Last School Day

The last bell seemed to ring louder than any of the others, I mused to myself. I liked to wait and let the bustle of the other students clear the room slightly before I bundled all of my supplies together and followed them out into the hallway. The locker room was still packed when I got there, kids delicately balancing the textbooks and papers they didn’t need anymore and stuffing them into their backpacks or (not-uncommonly) the bin; typical final week stuff.

This was different though. Our final final week. The end of high school. The energy was different, buzzing as everybody discussed which university they were headed to, or what internship they’d landed. One particularly loud girl was giving another student career advice. Near Melbourne, there was going to be some sort of celebration party for the kids who had already finished, but I wasn’t allowed to go that far on a school night — even if it was my last school night.

I couldn’t get as excited as them, though. I felt too lost, still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My guidance counsellor had told me to pick something I knew I’d enjoy, or I’d be back asking for career change advice. Melbourne suddenly felt so far away, like a city I could never visit, even though I lived right on its doorstep. You had to be successful to go there, to live there, to work there. And I didn’t know how to be successful.

‘Mabel?’ a voice asked behind me, and I realised I was the last one in the room. I turned around and saw Ms Grant, a concerned look on her face. ‘Is everything alright?’ she asked, kindly. Slowly, I built up the nerve to shake my head. Then I couldn’t stop shaking, until all I could do was shake. She rushed over to hold me, calming me down as all of my fear poured out of me in one big go.

‘There, there,’ she soothed. ‘I know someone who can help.’