Stephanie’s sad eyes remained in my mind for a long while after that talk. Spending a few months with her and her friends, the impression that she gave me was that of a happy child, who grew up with strict parents that wanted the best for her.

“…”

However, I’m greatly mistaken. While I still believed that Stephanie’s parents wished the best for their daughter, now I’m having doubts if that’s the only goal they had for her. I mean, it’s not a secret that there were a lot of families where the adults pass their failed dreams and aspirations to their children, who were supposed to be on another path to success.

And Stephanie’s case is of no exception.

Talking a bit more to her, and a whole new picture on Stephanie’s background emerged. She’s the single child of her undergraduate mother, who became pregnant while she was at school. Her father—a seaman—finished his studies, but since his wife had to take care of their daughter, he had to take a job overseas to provide for his family.

Because she never graduated, Stephanie’s mother is always strict on her, even using her cousin Carl as a way to ‘challenge’ her to study well.

“…”

The problem with that is, it is counterproductive. Instead of ‘encouraging’, that style of ‘challenge’ often ends up in an unhealthy rivalry between relatives, or worse, the ‘inferior’ child develops inferiority complex.

“…”

Stephanie’s bubbly smile remained on her face the entire time. However, no matter how hard she tried to hide it, I could feel the sadness and frustration on her part. She knew that in everything that she did, she won’t come up to Carl’s standards. That she would remain a second-rate cousin of their family…

Haa…honestly, this is why I hate living close to my relatives other than my immediate family. I’d rather live alone.

“…”

I wanted to do something about Stephanie’s situation. I’m not used to see her sad like that; not only as her teacher, but personally as her friend.

“…”

And of course, the thought of using my power came to my mind. However, I…I’m afraid of what might happen to me.

“…”

The face of my old student who killed himself before flashed in my mind once again. Yes, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities of their issues. Both were hurt by how their family treated them, and both tried to hide their problems until it was too late.

I don’t want to lose a student—and a friend—ever again.

I took a deep breath, and gathered all the courage I could muster. Then, closing my eyes, I wished that I go back to the time when I finally decided to pick another student in place of Stephanie.

-----

When I opened my eyes, I did return in time.

“…”

However, it was different from what I intended to go back to. If I remember right, I wished I returned to that moment when I told the student government president that I’d be picking Kyle Adonisio as my little teacher.

It is a relatively minor event, so I surmised the consequences will be ‘light’ on me.

But, instead of that point, I traveled back to the moment when I already decided, and was standing outside the classroom of 8-Jade, talking to Stephanie. She was already leaning on the wall…meaning, this was the time where I already told her that she should ‘take her own road instead of running after her cousin’.

The next part here will be her classmates calling her to join them on their walk home.

“…”

I tried to use my power again to return to an earlier point in time, but it was in vain. No matter how I wished, I always end up at this certain point on the timeline.

It’s as if I’m repeatedly loading a single ‘save game’ file.

“…”

Maybe it’s one of the rules for my power. While I could go back in the past at my will, the point of return was randomly chosen. The early instances where I used my ability were random too, though it coincided with my wish to go back at that certain point, I didn’t notice it at first.

I guess—just like what Teddy Roosevelt Jr. said—I’ll start the war from here.

“Haa…” I heard Stephanie’s sigh, “Well, thank you for listening to me Sir Seth. I’m going home for now.”

“Take care!” I waved goodbye at her as she made her way to her friends waiting nearby. Yes, it’s what happened before, in the original ‘timeline’. If I don’t do anything from this point onwards, the events would proceed normally. Stephanie would come to my class tomorrow with a wounded arm, and sadness all over her face.

This is where I think I should take the opportunity to ‘save’ her.

I called out to my student, “Oi, Tank!”

Stephanie stopped in her tracks and turned to me, pouting. I nearly laughed when I saw her cute face like that; yes, this is Stephanie Anya Cefiro, the bubbly, and sometimes annoying, brat of 8-Jade.

“You’re really having a field day hurting my feelings Sir, no?” she said to me, with a hint of irritation in her voice. “Why did you call me with that nickname?”

Eh, I think you won’t be sad anymore when you hear what I’m going to say,” I grinned. “Tell Kyle I changed my mind; you’ll be my little teacher instead.”

It took a couple of awkward minutes before my words sunk into Stephanie. At first, she couldn’t believe what I just told her, but then, when I finally convinced her that my turnaround decision was true, she jumped in excitement and hugged me tight.

I admit, it is one of the best feelings I had lately.

-----

In the end, everything went along smoothly. Kyle, though he thought it was an honor to be picked as a ‘little teacher’, admitted to me that he was not that good in teaching Physical Education—the MAPEH subject that was to be taught on the Little Teachers’ Day. For short, he was more than happy to have the ‘load’ taken off him, and Stephanie was more than willing to get that yoke put on her shoulders.

Brave kid.

So, in the weeks leading to the main event, I gave her the things that she needed: books, teaching aids, even my laptop since she wanted to use a projector for her lesson.

“You’re really into this, huh?” I said to her one time we’re talking about it. “I mean, it’s only for a day, yet your preparation is weeks away.”

“Of course, Sir!” Stephanie grinned. “I don’t want to embarrass the Sir Seth. After all, you entrusted me with your lesson.”

Hmm…thanks.”

“And also, Sir…I’ve been thinking,” she continued. “What you said before…that I am Stephanie Anya, and I should follow my own path?”

“What about that?”

“Is it okay if I go my own way, yet follow my cousin?”

I looked at my student. Strange enough, there was the appearance of determination in her eyes, as she explained her decision. For me, Stephanie’s idea was not that bad; I guess, setting aside their rivalry, she really looked up to Carl as her role model. Their parents were just adding the malicious part because…well, of traditions and culture.

Now that I think about it, that arrangement is fine, too!

“Yep, that’s good,” I concurred with her.

“Thank you for your advice Sir Seth.”

“The pleasure is mine, Tank!”

“You really should stop calling me that, and ruining the moment!” she protested. “Would you like me to call you Sir Four-Eyes instead? You didn’t even tell me that you have weak eyesight!”

I was surprised when Stephanie said that. I mean, does she remember the time that my eyes are still fine? Well, yes…I could still see properly, though it’s a bit weaker than before, that I eventually had to wear eyeglasses sometimes. And for some reason, my right eye couldn’t rotate to its extreme right; it’s as if it was paralyzed to turn only to a certain degree.

I know those are the consequences of what I did to her…

In any case, I preferred not to dwell on those sad matters.

Err…are you sure about this? You can still back out, you know?” Once again, I asked her about her decision to teach. I thought Stephanie was too ‘pure’ to be involved in this dirty (I mean that literally, not figuratively), and sweaty, business. I highly doubt if she could take on those wild guys in the other sections.

“Sir, please?”

The heck? Please don’t give me those pleading eyes, I’ll be forced to agree to you…

“Sir…”

Err…alright. You win!” God, I didn’t want her to use those pleading eyes on me. I’m just too weak to resist that kind of attack from my students.

And with that, Stephanie won the battle of attrition for the ‘Little Teacher’ position. Seriously, why do they think that being a teacher is a fun experience?

“…”

Well, that smile of hers was just way too beautiful to be wasted on tears and sadness. Hey, nothing creepy about it.

I guess, if I see my students happy, then I’ll be happy as well…

-----

And so, September said its farewell, and in came October, with the Little Teachers’ Day arriving on the third day of the month…

“…”

It had been pretty hectic; the students and the teachers rushing around the corridors, and the classrooms were noisy and unruly. The celebratory mood was in the air, and the student government even launched a gimmick of serenading the teachers in the middle of their class yesterday.

But yes, it’s pretty chaotic.

“…”

You know, kids don’t usually respect their peers, even if those guys are accorded some authority over their classmates.

Honestly, I’m a bit worried for Stephanie. If you asked me, she should be a musician or an entertainer than a teacher; her classmates often saw her that way.

“Hey, Tank, you ready?”

“S-Sir?”

“I just asked if you’re ready.”

Stephanie silently nodded. Well, that was to be expected; I could feel the anxiety and nervousness oozing out from her. I needed to divert her attention to something else.

“Hey, Cefs.”

“Sir?”

“Nice dress.”

Stephanie made some weird, but funny expressions; she took the compliment well. Hey, I’m not giving her a lip service, though. I’m just telling the truth. Her clothes were indeed nice. Her maroon blouse and black pencil skirt matched perfectly in her attempt to dress up, and look like a teacher.

I guess, if I give her a pair of eyeglasses she’ll be much cuter…

“No, seriously,” I couldn’t help myself but be awestruck. There’s something different in her, now that she’s in those dresses. “It suits you perfectly. You look like a model teacher.”

“Thanks Sir!” she replied. “Well, I may be like this, but I have a bit of knowledge of being a model.”

“Oh?” And yet, Kyle, Ferdie and Denver kept calling her a ‘tomboy’. “You’re one?”

“Well, sort of. Or more like, I’m thinking about it…”

“Whoa…” I’m impressed by that.

“Yes sir. See, I have an elder cousin whom I treat like a sister. She is a model, and she often teaches me on how to walk and conduct myself as a model. That girl had already won several awards in pageants. You could say she influenced me to become one.”

“I see…” Well, that’s pretty interesting, I thought. Let’s see how the other classes would treat this model-teacher of mine then.

Oh Sir, I think I just heard the bell ring.”

“Right,” I took out my schedule for today. “Well, my first class is at Juniper. Grab your things and come with me. I’ll introduce you to them so that they won’t go too wild.”

“Yes, Sir!” Stephanie did as what I ordered her to, and we walked towards our first challenge for the day.

-----

Okay, you ugly stinkers!” I immediately greeted the Juniper class with that kind of introduction. Don’t worry; it’s my style, and the students love it, strangely. “I’m sure some of you know that this beautiful lady beside me is Miss Stephanie Cefiro of Class Jade. She’s the one who’ll stand as my little teacher, and she’ll be teaching you today. Of course, be gentle to her and keep your stinking mouths shut for a while.”

“Yeah, no probs Sir!” they answered back.

“Hey, I just told you to keep those mouths shut. It stinks, ugh!” I pretended I was angry, but the students knew I wasn’t, so they laughed.

Some of those from class Juniper teased Stephanie for being my little teacher. Well, it’s a position of honor—according to the students, and they jokingly mocked her for it.

Hey, hey! Take good care of Cef.” I reminded the Junipers, “If she gets depressed and becomes fatter than she is right now—”

“Sir!” Stephanie protested, but she quickly countered, “Oh my, so how do we call your size then, Sir Seth?”

“I’m exempted since I’m the most handsome teacher in our school.”

Stephanie threw me a disgusted (jokingly) look. The Junipers were laughing their hearts out.

“Anyway, so here’s your pretty teacher, Jups (short for Juniper)! I’ll be going off now and skip work!” I waved my hand and said goodbye.

“See ’ya at the guidance office Sir!” they replied.

I stuck my tongue out to them.

-----

And with that, I’m off to take my officially-sanctioned ‘lazy day’…

Or so I say…

Under the guise of talking to another teacher of mine, who coincidentally went past Class Junipers’ room, I kept a few minutes of my ‘lazy day’ watching Stephanie. You know, I’m really worried about her as a teacher, so I guess a few moments of ‘making sure if my decision to make her my little teacher was the right one’ wouldn’t hurt.

“…”

From the corridor, I could hear Stephanie’s voice. I’m surprised; it’s entirely different from her usual tone in class. The Stephanie that was in front of class Juniper was a stern, and effective person. The entire room was relatively silent—their attention was focused on her.

Well, maybe since Stephanie’s a beautiful girl, the boys—who usually spearhead the troubles and chaos in the room—might be trying their best to impress her.

Even so, she’s got the rapport of an educator, if I may say so myself.

Hm, looks like you chose a good ‘little teacher’. Cefiro’s a smart kid, you know? Just like her cousin, Carl,” my co-teacher, Miss Chel, commented.

“I guess I did make a right choice in selecting her,” I talked like a proud dad.

Heh, don’t worry Stephanie, I’ll buy you the most expensive burger at McDon’s later. 

Hans Trondheim Creator

Warning: Strong language