Lily wrestled against the unseen Wednesday night in bed. She tossed upon her sheets, pushed her face up from her pillows, flipped pillows over, exhaled loudly, repositioned herself, and tried to will herself to sleep. But sleep never came.
When she experienced nights like this, she ached the following day, especially in her hips and lower back. Her former students in Rook would size her up early in the day.
“Rough night, Ms. Rood? You’re walking like that old lady from that book we read last year.”
“Miss Havisham! You better not forget her. She’s from Dickens’ Great Expectations,” Lily would retort.
“We know, Ms. Rood. We know.”
Lily accepted her students’ teasing about how she wore her sleeplessness. And her students accepted her passion for literature and its enduring characters, even when they implied she looked like Dickens’ old Miss Havisham.
Lily arrived at Covenant before six o’clock Thursday morning. She knew she looked awful. Her brown hair revealed silver strands nowadays but Lily did not attempt to hide them.
February’s sun had not broken yet but yellow filled the sky, as if God painted the morning with honeycomb.
FACULTY MEETING. MANDATORY fliers were taped to Covenant’s doors. Lily inhaled and exhaled deeply. Whew! She blew her breath out audibly as she reached for the front doors of Covenant. Her mind continually questioned itself: What to say to Beth? I have to speak to her. Her father has died. But she’s so…
“Well, hi Lily. You’re here early today,” Beth said. Beth had watched Lily walk across the parking lot and approach Covenant, as if Lily were prey.
“Hi, Beth. Yes, I couldn’t sl____,” Lily said. “Beth, I wanted to tell you that I’m truly sorry for what has happened.”
“Oh, thank you, Lily. It’s okay, though. Dad would not want you to grieve. His love was for others. This school was his life,” Beth said.
“Your father, I have learned, was very respected here,” Lily continued. “I have since learned about how he knew the headmaster at my former school in Rook, and of how he had been familiar with me for a long while, without my even knowing it. He was so methodical and caring in the way he handled Covenant. And he was the same with me at Beulah this past Sunday.”
“Well, he was methodical. He taught us girls a lot, I tell you. My sisters moved off, but I think I’m a lot like my dad,” Beth said. Lily suddenly felt she would vomit.
“We at Covenant,” Beth said, “have something special.”
Beth did not seem to Lily to even grieve her father’s death. “We administrators and staff look to hire and retain the right faculty for our students. It’s about directing them, shaping them the way God wants. Having the right people in the right positions is crucial to our success.”
As Beth spoke, Lily watched Beth’s gold bracelets slide up and down her forearms and rattle metallic clinks. The rust-colored hair, the clinking bracelets, the prattle when all Lily wanted to do was apologize for what Beth should be going through but wasn’t.
“Well, I just wanted to express my sympathy to your family, and to tell you what an impact your father made, even in the short time I knew him,” Lily said. “I have to get a few things in my classroom before classes and the faculty meeting, but I’ll see you soon.”
“Of course. See you at the meeting, Ms. Rood. We have much ground to cover.”
(To be continued)