My God! They were right. She really does look like Robbie Coltrane. My colleagues had been ribbing me for most of the day about my impending meeting with Miss Saunders.
I feel like a child as her gigantic hand envelopes mine in a vice-like grip. I proceed to lead her, and her daughter, down to the meeting room. We sit opposite one another, separated by a long, rectangular table. I feel nervous. She is a formidable looking, rather intimidating woman.
‘I am quite concerned about Charlie, Miss Saunders,’ I say, leaning forward, my forearms resting on the table. ‘She regularly truants my lessons and failed to attend yesterday’s detention – the detention that we agreed upon when I spoke to you on Tuesday.’ I wait for a response. There isn't one, so I awkwardly continue. ‘She even poked her head through my classroom window to tell me that she wouldn't be coming. I was astonished by her brazenness – she clearly found it funny.’ Again, I wait for a response that isn’t forthcoming. Charlie sits smirking. Coltrane just stares at me as if to say: And…? Is that it?
After a long, uncomfortable silence I turn my attention to Charlie. ‘So what’s going on, Charlie? Why are you behaving like this?’
‘I walked out the other day ‘cause I was ‘ot. I asked you to open the door but you ignored me.’
‘That is simply untrue,’ I protest, momentarily stunned by an unexpected accusation. ‘I would not refuse a reasonable request like that. I just wouldn't do it!’
‘Are you calling my daughter a liar?’ At last, it speaks. I think I preferred it when she was inscrutably mute.
‘In this instance, Miss Saunders, she is not telling the truth,’ I say. Charlie slumps back, clearly reveling in her mother’s misplaced, irresponsible support.
‘Well, you obviously show ‘er no respect – calling ‘er a liar – so no wonder she plays up. Why should she respect someone that doesn't respect ‘er?’ Miss Saunders’ amorphous face ripples and reddens as she ferociously lays into me. She really has found her tongue.
‘Miss Saunders,’ I say, desperately trying to maintain my composure, ‘I invited you here to talk about your daughter’s behaviour in a bid to help her. Yet not once have you reprimanded her for what she has done.’
‘Don’t tell me what I 'av or 'aven’t done,’ she replies. ‘I know how to bring up my daughter.’
‘I’m sitting here watching you. Not once have you turned to her and said that her behaviour is unacceptable. Even if I did refuse to open the door – which I didn't by the way – do you still think it acceptable to walk out of a classroom because it’s too hot? What about the other students, what if they all decided to do the same?’
‘I’m fuckin’ going. You've got no fuckin’ respect.’ Coltrane struggles to her feet. I remain seated. If I stand up now it could inflame an already pretty flammable situation. She storms out. Charlie follows, still smirking, enjoying every minute. ‘You’re a fuckin’ dick’ead, mate.’ Coltrane’s parting shot pretty much sums me up – I am a dickhead…for organising a meeting with her.