The teacher stood, shaking his head. “I’ve got a bad feeling about it.” He was standing next to the window on the third floor looking down at the drop. It was sheer and continued past ground level to the flagstoned floor of the basement passage. Maroon metal railings spiked menacingly upwards.
A plush pouf was pushed against the window; a favourite with the girls as they flopped wearily back into their study at break times.
“It wouldn’t take much for one of the girls to lean back and go tumbling. It’s a long way down.”
He was talking to himself; the idea would not let him go. It gnawed at him in the dark hours and stole his sleep. In his dreams he saw it in painful detail. The overbalance; the useless scrabbling hands, the panic as she fell. The scream. It would not let him go.
That was why his route from the car park each morning took him past the house; so that he could look up at the window and reassure himself that no one was too close; that no one, god forbid, was leaning back against the frame.
And it was always ok, until today. Until this morning when he looked up.
She was slumped on the pouf with her back to him and, worse, the window was open. Had been pulled high up on old runners so that not even the thin skin of the glass protected her from the fatal fall.
He felt his own panic rise in his throat; saw the sharp teeth of the maroon railings grinning, waiting.
And he screamed.
It was the scream that he had heard in his dream and such was its force that it jolted the girl sitting at the window; made her turn and look for the sound. Made her overbalance, scrabble uselessly and topple outwards.
He saw the panic on her face as she fell; saw the iron railings waiting greedily to receive her. Saw them just as he had seem them in his dream.
The scream, however, was his own.