Grade three. Age eight. I had uncovered the magical properties of an indelible pencil and shared the secret with my best friend. The pencil looked like any other except it had no eraser and the casing was stamped Indelible Medium. But if you wet the pencil in your mouth it would produce bright purple ink.
My friend and I were captivated by the discovery. We created vivid text until the teacher noticed our violet lips. She had a conniption. What have you girls done? Don't you know you could be poisoned? The tell-tale stain of our mouths precluded an alibi.
I cowered. My friend claimed a stomach ache and was sent to the health room to lie down. Alone, I faced the teacher's wrath. How will you feel if your friend dies? she demanded. I was doubly worried. I could be the harbinger of my friend's demise and this was clearly a strap worthy infraction, and a strap at school meant another at home. My emotions see-sawed. Fear, shame, guilt. My own stomach didn't feel so good.
I endured the teacher's withering glare for the rest of the day, the fate of my friend unknown. By home time, my friend had made an astounding recovery and I didn't get the strap. I was freed of my anxiety but not of my reputation for bad behaviour. I was known as that Wells girl, the one who almost poisoned her best friend.