“Friends and Lovers”….chapter 10

The weekend passed in a numbing blur for Meg. This pain wasn’t the same as when Sam had left her. This was the inevitable bitter aftermath of  doing the right, but painful thing. She nursed her fragile heart with chocolate, coffee, and sad movies, cancelling the usual Sunday dinner with her mother. Meg’s anger at her mother’s insensitive reaction to Sam’s impromptu visit, was still stingingly fresh, and there would be no sympathetic hugs or gentle words of wisdom, she knew that. In the end, Meg had preferred her own miserable company. But life didn’t stop so her heart could mend, she knew that too.

Meg was almost grateful for the busy schedule of last term assignments, exams, and assessments. The necessary discipline kept her mind busy, leaving Luke to merely haunt her dreams at night! She was grateful for one thing though; Leonard seemed to be avidly avoiding her, except for the odd disdainful look. And caught up as she was nursing her wounded heart, and managing her workload, she  was slow to notice that so were a few of the other members of staff. They were polite, but trying uncomfortably so, to avoid her as best they could. Meg was a bit puzzled by it, but not having forged any great friendships with any of the staff, she preferred to ignore the subtle shift in dynamics. She really didn’t have the emotional energy to figure it all out. As it turned out, the answer found her.

On her way home for the day, laden with essays to mark, Rod Johnston, the principal, waylaid her in the corridor, and asked to speak with her in his office. Rod was a tall, laconic man, with a meticulous, but gentle nature, and Meg liked him. And he seemed to like her, always polite, and regularly expressing his appreciation for her contribution to the school. So taking a seat in front of his desk, Meg didn’t expect there to be any problem now, and returned his gracious smile with honest warmth.

“How are you Meg? How are you coping with the final term madness?” he asked, straightening his tie and his cuffs in an uncharacteristically fidgety manner.

“Overwhelmed, overtired, but nothing out of the ordinary!” Meg quipped, but Rod didn’t seem to be really listening. He looked  progressively more uncomfortable. Meg’s smile slowly faded.

“Is something wrong Rod?” Meg asked apprehensively, her body all too readily recognizing that nervous rush of blood.

“No, no, not really Meg. I don’t want you to worry,” he said, with a reassuring smile. “It’s just that I am compelled as the principal, to inform you of any complaints I may recieve,” he said. Meg’s eyes opened wide in disbelief.

“Complaints?” she asked, moving forward in her seat. “Who? What?” she continued, as Rod held up his hands, ostensibly to reassure her.

“It’s just a formality Meg, nothing is going to change….it won’t be going any further,” he continued. Meg was growing impatient for the details, her jaw clenched in readiness.

“Leonard Carrington has made some, might I say, rather hysterical accusations of what he called unprofessional conduct between yourself and our most recent casual teacher, a Mr. Luke McLaren,” he stated, making reference to some notes on his desk.

The utter shock and disbelief at what she was hearing, made Meg’s heart begin to pound, and the inevitable color rush to her cheeks. But the beginning of a fear she now felt, was a new emotion. Rod watched her face, and when no words were forth coming, he continued, obviously eager to allay her fears.

“Of course no-one else has seconded his accusations, and I myself detect something of a more personal nature underlying them,” he said, moving around to stand next to her. “As I said Meg, I am just duty-bound to let Leonard know I have passed on his concerns, and as there is no case of actual misconduct, Mr. McLaren technically being a colleague, this will be the end of the matter,” he said quickly, touching her shoulder, and moving to sit behind his desk once more.

Meg was gagged by a storm of emotions, that her mind battled to process. Finally, she clumsily gathered her pile of essays from the desk, and stood to take her leave. “Thankyou Rodney,” she stammered. “Thankyou for your….support,” she said, her voice breaking with restrained emotion.

Rodney quickly moved to open the door, obviously relieved that their meeting was over. Meg felt vaguely sorry for his discomfort, and she smiled weakly. “I want you to know you have always been a highly valued and respected member of my staff Meg, and I hope you won’t dwell on this,” Rodney concluded, squeezing her hand briefly, but firmly, before saying goodbye.

Meg sat safely cocooned in her car, stunned, and now quite angry. She knew Leonard had done this out of jealousy and spite, his obvious motive to humiliate and embarrass her for shunning his advances. And she hated to admit, that he had managed to do that very well. Her hands shook as she tried to put her keys into the ignition, watching them clatter noisily to the floor. Just that minor frustration was all it took to start the tears flowing, leaving her to cry unrestrainedly the whole way home. She realized he also must have relished sharing his hateful gossip with some of the other members of staff, and she let the emotion have its way in a second wave of tears, her head beginning to throb. Her tears were a combination of self-pity for all she missed with Luke, and fury at Leonard’s vindictive games.

Climbing into bed early, Meg wondered when her ordinary life had become so tumultuous and complicated!

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