Oliver walked down the stairs, taking a right corner to the library and hoped for one thing, that he wouldn’t bump into the school’s principal. His principal was known and famous for one thing, that he always there to look for the students’ mistakes. Oliver vividly recalled the principal made his debut on his second day of service where he whipped two students three times each for starting a food fight. He fastened his pace, but luck wasn’t with him this time. Principal Norman opened the office door, where he and Oliver suddenly were eye-to-eye contact. Oliver had a hard time swallowing his saliva at the moment he saw his principal’s eyes, which was greenish-yellow, but the yellow seemed to be overpowering the green, and made his eyes nothing much like the python’s. He thought that the principal had been lurking there all time, waiting for him. He couldn’t feel his legs anymore.
‘M-morning Principal Norman.’ For heaven’s sake Oliver felt that those words were reluctant to come out from his mouth, as if they were afraid as well. He self-inspected himself before the man stood before him did, looking for any portholes that the man could find to sink him down. Necktie, checked. Sleeves, checked. He muttered under his ragged breath. ‘Ah, Mr. Clay. Do you have a time?’ He gently said, opening the door a bit wider. Oliver looked at him plainly and he could only assume one thing, he wanted him to come into his office. Would he get strangled to death in there? Oliver deemed in his heart.
He wanted to say that he needed to go to the school library, but that probably wasn’t the answer Principal Norman would want to hear. ‘Oh…okay.’ He nodded obediently and walked carefully into the office, each step was analyzed in case there’re any booby traps. The air conditioner blew a chilling welcome as Oliver stepped inside, prickling deep into his skin. There was a small round glass table and a two-seater upholstered couch at the end of the room, purposely placed for the parents. Oliver noticed the fresh smell of air and the picture of a beautiful garden on the wall, along with the principal’s certificates, which surprised him. Then, the atmosphere slowly turned warm and cozy. He imagined some kind of evil atmosphere, suffocating every student to death. Or a list of people who felt his whip engraved permanently on the wall. That moment his mind gone blank, as if there was a mental traffic jam happened and Oliver tried so hardly fighting off the bad images in his mind.
‘Mr. Clay?’ Oliver stunned. It took his principal three times calling his name for him to answer.
‘Would you care for some tea?’ Principal Norman asked, pouring some tea into two cups. The cool air of the room and the hot water created thin steam that vaporised quickly in the air. Black Citron tea, the student assumed from the smell. The principal placed a small plate and a cup of tea in front of Oliver, as he sat gently on his mesh chair, before he leaned forward, reaching for the sugar in the middle of the table. He plopped down a cube into his cup before slowly stirring it in a clockwise direction. Oliver copied him, but he waited for his principal to take a sip first. Every second felt forever with him assuming that the principal might as well waiting for him to have a sip first before him, and then burst to an evil laugh. Then the images faded as he saw the old man in front him took a gentle sip. Once he did that, then all the doubts Oliver had about him were washed away. He saw the old man’s glasses were covered in steam when he pulled away, and then quickly turned clear again. But this time his eyes weren’t yellow or green, but light brown that matched his fatherly mien.
‘What makes him so nice today? Or does he have something in mind? Maybe he took a vaccine so he won’t get poisoned by the tea…’ The questions remained floating in his head, unanswered.
‘Can you see the beautiful picture of a garden right there? My daughter took it.’ Principal Norman said, pointing with his teaspoon. ‘She did know how to see the beauty in something…’ He continued, before he took another sip of his tea. Oliver remembered. His daughter was killed in an accident 2 years ago. A drunk driver, and a hit and run case, according to the police. Oliver rammed his mind for history. He knew if it hadn’t been because of the accident, Linda would have been the same age as him, 16.
‘It sure is beautiful, just like her.’ He didn’t think of what he wanted to say, but it was probably something to cheer him up. He knew there was a soft spot deep in Principal Norman’s heart. She was his only child. Since that day, every time Principal Norman took over a teacher’s class, he would be preaching about avoiding dangerous things, like cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. And he also always gave the students a piece of his mind about respecting the elders and loving their family. That’s explained why he was being so stern towards problem makers. Oliver remembered. Linda was his third friend that he met during first day of high school, after Sarah and Tyler.
‘You know, young man,’ Principal Norman said, before he continued, ‘Sarah told me quite a lot about you and your friends. She…’
About thirty minutes after that, and after thanking him on the drink, Oliver left the principal’s office and scurried to the library. When he reached there, he didn’t see any sign of Mr. Barnes around. He had a clean record with him, but the truth was that his heart rate was high. It could be his first.