12 | FIELD TRIPS AND DINNER DISCUSSIONS
The students blinked as the bomb dropped upon them, as did a shocked, unbelieving silence.
“Huh?” Eli blurted aloud—then realised to his surprised that he hadn’t been called out for an ‘inappropriate response’ this time.
A second passed—
—and the class broke out in frenzied chatter.
Mrs Lim rubbed her temples at the table—of course this would happen. The Errors continued sitting in shell-shocked, awkward silence until Ethan couldn’t take it anymore.
“Um, what the actual fu—”
“The trip is to the CC? So, like, they’re all visiting our home?” Eli widened his gold-flecked eyes as he tapped his fingers against the table edge, piano-playing style. “That’s so weird!”
Em could only let out a sputter, “Seriously? Them? Visiting the CC? No way. No freaking way the government’s actually doing this—this is ridiculous!”
Ethan’s episodes worked in a vicious cycle - despite currently being in the guilt portion of it where he essentially regretted everything, he was back to remembering why he said the f-word aloud and why he despised all these discriminatory people in this posh, holier-than-thou Academy.
“UM, EXCUSE ME?” He raised his voice, watching as the rest of the class turned back to meet the eyes of the bristling boy, some with disturbed expressions, others decently guilty.
“Uh, yes, Ethan?” Mrs Lim snapped back to attention, slightly frazzled as she forced a smile onto her face. God, she didn’t even want to go on this trip to that kind of place, but she was a teacher, and teachers were supposed to be good role models. “Ah, right, it’s where you live! I’m sure we would all, well, appreciate it if you four at the back could be our tour guides for this cohort excursion! Are you guys okay with that?”
“Actually, we didn’t even know about this until today,” Eli pointed out.
“Oh… I see. Um… well...”
“We will check today and get back to you as soon as possible,” Eris provided a model response, somewhat alleviating the awkwardness.
“Thank you! Now, since we are so lucky to have you four in our class… I was wondering if each of you could lead a group for pre-trip reflections?”
“Eli, dinner’s ready! Get your fat ass out here!”
“Okay, okay! You’re the fat one!” Eli hollered back at Ethan—Stupid Ethan, he thought—before turning back to Timothy with a smile, “It’s dinner time, Tim. I’ll come back later, okay?”
Tim just smiled back, nodding rapidly as Eli got off the couch and skipped over to the dining area where Mrs Rita and Louis were busy bringing out the dinner plates laden with their dinners.. Eris busied herself, laying out the cutlery alongside Ethan and Em—the boy made sure to give Eli a vicious glance for not arriving immediately when called. The blonde wasn’t bothered. After being tazed in the hallway for swearing, Ethan had been in a prickly mood all day, even worse than Em on her period. Plus, he was trying to help the seventeen-year-old Error with his spelling—he’d made a point to teach him. Low IQ or not, he was sure Tim had it in him.
Mrs Rita, Louis and the others plopped into their seats as Eli went ahead to pour water from the scratched-up flask—and spill some on the tablecloth as well—while the conversation went onto the learning journey that Louis had, apparently, not told them about prior.
“They’re just going to come in here and insult everything in this CC!” Ethan argued, “Louis, I can’t believe you think this is a good idea!”
“It’s going to be positive exposure and, well, educate the students. I think it’ll be a very good experience for them, Ethan.” Louis explained, “And Em, please eat the chicken, not your fingers, thank you.”
Em stopped gnawing on her fingernails and picked up her spoon. “Honestly, though? My fingernails probably taste better than the chicken.”
“Oi!” Mrs Rita glared as she angrily chewed a piece of the very same chicken. “Stop insulting my cooking skills! Why don’t you try getting sweaty out in the kitchen, no Cooker to help and all? Do you think I would be out there working my ass off to come back to this bullcrap—”
The old woman merely grunted at Louis’ attempted reminder about her coarse language. “You should be grateful enough that I didn’t say ‘shit’.”
“You just did, though,” Eli pointed out.
“Yeesh! Shut up and eat your food!”
After a series of chews and clinking of cutlery against plates, Louis decided that it was a good time to finally address the many things he had to discuss. “Okay, three things. First, Ethan. I think—”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. No more swearing, be a good boy, yada yada blah blah.”
The CC Manager sighed. “Well, I sure hope you do. The Academy has been as lenient as possible; they would suspend you in a normal circumstance. Moving on...” He made sure to continue before any kind of ‘Because we’re Errors’ remark started the angst all over again, “Can you guys, please, please, be nice to Roxa—Miss Chew? She’s trying to help you guys become better at controlling yourselves!”
“It’s the same thing every single month!” Em groaned, “Plus, it’s pretty obvious she’s only coming because the government dumped her in here; she doesn’t actually mean to help us.”
“That doesn’t mean she’s not able to help—”
“Ohhhh!” Eli sprung up, tapping his feet against the floor excitedly as his conspiracy theory poured out, “I know why you’re defending her! I know why! Oh my gosh, it all makes so much sense now!”
Louis raised an eyebrow. “And what is this brilliant revelation?”
“You have a crush on her!”
“No—no! I do not have a crush on her!” The man sputtered, “Good grief, Elijah! You—you’re… please do not assume things like that! MOVING ON!”
“He’s in denial,” Ethan muttered under his breath as Louis finally got around to the the topic they had bombarded him about earlier upon getting home, but had been put aside for the formal announcement in front of Mrs Rita as well. But honestly, Louis and Roxanne? Pft, it was ridiculous. No way Louis would be interested in a woman like that—and Louis had said so himself, he was a single pringle for life.
“Louis, we’re barely even keeping the lights on in here and you approved a school trip? Has the coffee overdose finally fried your brain or what?” Rita barked, incensed by the mere idea of students streaming through the doors—Christ, she was already overworked and underpaid at the moment!
“And all the other Errors? How are we going to ensure that everything runs smoothly with just the two of us? And, well, with these kids?” She gestured to the four at the table, suddenly remembering that they weren’t complete burdens and were somewhat helpful on occasion.
“Yes, Mrs Rita, I support!” Eli announced.
“Facts!” Ethan insisted, “This is going to be so embarrassing and weird for us, Louis!”
“Can’t you just give them an excuse that Tyler’s having a meltdown or something?” Em queried, “Why do we have to host them when we’re already struggling to stay afloat in here? None of them even want to be here—”
Louis sighed, finally relenting with the honest reason why he agreed, “Well, Mr Wang called me up and um, was very, well... eager for a field trip...”
“So he forced you?”
A simple look by Louis confirmed the answer to Eli’s question.
“Of course they would,” Ethan growled, “They think we’re pushovers because we’re poor.”
“Look, all of you, this isn’t all as bad as you assume it to be—”
“Louis, please—don’t channel your optimism, or your inner Eli. No offense at all, but it gets annoying,” Em wrinkled her nose, dumping a clump of meat onto her rice-filled spoon.
“What’s wrong with channeling me? I’m not annoying, okay,” the boy insisted as Louis backed him up, “Kids, it’s important to stay positive in life as much as possible. Look, if you keep thinking about the negative, everything is going to suck. If you drop those and think about the little things in life that are worth cherishing, you’ll—”
“Right… I’m totally not thinking about how we don’t have enough funding and are hosting a bunch of snobby and rich students who will most likely come here with none of that ‘positive learning attitude’ at all. We’re alive and breathing and eating boiled-only dinner. Our lives are great! Yay, positivity!”
Louis sighed, facepalming internally. Kids.