes her face and then gets dressed into her new uniform of a branded grey polo shirt and black leggings. Looking at herself in her mirror Yaz thinks for a moment she might just look like one of the students. Especially with her hair in plaited pigtails. It’s significant moments like this when she wishes she lived with someone. Whether it be her sister, her parents, a lover, a partner or just a cat or a dog. Hell, maybe even just a goldfish. Any of them would be nice. Just someone to talk to. Someone to tell her she suits her new work clothes or to wish her luck in person, not over text.

Catching herself yearing into the mirror, Yaz moves on to running over again and again how this new school works. Each school runs differently but something tells Yaz before she’s even started that this is going to be special. It seems too relaxed, which can easily be a gateway to chaos, although the headteacher has been then for ten years so there must be some kind of control. She knows the timings of the days, she knows how they’re going to differ today and she’s just about to refresh on how her department works when her alarm goes off telling her it’s time to leave the house. 

There’s another wave of Yaz wanting someone behind her just to say ‘see you later love’ or ‘I’ll have dinner ready for when you come home’. She pushes past it, telling herself she’s fine on her own, locks the front door behind her and heads off on the fifteen minute drive to work.

She’s been to the school before, many times for different interviews, introductions and a department bonding day, so it’s easy for her to find the school hall, especially with Ryan waiting outside the doors for her. 

“Good to see you Miss Khan.” He grins that grin that Yaz remembers from way back when. He hasn’t changed at all.

“How long has it been?” Yaz smiles back at him, genuinely pleased to see a familiar face. 

“Since we physically last saw each other at primary? About twenty years.” Ryan does the quick maths and suddenly Yaz feels very old. “Ready for your Mean Girls style introduction to notable staff members?”

“You watch mean girls enough to make a reference?” Yaz smirks.

“It’s an iconic film Yaz, don’t lower yourself.” Ryan shakes his head at her, tricking her smirk into a proper smile.

He pushes the glass door open for her but they don’t move into the room much. There are rows of chairs but despite almost every person on the payroll being here not many people are sitting down. Instead there’s hundreds of conversations going on about how everyone’s summers were, how their own kids are and so on and so on. There’s a bubbling sensation to the feeling in the air, like Yaz has stepped into a family reunion. Now it’s just a matter of Ryan pointing out who the strange uncles, cool cousins and the rich lesbian aunts are.

“Doctor Smith is that one there.” Ryan whispers and points to a woman about an inch taller than she is on the other side of the room. 

Even from this far away Yaz can sense she has a certain auror about her. The blonde bob with roots on show, the boots with socks sticking up out the top, the blue trousers, the top with the colourful stripes across it, and her smile spread across her face as she talks to a taller spikey haired man wearing converse and a brown pinstripe suit with a shorter brunette woman. Overall, she looks like a very nice person and Yaz has to wonder why she’s heard such bad things about her.

“Who’s she with?” Yaz asks.

“That’s her older brother John, he’s head of English, and the woman is English teacher Clara Oswald and she is dating…” His finger rolls in circles as he moves his arm to point at Danny Pink. “...your boss.”

“So coworker relationships are on the table.” Yaz whispers. She’s not intending to look for a relationship but it’s good to know what’s going on.

“I mean, they’re common here but she doesn’t really care. She scares me.” Ryan says in reference to head teacher Donna Noble standing at the front chatting to her head leadership team. “Not as much as he scares me though.”

“Who?” 

“The short guy standing next to her with black hair and a beard? Deputy head Omar Retsam. He tries it on with every new teacher that comes here so you’ll meet him soon enough.”

“Gross.” Yaz feels every part of her body recoil.

“We’ve tried to get rid of him but Donna won’t allow it for some reason. Oh and while we’re talking about people to look out for...” Ryan points at the group of women and men at the back to the left of them. “See the blonde one?”

“Yeah.” Yaz identifies her within the crowd. The way they’re all dressed, it looks like they’re part of the canteen team.

“That’s Rose, one of the dinner ladies, she’s the one you want to go for because she gives you extra food if you’re polite to her. She’s also dating Mr Smith. However, Bill, the woman next to her, if she doesn’t like you she’ll give you the shit food.”

“There’s really a whole system to this isn’t there.” Yaz says, amused at how this staff body works. She’s never seen anything like it. 

“Yaz!” Danny spots her from where he’s standing a few rows ahead of where they’re standing and signals her to come over. 

“Your department calls you.” Ryan says, setting her free. “I’ll meet you for lunch, yeah? Unless you have plans.”

Yaz agrees to lunch and walks over to when the rest of the staff from her department are settled together in a cluster. The whole time she’s walking down the middle split between the sections of seats there’s an astonishing feeling following her every step. She could easily blame it on the fact she’s a new and an unfamiliar face bound to attract attention but the feeling burns her skin refusing to leave her alone. Succumbing to the feeling Yaz looks around, her eyes immediately locking on to Doctor Smith who is unashamedly staring at her. A little creeped out, Yaz turns back to her own department and tries to ignore the fact she’s being watched.

“First lesson, we always sit this side during staff meetings because it’s the furthest away from science who sit over there to get away from us.” 

“It’s a proper serious feud you’ve got huh?” Yaz smiles at how ridiculous it is.

“We, Yaz, we have a proper serious feud with them.” Danny corrects her, reminding her that she belongs with them now. “What were you talking to Mr I.T support for?”

“I know him from school.” Yaz says. Danny makes a face of acceptance but doesn’t get a chance to say anything else with Miss Noble taking the stage.

“Okay let’s get started please!” The ginger woman speaks with a smile and waits to make sure everyone is either sat or have found a place around the perimeter of the wall to stand. Yaz opens her notepad along with everyone else to take notes. The act in itself- seeing the indentation of her pen from old notes she made at her last place- reminds her that this isn’t her first rodeo and gives her a burst of confidence. “Welcome back for another year. I hope you all had a good summer.”

“You too Donna!” A man’s voice shouts out from the crowd.

“Thank you Mr Smith, cheerful as always- anyway! You’ll notice a few new faces among you and I’d introduce you all but we already did that bollocks before we broke up for summer.” Donna cracks a joke and everyone laughs. Yaz can’t help but feel that she’s being included in a very specific kind of group. “This year we’ve got lots of events to look forward to. World Book Day, Halloween, new menus in the canteen and of course the event of the year, the Science versus Physical Education football match just after Christmas.” 

The science department on the other side of the room immediately burst into cheering, whooping and throwing their firsts in the air, drawing Yaz’s head around to look at them gloating like there’s no tomorrow. Staff around them laugh and some of the people around Yaz stick up some rude finger gestures in support of the PE department. Yaz feels a little stupid not realising that it’s only a friendly, joky kind of feud. Of course they don’t really hate each other and it must make working here fun, even for the spectating departments.

“They won last year.” Danny tells her over the noise.

“Yes, yes, alright we get it, you hate each other.” Donna says to calm down the rest of the staff. “Back to the present, form time activities will be emailed out the first day of every half term so they should be in your inboxes now along with the rota for break and lunch duties and the passcodes for the gates around the school. New staff, please at the end of this come up and collect your lanyards and sign for the keys to your teaching rooms. There’s going to be a fire drill in three weeks time, if anyone needs refreshing on the procedures there will be…”

Yaz listens carefully to the more serious parts of the head teachers speech, jotting down notes and important things to remember. Starting a new job always has it’s balance of excitement and nerves but as the assembly goes on, Yaz is losing confidence in herself. She can still feel her. Looking. Her eyes boring into the back of her head rather than listening to their boss. Or maybe Yaz is imagining it, she doesn’t know, she doesn’t want to turn around and make eye contact again when they haven’t even met yet. Yaz holds her ground waiting for the meeting to finally finish and collect her keys from the old Scottish janitor.

“Here’s your school ID, please wear it around your neck as much as possible and you have keys to… girls changing rooms, boys changing rooms, sports hall, PE department safe, PE department office, gym, front gates, back gates, sports equipments sheds one, two, three, four and five and- ooh! L13. That should be fun. Anyway, last of all here’s your computer login and password. If you can just sign there Miss Khan.” He says.

Yaz does as she’s told and signs to say she has a key for each of the rooms listed with the Scottish man attaching the keys to her school branded lanyard. She’s not sure which one belongs to which door yet but she reckons she’ll soon figure it out. It’s a considerable weight once it’s resting on her shoulders and she’ll probably decide to clip it to her pocket or her coat or any other of the many clothing items the school has provided for her. 

She strolls over to the science block expecting all of the teachers to be ready to shoot her down the second they see she’s from PE but all she’s greeted with is friendly smiles and a couple of ‘hello’s. It adds a certain confident spring to her step, making her believe whatever happens today or in the next few first weeks she’ll have people behind her to help.

The door to L13 looks older and battered compared to every other door down the corridor. All the others look new and made out of heavy materials and have a plain wood finish whereas the one Yaz is standing in front of now is dark blue, the old school uniform colour, and battered beyond belief. Yaz begins to analyse her crowded keyring, searching for the one that looks like it might fit this lock. 

“It’s this one.” Another northern accent is heavy in her ear along with the close presence at her side. Looking up at the body holding the key Yaz realises Doctor Smith smells of chemicals, copper and fire all at once- each hint of scent hitting Yaz’s nostrils in waves before merging into one. Yaz finds it strangely intoxicating along with how her eyes are both green and brown at the same time. “You’ve got to lift the handle at the same time you turn it.” 

“T-thanks.” Yaz stutters out a smile. Even if her reputation is correct and she is a bit of a bitch Yaz knows she won’t tire from looking at her.

The room is bigger than Yaz thought it would be and somehow smells cleaner than the scientist herself. There’s seats for thirty or so students. Each four tables have a sink and a gas tap in the middle of them for experiments and such that Yaz was never the best at when she was at school. By the side of the door stands a cabinet full of trays labeled ‘safety goggles’, ‘bunsens’, ‘rulers’, ‘paper’ and more. The back wall is made up of two giant pin boards above a counter similar to the desks, covered in informative posters made by students and question answering advice, plus a small section cordoned off and blank with the old tutor group initials on. Yaz will replace them with YKH as soon as possible, claiming her part of the room that very much at the moment looks like it belongs to Doctor Smith and only Doctor Smith.

“You were looking at me. During the meeting.” Yaz brings up the first thing on her mind to get Doctor Smith to talk to her again rather than investigate the way the cleaners have left her room.

“Yeah, I thought it was you. Miss Khan, right?” Doctor Smith doesn’t exactly address the fact she was being a bit creepy but it’s nice to know she already knows who Yaz is. 

“Please, you can call me Yaz.” Yaz smiles politely, rounding the desk at the front to check her login work.

Doctor Smith comes over and holds out her hand for Yaz to shake. Yaz takes it, not wanting to be impolite. “I’m the Doctor- Doctor Smith.”

“I’ve been told. No first names allowed.” Yaz smiles a smile which fades slightly when she realises she’s just openly admitted that people have been talking about her behind her back. Nevertheless, Doctor Smith just shrugs. 

“No point in studying for a doctorate for people to call me Miss. I worked hard for it.” She lets go of Yaz’s hand and it’s only then Yaz realises how strong her grip is.

“Which science?” Yaz asks, tapping in her login and password with only two fingers to make sure she doesn’t hit any extra keys.

“Physics. I like to dabble in chemistry too though.” Doctor Smith shrugs again like it’s nothing. 

“Smart.”

“A lot smarter than what it takes to ‘teach’ PE.” Doctor Smith scoffs to herself as she goes back to unpacking new textbooks and exercise books she’ll probably hand out to students later on in the day. Yaz is offended to say the least. She thought they were getting along. Her silence is noted with Doctor Smith looking over her shoulder back at her. “Just banter.” 

“I can’t tell if this feud is serious or not.” Yaz sighs, starting to stress out over what she can and can’t say in regards to the subject.

“Oh, serious Miss Khan, very serious… In that it entertains the kids and staff and the football match raises money for charity.” Doctor Smith holds her hands on her hips in a wonder woman esc pose. Yaz doesn’t know if she’s trying to convey that she knows more than her about this school or if it’s just a regular pose she does. “I looked at the break duty rota by the way. Looks like we're together for that too. Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

“Cool. More to share.” Yaz says.

“Not really sharing. I think it’s just because you’re new and I’ve been here a long time so I can help you.” Doctor Smith takes the liberty of correcting her. Yaz can sense it grating on his nerves already.

“Okay so...if this isn’t your form-”

“Your tutor group, just in my room. Those kids have nothing to do with me. Unless they’re in one of my classes.” The blonde says rather bluntly.

“Fair enough.” 

Yaz turns back to the computer and at the same time pulls out the time tables for the kids in her tutor group that were printed off and dropped off in her pigeon hole before today. There are about twenty five kids under her care for the first twenty minutes of the day all from varying year groups. Some kind of policy of integration, apparently, to have a bunch of eleven to sixteen year olds in a room together although Yaz strongly suspects that if she doesn’t set up a seating plan all the year groups will sit together with the people they know.

“I do have a couple of rules for here though.” Doctor Smith speaks up again. 

“Here?” Yaz turns around. 

“In the lab.” Doctor Smith comes close over to her again. Yaz stays quiet under her intimidating eyes. “No one can eat in here, touch the equipment, find the pictures of naked people in the biology textbooks in the cupboard and laugh. The door must be locked every time you leave. Don’t let them throw anything, make sure they don’t draw on the tables, and make sure they don’t spray deodorant in here. For one I don’t like the suffocating smell, it’s like walking past the boys changing room, you’ll know about that, but also I don’t want to light a match next period and set the place on fire.”

“Okay.” Yaz says timidly at all the information- or are they demands- that have just been piled on her. Doctor Smith’s body language changes immediately. 

“Cool! Should be fine.” The bell rings. “They’ll be here in about two minutes.” Doctor Smith tells her, proceeding to take down the stools from the tables. 

“I’ll go and wait for them.” Yaz says.

She gets up and walks past Doctor Smith out of the door to wait for the kids to turn up. Seeing them emerge slowly and then all at once makes Yaz realise that she’s joined a school with a student body that is astoundingly caucasion. Some carefully approach her door- yes, her door, not Doctor Smith’s- and she greets them with a kind smile and a ‘hi’ as they line up. She waits until it looks like there’s twenty odd people in line and leads them all inside. 

Doctor Smith seems to still be hanging around fiddling with things that could probably be fiddled with later and Yaz feels like she’s going to be under full scrutiny. Despite the extra pair of eyes on her, Yaz keeps her chin up and tells her group that they can sit wherever they like for today. There’s a nervous quiet coming from them which Yaz knows will disappear once they get to know her. Right now she’s a new face to be wary of. They don’t know her stance on discipline nor do they know whether she’s going to be laid back or not in general. Yaz takes her seat at the teachers computer, getting up the register system ready to log everyone in. 

“We’ll do intros after we’ve registered, yeah?” Yaz says what she's going to do phrased as a question. A nice tactic to make the students feel like they’re on the same level.

“Make sure to lock the door behind you Miss Khan.” Doctor Smith says walking out to probably hang out in another science teachers room without so much as looking behind her.

“I will, Doctor Smith.” Yaz formally replies. 

It’s almost like everyone in the room is holding their breath until they know Doctor Smith has truly disappeared. An older boy with messy hair and a crisp new uniform sticks his head up from the back of the room.

“It’s okay to find her intense, Miss.” He says, his voice cracking almost every other syllable. His words relax Yaz straight away.

“I am so glad you said that.” Yaz sigh-laughs with relief. At least she’s not the only one feeling it. 

Yaz roll calls the register and thankfully it’s a full class. The numbers will definitely dwindle when the mornings get darker and colder and it’s harder to get out of bed on time, but now is the time for Yaz to gain their trust.

“Alright who wants their time table?”

 

Yaz heads off to the PE office once tutor time is over with. She did one set activity she was meant to do- throwing a ball around to get students to remember each other's names- and then just let them all chat, joining in with them. Yaz doesn’t neglect to lock the door behind her in fear of Doctor Smith coming and finding her as she teaches. She should be teaching this morning, but because it’s the first day basically no one will have their sports kit on them. It should be year eight, and sure enough a load of pubescent twelve to thirteen year olds gather in front of the office in no time. Danny announces that they’re going to move to the sports hall without saying anything else and the pack of kids follow him like he’s a mother duck and they are his chicks.

“Right listen up everyone!” Danny raises his voice as the last few students settle down cross legged on the floor. Only then does Yaz notice that somehow all the staff, including herself, have ended up in a straight line like a group of superheros forming. “Most of you know us from last year but the eagle eyed among you will notice Miss Khan standing beside me. She’s new to the school but she’s certainly not new to PE and she’ll put you through your paces.”

“Fit!” An obvious joker of the pack shouts out as Yaz smiles and waves to introduce herself. 

“Any comments like that and you’ll be in detention for a week!” Danny shouts and the hall goes quiet again- any echoes of laughter dying out. “Boys I will cancel the contact rugby game if you dare talk about any female member of staff like that again or any member of staff for that matter.”

“Sorry sir.” A few voices that laughed apologize. 

“You can apologise to Miss Khan, not me, at break time.”

“You run a tight ship.” Yaz whispers as Mrs Duncan (the plump older woman from last night, Yaz finds out) explains that each teacher will read out their class and the students will have to come over to them. 

“Have to.” Danny winks. “Hormones flying everywhere.” 

Mrs Duncan hands Yaz her list of students. Year seven and eight stay separated by gender during their double periods, and they have their single ‘games’ period once a fortnight with their learning group, which is mixed. The games period stops when the learning groups are mixed up in year nine and some students take it as GCSE.

“You go first Yaz.” Danny says. Yaz has her suspicions that it’s a test to see how she handles pressure but she steps forward with pride, not shaken at all.

“When I call your name, stay seated until I’m finished and then we’re going to go to the school hall.” Yaz says following the instructions written in pencil on top of her sheet. 

Yaz tries to ignore the groups of friends sitting together crossing their fingers and scrunching up their faces hoping to be called together. Of course the department is smart and splits girl groups up so that cliques don’t form and Yaz reads out the names loud and clear. 

The young girls follow her in silence to the school hall. Some of them look quiet in the way they’re holding themselves but others are mellowing in their silence trying to sniff Yaz out. She knows the kind, since they’re the kind of people that used to bully her. The only difference now is that she’s the adult and one of the people that can put them straight before they cause damage. By the time they reach the school hall there’s a low level of chatter amongst the girls that Yaz finds sweet and friendly. Yaz sits herself on the side of the stage since she’s always wanted to do it and asks the girls to sit down again. 

“Like Mr Pink said, I’m Miss Khan. Today’s my first day, obviously, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing. The plan for this term is some hockey, some football, some netball and then I don’t mind doing an activity you choose.” 

Yaz hears herself getting boring and tries to shuffle through the rest of the stuff she has to say about kit and behaviour expectations. She then tells everyone to ask their tutors to see the after school clubs list in case anyone wants to sign up and since Yaz isn’t allowed to get them to exercise in their normal uniforms she gets them to sit in a circle for a ‘bonding’ exercise. 

“Okay so we’re going to say our names, and our favourite sport then roll this ball to the next person- but no one can have the ball twice, okay, so you have to pay attention.” Yaz explains the rules of the game to what she assumes are listening ears. “Then we can just chill, yeah?”

“Can all lessons be like this?” A girl with worse roots than Doctor Smith asks in jest.

“I’d be out of the job if they were.” Yaz chuckles. “Okay. I’m Miss Khan and my favourite sport is football.”

Yaz rolls the small orange ball to the student straight across from her. If she was horrible she’d make each student recite and name the sport of each person before them like she did with her tutor group but they’ve all been nice to her and quite frankly Yaz’s mind is still on how shirty Doctor Smith was with her this morning. It’s not like the Doctor was making an effort to be strict because being strict is what Danny did when that kid shouted out at her. Doctor Smith was just… odd with her.

As if she sensed Yaz thinking about her, Doctor Smith enters the hall with a determined look on her face. Yaz doesn’t know if she always walks that fast and whether she always walks close to the perimeter of the room or if she’s just trying to avoid the- admittedly pathetic looking- class Yaz is holding. Or perhaps she’s just avoiding Yaz. It’s hard to tell.

“Doctor Smith what's your favourite sport?” Yaz asks, just to see if Doctor Smith has even registered that there are other people in the room.

“Reaching for the biscuit tin.” Doctor Smith answers without so much as looking at her, soon disappearing through the stage door. 

Some of the girls laugh and giggle at the scientists aloof behaviour, which gets Yaz thinking. 

“May I ask you a question, girls?” Yaz asks.

“Sure.”

“Yep.”

“Okay.”

“Why not.”

“Who’s your favourite teacher at the school?” Yaz asks; a ploy to make it look like she’s simply trying to get a gauge of student opinion. 

“Mr Smith.” Everyone says at once. Yaz could have guessed, giving the information Ryan told her. 

“And who’s the teacher where you see their name on your timetable and you think ‘oh no’?” 

A few names that are not the one Yaz was expecting to hear trickle out, and others agree once Yaz tells them she isn’t going to snitch or anything like that. Someone from food technology, the old one from music and the over dramatic drama teacher.

“What about Doctor Smith?” Yaz asks the golden question. Is she usually that blunt with everyone or is it just a staff thing? Or a new staff thing? She needs to know to settle her mind.

“She’s funny.”

“Yeah and she loves teaching.”

“Her classes are the best.”

“I heard the teachers take bets every year on how soon she’ll blow up her lab.” 

“Why do you ask?”

Yaz shrugs to avoid suspicion. “Just out of intrigue.”

 

Yaz gets through the rest of the double period without much struggle and a better bond with her students. She resides in the little PE office to eat her snack during break time and catch up with how the rest of the staff's lessons went- not forgetting the group of boys that were standing ashamed at the door waiting to apologise for their inappropriate call out at the start. Yaz finds it funny but doesn’t let anyone else know that. It’s not the first time it’s happened during her career as a teacher. Of course throughout her break when she’s trying to fill in the digital register everyone else is asking about how meeting Doctor Smith went. Yaz tells them she’s not sure of her yet, not wanting to slag her off since she still doesn’t know the boundaries and limits of this fake but not so fake feud between departments. 

Periods three and four are easier for Yaz since she’s in a computer room with some year tens, talking them through what they’re going to do for their GCSE coursework. There’s no extra kit to have to wear to do that. Before she knows it Yaz gets to meet Ryan for lunch at the canteen, and the inevitable questions about the allusive Doctor Smith start flowing once again.

“Mate I can’t tell if she actually hates me or not.” Yaz says, picking up a pasta pot from under a heated light.

“Told you she was weird.” Ryan says with an ‘I-told-you-so’ voice.

Yaz pauses their conversation while an elderly dinner lady scans her thumb and her forefinger into the system. Cashless payments at this school, so Yaz will put money into her account that can be accessed by her fingers instead. Except for today, where new staff and year sevens get free food to welcome them.

“Can you tolerate her?” Ryan asks as they walk through the seating area of the canteen. 

Yaz thinks. Doctor Smith was probably over defencive this morning because Yaz is new and it’s the first day of the entire academic year. It’s a stress fest for every teacher and yes, it may be affecting her mood and how she is with others. 

“To be confirmed.” Yaz decides.

Ryan giggles to himself, removing the tin foil from his homemade sandwich that his gran made him. “This is going to be fun.”