“Alexa? Alexa! Wake up, Alexa!” the voice sternly commanded. Alexa groggily opened her eyes, turning her head towards the source of the voice calling her. As her vision sharpened into focus, she saw a face that she knew was familiar, but couldn’t quite recall in her post-sleep haze. “Alexa Donovan! Is there a reason why you decided to fall asleep in my class?” Alexa raised her head, looked around and realized she was in a classroom. Convinced she was still dreaming, she wearily looked around the room, confused as the students in the class stared at her, observing the scene unfolding between Alexa and the teacher. Alexa slowly turned her head back towards the teacher, who stood with her arms crossed. That’s when Alexa remembered her name. It was Jessica Andrews, the 5th grade teacher at Dalian. How had she fallen asleep in Jessica’s classroom? Hadn’t she already gone home after the school day was over? Wasn’t she doing something at her house before she fell asleep?
“Jessica, I’m so sorry, I don’t know……..” Alexa stopped herself mid-sentence, confused by the high pitch of her voice.
“Excuse me? ‘Jessica?’ It’s Ms. Andrews, young lady! I’ll ask you again, why did you decide to take a nap during right before our spelling test? I suppose you’ve studied the words so well you can literally spell them in your sleep?” she asked, as the students around her began to giggle.
“N-no…..” Alexa stammered in reply. I……I just don’t know how I got here and……..”
Ms. Andrews took Alexa by the arm, standing her up slowly. Alexa’s eyes widened in shock. Everything around her seemed so……big. Jessica Andrews, who formerly stood about half a foot shorter than Alexa, now seemingly towered over her. “I think you need to excuse yourself to the restroom, young lady. Compose yourself and then come right back to your desk so we can begin the spelling test! Is that understood?” she asked. Still in shock, Alexa dumbly nodded her head “yes”, walked to the door, took one last look behind her and then quickly exited the classroom and entered the hallway. Alexa’s heart raced as she began briskly walking to the bathroom, then running. She barged into the girl’s restroom, her heart threatening to burst out of her chest. Alexa ran to the mirror, and stared in horror at what was being reflected back to her. It wasn’t the reflection of a mature, twenty-seven year old woman but that of an eleven year old girl. Alexa let out a short, sharp shriek and then ran into one of the stalls, shutting it behind her and closing the latch.
“No……..no, no, no, no!” she repeated under her breath as she unbuttoned her uniform shirt and ran her hands along her chest, which was now flat as a board. Running her hands along her sides, she realized all of her curves had seemingly vanished.
Alexa sat in the stall, breathing quickly and heavily as she attempted to make sense of what had happened to her. It was then that the bathroom door opened and the clicking of heels echoed throughout the room. “Alexa? Alexa are you in that stall?” It was Ms. Andrews. Alexa froze, too panicked to respond. “Alexa? Are you ok? Do you need help?” she asked, this time knocking on the stall door.
Alexa attempted to speak several times before finally forcing out a reply. “N-no! No I’m fine! I’m coming back now! Just one more minute!” she pleaded.
“Ok, but you have one minute, young lady! We’re starting the test now!” Ms. Andrews replied, her heels clicking on the tiled floor of the bathroom as she made her exit. Alexa quickly began to redress herself as she heard the bathroom door close. She took several deep breaths, attempting to calm herself. “It’s just a dream……..it’s just a dream………” she said, repeating this mantra to herself as she exited the bathroom and made her way back down the hallway to the 5th grade classroom.
When she opened the door, she felt rather than saw the gaze of every student in the class as she hurriedly made her way back to her desk. Alexa sat down, picked up the pencil that was resting in the shallow depression at the top and looked down at the sheet of paper placed on her desk, which consisted of a numbered list with blanks alongside each number. Now that all of her students were present, Ms. Andrews walked to the front of the class.
“Ok, class. We all know how this works by now. I’m going to say the word and you spell it on the blank space next to each number. Pencils ready? Good. Number one, ‘Bribery’.” The sound of dozens of pencils on paper filled the room as each student began to spell the requested word. After pausing to think, Alexa began to write her response on the line next to the number “1” on the sheet. Ms. Andrews looked down at her list, then announced the next word. “Justice” she pronounced slowly. Alexa set to work spelling this latest word. Oddly, as she focused on taking the exam, her panic began to subside. She was still convinced she was dreaming, but the fear and confusion she felt abated with each new word Ms. Andrews called out to the class to spell. By the fifth words, Alexa had practically forgotten what she was so upset about in the first place. When the test was over, Ms. Andrews walked along the rows, collecting each students’ paper, then returning to her desk.
“Ok, class. I’m going to grade these while you work on your reading assignments. Take out your textbooks and begin reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’.” Alexa reached under her desk, taking the textbook out and finding the assigned story inside. As Alexa began to read. “Alice was beg…….bug……to get……..” she struggled to make out the word, then decided to skip to the next paragraph. “So she was con………cone………” Alexa looked around the room at the other students, most of which were already on the second or third page. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I read this?” she thought to herself as she attempted once again to read the first paragraph. In didn’t take long before her effort was interrupted by Ms. Andrews.
“Alexa, come to my desk, please” she instructed. Alexa stood up and began walking to the desk. Ms. Andrews had a stern look on her face, which filled Alexa with a sense of dread as she walked next to the woman that she swore looked familiar to her. Ms. Andrews held Alexa’s spelling test out in front of her, which was practically drowning in red ink.
“Alexa, I need to ask you something. Are you supposed to be here?” Ms. Andrews asked in a firm whisper. Alexa’s face turned red from embarrassment as she noticed all of the red x’s that littered her spelling test. Alexa looked up at Ms. Andrews with a look of confusion.
“I…..I think I am?” she replied uncertainly. Ms. Andrews handed Alexa her test. “Look at your exam, Alexa. You didn’t spell a single word correctly. These are the types of spelling mistakes I would expect of a child much younger than you. You clearly don’t belong in this class, sweetheart.” Alexa’s lip began to tremble and her eyes began water up.
“I don’t know how you ended up in here, but you clearly aren’t a fifth grader. In fact, I looked up your name in the enrollment database and it says you’re supposed to be in second grade…….”
“But……..but I’m not a second grader! I just didn’t have time to study, that’s all!” Alexa loudly protested, causing the students in the class to look up from their textbooks at the unfolding drama.
Unmoved, Ms. Andrews opened her textbook to the first page of Alice in Wonderland and handed it to Alexa. “Ok, then. Go to the front of the class and read the second paragraph of Alice in Wonderland.” Alexa hesitantly took the book from her teacher and walked to the front of the class. Fighting to keep her composure, she began to attempt to read the first paragraph again. “So she was cons……cone…….condin…….in her own mind……..”
As Alexa struggled to read the paragraph, something odd began to happen. She felt smaller. Not just from the embarrassment of failing to read at her expected level in front of the class, but physically smaller. The room seemed to grow a bit, along with everything and everyone else in it. As Alexa stared in confusion around the room, she felt the textbook get snatched from her hands. “I think we’ve all heard enough, Alexa” Ms. Andrews said, shutting the textbook and placing it on her desk. “Class, continue to read! I’m taking Alexa to the second grade, where she belongs….”