Amelia Enderby was not an easy student. She liked to learn things but would get terribly impatient if she were not able to do them immediately. Her father's job as an engineer meant that they had moved a lot and she had been to more schools than most of the other children in her class and it showed. She was very good at lessons in the subjects that she liked but extremely bad at the ones she did not like. Amelia could be a model pupil and the worst child in her class in the time between play and lunch - not much more than an hour - and her class teacher sometimes despaired of her.
"She is so distracting." Mrs Willmot was saying in the staffroom one particularly bad Tuesday. "When she is bored she disrupts the whole class with her comments and mischief, but when she is interested she is such a joy to teach I find myself ignoring the other children just to work with her. Either way the others are not getting a fair go and I finish the day feeling like a wet rag!" She sighed loudly, slumped back in a chair and flung her hand over her eyes in a dramatic gesture. Mr Oswald, the librarian, was about to say how interested Amelia was in books when Ms Parrott (pronounced Parr-oh), the rather loud and gaudy art teacher, noisily joined in.
"That child is a pest in art. When I try to introduce the class to an artist of distinction she always makes some comment; usually that she has seen the original or some other piece of that artist's work and she has an opinion - mostly critical - on the artist and the piece. She is most irritating!"
"Does she know what she is talking about?" asked Mr Oswald.
"Well yes, but it is just point scoring," said Ms Parrott indignantly. "She has travelled and her parents seem quite intelligent so they probably took her to some galleries on their travels."
She drew herself up in her chair, shook herself and settled again, just like a bird on its perch. Mr Oswald sat forward and opened his mouth but was once again interrupted, this time by the music teacher, Miss Angel.
"She is certainly challenging, isn't she? She hasn't played an instrument before and now wants to take up the saxophone because her favourite cartoon character plays one!"
"Lisa Simpson," Mr Oswald managed to get a word in at last. "Has she started lessons yet?"
"She was supposed to start last week but she missed her lesson - apparently she was kept in for some mischief she created."
"Oh dear," said Mrs Willmot, "She did mention music lessons but I didn't believe her, I'm afraid. I didn't think the children could start an instrument mid-term."
"Not usually, but Amelia was not here to begin with the other children, so I said I would allow her to start now. I hope she can avoid getting into mischief this week…"
" 'melia! Amelia! Mrs Willmot wants you in the classroom." Tina was in the same class as Amelia and always hung around the teachers, so she often got to run messages for them. Amelia turned away from the game at the sound of her name and the ball hit her in the back of the legs stinging the bare skin. With an angry "Ouch!" she kicked it away and glared at Tina.
"What's she want me for?"
Tina shrugged. "I don't know, she just said to tell you to come to the classroom now." She ran off throwing "you're always in trouble, anyway" over her shoulder.
Amelia strolled over to the main school building, climbed the stairs to Mrs. Willmot's classroom and stuck her head round the door.
Mrs Willmot was looking at some papers on her desk with Miss Angel the music teacher. Amelia heard what her teacher was saying.
"… probably her best subject but her worst behaviour - I think she's bored at this level, she could certainly miss half an hour on Wednesdays if that suits your timetable."
Miss Angel nodded. "That would fit in - I have a spare slot for the wind instruments there, if you're sure she can miss that class."
Mrs Willmot looked up and saw Amelia at the door. She smiled at her and Amelia realised she might not be in trouble this time.
"Come in Amelia - I owe you an apology for not believing you the other day."
Amelia was puzzled then remembered being kept in and missing her first music lesson - she had got into trouble with Miss Angel as well and when she saw the two of them together she thought it was more telling off or even another detention.
"Miss Angel explained that you had been enrolled for music late because you were not here at the beginning of term so I thought it would be useful if you had your lesson in class time. I think you could miss half an hour of English on Wednesdays, don't you? That would be your music lesson."
Amelia stared at her teacher. Mrs Willmot was suggesting that she miss half an hour of English on Wednesday to have her music lesson - some kids had lessons in class time but only in their free work period - most kids had their individual lessons at lunchtimes or before or after school. Amelia didn't know anyone who missed part of a proper lesson for music.
"If you think that I can miss that lesson, I don't mind."
Miss Angel smiled. She really did look angelic when she smiled, thought Amelia, but she was known to be a very strict music teacher. Amelia's friend Esther (they had become friendly because they had unusual names - neither of them had ever met anyone with the same name - or each other's) had flute lessons with Miss Angel. She told Amelia that, while Miss Angel didn't shout at you if she was annoyed with you, you really knew it when she was. Amelia thought she knew what Esther meant, but she wasn't sure; she hoped she would never find out.
"I'll look forward to seeing you in the music room tomorrow at twelve then," said Miss Angel "I will bring in a school saxophone for you."
Amelia nodded. "Okay. I'll be there." Mrs Willmot smiled at her and said she would make sure she got there. Amelia went back to her game thinking about Miss Angel. She seemed so nice, but by all accounts you did not want to be in her bad books.
Amelia woke up the next morning wondering whether she had dreamed the previous day's lunchtime, but when she put her lunch in her bag and saw the clean, unused folder for her music lesson she knew she hadn't. The only person in her class she had told was Esther and she had sworn her to secrecy - actually she had said she would break her legs if she told anyone, an empty threat she occasionally uttered, but with such ferocity that no-one had dared challenge it so far. All through the morning's lessons she held her gleeful secret inside her and was on her best behaviour so as not to give Mrs Willmot any reason to keep her in class at midday.
At a few minutes to twelve Mrs Willmot looked up, smiled at Amelia and said "Off you go Amelia, you don't want to be late - you'll get me in more trouble with Miss Angel!"
As Amelia closed the classroom door she heard a little buzz of excited questions, probably directed at Esther - then Mrs Willmot's voice cut in telling the class to settle down. She just about skipped down the stairs and across the playground to the music room, but she didn't skip. Miss Angel met her at the door, seeing off a grade three girl carrying a small rectangular case that looked too small to be an instrument. Amelia jerked her head at the departing student.
"What does she play?"
Miss Angel smiled. "The flute - your instrument case is a bit larger I'm afraid." She picked up a bulky, vaguely saxophone-shaped case from the floor and handed it to Amelia. It was heavier than she had thought it would be and felt awkward to carry. Amelia had some brief misgivings until she opened the case and saw the instrument in all its shiny glory.
"It's beautiful - but it's broken!" Miss Angel laughed, a throaty chuckle that made Amelia look up and see her in a different light for a moment. She suddenly thought that the angelic appearance might just be an act and the real Miss Angel might be much more interesting - more dangerous if you got in her bad books, but much more fun than she seemed. Miss Angel took the instrument out and fitted it together, slipping the mouthpiece in last of all. She handed it to Amelia then picked up another one from a stand behind her, put it to her lips and played the Simpson's theme tune. Amelia goggled, her eyes wide - Miss Angel was more fun than she seemed. She put the instrument to her lips and blew. No sound came out at first, then it made a sort of weak, farting sound, and Amelia could feel her face getting red from effort and embarrassment.
The sweet Miss Angel smile returned and she began the lesson by teaching Amelia to coax a sound from the instrument. Amelia was surprised when the bell went for lunch - the lesson had passed so quickly it didn't seem like half an hour. Miss Angel showed her how to clean and pack the saxophone away in its case and sent her back to class.
By the end of the day everyone in the class knew that Amelia was learning the saxophone and that she was having her lesson during the second half of Wednesday's English lesson. By lunchtime on the next day most of the school seemed to know that she was the only pupil who was having her lesson during a normal class. However, since Amelia had had a playground fight with Andrew Wilson, the biggest boy in her class, and won, no-one in the class bothered her much; but some of the younger kids who were silly enough to sing the “Simpsons” theme in her hearing were subject to her fierce glare.