Everyone always assumes that preschool children are sweetness and light.
Everyone thinks that preschool children are all things innocent.
Everyone is wrong.
Miss Annabelle Tickle burst through the doors of Rosie Valley Kindergarten full of youth and enthusiasm to ply the skills she had learned at university which she had finished only the month before. The happiness which radiated from her was only matched by the large engagement ring which sat proudly on her ring finger.
Life, for Miss Annabelle Tickle at least, was good.
“Good morning, children,” she trilled as she wafted through the room to her office.
Surprisingly, none of the children responded. Instead, Miss Annabelle Tickle felt 22 sets of unimpressed eyes survey her movements silently. She stopped and turned to look at the children with a sunny smile and repeated her greeting.
The teacher aides both sat there looking nervous and also stayed silent, but Annabelle could not understand why.
She waved her hand. “Hello?”
“Nice ring,” one of the little girls near her grunted.
“Thank you! It was given to me last week by my fiancé.”
One of the little boys stepped forward to get a closer look.
“Oh. Do you like rings?” She asked.
He duly ignored the question, instead announcing. “1/2 a carat. Your fella dropped some decent coin on it.”
Miss Annabelle Tickle blinked. “How old are you?”
The child blinked back at her. “Who needs to know?”
Fixing a massive fake smile on her face, she fought back the tears, went into her office and closed the door behind her.
What sort of kindergarten was this?
The first week passed fairly uneventfully. The children did as they were told but with a world weariness that belied their age. Each day; however, they would watch her engagement ring with an intensity which unnerved her.
One day, one of the teacher aides suggested that she leave the ring at home to keep it safe.
“But, David wants me to wear it all the time.”
The teacher aide shrugged before muttering, “I hope it’s insured then.”
“Excuse me?” Miss Annabelle Tickle’s heart skipped a beat. “These are children; what sort of five year olds steal rings from their teachers.”
“Apples don’t fall far, Miss Tickle. They don’t fall far.”
As the teacher aide said this, there was a gentle knock on the door. Miss Annabelle Tickle opened it to see two of the little girls resplendent in the dress up box finery complete with beads, hats and heels.
Her heart rose in the hope that the reticence from the previous week had finally ceased. “Well, well. What can I do for two such posh, lovely ladies?”
The teacher aide merely raised one eyebrow.
One of the girls presented her with an beautifully folded piece of paper with a tea cup and love heart drawn inside. “Could you join us for tea, Miss Tickle?”
“Of course!” Miss Annabelle Tickle clapped her hands with joy. “What time can I join you?”
The two girls exchanged a look. “10 minutes, Miss Tickle.”
She closed the door and looked at the teacher aide triumphantly.
“Don’t drink the tea.” The teacher aide warned as she left the room.
Miss Annabelle Tickle snorted. What could that woman possibly know about children? The teacher aide didn’t have a university degree like she did.
In 10 minutes, Miss Annabelle Tickle wandered into the dress up corner to be greeted with great happiness by 5 girls all dressed in their favourite tea party outfits. One of the girls put a hat on her teacher’s head and a cup of pink cordial in the tea cup in her hand.
“Drink, Miss. We made it ourselves.”
Miss Annabelle Tickle looked across the room and locked eyes with the teacher aide who just shook her head.
“Please, Miss Tickle,” the girls urged in unison. “It’s just cordial. It won’t hurt you.”
Miss Annabelle Tickle broke eye contact with the teacher aide as she sipped the warm, sweet pink liquid.
“Delicious!” She pronounced as the room began to spin.
Some 4 hours later, Miss Annabelle Tickle woke up in a hospital bed with the teacher aide sitting beside her but without her engagement ring.
“What happened?” She asked.
“You drank the tea.”
Miss Annabelle Tickle noticed her bare ring finger and frowned at the teacher aide, “Where’s my engagement ring?”
“The police are in the process of trying to get it back.”
Miss Annabelle Tickle bolted upright. “Police?”
“Yeah. Most of the students are children of biggest crime family in the South East and most of them have form.”
“Yes. Form.” The teacher aide raised a wry eyebrow at the young teacher yet again. ”Apples don’t fall far, Miss Tickle. They don’t fall far.”