This story contains sensitive content.
There were 11 students in the storeroom.
I’d locked the door with my key and had managed to drag the small table and chair in front of it.
Sitting in the darkness, we listen to the intermittent burst of gunfire. My beating heart screams at me to find a way out, and as sweat soaks through my blouse, I try to stay calm.
I listen so hard for movement in the classroom that my eardrums feel like they’re going to burst.
The day had started like any other. I’d kissed my husband goodbye in a rush, coffee in one hand, a slice of toast in the other. Had I known this would happen, I would have held him close, stroked his unshaven cheek and told him how happy he made me.
It is the last week of school, another year of teaching almost complete. Excitement had filled the hallways and my plan after work had been to go shopping for a new swimsuit. This time next week I’d be sipping cocktails in Hawaii. How strange the monotony of a simple day feels right now.
Moonlight spills into the cupboard from the small web-covered window, which is too small to climb through.
We’ve been in here for hours—waiting, listening, praying.
Grace, my A+ art student, whimpers.
I take her hand, press my finger to my lips, and shake my head.
Tears spill down her cheeks.
A deafening crash makes me quake in fear.
I grab the sharp scissors on the shelf next to me and step forward.
Gunfire and voices halt my breath.
The handle of the storeroom twists back and forth, and I cover my mouth with my hand.
‘It’s the police, is anybody in there?’
I glance at my students, and another voice calls—a woman. ‘You’re safe. We have the shooter; you can come out.’
Could it be true? Is it really safe to leave?
I glance at Grace, and she nods at me.
We drag away the table and chair, which we’d pushed against the storeroom door, and I place my key in the lock.
‘We’re coming out,’ I call.
My hand trembles and Grace takes hold of my arm.
‘On my count,’ she says. ‘One, two, three.’
© Michelle Upton