the journey of tousand miles begin with a single step.
Wheein can't even begin to sweep away the irk in those supposedly-motivational quotes hung on the poster on the principal's office door, greeting teachers and staff every time they went in for consultation and multitasking. The reflection of slightly blonde wavy locks, thick spectacles and a medieval blouse put her mind away from lingering thoughts (if she were to have such thoughts) when it looks back at her from a mirror behind the principal (or in this case, her superior). A woman with wide, glassy beads as eyes tap her fingers and giving a smile across the teacher's direction, the kind that gave her a second thought to stray her thoughts away from the topic at hand.
Wheein can see her own reflection in those eyes, staring at her thoughtfully. She waits with bated breath at every mutter resembling an answer to her previous question.
"Do you want me to tell the truth, or don't you?"
ONE YEAR LATER
It takes a while to realize that she tends to look at objects when bored.
Like how she was positioned into the dejavu situation all over again: seated outside the office, waiting for the discussion to be finished inside, and by now she memorized almost all of the menial trinkets in the administration room (the lady who's working behind the table need to leave for a bit and asking Wheein to attend the desk and whisk away), and Wheein can't help but notice the haphazard display of notes pasted all over the screen, some in languages that she has no idea of (simply bad handwriting).
She almost let out a shriek when a head jutted out of the principals’ office, beckoning her to come inside.
"Jung Wheein-sshi, is it?"
The 20-something woman let out a nod, following the flip of her curriculum vitae with her eyes. The principal is gaunt, with thick, old-timey glasses and wrinkles coloring his features, pulling up his sleeves and reaching out for his official working stamp and pressing it on the inkbed, and the gold emblem appears on the working letter.
She notices a glimpse of smile, finally visible in his eyes as the letter is handed.
"Welcome to RBW Academy."
"This is your work desk, that's the whiteboard…"
The teacher that she's going to replace in three days muffled incessant coughs in the middle of the second graders working on their worksheets, at least some of them; several boys throwing wads of paper balls and she hissed, warning them to get back to their work.
"If you want something to drink, just take one from my locker," She pointed to a spot in a student's locker. "We still have loads of it from the previous study tour…" Not like Wheein is thirsty, but maybe one for the sake of being polite. The teacher scrambled through the stacks of papers swept into the corner of the class, screaming again when one of the boys thwacking his chair mate in the head, and Wheein jolted in surprise. "Miss already told you to cut it out! What's your name, again?"
"Kim Soo-ryeon." The tiny woman shakes Wheein's hand with a surprisingly tight grip. "Not that we're going to meet again anytime soon. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Mints?" She shoved a box of peppermint candies into her face, and Wheein declined politely.
"That's the swimming pool. All students have to gather in the field for morning prayer, and Angelus prayer to be held at 12PM before second break…"
She jotted it down in her mind, paying attention to Jinyoung, the male teacher younger than her but is a senior work-wise as the man taking her around for 'sightseeing' around the premise, greeting students and their respective parents along the way. The abrupt swap between stern and accommodating was jarring; she feels like having a whiplash.
"And this is the library."
She can't be mistaking the slightly disgusted tone at the mention of that particular place, can she? They are standing in front of a huge wooden door, but Jin young just clicks his tongue and grunts. The door's locked. "She must be going somewhere again." Wheein heard a whisper. "You can borrow all the necessary textbooks for the teaching process here Wheein-sshi, but I have to warn you that the librarian is working at her own clock." The man sighed. "She's almost always tardy and missing during work hours, the other day I was bringing my students to spend time before the ball rang and she has the audacity to leave her post! During work hours! It is simply preposterous and unprofessional--"
Besides knowing that it's a she, the rest of the speech waning out and Wheein takes a look again at the wooden door that is still blissfully locked.
Grade 2 are consisted of three classes, one of them, which consists of 17 students, are surprisingly not the most difficult bunch to work on (despite the previous teacher convincing that they are spawn of hell if the teacher were to let her guard down) but she still think of herself as being too stiff when introducing herself in front of the class, judging from the awkward silence that follows, and Wheein resort to just call them by name instead of having them introducing themselves like her plan A.
During the end of the class and right after Wheein sent out the last student to her guardian, she caught a knock on the door, and a head showed up, with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
"I'm Kim Yong-sun, hometeacher for 2A." The woman that called her before stretching her hand for Wheein to take it, displaying a pleasant vibe that soon turns to quick rambles as she nudges the other woman that sat behind her own work desk (They happen to have lunch in 2C). "Hyejin! Come here."
"Ahn Hyejin, 2C's home teacher. Nice to meet you." The tanned woman in a blue blouse finally stands up and brings her lunchbox to the crowd, encouraging Wheein to feed herself on some biscuits. "Nice to meet you, Wheein-sshi. Have you been teaching in another school before this one?"
Wheein swats away the memories that flash back from a year ago and simply nods. "I see! If you need some help with materials --- ah, I forgot to tell you what lessons you're going to be responsible for! So for this year," Yongsun stood up, reaching into bundles of archives and leaving the rest to fall into a mess to Hyejin's chagrin. "You're going to provide teaching materials for Science, Civic and Social Studies! Make sure to submit the materials either to me or Hyejin for approval before you can release it to the students! We have to be careful since parents tend to get more critical these days, for better or worse… If you need any additional material, don't hesitate to come to either one of our classes!" She can see Hyejin faintly nod while gulping the green tea. "I'm sure you know where the library is. You can ask for the additional materials there. RBW Academy has quite a comprehensive collection as far as we are concerned!"
Speaking of the devil, Wheein admits that this is the first time it crossed her mind. "Um, Miss Kim, is there anything I should be aware of about the library?"
But that question only got several blinks from Yongsun and Hyejin's yawn in the middle of munching her lunch.
"What about it, Wheein-sshi?"
Afraid of making things awkward, Wheein can't wait to put an end to it soon, soon losing interest in that library. "Nothing. Thank you, Miss Kim." The woman tsk-ed. "You can just call me Miss Yongsun or Miss Hyejin. We are going to be partners in crime, aren't we?" She pulls Wheein into a short hug while Hyejin is yawning from afar, putting her fork to the respective box.
Jung Wheein considers herself as an avid fan of books, albeit she rejects the notion of being called a bibliophile. She hasn't reached that kind of enlightenment, first of all.
She can even testify to how the vast assortments of books she swallowed helped her in forming her work of art, experimenting with oil colors and various mediums. Fast forward and now she's here, moving to an academy as a teacher, standing in front of the wooden door of the library in the premises.
The door is unlocked this time, and she gets a slight relief as it swings forward. There must not be many visitors here if it was locked most of the time. At one step into the library she takes a look at her left and right. Books are aligned left and right in their respective spaces, and Wheein walks to the main desk, and frowns upon peeking behind the piles of encyclopedias; there's no certain librarian in sight. The placard was engraved in silver letters, placed on the edge of the desk.
"How can I help you?"
A woman with beady eyes and neat blouse appears from the other side, pushing the cart of books ready to be assorted into their respective sides. Wheein blinks three times before clearing . "Miss Siah?" Simply because that name sounds like it belongs to her.
The woman breaks into a neat smile, almost intuitively.
"You can call me Yooa. How can I help?"
Wheein take out the list of books she's going to need for teaching and hand it over to the assistant. The woman takes it gracefully and proceeds to decipher it before, and she swears she's not making this up, her right eyelids twitched vigorously. "Uh! Um, let me just read it for you while you pick the books." That offer made Yooa smile, once again, looking positively grateful. "Thank you! My processor was about to melt when it was overworked yesterday! You can try to read it now, and I will make sure to get whatever you need!"
Wheein raises an eyebrow but quickly shakes it off, continuing with reading the list as Yooa drifts off, picking each book with a positive attitude.
Despite the speed (it is not exaggerated when Wheein said that the assistant is moving at a fascinating speed) of scrambling through the spots in every nook and cranny of the library, there's still quite a lot of unchecked boxes in the list. "It's okay!" Wheein shrugged it off with her hand, in case Yooa thinks that she hasn't checked all over the place. Wheein will admit that she put a lot of reference books that might come across as… a little rare and peculiar. "I do think I put too much in this list, so for the rest I think I can start looking for it by myself…"
But Yooa tapped her upper lip with a pencil, seemingly deep in thought. "I think we still have some of them though…"
Wheein's head moved forward. "We?"
"Of course I'm not the only one here!" Yooa laughed like Wheein just made a really fascinating comment. "I have to notify the Head Librarian! Please wait here!"
In an instant Jinyoung's sneer comes across her mind, and slight panic pushes her to stop whatever Yooa's about to do. "There's no need for it, I can just find it by myself--" Only the assistant is already disappearing behind the counter.
There is not much Wheein can hear except what sounds like a slight ruckus and a hand grasp the edge of the wall, and the 'apparition' makes her jump. It doesn't take too long for the owner of the hand to show her whole figure entirely, as it follows a golden hem and midnight blue fabric swished to the side, and Wheein is transfixed.
The golden frame of the glasses glistened under the bulb as the Head Librarian put her hand on her waist, and the glasses chain dangled around her neck. The gold reflection is blinding, forcing Wheein to look downward, and she catches the ID badge that is also embossed in gold letters.
It came out a little hoarse, only it did little to mask the deep voice that it must have possessed.
And a little lazy. Quite.
Yooa must have explained everything about the list because her superior kept clicking her tongue, insinuating obvious disinterest. "No, we don't have any of it."
"But I'm sure I just saw The Implementation of 2nd Grader in Science yesterday, Madam Moon! I'm going to dig into it and you can grant me access…"
"Nope. Let the woman find it herself. These books are better left untouched. It will be a hassle if we create a mess."
Wheein considers herself to just go away and mind her business. Experience is the best teacher for her to learn that it's never a harm in making yourself invisible to the crowd. If she can just go through one entire school year peacefully, without raising her head even once, she will have a nice, near, beautiful, nice life! She said nice twice. She is indeed. But how exactly can help when a wire in her head snaps? Yes, she can't help it. That must be the reason.
Both women turn to Wheein at the interruption.
"A mess? I thought a librarians' job supposed to be providing the right source materials for the school." She takes a glimpse at the name badge and folding her arms at the front, ending it with a sneer. Her resolve strengthens when the librarian pushes the lens further into her nose bridge. "And I thought it is a teacher's job to find the rightful source material only what is to be required of her and not wasting time bothering her working colleagues with nonsense books that wouldn't pique even an infinitesimal of students' interest."
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