Terrorizing dreams, panic attacks, and everyday interactions bring back a past eighth-grade teacher, Melissa Bates believed to be buried for good.
As the school year wears on, she sees signs of an all too familiar situation in one of her students, Christy Kade.
Christy hopes that school will be different this year with the arrival of a brand new friendship.
Her adventures with Beth take her mind off what lies at home. Still she lives in silent fear, dreading her father's "secret, special games."
When everything is going well-finally-she is pulled back into herself by the horrific pain that never seems to end.
As our heroines open themselves up to the lessons taught to them by their loved ones, they grow in ways they’d never thought possible.
Ugly things do happen behind closed doors, but help—and hope—exist.
Excerpts from NO SHADOWS LEFT BEHIND:
Once the class members have all settled in their seats after lunch, Miss Bates asks, "Does everyone know what an autobiography is?"
Christy knows what an autobiography is; she has read several of them about her favourite artists. Christy wonders, Where is she going with this?
Miss Bates waits a couple of moments. "Just to be sure: An autobiography is a story written by you, about you—about your life, where you were born, your hobbies, your interests." She writes "Autobiography" on the whiteboard. "I would like each of you to write one. Include major events that have happened in your lives, up to this point. I also want you to include your ambitions and what you want to do in the future."
This could be fun, Christy thinks, writing down the assignment in her notebook.
"Minimum is eight pages. This is due two weeks from Friday." Miss Bates goes on talking about rough copies, how she wants it to be typed, what to put on the cover page, and other various instructions about the assignment.
Christy's mind drifts away from the classroom and she finds herself thinking of her father. What am I going to do when he comes back? I don't want to play his games any more… But he’ll hurt me if I don’t. Maybe I can hide at Mrs. Collier's… It hurts too much to play Daddy's games anymore. I can't… I'm way too old for this, to pretend like I believe it’s all a game.
Startled, Christy looks up. Beth is standing at her desk, wearing a concerned look.
"Are you all right? You've been staring into space for a while. It’s time to go."
Christy blinks and looks around her. Kids are packing up and Miss Bates is erasing the whiteboard.
"The first day of school is over. Come on."
"I guess I was lost in thought," Christy says, hurriedly packing up her bag.
"Yeah, you were…"
“So, did you always want to be a teacher?"
"Pretty much," Melissa replies. "I was very blessed to have some good teachers along the way. I loved to study and I loved school; it made sense."
Darren nods. "I think you're the first person I’ve met… who actually wanted to be a teacher. The rest of them, like me, fell into it accidentally. Maybe that's why we all ended up at the Collegiate, someplace where we could exercise our creative muscles and have more freedom. Maybe that's what’s also made you…"
"An outcast?" Melissa supplies.
The waiter returns, placing their plates in front of them.
"Oh, I wouldn’t say that. Just aloof. You just seemed… really hard to talk to," Darren says diplomatically. He looks despairingly at the measly salad in front of him.
Melissa arranges her hearty meal on her plate. "I can talk in front of a class of thirteen-year-olds, but generally speaking, social interaction isn't my strong suit. This year, I decided to try. That's due, in part, to your coaxing."
Darren waves his hand dismissively at her comment. "I just thought you were the quiet type, and if one of us went and approached you, invited you in, you'd feel more welcome. Although it took five years to figure that out."
"Did you draw straws, then?" Melissa asks, the words coming out colder-sounding than she meant them to.
"No, nothing like that," Darren says, spearing a forkful of his salad. "It was just my own thinking, not a group discussion. Honestly, I found you—and find you—kind of captivating."
Melissa nearly chokes on a fry. "Why?"
"Well, honestly, you barely spoke a word to any of us. It wasn't that you weren't friendly, but you seemed so timid and withdrawn. I thought: how could this woman possibly teach? And then word started going around about your classes and the after-school stuff you headed up, how fun and interesting they were. So I thought maybe you didn't like interacting with the other staff, or you just didn't like socializing… But if you suffer from anxiety attacks, you're probably not overly fond of crowds…"
Melissa momentarily freezes at the conclusion Darren has drawn.
Darren, seeing her tense, reaches out and puts his hand over her arm. "Hey, I didn't mean anything by that; it’s just an observation."
Melissa smiles tensely. "Sorry. For a moment there, I forgot I had told you."
"Well, you did and that's all right. It’s not a big deal… So why does it seem like it’s a big deal to you?"
Melissa looks up at the ceiling, noticing how dirty it is. She looks around at the other tables in her favourite restaurant, and realizes they are mostly occupied by single people. After a couple of moments, she says, "Because of what they're related to… I don't trust people easily, nor do I let them in often."
Darren nods. "Are you going to eat that?" he asks, pointing at her burger.
Melissa smiles, feeling herself relax. She cuts the burger in half. "Here."
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