A few years ago I began to write an anthology of short stories about the strange teachers of Matchway High School. There was an IT teacher with a hamster living in his beard, a woodwork teacher made of wood and this one, a physics teacher who fell in love with a creature from the school garden.
All the kids used to say Mrs Parker made her clothes out of old curtains. They used to say she turned her husband gay and she had Marmite under her nails. The kids were right.
Mrs Parker was six foot something, all moles and glasses. She wasn’t one of life’s great beauties, and a woman almost built for turning straight men gay. She would probably make the World’s Strongest Man look fey. Next to her, Phil Mitchell appears positively effete.
But butch Mrs Parker had a secret (well several actually, but only one notable for the purposes of this story). Mrs Parker was a woman in love.
Every evening she would stay behind after school. She would tidy her classroom, mark homework and do anything she could to while away the hours until it got dark. Then, she would button up her long red, green and black tartan coat, the garment she handmade from curtains bought at a church jumble sale, and venture outside into the school’s conservation area. The conservation area was one of school’s projects. The idea being the children would be able to spot various wildlife within their own school grounds. Krikkits, newts, fish, tadpoles and various flora and fauna would visit or grow. In the middle of a fenced off area was the pride of the biology department – the pond.
After checking around her to make sure she hadn’t been followed Mrs Parker would stand beside the pond and call out. Her deep husky voice would pierce the darkness and stillness of the pond. At first she’d hear no reply, say for the rustling of the leaves and a faint, almost distant croaking. The woman, who maybe had missed her calling in the prison service gently knelt down beside the pond. Resting her knees on a concrete slab, she took off her thick pebble glasses and called out “I am here, my darling.”
Bathed in the half-light of the moon and framed by the still melancholy murkiness of the pond she saw the fresh green-y, brown face of her lover.
His glistening skin reflected the light and he smiled up at her with his big baleful eyes.
“Hello, my darling,” croaked the toad.
Feeling her breast heave with suppressed excitement she whispered back, “Hello my beloved Arthur. How are you this evening?”
“I am well, my love. You look beautiful again today”.
Mrs Parker glowed inwardly and batted away some gnats with her hand.
On many evenings they sat beside the pond and chatted. An hour, two hours would go by in no time. They would talk and laugh and tell stories of their very different lives.
Mrs Parker wondered how two creatures with such huge differences between them could be so in love. But in love they were. Some evenings, Arthur would present to Mrs Parker a daisy chain. Intricately tied together daisies, the most beautiful and pure that Arthur could find. He would spend all day tying the end of the daisy into a knot, always careful not to break or spoil it.
The evening grew chilly and Mrs Parker could no longer wrap the curtain-coat around herself enough to keep out the cold. It was with a heavy heart she bade Arthur a reluctant farewell. Before she got up her toady love boy whispered, “my darling I must kiss you good night.”
Mrs Parker leant forward and puckered her lips. She did not kiss him in the hope that the he would become a prince. To her he already was a prince among men. Her slimy suitor leaned in and pressed his thick dark lips against hers.
Mrs Parker croaked with delight and suppressed desire. She wanted the Arthur to come home with her and take the him to bed or lay upon a lily pad and fulfill all her womanly wants. She knew that she must be strong. Fight her desires and remain chaste. In the past she had too quickly abandoned all, only to be scarred where scars never heal. But something told her Arthur was different. Not just outwardly but in his tiny heart he was different.
Their kiss lasted for what felt like hours and blooms of brightly colored fireworks burst inside Mrs Parker’s head.
Feeling his lips still against her Mrs Parker went back to her classroom, packed her home-made carpetbag and headed home.
At home she sat beside the fire, thinking of Arthur and his leathery lips and made herself a new blouse from net curtain salvaged from a charity shop bin. She could feel her simple life becoming complicated again. She enjoyed it. Too long had she spent her time with men whose moods were as changeable as the weather. Or men who had wanted to change her, wanted her to put down the curtains and cotton and buy clothes from Dorothy Perkins like everybody else. No man could ever accept her for the person she was. Except maybe Arthur.
It was the end of another long week. The children had been misbehaving and their bizarre remarks about the new blouse had annoyed Mrs Parker. Detentions had been handed out with ruthless abandon.
As the last of the kids filed out of the classroom, Mrs Parker felt a slight pang of guilt. The detentions had flowed as freely as electron particles and she knew her anger was borne of frustration. Things had not been right with Arthur for a week or so now. He was being distant and snapping at her. Although Mrs Parker had never loved a toad before, she suspected the reason why he was being so distant. Arthur, being a sensitive and loving soul wanted to make his intentions clear and was struggling to articulate himself. She decided she would do all she could to make it easier for him.
As the grey sky turned to black, Mrs Parker buttoned up her curtain-coat and wrapped her former drapery scarf around her.
Creeping out to the pond Mrs Parker called out softly. Feeling she must have missed Arthur’s quiet croak she called out again. Hearing nothing but silence Mrs she called out a third time, a note of desperation in her voice. Nothing.
She knelt down beside the pond and was about to scan the dark water when she noticed a roll of paper held down by a stone. She picked it up, the ribbon tied round it fell to the ground as she unravelled the note in her shaking hands. Her eyes moistened as she read the child-like writing.
My dearest. I apologise that I have been distant from you these past few days but I have been struggling to tell you that I can no longer continue meeting you. I love you so very deeply but we both know I am not right for you. I cannot commit to a lifetime with you and feel it is best that you never see me again.
I hope with all my being you can find it in your heart to forgive me and remember me always as your own, devoted Arthur.
Mrs Parker wept and cried out. Her tears wet her curtain-coat and soaked through to her net curtain blouse. Remembering where she was, Mrs Parker tried to compose herself. It was then that anger began to build inside her. She had let herself fall in love again. Always she was so naïve, so green around the gills that she could not see the pond for the water. All the same, she thought, all the same. The opposite sex were weak and beastly creatures. She wrapped the coat tight around her and decided to go back indoors and return home. Go back to her creative curtain recycling beside the fire where her world was safe and warm. She barely took one step forward when she noticed something laying on the grass in a dim pool of light. She thought it was the ribbon from around Arthur’s note but as she bent down to look closer she saw what it was. There in her palm lay the most beautiful and delicate daisy chain she had ever seen.