Monday, 28 January 2019

Chapter 26: School

Neith was really here – standing opposite Mr Miles Flynn, leaning against the former props table, while he leaned against his desk, the schoolroom empty of children.

“The village – it has a council.”  She knew this, but appreciated he had a place he wanted to begin.  “They convene fortnightly, or when a matter’s raised.”

“I’m guessing I was a matter.”  Neith’s hands gripped the table, one at each side of her torso.

Mr Flynn gave a small smile.  “Yes.  The council members go home and hold family councils – so everyone can have their say.  The council comes back…”

“What did they say, Mr Flynn?” 

He drew back at the perfunctory, formal title.  “Miles, please.”

“What did they say, Miles?”  She still liked the name and feared her tone revealed that private thought. Neith also liked the way Miles was talking with his hands as well as his words.  Explaining Nydia’s democracy seemed to have invited a return to the persona she’d first seen in him.  She was glad for it.  She was also impatient.  What did the people of Nydia say?

“They said no.”

“What?”  He’d called her here.  Neith was confused.  Was this a mean trick?  Get the girl’s hopes up, send her a note to come to the school, dash aforementioned hopes asunder? 

“You rushed me!  There’s more.  The answer is no. But my answer, and a few others’ answer, is yes.  We came up with a compromise.”

Neith stepped forward, eagerly. “Yeah?”

“I think you have a right to learn.  And Elle, Koro, Jamin, and a few others – they agree.  They don’t see the City’s mistakes as something you should pay for. They also all agree you have had plenty of time to prove your being here is harmless.  The rest – don’t want you spending time with their children, away, out of their sight.”


“So you can come here, after school is out. Those with permission – that is, the kids whose parents voted in favour – they are free to stay.  It could kind of be a club.”  Miles hunched his shoulders on the last part.  Neith felt all of her resolve to contain her excitement dissolve.

“Really?!  So, I can meet more people, and ask questions, and learn, and…” she hesitated, not daring to hope, “the books…?” she swivelled to face the effulgent nook the Senior students had nestled in that afternoon.

“Yes, yes, and yes to all of those.  After school.”

“Thank you!”

“Thank your guardians.”

Neith suddenly felt small.  This didn’t dampen her zeal; more books, more Nydia!

More delaying a decision of what her next move would be.

“There are conditions.”

Neith turned her body back to face Miles and backed up to lean again on the student table. “Name them,” she said.

“You are still not to be left alone with any student.  I always need to be here, in the room.”

She was stuck with this guy.   She hid her inward thrill by frankly agreeing, then adding, “You said conditions, plural.”

“I did.”  His smile triggered heat-transfer issues again – this time she felt like her upper torso was melting.  What was happening?  Last time, with the sweaty palms, this time, with the chest-melts.  Was it the nerves?  Or was she that desperate to relive her childhood, only with a much more attractive conveyer of knowledge? 

“You’ll still need to help with the community garden.”

“Done.”  Was it really going to be this easy?

“That’s it.  After school, chaperoned, and no shirking of your current duties.”

Hmm.  Neith was alight, in spite of the term chaperoned.  “Well, I’m sorry that I’ll have to miss your lessons.”

“Really?”  Miles looked, nervous?  Amused?

“I’m still waiting to hear about how some dude called Mawee? attempted to steal the sun…”

Miles laughed.  “How long were you standing out there, exactly?”

“Long enough to know I grew up with a very different curriculum!"  That’s right, I am a grown-up, in spite of all of the giddiness you saw relating to the books.

"How so?!"

She described her overly-censored, lonely lessons.  Miles met this with eagerness.  He seemed to want to hear everything she had ever been taught in the City.  Neith tucked her hair behind her ears.  Her cheeks tightened with an unleashed smile.  She described finding Grace, their shared love for Old World cinema, and what she valued.”

“That explains your pin.”  Miles pointed to the Star Trek insignia on her jacket.

“Yeah.”  Neith brushed her fingers over it and struggled to gather her thoughts.  She did.    She told Miles what most people valued was quite different.  She told him how lessons were smattered with regular emphasis on maintaining a healthy weight and diet – constant reminders they were walking wombs.  She briefly defended her two favourite teachers.   She felt so alive talking about them and Grace.  Miles was captivated. 

“So basically: add, subtract, read, oh – and your body is a birth-temple, you’re lucky to be here.  Take your supplements and smile, would you?  You’re only carrying the future of the species on your shoulders.  That sort of thing?”  Miles raised both eyebrows.

“Precisely.”  Was she flirting? 

Was he?  “Charming.” 

She was pretty sure they were flirting.  All of the stories of Mr Flynn recounted at the garden plot hummed in the background of Neith’s mind.  She felt the magnetic pull of a community favourite before her.  They still leaned on two desks, metres apart, but she felt an invisible string of fascinated curiosity bridging the gap between them; mutual interest. “Very few of my tutors were charming, sadly.  It wasn’t the tutors’ fault, I’ve realised – they were what an aging, despairing population had to offer.  How could they possibly be jazzed about that?  Let alone be charismatic…”  She realised her implied compliment after it was out, risking the journey across the string between them like a tightrope. 

Miles was quiet, but still smiling.  It was too late, he’d heard the compliment.  “We should go.  It’s getting dark.”

Neith whirled to see the rows of windows had turned to black squares.  Right; home.