The Meeting

Lily fought her emotions when examining Hamlet. She had read and taught Shakespeare’s dramas and poetry for decades but she could not put Beth from her mind. She worried about Beth’s schemes and about her remaining connections to Covenant. Lily was not from this town; Beth’s entire life was rooted here. Lily nevertheless persisted teaching.

She wrote on her dry erase board of Hamlet’s endless conflicts. Hamlet struggled with his mother over her remarrying so hastily after King Hamlet’s murder. And as son of the murdered king, Prince Hamlet should have been the next ruler at Elsinore, but he was denied that role. Additionally, Hamlet suffered amidst a kingdom of corruption. His life was stripped of almost anyone he could trust. And the ghost of his murdered father, prompting him to avenge his murder—well, Hamlet’s conflicts called for our compassion as reader-witnesses of his struggles.

Covenant’s faculty, not unlike Elsinore’s citizens, was seeking trustworthy personnel. Nathanael was headmaster, but Lily knew now that Beth had not been crushed; the terse note confirmed that.

Lily assigned topics for her students to write on in their journals. As her students settled into writing, Lily sat down into the cheap swivel chair behind her desk and looked outside. Clouds the color of bruises slid across the firmament. Winds stirred. Then Lily rose from her chair and walked over to the rectangle of window. As she neared the window she caught her reflection in the glass. Her muslin dress seemed to her as sackcloth. She beheld her aging frame. Did God ever hide his face, she wondered.

The day limped along. Finally the last classes dismissed. The afternoon meeting time neared. Lily walked the corridor to the library. Looking up, she saw Alice standing in front of the library doors.

“Hey, Lily. Are you ready to meet our newest employee?”

“I think so,” Lily said. “Are you familiar with her?”

“You bet,” Alice said. “She is a friend of Beth’s. They’ve been inseparable since girlhood.”

“Really?” Lily responded. “Interesting.”

“Why do you say ‘interesting’?” Alice asked.

“Sometimes it seems Covenant is skeptical of hiring outside of this town, with few exceptions,” Lily said.

“That’s ‘interesting’ you would say that, Lily. Beth would like that,” Alice said.

“Lily, would you like to sit together?”

“I usually sit in the same spot each time we have meetings, if you’re okay with that.”

“You bet,” Alice said, and followed Lily. Lily looked to confirm the settee near the shelves of Dickens’ works had not been moved.

Lily looked for Thomas McDavid’s face among the other entering faculty and staff personnel but did not see him. But Nathanael entered with his grandmother, Ellen Aims. Her face had the same warmth she exhibited at Beulah. Mrs. Aims saw Lily as soon as she and Nathanael entered. Lily rose and walked over to them.

“Lily, nice to see you, dear. Are you finding Covenant satisfactory? And is my grandson leading well?”

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Ellen. Covenant promises much—bright students and fine leadership.” Lily listened to her words, wondering if she’d be misunderstood.

“Well, Nathan is like his mother and father—a born learner. I am so proud of him,” Mrs. Aims said.

“How about we get settled, okay?” Nathanael said to his grandmother. “I should move things along this afternoon.”

“Of course, Nathan.”

 
Lily returned to the settee near Dickens’ works.

“You know Mrs. Aims?” Alice asked.

“Somewhat,” Lily said. “I have been visiting Beulah. She is a very kind woman.”

“Like our founder,” Alice said. “We have good people here, Lily. I’m so glad you’re here. You’ll like our new employee, too. She’s a lot like Beth. It’ll be good to have them working together, even though Beth’s role has changed. Aren’t you excited?”

(To be continued)

Lily (Part forty-one)

“Good morning, Ellen,” Donald said. Turning his right shoulder and hip to Ellen Aims, he hugged her as two friends of many years.

“Good morning, Donald,” Mrs. Aims said.

“And welcome again, Ms. Rood. Nice to see you again,” extending his Jergens-scented right hand.

“Thank you, Donald. Good morning.”

“Will you be returning to Tim’s class? Would you like me to escort you?”

“I’m fine, Donald. I’ll go alone,” Lily said. “But thank you.”

Ellen Aims met some friends in Beulah’s foyer and Donald returned to the front doors to greet other worshipers. Lily turned down the hall towards Tim’s class. Nearing the door, she heard the sounds of coffee cups and small plates–not Styrofoam, but ceramic cups and plates. Lily swallowed, gathered herself, and entered through the door.

“Hello, Lily. Welcome,” Tim said.

“Thank you. Am I late?”

“Not at all. Beth brought some goodies for the class today. Please, come enjoy some.”

Lily suddenly tasted bile on the back of her tongue. Lily pictured Beth’s ravenous fake nails with black polish and her scorched hair, even before she heard the voice.

“Oh hi, Ms. Rood. You came back. Well, I brought treats for our class but you are welcome to some, if you like,” Beth said.

No word of Beth’s cabal at Covenant had penetrated the Sunday school class. Lily feigned a smile towards Beth’s overture but said nothing for now. Lily scanned the room. Where was Nathanael? Or his parents? Or Ruth?

“Everyone, may I have your attention, please?” Beth announced. Again the bile on Lily’s tongue.

“You guys know how much I value our wonderful Sunday school class. My bringing some dishes of breakfast goodies is just to show how much you guys mean to me.”

The clink of Beth’s bracelets, her ruined orange hair. Lily looked for a chair in which to sit.

‘Thank you, Beth, for the breakfast,” Tim said. “I’ve no doubt we appreciated your thoughtfulness.”

Lily felt herself collapse onto a chair. “If we could all wrap up breakfast, we will get started in just a moment,” Tim said.

Members of the class made towards the trash can to throw away their napkins.

“Tim, may I say one more thing?”

“Of course, Beth. Go ahead.”

“If you guys will just clean the outside of the cups and plates, I’ll take care of the rest when I get home after church,” Beth said. “I hope you all enjoyed it.”

Lily tried to swallow but her tongue felt fat in her mouth and tasted of alkaline.

(To be continued)