“Friends and Lovers”….chapter 15

The last week of the school term was dragging interminably. Formal classes were winding down, and Meg found most of her days were spent supervising sports and games with excited, and high spirited children eager for the holidays. This meant some of the classes were joined at times, and Meg had to endure a closer working proximity to Leonard Carrington. For most of the time he continued to treat her with childish disdain, and she had little trouble keeping out of his way, which was a singular relief! So Meg was surprised when he approached her on the last day, a fixed , almost manic smile on his face. Meg fervently hoped he did not intend to wish her a merry Christmas in the hope of securing a kiss. He was carrying a copy of the years final school magazine, handing it to her with obvious pleasure.

“Miss Nash. I wasn’t sure if you had secured yourself a copy of the school publication,” he drawled.

Meg was a little puzzled at his gesture, but took the magazine and returned his smile as sincerely as she could. “Thankyou,” she said, merely out of politeness. “As a matter of fact, I haven’t had the chance to pick one up yet.” She nodded, and tucked the magazine under her arm, turning decisively towards the door.

“I hope you like your teacher profile,” he continued, an obvious sarcastic ring to his voice. “The children have been sweetly enthusiastic about your qualities as usual. I thought it appropriate to add some qualifying remarks of my own; I hope you approve,” he concluded, his smile more of a sneer. “Merry Christmas Miss Nash,” he said in a cold, clipped tone, and brushed past her out of the door.

Meg stood still for a moment, confused and unsettled by this odd exchange. She sat down slowly on the edge of the table, and turned quietly to the end pages of the magazine, where she found a small picture of herself and Luke taken at the school dance. It was followed by a factual profile of herself and her time at the school, specific tasks and accomplishments of the past year, and finally some more personal comments and accolades from her students and colleagues. These were usually words of praise, or innocuously amusing anecdotes, until she recognized Leonard’s sarcastic tone in the final lines……”Miss Nash embarked upon some new and exciting activities this year, enlisting the help of our popular temporary teacher, Mr. Luke McLaren. This daring-do included some impromptu tumbling on the school gym mats; clinging for dear life while riding pinion on a motor cycle; and lastly, but not least, learning the art of slow dancing, in fancy dress no less! We certainly hope Miss Nash will be careful while reliving her lost youth, as we would all love to see her back in one piece next year!….”

Meg couldn’t believe what she was reading! To anyone else reading his comments, it would just seem like harmless teasing, a fun spin on some particular observations. But Meg knew otherwise. It was Leonard’s parting swipe at her, an underhanded insult that was meant to do nothing but cause her discomfort.

Whereas up until now she had allowed Leonard to unnerve her, mainly due to her own misplaced feelings of guilt, this time anger was the dominant emotion. She felt it boiling to the surface, feeling just as angry with herself for staying so quiet all this time, as if she really did have something to be ashamed of. Meg gathered her belongings roughly, her anger demanding to be vented. She rushed out into the parking area, hoping with righteous rage that she would not be too late to catch Leonard before he left. But there he was opening his car, and Meg found herself running towards him.

“Leonard!” she called, stopping just in front of him, the magazine clutched in front of her. He looked surprised, and even a little afraid, which only fuelled her anger.

“What is wrong with you?!” she said, her slight breathlessness preventing her from yelling at him. “What is this childish sniping?!” she continued, brandishing the magazine in front of his face.

Leonard flinched slightly, flushing a deep scarlet,and he seemed at a loss for words momentarily. Meg glared at him, waiting for a response, and trying to calm herself.

“I….I don’t know what you mean Meg,” he stammered defensively. “It is merely some harmless observations….a little humorous piece…,” he said with an attempt at a smile. But even he didn’t sound or look convinced.

“Oh rubbish Leonard!” she spat back at him. “And I’ve had enough of your jealous jibes. If you don’t shut up and leave me alone, I might have to report YOU for harrassment!” she concluded.

Leonard had backed himself hard against the car, gaping at Meg in stunned disbelief. His eyes were darting left to right as he grappled for a reply. Meg glared angrily at him for a couple of seconds longer, then threw the magazine at his feet. As she strode away toward her own car, Meg had never felt so exhilerated, and so remarkably proud of her own audacity! It was a new and empowering emotion. It was a great way to start the holidays!

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