Chapter 22:


Fair, no Fair

It should not have surprised me, but when we came back to the hotel, various rumours had already spread amongst the students. Their voices bounced against the walls and their whispers filled the halls. Some were envious that we had managed to escape the boring hike, while others wondered aloud if we had gotten lost. However, the rumours that scared me the most were those that claimed I had separated Joey from the group because I had a secret crush on him and wanted to make out with him, which was only spurred on by the fact that we returned wearing each other's coats. Fortunately, Joey was completely unfazed by the rumours and easily shook them off as nothing more than childish gossip.

After we had hung our coats on the rack in the hall, (I was reluctant to let go of Joey's,) we headed to the dining room which was already packed with students. An awkward silence fell over the group when we entered through the door and all eyes were suddenly pointed at us. A fierce blush of embarrassment spread across my cheeks as I hurriedly gathered my food from the buffet. Conversation between the students only resumed when miss Applebloom forcefully instructed us to sit down at the teachers' table.

Joey did not look like he was in the mood to talk and due to our antics earlier our teachers were not exactly in a good mood either, so I ate my dinner in silence. When I looked to the side halfway through my meal, I noticed that Joey -the guy notorious for finishing his food within seconds- was having trouble swallowing any of the things on his plate, which made me feel very guilty. If I had not been so adamant about going off the road, none of this would have happened.

After dinner, we were taken aside by miss Applebloom. She crossed her arms and explained with a sigh of disappointment: "We have decided that you shall not be sent back home for your actions. Instead, you will not be allowed to participate in tomorrow's activity as a punishment. You will stay here with a supervisor and help the staff of the hotel with some chores. They expect you to clean the dishes for them and they want you to clean up the dining room after breakfast and dinner once the other students have left. I do not want to hear any complaints from you both. I hope you understand that we could have given you a much harsher punishment."

Joey nodded. "Is there anything we're supposed to do between the cleaning?" He asked defeatedly. Our class was going to a theme park tomorrow and Joey had undoubtedly been looking forward to it. He would surely have loved to check out all the cool thrill rides with his friends and eat junk food until he got sick. I was the one to have taken that away from him. He should not have to deal with this punishment; it was my fault this had happened, not his.

"As long as you stay out of trouble, stay near the hotel and alert your supervisor, you can do whatever you want in the meantime," she responded impatiently as she pushed back the angular frame of the glasses on her nose.

"I don't think Joey should be punished for my actions, miss," I hesitantly spoke up. "He was just trying to protect me."

"If he wanted to protect you, Simon, he should have reported your absence to the park ranger," miss Applebloom responded with a hint of exasperation in her voice. "Instead, he put you both in danger. I'm sorry this is not the outcome you had in mind but the teachers unanimously agreed that you should both receive the same punishment."

"That's not fair!" I exclaimed.

Miss Applebloom's irritation was about to turn into white-hot anger but Joey managed to diffuse the situation in time. "It's fine, Simon. I appreciate that you're sticking up for me but you don't owe me anything," he smiled exhausted. My heart dropped when I noticed how dejected he looked. "It was my own choice to go after you, so let it rest. Let's just try to make the best of tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay..." I looked down at my feet before Joey could see that my eyes were starting to tear up. It was not our punishment that was making me sad; I had fully expected that there would be consequences to my actions. No, I was sad because I had let Joey down. He did not deserve this. Maybe I did not deserve him.

Miss Applebloom continued: “Mr Khan, your math teacher, will be keeping an eye on you tomorrow." I sighed in relief. Mr Khan has always been one of my favourite teachers. He was well-known for his kindness and amazing lectures; I doubt he would be harsh on us. “I want you two to go to the kitchen immediately after breakfast tomorrow to get started on your chores. Spend the day wisely and think about what you’ve done. I don’t want to see such reckless behaviour again. Understood?”

We both nodded downheartedly.

“Then you’re now dismissed.”