A LOYAL COMPANION
“Don’t forget, reports are due tomorrow, conferences next week, no late turn-ins, no exceptions!” Gail reminded her students as they left her room. Another day had come to an end. Twenty minutes after the bell rang; she was in her car heading home. Tomorrow she would speak to Green and Young. It was time for them to listen. Driving, she thought back to the beginning.
The first year Young had been the department head; she came to Gail one afternoon, saying she needed her grades the next day. Gail didn’t understand, why and Young never explained. But every year it became harder and harder to work with Young. She was always demanding more from Gail, and while Gail never got any support from Green, who didn’t seem to have a problem with his best teacher being disrespected and abused. He never said or did a thing; he stood there and watched and allowed for the abuse to happen. It was later that Gail discovered why.
When the position of department head opened Gail thought she would be the one to get it. Not Young who had been teaching for only two years.
Before she knew it, she was pulling into her driveway. Home at last.
The cat looked up at Gail with what appeared to be a smile. Gail was home and glad to see her.
“Are you hungry?” Gail asked, waiting for Cleo to answer. “Give me ten minutes to change out of my work clothes, and I’ll come and cook us dinner.”
The cat raised her paw in agreement. Gail went up to her bedroom and was back down in no time.
The cat was waiting for her, sitting patiently by the stairs.
“Now what should we have for dinner?” Gail asked as she came down the stairs, “Chicken?”
Cleo shook her head no.
“Turkey?” Gail asked.
Cleo licked her lips. That was better, much better.
“Steak it is, with…with…potatoes. Now, what kind of steak, cube or sirloin?” Gail held them out, one in each hand.
Cleo sat there, looked at them both and with her paw chose sirloin.
“Sirloin it is.” Gail patted the cat’s head and started dinner.
Cleo had come to her one day five years ago. After a long day, Gail had come home, ate dinner and corrected papers. After a few drinks and wondering why she had just been denied the promotion to head of the history department, she heard a noise in the backyard. It was a large shadow until she turned on the backlight, which revealed Cleo. She was hurt and looked ill.
After a small hesitation Gail opened the door, but it took an hour to coax Cleo into the house. Once in, Gail looked Cleo over. She was beautiful. Gail had never seen a tiger cub so beautiful or so close. Everything about her was special – her tawny fur, her mesmerizing eyes, her sleek body. It took a month for her to heal.
Gail enjoyed having Cleo around but wasn’t sure if she should keep her. She wasn’t anyone’s pet because there were no signs of her missing. And she didn’t escape from the zoo; none of them were looking for her either. She wasn’t sure how Cleo got into her yard. So one day before work she left Cleo in the backyard.
“It was nice having you here but I think it’s time for you to go home,” she said.
Cleo had found her way into Gail’s backyard, and Gail figured Cleo would leave the same way. When she returned from work, however, Cleo was still there waiting. They had been together ever since.
Gail set the table. A plate and glass for her and a plate and bowl for Cleo. She turned to Cleo, who was sitting by the kitchen door. “Do you want milk?”
Cleo shook her head yes.
“Tomorrow I get to have my talk with Green and Young,” she told Cleo as she served dinner.
Cleo pulled out her chair and sat down. She waited for Gail to start before she began eating.
“I know it hasn’t been easy staying in the house a lot and not having a lot of room for exercise. But I’m working on it I found a beautiful house in the country with a spacious backyard,” Gail said. “No neighbors nearby so no one would see you and ask questions.”
Cleo nodded her head. Gail could tell Cleo liked the sound of that.
“I’m waiting to hear back from the realtor. If we get the house we could move as soon as school’s over,” Gail said.
That night they went to sleep with a brighter future in mind.
Friday was finally here. Gail had been working hard to finish her grading.
“Thank you very much,” she said to her class. “Now if you could all do the following assignment. Read chapter five and answer the questions. Do it now or for homework. Your choice, but look busy. You know what to do.”
When Young arrived five years ago and began demanding Gail’s grades be in early, Gail had to rearrange her curriculum. To her amazement her students were very understanding. Gail’s students made her situation bearable, just a little. Many of her students even volunteered to help her in any way they could.
It did break Gail’s heart when she told her students last week that she was leaving. She knew they were understanding but never expected to have all her students crying. It warmed her heart but unfortunately her situation was not something that could be fixed without leaving.
For five long years, Gail had been holding her feelings in. And every year she noticed they got more demanding. She saw no need why her grades had to be in a week before everyone else’s. That made her sound incompetent and she wasn’t. For five years, Green and Young seem to want to destroy her career. And she couldn’t figure out why.
She’d dealt with their abuse long enough.
Gail left that morning telling Cleo she would be home late. She still had her grading to finish; she would give her notice and would stop off at the supermarket to pick up dinner.
Gail didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were treating her. She knew she deserved better. It was 7 pm when she finished her grading. The meeting was just ending when Gail walked in to the conference room.
She saw how the focus of the department heads shifted to her when she walked in. They remained quiet and still. They had seen the abuse that was happening and had even questioned Gail on why she was still putting up with it. Why did she allow them to treat her that way? But her answer was always the same; “I’m here for my students not for Green and Young.”
“For five years, I’ve kept my mouth shut. About your rude comments and abusive behavior,” Gail said. “That position should have been mine, but I guess being a teacher here for fifteen years now wasn’t good enough.”
“What are you doing?” Green asked.
“Something I should have done a long time ago,” Gail said. “The last day of school will be my last day of employment. I quit. I will be happy to leave you looking for someone who would put up with your bullshit. I will also be speaking with the Board of Education. I think they need to be informed about how you’ve been running things.” She laughed at herself, “Did I say speaking? I meant I spoke to.”
Green’s expression was priceless. She saw the color drain from his face. She was now looking at a paleface man. Gail knew the board would be questioning how and why Young got the position, not Gail. Why were they demanding her grades earlier than everyone else? What would he tell them? “All I know is that Young looks good naked and is great in bed,” she thought to herself. That would be an interesting answer but there is no way they’ll accept it. She smiled as the thought of how jittery and nerve wrecking he would be trying to answer their questions.
“So here are my grades. You have a nice night, and if you two thought that no one knew about your affair, you were wrong because everyone knew.”
Green and Young’s expression said it all. For the first time in five years she felt great. A huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. Gail no longer would be the butt of their jokes or at the end of their constant abuse.
Gail noticed the others smiled as she left the room.
Gail left the building and headed to her car. Going home, she felt free for the first time in five years. She couldn’t wait to get home and tell Cleo.
Gail was so excited she could barely contain herself. Besides giving her notice, during lunch she heard from the realtor. The day had turned out to be better then what she had first hoped.
She stopped off at the supermarket to pick up dinner. She never anticipated running into her students’ parents, let alone the support to quit a job that didn’t appreciate her. It warmed her heart to see that even her students’ parents knew about the abuse and agreed that she deserved better.
“Cleo, I’m home and I’ve got great news,” Gail said.
Cleo jumped off the sofa and made her way to the kitchen with a smile on her face.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked.
Cleo shook her head yes.
“At the end of next month we’ll be out of here,” she said happily. “I heard from the realtor today, we got the house.”
Cleo walked closer to Gail and rubbed her head on Gail’s leg.
“And to celebrate, I thought of hamburgers.”
Gail made hamburgers and French fries and Cleo set the table.
She told Cleo about her day, the talk with Green and Young and the students’ parents she bumped into at the store.
“How about we take a little trip this weekend?” she asked Cleo as she put dinner on the table.
Cleo looked over to Gail.
“I thought it would be great for you to see the house and run around the backyard.”
Cleo shook her head yes.
They ate dinner and talked about their bright future.
The next morning Gail woke up early. She had everything planned. She would pack a nice lunch and the two of them would have a picnic in their new backyard.
She jumped out of bed and went into Cleo’s room.
Cleo yawned and stretched.
Gail kneeled beside her, stroking her gently. “After breakfast we’ll head down to the new house and have a picnic in the backyard.”
Gail left to make breakfast. They ate happily, neither of them knowing what was about to occur. After breakfast Gail began to pack their lunch. She was ready to go when there was a knock at her front door.
“Sorry to bother you so early ma’am,” one of the officers said. “I’m Detective Wilson and this is Detective Andrews. We need to ask you a couple of questions.”
“What’s this about?” she asked.
The officers looked at each other. “Well there’s been an accident at the school.”
“Are you going somewhere?” Detective Andrews asked.
There was just something about his tone Gail didn’t like.
“As a matter of fact I was, so can we possibly do this later.”
“There’s been a murder,” Detective Wilson replied. “So I’m sorry but no we can’t do this later.”
“I see. Please come in.”
She led them into the living room. “If you’ll excuse me I need to make a quick phone call.”
“To whom?” Andrews demanded.
“It’s fine, go ahead,” Wilson said.
She went into the kitchen and alerted Cleo to the situation.
A few minutes later, she returned to the living room.
“Can you tell us what you did after school ended yesterday?”
“Yeah, I stayed in school. I was correcting papers and making my grades.”
“When did you finish?”
“About 7 pm,” Gail answered.
“What time was it?”
“I’d say, about 7:30 pm.”
“Did anyone see you leave?” Andrews asked.
Whenever Andrews opened his mouth it annoyed Gail. Whenever he looked at her, she just wanted to slap him. She didn’t like him or his tone.
“I’m not sure but I did stop by the store on the way home.”
“Time?” Andrews demanded.
“Um…I don’t know…Oh, just a second,” She got up and got her purse. She searched her purse until she found the receipt. “Here we are, um…7:50 pm,” she said handing the receipt to Detective Wilson.
“Thank you,” Wilson said.
“What was your relationship like with Green and Young?”
“Abusive,” Gail said.
“Do you know…”
“Wait a minute, were they the ones murdered?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Wilson answered. “Do you know anyone who might have wanted them dead?”
“I don’t know... jealous wife, angry husband. They were having an affair.”
“Ma’am until further notice you’re not allowed to leave town,” Andrews said.
Gail noticed that Detective Andrews questions were more forceful. It was a classic case of good cop; bad cop routine to see how she would react under the pressure of their questions.
“Fine. I do have to start packing anyway,” she said. “I’m moving at the end of next month.”
“When?” Andrews demanded.
“Last day of school is Friday the 28th, I’m leaving early Saturday.”
“We should be done with our investigation by then,” Wilson said.
After a few more questions the detectives left. Gail went upstairs to see Cleo.
“I’m sorry but there’s been an accident,” she said. “Green and Young were murdered last night. The police don’t want me to leave town. We’re going to have to push back our trip.”
Cleo looked at Gail with understanding eyes.
“I’ve got to go shopping. I should be back in an hour,” she said. “I’ll make us dinner and we can start packing.”
Cleo pushed her head next to Gail.
Gail gave her a hug, “I’m sorry, I really wanted you to see the house.”
After giving Cleo lunch, Gail left to do some shopping. She’d pick up the usual packing supplies. Boxes, tape, bubble wrap. She didn’t think about Green or Young. In her mind they each got what they deserved. She didn’t care who did it, she was happy they were gone.
Although they were dead working at the school would probably be better, however; she wasn’t going to stay. Whoever would take over Green’s place would have to clean up the mess he left. They might even suggest Gail become head of the history department. It would be a great offer but what she had planned was an even better one. A life without Green or Young and a peaceful one with Cleo.
The last month of school fell by. Her students threw her a party and thanked her for staying and being such a wonderful teacher. The rest of the faculty said their good-byes and wished her the best.
Not much had been said about Green and Young’s deaths.
“Cleo, breakfast!” Gail called. “Well, good morning. Do you like our new home?”
Cleo shook her head yes.
“Good. Come in and have breakfast.”
Gail sat down to eat her breakfast. She began reading the newspaper.
“Alan Green, principle and Joanna Young head of the history department were found dead last month by a weekend janitor. According to the police, the bodies were mutilated. With no suspects, no evidence or leads to go on the police have closed the case and labeled it a rare animal attack.”
She looked down at Cleo, “you truly are a loyal companion, aren’t you?”
Cleo looked up with what appeared to be a smile.
Reyes grew up in the Bronx, NY. She has an AAS degree in Computerized Office Technology and a BBA degree in Business Management. She has had stories published in Sirens Call Publications Ezine issues Feb. & Oct. ’13 and in Romance Magazine Aug. ’14. Reyes now lives in Georgia with her boyfriend and their daughter.
Copyright © 2014 Reyes Stone. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!
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