He was very pensive [Repost]

Prompt: Teach

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Todd’s mother answered the door. She stood there staring blankly at Lily-Rose, without recognition or curiosity, and said, “I’m not interested.” She started to close the door.

“Mrs Caper?” Lily-Rose said quickly. “I’m Todd’s English teacher, Ms Roades. I was just wondering how he is doing.”

“Oh,” said Todd’s mother. “Oh, well, come in.  I’m so sorry, we get so many suspicious people coming to the door!”

Do you? Lily-Rose thought, slightly ill-at-ease with the lack of some kind of immediate connection with Todd’s mother. There was always something, she found, when you met someone new, if you looked. A warmth in the eyes, a recognition of challenges shared. A camaraderie based on a flimsy but mutual instinct. She felt none of that, and neither did Mrs Caper.

Todd’s mother was tall and thin, with wavy, partially grey hair pushed behind her ears, and now that she was smiling, was not unattractive.

She stood aside and Lily-Rose tentatively entered the Caper home.

Nothing wrong with it. Clean, carefully decorated and tended. Framed pictures on the living room walls, though Lily-Rose would be hard-pressed to remember their content later.

“How is he doing?” she asked Mrs Caper.

“Well of course the flu became pneumonia,” said Mrs Caper, as if that was the established progression of life. “He has always been delicate. I’ve done my best.” She looked at her watch.

“Of course,” said Lily-Rose. She held out a small brown paper bag. “I brought some fresh grapes,” she said smiling,” it’s kind of a traditional offering.”. Mrs Caper took the bag, looked inside, and then back at Lily-Rose. There was an odd silence. “May I see him?” said Lily-Rose.

Todd’s bedroom had the usual accoutrements expected of a “normal” affluent teenager: expensive computer, posters of badly photographed women, blood-spattered heavy metal band posters, wi-fi speakers everywhere, yet the room was completely neat and in order. Mom had obviously taken her son’s weak moment as an opportunity to tidy up.

His bed was dishevelled; a sign of restless sickness and restless sleep. A pitcher of once-icy water and a clean glass were set on the bedside table. There was a small plastic tub, too, presumably to catch any stray vomit. The room was not stuffy since the window opposite the bed was wide open. The curtains moved lazily, like ghosts.

Todd looked a little pale, with not unexpected dark circles under his eyes. He looked at her with a pronounced What the Fuck expression.

Which was not surprising, since Lily-Rose and Todd had evolved into mortal enemies since the start of the spring semester. He refused any attempts at discipline, and bordered on physical threats. Lily-Rose had never experienced such hostility in her teaching career before, and needed to see where he came from. She needed to know if it was her failing, or his– or no one’s failing, but a circumstance to be endured, a problem to pass on to his next set of teachers.

“How are you feeling?” Lily-Rose asked when his mother finally retreated from the room.

He didn’t answer. He stared at the ceiling.

“I have your last test results with me,” said Lily-Rose. “And a little outline about what we are studying now, into next month.”

He then turned his gaze on her. “Get out,” he said.

“Here,” Lily-Rose said, pulling a sheet of paper out of her soft-sided briefcase, “is your answer to one of the test questions, Use ‘pensive’ in a sentence.” She read his answer: “He was very pensive.” Then she looked up and smiled.

“I thought that demonstrated a sense of humour,” she said.

“I don’t care about you, your class, what you think, who you fuck,” said Todd.

Ouch, thought Lily-Rose.

“Well, I appreciate a sense of humour,” she said. “But anyway the main reason I am here is to apologize.”

He pretended not to be interested.

“I came into the classroom when I had the flu,” said Lily-Rose. “I should have stayed home. I’m sure you caught the bug from me.”

Todd looked startled. Lily-Rose concluded he was expecting a different kind of apology. She was intensely interested in what apology Todd expected. She was missing something.

Mrs Caper came into the room, unannounced, with a thermometer. Lily-Rose stood up.

“Let me show you out,” said Mrs Caper.

They walked to the front door, and Mrs Caper said politely, “Thank you for coming.”

Lily-Rose caught her eye, and held it for a moment. “Please keep me informed,” she said.

And she walked home, thinking about the look in Mrs Caper’s eyes, and what it meant in relation to Todd. She understood it completely. It was a look of complete detachment, disinterest, distance, and disdain.

That was the look that Todd, as a child and now an adolescent, faced every day. Lily-Rose would think about it, but she believed when Todd returned to school, they might become allies instead of enemies.


  • Original Prompt: Pensive, May 19, 2016.

 

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Amends

Prompt: Apology

girl reading letter art

Leep was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of green tea, which he had never tasted, in the kitchen of Beth, whom he called (in his head) Lizzie, when she received a letter in the mail.

Leep never received mail, except for flyers and ads. He paused to think who would ever send him a letter, written on paper, sealed in an envelope, and physically deposited in a mailbox. He could think of no one, except perhaps his mother’s sister Theresa, a grim grey person who belonged in a smokey, spidery fairy tale and who felt Leep was ungrateful, though he barely knew her. She might though, if she had to communicate, send Leep a letter, perhaps to express her disappointment, and only because she could not tell Leep in person or email him or find some other way to express her disapproval. Still, Leep thought, it would be fun to get a letter.

Beth seemed surprised to get this letter. It was ten in the morning. Deborah was at work, and Beth was due to start her shift at noon. Leep had dropped by to drop off a British tabloid account of her son-in-law’s murder, which he had laminated and wanted to put in the binder that Deborah had kept overnight.

He loved visiting Lizzie when there was just the two of them, and no Deborah to remind him how awkwardly different he was, and just Beth, in whose life he was a still a somewhat insignificant satellite, but one whom she still took seriously and treated with careful politeness. And who served him green tea, which she said was good for his health. He never drank tea. It tasted a bit like dishwater, but he tried to imagine the health benefits as he sipped it, and thanked Lizzie, and watched her open the envelope.

“Wow. Fuck,” said Lizzie. She folded the thick creamy pages of the letter, then unfolded them and read it again. She then handed the first page to Leep.

He read, I am sorry and want to make amends. You meant no harm. I want to–

Lizzie snatched the page from his hands and folded it into the second page. She threw it all onto the kitchen table. Then she picked the letter up and opened it again.

“Leep,” she said. “Do you mind? I have to go out. I think I’m fucking rich or something, but I’m not sure. Ok? You can finish your tea and whatever. The binder is on the coffee table or whatever. Just turn the lock before you leave, ok?”

Leep nodded, and watched as Lizzie stuffed the letter into an already bulging leather bag, flung it over her shoulder, and left through the back door.

Leep wasn’t sure, but he suspected this was not a great development, in terms of his relationship with Lizzie.