Leaving for Iowa while the manhunt is still on is the hardest thing Despina has ever done. Maybe; just maybe. It’s an ambiguous situation. I wonder if Cu has lived, or not. The bullet may have only grazed him… maybe he is still alive. Where he fell off the cliff, water and rocks are not lined up with the safe spot below. Maybe he was still alive when he fell, but lies at the bottom, head smashed by rocks. I should have stayed for the funeral, at least! She hears on the news that Roger Drake has been captured and is facing murder charges in the wrongful death of Cu's first wife, and is the trigger man on Cu's presumed death, but the body is still missing.
As she gets far enough away that she may not hear if the body IS found, she switches to worrying about the future where she's heading. Paul Peter has left, been gone for three days, in fact. She's also leery about the tales he'll tell around school. She wants to pull over... She wants to stop and at least wash the silt out from behind her eyeballs, but she has to press on.
Finally, the long slog is over. She pulls up in the faculty parking lot before she even goes home, as she has cut it too close. Slipping into the girl's locker room with a tube of borrowed shampoo, she quickly showers and dons the last of her clean clothes.
Thank heavens dress is casual on the first two workshop days.
Moping into the office, Despina empties out the summer detritus from her faculty mailbox without bumping into anyone to cast a condemning eye at her outfit. As she enters the narrow, dark hallway and climbs up the stairs to her classroom, a wave of claustrophobia sweeps over her. Tears well up in her eyes. I never thought I'd come to miss the dry desert heat and sweeping vistas in lieu of four solid walls, but I have to face it – this humid heat is horrid. Not even 8 a.m. and I've worked up a sweat when I'm in the best physical shape of my life. I hate to admit it, but my mood is as drably brown as these walls.
Stepping onto the first stair, she bangs the papers in her hand against the wall. "I miss the children, whose faces are now so alive, instead of stoic."
Taking another step, she bangs the wall again. "I miss Mickey's curious mix of willfulness and charm, caring and gruffness."
Next step, another bang. "I miss my homely hovel."
The landing looms. Bang! "I even miss the blooming BUGS!"
As she steps onto the landing, she meets Leon Deierling coming down. With a cheery, fatherly smile, the gray-haired gentleman delivers his pat "Welcome back to the school year" speech that has greeted her each of her five previous summers: And how was Despina's summer?
Pasting what she hopes is a convincingly cheery smile on her face, she says, "If I may borrow a line from Laugh-in's Henry Gibson, he of the fake German accent, 'VEEEEERRRRRRRRYY innnnteresssstttink!"
The patter of running feet hit the stairs behind her, interrupting her conversational gambit. Turning her head, she sees Alberto and Sarita, racing flat out. Pulling his hand out of Sarita's, Alberto launches himself at her knees, shouting, "Momee, tengo miedo!"
"Ay, Alberto, I'm afraid, too, Honey."
Getting her body cranked around just in time, she squats down, one arm around Alberto, the other full of Sarita. Resting her chin on the top of Alberto's head, she sees at the end of the passageway to the parking lot a familiar imposing silhouette standing.
"That was fast," she murmurs too softly to be heard. Cocking an eyebrow at Sarita, she receives an unbelievable explanation.
"The tribe said 'yes' but the vote drew much dissension; the feeling is that YOU belong THERE, not we children here."
What other seven-year-old even can pronounce dissension, much less use it correctly in a sentence. I'm not even sure all her TEACHERS will be able to. What have I done?
(Maybe the silhouette is Cu, maybe the sheriff. Start Sequel with the solution, but leave this one like "The Lady or the Tiger". )
El Fin, Por Fin
Last updated 1/9/16 Standardized top links; added two missing second spaces after end punctuation; 6/26/15 Chapter title changed to Final Jeopardy ∼ Summer's End years ago, but not updated here. 11/27/04
Word Count: 717
Reading Level: 6.3