If kids understood how strongly teachers wanted the last bell of the day to ring – perhaps they wouldn't be so rambunctious and would cut them some slack. The thought had struck Francis Gerbeck daily since the beginning of December, as she tried to wrangle her class of middle schoolers into some semblance of order. "Come on guys, fifteen more minutes. Stop wiggling in your seats and copy down the pages you'll be reading over tonight for homework. I know Christmas is only a few days away, but we're still in school now and I want you all to focus. I don't care if the homework magically disappears when you all run out for the day – but you're all leaving with the pages in hand." She heard the snickers of a few knowing students and sighed.

She shook her head, dropping a pile of book reports on her desk, and returned to speaking about the required reading. The class was halfway through a year long program of Shakespearean plays that would culminate in a class play at the end of June. The students got to pick which of the famous play wright's works they wanted to produce, and it was up to dear Miss Gerbeck to provide a script and a stage. She loved the break in monotony – she hated the process that lead up to the play. Year after year it always came down to the same two plays. The hormone driven girls wanted to do Romeo & Juliet while their male counterparts normally opted for Macbeth. Excellent pieces if one was picking them because of their character driven plots and intrigue – but her eighth graders wanted the scenes with the making out and the crazy sword wielding princes.

One of the students who had been griping about the same process she detested slipped out of her seat and started heading up to the desk. With brown hair, dark brown eyes and a short frame Francis had thought this girl would nothing out of the ordinary, much like her looks. She had proved to be the biggest pain in the ass in her class, with a mouth to match. The jury was still out on whether the fact she was so ordinary physically made her feel as if she should overcompensate with attitude. Jillian Grey was certainly capable of mouthing off more than her own complaints.

"Yes Jillian? Is there something you wanted to ask me?" Francis ventured cautiously. If she could avoid a scene with Jillian before Christmas, perhaps she could maintain some holiday cheer.

"Yes Miss Gerbeck, I wanted to know why we need to do all this reading. I mean, we all know we're just going to pick Romeo and Juliet, and that Mark and I are going to play the lead, and that it'll be as lame as it always is every year." The eighth grader complained.

Great. Bye bye good mood. "The last time I checked I was the teacher and you were the student. And reading and studying Shakespeare's various plays is an important part of English."

The brunette's nose wrinkled and her lip lifted in a sneer. "What does that matter when the old fart is dead, his writing is written in alien, and everyone's going to pick what I want anyways."

Francis took a deep breath before exhaling a growly, "Out in the hall Jillian, now." As the skirt swishing preteen flounced out the classroom door, she turned to sternly remind the class that she would be just outside the door, and that no, they weren't allowed to leave for another ten minutes when the final bell rang. When she had closed the door on the disgruntled faces she turned to face her student.

It took counting to ten to get her heart rate back to normal. It had been thumping painfully since the girl's initial confrontation. The flowery stench of the girl's dollar store perfume stung her nostrils, but it wasn't the pungent childish chemical mix that was making her stomach turn. It was the sweet odour beneath the reek that tickled her urge to throw up. Despite the thirty years of sweat embedded in the lockers on either side of the corridor around them, the steady scent threatened to overwhelm her.

"Jillian, I wanted to talk to you out here because I'm very unhappy with your attitude lately."

An irritating sound erupted from the young girl before she snapped back, "And what about me? Why can't I complain? You're on your phone all the time and none of us every say anything, and you can be fired for that can't you? So I don't see why you can-"

Francis' snarl cut the prissy preteen's protest off sharply. "Go back to class Jillian. Pack up your things. Mind your own business. You aren't old enough to understand Shakespeare's genius, never mind why I might behave one way or another. And frankly, it is none of your business."

She left the thirteen year old standing there open mouthed and shocked as she headed for her preparation office down the hall. Her stomach was churning, muscles in her throat and chest convulsing painfully as her eyes chose that exact moment to contract with a painful migraine. She need a moment to force her fisted hand to open and unlock her office door, before she entered and locked it behind her. She leaned against the door and slid to the floor, reaching for a drawer on her desk and her purse within. She needed both hands to find and open her flip cell phone, several moments passing before she had steady enough fingers to find the number in speed dial.

When someone finally picked up, she had enough time to say one thing before blacking out completely. "Its over Brant, the drug isn't working anymore. I need you to come pick me up before I do something I can't undo."