High School English teacher and class run into troubles putting Midsummer Night's Dream
Charlotte looked like she was going to rest for a while so I decided that I would take my change bag and go into the bathroom to change clothes. I had not wanted to leave Charlotte's side since she had been admitted about three days ago.Â
No sooner had I undressed and opened the change bag than there was a knock on the door.Â
"Meredith, you ok? Charlotte is calling for you,"I heard the nurse call out.
"I'll be right out," I answered.
I finished changing clothes and stepped out of the bathroom. As I did saw the nurse standing beside the bed taking Charlotte's vitals and checking the morophine drip. It seemed that she was on the morophine tablets only a month ago in order to dead the pain from the cancer that had taken over her body. "I can't leave you for a minute to change clothes," I said after I returned and sat down once more in the chair beside her wide of 10 years and took her hand.
"I wanted you to change right here so I could watch," Charlotte teased with the best smile she could manage.
"And be naked in front of all these doctors and nurses?" I asked looking first at my wife and then the nurse who was now trying to write her findings in Charlotte's chart. I thought that the poor girl was going to drop the chart or something as she seemingly tried to keep from laughing in response to Charlotte's comment.
"Why not? The hospital is one of the few places where we haven't been naked together."
Once again I glanced over at the nurse who was still blushing dark red and so trying not to laugh out loud.
"Charlotte, there is a nurse standing right beside you,"
"Do not worry, Meredith," the nurse began. "I have gotten somewhat used to the way you two talk. I must say though, that one just may have raised my shock level."
"You hear that, Meredith? We are going to have to try harder with this one, or request another nurse."
"Don't you dare, Charlotte," the nurse said in surprise. "Listening to you two is the high point of my day."
For a minute there it seemed that the three of us had totally forgotten that Charlotte Martine was close to death. I then found myself squeezing her hand as the nurse excused herself and retreated out of the room.
Charlotte closed her eyes as a small wave of pain must have run through her from the face she made. It was the same face, the same indication of pain that I had come to recognize the year I took off from teaching to take care of her the best could. Then the pain seemed to be constant and we both decided that she need to have the kind of round the clock care I could not give her. After twelve years of being together, ten of them as a married couple, we would be apart.Â
After the pain had passed her breathing eased and she seemed to drift off to sleep again.Â
I continued holding her hand as my mind once again went back in time to when Charlotte Martine and I firs met. It was at a book signing at a bookstore, in the far west suburbs of Chicago, for her latest book. I think I spent my whole lunch break waiting in line for her to autograph my copy. Then about fifteen minutes later she was asking to share my table at a coffee shop next door to the book store where I was rushing through a lunch. We then talked until I realized that I was going to be very late getting back to the high school where I taught. Fortunately I did not have a class, but I did have a mound of papers to read through.Â
Before I excused myself we exchanged phone numbers as we agreed to meet again.
I then felt Charlotte squeeze my hand as another flash of pain seemed to wake her from her brief rest. Then we smiled at each other and she slipped off once again.
I closed my eyes as tears began to form. Then they began running down my cheek.
I felt Charlotte's hand lose its strength and I finally let myself cry as I lifted her hand and kissed it.
The heart monitor alarm went off.Â
Right away the nurse returned and shut the alarm off. Behind her was a doctor who was calling for a Code Blue.
I could not raise my head up to inform him that Charlotte was DNR but the nurse did as calmly as she could for the next words out of the doctor's mouth were, "Cancel, Code Blue".
I spent the next day or two in bed not able to find any desire or reason to get interested in anything. As it was Charlotte had everything concerning her death already arranged and taken care of from her body being donated to science to the memorial service, and the publishing of her last book. Her last book being her autobiography. It was her part of a last project we would work on together.
We both had our deaths pretty well planned ahead of time so as not to burden the survivor with such decisions. We even planned out the black veil I would wear so no one from the media could properly identify me.Â
As it was, Charlotte Martine was a very controversial Christian author who rarely granted interviews in order to respond to her critics. For that matter, she rarely did book signings for there was bound to be someone-a Christian- who would publicly denounce her as a Christian because her books usually alluded to her female characters having "un-natural" affection for each other.Â
As it was, there were already rumors that Charlotte was married to another woman, another female writer, which we were. We got married in a civil ceremony after two and a half years of living and working together. The only person who knew my real name, and that Charlotte and I were married, was our publisher and he was not about to release that information to anyone.
For the next couple of weeks I tried working on my part of the project-my autobiography. I did well with it until it came time to reveal to the world how Charlotte and I met, fell in love, and lived together as a Christian-lesbian couple. Writing about that time in my life was so very hard and painful so soon after her death. I needed to return to my vocation as English teacher to keep me going on.Â
For the next month I read the want adds looking for openings for English teacher. Then a friend called and told me about this high school she knew that was looking for an English teacher. She then gave me all the information I needed. I then proceeded to contact them and in a short time we had agreed on a date and time for an interview.
The town and the school was a couple of counties over so I decided to pack some papers and some clothes and drove out there..Â
I arrived at the town couple of days before the interview in order to look around the town and to look for a house since I undoubtedly would have to b a resident.
Finding a decent house proved a lot easier than a thought. I did mange to find a nice two bedroom house that met my needs. It was vacant so I had little trouble moving in and arranging for telephone. I also visited a couple of furniture stores in town who were kind enough to move what I bought in the house.Â
With my second house set, I drove over to the school and submitted my application. The rest of the day was spent walking around down town. In my journey around town I visited the local bookstore and surprisingly found Charlotte's and my books lined up behind the cashier counter as if buying them required proof of age as I prepared to check out with the copy of Shakespeare's plays that I was fortunate to fine.
"You happen to have Charlotte Martine's last book?" I asked the cashier as I stepped up the empty counter..
"I believe that that particular book is being reviewed."
"Reviewed by whom?"
"By the owner of the store and a local committee. All of our books get reviewed, in one form or other, depending on genre before we stock them, Charlotte's and Edna Patience's especially," the cashier went as on she looked at me and then glanced around the store. "It is something that our owner and the religious council have worked out."
"By any chance do the students from the high school buy their books here?"
"We sure do," the cashier smiled "Unless the store runs out. Then we have to pay a little more at one of the other bookstores. Why do you ask?"
"I just submitted my application to teach English at the high school. I take it that you are a student there"
"I am. It is because of our English teacher, Miss Johnson that I got this job. She's been in the hospital for the past week, so we have had a teacher from another department try to substitute for her."
"Is there some way I could visit Miss Johnson?"
"Trying to find out what you are up against before you decide whether or not to take the position?" the girl smiled.
"I quess you can say that," I smiled back as I held out the money for for my purchase.
"Well, I am headed over there to visit her right after my shift. You may come with."
"Thank you. I will. How soon before your shift ends?"
"I'll be free in about an hour."
"In that case I will be next door in the coffee shop.Any chance of you calling your parents and letting them know that you will be with me. My name in Meredith Dandrige?"Â
"I'll try, and my name is Crystal Lewis," the girl smiled
It was then that I noticed the customer behind me. I motioned Crystal to keep the change before I took my purchase and left.
About an hour later Crystal joined me at the coffee shop. At the time I was nursing a second cup of coffee.
"Mind if I get a tea before we go?"
"Only if you do not mind me driving, I would hate it if you got in an accident because of the tea."
"Thank you," Crystal smiled and then took off for the counter and to get her tea.
When she returned I thought that she would want to leave right away so I stood up as she approached. "Ready now?" I asked.
"I was not able to contact my parents. My phone is dead. May I use yours?"
"I don't usually carry mine," I said thoughtfully. As it was I was already bending my rule about being alone with a student, or without an adult knowing that I was. This being the case, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable but was sure that it would only last a short time. "Quess we'll have to call from the hospital as soon as we get there."
"Sounds good." Crystal said and we headed off for my car.Â
Soon we were in my car and driving off. On the way Crystal and I tried to make small talk in between her giving me directions to the hospital.'
"What is your approach to teaching English?" she asked.
"Trying to find out what you may be up against?" I smiled.
"I quess you could say that," Crystal smiled back.
"First, you tell me a little about Miss Johnson,"
"Well, she's a fighter," was Crystals's initial response. "She tries to follow the guidelines the school's administration, but she tends to draw the line on somethings like this Shakespearean play the school puts on every year. The school wants us to do it as it was written but Miss John wants to change it a little, make it more current."
"How is she with the assignments she gives you?"
"She wants us to be able to think and express ourselves on paper in long hand though the school has persuaded her to accept assignments printed out from computers and word processors."
"How do you do yours?"
"Here we are," Crystal smiled as we approached the hospital. I then looked for a parking place as near the hospital as possible.
As soon as we were in the hospital I reminded her about calling her parents.
Crystal called her parents and from Crystal's responses I sensed that her parents wanted to talk to me, but Crystal seemed to be in a hurry to see her teacher so she assured them that she was save with me and that I would drive her back to her car. That was when I motioned to her that I wanted to talk to her parents and she reluctantly handed me the phone.
We then went up to Miss Johnson's room but before going in Crystal glanced in and saw that Miss Johnson already had a visitor so we stopped at the nursing station.
"How is Miss Johnson today?" she asked.
"You will have to ass Miss Hendrix, dear. We are allowed only to inform next of kin and individuals that the patient wishes us to inform. I'm sorry."
"Is it ok if we go in in then?"
"Sure is Crystal," another nurse interjected apparently familiar with he young girl's visits.
As we entered the room the woman in the bed seemed to be resting as the woman beside the bed stood up to greet us. First she wrapped her arms around Crystal as if she needed to hold on to someone. Then Crystal turned around and took hold oh my hand as she pulled me closer. "This is Meredith Dandrige, Miss Hendrix. She just applied for Miss Johnson's position as English teacher."
"Welcome, Miss Dandrige," the woman greeted me and held out her hand that trembled slightly. "Well, I will give you two a chance to visit with Cynthia. I need to get something to drink. I'll be right back."
With that I slipped out of the room and Crystal moved closer to Miss Johnson's bedside until she could slip her hand into the woman's. I immediately felt for the girl and Miss Hendrix. It was clear that Crystal, Miss Johnson, and Miss Hendrix had a close relationship. .Â
When I returned Miss Hendrix stood up and motioned me in. "I better get myself a drink as well." Then, as Miss Hendrix left I was drawn to put my hand on Crystal's back. It was something that I rarely did for I had seen many a good teacher get be put on probation for touching a student a little too much, or unnecessarily.
"You never answered my question," Crystal said a moment later.
"I suspect that my approach is much the same as Miss Johnson's."
"You a fighter as well?"
"When I have to be."
"Then I wish you luck," Miss Johnson said as she apparently woke up from her brief rest and heard our conversation.
Crystal immediately turned her attention back to her teacher. "This is Meredith Dandrige," the girl began."she may be taking over your position as English teacher."
I immediately reached out for the hand the woman was raising and took hold of it briefly.
Crystal then launched into telling Miss Johnson how I had stopped at the bookstore looking for Charlotte Martine and Edna Patience books.
"Actually I read a wide range of books," I corrected Crystal and let her continue.
At some point I happened to glance out at the nursing station and saw Miss Hendrix motion me to join her. I then excused myself and made my way over to the woman.
'I hope you do not mind me asking the hospital to add you onto Cynthia's list of contacts in the event that...in the they need to call," Miss Hendrix said seeming to be loosing the battle not to cry so I reached out and held her for a moment.
"I do not mind at all," I said. "I recently lost a loved one."
"If they do call, would you mind coming to pick me up? I do not believe I will be able to drive if they do.
""Not at all," I assured her. "Is there a place where we can talk in private?" I asked her as well as a nurse that was nearby. Without a word, the nurse pointed over to some chairs.
.Miss Hendrix and I made our way over to them and sat down. "How close are you and Miss Johnson?" I asked, She looked around and then at me.
"Just about as two people in love could be." She answered. "We even talked about marriage, but were sure that the school would learn of our relationship."
"You still want to get married?" I asked and the question seemed to surprise her.
Yes, but it is a little too late."
"Not as long as she is still alive. I could talk with the minister here and see if we could work out some kind of marriage ceremony."
"We don't have a license."
"Why should you have a license at this point?" I asked.. "Isn't it more important that the two of you be married in the eyes of God? I know how important and comforting it is to know that the two of you will be together again someday."
It was then that Crystal showed up and stood just a little out of earshot. "I think we better go and get my car before my parents begin wondering."
"Sure, Crystal," I said and moved to hug Miss Hendrix. The pulled myself back in time for Crystal to move in and give the woman a hug as well.
Crystal and I were soon off to get her car. She was quiet at first and looked out the window. At one point I thought I heard a sniffle come from her. I was tempted to reach over and touch her. "Maybe we should stop off at your home. Maybe it would be better if your parents took you to get your car."
"Turn right at the next light," Crystal answered. "The hospital told me that they could not call me if Miss Johnson's health worsened. They said that Miss Hendrix had arranged for them to call you. Could you call me?"
Crystal continued giving me directions until we stopped in front of her house. She then led me to the front door. We were about to let ourselves in when the door opened and Crystal's mother stood there and let us in.
Once inside the woman led us to the living room. "How is Miss Johnson?' she asked.
"Not good, Meredith promised to call if she heard anything." was all that Crystal seemed able to say.
Then the woman turned to me as she hugged her daughter. "Excuse me," she said as she turned her attention to me."Please have a seat in the living room. Anything I can get you?"
"You have a coke?"
"One coke coming up she said just before she and her daughter went back into the kitchen.
A short time the woman returned. "I sent Crystal to find her sister and father. They'll get her car."
"That's why I had Crystal give me direction here. I didn't think she was not in any condition to drive, after her visit with Miss Johnson."
"Yes, the three of them are rather close." The woman said before she took a sip from her drink. "With Miss Johnson passing away, I am afraid that she may switch her crush to you. I mean you have gone out of your way for Crystal today."
"It has been my pleasure. Crystal really seems to have a love for English, plus we both like a couple of the same authors."
"I know the ones you are talking about. Crystal got me to read a book by each one."
"They were better than I origionaly thought, and they handled the subject of women having close relationships very well." The woman went silent again.
I took a sip from my drink. "In answer to your question, Yes I am a lesbian, but you needn't fear my interest in Crystal. It will always be no more that teacher and student. In fact I have set up some boundaries I hold to about being alone with a student. 1.-there will be another adult present. 2. If the first situation could not be met, I have the student call their parents." I went on to the woman's interest. I admit that today's conditions had me pushing stretching those boundaries as Crystal had no means of call you until we got to the hospital.
"Well," the woman said as she smiled somewhat taken by surprise. "I certain appreciate your openness about the question that I was afraid to ask, as well as you explanations about being alone with a student. I take it that you had to remind Crystal about calling us."
"I did," I answered, then went on. "I am not usually this open, but I thought you needed to know because I am not just Crystal's teacher in class, I will be the drama coach for her drama club. As such she and I may be working a lo together out of the class room, and I was wondering if we could work here, in some room. I value my privacy so I do not want any student knowing where I live, not even Crystal."
"Certainly," the woman answered. "I'll just set out a place for you at dinner. I mean, you probably eat alone a lot, or?"
"I do," I had to smile. "I am not seeing anyone, not do I plan to. My partner recently passed away from cancer. I have not thoroughly worked through the griefing process. I returned to teaching English because I needed something to focus on."
"I am sorry to hear that." The woman said. "Would you care to stay for dinner tonight?"
"I am afraid I can't. I have some work to do at home. In fact, it may be best that I get going." I then began to stand and thank the woman for her time and how I hoped I had answered her concerns.
It was then that Crystal, her father, and sister returned home.
"You leaving, Meredith?" Crystal asked with some sadness.
"Yes, I have some work to do at home, but I am sure that I will be having dinner here in the future as we were on the play."
"Tank you, Meredith," Crystal said and hugged me in front of her family. I gently pushed her away. I then turned my attention to her mother. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss."
"Same here, and thank you."
I soon left and was on my way home. On the way I thought of the additional tasks I had to perform tonight. I had to locate Charlotte's last book o that I may give it to Miss Hendrix. I was sure that it would be a comfort to them at this time. I also had to figure out how I was going to talk the minister at the hos[ital to perfume a marriage ceremony for Miss Hendrix and Miss Johnson. That was on top of me brushing up on my Shakespeare and his Mid Summer Night's Dream. I also, to my surprise managed to do som writing on my part of The Project.
The next day I had a small breakfast and headed out to the hospital with the book and what I hoped would be some pretty good arguments for the minister to marry Miss John and Miss Hendrix. My first stop was to look in on Miss Johnson. Miss Hendrix was already there at Miss Johnson's bedside.
"The hospital is letting me stay with her."
"That's great," I smiled and pulled out the book and handed it to Miss Hendrix. "Thought that you may like reading this to her. I am sure that it may help the both of you, especially the part where she accepts her illness and approaching death."
Miss Hendrix tool a look at the title and the author. It was clear that she could not believe what she held. "Is this authentic? How?"
"I can assure you that it is authentic, but I cannot tell you how I got it."
"My pleasure.," I assured her. "Now, I am off to see the minister. When I am finished I'll check back with you and see if there is anything you may need."
"Thank you again, Meredith."
I was then off to the nurse's desk to ask how I may get in touch with the hospital's minister. The nurse gave me directions to the chapel and I immediately was off.
As soon as I arrived I knelt down by the altar and prayed. It was during my prayers that the minister walked out. He saw me and made his way over.
"I didn't mean to interrupt your prayers," he said right off.
"You didn't. I had already finished for now, but it was you that I came to see."
"About who and what?"
"There's a patient in Critical Care by the name of Miss John. A Miss Hendrix has a close relationship with her and I wanted to ask you something.
"I am familiar with the two women." He assured me. "I make it a point to stop in and pray with Miss Johnson when I am lucking enough to catch her awake. I've also prayed with Miss Hendrix."
"Then you have some idea the extent of their close relationship."
"I think I do, but I never came out and asked them."
"Well, Miss Hendrix opened up to me, and gave me permission to talk to you about performing a marriage ceremony." I awaited his answer as I watched him think. "Only the necessary participants will know about the ceremony."
"I see, and I think I know just the hospital employee that would act as a second witness." The minister said to my surprise.
"The hospital insists of a member of the hospital be present whenever the drapes are closed." He went on.
"Then you will do it?" as asked to make certain. "Yes, I will. I will visit Miss Hendrix in a little while and find out what would be a good day and time."
"Thank you," I smiled and was silent for a second. "Could you pray with me?" I then asked.
We prayed for a couple of minutes and then I excused myself. My first stop being Miss Hendrix. I had to stop though at the door as I heard her reading from the book I had given her. Tears immediately came to my eyes.
"Are you ok," a nurse came up to me and asked after I closed the door.
"Yes, I am. Thank you," I answered as I composed myself. Then I went in."Sorry for interrupting, I just came up to tell you that the minister will be coming up to visit you, and I was wanting to know if there is anything I can get you."
Right away Miss Hendrix closed the book and fished out her keys. "I could do with some soap, towels, and a change of clothes. Some food from home, as well. You're free to have whatever you find interesting."
"Ill get them and bring them by a little later. There are some errands I need to run."
"I hope one of them is to the school to find out when they are going to let you start."
"I might stop by the school and see how that is coming along." I then made my way to Miss Johnson and kissed her forehead.
During my errands I stopped at the coffee shop by Crystal's place of employment. I didn't expect to find Crystal there. "Hey," I said in greeting as I headed to the counter to get something to eat/ After I got it I made my way over to her table.
"Before you say anything about me calling my parents because I am with you, they've given me permission to see you, and I need not call them every time we should run into each other."
"Why are you here?"
"Break time." She smiled. "And you?"
"Just grabbing a bite to eat as I run some errands for Miss Hendrix and myself.," I answered. "By the way, the hospital is letting Miss Hendrix stay with Miss Johnson.
"That's great." Crystal said with a mixture of gladness and sorrow. "I'll have to stop by the hospital after work. When do you official become the new English teacher?"
"In a week," I answered. The principle said I will be on probation for a while. Seems that a couple of board members are not quite happy about me being hired, but are willing to wait and see."
"I can imagine which two board members they are. The two who always seem to refuse any kind of change. Miss Johnson had her share of battles with those two."
"Well, we'll see what develops," I said. "I better get back to my errands."
"See you later?" Crystal asked, stopping me."Perhaps. Why?
"Well, it would be good for you and I to meet about the play. After all you will also be our drama coach."
"Sure, why not. Have ready whatever you have already. I'll stop by your place."
"Great. I'll tell mom you'll be joining us for dinner."
"Do that. Later,"
Well, I finished my errands about three and headed home for a little while. I had no idea how late I would be staying with Crystal, so I tried to get some writing done. I wrote for about an how. Found what I needed to find and set off for the hospital.
Miss Hendrix was in the sitting room for some reason and as I made my way over to her I saw that Crystal was visiting Miss Johnson. "Everything ok?" I asked the woman.
"Yes Cynthia is holding her own. The minister came by and we scheduled the ceremony for tomorrow at four."
"I'll be here."
"Thank you. Thank you for everything, Meredith."
"Brought you a change of clothes and things to freshen up with along with some food. When Crystal is finished, I'll take them to the room, but then I will have to be off.
"Yes, Crystal said something about you having dinner at her house before the two of you being working on the play."
"I also brought you these, another gift from me to you two," I said digging into my pants for the two rings. I then handed them to Miss Hendrix who gasped when she saw them.
..we can't." she stammered.
"You can because they are a gift." I reminded her.
Crystal soon came out of Miss Johnson's room and I collected up everything I had brought for Miss Hendrix. "Will meet you at your house in a couple of minutes," I said and then carried everything into the room. Right after I finished Miss Johnson motioned me over and then in a quiet voice she asked. "You're Charlotte's Meredith?"
"Yes, I am, Cynthia." I answered as I held her hand.
I then kissed her on the forehead and brushed her cheek. Then I left. Crystal had already left.
As promised I had dinner with Crystal and her family. Then Crystal and I went into the den and began working on the play. Crystal showed me and walked me through some of the decisions that they had already worked out. She also pointed out some areas where certain members of the school board had already announced their doubts about. Over all it seemed like it would be a good play that needed a lot of work and someone to run interference on. Crystal certainly showed that she had a pretty good handle on almost everything.
Anyways, I drove home after an hour or two. As soon as I got home I changed clothes and went to sleep.
About 2am the ringing of the phone woke me up. It was the hospital. "Thank you, and tell Miss Hendrix I will be there as soon as I can." I then hung up the phone and called Crystal's house.
"Hello?" Crystal's mother answered sleepily.
"This is Meredith. I just got the call from the hospital."
"Crystal will be ready by the time you get here, and we will not be far behind."
"Thank you," I said and hung up. I then proceeded to get dressed and drove over to Crystal's home. As promised, the girl was ready and waiting outside as I pulled up.
"What did the hospital say,?" she asked apprehensively.
"Miss Johnson passed away about 1:30 this morning."
"How's Miss Hendrix?"
"We'll have to see when we get there," I answered.
We were at the hospital in a relatively short period of time. Then it only took us a minute to get to Miss Johnson's room. Miss Hendrix was still beside the bed when we arrived. She looked at us. "I asked them to wait until you showed up."
"Crystal went over to hug the woman and then walked around to her favorite side of Miss Johnson's bed, and just stood there, tears running down her cheeks. I stayed with Miss Hendrix.
"How are you holding up?"
"Better now that you and Crystal are here."
It was then that Crystal's family showed up. Her mother, and sister went straight in while her father remained outside. Miss Hendrix and I decided to give them some time with Miss Johnson, so we left the room, but did not go too far. I bid Crystal's father hello.
"Could you drive me home and spend the night with me.?" Miss Hendrix asked. "I need to talk to you about some things,"
"I can, and will spend the night with you only as a friend,"
Miss Hendrix smiled. "Of course,"
I happened to glance over at Crystal's fatherl.
Soon a nurse came over and informed Miss Hendrix that it was time.
"Thank you," she responded and then excused herself to go in to inform Crystal it was time for Miss Johnson to be taken away.
I watched as Crystal almost collapsed against her mother. Then slowly thy made their way out of the room.
"How are you holding up, kiddo?" Crystal's father asked her. I didn't hear what her answer was, but I did wave to her when she looked over at me.