Solomon’s words beat against the walls of Lily’s mind: much study had wearied her flesh. Her lower back and hips ached. She lost focus upon what she had planned to cover in classes. She stared long at the bold words on Beth’s stationery. Lily’s mind fed upon itself with Othello-like suspicion. Who is spying upon me at Covenant? Who is the new counselor? Where is Beth now? Lily folded the paper along its creases and slid it back into the envelope. She told herself to sit and gaze at the live oak beyond her classroom window. It reminded Lily of an old man. Its branches were weathered elbows, its bark a wizened face. At last Lily began to quiet when Alice reappeared.
“I found it, Lily!”
“The book, silly…about hearing from God.”
“Yes of course,” Lily said. “Um, thank you.”
“I know what you’re going to say next,” Alice said.
“Yes. You’re going to tell me to keep going with The Great Gatsby.”
“Correct. Now what shall I say instead?” Lily asked laughing.
“Don’t worry. I’ll keep going,” Alice said. “I really like it. I just think Nick is more small-town boy than he realizes.”
“Correct again, Alice.”
“Do you enjoy Fitzgerald like you do Shakespeare and the other writers you teach, Lily?”
“This could turn into more than we have time for now, don’t you think?”
“Oh I see, I’m sorry. Maybe we can continue later, okay?” Alice asked.
“We have an agreement then,” Lily said.
“You bet,” Alice said.
As Alice disappeared from Alice’s sight, the bell rang for class. Lily struggled to focus her mind on the lessons she had prepared. Beth’s image filled her mind. She pictured Beth’s scorched orange hair and saw the raven-black nails.
Her students began entering. “Good morning, Ms. Rood,” some said.
“Good morning,” Lily heard herself say perfunctorily, hating the sound of her own voice.
“Hi, Ms. Rood. Miss Havisham today?” It was Michael. He could read Lily’s mood prophetically.
“Hello, Michael. How’d you know?” Lily asked, humbled.
“Some stories tell themselves,” he said.
“I may look to you a bit more than usual this morning in class, Michael, okay?”
“Of course, Ms. Rood. I wanted to ask you a lot about Hamlet’s relationship with his mother anyway,” Michael said.
“I have questions about that too,” Lily said. “But enough with the Miss Havisham references already, okay?”
“Of course, Ms. Rood.” Michael walked towards his desk and began talking with other students as the class continued to fill. Lily walked to her door in an effort to appear composed. As she watched students disappearing into other classrooms, she saw Nathanael walking with a woman dressed in black slacks and a royal blue blouse. Together they turned into the counselors’ offices. Lily felt herself begin to sweat under her left armpit. The bell sounded again as she reentered her classroom. Today, her years of study seemed to her to have raised suspicions more than solace.
(To be continued)