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Jenny And The Missing Calculator

Children's Story
Jenny was having fun. Her friend Martha had brought a graphical calculator into school. Martha had borrowed the calculator from her older brother, who used it for his advanced maths. He'd been off school for a week, so Martha had figured he wouldn't need his calculator for a while. She and Jenny had soon discovered a great bowling game hidden in the depths of the calculator, and Jenny, to her excitement had just reached level three.

As the bell sounded for the next lesson, Martha asked for her calculator back. "Hang on a minute," said Jenny. "I just want to finish this game. I'll give it back in a minute." So Martha went on her way. She forgot all about the calculator until that evening, when her brother roared at her.

"Oh shut up!" said Martha. "It's no big deal. I'll get it back tomorrow at school." But it was an uncomfortable evening. Martha's parents kept nagging her about borrowing the calculator without permission, and her brother was bad-tempered and grouchy.

As soon as she reached school next day, Martha sought out Jenny. "Can I have the calculator back, please?"

Jenny stared at her. "I gave it back yesterday."

"What? You didn't! When I asked you for it, you said you wanted to finish that game."

"But I came straight afterwards and found you in the loos. You were talking to Emily and trying out her make-up. I said, 'Here's your calculator, Martha,' and put it down by your bag. Don't you remember?"

"I never saw it. I never saw you, come to that," frowned Martha. "Are you sure? Anyway, where is it now? I need it for my brother."

The two girls went to the toilets, but there was no calculator there. "Someone must have found it and handed it in," suggested Jenny. "I'll try Lost Property."

But there was no calculator in Lost Property. Martha was desperately worried. She knew the calculator was very expensive. "It's all your fault!" she shouted at her friend. "You didn't give it back to me."

"I did," protested Jenny. Then she added, "Look, if we can't find it, I'll give you something towards the cost of a new one." But Martha refused to be consoled. All sorts of nasty suspicions were beginning to fill her mind. She had no recollection at all of having seen Jenny in the cloakroom, although it was true she had been in there with Emily trying on make-up. But Jenny couldn't have come in without her noticing! And anyway, she'd have noticed the calculator when she went to pick up her bag. Jenny must be lying. And why would she lie? Jenny must have stolen the calculator!

The more she thought about it, the more Martha became convinced Jenny had stolen the calculator. There was no other explanation. She told her parents of her suspicions that evening, and her father rang Jenny's home, without actually accusing Jenny of theft, but implying their suspicions. Jenny's mother immediately offered to pay half towards a replacement, which reinforced Martha's family's view. "Why would she offer to pay half?" asked Martha's mother. And added, "Because she'll be getting a graphical calculator for half-price, that's why!" and the family refused to accept the offer. It was still uncomfortable for Martha at home, but at least the anger of her family was now directed rather more towards Jenny than towards her.

"We'll make her pay!" fumed Martha's mother. "How dare she think she can get away with nicking an expensive item like that? Ring again tomorrow night," she instructed her husband.

Martha found she was unable to speak civilly to Jenny at school. All Martha's friends formed a protective group around her, and shouted at Jenny that she'd have to pay up or else.

Jenny looked deeply unhappy. "Have you seen the Head?" she asked Martha. Martha flushed. "Of course I have," she shouted angrily. "What do you think I am? Stupid?"

Jenny bit her lip and looked worried. "I'll go and ask again in Lost Property," she offered.

Things went from bad to worse. Jenny's mother continued to offer to pay half the cost of a new calculator; Martha's family continued to refuse, hinting all the time at theft by Jenny.

In the end, Jenny's mother approached the school. She went to the Head, and explained Jenny's version of the whole story.

The Head was very understanding. "I think your offer is very reasonable," he said. "I'll talk to Martha about it. And I'll make some inquiries. Someone may have handed it in somewhere."

At lunchtime that day, both Jenny and Martha were called into his office. "Good news," he smiled. "Martha, I found your calculator under a pile of my books. It must have been there all week. What a pity neither of you came to me in the beginning."

Jenny gasped, and looked at Martha, who went very red and looked at the carpet.

When they were out of the office, Jenny tackled her. "You told me you'd been to the Head," she accused Martha.

Martha retorted, "No I didn't! You asked if I'd seen him, and I said yes I had. That's all. I didn't tell any lies."

"But it was only half true," said Jenny, "and look at all the trouble it's caused between us! If I'd have known the truth, I would have gone myself. I'm not afraid of visiting the Headmaster's office. As it is, I don't suppose I shall ever be able to come to your house again. It's the end of our friendship. And your brother could have had his precious calculator back last week if only you'd been truthful! How can you live with yourself?"

Martha pouted and shouted rudely after her. She handed over the calculator when she got home, but somehow, she didn't feel any relief. Although she wouldn't admit it to herself, deep down inside she was sad to have lost Jenny, for she had a feeling Jenny was a good friend to have.

"That girl must have slipped the calculator into the Head's office when she got frightened she'd be found out as a thief," declared Martha's mother.

But Martha just sighed, and felt very miserable.
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