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“I’m closing up in ten minutes, Mia,” Mrs Taylor, St. Kilda High’s librarian warned.
The end-of-day bell had rung fifteen minutes ago but Mia was waiting for the crowds to clear. She’d made it to the end of her first day without running into Julian again by spending lunch time and then her double free period in the library. Still, she couldn’t be home too late – her mother had no classes this afternoon but a late class tonight, so she’d be home now and want an early dinner. Mia packed up.
The fifteen minutes had been enough, the lockers and the tram stop were bully-free and she even got a seat on the ride home. Perhaps she should do that more often. As she reached the front door of her new flat, she saw her mother through the kitchen window, lifting a newspaper-wrapped plate from a box she’d perched over the sink. Mia sighed. Patricia was doing what she usually did – unpacking everything at once but not putting anything in the cupboards, just stacking it all onto what little bench space their always tiny kitchens had. Patricia’s reasoning was that everything needed to be washed of newsprint before it was put away but it was so much easier to unpack, wash and put away everything from one box at a time. Her mother’s way turned the whole kitchen into one of those puzzles with one piece missing; you had to shuffle everything around to get enough space to even reach the sink – let alone make a meal.
“Where have you been?” Patricia asked the moment Mia stepped through the door. “You should have been home fifteen minutes ago.”
“Sorry. I was in the library.” She headed past the kitchen, down the short hall to her bedroom and dropped her bag on the bed.
Her mother appeared in the doorway. “The library?”
“I was finishing one of the new English books. I’ve only got three left to read now.”
“You went to the library after school to read for fifteen minutes, instead of coming straight home?”
“No. I was in there already – I had a double free and I was almost finished the book so I-”
“Hang on,” her mother held up one hand. Mia stiffened but managed not to commit the sin of flinching. “You had a double free period and you spent it reading in the library instead of coming home to help unpack?”
Mia swallowed. She hadn’t thought of doing that. “I was reading the English books I have to catch up on.”
”Oh! Oh well that’s alright then! It’s not like I was here with an entire household to unpack!”
“But, it’s schoolwork-” Mia was genuinely confused. Now even her school hours weren’t her own?
“And it’s a library. You can bring the book home.”
“Actually, I can’t. You can’t take the assigned texts home. They’re reference only.”
Her mother’s left eye twitched. She folded her arms. “Why must you always lie?”
Fear swallowed the surge of anger the insult brought to Mia’s chest. “I’m not.”
“Novels are not reference books. Reference books are dictionaries and encyclopedias. Do you think I’m stupid?”
“No. They just put the assigned texts in the reference section. They don’t have many and they […]