Dreaming of Possibilities.
A few days after that, Margaret found a briefcase with her name embossed upon it at the school office. Mrs. Waring gave her that, explaining that it would save her from dropping all of her papers again, and told her about a file that it contained. Margaret should bring the file back to the office after she had read it, but to keep it confidential.
It was Steve’s file, covering the last five years in the army and before that, at university. Was this Mrs. Waring's way of telling her that she would not stand in Margaret's way of learning more about him? It was an interesting thought.
“The briefcase is a gift from Steve. He asked my advice and then my permission to get it for you, and I gave it. I surprised even myself. I don’t ever approve of any close friendships like that developing in the school, but I know both you and him enough to know that I can trust you both to be discreet in everything you do together. You are both adults.” Margaret blushed, not knowing what Mrs. Waring might know, or what Steve had told her. Had she seen them, or knew about their swimming and showering together? It sounded like she almost expected things to get out of hand between them, pleading, not for her to keep away from him, but to be discreet in whatever they did together! Wow! That was being much more broad-minded than she had expected of her.
“He told me about the incident in the pool and how he’d intended to let me know that you would be with him over there, but he’d not anticipated that I would not be in my office, or how it would unfold for you both. He is a remarkable man in many ways and strives to be a gentleman.” Indeed he was, but she could not discuss that with Mrs. Waring. "But one day, one of the girls here will tempt him more than she should, so she'd better understand what the consequences will be, and I don't mean either expulsion or dismissal. Intimacy is a big step for any girl to consider."
This was a particularly adult, kind of consideration. "You are both too mature for the usual talk. If you choose to go down that path together, then it will be upon your own heads, so please remember to be discreet and not let any of the other girls know about it." She explained further.
"I am a realist, my dear. Most girls get to that stage with a man, sooner or later. Usually it happens out in society, but in this case...? Just be careful that you are not observed." Mrs. Waring said no more.
Margaret was shocked and could say nothing in response, so remained silent, but what Mrs. Waring had said, gave her a lot to think about. They knew that there was a growing and developing feeling for each other, but now Mrs. Waring also knew, and even seemed to condone it.
She read Steve’s file that evening in the privacy of her own bedroom, then laid back and thought about it. From her room on the top floor and under the roof, she looked out over the school grounds. She could see that the lights were on in the Annex, and that they were on in Steve’s rooms in the space under the roof. She had slowly learned that she could easily go over there at this time of night and swim with him again. Her window opened onto the parapet around the edge of the roof. She knew where there were metal ladders, set into the side of the building and that would, eventually, get her down to ground level after walking over the roofs and dropping one level at a time. He had told her how to get into the Annex building without a key. No one would know, except she might not come back one of those nights but would be staying over there with him. Had he got through to her that well?
Did he know where she slept? Which room was hers? Hers was the only room on that side of the school with the lights on until an hour after everyone elses’ lights were out. The older girls were allowed that extra hour. He should know which room was hers by now. He had been all through that upper level replacing electrical outlets even after dinner that very evening, and he may have seen her clothing laid out on her bed, and his letters (passed through Mrs. Waring), only four so far, under a paperweight on her bedside table, along with her diary with her name embossed on the front. Had he looked inside it? If he had, he would know too much about her feelings for him already, but that might not be a bad thing.
When he retired, did he think of her just as she was thinking of him? She was fairly sure he did. She watched all of the lights across the grounds go out, except for his, and then saw a figure moving around as he undressed and got himself ready for bed. It would be a lonely bed, just like hers. She had never felt like this before, or wondered what it would be like to have Steve holding her in his arms, making love to her, and wondering what that would be like.
She let her mind wander in other directions, all of them involving her and Steve in some way, before she could think about getting any sleep.
What would have happened between them if she had not been so shy and they had showered more openly, even naked together after their swims? It wasn’t that he would have been a problem for her, so much as that she might not have been so cautious and backward herself. Could she be in love with him already?
Slowly. They must move slowly.
They had at least a year to learn about each other in this openly difficult environment. One small step at a time. She would say nothing to her parents, but she would make an entry into the diary they gave her each year. She turned to the date when she had first walked into the school and began there, leaving eight months of blank pages for the year, which is what her life had been until she had walked into this school. None of her diaries of previous years had any personal entries in them, until now. Then she wrote a brief ‘thank you’ note to Steve, not sealing it, and placed it in his mail slot in the school office, finding a reply from him, in her own mail slot the next day. All of the senior girls; about forty of them, had their own little privileges, jealously guarded, and a mail slot was one of them. Mrs. Waring had access to them too, so they were circumspect in what they said to each other.
She returned Steve’s file to Mrs. Waring the next morning, giving it to her personally, and thanking her. She even sat with the older lady for ten minutes and discussed several things with her, none of them concerning either Steve or what had happened, and getting some minor difficulties set aside, and suggesting a better curriculum for herself with half of the usual class load of dreary stuff, but twice as much studying. Mrs. Waring would be her mentor and evaluator.
She noticed that her own bulky academic file was lying on Mrs. Waring’s desk. She began to suspect that Steve had been given that file to read about her, just as she had been given his. Mrs. Waring was smiling at her, waiting for her to say something or to ask about that, but it was too soon. Had they been that obvious to the older woman? What had she seen and what did she think she knew about them? Not only that, but why was she wanting to bring them together? That, was not normal for a principal, so protective of her girls, to do.
When Margaret saw Steve a few days after that, she thanked him for his gift. He smiled at her, seeing that she was already putting it to use, but then nothing else was said about it, or what had happened to bring them closer together.
They swam occasionally after that, sometimes after curfew, and often bumped into each other, always growing closer, though never becoming intimate. It was a further year before the next revolutionary stage between them unfolded.
They saw each other often in passing, and always managed to smile or to pass the time of day. They also managed to write more lengthily to each other at least once each week, and it was through that medium that they learned the most about each other. They were careful not to let the other girls see their growing friendship or to suspect it. A girls’ school was a hotbed of gossip, intrigue, rivalries, backbiting, and petty jealousies, and needed very little to stoke it.
Almost from that moment, Margaret also became one of a select few of the older girls who were trusted to accompany him when he had to do urgent work in the school during class hours and to guard him from mischief while he worked. She and Steve had the privacy then, with no others close to them, to be able to speak more openly with each other as he worked, and she stood guard with him.
The other girls were not sure about him. To them, he seemed shy and even aloof, but Margaret knew better. He had no time for them. Just for her.