St Andrew’s, Waterhill (Part 1)

Meg’s hand was shaking as she turned the key and pushed open her front door. She stood in the hallway of the house she shared with a friend and let her handbag drop to the floor.

What have I done? O God, what have I done?

Not that there was any need to ask God, really. She knew what she’d done. She’d handed in her notice because after five years of teaching history to teenagers, she couldn’t take it any more. The paperwork. The crowd control. The “like I care” attitude of her class. The discouragement and blameshifting amongst the staff after an inspection that had almost placed the school in special measures. Her colleague’s cutting words.

She’d left a letter of resignation on the principal’s desk on her way out today.

And she had no idea what she’d be doing next.

The warm breeze floating through the still-open door roused her, caressing her cheek and enticing her outside. She pushed back a copper curl. “I’m going for a walk,” she announced to the empty hallway. “I may not know what I’m doing next month, or after the holidays, or,“—as she slammed the door after her—“next year, but I’m going for a walk today.”

Getting back into her car, Meg reversed down the driveway and onto the road. Ten minutes later, she was in Waterhill. She abandoned her car on a grass verge and began walking up the hill, squinting her eyes in the sun. She let out a long breath. It was quiet here, so quiet. She could almost imagine that teenagers didn’t exist. She brushed her hand across the thick leaves of the hedge on her right hand side. Don’t think, don’t think, she told herself. Just relax.

A few minutes later, Meg had reached the top of the hill, where tiny St Andrew’s stood with its grey walls covered in lichen. Meg pushed open the wooden gate. It creaked. She tiptoed down the mossy path to the bench underneath the oak tree. She liked graveyards—one of the more bizarre characteristics of history lovers, or so her sister had informed her.

But graveyards are risky places, too. In the silence, there’s nothing to drown out the voices inside you that you’re trying to hush. Meg ran a hand across her forehead.

Why couldn’t I do it? History is awesome. Why couldn’t I pass that excitement on to my students?

The jerks. If only I could have been at a nice, private school with students who care.

But isn’t it my job to make them care?

Why didn’t the planning get any easier? Everyone said it would. But I put in hours and hours more than my colleagues.

They told me to chill, that I was a perfectionist.

I know I am. But isn’t it right to try to do my job well? And I tried. I really tried.

But I’m sick of trying.

So I’m a quitter.

No! She pulled up a solitary dandelion and began savagely pulling off petals. I did it for five years. You’re not a quitter if you keep at something you hate for five years.

But now what? The shorn dandelion slipped through the fingers of her left hand.

A left hand without a ring.

Thanks for nothing, Brian.

Meg blew her nose fiercely. Why could she still not think about it without crying? It was ridiculous. She scrunched up her tissue. It was time to look at some gravestones.

(Check back later this week for the rest of the story….)

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