It was just three weeks into term, and Kathie Ferrars was already exhausted. She dropped her pile of marking onto an armchair in the deserted staffroom and went to pour herself a cup of coffee. Returning to her chair she moved the books to the floor, picked up the one on the top of the pile, scrabbled around for a pen and then....oh, she knew she ought to spend her free period getting through her marking, and that later she’d regret not having done it now, but simply, right at this moment there was no way on this earth that she could bring herself to look at Lower IVb’s unique and innovative interpretation of cloud formations.
She was exhausted. And it was only Tuesday. There was still the greatest part of the week to come! She sighed in despair.
From the moment she’d arrived in Switzerland there had been so much going on that she’d barely had time to catch her breath. New people to meet, new places to get lost in, new timetables to abide by. The girls, on the whole, seemed lovely. As did the staff. But there was just so much to learn and most of the time, her head was spinning as she tried to keep on top of it all. And on French and German days it was ten times worse. She was pretty decent in both languages but teaching in a foreign tongue took so much out of her.
She dropped the exercise book back on the pile, and gazed out of the window at the stunning view across the Platz. Huge and threatening cumulonimbus clouds were building up over the valley below. It was a shame Lower IVb weren’t there to see it, Kathie thought; then they’d understand what it was theywere meant to have drawn for prep. She chuckled. Tired as she was, it really was hard to switch off thinking like a teacher.
She was glad that she’d taken the plunge and signed up to teach. But so much of it was so challenging, and it felt like she’d been on duty and on her best behaviour for the last month without a break. Her jaw ached faintly, and she knew it was because she’d been clenching her teeth with stress.
She thought about how the other mistresses all laughed and joked so easily amongst each other, and she wondered if she’d ever be as comfortable in this place as they were. She felt like she was too tightly wound up to ever be able to relax.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear the commotion as Nancy Wilmot entered the staffroom, dropped some textbooks on a table, poured herself some coffee, rummaged in the biscuit tin, and made her way over to the armchairs near the window.
"Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. Mind if I join you?"
"No, no, of course not." Kathie answered, a little shyly.
"Best seats in the house, these." Nancy smiled as she gazed out of the window at the dramatic landscape before her. "Or at least, best view in the room," she continued wryly, finding the armchair into which she was trying to settle was not quite as comfortable as it looked. Kathie chuckled along with her. Then Nancy caught sight of the pile of books on the floor. "Oh – unless you’re working..."
"No. Er, yes, er, I thought I might, um..." Kathie was suddenly conscious that she was talking to one of her heads of department. "I mean..."
Catching her discomfort, and guessing at the cause, Nancy intervened. "Relax! I’m not here to check up on you. You’re entitled to a break." Taking in her colleague’s pale and tense face, she said gently, "You look pretty done in, you know."
Kathie nodded. Despite her best efforts, she felt herself blinking back tears. Don’t cry, she warned herself, not here. Not now. Just because someone’s being nice to you, that’s not a cue to cry. Keep some dignity, at least.
"Look, how about I just sit here and keep you company. You can work, or stare out of the window, or whatever. I’ll be quiet, I promise." Nancy indicated the newspaper she’d balanced on the arm of the chair. "Plenty to keep me occupied. And if you want to chat, then do, but don’t feel under any pressure at all."
Grateful for her colleague’s tact and concern, Kathie managed to nod, and almost smile, and the two women settled into a companionable silence.