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Cheater
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By Josephine Newman

I was sitting in my chair, fidgeting, waiting. The teacher was moving slowly around the room, handing out test papers. I hadn't studied. I'd missed two weeks of school because of the flu. I wasn't ready for this. I so wasn't ready for this. The teacher stopped in front of me and placed the paper face down on my desk. He saw the worry in my eyes.
"Just do your best Sarah."
I nodded. Mr Quartz moved to the front of the class and turned to face us.
"You may begin," he stated. The sound of paper being turned filled the room. I flicked my test over and began to read. I picked up my pen, then put it down again. Focus, I told myself. Deep breath in, and out. I picked up my pen again. And put it back down. I couldn't do this. I just couldn't. It was then that I made my decision. I was going to cheat. I picked up my pen again, glanced at my best friend Colleen, then let my eyes drift to her paper. She was really smart, and always got everything right. And I was going to copy her. I scrawled down what she had written, not paying any attention to the question or the answer. Mr Quartz walked past me and I flinched. Had he seen what I was doing? God, I hoped not. I'd be in so much trouble. He passed without looking my way. I let out a sigh of relief, then went back to copying Colleen. The test seemed to stretch on forever. At some times I actually hoped that Mr Quartz would see what I was doing and tell me off. At least then I wouldn't have to do this stupid test. But if he did notice, he didn't show it.
"Five minutes left," Mr Quartz announced. I swallowed, trying to smother the panic that was threatening to overwhelm me. I was so dead! I quickly scrawled down the last of Colleen's answers. I'd done it. Cheated. The first time ever. I felt sick. Mr Quartz knew. Colleen knew. Everyone knew. I was a cheater.
Mr Quartz came around to collect our papers. "Make sure you have your name at the top of the page," he said. I hurriedly scribbled something I hoped resembled my name. All I could see was 'Sarah Jennings, CHEATER!' Mr Quartz picked my test up and added it to the pile in his arms. He knew. Teachers always knew. They had eyes in the back of their heads. They saw everything.
"Alright, pack up and off you go." I gathered my things and stuffed them into my bag. I couldn't wait to get out of that room. I joined the mob of school kids battling to get through the door. I was squashed into the middle of the group, being pushed on all sides. I wouldn't ever escape. And it wasn't just the excited bunch of kids I was trapped in. I had cheated. I would always be a cheater. I knew how these things worked. It was like drugs, once you'd started you couldn't stop. I was doomed. Doomed to be branded a cheater. No-one would sit next to me. No-one would trust me. Ever.
"My life will never be the same again," I muttered. How could I have been so stupid? Then I was out. The mob had dispersed. I was standing outside the classroom, Colleen looking at me quizzically.
"You alright Sarah?" she asked, her voice full of concern. Concern that I didn't deserve. Not after what I had done.
"Um...I've got to see Mr Quartz. I'll catch up with you later."
"Okay." Colleen shrugged and walked off. It was going to be okay. I was going to be okay. I turned and walked back to the door of the classroom. I knocked and poked my head in. Mr Quartz was sitting at his desk, reading the newspaper. I knocked again, louder this time.
"Mr Quartz?" I called. He looked up.
"Sarah, what can I do for you?" I walked in and stood in front of him. He was going to be so mad at me. But I had to tell him.
"I cheated," I whispered. I looked down at my feet. I felt so guilty.
"Sorry, what was that?" he asked. I forced myself to look him in the eye.
"I cheated, sir." He smiled. I felt tears sting my eyes. How could he smile? This was serious. I was confessing to being guilty! Guilty of the worst crime ever! I HAD CHEATED!!!
"I know," he said. My mouth dropped open. He knew? Of course he knew. He was a teacher. They always knew. "I'm proud of you, Sarah."
"WHAT?"
He laughed. "There aren't many students who would confess to cheating. Well done." I looked at him, not sure what to say. He knew, and he wasn't angry!
"I'm going to have to give you a zero."
I nodded.
"And you'll have to sit on your own during the next test."
I nodded again.
"But well done." He smiled again, and went back to reading his paper. I walked outside and took in the sunshine. It felt as if a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I smiled. I was okay. And I was never, EVER going to cheat again.



Brian Falkner Books