‘JAN I’m really sorry but I’m going to have to stand you up tonight as I’ve got a family problem. I’ll see you at school Monday and will explain everything.’
Dave sounded sincere but it didn’t help Jan’s mood as she was not only looking forward to going out with her new teaching colleague, who was being chased by most of the other women in the school, but his dropping out meant there was no time to organise anything else for Saturday night.
Besides what would she say in the staffroom the following Monday?
‘I wonder if that scheming minx Helen has persuaded him to take her out instead of me,’ muttered Jan to herself as her rage spilled over and she threw one of her slippers at the apartment wall.
Her eyes fell on a pile of exercise books and she resolved to catch up on homework marking. Not much of a substitute but it would at least take her mind off Dave.
Her mood wasn’t helped by the first exercise book she opened. It was that snivelling little wretch Sharon whose mother was always in the school complaining about this and that. It took less than 30 seconds reading to see she was a pupil going nowhere and marking her four out of ten was being generous to a fault.
Jan’s next book was not much better and her frustration darkened as she read Jamie’s efforts. Why she had to teach peasants like him was beyond belief and not for the first time she questioned whether teaching was truly her vocation. Five out of ten was as much as she could muster for his pathetic efforts.
Olivia’s essay was nothing short of brilliant and while it was likely one or other of her parents had helped the child to draft what was a clinking good opening paragraph, followed by some original thoughts, certainly merited ten out of ten and a commendation.
Jan was about to reach for another exercise book when her mobile bleeped.
Interesting, she thought, it’s Helen calling. If’s she’s going to gloat because she’s out with Dave instead of me she’ll get it in the neck.
‘Hi Jan, it’s me Helen. You going anything tonight?’
Jan relaxed immediately. If Helen was ringing to ask whether she was doing anything it would surely mean she wasn’t out with Dave.
‘No,’ she replied resignedly, ‘I was supposed to have been going out with Dave but he stood me up. Said he had a family problem – but you know what men are like.’
‘You can say that again. Fancy a drink?’
‘Yeah why not. I’ll meet you at the Crown. You eaten? If not we can go Dutch and share something.’
In less than 20 minutes, Jan and Helen were sitting at one of the riverside tables enjoying a bottle of wine and waiting for their food order.
Jan was sitting with her back to the door having an animated conversation with Helen about men in general when she noticed Helen’s eyes were looking distant.
‘You’re not listening to me Helen,’ moaned Jan as she noticed her companion seemed transfixed by something going on behind her.
‘You’re not going to believe this Jan but…’
Jan turned and her jaw dropped as she watched in total disbelief. Dave was coming in preceded by a very attractive blonde. The two teachers watched their colleague offer his female companion the seat facing the river and then take his own seat. The two seemed very much at ease with each other.
‘The so and so,’ snarled Jan. ‘Excuse me a mo’ I’m going to give him and her a piece of my mind.’
‘Don’t, Jan, it could be embarrassing for everyone. Besides our food’s coming any minute.’
‘A minute’s all I’ll bloody need to give him a piece of my mind and to warn her what a duplicitous so and so he is.’
Before Helen could reply she watched her friend striding over to Dave’s table.
Just as Jan drew alongside the couple she saw Dave rise, greet her and turn quickly to the blonde. She was fascinated to see Jan looking first at Dave with her mouth open, then close without speaking as she took in Dave’s blonde companion before meekly returning towards her own table with cheeks looking redder than a streetwalker’s lipstick.
‘So what did Dave say?’ asked an intrigued Helen.
‘God how embarrassing. I didn’t really believe him when he said he had a family problem – but it was true.’
‘So who’s the blonde?’
‘Sally, his twin sister. You can see the resemblance when you’re close up. Dave’s story about a family problem was true and Sally not only apologised to me for ruining our evening but has invited me and Dave to join her and Dave’s brother-in-law next week for a show in town.’
‘So, now you gonna enjoy your food before it goes cold?’ smirked Helen.
Jan stuck a fork into several French fries and between mouthfuls smiled for the first time that evening as she said philosophically, ‘You know Helen I admit I was a little hasty just then, by jumping to the wrong conclusion but worse I committed mistaken identity.
‘They’ve always said there are men in this world who don’t lie through their teeth and I’ve actually found one.’