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Siya extended a card to Kamya.
“What’s this?” demanded Kamya.
“Invitation to Youngsters Singing Competition 2017. It’s on this Sunday and starts at six in the evening. You are cordially invited, Miss Kamya.”
“This Sunday?” asked Kamya. She shook her head. “Such short notice. I have so much work to do. How can I come to this event? I have more important things to do.”
“Please, teacher,” replied Siya, clasping her hands. “I’ll really appreciate if you come.”
Kamya moved her fingers over the invitation card. Golden ink on white paper. Looks classy, she thought. But the card didn’t mention which row the cardholder would sit in, nor was it a personalized invitation. The words in the card started with “Dear Guest...”
“Sorry,” said Kamya, returning the card to Siya. “I am too busy to come to such events. I don’t have the time.”
“Oh,” replied Siya, taking the card and holding it to her chest. “Thanks anyway.”
Kamya nodded. “Your mother must be very happy.”
“Well, she’ll get eggs and tomatoes for free...”
Siya stared blankly.
“Don’t you get it?” asked Kamya. “When you sing on the stage, people will throw eggs and tomatoes at you, and your mother will be getting free food. I’m very happy for you. Now please leave. I don’t know about others, but I have a lot of work to do.”
She put two oblique lines on an answer sheet, making a big red X that nullified a one-page answer. At the bottom of the page she wrote: “Bad Handwriting!!”
“And this is the staff room.” Kamya slammed the answer sheet on the table and turned to Siya. “Don’t come here for such flimsy reasons.”
“Sorry, teacher,” said Siya, and she left.
Kamya leaned back and revelled in the sound of her favourite word: Sorry. Her self-esteem went two notches higher whenever people used that word before her.
She decided to celebrate with a cup of coffee. She walked to the door. The coffee machine was at the end of the corridor.
Siya was crying near the machine with her friend patting her shoulder.
“What are you kids doing here?” asked Kamya in a stern voice. “Go home. You’re not supposed to loiter in school.”
“Sorry, teacher,” said Siya’s friend. The two students ran down the stairs.
“And be careful not to fall,” said Kamya. “I don’t want your parents to come complaining that we didn’t look after their kids. Irresponsible children.”
She turned to the coffee machine and pressed the button for cappuccino. A roar came from within the machine. The steam nozzle vibrated and sparks jumped from the button Kamya had just pressed. She stepped back. The machine gave more sparks. “Oh God.” Kamya took two more steps back and her vision tilted upward as she tumbled down the stairs. She rolled thrice, the edges of the steps banging her knees, elbows, and forehead.
Her face hit the floor at the bottom and she rolled on her back. Pain flooded throughout her body and she felt her bones had cracked. She twitched her arms and legs and was glad to realize she could move her limbs. But her back hurt badly.
“Somebody help me,” she cried to the ceiling.
Kamya turned her head and saw the two students, Siya and her friend, standing a few meters away. The students looked at each other and shrugged. Kamya stretched a hand to them. Her back pain intensified. She didn’t know what hurt more, the pain in her back that felt like a hammer striking her spine or the sinking feeling in her heart after seeing Siya and her friend hesitate to help their fallen teacher.