“Oh, Adam...it’s all my fault...”
Belle felt alone. She felt, not scared, but anxious. Now what? Her vrienden had deserted her. She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Then, she heard voices around the corner.
“Well, I don’t know; I just don’t think he’s being very fair with the grades.”
“He does tend to crack down hard with them.”
“I heard rumours he’s going to give us a test volgende week.”
Belle’s hart-, hart leapt. That was Adam.
“A test?” groaned Aladdin. “Oh, give us a break already!”
Belle darted around the corner and flung herself at Adam. Adam took a step backwards as she caught him; she almost knocked him over. “Whoa! Hey, Belle, what’s wrong?”
She couldn’t speak so she simply shook her head. Tears were now pouring down her face.
“Belle, u ok?” asked Flynn.
Adam patted her back gently and glanced at the others. “Could u guys go on ahead and I’ll catch u up later?”
“Ok,” John said, sensing that Adam didn’t want Belle to feel uncomfortable pouring out her emotions to the rest of them. “Come on, guys.”
Flynn patted her shoulder before he left. Belle finally found her voice. “Oh, Adam...it’s all my fault...”
“What is?” Adam asked, holding her.
“I should have...but I didn’t...I should have told them...”
“Told who what?” Adam gently broke the embrace and held her at arm’s length. “Belle, what’s going on? Has someone hurt you?”
“Not exactly,” she managed to say.
“Was it Gaston? If he’s touched u again-!”
“No, it’s not him.”
“No; well, not to me!” Belle rubbed her eyes, fiercely. “It was Jasmine!”
Adam stared at her. “He tried it on with Jasmine?”
Adam made a soft growl in his throat. “I thought he was pretty quick to give her that detention!”
“I should have told her that Mr Frollo tried it on with me too, but I didn’t think I’d ever need to...and now this has happened...she blames for not telling her...and I should have...oh, Adam, now they all hate me...”
Adam, seeing the fresh tears in her eyes, pulled her to him again, cradling her. “I’m sure that’s not true, Belle. When bad things happen, sometimes people just look for others to blame and take it out on them. Trust me; I know from experience.”
She tightened her grip, her fingers clenching his shirt. “But it’s my fault. I should have told her.”
“Belle, I’ve told u before. None of this is your fault, and it’s not Jasmine’s fault either. If Mr Frollo can’t keep his hands to himself, the only person to blame is him.”
“He’s got to be stopped,” Belle said, pulling away from him, although she still maintained her grip on his shirt. “This can’t go on.”
“You should meld him to Mr Ratcliffe,” Adam said.
Belle nodded. “I know. I should have done that before, but I didn’t think...I didn’t think it would ever happen again.”
Adam nodded, understandingly. “Do u want me to come with you?”
She relaxed her grip on him. “Thank you, Adam.”
To her surprise, Adam suddenly leaned forwards and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s going to be alright,” he promised before he took her arm and led her in the direction of Mr Ratcliffe’s office.
Inside, Mr Ratcliffe was attempting to come to grips with the timetables for volgende year. “Come!” he called at their knock, and as they came in, he looked up. “Oh! Miss French. Mr Castle. What can I do for you?”
“I hope we’re not disturbing you,” began Adam.
“Oh, don’t worry, Mr Castle. It’s what I’m here for.” He glanced at Belle. “Are u alright, Miss French? u look a little nervous.”
Belle took a deep breath. “Mr Ratcliffe, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“Oh? Please, take a seat, both of you.”
Belle and Adam both sat down and Mr Ratcliffe propped his elbows on the bureau and pressed his fingertips together. “Proceed.”
“A couple of weeks ago,” began Belle, nervously, “Mr Frollo asked me to stay behind after R.E class. I thought he just wanted to talk about my grades, and he did start off that way but then...”
“Then?” prompted Mr Ratcliffe, gently.
“Then he pinned me to the uithangbord and tried to kiss me.”
Mr Ratcliffe stared at her. His shock was genuine. Belle continued. “He zei that plenty of other girls did it for better grades and then he tried to...force me into...sleeping with him. I managed to fight him off and ran for it.”
“Why did u not tell me this when it happened?”asked Mr Ratcliffe, clearly deeply concerned.
Adam stepped in. “Because later something similar happened with another student and she was pretty shaken up door it, Mr Ratcliffe.”
“And I stupidly believed him when he zei that other girls did it; and I didn’t think it would ever happen again after I fought him off,” Belle added, her confidence growing now. “But I just found out that he tried it again with jasmijn duif and I felt I had to tell you.”
“This is a very serious matter,” zei Mr Ratcliffe, “and u ought to have told me straight away, Miss French.” Belle hung her head. “But, now u have,” Mr Ratcliffe continued, getting to his feet, “and at least now we have two impartial witnesses to speak against him on this count. Have no fear, Miss French; I’ll get the police onto this straight away.”
“The police?” Belle repeated.
“Corruption of youth is a very serious charge, Miss French,” explained Mr Ratcliffe. “This is a good school and I will not see its name and reputation soiled door one man’s lecherous attempts to rape young women; especially since the young women in vraag are two of his students and people have been trusting him to teach them, not force them into bed with him. I’ll call them right now.”
Belle felt like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. “Thank you, Mr Ratcliffe!”
He nodded. “You might be called upon to give a written statement of what happened; I’ll let u know. For now, Miss French, u may rest assured that I will have the matter sorted out door the end of the day. Now, unless there was anything else, u are free to leave.”
“Thank you,” Belle repeated, getting to her feet.
Mr Ratcliffe nodded again. “Have no fear, Miss French. Now, I’d best post an advert for a new Religious Education teacher; preferably one who won’t corrupt my students.”
As they left, Belle leaned against Adam in relief. “I should have just done that in the first place!”
“It’s alright, Belle,” Adam murmured, slipping an arm around her shoulders. “Mr Ratcliffe will get it sorted out. In the meantime, I think it’s best u steer as far away from Mr Frollo as possible!”
Belle nodded. “Thanks for coming with me, Adam. Now all I can do is hope that jasmijn and the others will start talking to me again.”
“Mr Ratcliffe, there’s something I need to tell you.”