Short story: School Trip, by Mary Hynes-Landino

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‘Rough night Jan?’ I whispered at my colleague as she stumbled into breakfast with Ralph who looked as though he’d also missed a night’s sleep.

‘You don’t want to know Sal. Talk to you later,’ she mouthed putting a finger to her lips as Tom joined us.

It had been five years since my last trip to Paris when studying French. Now I was back. Only this time it was as one of four teachers in charge of students on an educational visit.

Three of us were single and led by 35-year-old Tom who could only be described as a ‘casual’ unhappily married department head.’

When you’re in charge of 15 and 16-year-olds away from home the first thing you watch out for is juveniles’ romantic ideas. The boys therefore had their rooms on one floor and the girls on another. Jan and I had our rooms at either end of the girls’ section and Tom and Ralph’s sleeping arrangements were the same for the boys.

So we could be sure there wouldn’t be any hanky panky on students’ part it was agreed Jan and Ralph would do the first night watch for any problems then Tom and I take the second night and so on for alternate nights.

For two days and nights everything went to plan and we were all relaxed about the trip. It was about 11pm. The students were presumably tucked up, when Jan and Ralph left us in reception for a night’s sleep. Tom and I were going to have a final drink and follow on to our own beds once we’d done our dorm checks.

By 11.15 pm, I’d got to my own bedroom and was undressing when I heard two voices – one being distinctly male – from Jan’s side of the room. It sounded like Jan was entertaining someone. The noises continued then everything went quiet. It must have been in the early hours I heard a door open and close. Being the nosy sort I slipped out of bed and silently opened my own door only to see Ralph sneaking down the corridor.

So I thought, ‘Neither’s married what’s the problem?’

Our next day’s trip around Paris went without incident and that night it was our turn to be off duty.

As we left Jan and Ralph, Tom said: ‘Sal, fancy a nightcap. I’ve got some wine in my bedroom?’

‘OK’ I replied without thinking.

‘Help yourself while I freshen up,’ said Tom heading for the bathroom.

I poured two glasses and waited for him to return. The room was hot so without thinking I removed my jacket, unbuttoned the top of my blouse and sat on the edge of Tom’s bed.

The aftershave preceded Tom even before he came out of the bathroom but I was aware how he took me in as he reached for his glass.

‘How’s the baby?’ I asked as I tried to sound casual.

‘Oh fine, thanks. It’s about four weeks now,’ he replied.

It’s – that’s an odd way to describe your baby I thought.

Whatever it’s about Paris the city’s always been known as a place for lovers and as Tom sat alongside me on the bed I recalled the last time I’d been a visitor and the fellow student who had made love to me.

By the time we were halfway through the second bottle nothing seemed to matter. I was enjoying Tom’s attention even though I was planning to marry John, an architect, back in England.

‘Sal let’s,’ whispered Tom in my ear as he gently kissed me.

I couldn’t help myself as I relented and gave him all the encouragement he needed.

Breakfast the next morning had Jan giving me the odd look and sly wink as she mouthed, ‘Anything you want to tell me about last night?’

Two nights later Tom and I were in his bedroom again.

As we lay in each other’s arms he whispered: ‘Sal would you consider becoming an item with me?’

‘Sorry Tom. You know that’s impossible. I’m due to marry, you’ve got a wife and baby and there’s no way we could continue to work together in the school. It’s a no brainer.’

‘I love you Sal.’

I could see where this was going and one thing to go would be my job.

In my best soothing voice I attempted to mollify him. ‘Tom dear you’re the loveliest person but let’s leave this moment in Paris. You know it couldn’t work.’

‘We could move away.’

He was smitten and behaving like all men when they can’t get their way.

It was after breakfast the next morning when reality kicked in and I knew he was nothing short of selfish and irresponsible.

Sure enough back at school Tom’s attitude towards me changed dramatically and it was noticed by everyone else in the department. Then lady luck intervened. My boyfriend received promotion and was transferred to London and wanted me to come with him to start a new life.

I took the gamble, applied for a post in north London and was lucky enough to be taken on.

It’s always sad to leave some colleagues but three months down the line, Jan emailed to say Tom had walked out on his wife and child, thrown in his job and was last heard of somewhere in Paris – apparently he never got over me: but that’s his problem not mine, or am I being selfish as well as unsympathetic?