Nothing like playing victim to ten year-olds to brighten your afternoon, Rhea thought sulkily as she got into her carpool the next day. She felt so free outside of her work, and it all came crashing down just remembering she had to get up the next day and face the ordeal again.
It was pretty stupid that Rhea, double the age of the children she was looking after, could not muster enough courage or authority to ignore their insults and bypass their pranks. The only saving grace was that their attitude did not differ around town, as it seemed from her encounter with Alex the previous evening.
She could not help but fear the worst when Ms Chadwick called her to the office only half an hour into the working day. The principal was a tough cookie for sure, and seemed like the type that would fire Rhea, even if she had only worked properly for two weeks.
She took one final calming breath before knocking on the door, trying her best not to think of the possible fate this one woman had created for her and the legacy.
“Ah, Rhea,” Ms Chadwick said breezily, and gestured vaguely to the very armchair Rhea had sat in for her interview, “I won’t be a second. The inspectors are coming soon and I want to make sure everything looks perfect.” Rhea obediently took her seat, wondering whether that particular statement was directed at her or not.
“I see you have almost completed the course I signed you up for, and with good results too,” the principal continued, a slight air of surprise in her words, “But sadly I have not received the same reception from the children.”
Rhea’s whole body deflated somewhat, the faint glimmer of hope fading away in the distance. “I understand.”
“The children here are not bad kids, Rhea. The accusations I’ve heard from them are very much out of the ordinary…”
“Indeed. I will not go into detail, but most of them contained deep descriptions of what I would call bullying.”
The gasp the news had forced on her was hard to stifle.
“I just don’t know what to believe anymore. You must understand that you are not the first playground monitor to be affected by this awful behaviour. I have fired two of your predecessors that were, in truth, totally innocent.”
Rhea sat stone still in the armchair, unsure of what emotion to portray. She assumed this statement meant that her job was safe; though the possibility of a promotion seemed completely out of the question now.
The metal stand of the office chair squeaked slightly as Ms Chadwick left it and she stepped towards the wall holding the many badges of honour the school had collected over the years, her thin fingers tracing the messages listed neatly against the bronze.
“It’s been so stressful for me having to deal with this, totally out of character,” the principal turned around to face Rhea who remained frozen in her sitting position. “Please try to connect with them. I’m not sure what else I can do anymore” and Rhea took her exasperated tone as a cue to leave, and slipped out of the door with the conclusion that even the toughest person in Isla Paradiso suffered from the weight of an everyday working life.
She stepped through the front door of the building, contemplating her next move. Games? Kids liked games, but a little niggling voice in the back of her head told her that the situation was too desperate already to be solved with just games.
She reached the corner of the building when a bright yellow orb sped towards her and smashed open on contact with her face, leaving her hair soaking and droplets of water crawling down her cheeks.
* * *
Rhea fumbled with her door key as she walked along the jetty, the sound of her shoes weighing heavily against the wooden planks creating a rhythmic thud, thud, thud.
Fate had certainly dealt her a cruel hand of cards, after only a month in this new town she was starting to have serious doubts about whether this legacy thing would work. She hadn’t even dated anyone yet.
And even if she had, what person in their right mind – even if they did descend from her – would be proud of some distant ancestor who spent her entire life as a playground monitor?
The keys slipped from her heavy-handed grasp and landed on the wood with a clink, and she bent to retrieve them, the hiss of a sigh escaping her lips. She stretched her body out and turned around to see Chiron, who had somehow materialised in front of her.
“Rhea! Hi! Aella sent me,” he panted, “we were wondering if you’d like to join us for dinner tonight? We barely get to see you anymore!”
Another exasperated sigh rested in Rhea’s throat but she managed to catch it before it could progress outside. She did not want to burden her new neighbours with her increasingly bad mood, nor did she want it worsened by their parent-like care; her own parents were long dead now and she did not need new ones.
However today had been a very tough, and if she did not attend then she would most likely spend her time brooding about the various events of the day.
“Why not? What time shall I come over?”