Week two of lockdown seemed to appear out of nowhere, and was an hour early thanks to British Summertime adding to the problem. Frankie picked up her packed lunch and joined her mum in the car. The lunchbox was a novelty in itself, as the kitchen staff had been sent home to self-isolate, meaning that pizza and roastie days were struck off the menu and chocolate concrete was soon to become a distant memory.
Mrs Butterworth greeted Frankie and her mum at the door, letting Frankie do the two metre dance around her as the head teacher mumbled to her mum through an elbow.
“Hmmm, I won’t push it with the cartwheel down the corridor just yet – she looks a bit stressy.” thought Frankie, “I’ll just check later that she’s still bending the school rules.”
She clasped her hands behind her back and did the silent walk, whilst trying to hang onto her lunchbox with one finger, and all the while looking back for Mrs Butterworth’s approval. She needn’t have bothered – Mrs B was frantically wiping down the door handles with the last of the mediwipes and her brow was no less furrowed than five minutes ago.
Yay – it was Miss Coghlan, who having taught her in year one knew her as ‘Tiny Frankie’ and was ready to reminisce about their infant days. Looking around the year six classroom, Frankie knew that the idle banter would soon be ending as she spotted a refilled year four folder and Miss Williams organising the day’s packed agenda. The flipchart of doom had no mercy – Mondays were Mondays, and Miss Williams would take a while to get cancelled SATs out of her head space. Her pen was practically on fire with the educational menu being written out in perfect cursive lettering. Miss Coghlan joined in with feverish sharpening of pencils and setting out of chairs. Frankie sighed, placed her bag down beside her half-finished rainbow and started warming up for Joe Wicks.
The morning exercise was actually fun, and Frankie wondered why this wasn’t the usual start to any day. Although she appreciated the school values and was proud of her caring, kind, respectful and tolerant character, (as every Bells Farm child should be), she often wondered whether sitting on a hard wooden floor in the hall, trying to tune out the Velcro peelers and year six gigglers was really the best way to listen to Mr Johnston’s important messages. How much better it would be, Frankie thought, to put perseverance into action by perfecting her forward rolls while Mr J sorted out his Powerpoint. “Think I’ll mention that at School Council,” she thought, “It’ll stand more chance of getting through than all the requests for swimming pools and ‘Doughnut Fridays’.
Soon the room filled up – with boys of course. A cancellation from Rubi’s mum and all of her friends locked up with apostrophe worksheets and the threat of phone removal if they didn’t complete their six times tables in under two minutes, meant that once again, Frankie was the only girl in school. Of course, filling up was probably an exaggeration, but the two nursery boys, Zac and Joshua, plus Jacob from Year three, seemed to occupy the entire space with their racing round at the excitement of being in the year six classroom, and having free rein with the Polydron. Not for the first time, Frankie pondered the immaturity of their gender, as she flicked a discarded Haribo into the nearest pencil pot.
There seemed to be a lot of shouting going on in the corridor. Jayne, the cook, was projecting her thoughts to Mrs B at a safe distance of twenty metres and there was much talk of cheese and fridges. Frankie thought that the adults were really getting into the drama of this situation and never before had she heard such detailed health and safety discussions about the fate of a lump of Cheddar. “At least this might end up with the five thousand frozen bagels being binned at last,” she thought, shuddering at the memory of the leaden after school club snack – no amount of strawberry jam had ever succeeded in making those bad boys digestible.
As the day progressed and Frankie was allowed to be let loose with her artistic skills, the boys dwindled away and she was left with her thoughts and her pots of primary colours. Her teachers, meanwhile, debated such fascinating subjects as having family jigsaw evenings, the best box sets on Netflix, and whether or not Creme Eggs, bought in bulk, could be frozen. Frankie stared hard at her rainbow, and seriously considered adding a unicorn guarding a pot of gold in the bottom left hand corner to remind her that a little bit of fantasy could take her away from all this. They meant well, the adults, but Frankie was in a long game and the only girl in the school was about to seek her own personal adventures.
To be continued…