Side Effects

sky with lamp

She sat in front of me, her hair shiny and straight, a tint of red lipstick on her thin lips, black polished nails. I could see she was nervous by the red blush spots on her pale, smooth neck.

“What is your take on this industry?” asks my co-assessor, and I glance at her. Where is that question coming from? Does it have anything to do with the assessment at all? I try to remember the questions we prepared. I look back at the student. She is talking, answering the question confidently, looking at my colleague.

“Yes, well, you know… blah, blah, blah…” I can’t actually hear the words she is speaking. It’s almost like she’s speaking in Mandarin and all I can do is observe her body language.

I squirm in my seat, take the rubber orange lid off my recyclable coffee cup and take a sip of the lukewarm tea. It tastes like nothing.

“So, what is your biggest takeaway from this experience?,” the student is being asked.

She raises her eyebrows and touches her mouth briefly, and then clasping one hand with the other, her nails so black and shiny, neat and competent, she sets off again, explaining all she knows and has learned. Again, I can’t understand anything except my own voice telling me that she obviously knows what she’s on about. And another voice wondering why she has stopped looking in my direction.

I look down at my own hands. They are turning a strange color. I have no nail polish, as that would only accentuate how unsightly my fingertips are. I see something rough on the back of my hands and brush at it. I wonder if it’s from the salmon I scaled yesterday. How in the heck did that stay on through my shower? But it doesn’t brush off.

I glance at my watch. We are grossly late. The school will close soon. I have been here almost all day. My mind is buzzing. I don’t know about them, but I want this assessment to be over. I look at the pile of papers on my desk.

“Do you have a question for her?” my colleague asks me.

“Um, yes, of course.” I am not sure which page we are looking at now. I flip through more papers, but half of them fall on the floor. As I reach over, to pick them up, my cup tips over and soaks everything on the table, including my laptop.

“Don’t worry,” says my colleague, “Let me go get some paper towels.” She steps out, ever so elegantly, looking fresh and together, although she’s been at school all day, doing numerous assessments. I admire her. Her sleek black hair, her bright eyes, her clever questions.

Meantime, the student is looking at me with what she probably hopes is a neutral expression, but I can read the dismay behind her eyes.

I look down at my hands and see they are now covered in scales. And my skin seems to have taken on a green hue. I quickly pull the sleeve of my jacket over my hands, and push my hands down under the table between us.

“Well, it seems we’ve covered everything now. All that’s left is to check your ID, you do have that with you, don’t you?” I ask her. I have pulled this last request out of nowhere, like a magician who suddenly realizes he’s got a rabbit in his cage and a parrot in his hat.

She pulls out her ID card and presents it to me. The picture is a few years old. She used to have red hair, but now it’s dyed that popular greyish blond, very glamorous in young girls in their mid-20s, but for us mid-aged ladies, it’s the natural color we try to cover up with any other shade.

“Um hum,” I mutter, leaning over to look at it. “Wait, let me get my glasses. Oh, your middle name is Sandy?” She leans over to look at it.

“Sandra.” She answers.

“Oh yes,” I answer and wait for my savior co-assessor to return. I don’t know how I got here, but hope to hell I can leave soon and get to a doctor to tend to my green skin and scales.

They told me that the medication might have some strange side effects.

This story was inspired by the prompts on this site: OnLine Writing Guild (OLWG), prompts #85

Number of the week: 37


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