This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 755 words.
The next morning, Roger was up early. He washed as best as he could in the bathroom, upset that he was unable to brush his teeth. Dressing quickly, he went downstairs and sat politely on the sofa, waiting for Delia to appear. He had left her snoring gently in the bed. After twenty minutes, he went into the kitchen and got a glass of water from the kitchen tap. Perusing the garden, it occurred to him that this was a substantial house indeed, and she had been left well provided for by her long-dead husband.
It was almost an hour before an apologetic Delia appeared. She had brushed her hair and was wearing an expensive satin dressing gown, but last night’s make-up was still on her face. “You should have woken me, darling. Have you had a drink? Just water? I will make us some tea and then cook you a nice breakfast”.
She had called him darling, and he had noted that.
Over a full English breakfast served in the large dining room, he talked about Emily Hartmann, and how nothing about the girl added up. He had intended to ask Delia to help him find out more about her, but she beat him to it.
“Why don’t I make some enquiries, Roger? I’m sure I could find out much more about her without anyone being concerned about why I was asking. School secretaries are the backbone of school life you know. We are expected to be nosey. Now, I hope you are going to stay for Sunday lunch? I have a half leg of lamb in the fridge, and I make my own mint sauce”.
He had to disappoint her, claiming too much homework to finish marking. In truth, he wouldn’t have minded a home-cooked roast dinner, but he was not going to spend the day in yesterday’s clothes, with unbrushed teeth. Delia settled for a very smoochy goodbye kiss as he left, then whispered in his ear.
“We will make a good team, you and I. We will get to the bottom of the mystery of young Emily. You can pop round after work one evening and I will tell you what I have discovered. No need to talk about it at school and raise any suspicions”.
As he drove home, Roger experienced a strange feeling. He was going to miss Delia.
School on Monday felt strange too. Delia winked at him as he walked past the office, and tapped the phone she was holding before nodding and smiling. She seemed to be telling him that she was talking on the phone about Emily, but he knew he would have to wait to find out. To cover up anything he was planning, he treated Emily the same as everyone else, despite her boring the pants off of everyone in the class by launching into a detailed description of the Bayeux Tapestry without even being asked.
In the staff room, he went back to being ignored, and didn’t bother with any follow-up questions about Emily. Best let them think he had moved on, lost interest in the girl.
The day passed quickly, and as he packed his things into the old leather briefcase, he was surpised by the sudden appearance of the headmaster. Stephen Hoare was a former army officer who had gone into education relatively late. Some staff members looked down on him because he had not been to university, but he had a bearing and authority that intimidated them into silence. Hard to guess his age, Roger presumed he was in his late fifties, and probably did not have that long to go until retirement.
“Ah, Gale. Glad I caught you. Need a word. I’m not mentioning any names, but I have it on good authority that you have been asking around about a girl in your form and showing undue interest in her. The Hartmann girl, I am sure you know who I am talking about”. Roger nodded, and the headmaster continued. “Well I think it’s time to stop all that. After all, teachers showing too much interest in young girls, tongues wil start to wag, rumours will circulate, and before we know it there will be some sort of repercussions. In short, we don’t need a scandal at the school. Now you are a good chap, your work is exemplary, so what do you say you just get on with that and forget all about this girl”.
He didn’t wait for a reply. It was an order, not a conversation