Gross misconduct the Head said. Though it wasn’t my conduct that was the problem, not really. He was perfectly complimentary about my contribution to the school, my thirty years of devoted service. Only now there would be no cake to celebrate my leaving, no card filled with the names and well-wishes of my colleagues, no bouquet of flowers in assembly. ‘You’ve left us with no choice,’ he said. But what about my choice? I didn’t ask for any of this.
On the way out I see Roberta Ennis, the music teacher, coming out of the staff room. We used to be friends, once. Qualified at the same time, attended each other’s weddings, shared many a woe over cups of instant coffee and broken biscuits. She looks down and hurries off. I don’t have the nerve to call out her name. Better to slip away quietly like they want me to, not to scream and shout that it isn’t fair, protest that I’m guilty only of being in love with the man I married. Better to say nothing at all, that way they can all get on with the task of erasing me from their memories, taking down my name from the classroom displays, telling the parents that I’ve taken early retirement for ‘personal reasons.’
I head to the carpark by the AstroTurf. One of the sixth formers is pulling in in a small car, looking around for an empty space. Jessica Green; she’d always been a bright girl, worked hard, never any trouble.
“Hey Jess! I’m just going, you can have my spot!” I shout gesturing to my car.
Jessica looks momentarily confused, then her face changes. Six months I’ve been on enforced sick leave, but clearly nobody has moved on, not one iota. She leans towards me as her electric window slides down.
“Don’t talk to me! We all know what he did! How can you stand by a man like that?!”
Her car drives away and pulls awkwardly onto a grass verge. I get into my own car, turn the key in the ignition. The engine makes a screeching sound as I turn the key too far. I turn off the engine, press the button for the central locking with shaking hands, fumble for my mobile phone. I will call Ray. I will listen to his voicemail. I will leave him a message telling him that I love him. Then I will hang up and call him again, like I do ten, twenty, fifty times a day, hoping that he’ll answer, that he will tell me it will all be okay. It doesn’t matter that he won’t be able to answer for a long, long time. Ray is all I have left, and that’s what matters.
Rebecca Field lives and writes in Derbyshire, UK. She has work in several print anthologies and has also been published online by The Phare, Spelk Fiction, Reflex Press, The Daily Drunk, The Cabinet of Heed and Ellipsis Zine among others. Tweets at @RebeccaFwrites