Crossings

Jodie buried her head in the newspaper when she heard heels clicking towards her. But it was too late.

“Jodie? That’s yesterday’s paper.”
There was no way out. Jodie stood to greet the teacher.
“Good morning Mrs Lee. I’m reading for inspiration.”
Mrs Lee looked at Jodie for a moment. No-one dared to pressure Jodie when it came to writing. Jodie’s writing had made editors sing in admiration.
Jodie watched Mrs. Lee leave. She put down her newspaper. She stared at the blank piece of foolscap, then at her pen.
She waited for the spark that would get things going.
Nothing.
Her friend Cassie approached, fresh from Strings Ensemble practices.
“How’s it going?”
“No inspiration!”
“Why don’t you try a sonnet? That always works.”
“Mrs Lee has come to look for me eight times! In three hours! My writing isn’t even that good!”
“Oh please. Don’t be so modest! Don’t push yourself, okay?”
This, from a person who practiced so hard she had plasters on her fingers!
Jodie grinned. “Look who’s talking.”

A day passed. Jodie managed 50 words before deciding to study instead.
Writing was tiring. Since Jodie worked longhand, she frequently crossed words out, but couldn’t find the right words to replace them.
When output is more than input, there is a net loss.
The phone rang.
“Good afternoon, Mrs Lee. I’ve got 60 words. It’s Saturday, Mrs Lee! I should be able to relax!”
“Jodie, your writing is amazing. Just 750 words more, Jodie.” Then the dial tone.
Jodie almost screamed. How could she ever write properly with a teacher bugging her through phone?
Of course, it was due in two days, but….
40 words later, Cassie dropped by Jodie’s home to check on her. Jodie was still staring at a blank page until Cassie called out, “Jodie! I brought lemonade!”
Jodie rushed downstairs to meet Cassie, who was pouring out homemade lemonade.
“What’s the matter….wait. I know,” Cassie handed a mug brimming with icy-cold lemonade to Cassie, “Mrs. Lee, isn’t it?”
“It’s writer’s block. 700 words more, can you believe that?”
“You actually managed to write 100 words? Impressive!”
Cassie took a long gulp of lemonade.
Jodie drained her mug of lemonade.
“Do you want me to read through it?” Cassie asked.
“Don’t! It’s unfinished!” Jodie almost spilled her lemonade.
The phone rang. Cassie got there first. She pulled the telephone plug out.
They chatted in Jodie’s bedroom. As Jodie went to the bathroom, Cassie sneaked a look at the unfinished poem on Jodie’s table.
It was brilliant.

Jodie skipped maths to scrawl out a few lines about school spirit in front of Mrs Lee at the staff room.
It wasn’t too bad. Jodie had never liked maths.
Mrs Lee greeted her with, “Was your telephone spoilt?”
“My father subscribed to a new telephone company yesterday,” Jodie lied quickly.
20 words, then Jodie looked up.
”Mrs Lee, writing cannot be forced out.”
“Jodie, Little Women was written in two and a half months.”
“I’m not Louisa May Alcott.”
“Speech Day is in ten days. If you want this to be read out, I have to submit it today,” Mrs Lee said quietly.
Jodie didn’t answer. She could barely write. It was too noisy out here.
Mrs Lee tried reading Jodie’s work after half an hour. These were difficult to find amongst the sea of crossings and illegible, so Mrs Lee had Jodie read it out. Mrs Lee thought it was amazing and enthralling. Jodie found it lousy. Mrs Lee said her standards were too high.

Jodie had never been a morning lark. She was always edgy in the morning.
At 6.40am on Tuesday, a shout of surprise broke the morning silence, followed by the calm voice of a teacher.
“Mrs. Lee!” Cassie said, shocked.
Jodie’s eyes were round and frightened. Mrs Lee. Again. She just wouldn’t leave her alone!
“Jodie, the poem’s due today. It’s okay if-”
“Leave me alone!” Jodie sobbed, “my writing’s not worth reading!”
Cassie tried not to roll her eyes, but as a friend she spoke up.
“Mrs Lee, I think you should leave Jodie in peace for this week. She’s been through lots of pressure.”
“Cassiopeia, I believe she can de-stress on her own. And her writing is brilliant.”
“You don’t understand. She’s very stressed about this.”
Jodie sobbed uncontrollably. Cassie patted her shoulder.
“Jodie, even if it’s below the word-count, it’s okay. I just need something to show the principal.”
“It’s not good enough, Mrs Lee!”
And then the screaming started.

Later, Cassie found a crumpled wad of paper in Jodie’s locker. Written on it was a poem about school spirit.
It was brilliant.
It won several awards.
However, the creator never knew of this.
She was undergoing counseling at the time.

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