Saffron shifted uncomfortably in her chair a cheap thing with no padding to speak of. The kind made for people to remember it was not good to sit where she did.
"Would you like some tea, Miss Reed?" It was the principles voice. She looked up from her moccasined feet. He was still standing behind his desk, refusing to sit in the cushiony leather chair behind him. He had been there since Saffron walked in.
"No thank you, sir." She pulled the ends of her sleeves tight over her hands, pressing them down to her palms.
"Please. I insist." He turned to take two glass teacups from the cabinet behind him. "Lemon or honey?" Steaming water poured from the boiler on top of the cabinet.
Saffron mind raced as it began calculating calories.
Tea is zero calories. Honey is 35 per tablespoon. There are 15 in a medium lemon, meaning 5 per wedge.
"Neither, thanks." She smiled. The grin had become her shield.
"If you say so." He dropped a tablespoon of honey into his cup, making Saffron cringe internally. The principle's belly could stand 35 less calories per day.
"How are your parents?" He turned to hand her a cup.
"Fine." She took it from his meaty hand, a hand that could have easily crushed the cup. Could easily crush her.
"Have they been home much?"
They hadn't. Her father had been in China for three months now, and would be for six months more. Her mother had the habit of disappearing for weeks on end. She'd gone missing a month before. Based on a few staticy phone calls, Saffron was sure she was in Egypt with yet another secret boyfriend. "Of course" She gave a laugh that said why wouldn't they be home.
The principle raised an eyebrow as he took a sip. Seeing the cue, Saffron followed suit. The tea was harsh and bitter against her tongue, but nothing she wasn't used to. Being easily chilled as of late had led her to drink copious amounts of tea. Never coffee, though. It wasn't worth the 10 calories per 8-ounce cup.
"Have you been keeping up with your studies?" He pulled the chair behind him, and sat, not letting go of the teacup.
The smile came again. "Of course." She hadn't. Between hours at the gym and orchestra practice she didn't have time for Latin.
He pulled a folder from the top of a stack of papers in his inbox. "You grades say otherwise." He opened the folder. "You're looking at failing every class. Calculus, Asian history. Even cooking. Yes, cooking. You were a stellar student this time last year. What happened?"
Her mind said everything. Her mouth said, "School's just stopped being my thing."
"And what's your 'thing' now?"
She shrugged. "Music." And long distance running, though that was becoming harder.
"What about university?"
"I'm not going."
"Not even for music?"
She shook her head. "I'm applying to a conservatory in the States." One that didn't care about grades, nor had a required meal plan.
There was a beat of awkward silence as his eyes flittered over her. She knew what he was looking at. How she was wearing an oversized
sweater in the middle of a May. How the cup shook in her hands. How her skin had a blue tinge to it.
"How have your eating habits been?"
Her stomach dropped at the dreaded question, one her mother had always been too self-absorbed to ask. "Perfectly fine. Three meals a day. Nothing different." It was really more like one, though. She'd been consuming 800 calories per day for six months, and running off half of them.
"That's surprising. Your gym teacher said you've lost 10 kilos since last year."
Silently, she cursed the annual physical fitness test. "I didn't work out last year. Ate a lot of pizza, too."
The principle again raised an eyebrow. The action seemed to pull his normally playful countenance into one of pure business. Saffron knew something more was coming.
"Miss Reed," he began, folding his hands over the open folder. "I'm just going to go straight to the point. You teachers have noticed that you've . . . changed a bit over the past couple months."
How could they have noticed? What did she forget? She'd been so careful. Inner uneasiness was a moment from leaking into her expression, but she covered it with a half smile. "Noticed what?"
"Now, now Miss Reed. You know what I'm speaking of."
"No, I really don't." She took a sip, and relished the fresh feeling of warmth that flowed through her frail body. There was once a time when tea did not make her feel that way. Back when she was 68-kilogram blob of fat.
The principle opened his mouth to continue, but an alarm sounded behind him. It was a digital clock. The time read noon, meaning lunch for some students. Noting that, he silenced the beeping, and asked, "When is your lunch break?"
"Now," she lied. Saffron didn't want to continue the conversation. She knew where certain talks went. Where this one was going in a minute.
He didn't bother to check her schedule, which was readily available in the manila folder spread out before him. Instead, he merely closed it. "That is unfortunate, but before you go, I would like to give you something." He opened another desk drawer, pulled out a business card, and handed it to her. "Call this man, please. You might find that he can be of some help to you."
"I will, sir." She took the card as she stood.
"Have a pleasant day, Miss Reed. I will be calling your mother about our little meeting."
She smiled as she lifted her bag from the ground. It was much too large for her. "I'll tell her to expect one soon."
With that she left, dropping the card in the trash receptacle just outside his door.