Once again, I found myself sitting in a stuffy chair that had seen better days.
Every day, I would come to school, drop Cindy off, and go into Burns' office. Cindy was increasingly mad at me for having her wake up an hour in advance every morning, and couldn't understand why I was letting Burns effectively add an hour to my work day every single day.
I wanted to reach out to her, explain what was going on. Ask for help. Hell, even that smarted a little: my sister was as brash and confident as me... which was why I chafed at the implicit admission of weakness. What kind of weakling needs her younger sister's help to deal with her own boss?
Still, every time I tried to utter a word, it died in my throat. The fear I had first felt when contemplating the stone gripped my heart. I was acutely aware - one might say obsessed - that Burns might get me fired.
So I waved Cindy's protests away with lame excuses. She saw right through me, but kept quiet.
Damn Burns! Not only was he getting one up on me at work, he was causing my relationship with my sister to shift already. She respected me a bit less for not standing up to him, I could sense that.
If only she knew how bad things really were...
The office was a constant sensory assault. Lingering smoke, old leather, man-sweat, and stuffiness combined to create an aggressive aroma that made me wince every time I stepped in.
The big mahogany desk seemed more intimidating than it once was, too. The meticulously stacked paper greeting me atop his desk was inconsequential to me the first time I came in here, but it looked different to me now... a sign that Burns liked to keep things orderly.
With a timid gulp, I realised he saw me the same way he did the office furniture. That's why he liked to check, on a daily basis, that I conformed to his expectations.
That was objectifying in a way I found disgusting and offensive to everything I believed in. No man like him should be allowed to hold power over anyone, especially a woman, not in this day and age.
And yet... I was here every morning.
"Stand back up," Burns told me. The man himself had been sitting behind the desk, worrying at the cigarette between his lips. "You should know enough to do it yourself by now."
I balled my hands into fists of impotent rage. The new ritual Burns had devised for me was infuriating.
Like every day for the past week, I stood up, looking at the ground as instructed. Burns contemplated me, then got out of the chair with a grunt.
"Clothing inspection," he said.
"Thank you Sir," I muttered under my breath, as requested.
If I thought Burns ogled me beforehand, I'd literally seen nothing yet.
For the past week, every day, he inspected my clothing choices. This included verifying the length of my skirt, the height of my heels, and the exposure of my cleavage. As my boss, he claimed authority over my dress code... except his dress code wasn't designed with workplace propriety in mind.
He enforced high heels, short skirts, and a generous decolleté. Clearly, he expected this would make me look like a floozy, a sluttily-dressed girl who didn't know the first thing about being a teacher.
In this area however, I managed to defy him, at least in part. After all, if I dressed too inappropriately, I would put my job in jeopardy - I'd be a review away from being suspended, Burns or not.
And so, while I couldn't disobey him directly, I did exploit the gray area. I dressed in a way that met his formal requirements, and said sexy, while still looking respectable.
I could see the gears working in his head as he examined my skirt length. His fingers brushed against my thigh, making me flinch in disgust. It was a very small victory, but it was better than nothing.
Just a little better, though. I still felt like so many women before me must have felt, completely objectified in their own workplace, subject to the whims of a male tyrant. The slimy bastard even had a ruler to measure every inch of my clothes with absolute precision! And a notepad where to jot it down!
"You pass," he told me with a grunt. I could see he wasn't entirely happy, and that made me stick my chin up in pride. But he'd still exercised his authority over me, and that was good enough for him, I guess.
"Now," he said, sitting heavily back into his chair and fishing something out of the pocket. "Let's pick up where we left off."
With theatrical flair, he placed the damnable stone at the center of the desk, capturing my attention.
Ugh. Such a typical power move, reminding me of my embarassment with the stone on my very first day. That was the first time I realised how vulnerable I was, how easily I could be displaced from my coveted teaching position.
I've never been one to cower in fear of past embarassments, but oddly enough, the stone always brought me back to the same mindspace. All of a sudden I felt like a helpless, incompetent schoolgirl - like my only hope to retain my job was for nobody to notice how incompetent I was.
I kept my gaze on the stone, squirming uncomfortably. No wonder Burns decided to use it every day, if it unsettled me so easily. He liked to have me stare at the stone while instructing me in proper workplace etiquette, as he liked to call it.
I should always call him Sir. I should always be prim and proper in my posture, my voice should be kept unassumingly low, and each morning I would be back here for another professional training session with him. Contextually, I was to submit myself to a clothing inspection.
I knew all of this already, and I only half-listened... except that made anxiety spike through my chest, as I realised that my job could literally hang on whether I followed Burns' instructions or not. Besides, they weren't always exactly the same.
To me, it seemed like he added a new instruction every few days.
He must have noticed my panic and confusion, because he broke off his recitation of my duties.
"I know this can be a bit overwhelming for a new employee," he said, with the condescending tone overbearing men always get with women they underestimate. I gritted my teeth in anger. "But it's easier than you think, trust me. Just look at the stone, and listen carefully."
And so I did. I focused on the stone - it didn't make the fear for my job go away, on the contrary, it intensified it - but my anger receded to a secluded corner of my brain. It was just as powerful, I was simply ignoring it for now.
It threatened to rear its head again when, in a spike of consciousness, I heard Burns say that I "should always respond deferentially to male aggression and authority".
What kind of bullshit instruction was that? That had nothing to do with the workplace at all! Hell, it didn't even directly relate to Burns - he had power over me because he was my boss, not because of his gender!
Still, I had to calm down. I had to keep my job. That was my priority. I could behave as I wished when Burns wasn't looking, and I'd keep being the feminist egalitarian I've always been, no matter what he had to say in here. I just had to put up with him to keep teaching here. That was all.
And with that final rationalisation, I oriented my focus back to the stone.
And let Burns' words worm their way into my mind.
By the time I left his office, ready for class, I was nominally free - but I still had to contend with a strange, yet now familiar emptiness inside. No matter what anybody else tells you, being afraid all the time is exhausting.
I felt like I was walking on a tightrope every day, trying to balance Burns' encroachment of my personal autonomy while still keeping my job. All this stressing about survival ensured that I had very few mental energies left to do my, you know, actual job.
I once dreamed of standing before a classroom, it was my element. Now, I kept feeling a little tug in my brain, pointing me back towards my anxieties, even when I was teaching.
Still. Cindy's class was up next, and she threw me a radiant smile when I entered the classroom. Her nemesis, Irene, was staring daggers at her, but I was proud of little sis for standing up for herself. The Cooper sisters had a go-get-it attitude, and let nobody doubt that!
That smile warmed me up inside a little. Not all was lost yet, not by a long stretch of the imagination.
Besides... I was young. And Burns wouldn't be here forever.
No matter his antics, I would endure.
I launched into a lecture on Chaucer and Bath. Just doing this made me feel so much more like myself. The vocabulary I had to use, the arguments I made, the past knowledge I recalled and how it connected to my own perspective... it was rinvigorating.
It didn't kill the fear. But it gave me a little bit of hope.
About halfway through the lecture, however, I received my first student challenge of the day. And of course, it had to be from Nick fucking Foster...
He lifted his hand in the air, with a wicked grin on his face, loudly chewing on gum all the while. I saw his eyes darting this way and that - checking whether the rest of the class was looking at him.
He probably thought himself incomparably subtle, but really, he was an open book. That body language always preceded one of his class-clown stunts.
I'd always shot him down in the past - even slapped his jock ass with a couple detentions where they hurt the most, making him miss two games. Unfortunately, ever since those detentions, he had decided he was on a personal mission to make my teaching life a living hell.
Without waiting for me to acknowledge him, he started speaking over me, with classic jock confidence.
"That's cool and all, teach, but I need a toilet break. Be right back!"
That wasn't even phrased as a request, let alone a polite one! He couldn't just get up and leave the room! I fumed, rallying my focus to shoot him down and maybe slap him with a third detention...
But then I remembered Burns' words.
You will always defer to male aggression and authority...
And here was a male specimen - in fact, a peak example of toxic masculinity - undermining my authority in the classroom, and being aggressive with me.
Surely this wouldn't count? Surely Burns would want me to do my job, and do it well. That was the whole point of him exercising his stern authority over me. It was slimy, gross, and demeaning, but it was all about keeping things orderly.
I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Did I risk my job by letting Nick Foster walk all over me? Or did I risk it by standing up to him?
The fear and the indecision paralysed me. Maybe, with an extra few minutes, I would have come to a decision, but Nick didn't give me the luxury of time. He simply stood up, and made to leave.
"Five minutes," I blurted out, trying not to lose control of the situation - but I said that in a ridiculous whisper of a voice I didn't even know I was capable of.
"Whatever," Nick said, his grin now extending from ear to ear.
As the classroom door slammed behind him, I could see Cindy's eyes narrow in my direction. Behind her, Irene sat smiling. The optimism I felt during class evaporated at the sight, and as I contemplated my future, the only emotion I could muster was dread.
John Burns had to give it to Cathy: she was smart.
He'd known how the stone worked, in theory. He'd known it wouldn't simply enslave Cathy for him, that he'd have to saddle-break her the old-fashioned way. But he hadn't fully grasped what that meant, in practice.
The clothing inspections were a case in point.
The stone filled its victim with irrational fear - in his estimation, Cathy's brain was filtering it as fear of losing her job. That was all well and good, an excellent lever to manipulate any subject into compliance.
But... it had its limits.
When he asked Cathy to adopt a slutty dress code, he'd inadvertedly created a conflict of instructions. She couldn't flatly refused - it would threaten her job. But she also couldn't go all the way like he wanted, because that would also threaten her job.
In that narrow space between two contradictions, she'd found a compromise that gave him what he wanted, but still gave her the professional respectability she clearly valued.
Smart. John was impressed.
Of course, that just made it even more sadistically fun to break the girl, and put her in her place.
He smiled to himself, wiping a sheen of sweat from his brow. Cathy still underestimated him, even now that he had his hooks sunk into her to levels that she would have considered unimaginable before being influenced by the stone.
She thought he'd be frustrated by her defiance.
She didn't understand. He wasn't out for some mindless diversion before retirement. Oh no.
He was playing for keeps.
Every little setback like this simply taught him more about the stone, about how it functioned. It was a learning opportunity. Cathy might feel content for now, but he was only going to get better at it.
His grip on her would continue to tighten. Her room for maneuver would continue to shrink. He simply had to figure out how to leverage the stone-induced fear into even more humiliations. How to sap her confidence, so he could really begin the process of destroying her.
He leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, and a smile started tugging at his lips.
An idea was forming in his mind. One he liked very much.
The following morning, I was back in Burns' office.
After the humiliating experience in the classroom yesterday, I could notice that my outward behaviour was more subdued, if only by a little. I felt undermined in my confidence. I knew I'd get it back - it was naive of me to expect everything to be smooth sailing from the very first day, I suppose.
But still, yesterday's events weighed on my mind as Burns once more inspected my clothing. Once again, it was sexy, but professional. Just thinking about this small victory actually reinvigorated my spirits a little.
I was still Cathy fucking Cooper. I wouldn't break so easily.
Burns stepped away from me and returned to his chair... and that's when I first noticed that something was wrong.
There was something... obscene in the way he sat back into his chair, leering at me with the self-satisfied grin of the cat who got the cream.
"You know, Cathy," he said, his fingers rubbing the stone on the desk. Which instantly commanded my full, unwavering, and somewhat terrified attention. "I think I should put you on academic probation."
"No!" I croaked, blushing at how pathetic I sounded. Was this about yesterday's confrontation with Nick? How had he got wind of that already?
I gathered myself, but only a little. I realised I sounded like a petulant child as I blurted out, "Sir, why? I've only just started!"
"Your performance thus far hasn't been very satisfying," he said, lifting the stone in his fingers, playing with it. Each spin between his deft fingers reminding me that my entire career depended on this man.
This annoying, infuriating, sexist man who refused to give me specifics about what I had supposedly done wrong. How could I even improve myself if he refused me any feedback?
I went pale. Without feedback, no self-improvement. And without self-improvement...
"Please, Sir," I asked, my voice laced with panic, "give me feedback! Give me a chance to get better!"
Burns made an exaggerated show of giving my idea fair consideration. Stroking his chin, he said, in a wry tone, "I suppose there's a way you could convince me to give you more time to prove yourself. Extend my review, so to speak."
He gave me a long, plaintive look.
Ah. So this is what this was about, then.
Of course he wasn't giving me any feedback. There was no feedback to give.
But did that change my situation, even by one bit? My professional future still depended on his approval. And his approval depended on...
Even now, his lecherous impulse shone brightly through his leering face.
I didn't need to guess at what he was suggesting. The thought alone made me flinch in terror. I wanted to get out of the chair, scream, and get out of his office.
I wanted to sue him for sexual harassment. Denounce him on Twitter. Bring the entire #MeToo wrath down upon his sweaty balding head. Barely a week of inappropriately bossing me around, and he was already leveraging his authority to get sexual favours? What a fucking pig.
But I did none of that.
I watched the stone.
A part of me - a small, remote, very frightened and very girly part of me - knew that so many before me had gone up against him, and failed. Was I really willing to risk it? What if I lost my job and the harassment complaint went his way? No one would ever even consider hiring me again!
The walls were closing in around me. It felt like Burns was shutting off every other option available to me by doing nothing, except sitting in the chair and playing with his damn stone.
With a gulp, I placed my purse on the empty chair in front of me, walked my way around to Burns' side of the desk... and descended to my knees.
Deep in the turmoil of what was without doubt my first instance of sexual abuse in the workplace, and just a week into my employment, I felt a weirdly detached sense of calm. Like I was an observer outside my own body.
I was dissociating. I could see the significance behind my act. Here I was, dressed in clothing chosen by my boss, being threatened with termination, and exploited for sexual favours without my consent.
Here I was, kneeling before a man. It was hugely significant. Just kneeling to give a blowjob is a practical thing. But kneeling to give your boss a blowjob you don't want to give, well... that's submission.
Worse than that. It's gender-coded submission.
It's also criminal.
Time stretched and dilated around me. It felt like ages before my knees hit the floor, and they did so with a thump whose finality made my heart race.
Somehow I felt that if only I could prevent the stone from intruding into my thoughts all the time, I'd have a clear enough head to get up and walk away. To make full use of my rights. To get his ass thrown in jail.
But that was silly, of course. The stone was just an object, it had no actual ability to influence me. It's just that at this point I associated it with Burns' power plays. I was giving in because I was weak, what other explanation was there?
I always swore myself that I wouldn't take this lying down if it ever happened, and yet here I am, on my knees, staring up at Burns' curved belly while his hands fish his cock out from his pants.
He was bigger than I expected - not that it did anything for me, of course. This wasn't porn.
Still, a part of me was well aware of what this must look like. This large, fleshy man towering above me in his leather chair, and me, the small girl out of her depth, kneeling most femininely before him.
Looking up at him, with his cock front and centre in my field of view.
Seen from above, his thighs would frame my face, and I would seem to be kneeling in worship at the altar of cock. Placing myself below it, in a powerful symbol of subjugation.
The visual image made me grit my teeth so hard that even Burns could hear it. The strong, musky man-smell emanating from his cock - already at full mast - assaulted my nostrils, the way he would soon assault my mouth.
I felt violated in so many different ways.
"Sir," I said feebly, in a weak attempt to stave off the inevitable, his cock already dangling mere inches from my lips. "I have a boyfriend..."
The appeal itself was desperate, and wrong in its own way. My own lack of consent should have been enough. Citing my boyfriend as if he was the male who owned me, and Burns was supposed to respect him rather than me, was a defense strategy straight out of the patriarchy's playbook.
But it was my only hope.
Burns stared down at me with a twinkle in his eyes. "Hopefully that means you're qualified for this!" He laughed, infinitely amused by his own joke, apparently. "Now start sucking."
The words hit me like a whiplash. The humiliation was absolutely devastating. I was mortified. What would Cindy say if she knew this?
Then there was the bit about being qualified. The truth was, I never gave Richard blowjobs, or let him penetrate me for that matter. I thought of traditional male penetration as inherently humiliating and patriarchal.
He usually ate me out, and I returned the favour by jerking him off. That was all. He chomped at the bit of course, but his conservative upbringing meant he too was ultimately fine with postponing sex, if for diametrically different reasons from mine.
He just thought we'd wait until marriage and then all bets would be off. I told him that wouldn't be the case, but Richard can be one hell of a selective listener.
Still. Now I had a problem. Burns' words implied I would have to do a good job at sucking him off, or he might simply not grant me an extended review. My career literally depended on this sexual act, a thought that horrified me down to my core.
I closed my eyes, and counted my breaths. This was for my job. I could break free of him eventually. I just had to push to the end. So I bent forward, and got to work.
I'd never done this before. I let the tip past my lips, closing my eyes against the earthy taste, and gave a few timid sucks. I knew I would have to do better than that if I didn't want him to take matters into his own hands.
This wasn't going to get better on its own. I had to get it done. Fighting my own impulses, I forced myself to take more of him in my mouth. I found myself wishing he had a smaller dick - that would make my job easier, at least.
As it was, I had a few inches into my mouth, and it was quite uncomfortable already.
I sucked on it like a lollipop, swirling my tongue around the head. Trying to mimick what I'd occasionally seen in porn back when I was still watching it, I tried to bob up and down - very small, timid movements though.
"Seriously?" Burns said. "You're so bad at this." Immediately his hands cradled my head, gripping my hair, holding me fast. Then, he surged forward, deeper into my mouth.
I tried to protest, but could only let out a feeble squeal. I raised my tiny fists and used them to beat futilely against his thighs - but all I achieved was to feel even more pathetic. I dropped my hands down in consternation, as his hands started moving my head up and down his cock.
It was so demeaning. Not only was he making me suck his cock, apparently I was bad at it as well? All I could do was try not to gag, be careful with my saliva, and try not to get too dizzy as he manhandled my face into becoming his masturbatory aid.
"Look up, bitch," he said from above. "Let me see those eyes."
I scowled at him from below, trying to stare daggers at him, trying to picture the moment he would be thrown in jail forever. But I failed to conjure the image. All I saw was his victorious smirk.
"Remember," he said, "you still have to earn that extended review."
I felt the defiance drain out of my eyes, as panic seized me again. In two heartbeats my angry expression had turned into a supplicating one, as I pleaded to him with my big doe-eyes to please be gentle on me.
I could tell that he saw the change in my demeanour. His pace accelerated, his hands now pushing me deeper down onto his cock, which was now poking at the entrance to my throat.
"That's it," he said from above me, throwing his head back. "Finally where you belong."
I squealed in anger, humiliation, and pain. At that moment, Burns wasn't thinking of me as a person - I was just a warm hole he could use for his own relief. The worst part was, I was feeling the same way.
Soft and weak and open and feminine, a plaything in the hands of a dominant male figure. This went against everything I believed about my own person, my gender, and my role in the workplace.
But I knelt there and took it, much as I disliked it. Like countless women before me, I let the man have his way with me, hoping that he would have mercy of me and let me keep my job.
"Let me tell you how things are going to go," he said, his fingers pushing so hard against my scalp that it hurt. "I'm going to grant you that extended review."
To my indelible shame, I perked up at the words, and started following his movements more actively, sucking at his cock with more girly enthusiasm.
"But a good leader cannot take decisions in a vacuum," he said, caressing my hair, letting me do the work for the first time since the blowjob began. Embarassingly, I noticed I was keeping the same rhythm he'd imposed on me, even with his hands no longer guiding me.
I'd never leave this down, but... a small part of me was starting to like this.
Perhaps the very same, frightened, girly part that couldn't stop thinking about the damn stone.
In that moment, my independence as a woman didn't count. I was just an unwilling cocksleeve. I hated that, I hated that every time my lips descended down his length I felt less of a professional woman and more an office accessory.
But I could also see the arousal to be found in being putty in the hands of a dominating man.
I would never admit this. I'd never even replicate this as a fantasy in the bedroom - it would simply give the patriarchy more ammunition. But since I was down here against my will anyway, I sought refuge in the one part of my brain that didn't experience this as an entirely negative event.
Lost in the haze of my abject debasement, I switched to only half-listen as he talked about leadership qualities, listening to his subordinates, and gaining an accurate picture of my value in the workplace.
His breath was coming a little short now, but I was surprised at his endurance - he gave no sign that he was even remotely close to the edge. How long would I have to stay down here on my knees, before he was done?
But then, all of a sudden, his hand descended back atop my head, once again. With a force that brooked no arguments, he resumed control of my movement. I reacted to his hold with an irritated whimper.
I wiggled and struggled, trying to break free of his grasp, but his wiry strength soon had me submitting. My neck gave in, and he started facefucking me, as my muffled protests subsided into slutty wet sounds.
It wasn't deepthroating. Not yet.
But given the ease with which he was mastering me, could I really doubt he'd take me there, eventually?
His resumption of control had the desired effect, though. All of a sudden I was listening to his words again, as he detailed how my extended review would work.
With my mouth demurely massaging his cock, I listened to his words.
And my eyes widened in horror.
"Heeey, Cindy!" Nick Foster said, loudly chewing gum and flashing his derisory jock smirk at her. "Looking good!"
I rolled my eyes. This guy managed to annoy me on so many levels.
It's genuinely hard to convey how energy-sapping it is to be hit on all the time as a girl, even more so as a lesbian. But Nick managed to rise head and shoulders above most students here, in that he was a bully, and a jerk.
Even his fellow football players didn't particularly like him. He played defense - whether due to a lack of offensive finesse, or his preference for beating up smaller kids, I didn't know and didn't particularly care for.
As far as I was concerned, he had no true friends, and didn't know the meaning of the word. But he did have plenty of cronies, mostly thanks to his rich dad. Taken together, they looked like a stereotype boy club. Prestigious jobs were waiting for them after school. In the meantime, they pretended their success was due to their winner mentality and their grind mindset.
"Of course," he said with a chuckle, "your sister has one up on you..."
A couple of his goons chuckled right alongside with him, as if they'd just heard the best joke of the week. I turned back to face him, my face running red with fury. Even normally this comment would be enough to set me off, but now more than ever.
I was worried about Cathy. This asshole had no right to behave like this.
"Miss Cooper is your teacher," I told him. "You better remember that."
"Oooooh, scary!" Nick said with a laugh. "She's the one who's having trouble remembering that, Cin!"
I groaned in frustration, but the truth was the swine had a point - Cathy was exercising her authority less and less in class. My eyes briefly crossed with Irene's, and the victorious grin she threw my way made my rage boil even hotter. I turned back. Any more and I would explode.
I was used to being seen as - and treated like - a bossy bitch. I made people do the homework for me. I took the credit. People didn't cross me. Indirectly, Cathy's weak showing was damaging my own reputation.
I thought her getting this job would make my life easier, not harder. Sigh.
Eventually, Cathy made her way into class for the second part on their lecture on Chaucer.
Cindy had already pointed to her sister's different clothing choices during their morning trips to school in the car. Big sis was adamant that she just felt comfortable dressing like this. Cindy shrugged. How anyone could feel confident dressing sexily when around Burns was beyond her ability to understand.
The seconds stretched into minutes. Class wasn't starting. Cathy was busy arranging papers on the desk, and mindlessly browsing into her purse. She was taking a suspiciously long time to get started. The class around her began to fidget.
Cindy narrowed her eyes. Something was definitely up with Cathy.
What wasn't she telling her? Was she simply choking under the pressure of the big spotlights? She'd heard stories like that before, but would have never guessed to see her sister go through something like that.
She supposed that was part of the stories too. Sometimes, promising people simply buckled when things got real. She swore that wouldn't happen to her when her turn to shine came up.
“Class, may I have your attention please?” Cathy said at last, in a shaky voice that didn't sound like her at all.
“Aww, you always have our undivided attention, teach," Nick said in a patronising tone that drew cackles of laughter from his posse.
That was it! That had to be Nick's first mistake! Surely Cathy would give him a third detention now! Cindy couldn't wait.
And yet, Cathy didn't.
Cindy studied her sister closely. Her hands were shaking with anger, but she looked down, avoiding a confrontation with Nick. Not even a witty comeback. Why?
"Our director, Mr Burns, has been... evaluating my performance," Cathy said in a half-whisper. "He believes that, in order to get a permanent contract, I should be subject to an extended review."
Cindy sat in shock. Why had Cathy made no mention of this in the car?
"Students' feedback on my teaching abilities will be a critical part of my review," Cathy said, sounding ever more rejected.
"You're going to be giving me a grade, based on my skills and my attitude as you perceive it." Cathy's eyes were starting to swell with tears. "Depending on how well you grade me, I might... get the job or not..."
Cindy sat dumbfounded, staring at her sister, whose face was now tomato-red with embarassment. Cruel laughter echoed across the classroom.
“Ms. Cooper?” Irene Cain asked, raising her hand. "Or should I rather say... Cathy?"
Irene's audacity took my breath away. God, what a fucking bitch! Two weeks ago, I was putting her in her place - now here she was, pulling such a bullshit power move on my own sister!
"Yes, Miss Cain?" Cathy said, and I could see her spit out the words like poison - but she said them nonetheless, to the sadistic hilarity of her own students.
“Well, Cathy, it's not actually you I want to address. Clearly you have no authority to make this decision," Irene said with a smirk, before scanning the class with her clever, green eyes. "Folks, I think Cindy should be stripped of her right to vote on this matter. She's Cathy's baby sis, and she can't possibly be trusted to grade her objectively -"
"You fucking bitch!" I roared, rising to my feet, as the class erupted in laughter around me.
"Please, Miss Cooper," Cathy said. "Sit down. Miss Cain is correct. Director Burns had already specified you would have to recuse yourself from voting."
I was so stunned that I sat down without protest. It didn't escape my notice that Cathy had addressed me as Miss Cooper, even while I was being placed lower than all my fellow classmates in the process.
Was this a fever dream? It was a parody of a real class! Burns was setting things up for the inmates to literally run the asylum!
Once again, I crossed eyes with Irene. In the past, she was always the first one to look away, but in my shame... not this time.
I was dimly aware of Nick standing up, in my peripheral vision.
"Well, toilet break it is," he said nonchalantly. I knew we wouldn't see him for the rest of the lecture. Cathy kept her eyes downcast, refusing to challenge him.
Nick stepped in front of my sister on his way out. He leaned in, lowering his voice - but still talking loud enough that the whole class could hear.
"I'll be keeping a real close eye on you, teach," he said, in an admonishing tone that seemed to make Cathy shrink. "If you want a good grade... you'll have to earn it."