Daniel Kearney

Daniel Kearney is a former headmaster of an independent Catholic College and teacher of Theology & Philosophy. He has had several articles published ranging from academic theology to travel writing on France. He has two Labradors, Daisy & Rosie. He grew up and was educated in Bray.

 

Andria’s Story

It’s early morning and Andria takes the first bus to school and goes straight to the library. Mrs. Greening, the librarian, smiles, warmly. Andria signs in and returns the smile. Mrs. Greening never asks why she’s here so early, but she thinks about asking. She mentions it en passant to Mr. Merryman, the head of sixth form, and he makes a note of it on a scrap of paper and puts it into the inside pocket of his jacket. When he pops in later in the week to photocopy The Times cryptic crossword, she thinks she should ask him about Andria, but she knows he will say it’s a delicate pastoral matter. That’s what he always says when she raises issues about sixth formers with him. She thinks she should mention it to Mrs. Crawford, the deputy head in charge of whole school pastoral matters but she will straight bat it back to the head of sixth form. That’s how things are.

Andria stays in the library after school until it closes at six o’clock. She is always the last to leave. Mrs. Greening thought about offering her a lift home one evening. She knew it was not the thing to be doing but it was tipping with rain.

Mrs. Greening knows where Andria lives. She looked it up on the admissions register. It is at least three miles from the school. She thinks Andria does not have the bus fare. She thinks about asking if she needs help, but she doesn’t want to interfere in a delicate pastoral matter. She mentions it, over lunch, to Mrs. Greer, the school nurse. She makes a note of it on a paper napkin.  But she forgets to take the napkin with her.

Andria arrives home and goes straight to her bedroom. Her mother never asks why she’s so late. Never says anything. Never knows if she’s in or out. When they meet – in the kitchen, on the landing. “You still here,” her expression says. “I thought you’d gone years ago.”

Andria overhears the other girls making plans for the weekend, busy passing time. They have a time for everything. A time to be somewhere else. No time for sitting still. Time sweeps them along on its impatient waiting for no one tide. No time to think about time. They only have time for now.

Andria has all the time in the world. Andria is weighed down with time.

She feels it pass – tick, tock, tick, tock.

It will be time soon.

It will be time soon.

Time to be away. Time to be …

Walking home. Time to think. Thinking of not walking home. Thinking of being anywhere but home.

Thinking of not having time to think.

Thinking of not thinking.

It will be time soon.

It will be time soon.

Tick, tock, tick, tock.

A time for everything.

A time for being swept away on a tide waiting for no one.

 

Mrs. Greening worries about Andria. Is she eating? She’s so painfully thin. She wants to ask her if she’s eating but she knows it’s not her place to do so. The school nurse says all the girls are stick-thin these days. None of them eat enough.

Mr. Merryman is struggling with the crossword. He thinks he’ll leave it and try another one. He pulls a clump of papers from the inside pocket of his jacket and searches for another, half-completed crossword. He sees the scrap of paper with Andria’s name on it but can’t for the life of him remember why he wrote it. He screws it up and throws it in the wastepaper basket. If it’s important it will come back. That’s his philosophy. Anyway, he thinks, it’ll be study leave soon. No more sixth formers to disturb him. On the first tee by mid-afternoon.

Andria has decided she’s going to Leeds and not to Durham to do English. She has never been to Leeds or to Durham for that matter, but she’s heard the other girls talking about them. They talk about everything. But they talk about sex mostly. Andria listens but she never says anything. They don’t expect her to say anything. She’s seen but not heard. They think they know everything about sex she thinks to herself. They know nothing.

Mrs. Greening is sitting in her car across the street from where Andria lives. It is Saturday night and for the last two hours she has seen men coming and going. Some arrive on foot, others in taxis. She is very worried for Andria’s well-being. She thinks about calling the police, but she doesn’t know what to say. They might ask why she is sitting outside a pupils’ house. They might get the wrong idea. She starts up the car and drives home.

Andria is in her bedroom reading. She is plugged into her music so she can’t hear what’s going on in her mother’s bedroom.

Hassan drives a taxi in the evenings and at weekends. He has dropped men off at Andria’s house.  He has seen Andria coming and going. She is on her way home from school. It is raining. He stops and asks if she wants a lift. She recognizes him. He asks if she’s hungry. She is because she has not eaten since breakfast. He drives to McDonalds. She has never been to McDonalds. He orders and parks up somewhere quiet.

He offers her a drink. What is it she asks? Vodka he says. Andria has never had vodka. He puts his hand on her leg. What are you doing she asks? I like you he says. He leans over to kiss her, and she slaps his face. He grabs her arm and tries to kiss her again. She pushes him away and scrambles out of the car. She runs towards the trees. He calls out to her. Says he’s sorry. She keeps quiet. You left your bag here, he says. She remembers. It has all her work in it. He is swinging her bag back and forth. If you don’t want it, he says, I’ll keep it.

She comes out of the trees. He walks back to the car still swinging her bag. He opens the rear door and she slides into the back seat. He gets in after her and slams shut the door.

It’s early morning and Andria takes the first bus to school and goes straight to the library. Mrs. Greening, the librarian, smiles, warmly. Andria signs in and returns the smile. Mrs. Greening never asks why she’s here so early, but she thinks about asking …

© 2020 Daniel Kearney