IRON LADY: CHAPTER FIFTEEN
The bell rang. Ms. Pearl Laurent’s class was next. An uncomfortable silence flooded the classroom. Small in figure, with an incredibly formidable scrunched up look on her face, she was the worst nightmare of Jennifer. Having successfully gotten into her bad books, Jen had suffered slighting comments from her often. She wore thick rimmed glasses over beady, scrutinizing eyes and carried herself with reckless confidence wherever she went. She had light, sharp steps and a high, tangy voice. She was quick to address people with direct statements. But there was a quiet dignity about her. Though quite dark of complexion, she was an Anglo Indian. She wore patterned short antiquated frocks that swished above her knees and was shapely of form. She’d cut her hair quite close so that in fell in straight strands on her eyebrows. Her face was always turned up high or staring icily at people as she spoke or looked at them. Protruding lips and a perfect triangle of a nose completed the touch of asperity about the lady. She seemed to have mighty expectations of everyone and let her disappointment show clearly if they were not met with.
This morning, there was a slight drizzle outside, the day basking in a dreamy rosiness that it was dreadful to know she’d have to face Ms. Pearl’s class next.
“Oh my God” said Jen disconsolately.
“Don’t make a huge drama Jen. She’s not even that bad”.
“Maybe, for you” she retorted.
“Are you this deprecating of her because for once she tried to take you off drama because you were doing girly things when you were playing the part of a king?”
“Hey.. hey, not just that. I have a lot of reasons. From the first day, she seems to stare past your eyes into all your thoughts, you know. She recognized me from day one and always calls people by name. That’s scary, who does that. Who knows so much about people like that?”
“Not everyone can be like you Jen. It took you four to five times for you to stop calling me Madhumitha” said Meg.
“Oh my God. There’s that shiver down my spine again. She’s coming” said Jen distractedly.
“Good morning class” sounded her clear, shrill voice as she briskly entered the classroom and the students got up to wish her.
“And she’s so quick and sharp with her comments. You know... probably she has a crystal ball hidden away somewhere and gets to know all about people. Such sarcastic and callous statements and looks.”
“Ohh... will you stop that?”.
“Shh.. shut up, shut up. Or we’re both dead. You can rant about her in the next class, you ex-lover’s class. He never seems to take any notice of you”.
Jen giggled happily and Meg turned to snort derisively at her.
“You’re still not over that”.
“Hush... or she will sense a disturbance in the force”.
But it was already too late. She cast a sharp, contemptuous look in their direction with a hard and stony glare.
“What are you two madams giggling about? You think my class is giggling hour?” she asked them, looking haughtily at them.
“Go on, go on. Don’t let a teacher interrupt your interesting exchanges. Or would you like to go away from all these distractions?”.
Jen and Meg hung their heads in shame and looked pouting at the desk.
“Sit down, if I hear any more such silly unpleasant noises from you, you’ll be finding some other class this hour” she told them and turned to the chalkboard.
“See, I told you. Dragon breathes fire”.
“Jen, if you don’t shut up, I’ll complain you to your favourite teacher” told Meg, exasperatedly.
“You” she said, pointing an indicative finger at Jen.
“What does faux pas mean? If you are in the habit of listening to people when they talk to you, you’d know this. I told this yesterday in class”.
Jen swallowed and said hesitantly “False alarm”.
“What an enlightened soul! Is that so students? Why don’t you try making a sentence with that since you have proved how well you listen”.
Jen stared with a perplexed look truly not understanding if she was being sarcastic or not.
There was a discrete tug at her shirt, and a voice whispered “False step”.
Unfortunately, Jennifer had never had very good hearing or any diplomatic abilites so she stared blankly at her confidante, betraying her kind friend.
“What’s going on with the crowd there? Stand up, Miss. Genius”.
“What does Al Dente mean? If you are so great with foreign expressions, I am sure you could share your expert information with the whole class”.
“Something about dentists?” Latha desperately asked around, whispering unsuccessfully trying ventriloquism and trying to speak without moving her lips.
“And Miss. Meghna? What about you? Willing to share your wonderful intellect with your peers?”
Meghna got up clumsily and stared at her.
“What are you, the staring squad? Don’t just stand there gawking like chickens as if there is a circus going on here, go outside and ask someone what both of these mean. I want you to come back here in exactly two minutes with the meaning and a sentence each for Al Dente, A la carte and Faux pas”.
The three sadly exited the room and stood outside.
“God, I hate her so much. I could fake a headache and you people can assist me to the clinic, what do you say?”
“God no, Jennifer. You are such an expert at making trouble bigger. Only you can get us out of this, please don’t be high and mighty and if you want to have a peaceful time in Ms. Pearl’s class tomorrow, you have to go to him and beg and plead and somehow get the meaning for all these words”.
“Oh shut up Meg. Why don’t you do it?” she remonstrated.
“Need I say?” said Meg darkly.
“Oh stop it babies. Do any of you have net on your phones, we can google it?”
“Oh yes” said Jen with a delighted scream and the two gave sighs of relief but then with a look of utter anguish, “but I don’t have charge on my phone”.
“Oh, you’re so utterly useless” chided Meg irritated.
“What are the three of you doing here?” asked a voice startling them all.
Luckily for them, it was him. Meg stepped forth eagerly and poured out her plight and made him start laughing.
“Come on, don’t tell me you don’t know these. For God’s sake girls, you are English Majors” he said gently still laughing.
“Oh, we’re so so sorry, we know. Please help us this once or the woman will make us kill ourselves in class” Jen pleaded.
“Jennifer, you mustn’t talk about her like that. All right, I’ll help you. And I know for a fact that she does not trouble her students like this in class if they don’t badger the life out of her. I know that you three did something, am I right?” he said, looking with mischief twinkling in his eyes.
Then he told them the meaning and the three thanked him.
“Our hero” said Latha jokingly and the three giggled but he stood impassive.
“Remember girls, don’t bother her and she’ll leave you alone” he said with a cautionary look at them and left them.