There was a beep, and then a crackle. The teacher stepped over to the intercom and pressed down the button. "Yes?"
"Ms. Whyte, is Tracy there?"
The class turned and glanced towards Tracy, who looked startled and straightened up from her normal slouch. She stared at the teacher nervously.
"Yes, she's here," Ms. Whyte reported back.
"Could you send her down to the Guidance Office, please? Mrs. De Wilde is expecting her." The intercom, with a second crackle, turned itself off.
The teacher stepped back towards the blackboard and her explanations. "Tracy, you heard them. Be sure to get the test layout from someone else, after school."
Tracy stood, and gathered her belongings together. She had gone as white as a sheet of paper. She walked through the classroom, and one by one, her classmates started giggling.
There was a knock on the door. Mrs. De Wilde looked up from her paperwork. "Come in." Tracy came in, hesitantly. She seemed terrified. "Please, have a seat, Tracy."
Tracy sat down, nervous, watching the guidance counsellor the way one watched a snake. Mrs. De Wilde smiled.
"Tracy, I have been receiving some mixed reports about you," she said, in a gentle, sunny, tone, with a matching, gentle, sunny smile. "Your grades have gone up almost three letters since last year."
Tracy squirmed, uncomfortable. "Well? That's good, isn't it?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"Pardon?" Mrs. De Wilde said.
Tracy seemed to realise something; she straightened up and said "Well, that's good, isn't it?" in a normal, conversational tone. Colour was coming back into her face. "You don't think I'm cheating or something, do you?"
"No, of course not," the guidance counsellor responded, startled. "Nothing of the sort. We think you're just learning how to apply yourself."
"Yes I am," Tracy answered. She lifted herself up as though to leave. "Can I go now?"
Mrs. De Wilde motioned her to sit back down. "Tracy, there's still something else I would like to talk to you about."
Tracy sat back down with a thump.
"There are reports," the counsellor began, folding her hands and placing them on her desk, on top of Tracy's file, which she had been reading, "that you talk to yourself. Constantly."
Tracy went bright red, which seemed to confirm the suspicion.
"Is that true, Tracy?" Mrs. De Wilde asked, abandoning the gentle, sunny, tone and matching smile for a concerned set.
"I don't talk to myself," Tracy stuttered, still red.
"Who are you talking to, then?" Mrs. De Wilde answered, simply. Now she looked slightly triumphant, as though she had caught Tracy in something.
"No one," Tracy muttered.
Mrs. De Wilde shook her head in a concerned fashion. "Ms. Pembrook, is there anything you would like to talk to me about?"
"Anything at all?"
The counsellor sighed. "You're not making this easy for me, Tracy." She sighed again, and shook her head. "I've made an appointment with a psychiatrist. She specialises in troubled youth."
"I'm not troubled," Tracy blurted. "I--" She stopped mid-sentence and looked as though she was listening to something. "I simply enjoy the pleasure of my own company and conversation."
Mrs. De Wilde blinked a couple of times. "I see." She rearranged the papers on her desk. "I see." She took a deep breath and then handed a slip of paper to Tracy. "This is your appointment; I scheduled it for Wednesday morning, and have already spoken to your home room teacher, who will make up the homework for you. I can't make you go, of course; but if you don't go, I will feel the need to talk to your parents about this."
Tracy was starting to go red, angry red; she took the slip and carefully folded it up into quarters and put it into her bag. "I'll go."
"It's for your own good, Tracy." Mrs. De Wilde replied.
Tracy snorted and stood up. "Whatever. I'm going back to class now." She picked up her backpack and started for the door. Mrs. De Wilde could hear her mumbling: "Who does she think she is? Honestly, like I need anybody else to talk to... of course I'm mad... wouldn't you be?"
The guidance counsellor watched until Tracy had shut the door behind her, then shook her head, sadly, concerned, and just a little bit disturbed.
Tracy went straight home. She didn't bother going back to her class; she didn't need the review sheet anyway. She dumped her bag and the bottom of her stairs and ran up to her room, two steps at a time. She slammed the door to her room behind her.
"Honestly, who does she think she is? Meddling in other people's business like that, it's disgusting. I should have just told her to keep her big fat nose out of it."
She knelt in front of an old-fashioned doll house. It was three stories, and created in the Victorian style. The front of the house was on hinges so that the wall swung open. She tapped the chimney three times.
"I think you're right to be worried," came a very small voice from her front pocket. A tiny head popped up, followed by tiny arms. She picked the small man up gently, and held him in the flat of her palm while she opened the front of the house. All the occupants had gathered so that they could see her.
"Hi, Tracy," they called.
"Hi, guys," she called back. "How's the food situation?"
"It's good," answered a tiny woman. "But the battery for the stove is running low."
"I'll get a fresh one," Tracy promised as she set the tiny man level with the second floor and he jumped the gap to the house. "Tom will fill you in on my day, I'm sure." She snorted, with disgust. "Some people just don't know when to stay out of other people's business." There was a murmur of discontent. "Oh, don't worry, guys, nobody knows about you." The murmur died down. "Oh, and one more thing--tomorrow I've got that big test--"
"Don't worry about it." Another of the tiny men stepped forward. "I'll go tomorrow, instead of Johanne, we already talked about it."
Tracy beamed. "Thanks, Mark. You're a life-saver. Honestly, what would I ever do without you guys?"