The Writing on the Wall: Part 2
A Carlson Septuplets Story
Again that night, May 12th, a note went home with every Westfield High School student.
Today a student confessed to writing the second of the two threatening messages found at our school. This was the message directed at the Carlson family, and appears to be a prank that was unconnected to the original bomb threat. We believe at this time that the student who confessed is not the same person who wrote the original message. We still do not know who might have written that, and are continuing to take the threat seriously in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings and numerous copycat threats across the country. Because of this, all necessary security measures are being taken. These are precautionary measures only, and school will continue as usual. We hope all students will feel completely safe attending school tomorrow.
Dr. Leon Reiznowicz
When tomorrow came, Megan Carlson did not feel completely safe attending school.
She sat at the kitchen table leaning on her backpack as she watched her sisters running around collecting their book bags and heading out to the van. Their mother drove them to school every day on her way to work at a library on the other side of Westfield, as no one but seniors could get parking permits and only Michelle, Molly, and Melissa had their licenses already anyway.
"I don't know if I want to go to school today," she said.
"I don't know if I want to go to school most days," shrugged Mary. "Might as well go today as well as any of the others."
"What are you talking about?" said Melissa. "Today's a great day to not go to school. Lots of people are skipping today so teachers can't do anything important for tests or anything." She looked downright dejected as she shoved her chemistry book into her backpack and headed out to the van.
"But seriously, you can't let a threat like this keep you out of school," said Mary. "You don't want to give the little pranksters the power to control what you do and don't do in your life, do you?"
"Yeah, someone's really gonna be laughing if they see their stunt keeping people from coming to school," added Michelle. "I bet whoever did it is already reveling in the power."
"Yeah, so come on, you guys, we're going to be late to school," said Meredith, popping her head into the kitchen through the back door. "Everyone else is in the car already."
As the three stragglers climbed in and buckled their seat belts, Michelle said, "I'm actually kind of excited to see what will happen. Since there isn't going to be a real bomb," she added. "At least it shakes up the boring routine."
Melissa nodded, and Molly said "Well, I'm glad some good is coming of this" as she shook her head.
When they reached the high school, though, it seemed just like a normal day. They walked into the school past a bunch of ordinary-looking students going about their ordinary business; the only difference was the few security officers they passed, near the entrance and the forum.
"It seems it's not going to be too exciting after all," said Meredith as she parted from Michelle just before the 7:25 bell.
But when she walked into her class she noticed six empty seats out of the classroom that was normally full.
"Hey," she said to her friend Josh, who sat next to her. "Where's Cindy?"
"At home. Her mom didn't want her to come to school today."
"No way," said Meredith. "Our parents told us they weren't worried. What about Adam?"
"He didn't want to come to school 'cause he was worried," said his friend.
"Wow." She would have liked to ask about the other four, but she didn't know anyone who knew them as well. Were six people really missing from her class all over this bomb threat?
During passing time the absence of a sizable percentage of the student body was evident when people found themselves able to walk through the halls without having to use their friends as battering rams.
"Where is everyone?" asked Monica.
"At home hiding under their beds," said Michelle. "Good, more room for us."
Second block brought another turn of events. Monica had class that period with a friend of Jake Petrick. He was there when class started, but early in class, he took the hall pass.
He did not come back.
"Where's the hall pass?" asked one kid a while later.
"Ted never came back with it," said their teacher, Ms. Field. She looked concerned. "He took it more than forty minutes ago. If he doesn't come back with it in the next ten minutes, I'm going to send someone to the office to let the principal know."
When ten minutes passed and he hadn't returned, Ms. Field did as she had said she would and sent someone to the office. This caused quite a stir.
"Where do you think he went?"
"I don't know! Home, you think?"
"He's a friend of Jake Petrick's, isn't he?"
"Like his best friend ever, yeah."
"His only friend...."
Lindsey Kettle looked frightened. "Do you think he has something to do with the bomb plan? Maybe that's why he left...."
"But they said Jake didn't have anything to do with the real bomb threat—"
"That's what he claimed...."
The bell rang, and the students filed again out into the halls. Some were headed to A lunch; those with B and C lunches headed instead to third block. Monica had third block Drawing and Painting III with Megan.
"Hey, guess what happened!" said Monica as soon as she saw her sister. Their friend Elizabeth Rogers had that class with them too; she was already there sitting by Monica. "Jake Petrick's friend Ted Holland disappeared from my class second block, and some people were saying he might have something to do with the bomb threat. You know, like he left to get ready for it or something."
Megan's eyes grew wide. "Do you really think so?"
"Well, I dunno, but—"
"Hah!" cried Elizabeth. "So maybe the freak is responsible for the first message after all—"
"What did you say?" cried a boy who sat diagonally to the rear of Elizabeth. "Ted Holland skipped out of second block? Because his friend Nate Phillips skipped out of my first block Psych class."
"No way! You don't think—"
"They're still planning something!"
"Jake Petrick was involved in the first message, not just the second! And they're still carrying it out!"
Monica and Megan sat there, quiet but wide-eyed as the discussion spread across the room. The bell signaling the start of class didn't quiet anyone down, so Mr. Norris, the art teacher, had to shout over everyone.
"Excuse me, but that is enough of that! I promise you that Dr. Reiznowicz has been informed by the teachers if two students mysteriously disappeared from first and second blocks and never came back, and the administration is no doubt taking care of anything that needs to be taken care of. So if you don't mind, we'll get back to Fauvism now."
The students all took out the brightly colored paints they were using for their Fauvist pieces and dutifully got back to work, but as soon as Mr. Norris was done giving a brief lesson about Matisse, the chatter turned again to the disappearance of Jake Petrick's friends.
When they broke for lunch in the middle of class, the rumors spread quickly through the cafeteria.
"I don't believe this," said Molly when she heard it. "It's gone from a bomb threat to a conspiracy theory!"
"Well, no one knows where Ted or Nate went," said their friend Alison, her voice high-pitched as she picked up on the tension that was running higher and higher throughout the school. "It's more than a little suspicious!"
As they discussed how frightened some of them were, a freshman girl came up with the idea to go to the office and call home, saying she just didn't feel safe at school anymore.
"Yeah, it's not like I can focus on learning anything when I'm afraid someone might get hurt," added her sophomore friend. The two of them got up and left during the middle of lunch, and the reason for their departure quickly passed through the cafeteria. Another student followed shortly after they left.
"I can't believe you guys aren't going too," said Alison. "You were at the center of all of this. And if the people who are disappearing are friends of the kid who confessed to writing that message about you...well, I'd be extra scared if I were you."
"You know..." said Monica. "Maybe that's not a bad idea."
"That's just what I was thinking," said Megan. "I'm sure they'd let us go home."
"You're not serious," said Molly.
"We are," said Megan. "Better safe than sorry after all. You're not coming with us then, I take it?"
"Of course I'm not. Don't be ridiculous."
"Suit yourself then," said Monica.
B lunch was just ending by that point, so while Molly returned to her third block MTL (that was what everyone called Modern Thought in Literature), Monica and Megan went first back to the art room to pack their stuff up and tell Mr. Norris that they were leaving, and then to the office, where they would have to get permission before they could leave the school.
When they got there, they found a line of ten students waiting to use the phone.
"What's going on?" asked Monica. "What are all of you doing?"
"Leaving," said a senior girl. "We don't want to be here when the bomb goes off."
"All of you really think there's going to be a bomb?" said Megan.
One boy shrugged. "Better safe than sorry. What are you doing here if you don't think so too?"
"No, that's what we just said too—better safe than sorry, I mean," said Monica. "I'm just surprised to see so many people here."
"I'm not surprised to see you two here. I wouldn't even have come to school today if I were you. Where are your sisters?"
"Molly didn't want to go home," said Monica. "We haven't seen the others."
Meanwhile, as B lunch students were resuming their classes, those with C lunch were just getting out. In that lunch hour, too, the rumors were flying.
Mary was coming from her racquet sports class on the other side of the school and had to walk past the office to get to the cafeteria. By the time she got there, only about five minutes after Monica and Megan had joined it, the line for the phone had grown in size considerably.
"What!" she cried when she saw not two but three of her sisters. "What are you doing?!" In the past five minutes, Melissa too had joined them.
"Going home," said Monica. "Better safe than sorry," she said again; it had become the motto of the line.
"Are you kidding me? You guys are really going home? All of you?" she looked up and down the line, obviously wanting responses not only from her sisters but from everyone else. No one gave any, so she turned to Melissa. "You. What are you doing here? I know you're not afraid of any bomb."
"Hey, it's a chance to get out of the rest of the day. I'm not passing that up!" Some of the other kids in line giggled at that, suggesting Melissa Carlson was not the only one with that idea.
"That's the best reason I've heard yet," Mary said, not sarcastically, much to Melissa's surprise. "Enjoy your time off, then."
"I will. Enjoy getting blown up!"
Mary nodded as she waved and headed off to the cafeteria.
C lunch was more of a madhouse than B lunch had been. It seemed everyone had heard about Jake Petrick's friends disappearing from school, and even if the administrators didn't do so, the student body had declared a state of emergency—though there was still a strong resistance movement.
"Whoa! What's that on Tyler's shirt?" asked Mary. She had gone to find Michelle—the other Septuplet in C lunch—and found the tall sophomore standing beside her chair showing off what he was wearing: a piece of wide-rule notebook paper with the words "I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED" in large letters. When he spotted Mary he spun around so she could see what was on his back: another sheet of notebook paper that said "I am staying!!!"
"Very nice," said Mary. "The only problem is that it's in pencil, so it's a little hard to read."
"Here," said Michelle, fishing something out of the backpack that was slung on the back of her chair. She handed Tyler a red Crayola marker, which he applied directly to the paper without taking it off of of his front, then pulled the one off his back and outlined it.
"So you girls are staying?" he said to the two Septuplets.
"Yeah," said Michelle. "I can't believe so many people are leaving! I mean, there are tons of extra chairs in here—it's weird!" She pulled out the vacant chair next to her and propped her feet up on it. C lunch was usually the most crowded of any of the three, but today its crowd was by far the thinnest. Apparently the idea to go home had become quite popular since the lunch cycle began.
"Megan, Monica, and Melissa are in line to use the phone to go home right now," said Mary.
"No! Are they really? Those twits," said Michelle. "Well, okay, I know why Mel's leaving, but I can't believe Monica and Megan are really that frightened."
"There go some more kids," said Tyler, pointing as three freshman girls all started the climb up the long, wide ramp that lead out of the Westfield High School cafeteria.
"Geez, they're leaving in packs," said Michelle.
"Here, you two take signs, too!" Tyler pulled some more sheets of paper out of his bag and handed them to Michelle and Mary. "It'll mean even more coming from the Carlson Septuplets." He wrote "I AM NOT AFRAID" on one and handed it to Michelle while Mary wrote the same thing on hers and stuck it on to her shirt with the tape provided by Michelle's friend June, who had been sitting quietly at the table pretending to ignore them.
"You should wear one too, even if you're not a Sept," said Tyler.
June shook her head. "Oh, no. I'm trying to convince people I'm not crazy even though I'm staying at school."
"All right, I'm going to get back to my table now that I've enlisted you two famous faces in the cause. Better to spread the displays through the cafeteria, you know. The two of you should sit in separate places too." With that he disappeared back to the table where he was sitting with some of his other friends.
Mary generally sat with a small group of friends a few tables over from where Michelle sat with hers, though today she had come to pass the news on to her sister before joining them. As she headed back to her table, she shouted, "Down with intimidation!" A couple kids clapped and cheered, and one senior guy who Mary didn't even know pumped his fist in the air in her direction.
"What was that show all about?" asked Amanda, one of Mary's lunchtime acquaintances, when Mary reached the table where, she noticed, only three of the four girls she usually sat with were sitting.
"Just trying to spread the cheer," said Mary.
"You're not leaving, then?"
"Read the sign," she said, pointing to it.
"I wouldn't stay here if I had any choice," said a boy Mary only knew from her Pre-Calc class, Justin Bryant, as he came up behind her. "But they're making people call to get permission from their parents before they leave school, and my mom flat out refused to let me stay at home this morning. I can't believe you guys aren't taking this more seriously, especially after those two kids disappeared from class this morning."
"I can't believe some people are taking this that seriously—" Mary began, but Justin cut her off again.
"No one knows where those guys went. I say there's a good enough chance that it was to put their plan into action. Jake's confession to the second part was only to throw the administration off. Maybe that second part of the message was only a distraction anyway: while the school's busy looking after all you guys in your classes, they're going to set the bomb off somewhere where else."
"Oh, come on," said Mary, but Justin stood firm in his conviction. She shook her head as he went back to his table. "I am not leaving," she said to her friends. "Can you imagine this happening before Columbine, people taking something like that seriously?"
Her good friend Mindy Thorne frowned. "Copycat threats are also real, though...."
"Yeah...but they're also paying way closer attention now. We're probably safer than we were before."
"I hope you're right," said Amanda. "Because we only have an hour until the bomb is supposed to go off."
They looked at the clock on the wall. It was 12:30.
The bell starting fourth block rang at 12:45 p.m. Michelle was in Psych, Molly in AP Physics, Meredith in MTL, and Mary in Government with another teacher. Megan should have been in MTL with Meredith, Monica in Government with Mary, and Melissa in Pre-Calc, but they had successfully obtained permission to leave, however reluctant, when they called their mom at work.
"This is it," said Josh Polanski as he joined Michelle in psychology. "We're all gonna die."
"You don't really mean that," she said.
"No, I don't. Actually, I think we're all gonna waste an hour and a half of our lives. Look at this class—there's no one here!"
Michelle nodded. Of the twenty-nine students who were normally there, only eleven showed up. In their respective classrooms, the others were noticing the same thing.
"How long was that line that your sisters waited in to go home?" Lindsey Burke asked Mary.
"Not that long. It must have gotten really out of control later."
"Well," said Mr. Springer, Molly's AP Physics teacher. "It doesn't seem like we have enough people here to do our lab today. I guess that means we'll have to put it off until next block, though we'll be a day behind in preparation for the AP exam, so you guys will have to work extra hard." There was a collective groan. "I guess for today we'll watch this show on superstring theory I taped off the Discovery Channel." The class looked substantially happier to hear that.
For the next half hour or so, everyone watched the video in relative calm. But at about 1:15 or 1:20, people started to shift in their seats.
In Meredith's MTL class, they had decided to go ahead with their discussion about Camus' The Plague, on which they had an essay test next week, in order to get ahead of everyone else who had taken off. But at about 1:25, the discussion got side-tracked.
"Only five minutes left now," said one wise-cracking junior. "Time to join hands and pray. Oh, wait, we can't—this is a public school after all." The girl sitting next to him punched him in the arm.
Mary's Government class had spent the hour doing absolutely nothing in particular, making her wonder if going home might not have been the better choice after all. She had taken off her "I am not afraid" sign halfway into the class and was now doodling on the back of it.
"Well, it's two minutes until the dreaded thirteen-thirty p.m.," observed one student.
"Yep," said another. No one said anything else.
But they all watched as the second hand continued slowly but steadily around the clock.
"One minute," said a girl in Michelle's class.
There were few pairs of eyes in the school that were not watching the clock.
In Meredith's class, the jokester counted down the seconds.
"Uh...three, four, five, six, seven," he continued when nothing happened.
"See! I told you nothing was going to happen!" came out of several people's mouths across the school. Several other people sighed in relief. Most people continued watching the clock for a minute or so afterward, thinking maybe the clock was not quite synchronized with the bomber's watch, but the building remained quiet. Nowhere did any explosion shatter the stillness of the near-empty school.
"Ha ha! It really was just an idle threat after all!" cried Meredith.
"You sound awfully surprised for someone who chose to stay here," said her friend Millie Roscher.
"Can we just leave early today?" asked Patrick Henkelmann, who was in Michelle's class.
"We have to have class a certain number of minutes in the year, so teachers aren't supposed to dismiss classes early," said their teacher, Mrs. Bright, apologetically. "There's only another half hour to go now anyway."
"It's not like we stayed at school just to be here in case a bomb did go off at one thirty," added Michelle. "It'd be kind of weird to leave now."
"Right, we've already wasted so much of the day, we might as well waste another thirty minutes," said Patrick, sighing as he lay his head down on his desk to nap.
Finally, though, the final bell did ring at 2:05.
"Well! Everyone in one piece?" said Molly, with a smug look on her face as she met her sisters at their lockers a few minutes later.
"Yes, somehow," said Mary. "But all that fuss about staying in school, I'm finally ready to get out of here."
"That's for sure," said Michelle. The four of them grabbed the textbooks they'd need for their homework and took off for their walk home.
Two hours earlier, Monica, Melissa, and Megan had made the same walk. When they had called their mom at work to get her permission to go home, she had reluctantly given it, but she certainly was not going to come and pick them up. So the three girls walked home as they normally did, albeit two hours early.
The path from Westfield High School took them on a bridge across Eight Mile Road and along a fenced-in path between the football and baseball fields. The path came out behind their old school, Redcove Middle School.
When they got there, they saw two boys standing across the blacktop.
"Who are those guys?" asked Megan, for the boys had seen them, pointed, and were now walking toward them.
"Oh my God, that's Ted Holland and Nate Phillips!" cried Melissa as she recognized them.
"So the famous Septuplets know our names. Wow, we're really flattered," said Ted. "I guess that makes us almost like celebrities."
"What do you want?" Melissa demanded.
"Well, since you just happened to come along, we wanna talk to you. Why'd you go getting Jake in trouble? You have something against him or something?"
"Getting him in trouble?! We didn't do a thing to get him in trouble—he did that on his own and without any request from us I might add."
"You went to the principal and ratted him out."
"No, we didn't. We didn't have any idea who wrote that stuff. But you know what? So what if we had?" Melissa glared as she looked him straight in the eye. "We don't appreciate being threatened and called freaks, thanks. And he admitted to writing that stuff about us. So he apparently hates us and decided to tell everyone, and you're asking us what we have against him? Why's he hate us, huh? What'd we do to deserve that?"
Ted gave a short, cocky laugh. "Little princesses don't know what it feels like, huh? And you get even more attention because of it, being mentioned on TV and all yet again...."
"What?" cried Melissa. "We weren't on television!"
"You were," said Ted. "Last night on Channel 7. Well, they mentioned your names even if they didn't show your faces. Yep, our school comes up on TV and who do they mention? You. Of course." He then called them some rude and unprintable words. Megan looked like she would burst into tears, but Melissa's glare simply sharpened.
"You will regret that—" she began, but Megan was tugging on her sleeve.
"Let's just go, Mel," she said, her voice very small and high pitched. Monica nodded without saying anything, her eyes wide and fixed on the two boys.
"No, you aren't leaving until we've finished our talk," said Ted.
"I think we are," said Melissa, and the three of them turned to walk away.
When the two boys started to follow them, Monica shouted, "Run!" Fortunately Redcove's rear entrance was only a short distance away or Melissa wouldn't have made it in the strappy sandals she was wearing without the boys catching up, but they did reach the doors several steps ahead of the boys and burst through them. Once they made it inside the boys didn't follow them, but the girls kept running, past their old band room and the 7th grade lockers until they stopped to catch their breath.
"Oh my God, oh my God, that was scary," cried Megan.
"What did they want?" Monica demanded, as though Megan or Melissa could tell her.
"They're just disgusting scum bags who deserve their reputation if that's what kind of people they really are," said Melissa. "Come on, let's go."
They waited around in the school for a few minutes to make sure the boys had gone. If they had been seen, they certainly would have been asked what they were doing there, but no one did spot them. Megan was in favor of seeking someone out and telling them why they were there, both to avoid getting in trouble themselves and to make sure they would be safe on the way home, but Melissa convinced her that they'd be okay, especially since they lived just inside the subdivision across the road. They left from the door on the opposite side of the school, which was both the farthest from where they had come in and the closest to their house.
Following Megan's lead, they fairly ran the rest of the way home—even Melissa in her sandals.
When their sisters arrived home a couple hours later, the two sides exchanged stories: those who had been at school told of the non-event it had been to stay, and those who had left told of the fright they had ended up having by leaving early.
"They said what to you guys?!" cried Michelle, aghast.
"I know, isn't it awful?" said Monica.
"And we were mentioned on TV? I didn't know that," said Mary.
"They said it was just our names," said Melissa. "I guess it must have been in the coverage they're doing of copycat threats in Metro Detroit after Columbine."
"That makes sense—that's on the news just about every night," said Michelle. "Someone from our school must have reported our threat, too."
"Yes, yes, that's all very believable," said Meredith. "Of course they'd throw our names into a news report. What I don't get is that Ted and Nate thought we told on Jake?" said Meredith. "How would we have known it was him? Ms. Riller said it was a friend of his who told on him. I did think that was a little weird when she said that...."
"I can't believe that he really thought that," said Michelle. "He probably was just trying to come up with some way to scare you guys."
"But why? What would he have against us?"
"They're just jealous, probably," said Melissa. "He called us 'princesses'. They see that we're, you know, happy well-adjusted kids who people actually like and they want to take their social maladjusted tendencies out on us because we...you know, like, represent something to them. Because we've gotten so much special attention, I mean."
The others were quiet for a minute before Molly said, "I think you're probably right, Mel."
"Huh? You do?"
"Yes. I mean...it's like you said when this all started, Meredith. Who would hate us if they actually knew us? And that can probably be said for most people."
"Yeah, most nice decent people anyway," said Meredith.
"Hmmm," was all that Molly said to that.
The discussion wound down after that, and the Septs all got to work on their homework. When their parents got home they told their stories again. Neither Robin nor Peter were surprised that their daughters had been mentioned on the news without their permission; it happened from time to time, and they were certainly related to this news story whether they liked it or not. But Robin insisted on calling the school to let them know what had happened to Melissa, Monica, and Megan on the way home. The office was just closing by that point and the principal had gone home, but the secretary assured her that they would let him know first thing the next morning.
And so they all went to school the next day, hoping things would get back to normal.
But as much as Molly was sick of the whole situation, she had something she wanted to do before she herself was done with it. She thought she knew where Ted and Nate and Jake hung out: she had seen them crowded in the "freak corner" back down by the auto shop room and the photography studio, where few other kids went before the start of the school day.
Sure enough, that was where she found them. Having confessed, Jake had received only a one-day suspension, and was now back at school, along with Ted and Nate.
"Hey," she said to attract their attention. When they turned and spotted her standing there, they looked surprised, but after a moment, Ted spoke.
"Aw, look who it is, guys. Decided not to run away today?"
"Those were my sisters, not me."
"What do you want, anyway?"
"I want to know why you threatened us."
Both Ted and Nate looked at Jake, who looked away.
"You don't even know any of us. Why?" Her voice was cool and calm, not pleading, not angry. She sounded almost disinterested—or purely academically interested.
That seemed to unnerve Jake even more.
"We don't hate you. We don't even really know you, and we didn't think you really knew us," continued Molly. "So it seems odd that you'd hate us like that."
"Everyone knows you," said Jake with an uneasy laugh.
"Really? What's my name then?"
Jake looked down as Nate spoke up for the first time. "Oh, come on. That's not fair."
"Why not? You think you know me but you don't know my name. Personally I don't think that's fair."
"What do you want?" said Ted, annoyed. "Want us to say we're sorry? Sorry. Now leave us alone."
"No, actually, that's not what I want," said Molly, and now her voice lost just a trace of its coolness for the first time. "I want to figure out why you did what you did—no, scratch that, I think I know why you did. What I want is for you to figure it out, so then you won't do it again. To anyone."
The boys clearly didn't have a clue what to say to that, so after they stared at her for a moment, she continued.
"Here's what I think. I think you're angry because you never fit in. Maybe you tried to fit in and some kids were cruel and tormented you for being who you were, who called you freaks because you weren't like them. Or maybe you just hated everyone who wasn't like you, in exactly the same way they hate you. Even though none of you even know each other.
"Well, I just want you to know this: None of my sisters ever called you freaks, except maybe Melissa, and you know why I think she did? Because people used to call her a freak, and it hurt her worse than the rest of us, so she started calling other people freaks in order to make sure everyone knew she wasn't one.
"Yeah, that's right—we get called freaks all the time. Even Melissa—she's the trendy one, yes, the one who hangs out with Trisha Swanson and all them. And no, I don't like the popular clique either; they've made my life miserable at times just like they did to you.
"I wonder, did you ever imagine that? You called us princesses. Did you really think everyone adored us? Or maybe you realized that we were some of the easiest ones to call freaks—even easier than you in some respects. Maybe that's what you needed."
She stopped here finally to take a deep breath, because her coolness was evaporating faster than she liked. The boys just stood there gaping, without the slightest clue what to make of her.
"A lot of us don't fit in. A lot of us don't like high school. It's bad enough to deal with the kids who do run the place without the rest of us picking on each other. I'm not that different from you."
The boys could only stand and blink. The five minute warning rang.
"You guys scared my sisters bad enough yesterday that they told our parents, and our mom called the school, so I expect you guys are in some trouble. Melissa said she thinks you deserve your reputation if you just showed us what kind of people you really are. But even now we didn't call you freaks. I hope you remember that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get to class."
As she walked toward the crowds, she turned back to where the boys still stood dumbfounded.
"I'm Molly, by the way. The one with the hats if it helps you remember." She took off the one that she was wearing and waved it above her head before stuffing it in her bag and walking on to her first class of the day.
As Ms. Riller explained when she called all the Septuplets to her office once again during the second block of the day, Nate and Ted were both called out of their fifth block class (first block of the B day) and were told they would each receive one day suspensions for skipping out on school and then harassing three fellow students. When she had talked to them, she said, they had seemed in the strangest of moods—they seemed alternatively defensive and then sorry.
"In any case, we will keep an eye on them for strange behavior, but given that they seemed at least sort of apologetic, I hope you won't need to worry about them anymore." The Septuplets all nodded. "Now, you girls are free to go back to class."
"I hope that's the last time we have to go back there and talk about that," said Monica after they had filed out of the office.
"Me too. I wish those jerks had gotten more than a one day suspension each, though," said Meredith.
"Yeah, maybe," said Molly. "I dunno...."
"What do you mean, 'yeah, maybe'? Are you saying what those guys did was okay?" said Melissa, her eyes narrow.
"No," said Molly. "Of course it wasn't okay. It's just...it's sad. I mean really pathetic. The way people treat each other...where does it start? Where does it end?"
All the Septuplets were quiet for a moment after that. Finally Mary spoke up to break the heavy silence.
"They never did find out who wrote the first message, did they?" said Mary. "They would have told us if they had, don't you think? I don't just mean the seven of us, I mean the whole school."
"I think they would have, yeah," said Meredith. "I figure it was probably those same kids."
"Or just someone with a really warped sense of humor, but no real malicious intent," said Monica.
"In any case, things seem to finally be back to normal," said Michelle. "Finally."
"Or as normal as things ever are," said Mary. "Life is pretty weird in general."
"Just so long as no one finds any more threatening messages, I'll be happy," said Monica.
Molly nodded. "Now come on, let's get to class."
"The Writing on the Wall" © 2005 by Jessie Mannisto.