Testing Times - Chapter 35 "Back To School"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Part
Thirty Five

 

"Back To School"

 
Monday 1st June
 

"Good morning and welcome back, As some of you will know, Dr Meier suffered a heart attack just before half-term. Thanks to the quick actions of one sixth form student, Dr Meier is on the road to recovery. He has, however, decided to retire from teaching and is moving to Aberdeen. I'm sure the whole school will join me in sending him our thoughts and our thanks for an outstanding teaching career."

He paused.

"We have been fortunate to gain the services of Miss Fullerton in the music department until the end of term and possibly longer, please give her a warm welcome her to the school."

Miss Fullerton, who was already on the stage, stepped forward at the Head's behest before retreating.

"Now, some of you may be aware that the student who gave emergency first aid to Dr Meier, likely saving his life, as well as calling the emergency services, was Jeri Anders. I fully expect that all students will respect her decision to return to school as one of our female students. Any disrespect will be considered as bullying and will be treated as such. The same also applies to all students, regardless."

"There will be a fire drill today, please ensure you know where the evacuation zones are. We'll now sing ....."

Tammy and Jeri were right at the back of the hall as the assembly continued, Tammy gave her friend a nudge and they slipped out of the door. Jeri was modestly dressed in an ankle length charcoal grey skirt and a white long sleeved top, a longline sleeveless cardigan in lemon finished the look, she was still learning co-ordination. Her make-up was minimal for this first day.

Tammy had no exams but felt Jeri might need support as she had a normal Monday timetable and would see most of the lower sixth during the day, plus four or five masters. She was plainly nervous.

"What will they say?" They were back in the common room and for several of the boys it wasn't the first time that day they'd seen Jeri.

"You'll just have to see."

"What about the new music teacher?"

"I understand she taught at Inverness Girls Academy, she's never taught any boys before so you have an advantage."

"I have double music first period, so I guess we'll both get a baptism of fire!"

Tammy was due to meet with the other upper sixth for their meeting with Deputy Head Mr Thompson so gave Jeri a kiss on the cheek before leaving the common room. John Hibbert was back from England but had been talking to a group of boys, giving Jeri and Tammy some space. He hurried out of the room after Tammy.

"Is that the same Gerry Anders?"

"Yes, but her name is Jeri Anders now. She might even start to call herself Jeri Marie to emphasise her decision."

"Tanya told me, apparently she had a problem with your shrink?"

"My ex shrink!"

"Yeah, interesting article in the Scotsman on Saturday."

Tammy had seen the article, the paper had difficulty finding anyone to interview and couldn't print the names of any patients without their permission. Benjamin Smith, a partner at Smith, Smith & Smith Solicitors had advised all the clients, who were involved in the claim against the Trust, to say nothing to the media. That meant the Scotsman had struggled to compile a story from just the bland media statements issued by the Trust and Benjamin Smith. Jill, herself, was unavailable for comment.

They'd arrived at the room to be used for this meeting and decided to curtail the discussion as others were now within hearing range of the pair. The meeting was simple, Mr Thompson needed to know that all the day students were back from any travels, having accounted for all the boarders the previous day. There were a few room changes for the exam timetable and these were duly noted.

"As the headmaster said in assembly this morning, Mr Anders is now attending school dressed in female garb. Please respect this decision. It is your choice at the moment whether to address him as Mr or Miss. As sixth formers I'd expect you to set an example by not taunting him, as you would any student."

Tammy was fuming, the Head had referred to Jeri as a female during the assembly and Mr Thompson was implying Jeri was a boy in skirts. She called the prefects together, most of whom were in the room, for a quick meeting once the Deputy Head had left.

"Despite what Mr Thompson just said, the Head referred to Miss Anders in assembly and I'd expect all of you to do the same."

"Why did he say that then?"

"Jeri does not yet have legal status as female, legally she's still male. That I hope will be a formality when she's seen the appropriate professional."

The boy, Franklin Pierce, was still unclear, "so you can change sex simply by seeing a professional?"

"No, and it's gender not sex. You have to convince a psychiatrist that your mind does not match your biological gender. It's not a lifestyle choice, it's much deeper than that."

"But she changed in one day? That's what I heard."

Tammy wasn't happy continuing this conversation. "I'll not discuss Jeri without her agreement."

"Okay, but did she grow those boobs over night, or something?"

"Pierce, that's enough! Give her the respect she deserves, would you be brave enough to do what Jeri has done?"

"No."

"Then don't challenge her decision, support her. As a prefect you should not be saying things that are tantamount to bullying."

The meeting broke up soon after and a few wandered back to the common room. Tammy wanted to see Jeri at break-time but that was over an hour away. One thing was noticeable, was Helen's absence.

She walked over to the cottage and knocked on the door, Joan opened it.

"Hi mum, I'm wondering how Helen is?"

"They did an online shopping order and just booked it for this morning instead of after school. She had to stay here to receive it."

"Silly wotsit."

Another voice was heard, "I resent that remark!"

Joan stood aside so Tammy could go in. Helen was stood inside wearing a onesie.

"Nice outfit, not sure if a babygrow is appropriate for school?"

"You as well, Tammy? Your mum said the same. Obviously I'll shower and dress but I haven't got an exam today."

"You should have been there for the exam briefing though."

"Jeri can pick up any messages."

"She's lower sixth and doesn't go to those briefings."

"Damn. I forgot."

"There's some room changes, check the noticeboard outside the common room."

Tammy told Joan and Helen what the Deputy Head had said.

"Sorry Tammy, and I know this might sound harsh, but legally he's correct."

"It's still not fair, Mum, it encourages others to make offensive remarks."

"I'll speak to the Head, he might put some guidance out."

"Thanks. I'll meet Jeri at break, she doesn't know what Mr Thompson said, yet."

"Be careful and don't let her get wound up. I can speak to her after lunch, I believe she has a free period."

"Okay."

There was a noise outside as a Tesco delivery van pulled up.

"Miss McPherson?"

"No, she's inside somewhere, but I can sign for it."

"Here's the order." He handed Tammy a list of the items, she noticed a few deep frozen ready meals. Joan helped shift the bags into the small kitchen, some empty containers on the worktop gave a clue about the previous evening's dinner.

"Mum, have you seen this?" Tammy whispered.

"Don't interfere."

Upstairs they could hear the sound of running water so the pair stowed the provisions, this gave Joan an excuse to check what fresh veg and fruit was around, especially natural sources of iron. They walked back to the school once Helen was out of the shower.

"Tammy, it will take Helen a while to break out of that mindset, even though she's had medical advice."

"But Jeri isn't used to ready meals and it's silly if they end up cooking individually. What was it with the Chinese takeaway?"

"Don't try to tell them how to run their lives, it's not your job."

"Okay, but I'm worried."

"Neither of them has had to fend for themselves, it is a steep learning curve. The fact that Helen has access to money doesn't help, although they're supposed to have a housekeeping fund that they both put into."

"I didn't know about that."

"No, some of us are capable of dealing with practical issues even when you're not around, young lady!"

They were approaching the school so stopped discussing the girls. Tammy's phone pinged, she took a look at it.

Jill provided your address to the gang that were looking for Helen, she'll be charged with aiding and abetting. Her prints were on paper in the Romanians' car, identified when she was fingerprinted. Hilary

She showed Joan the message.

"The bitch! She deserves prison for this."

There was a cough behind them.

"Mrs Small?"

"Sorry Headmaster, we've just received some disturbing news regarding Dr Jill Davison."

Tammy translated Hilary's words.

"I see, but please be careful with your language."

"Sorry, Headmaster."

Tammy hurried over to the music department, arriving just as the bell sounded. Jeri was talking to the new Music Mistress when Tammy entered the classroom, she wondered if this could be an opportunity. Jeri, meanwhile, looked happy and didn't appear to have had a troubling morning thus far.

"Good morning Miss Fullerton, I'm Tammy Smart, Head Girl."

"Ah, Miss Anders mentioned you, and the headmaster said you'd find me."

Tammy blushed. "Really?"

"Oh yes, now, are you a musician?"

"I'm afraid not, unless you include the triangle and I'm usually out of key there."

The teacher laughed. "I'm told you have a recording studio at home?"

"Yes, but we only discovered its full potential when Jeri visited last weekend. Her guitar playing is magical."

It was Jeri's turn to blush.

"I see, ladies, that we have a mutual appreciation society. Now, I need the loo and a coffee."

Jeri also needed the loo, so they followed the teacher who was racing ahead. Jeri took the second of the two stalls when they arrived at the ladies loo, Tammy inspected herself in the big mirror while waiting for a free stall, having now decided that she was also in need.

By the time they reached the common room there was quite a gathering, but Jeri's appearance killed most conversations. Tammy decided to use the time.

"Good morning everyone, and for those who have heard me earlier, apologies. Anyway, I'd to introduce Miss Jeri Anders, who has not been a regular user of the common room in the past but may grace us with her presence more often."

There were a few "hello Jeri" comments, plus a few muted laughs.

"For those who think this is a joke, it isn't."

Jeri wanted to leave but Tammy persuaded her to stay, eventually a few boys did come over to her, she was more relaxed by now and was chatting freely.

Lori came into the room.

"I got this on Saturday." She showed Tammy a letter from Smith, Smith & Smith. "They want me to add my name."

"Will you?"

"I don't want the kind of publicity you seem to attract, Tammy, a low profile for me please."

"Your name won't go to the press, did you call Dr Hall's secretary?"

"Yes, apparently my appointment was already booked?"

"It was easier to block book all four of us."

"What if I was doing something on Friday?"

"Then you'd have to book another appointment and arrange your own transport, sorry. I'll drive us all over there on Friday is you keep that appointment."

"What time are you picking me up?"

"Ten, the appointments start at one thirty. We'll find somewhere for lunch first."

"I'll be ready."

"But you didn't want me to arrange this?"

"Did I say that, Tammy? You must be mistaken!"

Tammy shrugged, this was a no-win argument. Break time was due to finish, Lori was revising in the library so went back there, Jeri had double English next. Tammy walked with her to the room and made sure the other students saw her, especially those who hadn't been in the common room a few minutes earlier.

She drove into town and parked behind Sarah's store. Tammy let herself into the building and climbed the stairs to Caithness Marine. She was a little surprised to find DS Franklin there.

"Hello Ben."

"Hi Tammy, I see you didn't have to use the buzzer to get in?"

"Er, no."

Hilary tried to explain, "Tammy do you remember me saying that DS Franklin would be our liaison with Police Scotland?"

"Vaguely."

"And Ben, Tammy is being sponsored by us."

"I see, is she cleared?"

"Of course, but I think you knew that."

"I'll be off, thanks for the information and the coffee."

Tammy waited until she could hear the street door close.

"What was he after?"

"Now, now Tammy, I thought he was one of your friends?"

"Yes, but I really wasn't expecting to see him here, I thought liaison meant the odd phone call and email?"

"Having a one to one meeting can be very productive too."

"I suppose so. Now, this text you sent?"

"The connection to the Romanians was out of the blue, that's what Ben brought with him."

"Do Immigration still have them?"

"Their flight's in the morning!"

"I think they're needed for another interview?"

"Good thinking, I'll give Ben a chance to get back to his office them I'll call him."

"Okay, if he brought that intel, what did you give him?"

"Some of your photos, your port reports, that sort of thing."

"Why?"

"He's trying to track some criminal gangs. There's insufficient evidence so far to arrest them so he's hoping to establish a pattern. Some of your photos captured the gang, or their vehicles."

"I see, does he know it was me?"

"No and none of the evidence is admissible in court so you won't get a summons. It will just give him the justification for surveillance, which would be admissible."

"Good."

"Now, what can I do for you?"

"What did Dave really think of me?"

"He was impressed, he also knows what you did at Easter for Heather and Sophie on Scilly."

"I can't discuss it."

"I know, and I wouldn't expect you to. He's very proud of the way you handle yourself."

"I can be a right cow at times."

"Yes, but you're a woman and have the right to be a cow if you want to."

Tammy laughed. "When you put it like that?"

"Exactly, I know that if you need to make a point, you can be very belligerent, that's an advantage not a weakness when you can control your emotions"

"Anyway, what's the view about our security?"

"No nasties on the horizon, the radar is clear."

"Does Jill have any close friends who are likely to interfere?"

"Not that the police have identified. Now, the contents of Veronica Salmond's house has been moved to storage while the police go through it, although Met SB are coming up to go through it properly. I'll get a property list so Miss McPherson can say if there's anything there that she owns."

"Thanks Hilary, we're a little concerned about her accommodation once term ends as she'll have to move out of the cottage."

"I'm told that Jill's house is on the market, it's just outside the town centre." Tammy wasn't sure of Hilary was joking.

"I'm not convinced she's ready to live independently, her personal security is a worry as she's worth millions and the press are well aware. Meanwhile Elsie McPherson has reached the Caribbean and is having some success locating hidden accounts."

"Then I'm sorry but she should pay for a protection detail."

"I'm sure she doesn't want that hassle, and she doesn't know about Elsie's work at the moment."

"The tax man will get a fair wedge of that."

"I suspect some funds will simply be left where they are, albeit with a name change. If the money's not transferred here then it's not subject to UK tax."

"Oh yes, you're doing Business Studies, aren't you?"

"Maybe."

Tammy's mobile rang.

"Yes, mum?"

"Lori's been hurt, she's on the way to hospital."

"Oh no! How?"

"We think it was an accident but she's been badly crushed, she has internal injuries."

"But she was in the library when I left the school."

"Yes, a cabinet fell on her."



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