“I – am – knackered!” Linda flung herself into her chair and gave a huge sigh. “Ab-so-lut-e-ly shagged.”
Meg said nothing, just continued typing. If anyone should be knackered it was her. She’d spent all day inputting the new student files. All Linda had done was usher the interview applicants to the interview room.
“I swear,” Linda went on, wriggling her feet out of her narrow stilettos, “the state of some of the lads. Like I know an Art teacher is supposed to look arty but God,” she gave a shudder, “one fella had the most awful BO. I don’t think he ever had a bath in his life. And like,” she leaned toward Meg, “did Aidan actually ask for ‘ugly’ in his advertisement? Some of the guys could have got lead roles in Star Trek.”
“Yeah well . . .”
“Anyway, only one more left. But he’s not due until four thirty. I think I’ll have a cuppa. Make us some there, will you, Meg?”
“I’m sort of busy, Linda.”
“My arse you are. Typing, huh, bloody doddle compared to what I was doing.”
“Yeah well . . .”
“Two sugars, hold the milk.”
What was the point? Meg got up and flicked on the kettle. She might as well get herself a cup too. It looked like she’d be there until six, which was probably just as well because it’d delay the start of her night out with her flatmate, Ciara. A wild night, is what Ciara had said. Meg wasn’t into wild nights. Well, not the wild nights Ciara liked anyhow.
Linda had launched into a diatribe on her husband. Holding her nails up to the light she said, “He fell off the wagon again this weekend – well,” she made a face, “‘fell’ probably isn’t the word. Leapt off in bloody glee, more like. Made a holy show of himself singing up and down the street and Clive and me looking out the window at him. Poor Clive was mortified. I was . . .”
Someone knocked on the door.
“Jaysus, who the hell is that?”
“Probably the guy for the interview,” Meg said mildly. She handed Linda her tea.
“Come in,” Linda snarled at the door. “What’s he doing arriving early?” she hissed as Meg scurried back to her desk.
“Eh, sorry,” a fella poked his head in the door, “I’m looking for the interview room. I’m here for the Art teacher job.”
There was something very familiar about that voice. Meg glanced quickly up. The guy had come further into the room, but the sun was shining across his face and she couldn’t see him properly.
Linda looked happy though. She gave the guy a big smile and Meg saw her hastily shove her feet back into her shoes. “The Art teacher job,” she said, “Well of course, now you just hang on a sec and let me locate the file.”
His accent wasn’t all Dublin. Meg tried to place it. It almost sounded Wexford . . .
“And you are?” Linda bent over the desk, showing plenty of straining buttocks as she looked for the interview list.
“Jack,” the guy said, “Jack Daly.”
“Oh, I like the name Jack, very manly.”
Jack Daly? Naw, it couldn’t be. But suddenly Meg’s heart began to thump. Big heavy thumps. Her fingers slipped on the keyboard. It couldn’t be . . .
“Nice school you have here,” Jack said. “Bit of a maze though.”
“Isn’t it?” Linda giggled.
It was him. He’d moved towards Linda’s desk and Meg could see his face. The face that she’d thought about for years and then blanked from her mind. Thinking about him hurt, so she hadn’t thought about him.
“I have your application here,” Linda said. She eyed Jack up and down, “I must say you’re keen, you’re twenty minutes early.”
“Aw, well, you know what they say, the early worm catches the bird.”
He was flirting with Linda. On the day of an interview. And Linda was giggling like the eejit she was. And he wasa worm, sure he’d never even written . . .
Her mug hit the ground and coffee went everywhere.
All the new student files were drenched.
“Shit!” Jumping up, she pulled the files out of the way of the dripping coffee. They were going to be ruined.
“Here.” Her mug was shoved under her nose. “Lucky it didn’t break.”
“Thanks.” She looked up and her eyes met Jack’s.
They both recoiled at the same instant.
“Meg?” His sounded disbelieving. His eyes widened, “Meg Knott?”
Typical. Her face flamed red. “Yeah.” There was a lump in her throat.
“It’s me,” a delighted smile, “Jack. Jack Daly!”
All the times she’d fantasised about meeting him, all the things she thought she’d say and all she managed was, “Ha.”
She stood up. He stood up. He handed her the mug. She took it. “Ha,” she said again, only this time it sounded even more of a crap thing to say. She focused on her mug. On the way the handle . . . oh God, she looked awful.
Jack was shaking his head and grinning. “Jesus, Meg,” he said.
“Are you ready or what?” Linda, sounding disgruntled, spoke. “Like twenty minutes doesn’t last forever.”
“Meg’s an old friend of mine,” Jack turned to face Linda. “Jesus, we haven’t seen each other in, what, how long?”
“I dunno,” Meg managed a weak smile. She wished she’d got her hair cut instead of cancelling her appointment. “Ten years?”
“Must be.” Another grin.
And she thought of the last time she had seen him. And the way he was meant to write to her and he hadn’t. The hurt flared up raw again. She gulped and made a big deal of putting the mug on her desk.
“It’s half four now,” Linda said. “You coming or wha’?”
“Eh, yeah.” Jack seemed reluctant to leave. “Eh, Meg, how about a drink after?”
A drink? What would they say to each other? She could hardly ask him why he hadn’t written, could she? That’d be a real case of ‘get-a-life’.
“Well?” Jack pressed. He looked sort of anxious. Embarrassed too.
“Well, I’d really like to,” she said, “but, I’m already going somewhere.”
“Oh,” he shrugged, disappointed. He gave a little laugh. “Right.”
“Best of luck with the interview.”
“Yeah. OK.” He didn’t move.
“Come on, willya,” Linda snapped.
“How about lunch sometime? Maybe if I get the job or something?”
He’d probably forget that too. Meg shrugged. “Sure.”
“Good.” He wished she’d look at him. “Bye now.”
“Bye.” She watched as he followed Linda from the room.
She stood looking at the door for what seemed like ages. What an anti-climax that had been. For some reason whenever she’d thought about Jack, she had visions of him saying how much he’d missed her and of how sorry he was not to have written. But it hadn’t happened. Maybe to him it didn’t matter as much as it did to her.
She wondered what he was like now. Different anyhow, that was for sure. He looked more together than before. Not the wild guy she’d known. And cared about.
But her? Huh! She was the same hopeless idiot he’d always known.
Mentally she went over everything she’d done.
She’d spilt her coffee.
She’d gone red.
She’d got tongue-tied.
Yep, same hopeless basket case.