Lily overheard Alice say her name. Lily intended to speak with Tim, Mrs. Aims, and Donald but when she heard Alice say her name again, she caught Alice’s eye. Lily sensed Alice’s excitement about introducing Desiree Dramal.
“Oh Lily, this is Desiree Dramal. I’ve known her and Beth since we were all girls. Desiree, this is Lily Rood. She teaches literature and writing with us now,” Alice gushed.
“Pleasure, Ms. Rood. Or is it Mrs. Rood?” Desiree asked, extending her right hand.
“Good afternoon. Miss, yes. Welcome to Covenant,” Lily said, shaking Desiree’s hand.
“I’m so excited to have you two meet. Desiree, you’ll be so impressed with Lily; she’s read everything. She’s got me reading an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel now. Isn’t that right, Lily?” asked Alice.
“I’m sure we all have our areas of interest,” Lily said. “Without music life would be a mistake, right? Reading is music for me. I don’t believe I can say I really chose it; it was more like it chose me.”
Wanting to remove herself as topic, Lily asked a question. “So what brings you to Covenant, Miss Dramal? It is Miss, right?”
“Yes, single still, Ms. Rood. We are still a small town here. Many of our young people have moved off for promises of careers in the city. Sarah and Ruth—you may know them already, I believe—they moved off. But others of us have remained. I guess some feel called to remain where we were planted. Isn’t that right, Alice?”
“You bet,” Alice said. “Desiree, Beth, and I have—oh gosh—we’ve known each other most of our lives. I’m so excited about how we get to work together.” Lily discovered herself longing to speak with Thomas McDavid, Tim, Donald, and Ellen Aims. But she forced herself to continue.
“And you will replace Beth Aims here, is that right?” Lily asked.
“I don’t know if ‘replace’ is the word. But I will take over a significant counseling role, yes. I see myself as a kind of rudder.” Lily’s abdomen tightened.
Donald’s gentle voice rescued Lily. “Ms. Rood, is that you?” He walked into the triangle of women. Lily caught the scent of Jergens as Donald shook hands with each woman.
“Donald, good afternoon. I did not know you were attending today’s meeting. Do you know Ms. Dramal?”
“I am familiar with her, yes. I watched her grow up alongside the Aims daughters, and Alice, too,” Donald said.
“I was just telling Ms. Rood,” Desiree said, “that some of us remain where we’re planted. We don’t move away. We have vocations here in our community.”
“Some do. Certainly,” Donald said. “I’m just a farmer–well, used to be anyway. I suppose it’s a matter of where we think we can do the most good. For my wife, our boys, and me, it would not have made much sense to pick up and leave.”
Lily listened. “But I know that we are thankful Ms. Rood was willing to leave teaching at Rook and join us here at Covenant,” Donald continued. Desiree said nothing.
“You bet,” Alice exclaimed. “It’s going to be a great rest of the term.” Alice turned to exit quickly as if she had forgotten something.
“Ms. Rood, it was a pleasure meeting you. I’m sure we will see each other regularly,” Desiree said.
“Welcome to Covenant,” Lily said.
“And welcome to our town, Ms. Rood.”
“Ms. Rood, do you have just a second? I know your teaching day is over and you’re probably tired, but I just have a quick question,” Donald said.
“Of course, Donald.”
“Thomas and I are going to the Cup-n-Saucer this evening. Would you care to join us?”
“Certainly,” Lily said. “What time?”
“Five o’clock,” Donald said. “See you then.”
Lily returned to her classroom to gather her materials she planned to work on later that night. The faculty and staff had largely dissipated when Lily passed back by the library. She looked for Tim, Sarah, and others but did not see them. As she passed through the front doors of the school, Alice popped out of the front office. Looking through the office windows Lily could see the bookroom door ajar from which Alice had sprung.
“Lily, I wanted to tell you I already finished Gatsby. Terrific! I can’t wait to discuss it with you,” Alice exclaimed. “I have it here for you. Nick Carraway would have liked our town instead of West Egg and East Egg, don’t you think?”
“Maybe so, Alice,” Lily said. “He misread much early on. Towns and cities had less to do with his struggle than with a dearth of discernment.”
“Lily, we’re going to have such great talks. ‘Dearth of discernment’? Who talks like that but you, Lily? Anyway, let’s get together. We could even meet with Beth and Desiree,” Alice said.
“Um, we’ll get that coffee soon. Have a good evening,” Lily said. Alice returned to the bookroom wondering if she’d misread Fitzgerald’s novel or why Lily mentioned coffee.
Lily drove home. She thought of meeting Donald and Thomas McDavid at the Cup-n-Saucer. As she drove, she watched the fallow fields fill her car windows. Her thoughts flashed quickly as the patchwork fields–Easter in a few weeks; farmers would seed their fields; Covenant’s spring play; and Desiree Dramal.