She’s not quite as evil as Romulus Mortifer, but in many ways, she comes close. Mostly because she was inspired by a teacher who refused to believe in me or nurture my burgeoning talent. (OK, it wasn’t burgeoning in 10th grade. But it could have been with bit more love and a little less criticism!)
Anyway, we all had one of those in our lives. In a weird way, we all need one of those. It’s so characters like these can exist. Say hello to mine: Aberdeen Hall.
* * *
Mrs. Aberdeen Hall was sixty-six and desperate to hide it.
She had rules for everything—rules about homework (do it or get detention); rules about making your bed (do it or get detention); rules about breakfast (eat it or get detention); and rules about having fun (do it and get detention).
She hated dirt; she hated rats; she hated mirrors. And Luke knew she hated him. Everyday he tried telling himself he didn’t care—that someday, someone would claim him as his or her own. Then, he’d be free, free from two a.m. detentions, seven a.m. kitchen duties, and thirty-five-year-old Stanley.
The other Hall. If there was anyone Luke despised as much as Mrs. Hall, it was her son Stanley, round from foot to crown. His pursed lips and furrowed brow often gave the impression that a rancid odor lurked between Stanley’s nose and mouth, while his incessant slouching had Luke wondering whether his neck either sunk lower into his body or his shoulders crept towards his ears.
Before Luke could remember, he had lived at the ward, and lately, he felt destined to an eternity here. In just two weeks, Luke would turn thirteen. He was losing hope fast.
In his first five years in the ward, he clung to the idea that someday, his father would bound through the doors, swing Luke onto his shoulders, and whisk him away from that dismal place. Far, far away and take him—home. Wherever that was. Whatever that was, more like it. But seven years later, the image had faded. His father wasn’t coming. No one was to bound through any doors to take him home.
It was the one word Luke knew churned in every orphaned kid’s stomach. It was the one word that could silence the entire dinning hall in a second. And it was the one word Mrs. Hall made certain she used, tossing it around like ordinary words such as dust or socks. Maybe someday he’d find out. For now, he felt very much alone.