Miss Melody’s Box (1,796 words)
Mia blinks twice feeling a little dreary-eyed as Miss Melody continues to rant on about the myths of ancient Greece. It is supposed to be her favourite part of class because she loves a good story and the tales of that era in particular is so fascinating. Mia tries hard to hold back a yawn as Miss Melody’s voice drones on somewhere in her ear. She knows she shouldn’t have stayed up so late last night watching that fantasy movie on Netflix. Her adopted parents had scolded her a few times for it but did she listen?
Mia begins to let out that huge yawn she’s been trying to hold back hoping that no one notices but to her horror she fails:
“Mia!” Mrs Melody shouts, “Wake up!” She jerks up in shock, suddenly very wide awake as she’s called to attention.
“WHAT was I saying about Pandora’s box?” Mia tries to recall as much as she can from the pleasure-reading she’s been doing.
“You’re not supposed to open it because all the bad stuff comes out?”
“What else?” Miss Melody challenges.
“There’s a bit of hope at the bottom of the box before all the bad stuff comes out?”
“No, Mia, that is not what I was saying.” Some of the class erupt into giggles as Mia’s face turns a shade of bright red. Trevor O’Neil puts his hand up:
“When Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of Gods took vengeance by presenting Pandora who opened a jar containing sickness, death and other evils,” he says as he gives Mia a smug look, “Is what Miss Melody was saying.”
“Precisely,” Miss Melody applauds. “That’s very good, Trevor,” she says. “Although Mia isn’t too far off either.” She pauses for emphasis. “Hope indeed is the final thing left in the box. Now some people have described hope as bringing a false sense of optimism or ‘deceptive expectation’” She begins to write those words up on the backboard, “but there is a very strong argument advocating that it is indeed the only good thing left in the box.”
Mia becomes more alert as a certain part of the lecture begins to get interesting.
“However, what circulates around this myth is the temptation of the box itself. Is man so bold as to open a box that contains some of the deepest and darkest forces simply to appease his curiosity?” Miss Melody stares round the class eyeing each child one by one. “We shall soon find out.”
Mia looks round the room as a sullen silence fills the air. Miss Melody always seems to have that effect on people. There is something truly hypnotic about this teacher. Sometimes she also feels like Miss Melody could read her mind or maybe she’s just psychic. She is her favourite teacher.
“Class,” Miss Melody resumes. “I have brought each and every one of you a box. This is so all of you might better understand the temptation that is Pandora’s box,” she clears her throat. “What if I were to tell you that inside the box you will find something that is to your heart’s desire. Unfortunately, there is something at the bottom of the box that will punish you if you dare to open your box before I say so. OK?” Miss Melody begins to hand out each box to everyone in the class. Mia is surprised to notice that her own box has her name on it. “Now, you see, most people like to do the opposite of what they’re told not to,” says Miss Melody, “You wouldn’t happen to be one of those people would you?” She adds, “I guess we will soon find out.” A few of her classmates begin to giggle although Mia wonders if that’s just because they’re nervous. As if on queue, the bell rings, signaling the end of the class.
“Let me be clear! Your homework for this week is not to open the box. Do NOT open the box, OK?”
Although a few of her classmates have hurried out of the room, a lot of them are still in class glaring at their boxes as if hypnotised. Mia takes a good look at her own box on her desk. She marvels at the beautiful embroidery of flowers around her box and the lovely shade of pink that it is. She always did like pink. She notes the lonely ribbon that seals the packet and feels a twinge of temptation to pull it open. She restrains herself.
Mia looks round the room and notices that a couple of her classmates haven’t and a few of the have already opened their box and disregarded the homework Miss Melody has set. Heather Green, the most popular girl in school is one of them as she calls out:
“OH my God! It’s real pearls! REAL pearls!”
Mia looks at the necklace Heather holds in her hand. How could Miss Melody afford that? On her teacher’s paycheck. Mia is confused.
“I told daddy to get me one of these. I always wanted one but he’s all on about how I’m too young for it.” Says Heather. “She didn’t want me to open the box because she doesn’t want me to have it! I don’t care what she says!”
A couple more of her classmates start to open their own boxes as they can’t resist to discover what they’ll find in theirs. Tom, Richard and Theresa all open theirs and Mia is surprised to see a whole lot of wealth pour out of those too. A diamond bracelet and some expensive cuff-links made of gold with the kids all lying and saying how they wanted exactly that. Mia becomes irritated:
“Homework guys! This is HOMEWORK.” She shouts.
“Homework my ass,” says Heather giving her hair a final flip before leaving class with her beautiful necklace. Only Trevor seems to be paying any attention to Mia:
“You’re off to a good start but good luck not opening your one until the week’s out,” he says. He picks up his bag and walks out the room.
“You too,” she says as she hurries out.
When she gets home her adopted parents ask her about her day in school. She knows that both her dads are great giving advice. She tells them everything that’s happened in class and shows them the box she’s not supposed to open:
“Easy,” says Mark. “If the box is not supposed to be opened then don’t open it.”
“Put it to the side and just forget about it,” says George. “No use crying over something you’re not supposed to have.”
The next few days at school start getting weirder and weirder. For a start a couple of students don’t turn up to class and strangely some of them also happen include Tom, Richard, Theresa and Heather – all the kids who’d opened their box on the previous day. A couple more days go by and the class begins to get emptier and emptier each time. Mia begins to feel as if there’s something creepy going on.
When at home, Mia takes her parents’ advice to leave the box to the side and not look at it. Every time she does, she gets a very strange and irresistible urge to simply pull the ribbon loose, open the box and discover what’s inside.
Over the days Mia manages to resist and on day seven she brings the box into Miss Melody’s class and places it on her desk while waiting for the lesson to start. Mia notices Trevor in class before her. Apart from him there is no one else. How is it that the only kids who have turned up today are herself and Trevor O’Neil?
“What’s happened to them? Where have they gone?” she asks him. He shrugs and she could tell by the look on his face that he too is equally baffled. After a few minutes Miss Melody comes in. She resumes with the lesson as if there is nothing unusual. Trevor puts up his hand:
“Yes, Trevor, I hope you have something interesting to share with us about Pandora?”
He puts his hand down:
“It’s not about that,” he says. “Miss Melody? What’s happened to the other kids?”
“Why, Trevor,” she says. “I’m surprised you’ve even had to ask.” She shuffles a couple of papers on her desk. “They’ve been detained, of course.”
“Detained?” Says Mia. “As in given detention?”
“Of course,” says Miss Melody.
“But where are they?” Asks Trevor.
“My, you do ask so many questions,” she says. “Is it not a rule of the school that if a student fails to hand in their homework or produces homework at a highly unsatisfactory fashion that they are given detention?”
An empty silence pervades the room.
“As it happens they have ALL produced their homework to an unsatisfactory standard and they are all being punished.” Then she whispers, “I have detained them inside the box.”
Mia and Trevor look at each other in confusion.
“But YOU two! YOU are my model students. The only two in fact who have completed the homework set to a satisfactory standard and consequently you’ll be rewarded.”
Mia feels a thrill pass through her following the word ‘reward’ but she has another question and raises her hand:
“What about the others?” She asks.
“Oh, no, they will receive no reward but I will be letting them out of their boxes soon enough. When I have deemed that their punishment is sufficient.” She clears her throat.
“Well, that’s that then,” says Trevor. “Can I have my prize please?”
“Oh, of course. Your prize is and has always been inside your box which both of you are now permitted to open and, for heeding the homework, you are both permitted to keep. Now you will open your box and you will find all that your heart desires.”
Trevor ravages his box open and discovers a go-kart:
“Yay! Christmas has come early,” he says. Then he begins to look perplexed. “How did she know this is exactly what I wanted?”
Mia decides to restrain herself a little more and open hers at home.
When she gets home, she tears open her box under the gaze of George and finds a pair of the cutest kittens. Mia looks to her father for permission to keep the kittens and when he says ‘yes,’ her heart fills with joy.
Sunlight suddenly seeps through the window and into the room and Mia thinks she’s going to have a really good week.