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Guppy had had stern talks with Brooke at the beginning of the new term. In fact, they'd had a 'Naughty Amnesty', where he promised that she wouldn't get into any more trouble for anything she had already done if she fessed up, and together they would work on some guidelines for getting in trouble less at school.

After an hour of confessing, they narrowed it down to 'No climbing, no name calling, keep your hands to yourself, don't touch the teacher's things without asking, and use your inside voice' and so far Brooke had kept her nose clean for the first week.

He'd had a word with Miss Brimstone and offered her his support and encouraged her to communicate with him. The woman shows the same signs of nervousness that he does. Does she really just not like Brooke, as Brooke claims, or is she suffering from stress? Or both?

On the way out he'd stopped to see Miss Hewitt, Gil's teacher. Gil is angelic in school, and has become quite the favourite with all the staff. Which is fortunate as with hindsight, both Guppy and Miss Hewitt have had some doubts as to whether he was really ready for school, because every time they have story time he says 'Night night' and goes to sleep. They agree to try not to let him have a nap, to try and get him out the habit.

Alas for such good intentions, it doesn't take long for Brooke and Miss Brimstone to come to blows.

It comes, to Brooke, quite out of the blue. While painting, she dips the red paintbrush into the green paint, again. Tilly, across the table, starts making a fuss.

"Miss Brimstone!" she wails. "Brooke ruined the paint again!"

"BROOKLYN!" Miss Brimstone shouts so uncharacteristically loud that the whole class jumps and is silent. "HOW MANY TIMES MUST YOU BE TOLD? YOU DO THIS EVERY TIME, YOU RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE!"

Brooke blinks. She doesn't cry, mostly she's surprised. Several of the other children, who have never seen Miss Brimstone lose her cool like this, do start to cry, and the teacher looks rather embarrassed and starts trying to comfort them.

She doesn't see Brooke do it. But when she goes back to her desk, some time later, her register is under an upside down pot of pink paint.

Some time later, in the staff room, Miss Brimstone sits down wearily next to Miss Havisham.

"What syndrome does the older Sandhu child have?" Miss Brimstone asks.

"Asperger's. Why?"

"That Brooke... she can't be normal." Miss Brimstone declares. "It has to be ADHD or ODD or something."

"I don't believe in ADHD. Most of the time." Miss Havisham says. "And I've never heard of 'odd', whatever that's supposed to be. Besides, Brooklyn is capable of sitting quietly at a desk doing lines just to make a point, so I doubt attention is the issue. In any case, I am the wrong person to ask."


"Hello Brooke. Can we have a chat?"

Brooke looks up from where she had just been debating with Alisha whether to bring in her realistic rubber snake and if so, where in contact with Miss Brimstone they should put it.

"My name is Mr Irons." Mr Irons says, as she follows him inside to his small room.

"I know who you are." Brooke says. "You help weirdos like my brother."

"Not quite how I'd describe it." Mr Irons says. "I'm here to help people who are finding school difficult, for one reason or another. Getting into trouble a lot. That sort of thing."

Brooke eyes him with suspicion as they sit down.

"I'm not like them."


"Fry, and Coral. I'm not like them." Brooke says.

"I know." Mr Irons says. "Brooke, I want you to answer me just one question."

"What's that?"

"Why do you mix green and red paint?"

"To make brown." Brooke says.

Mr Irons just watches her.

After a moment Brooke carries on. "Miss Brimstone never puts out brown. She puts out pink. I don't paint pictures of myself pink."

"Because you're mixed race." Mr Irons says.

Brooke nods.

"Did you ever tell Miss Brimstone this?" Mr Irons asks.

"No." Brooke says.

"See, if you'd just asked nicely, she could have mixed you a separate pot of brown." Mr Irons says. "You don't have to fight with people if you just talk to them and are patient."

"She yelled at me."

"I will tell her what you told me." Mr Irons says. "No doubt the two of you can make amends."

By the time Guppy comes to pick her up, it appears that Mr Irons has smoothed the ground between Brooke and her teacher. Miss Brimstone makes an honest confession to yelling at Brooke, which Guppy appreciates.

But what warms his heart is when he sees, on the table, that Miss Brimstone has not only made pots of brown, but has mixed them to four different skin tones. Maybe there's hope for the two of them yet.


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