Emma sits at the rear of the classroom and, for once, is finally content. No one can accuse her of cheating again, neither Matilda nor her parents, after she scored straight A’s this trimester. Something happened inside her head, which she cannot explain, something scary. But now, for the first time in her young life, she is in control and is beginning to fit in. Does it matter to her that she hardly needs to study anymore? It’s not her fault that she can somehow ‘hear’ the other kids thinking the correct answers. She looks at her latest scorecard. A+; another one bites the dust.
The snow falls as a yellow cab pulls up outside the school. Joon leans over to Emma and asks her if Ginseng is the reason her grades have improved. Her father says it is mental stimulant and swears by it, but she never pays him any mind. Emma’s gone from a B student to getting A’s in every subject. Asked what her secret is, Emma simply replies, “Brainpower I guess.” Ms. Cruikshank appears at the door and informs Mr. Kendall that the taxi is waiting at the door. She looks at Matilda Brant and tells her it’s time.
Emma peers through the window as Matilda makes her way to the waiting cab. She always thought that she’d have to wait until graduation before she’d be free of Matilda, but the wait is over sooner than she expected. Her family cannot afford to keep sending her to Snow Valley as they have gone bankrupt, so she’s leaving for good. Emma won’t be sending her a postcard anytime soon. She’s bullied Emma since her freshman year and now she’s leaving, she’ll miss her about as much as she misses the nosebleeds and migraines. Poor, poor Matilda.
(One month later)
Mr. Kendall is showing his class around the impressive Boston Museum of Fine Arts and stands in front of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss.’ He explains the painting to them, how it is an iconic testament to romance and how the image itself appears deceptively simple in terms of content. They listen intently as he talks but everyone is surprised when Emma suddenly picks up his sentence and finishes it for him. She rambles through the explanation that Mr. Kendall had prepared in his thoughts; her eyes wide open as she blurts out the sentence subconsciously without even thinking about what she is saying. As she continues the speech, she suddenly feels faint and holds her head as her knees give way. Mr. Kendall reaches to support her as Emma whispers that she just needs to grab a bite.
Later, in the Museum’s cafeteria, a large room with overly large pictures on each wall, Emma sits opposite Mr. Kendall as they grab a sandwich. He tells her that it was uncanny; it was like she took the words right out of his mouth. “You didn’t peek at my notes did you?” Emma says that she didn’t; she just knew. Mr. Kendall swears she must be psychic as Emma sits there, hoping that he’ll change the subject. He does and asks her whether she has considered his offer of joining Snow Valley’s Peer Tutor Program (PTP). Her face lights up at the suggestion and asks if he’s sure about that. Very, he replies. She asks if he’ll be there and he replies that he will, for hours on end. ‘I’m in,’ thinks Emma, a picture of a champagne cork being popped nearby being symbolic of her feelings, not only of the prospect of tutoring but also of spending more time with Mr. Kendall.
That evening at Frost House, Emma and her siblings sit down to tea with their parents. Her father, Winston tells Cordelia that Coach Fleisman says that the girl’s locker room reeked of marijuana and she and her friends were the only ones there. She says that it so wasn’t them and the way she sees it, “If that fat lesbo didn’t see me toking on a spliff, I’m pretty much innocent ‘till proven guilty.” ‘What a crock,’ Emma thinks as her sister sits confidently, thinking she’s got one over on her father. Emma’s mother, Hazel tells Adrienne that they’re having a serious family discussion and asks how many times she has to tell her about making phone calls at the dinner table. Adrienne clutches the phone to her chest; “Just once mother.”
Winston looks at Cordelia and tells her that he guesses a drug test will either exonerate or implicate her. Cordelia’s face morphs from smugness to horror in an instant. She stands up, grabs a knife and rams it into the table through the tablecloth. She says to hell with it, she isn’t about to whiz in a cup for him or anyone and leaves the room, pushing a maid out of the way as she storms out. Winston calmly sips at his wine. Emma tries to lighten the mood and tells him that she got an A in her science quiz. Instead of offering praise, he slams his glass down and snarls at her, asking her what of it. Should he be awed because she’s not strung out on dope? Just because she’s getting good grades like she’s supposed to? He tells her not to hold her breath.
Emma bows her head as Christian, opposite her, remains silent, arms folded. Adrienne is too preoccupied to notice her father’s rant as she’s in the phone still, talking to Leo. Her shallowness knows no end as she tells him that she doesn’t care how many Cambodians have to work in a sweatshop as long as the clothes on her look good.
(Two weeks later)
Now on the PTP, Emma sits on a desk as a few of the girls including Joon and Margo listen to her talking about art. They seem enthusiastic and Mr. Kendall smiles as he sees his protégé getting into the groove. Ms. Cruikshank also watches, but appears more intent on Mr. Kendal’s actions than Emma’s. After her class is over, she waves to Ian and says she’ll see him tomorrow but he asks her to wait up. He grabs his briefcase and walks out with her.
As they stroll down the corridors, he asks her what her plans are for the future. She says that she hasn’t any yet and asks why. He tells her that he’s been watching her interact with the other girls and thinks she has a natural talent for instructing students. He knows of some colleges with excellent educational programs. “A teacher…You think I’d make a good teacher?” she asks. “Or headmistress,” he replies. Emma appears excited by the idea, and tells Mr. Kendall that she never thought she’d ever hear herself say this, but speaking in front of a group actually makes her feel relaxed, more confident. ‘Sexy,’ Mr. Kendall thinks. Emma turns and asks him what he said. He replies that he didn’t say anything.
The following morning in the gardens of Frost House, the sun shines as a stableman leads a horse to the stables. Inside, Emma goes into her father’s office and tells him, slightly nervously that she thinks she might be interested in pursuing a teaching career. He tells her he’s busy as he looks at his laptop and asks her to come back when she intends to have a serious conversation; one that won’t make him soil himself from sheer laughter. She places her hands on the edge of his desk and says that it is a serious conversation and can he please hear her out. Winston erupts in anger, hurling his laptop away as he shouts, “I said NO, damn it!” Now, he leans over the desk and asks her if she thinks that because she helped some pimple-faced prep-schoolers squeeze a few extra credit points, she’s suddenly qualified to be some college professor? “Give me a break.”
Emma is unfazed by his attitude and stands her ground. She is no longer the naïve pushover he once knew and asks him to give her a break. She tells him that she has done everything he asked; increased her test scores, raised her grade point average and is even being considered for valedictorian! She says she has proven herself but no, he wouldn’t dare trust her, not like Mr. Kendal trusts her. Winston frowns and thinks, ‘The teacher, he’s behind this?” Emma reads his thoughts and tells him that yes, it was Ian who encouraged her. He believes in her, told her she was special. He cares about her, unlike her father. Winston stands, but Emma turns and leaves his office, stubbornly telling him that she is going to be a teacher and he can’t stop her.
Sometime later, Emma is dressed in her equestrian outfit; black hat, coat and boots with white jodhpurs. Carrying a horsewhip, she walks toward the stables where two horses are being fed by the stableman. Christian approaches her and, after she mounts her steed, tells them to go on; they’ll catch up. Soon, Emma and Christian are riding the horses through the fields, leaping over wooden fences, enjoying themselves for a change. They come to a halt at the side of a lake where Christian tells Emma that he heard her blow-up with the old man. He isn’t sure she’s doing the right thing. “Don’t tell me you’re taking his side?” Emma says. He tells her that of course he isn’t as he places his hand on her arm; he thinks it’s great that she’s decided to become a schoolteacher. It’s just that he’s not certain Winston needed to know about her decision. She says she is sorry, but had no choice; she can’t hide who she is anymore.
(Three weeks later)
Emma is back at school and is evidently establishing a reputation as one of the more popular girls. Matilda’s absence appears to have increased her confidence and allowed the other girls to warm more to her. A group of them wave goodbye as she heads for the exit where Bryce, her chauffer waits with an umbrella to protect her from the raging storm outside. As the Rolls Royce heads out of the school grounds, lightning strikes in the distance which makes her actually look forward to getting home.
Before long, the car begins to coast and Emma asks Bryce why the car’s slowing down. He replies that the engine’s dead and he can’t get it to turn over. Reaching for the phone, he tells her not to panic, as he’ll just make a quick call to the mechanic. He picks it up and tells her that there’s no dial tone; the lines must be down because of the storm so he’ll have to take a look at the engine himself. He grabs his umbrella and opens the hood but soon speaks to Emma through the open window and says that he can’t fix her. He is heading back to Snow Valley to use a phone there. She asks what she can do to help but he tells her to just sit tight. The Rolls is warm and dry and he’ll be back in a jiffy. She watches as he disappears into the heavy rain.
Before long, a pair of headlights approaches and the car pulls up alongside. The window is wound down and Mr. Kendall waves at her, asking what she’s doing out here all by herself. She tells him the car broke down and Bryce went back to town to get help. Instead of leaving her there all alone, he offers her a ride. That’s so gallant, thinks Emma. She is a little reluctant; wondering what happens if Bryce returns to find her gone but Mr. Kendall says that her parents can have someone get in touch with him once she’s safe at home. This convinces her and he covers them both with a coat as they dash to his car.
Before long, Emma sits with her eyes shut as Mr. Kendall thinks that he didn’t expect her to fall asleep so soon. Emma opens a surreptitious eye as he continues to think that he hopes he didn’t bore her, going on about the time he got Keith Haring’s autograph. He glances at her and thinks to himself, ‘Look at you, so smart, so beautiful. Who are you Emma Frost? And why exactly weren’t there any girls like you back when I was in high school. Or college even.’
His car enters the grounds of Frost House and, when he comes to a stop, he shakes Emma to wake her from her slumber. As soon as he says, “We’re here,” Emma grabs his face and kisses him intently. Mr. Kendall pulls back in shock, asking what in god’s sake she’s doing. She tells him that it’s okay; she knows how he feels about her and she feels the same way too. “How I feel?” asks Mr. Kendall. Emma tells him that on the inside, she knows that he thinks she’s sexy. As he straightens his glasses, Mr. Kendall’s mind runs riot as he considers the implications of her actions. He asks what she’s talking about. He’s her teacher and she is his student; it’s nothing more than that. “But you want it to be!” she says but all he can says is, “No Emma, I’m sorry.” He hastily drives towards the gates as from the terrace, Emma watches him drive away thinking, ‘But I heard you; I heard you.’ Her father watches from inside the house.
(The following morning)
Back at Snow Valley High School for Girls, before she enters class, she thinks that she must remember to apologize profusely and tell him that she doesn’t know what came over her. Her eyes suddenly widen in shock as she enters the class, finding in Mr. Kendall’s place a rather large woman telling her that she’s late. She asks where Mr. Kendall is and she tells her that she’s afraid Mr. Kendall won’t be coming back. She is Mrs. Hancock, his replacement. Tears stream down her face as she asks why he had to leave. Behind her, Ms. Cruikshank informs her that it was because she was forced to dismiss him, after a parent alleged lewd misconduct between Mr. Kendall and one of his students. As it turns out, that same parent was able to back up the allegation with evidence.
Later, at Frost House, Emma immediately storms into her father’s office and asks him why he did it. He calmly replies that he is listed among Forbes’ twenty-five most successful business leaders. He can do anything. She pleads with him to give Mr. Kendall his job back but he tells her that it’s too late. He’s out, permanently. She crosses her arms and stands in front of his desk. She says that this just fuels her desire to be a teacher even more. She won’t let him control her life, no matter what he does. “Won’t you?” he replies as he turns his laptop computer to face her. He says that she should take a look at what the mansion’s video surveillance camera caught when she was dropped off yesterday. “Creepy,” he adds. Onscreen is a perfect shot of Emma and Mr. Kendall kissing.
Emma’s father proceeds to inform her that nothing was actually wrong with the Rolls. It was all a setup to get the two of them alone in Kendall’s car. He figured that would be sufficient incrimination, never factoring on her raging hormones. At the end of the day, she answers to him and he doesn’t intend to destroy another expensive piece of hardware to prove his point. All her talk of becoming a teacher ends right now, or he’ll use the recording to make sure Mr. Kendall never teaches anywhere ever again. He leaves his office as Emma crunches her fists into her face. No, this can’t be happening, she thinks. Winston remarks that he’s sorry, but she never stood a chance against him, A’s or no A’s.