The pretty kindergarten teacher said in a loud voice, ‘Children, please be quiet.’
She brushed away long strands of silky black hair from her forehead with a well- manicured hand. The noise in the small classroom remained at the same level as before. It wasn’t easy to keep a room full of kids quiet. She herself didn’t believe in too much of discipline, being a free spirit herself.
At least that’s what Robby, her l’amour, said she was, ‘Ash, I swear it’s difficult to know what you are thinking or what you’ll do at any given moment. Okay, I don’t have too many complaints about that. I’ll take you as you are. But you better know this, I think you’re a free spirit.’
Thinking of her handsome paramour lifted the pall of frustration she was feeling at losing control in her classroom. It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy being a kindergarten teacher. She liked it in fact, but sometimes, especially towards the end of the week, the burden was a little too much to bear.
As she sat down, Jimmy, the smallest kid in the class, got up from his seat and suddenly started to cry.
‘Hush!’ she admonished softly, rising and going up to him, ‘ Why are you crying?’
‘ I want to go home to Mommy,’ wailed the sandy haired boy wiping his eyes with two little fists.
‘Soon, soon,’ Ash mumbled, ‘ We’ll all be going home soon.’
This didn’t seem to give him much comfort and the wailing continued. Mercifully the bell rang just then and Ash breathed a long sigh of relief.
As she walked to the bus stand, she could see Mr. Gomes, the sports teacher, leer at her in his frank and open way. She was never offended by his leer, he was just that type of man and she didn’t blame him either, dressed as she was in a figure-hugging outfit, the hem of which rode two inches over her knees. She rode the bus with the kids as usual and dropped down near her one bedroom apartment. As she opened the door her eyes fell automatically on the large clock on the wall.
‘God, its already six,’ she thought, throwing her file and bag on the leather sofa. Quickly taking off her clothes she rushed into the shower. She knew she would be late today and this irked her no end.
‘ Ash, this is not good,’ that’s what Robby would say, ‘ You are a teacher and should know the value of punctuality.’
Ash stood naked before the life size mirror and started to brush her silken mane. Her reflection gave her a feeling of satisfaction. She was just twenty-three yet her body had already ripened and matured fully. She was tall, almost five six, and her legs were long and shapely.
She glanced at the clock again. It was six thirty now and she knew there was no way she would be able to reach Robbie’s home by seven as promised.
‘ Ash you know how important it is to me that you make a good impression on Mom,’ Robbie had said the day before, ‘ Please dress suitably and be on time, okay?’
She didn’t know exactly what he meant by saying ‘dress suitably’. Did he want her to be soberly dressed? Covered from top to toe? Well, in that case she didn’t have anything suitable. Her wardrobe contained clothes that knew no winter. She liked to wear sleeveless tops and short skirts most of the time. A warm cashmere shawl was all that was needed in the coldest of winter days to keep her as warm as she needed to be.
It was half past seven when she rang the bell of Robbie’s house.
‘At last!’ was Robbie’s first remark on opening the door, ‘ God, Ash, you are late.’
‘Sorry Robbie, couldn’t help it,’ she answered, waiting now for him to comment on her dress.
He didn’t disappoint her, ‘ Didn’t you have a more sober kind of dress? You know, like full sleeves and all?’
She laughed. He was, in spite of all his numerous faults, as naïve as a ten year old. And sounded like one too!
‘That’s why I love you so much Robbie,’ she said, linking her arms in his, ‘ You sound just like a small boy although you are twenty eight years old.’
‘Mom, this is Ash,’ Robbie introduced her to his mother.
For a moment Ash was at a loss for words. Robbie’s mother didn’t fit in with what she had expected. No siree, not one tinny minny bit.
‘Hello Ash,’ she greeted in a husky sort of voice, ‘ Welcome to our home.’
Ash could see that she was as tall as herself and in pretty good shape for a, (what could it be?) fifty? sixty? year old woman. She had translucent skin and big brown eyes, carefully made up. Dressed as she was in what could be only a Givenchy gown, she looked beautiful and as radiant as a bride.
‘Oh, how do you do?’ Ash replied at last, ‘ You are beautiful.’
‘Why, thank you darling,’ she accepted the compliment gracefully, ‘ You look beautiful too.’
Robbie brought them drinks as they made themselves comfortable on the quilted sofas. He sat down next to his mother.
‘Robbie tells me you teach,’ the tone was faintly accusatory it seemed to Ash.
‘Yes,’ she replied, ’I am a kindergarten teacher.’
‘That’s nice, isn’t it Rob?’ the lady said, turning her well coiffed head slightly towards her son.
‘’Course it is Mom,’ Rob agreed quickly.
The way Rob seemed to agree so quickly with his mother didn’t jell well with Ash. In fact, even the way he sat in his mother’s presence was a bit too lamb like for her liking.
‘So, Ash, how do you like teaching?’ asked Rob’s mother.
’It’s satisfying work,’ Ash replied shortly. Somehow she wasn’t enjoying herself anymore.
Rob’s mother went on, ’ It must be a strain on the nerves keeping a bunch of noisy kids in line.’
‘Well, yes and no,’ Ash said. ‘I do have some difficulty maintaining discipline. As Rob says I’m too much of a free spirit myself to want to discipline others.’
All the while she was noticing that Rob stayed quiet and seemed to be waiting for his Mom’s que to speak. ‘Oh, oh, I’m sure learning something today,’ the thought passed through her mind.
‘Rob, fill up our glasses will you?’ commanded his mother and Rob got up immediately and went over to the kitchen. ‘Sure knows how to follow commands too,’ thought Ash.
As soon as he was gone his mother spoke softly to Ash, ’ Look after him well dear. He takes after his father.’
Ash couldn’t help asking, ’ And how is that?’
‘Well, you know, his father was a good man but quite unambitious. Didn’t have the urge to get ahead at all.’
‘And Rob’s like that?’ asked Ash.
’ He is no different, not even a little bit. In fact, even more so if you want the truth.’
Back in her home that night Ash had a hard time falling asleep. No matter how much she tried to be fair, the thought just wouldn’t leave her mind that Rob wasn’t really what she would have liked him to be.
The next day she called him up and asked him to meet her at the local deli.
‘Rob, your mom is beautiful,’ she commented.
He looked pleased. ’ Yes, isn’t she just?’
’Doesn’t she have a boyfriend?’ Ash carried on. Rob gave her with a surprised look.
‘Not that I’m aware of,’ he said curtly. It was clear that he didn’t like the question. ‘Anyway, why are you so interested Ash?’
Ignoring his curtness Ash ploughed on, ’ I mean the way she maintains herself, surely she must have a boyfriend, if not a lover.’
‘No, she hasn’t, I am sure,’ Rob replied, his face flushing. Ash could see that now he was well and truly upset.
‘Then we should help her get one.’ Ash was determined to see it through. She just had to know what mettle Rob was made out of. Provocation would open the door and help her decide for herself. ‘Anyway, what have I to lose?’ she thought.
‘Drop the subject please Ash, I don’t want to talk about it.’ Even his voice sounded plaintive.
‘Okay Rob, if you say so,’ she agreed. ’ But tell me, did your parents have a happy married life?’
‘Sure they did. Why? Do you doubt it?’ his tone was challenging.
‘No, I just wanted to know,’ replied Ash. She wasn’t really interested anyway. It was only a dud question. She had already learnt all she wanted to know.
She didn’t answer his calls for the next two weeks. Then, one day, as she was coming out of the school, she saw him waiting at the gate.
‘Ash, why are you doing this to me?’ Rob demanded.
‘I think it’s best we don’t see each other Rob,’ Ash replied tersely. ‘If you really want to know, I don’t think I love you anymore.’ She didn’t believe in doing things half-heartedly.
‘But why Ash? Why? What have I done?’ Rob cried.
‘You and I don’t jell Rob,’ she answered. ’ I’m too much of a free spirit to be comfortable with one who isn’t at all. I think it’s best we don’t see each other anymore.’
Rob didn’t seem to have any more words left to say as she boarded the school bus. At the next block she asked the driver to stop. She got down and walked over to the park.
‘Hello,’ she said to the man sitting on a bench beneath a big tree. Mr. Gomes, the sports teacher got up and gave her a hug.
’It’s over now for good?’ he asked, his eyes searching her face anxiously.
‘Yes. It’s over,’ Ash replied.
’ You know, I just can’t understand how we didn’t get together earlier,’ said Mr. Gomes. ‘You and I are so much alike.’
‘Yes, aren’t we just? ’ Ash agreed. ‘I think I always liked your leery look.’
‘And I, your couldn’t care less ways,’ smiled Mr. Gomes.
They walked away hand in hand, two free spirits made for each other, now together.
An elegantly dressed lady watched them from a distance. She had a satisfied smile on her face. ‘Now I don’t think Rob will fall for anyone ever again. What would I do without him?’ she thought to herself. She was glad that she had been smart enough to bring about the outcome to her liking.
‘Free spirit indeed!’ the thought went through her mind. All it had needed were a few well-chosen words. ‘Well, I know how to tackle one.’
A love story – but not really what you would expect