CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: MISERY
She nuzzled her palms close to her cheek. She was sitting on the round podium located right in the middle of the college. The surrounding trees cast dark shadows on her and she felt quite lonely. How could she explain what she felt to others, when she herself couldn’t make any sense of it? The only comfort of these careworn days was choir, not that it was a pleasant experience throughout in itself. It just made her keep a routine, a little time to take her mind off what troubled her most. Her choir teacher, in some ways, bore a great resemblance to her own former love, who was gaining prominence in her heart as days passed by. She could not shrug it off, she could not confine her mind to think of him only as a teacher as may have been formerly done if the whole disastrous episode of her confessions had not taken place. Her choir conductor, Mr. Chritian Shannon was a scholarly enough person with all the pretentions and hypocrisies that mark such a person. But he was a gentleman in some ways. He was incredibly assertive, talented, inspiring, rigid, broad minded but something about him put her off, gave an unpleasant tinge to the idea of regarding him highly. He was pedantic, but that was a fault so prevalent and common in perfectionists. The problem was he expected perfectionism without being a perfectionist himself. He also gave stinging comments sometimes, and try as she might, she could never make out to whom they were addressed. Her confidence in her singing skills was broken, even her enjoyment to sing. Whenever she felt her impressionable and impetuous moods inciting a melodious air from her, she found herself being concerned that they might be a poor exhibition indeed to really good singers like her choir master. This bitterness and lack of confidence aside, with each advancing day, she found the fondness, regard and respect she had come to believe was all she felt become stronger and assert themselves as something yet more predominating. It also hurt her that he could speak to her so casually and so easily as if there was nothing to weigh him down, no serious considerations for her. It was becoming more and more difficult to behave as she had done before to him. Whenever her eyes met his, they would unconsciously exhibit a sort of reproach and slight that there was no truth in his behaviour and manner to her. How he could not sense this yet was beyond her.
Suddenly, feeling she could hold out no longer, she impulsively sprung up and with a fiery question in her eyes and took steady, undaunted steps that led to the staffroom where she knew she might find him. When at last, she reached it, she felt her rawness towards him fade and dissipate and was conscious of a remorse and doubt regarding herself. She dragged heavy footsteps away from her destination and coming outside, let silent tears course down one after the other on her cheek.
“What’s the matter?” exclaimed a very expressive voice, one she’d never hoped would ask such a question.
“Oh, nothing, nothing” she returned quickly perceiving the intimidating Pearl Laurent beside her.
“Well, then why should you cry for nothing?” Ms. Pearl asked in a slightly more comforting voice.
“I lost my phone” blabbered Jennifer in a desperate attempt for self preservation.
“Oh, is that all. Don’t worry, would you like to call it Jennifer? Here’s my phone, go on, make that call” said the concerned lady.
“Oh, no ma’am. I’ve already tried that, it is switched off” came the blurted reply.
“Aww... that’s allright. Not to worry, how about we go and meet Mr. Brandon about it? When students find something, they give it to him. It’s probably in the staffroom. Come now, Jennifer” said the kind teacher and led her to the staffroom, the one place she dreaded going to in this state.
At this statement, knowing whom she would find there, the heaviness of her sorrow increased and her eyes grew even more teary.
“Hello, sir. Jennifer here lost her phone and was crying outside. We’ll just see if her phone is in the box of lost things and then get going” explained Ms. Pearl when she saw the surprise written on his face as he looked up at them entering.
He got up and came near them.
“What does it look like, Jennifer?” he asked, in all good earnest, very concernedly but to Jennifer, it was a mock in itself and with flashing eyes, she mumbled, “Samsung mobile, about this big”.
“Don’t worry. Have you tried calling it?” he asked her.
“Yes, but it is switched off” she repeated the lie.
Ms. Pearl went forth and started to rummage briskly in the box. Even with all the drama she was feeling, she felt a slight regret that she’s had such a view of Ms. Pearl. She could be quite kind and understanding at times too.
Jennifer remained mute before him, staring angrily at the ground.
“Well, when did you lose it?” pressed on the cause of all her misery, unaware of it himself.
“This evening” she said nervously biting her lips. How shameful would it be to discover after all this trouble that they’d taken that all this was nothing more than a mere fabrication.
“Where were you then?”
“The hostel, sir” Jennifer returned promptly, the reality of her situation kicking in, more concerned about preserving her dignity than accosting him with her accusations.
“Well my dear, did you look there first?” said he, in a shocked tone. Oh, why wouldn’t he let this all go, she thought to herself and blinked with huge teary eyes at him in reply.
“You didn’t?” he asked, surprised.
“My dear, shouldn’t you look there first? There, there, don’t worry, we’ll go and check for it now. Ms. Pearl” he called out but she nodded meaning that she had heard and gave Jennifer a brief smile.
“Come” he told her and they walked together. She found it hard to keep up with him, naturally feeling so heavy at heart but he accounted it all due to the loss of her phone and walked briskly on.
“Is that it?” he asked her when they reached the hostel and she nodded and they took the stairs together.
“Is the door locked?” he asked her but she was so distressed that she could scarcely understand but he patiently repeated and she shook her head.
“Jennifer, I have never seen you like this before. And all for a phone, come now, even if we can’t find it, you shouldn’t be like this but hopefully you just have misplaced it and can't find it” he told her tenderly.
“Won’t you smile?” he asked her, gently smiling but she could only weep more passionately than before touched by this tenderness.
They went inside and he began a thorough check to find her phone. He looked on the tables and opened the drawers and surveyed the window sills and all the objects in the room without finding it. Jennifer knew that her cell was in her bag. After he had gone through it all, he said.
“Get me your bag, we’ll look inside that” he told her authoritatively and she did as she was asked to.
He seated himself on the messy bed without remarking or minding it, and methodically opened the zips of the bag and carefully took out each object, making a thorough examination. The phone was in the third zip.
“There, was all the fuss for this?” he asked her kindly, with a warm smile but he put his arms on her shoulder.
“There, there, it’s okay. Come now, would you like to take a walk. I saw Meghna with all your friends in the main canteen as we came this way and a walk will also calm you” he told her and she resigned herself hopelessly to his kindness, finding some bleak solace in his kindness towards her.