Testing Times - Chapter 11 "St George & The Dragon"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story St George & The Dragon  

Part Eleven

 

"St George & The Dragon"

 
Thursday 23rd April - St George's Day

Tammy drove John back into school shortly after seven that morning so he had time to change into smart wear. School protocol dictated that the sixth form boys, and girls, had to dress smartly any time during school hours they were outside of their rooms; for day students even that caveat was lost.

Tammy was in a skirt suit this morning, a navy blue outfit with a simple white blouse under the jacket. She made herself a coffee in the nearly empty sixth form common room.

"I didn't think you'd bother."

"James, I care about tradition."

"Yeah, but it's too early."

"I had to come in early and decided to have breakfast at school. So why are you in the common room this early?"

"Coffee, the kettle in my room has died."

"Okay, nice PJs by the way."

James had plainly been oblivious to what he was wearing but soon dashed out of the room, almost running into the Headmaster.

"Miss Smart, can I join you?"

"Certainly Sir, coffee?"

"No thank you. I would like your help, Miss Smith has called to say she has withdrawn her application."

"The stupid ... sorry Sir."

"Quite, given that she was the most appropriate candidate I would like to know what is going on."

"Have you asked Mr Hibbert?"

"Yes, but he seems unwilling to give an opinion."

The common room door opened and one of the boys started to walk in, wearing a dressing gown, but backed out as soon as the Head was spotted.

"Sir, can we continue this in your office?"

"That would seem to be preferable."

It was clear that most of the boys did not expect to find the Head walking around at seven fifteen in the morning and many animated conversations were stopped in their tracks as Tammy and the Head were spotted. They finally made it to the safety of the Head's study.

"Now, Miss Smart, what do you know?"

"Unfortunately, Sir, both Tanya and John have over-reacted to petty issues in their relationship." She described the previous day's events.

"So they were talking last night?"

"Barely, although sobbing on each-other's shoulders might be a more apt description."

"Did Miss Smith say anything about the interview, or her application, last night?"

"No, she accepted that she'd been stupid but I didn't know the context. When did she call?"

"Three o'clock yesterday afternoon."

"That would explain a few things. Would you like me to contact her?"

"If you wouldn't mind. Could she make it here in time for the service?"

Tammy dialled Tanya's number but the call was terminated immediately. She instead sent a message.

I'm with the Headmaster, can you get here for nine?
 
Why?
 
Your interview.
 
I don't want it.
 
Don't be a fool, I'll collect you at eight thirty.
 
Don't bother.
 
I will bother, get yourself ready and don't overdo the perfume or face paint. You're going to a church service first.
 
What?
 
St George's Day
 
I'm not English
 
If you're working here you'll have to deal with English and Scottish special events, regardless
 
I hate you
 
I know. See you in an hour.

Tammy turned off her phone and slipped it into her bag, the Head waited patiently.

"I'm sure she'll be here, Sir, I think I'll collect her myself."

"Can you be certain you'll not waste a journey?"

"Yes, at least I'm pretty sure."

"What about Mr Hibbert?"

"He'll come around, I know he will."

"Good, will you join me on the senior masters table for breakfast?"

"Ummm, yes, thank you Sir."

The Head went to his desk and made a call, judging by the number of digits pressed Tammy guessed it was an internal number.

"Miss Smith will be here for the interview, please advise all parties."

He put the handset down. "Shall we go?"

As they walked into the refectory the noise level dropped although a few whispers commented on Tammy's appearance. Although the Head hadn't told anyone that Tammy was joining his table for the meal, there was a place ready between the Head and Deputy Head. She spotted John as they walked past, he was not smiling.

"Good morning, Sir." Tammy addressed Mr Thompson.

"Ah, good morning Miss Smart."

One of the Year Sevens who were on kitchen duty approached Tammy and asked for her breakfast order, she opted for the artery-hardening selection, she wasn't on a diet but figured she might need the carbs.

Conversation on the top table was stilted, the other senior staff there mostly ignored Tammy and held private conversations with whoever sat alongside them. From this position she was able to observe most of the room. The table was on a dais, raising it six inches above floor level, ensuring that most of the students would have to look up to the Head and his entourage, literally and figuratively.

Breakfast was almost over when Tammy spotted Lori walking into the hall, looking at the sixth form tables before being told, it would seem, to check out the top table. She turned and left.

"Excuse me Sir, but I need to see what Miss Jenkins wants."

"That's okay, but can you be in the main hall just before nine?"

"Of course, Sir."

"Good, as you'll be reading the lesson."

Tammy was not over the moon about this news. She was wearing ballet flats right now but had a pair of heels in her locker, they would have to wait for a while; first stop was the common room.

"What were you doing up there with the Head?"

"I had an invite, but there was ulterior motive. He's asked me to read the lesson."

"Rather you than me."

"Come on Lori, you're appearing at the theatre in front of a few thousand over five performances."

"In disguise."

"Well, I have time for a quick coffee then I have to collect Tanya."

"What's she doing here?"

"Job interview."

"She's cancelled it, Tammy." John had walked up behind her.

"I'm going to collect her, John, the Head asked me to speak to her."

"What's the point?"

"John, do you want to be homeless?"

"Why?"

"The offer of the cottage does not include single occupancy."

"Eh?"

"If you and Tanya aren't together, she doesn't get the cottage. Stop thinking about just yourself. I'll be explaining the same thing in words of one syllable to your fiancée."

"She won't listen."

Lori was just bringing a coffee over to Tammy but she waved Lori away and left the common room. It was five past eight, a little early, but she decided to drive into town anyway. Lori came after her.

"Sorry Tammy but can you drop me at home, I've just laddered my tights."

"Hven't you put a spare pair in your locker."

"Not yet but I will, it's only my second day in school as a girl."

"Okay, I'll drop you then swing back to pick you up after I've collected Tanya."

They'd reached Tammy's car, a few moments later they were on their way.

"What's up with John?"

"He accused Tanya of being selfish, she accused him of not considering her feelings."

"So six of one and half a dozen of the other?"

"Yeah."

Traffic wasn't too bad but Tammy was held up on Olrig Street before diverting to drop Lori. By the time she pulled up outside Sandy Smith's house it was exactly eight thirty.

"You're late."

"No I'm not and how about a thank you for saving your bacon."

"I don't need to do this, there'll be other jobs."

"Without experience, Tanya, what do you think you would get? This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, you get a job, a home, and support for your coursework."

"What's the downside, then of this cherry-on-the-top opportunity?"

"The cottage is for two of you. If John's not there then you don't get the cottage but would still be on call. If I remember, you can't drive yet."

It took Tanya a few moments to extrapolate what Tammy had said.

"Damn."

"Look, we need to collect Lori and get up to the school."

"Why the rush anyway?" Tammy pulled away from the kerb. "My interview isn't until ten."

"The Head wants you at the service, plus I've been asked to read the lesson."

"Oh."

"You see, it's not just about you? Ah, there's Lori."

With the second passenger on board Tammy went straight to the school, stopping directly outside the main entrance, although she was now supposed to park in the staff carpark at the rear. The Head seemed able to intercept her with ease.

"Good, Miss Smart, could you go to the stage, I'll join you there shortly."

"I need to change my shoes, Sir."

"Be quick, please."

"Sir."

Tammy retrieved the heels, three inches worth, from her locker and swapped them for her ballets. There was a definite clip clop as she walked back to the hall. Lori caught up with her.

"I see you've gone for the stilts?"

"Yes, it's so I can see over the lectern!"

The sixth formers were expected to stand at the back of the hall during these happenings as there weren't enough chairs. That was exacerbated today by the presence of all the local governors, including the town's mayor. It therefore shouldn't have been a surprise for Tammy to have found her father near the front of the main hall, alongside Joan. Angela had opted to ride in with her mother so was probably milling around at the back. There was one spare seat next to Richard.

"Hi Dad."

"You can sit here after your reading."

"You knew about it?"

"It was on the draft order of service."

"And you didn't say anything?"

"It was a draft, anything could have changed in the meantime. I didn't want to get your hopes up."

"Thanks, not."

Thankfully the Head was now ready, but ushered Tammy to her seat for now. Rev Franklin, the Anglican Chaplin, now opened the service and they plunged straight into the first hymn, Abide With Me. The Reverend uttered a prayer before everyone settled.

The Head walked onto the stage and welcomed the guests, although Tammy hadn't seen any real guests as yet, and made a speech about England's Patron Saint. Then he asked Tammy to join him on the stage.

Tammy looked at the reading, her first sight, and fully expected it to be a standard biblical text. It wasn't, it was from Gandhi.

All faiths are a gift of God, but partake of human imperfection, as they pass through the medium of humanity. God-given religion is beyond all speech. Imperfect men put it into such language as they can command, and their words are interpreted by other men equally imperfect. Whose interpretation must be held to be the right one ?
 
Every one is right from his own standpoint, but it is not impossible that every one is wrong. Hence the necessity for tolerance, which does not mean indifference towards one’s own faith, but a more intelligent and purer love for it. Tolerance gives us spiritual insight, which is as far from fanaticism as the north pole is from the south. True knowledge of religion breaks down the barriers between faith and faith and gives rise to tolerance. Cultivation of tolerance for other faiths will impart to us a truer understanding of our own.

Tammy was not familiar with the text but read it strongly, emphasising the last phrase. The hall had fallen silent as she started to speak and remained so when Tammy walked off the stage, her heels clicking as she went. The Reverend called for the second hymn, Jerusalem.

At the end of the service Tammy tried to connect any part of it to St George, deciding in the end there wasn't a direct connection. It was clear, however, that the Head had chosen her text, but had everyone listened? The Head himself had disappeared immediately after the service.

"Are you coming home?"

"No Dad, Tanya's going in for her interview shortly and I want to speak to John before he's called in too."

"Is that likely?"

"Very, but he doesn't realise it yet."

"I see, where are you lunching?"

"Hmmm, no idea."

"See you at home then."

Richard walked away, Joan already having gone to her office. The hall was emptying quickly.

"I need a coffee."

"Okay Tanya, but you only have twenty five minutes."

"I need a wee too."

Tammy decided she would take the opportunity to check her face so waited for Tanya by the vanity.

"Have I been stupid?"

"Do you want the truth?"

"Yes."

"You're frightened, scare of the unknown."

"I don't know."

"What's your mum said?"

"She just told me to do what's right, but I don't know what's right?"

"Look, do the interview and do your best. You don't have to accept the job if they offer it to you."

"I don't?"

"No, Tanya, you could also not be the only candidate interviewed today."

"Oh, I hadn't thought that, have you seen anyone else?"

"No, but they wouldn't turn up before ten as you're probably the first interview."

"Okay, but I really need that coffee."

Several six formers were in the common room but Tanya wasn't paid a great deal of attention until John walked in.

The shared opinion was "get a room!" Tammy suggested that they fully repaired their relationship later, otherwise Tanya would need to do a major repair job on her make-up.

At five to ten Tammy walked Tanya to the Head's study, just walking in the main entrance was a girl with, Tammy presumed, her mother. Tanya didn't say anything but plainly recognised the young lady. Tammy knocked on the door to the Head's study.

"Do your best," whispered Tammy.

The door opened and Tanya was ushered inside before Tammy could identify who was in the room. The recently arrived girl was being spoken to by Janet Adams, the school secretary. Janet called Tammy over.

"Miss Smart, this is Helen Salmond and her mother, Miss Salmond is here for the job interview. Could you look after them for me?"

"Of course Mrs Adams."

There was no way Tammy was going to take them to the common room so they walked to the refectory which had now been cleaned, following breakfast.

"Would you like tea or coffee?" Tammy addressed the girl.

"Hot chocolate please."

"I'm afraid there's no hot chocolate, tea or coffee?"

"Tea, then." She looked disappointed. Tammy now looked at the mother.

"Tea, please, but I'm disappointed that my daughter couldn't have what she wanted. What's the name of your manager?"

"Madam, I am a sixth former, Head Girl and a school ambassador, I am not an employee."

"I see, would my daughter be looking after you when she gets the job?"

"Hardly, I finish here next month." Tammy was stood at a water 'otter pouring steaming water onto tea bags in two cups.

"How rude."

Tammy wondered what Tanya would have said about this girl, if she'd had the chance. She ignored the mother's comment.

"Excuse me, can you show me where the toilet is?"

"Certainly, come with me."

Tammy hoped the mother would stay where she was sat as they left the refectory.

"I'm sorry about my mother."

"Oh."

"She does this every time, there will be a complaint as that's her style."

"I see."

Tammy wasn't sure if she was being tested. "It's that door, I'll wait outside."

"Thank you."

Helen returned a few minutes later and Tammy escorted her back to her mother. Janet had come out of her office and spotted where Tammy was going.

"Someone will collect you when the Headmaster is ready."

"Thank you."

The mother had an opinion on this. "Our time is ten thirty, we will see him at ten thirty."

Tammy simply walked away, wondering who the actual applicant was, she almost walked straight into Tanya. Tammy waited while Tanya Smith thanked the Head, who next spoke to Tammy.

"Have you seen Miss Salmond?"

"Yes, Sir, and her mother. They're just inside the refectory."

"Thank you, I suggest you take Miss Smith away, and perhaps you could change your shoes?"

Tammy looked down, she was still in her heels.

"Of course, Sir."

Tanya giggled, "come on Tammy."

They walked to Tammy's locker where she swapped heels for ballets before continuing to the common room. There were some younger students in the corridors so they kept chat to a minimum. One or two of the younger boys were in kilts.

"They're sweet," suggested Tanya, "but I thought they all wore trousers these days?"

"The kilt is an option which some use during warmer weather."

They'd reached the common room so went inside, John was plainly waiting and looked pensive. Tanya ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. No-one spoke, the half a dozen or so boys, and three girls remained quiet.

"Well?" Asked John, eventually.

"Well, what, my love?"

"How did it go?"

"It was okay, I've been told they'll decide by lunchtime. Oh, Helen Salmond was here with her awful mother."

"I don't know her, you haven't mentioned the girl before."

"I must have done, anyway where did they go Tammy?"

"I put them in the refectory, I think the mother's putting a complaint in about me."

Tanya laughed, "that's pretty normal. Nobody will have anything to do with Helen because of her mother, but I guess the girl is okay."

"I take it she was at your school?"

"Yes, the latest is that her mother asked that Helen sit her exams in a different room as she'll apparently be intimidated if she's with everyone else."

"That's impractical!"

"That's what the Headmistress said, so the mother threatened to take the school to court for breach of her human rights!"

"I hope the Headmistress dealt with that appropriately?"

"Yes, she supplied the name of the school's solicitor and told the mother she could no longer phone the school, any communication had to be in writing."

"That's sensible."

"The Headmistress can be a bit of a dragon at times but nothing like Mrs Salmond."

Tammy giggled, Tanya clearly hadn't realised what she'd said.

"Oh, John dear, the Head wants to see you after the last candidate, that'll be at eleven thirty."

Tammy calculated there was one more candidate in the meantime, she was stood next to the phone when it rang.

"Common room."

"Tammy?"

"Yes."

"It's Janet. Can you send Lori down?"

"Sure, how are the Salmonds doing?"

"The mother just dragged the poor girl out of here screaming about doctrine."

"Figures, I'll pass the message on."

"Thanks."

"One question though, why was the mother in there with the girl?"

"Apparently she's not eighteen until tomorrow."

Tammy put the phone down. "Lori?"

"Yes, Tammy."

"Mrs Adams wants you."

"Thanks."

"You haven't applied for the job, have you?"

"Might have, see you later."



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