This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 820 words.
On the drive home in heavy traffic, Delia was going over her thoughts about what had happened.
“Well, imagine that! Both of them in the same house, and Emily supposedly studying at the lakeside house. Do you think she was in there, my love? I wonder if they are controlling her in some way, I really do. It seems incredible to me that two different official guardians should be snuggled up together in that house. I can only imagine what they have in mind for the poor girl”.
Roger thought Delia was becoming too fantastical with her theories. Emily was hardly a prisoner, as she could approach any teacher during the school day, and ask them to alert the authorities. Besides, had Delia forgotten what Millicent Pugh had said? She had remarked that Emily appeared to be the one in charge of Erika Richter, not the other way round. He was more interested in the girl’s inconsistencies. Why was her spelling excellent in his class, yet poor in Tom Morgan’s English lessons? Why could she not participate in any sport or physical activity, when she looked so fit and well?
He concluded that interrogating the guardians or trying to find out more about them was a diversion they didn’t need, and said as much to Delia. Yes, it seemed strange they knew each other. Then again, once Yamada took over guardianship, wouldn’t it be natural to be in contact with the previous guardian? They had to concentrate on the girl.
Emily Hartmann was the key to finding out why she was like she was.
With Delia hyped-up and excited, they spent most of that evening, and almost all of Sunday, in bed. Roger was becoming used to her constant terms of endearment by now. He no longer squirmed at being called ‘Darling’, My love’, or ‘Sweetheart’. He did not return the favour in the slightest, but that didn’t seem to bother her. Being around her was starting to feel normal, though on Sunday evening when she suggested he move into her house, he refused quite firmly.
Stroking his head, she smiled seductively. “I can wait, my darling”.
They had until late October before the half-term holiday week, and Roger decided on a charm offensive with Emily. If she had been told that he had showed up at the Maida Vale house, she gave no indication of knowing. And despite his concerns, there was no second visit from the headmaster. Yamada must have kept quiet about a form teacher and school secretary turning up on his doorstep.
That proved that he definitely had something to hide.
Young Emily responded well to increased praise for her History class work and homework. He even added the occasional + sign to the regular mark of A that she received. Rather than risk asking more questions of her other teachers, he resorted to eavesdropping in the staff room, but heard no mention of Emily’s progress in other subjects.
By mid-October, Delia could no longer contain herself, and was dropping heavy hints around the school that she and Roger were an item. Hugh Edwardes slapped him on the shoulder one day as he was getting in his car. “You and the lovely Delia, eh Roger? I didn’t see that happening, well done!” He managed a sheepish grin as he got into the car, then sat wondering if Hugh had been interested in Delia for himself.
Perhaps she was a much better catch than he gave her credit for?
That evening, he went through some boxes of papers he kept in the spare room. He found an old GCE ‘O’ Level exam paper that covered a completely different period to the one he was teaching currently. Victorian Britain, the extended use of the steam engine, the expansion of heavy industry. Cotton Mills, Railways, and increasing populations in cities and large towns.
The following day as the class packed up their things and started to file out to go home, he called Emily back. He showed her the paper, and suggested it might interest her. He said she could try the questions, and see how she got on. When he told Delia on the telephone that evening, she was complimentary. “Smart move, sweetheart. If she can’t resist getting a good mark, she will prove our point. That is a paper sat by sixteen year-olds, and you haven’t taught any of it to her class”.
The next morning, Emily placed the paper on his desk as the class left to go to their first lesson. It was accompanied by ten sheets of paper containing her answers. Halfway through lunch, Roger took the papers into the staff toilet and sat in a cubicle to read them in private.
She would have got an A from the Examining Board. It was one hundred percent correct, and even contained some of her own conclusions.
Emily had taken his bait and swallowed it whole.