Previously: Retired teacher Lucinda remembers her favorite student Vernon. Reality interrupts when another boarder Nancy scolds her for talking to her daughter Shirley. She remembers letting it slip to Vernon that she didn’t like Nancy. Vernon decides to marry Nancy.
“Miz Cambridge?” Bertha called out. “This is Miz Godwin.”
“Come in.” She spoke softly and with difficulty.
Bertha cracked the door just enough for her to slip into the room, glancing back into the hall to make sure no one saw her. She padded over to Lucinda. “I jest wanted you to know I’ve made up my mind about calling the fire marshal and thought you ought to know that you might have to look for other lodgings if they shut Emma down.”
“It makes no difference.” She was lifeless, almost not hearing what Emma Lawrence’s sister was saying.
“I know you only moved in here because it was cheap,” Bertha continued with self-deprecation. “I hope this won’t put a crimp in your pocketbook.”
“Don’t worry.” Lucinda forced a smile. “I have plenty of money. Finding another place to live won’t be difficult.”
“But I thought—“
“I had other reasons for living here,” she interrupted Bertha, “but that makes no difference now.”
“Well, that’s good. Here I go. Wish me luck.”
“Good luck, Mrs. Godwin.” Lucinda wished the woman would leave the room, do what she had to do and leave her alone.
Bertha was almost to the door when she turned back to look with pleading eyes at the teacher. “The only phone is in the kitchen, where Emma can keep an eye on it. She’s in the laundry room in the basement right now starting a load of clothes. Could you come with me and stand at the top of the stairs to let me know when she’s coming up. If she catches me on the phone with the fire marshal she’ll kick me out of the house for sure.”
Actually Lucinda wanted to lie down for a nap but she could not resist Bertha’s soulful plea. They went down the stairs. Bertha went to the phone, and Lucinda took her place at the top of the basement stairs.
“I’m so nervous I can’t remember the number.” Bertha reached for the phone book on the kitchen counter and fumbled with it as she flipped through the pages.
Lucinda would rather be anyplace but standing guard on the lookout for Emma Lawrence. And then she wasn’t there but back in her class room as Vernon, dressed in blue jeans and a freshly pressed short sleeve shirt, came through the door.
“Vernon. What are you doing here?”
Vernon looked down at his feet. “I know it’s been a long time, since last Christmas.”
“Oh, you mean it’s that spring already?” she muttered to herself.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been by your class room this semester.”
“Vernon, I’m very tired. I really don’t have the energy to listen to this. Would you please leave and come back later?”
“I know you have a lot of papers to grade, Mrs. Cambridge, but I’ve got to talk to you.”
“So that’s how I began, by asking him to leave,” she told herself. Lucinda looked at him, plastering her best sympathetic smile on her lips. “Very well, what is it?”
“I guess you heard about Nancy and me.”
“We were all decided to get married after the spring semester started,” he began slowly. “I found me a pretty good job to support us. I could only take nine hours so I didn’t take your course.”
“You don’t have to explain, Vernon.”
“Nancy said she wanted to go out of town to visit her grandparents one last time as their little girl. That sounded kinda sweet to me so I didn’t think nothing—“ he paused to look at Lucinda. “Ain’t — aren’t you going to correct me anymore?”
“You’re able to correct yourself.”
Before Vernon could continue, Lucinda became aware of Bertha’s screeching voice on the telephone.
“Hello? Court house? Can I talk to the fire marshal? You’ll connect me? Thank you.”
“I guess you’re right.” He breathed in deeply trying to compose himself. “Anyway, the day after the last day to add or drop any classes Nancy came back to town.” He pursed his lips. “It seems it was some dark-haired guy and not me that had got her pregnant and when she told him about it, he married her right on the spot.” He smiled in sadness. “So I guess the joke was on me.”
“He ain’t there? Is there somebody else I can talk to?” Bertha drew Lucinda’s attention back to the present but only for a moment.
“You can make up those courses this summer and still enter the university on schedule next fall.” She tried to be comforting.
“No, I can’t.”
“Why not? Surely money can’t be a problem now—“
“I’ve been drafted,” he interrupted her.