The Lady Teacher Without a Name
by Otilia Tena
I had waited the whole summer long to see them again, Lizzie, Gwen and my other classmates. Oh, actually I didn’t miss Lizzie and Gwen too much. They came by quite often and made sure they didn’t miss any of my grandma’s cherry pies.
And then there was this handsome boy in our school. He was much older, fifteen or so I guess; he called us goslings. But you know what? It didn’t matter anyway. We all fainted when he passed us by. We sort of got to know each other better and don’t ask me how this happened because I’ve already told you he kind of looked down on little students like us.
“Smoking herb, Brad? Won’t you let me try it?” I asked.
“Get lost, gosling! This is for tough guys. Well, well, you know I kind of care about you, and this stuff is bad for you.”
Then one day the door opened, and she entered the classroom. There was some kind of light wrapping her shoulders and spreading inside. That’s why we couldn’t see her face for a few seconds. I jumped from my desk and drew the curtains; the sunlight was still dazzling at the end of summer. She had a white tulle or silky dress, and a big belly.
“Are you our new teacher?”
“Our new teacher is pregnant!”
“Cool! We’ve got a pregnant teacher!”
“Sshh!” She put her finger on her lips.
Now we all had a new reason to gossip during breaks. What worried me most was that Brad couldn’t think of anything else to talk about.
“Grandpa, she is so cute! Everyone talks about her, even that naughty Brad. It’s curious she doesn’t have a name. Nobody knows what her name is. You know what, grandpa? I asked her if she wanted to be my mother and she said yes!”
“How come you did such a thing, Daisy? Tomorrow you must... oh, no, I’ll go and talk to her. See how foolish you are? What will she think of you now?”
“But grandpa, please, let her be my mother. Don’t talk to her! Please!”
My school was near the woods, and a few fellows told us they had followed her and found out that she lived in a small house on the other side of the swamp.
* * *
“Take me with you. You said you wanted to be my mother!” I told her one day.
“I can be your mother at school.”
“Where do you live, miss?” She turned and made a few steps and I did the same, and then she turned to me again.
“Go home, Daisy, it’s lunch time. You must be hungry.”
She and Brad became very close because whenever I entered the library, she was there with him explaining I don’t know what sort of things for his essays. But Brad was kind of illiterate, as far as I know, and she took on the difficult job helping him read and write. She knew he was taking drugs, and she spoke to his mother about it.
“Where’s your teacher, Daisy?” he asked me during the break.
“Take it easy, Brad, calm down!”
“Where is she? Why did she talk to my mum?”
“Why are you looking for her? Do you want to hurt her?” I asked.
“Oh, foolish gosling, why hurt her? Me? I...” He dropped his handsome face in both hands.
One morning I woke up with a sudden unpleasant feeling in my chest. it was so heavy it nearly choked me. I was jealous. I realized this feeling had lingered for quite a long while without my noticing it.
“Yes, Daisy, darling, what is it?”
“I don’t want her to be my mum any more. I don’t like her.”
“You’re joking! You’ve liked her from the very first time you saw her!” he said.
“But not any more, grandpa, not any more! I know who she is!”
“Then who is she?”
“Do you know the swamp in the woods? Everybody knows the swamp is a threshold, grandpa. Her house is on the other side of it. They say she goes home by night. But she stays with us during the day.”
“I still don’t get it, Daisy! What’s wrong with you? Are you all right?” grandpa asked.
“Can’t you see it, grandpa? She is trapped between two realms. My classmates say she is a fairy.”
“A what? Nonsense, Daisy, nonsense!”
“But she is pregnant, grandpa. No, she can’t be a fairy! I don’t know what she is. You know what, grandpa: I don’t care because I don’t like her and she spoiled my Brad and twisted his mind!”
“Daisy, are you alright? Stop talking like that! Look, if you feel bad you can stay home today. Still, you know, you said something. You said she is trapped between...”
“Yes, I said that.”
“How come? You’ve made me curious,” he said.
“She told me she was once like us, but then one day she wanted to go to her lover’s house by boat, to the other side of the swamp, though he had warned her not to. And she reached the threshold and remained trapped.”
“I see... now I understand why people fear the swamp so much. They say it’s haunted by a water sprite.”
* * *
We were stuck in the classroom and very amused, of course. It seemed natural for us to rejoice in anything that distracted our attention and delayed the classes. Brad was trying to fix the door handle while she stood quiet in a corner, watching us. I left my desk and went to her.
“What time do you have to be home, miss?”
“Why are you asking?”
“Well, you look worried.”
“We’ll all be home as soon as someone helps us get out of here,” she replied.
Then the door opened and the school workman greeted us. “You’re free now.” We all crowded and jostled one another.
“Brad, wait! Come here, they’ll hear us! Listen! I say we’d better follow her. Who knows what we’ll come across!”
He looked over his shoulder and said, “Oh, no! Not again!”
“But Brad, it’s the first time...”
“Gwen and Lizzie! They’re following us again. Don’t worry! I’ll cook something up. Wait here!”
“Alright, just don’t make it too long!” I replied.
He came back in twenty minutes or so and I threw his schoolbag away in anger. “She’s gone now!”
“Fine, let’s go to the swamp! Don’t look at me, hurry up! No matter what, we’ll keep it to ourselves, you promise?”
Evening came. In one of my English essays I wrote: “And evening came like a thief of silver, with bells tied to his ankles.” Then the faint sound of a flute... closer and closer... till it grew clear. And the water purling... the sudden view petrified us. They were a couple, they embraced, their cold feet in the water, and he played the flute. There was something unearthly about it. We were only a bough farther. It was getting dark.
“Brad, I’m leaving! It’s late, we’re in the woods. Come with me, please! I’ll get lost.”
“You go, I’m staying here. And don’t ask me again!”
I wept bitterly all my way back through the woods. I’d been a fool, you know. He didn’t give a damn about me. He held her in his thoughts all the time.
The next day we were at school and I asked him, “Where did you sleep?”
“Look! He gave me this! He talked to me!” He opened the bag and took the flute out.
“You talked! And did she talk to you?” I asked.
“I don’t know... I didn’t see her.”
“Oh... and what did you talk about?”
“Well, I can’t remember,” he replied.
“Oh, I see.”
He tried the flute but no sound came out. We both had heard the man play it in the woods. Now it was no more useful than a toy.
At the end of the class our teacher came up to me. “Daisy, are you still upset?”
“No, miss. Should I be? I like your comb. Does it take long to put it in place?”
“You put it on one side.” She took it out, put it in my hair and smiled. “Like that.”
Copyright © 2010 by Otilia Tena