It was almost half-term, but Drusilla had taken staff leave of absence
under the medically advised all-purpose condition suggested by the
sanatorium sister: allergic attack.
She was recuperating in Bradford-on-Avon with her mother, Diana,
who had a lovely little honey-coloured cottage near to the centre,
with a garden full of perennial favourites such as Love-Lies-Bleeding.
She would remain there as dust from the school renovation had to
settle, as must the nuclear mushroom cloud which had been raised
by the discovery of the Snodbury communication from years gone
by. A blast from the past some vulgarians might have dubbed it.
Her mother had slowly come to understand the swings and arrows
of unrequited love and outrageous fortune. She accepted that
her immature over-reaction to a lover’s tiff, though personally
interpreted at the time as a mere flutter of a social butterfly’s wing,
had instigated a tsunami of overwhelming heartbreak for everyone
concerned, including unborn generations. One of the unborn was
sitting before her, very much post-natally present. Diana had
paid for her foolish revenge and acknowledged that she had been
wrong to marry Syylk and to pass Drusilla off as his daughter. Syylk
had been her man and she had done him wrong. This had been as
crass as some country music lyrics, but she had had no excuse. It had
been painful to see her daughter becoming more and more like her
biological father as she aged in teaching. At this rate she was going
to need a blowtorch, not Botox!
There were tears, recriminations, justifications and apologies, but
how to respond to the discovery was the real dilemma. Diana felt
that she owed Snod an apology for her years of deceit. Drusilla
wasn’t sure that she, personally, could face the truth. What if it
became common knowledge between the staffrooms? She would
lose all credibility. Parents’ Evenings could become problematic. He
might want to catch up on all the occasions he had missed in her
Mother, do you still love him? Drusilla asked, crumbling a
monumental slice of Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge.
Dru, I’ve never stopped, cried her mother, nevertheless gathering up
all the crumbs on her plate and licking them greedily from the tines
of her cake fork.
Then we must do him the honour of replying sincerely to his ill-fated
missile, said Drusilla decisively.
Missive, corrected Diana. Honestly, her daughter was supposed to
be a teacher! Dru’s missile! You wouldn’t have heard such poor English
in their day. (Their being the times and mores of Snod and herself.)
Diana was increasingly tired of having to proof-read her daughter’s end
of term reports. Even as a lax mistress, Diana had known how to spell
practise as a verb. Yes, we will reply very soon, agreed Diana.
No, you will, mother. It is your responsibility.
I know, Diana, said. I will send him a Valentine. Let’s find one that is
suitable. What about this for the verse?:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
If you ask me again,
I’ll answer: I do!
Drusilla blanched. No, she said. How about:
Roses are red,
Like my eyes as they water.
But here’s a surprise-
We both have a daughter!-?
That’s quite good actually, said Diana.
I was joking, said Drusilla. I think we have to be a shade more subtle.
Like that ecru you picked out for your floor paint?
Precisely, answered Drusilla. Tone is all –important- in life and
Yes, there are fifty shades of grey, I believe.
Drusilla could only hope that her mother hadn’t read it. Less is
more, she explained.
There speaks the art teacher, sighed Diana. (But it was never the
case in lacrosse, she thought privately.)