I look past Sara to the front of the school, where a toothpick-thin older woman stands holding the door open with one hand; the other planted sharply on her bony hip. Despite the lingering humidity, she’s wearing a long gray pencil skirt and an orange wool cardigan that makes me hot and itchy just looking at it.
“Miss Brown, where are you girls supposed to be?” Her voice sounds like lemons taste. I can’t tell if she’s glaring at us or if her silver-streaked black hair is pulled too tightly into the severe bun at the nape of her neck.
“Ugh,” Sara grumbles, rolling her eyes. “Mrs. Dour.” Turning to the woman, she smiles sweetly. “It’s Lucy’s first day. I was giving her an introduction.”
“That’s what homeroom is for. Hurry it up.” Mrs. Dour lets the door slam shut and watches us through the glass window.
Sara nudges me. “She is the worst,” she mutters through the clenched teeth of her smile. “My mother can’t stand her. And vice versa.”
We begin walking through the grass toward the school. “Why?” I whisper back, trying to encourage Sara to move faster by walking a step ahead.
“Oh, she hates that Dede takes me out of school sometimes to travel. But Dede’s right – I learn way more about history by visiting Rome than by reading a description of the Coliseum in her stupid history book.”
“Is Mrs. Dour a history teacher? Wait, you’ve been to Rome? In Italy?”
“Twice. Yeah, she’s awful though. So boring. Once, she called Dede ‘flighty.’ So Dede called her ‘a stick in the mud.’ She’s hated me ever since.”
I look at Mrs. Dour’s hard face through the window. I can already tell she is someone whose bad side I do not want to be on. “That stinks.”
“Yeah, no kidding.” Sara pulls open the door. Mrs. Dour doesn’t move.
“Miss Brown, please get where you’re going. And you.” She turns her sharp, cat-like eyes to me. “Where is your homeroom?”
“Um… I think…” I pull my backpack off my shoulder and rifle through the front pocket to find my homeroom assignment. “It’s room 106.”
“I’ll escort you.”
Mrs. Dour spins on her heel and begins walking briskly down the hall. I shoot a glance at Sara, who opens her eyes wide. "Good luck," she mouths, then smiles.
Frantically zipping my backpack closed, I run to catch up with the history teacher, who is about to turn the corner.
“Wait! Mrs. Dour!”
Suddenly Mrs. Dour freezes. I stop in my tracks. She turns back toward me slowly, glowering.
“It’s Lauer. Mrs. Lauer.” Her hard face breaks into a grim smirk. “You can tell your friend that she’s not doing you any favors by sharing rude faculty nicknames.”