A couple danced together. They were young sweethearts in their last year of school.
Her hair, black and curly, filled with as much bounce as her step, spun about her like a halo as her partner twirled her.
The young man’s face was locked on hers, and slowly he bent down to one knee in the middle of the dance. The crowd stopped to stare as he gazed into her almond-colored eyes. “Marianne Langsley,” His voice throbbed and caught. “Since we met, my happiest moments have been with you. Every day, my love for you has grown. Earlier today, I was given a full-ride grant for college. My first thought was ‘This is the first step to being able to have a family.’ My second thought was of your face, and how much I would love to have you as my wife.” He took a deep, nervous breath. “Marianne Langsley, will you marry me?” He held her hand tightly in his own bony, awkward teen-aged hands.
Several teachers homed in on the pair as fellow students began to buzz about the proposal. Several girls nearby pushed their dates away to listen. The world slowed down as Marianne looked down at her tall, awkward date. Her sweet, round cheeks dimpled as she smiled at him. “Maurice, I don’t know what to say.” She giggled behind her free hand. Her eyes were filled with joy.
A teacher stepped between them. “That’s enough, Ms. Langsley, Mr. King. This is a school function.” He frowned. “I will inform your parents of this.”
The discussion with Maurice’s parents was without intensity, as though his parents were unconcerned. He quickly dismissed their advice– he wasn’t too young to devote himself to someone. He was certain of it.
A week passed, and Maurice saw neither hide nor hair of Marianne. When he went to her house, she wasn’t home. He began to get concerned, and called at strange hours. She remained absent. Eventually, the family changed their number because his persistence became a strain.
Graduation came and went. Marianne wasn’t present.
Maurice moved to the dorms of his new college, and though he met several young women and blossomed into a handsome young man, he refused romantic relations. Marianne was his life.
After his final exams in the second year of college, Maurice received a card. In dismay, he saw it was a wedding invitation. In despair, he saw it was for Marianne’s wedding. He felt ill. He called the RSVP number, but it was Marianne’s mother who answered.
“I need to speak to Marianne.”
“Who is this?” the woman asked.
“I’m sorry, she’s very busy. You can try to talk to her during the wedding reception.” The woman’s tone was dismissive.
Maurice’s vision blurred. “I thought I was her fiance.” he managed to murmur in a weak voice.
The woman sighed. “You never were.” She hung up.
His chest hurt. He slowly put his phone down and walked to his bed.
At some point, his parents packed him up and brought their mourning son back home for break. He didn’t leave his room or unpack. Instead, he simply laid in bed until his mother dragged him out for meals and to movies and laser tag.
She tried to take him to a psychologist, but Maurice refused to speak.
A new semester of college came, and Maurice moved back in on his own strength. His parents searched their home frantically for their missing son, and called him repeatedly until he finally answered. “Sorry, I was in class.”
Relief flooded their minds, and they scolded him for not saying good-bye or getting the cookies his mother made him. They had a good laugh, and the third year of college began.
More and more, his grades improved. He began to get perfect marks, and to ask teachers in previous classes if they would mind tutoring him in their subject so he could improve his grades in the next semester. At the end of his four years, he graduated and began to send job applications to various schools. He was going to become a teacher.
He forced himself to try to forget about Marianne’s wedding. He simply never went, and he shut the invitation away in a book about chemistry.
Maurice found a job quickly, and for a few years, he was happy. He worked with children of all ages at the boarding school. He taught every level of science, and took a few classes of his own on the side in order to better teach the children.
A scolding from the headmaster quickly shifted his attitude, and he grudgingly became more strict with the children. He did not enjoy it. Eventually, his reputation changed from the kindest teacher, to the most cruel. Still, he enjoyed his job and ensuring the children were knowledgeable in his subject.
It was a beautiful spring day before the end of school. Maurice walked to the headmaster’s office to deliver his grade charts personally.
There, he saw her. It was Marianne. She turned to look, then smiled brightly– that same smile she showed when he proposed. “Maurice! It’s so good to see you!” She ran to him and hugged him tightly. Maurice stared, uncertain. He looked around helplessly. “It’s been so long! Are you here to enroll a little one, too?”
Maurice shook his head. “No.” he said slowly. “I teach here.”
Her beam was brilliant. “I know my daughter will be in good hands, then. You’ve always been a good friend.”
“I’ll teach her as well as any of the rest of my students.” He smiled awkwardly. It felt alien on his face. Uncertainty clouded his mind. Why was she acting like this? “Perhaps we should talk later, over some coffee after the school day is over?”
“Oh, of course! That sounds lovely!” She nodded and finished her conversation with the headmaster before she left.
Maurice handed over his grade sheets.
“I trust you’ll be honest about treating her daughter like any other student, despite your friendship?” the old man asked in a strict voice.
“Yes, sir.” Maurice felt like he was being stabbed repeatedly.