Allan sat looking out the window of the little rural school house. It was a one teacher school so there was time to take in what was happening over on the Judd property where old Ted and his older sons were preparing ground for next planting. Allan was transported from his lethargic contemplation by a sharp cuff to the head.
“Have you finished your work assignment?”
The small boy looked up in fear and nodded his head. “Yessur!”
Teacher Radley glanced at the assignment and gave him another cuff to the head. “Do it again!”
Allan quickly picked up his pencil and began to work on the maths problem again. He checked the formula and calculated the answer on a spare piece of paper. It came up with the same result he’d calculated the first time and he looked up at his teacher fearfully expecting another reprimand.
“Always recheck your work! Now complete the rest of the problems and bring them to me when you’re finished. You’re at school. Ted Judd doesn’t need your help in his ploughing not to say you’d be much help just staring out the window at this work.” Teacher Radley moved on to the next small class.
Allan glanced quickly at Janet who was laughing and pointing at him. “That will teach you a lesson for what you did to me this morning!”
Allan started to smile then turned quickly to see if Mr Radley was watching. He realized his prank was probably why Teacher Radley was so angry with him. He’d worked hard gift wrapping a present for Janet at home and bought it to school with him on the five-mile bicycle ride with the kids from the farm next door. He’d come early to make sure Janet wouldn’t be there before he arrived, and he placed the box neatly on her desk addressed in her name in his neatest hand writing.
Teacher Radley was usually the last to arrive as he was boarding with farmer Smith and family. Mrs Smith operated the community party line telephone exchange when the line between this rural community and the nearest town were not down. Everyone knew Mrs Smith listened to their conversations and spread their personal news around the community. But no one else had the time to do the job.
Janet and two other kids had been picked up by Radley in his car as they walked the bush road to school, and they arrived together. Teacher Radley was at his desk sorting out class assignments when there was a scream and papers went everywhere as he jumped up from his chair and rushed to see what had frightened Janet.
There on the desk among unwrapped packing was a colony of frogs jumping merrily around her desk. By the time Radley reached Janet she’d regained her composure and looked accusingly at Allan. “You did this!” She said laughing.
But teacher Radley was not amused. He pulled Allan to the front of the class and turned him around to face the students. They were all laughing until they saw Teacher Radley head to the cupboard and take out the dreaded cane. There was instant silence. The boys had all experienced his wrath and now looked on with sympathy. Radley swung the cane and connected with Allan’s left hand six times drawing dark blue marks where the cane had landed. Those who’d experienced this before winced with each loud whack. The girls teared up.
Radley pushed Allan back to his seat. “This is a classroom not a circus. Does anyone else want to get what Allan just got?” Eyes stared at the desk rather than confront their teacher.
Later during recess Janet sought Allan out. “I’m so sorry I got you into trouble, let me see your hand.” Allan showed her his hand which was now blue and swollen where he’d received the caning. Janet burst into tears.
Allan looked at her in surprise. “It’s OK, doesn’t hurt at all!” It made him feel good that someone cared about him apart from his family, but it made him feel a little embarrassed too.
“I better get back with the boys or teacher may give me more cuts if he thinks I’m troubling you.”
Janet smiled. “I was hoping you were giving me a real present when I opened that parcel. I knew it was you from the start. Are you really moving back to town, I’m going to miss you?” She smiled and ran to join her friends.
Allan’s family moved back to town. Several years later Allan was with his town high school team attending an inter school sports competition. They were watching one of the girl sports events and Allan’s school girls-team was bested by their opponents. The judges announced the winner of the race as Janet Carseldine. Allan strained to see as the opposing team girls carried her back to their assigned school location. She was a year younger than him as he recalled. He moved closer and at last their eyes locked. She left her school group and walked over confidently. Allan smiled as she approached, and she took his left hand and stared at it.
“Good!” No blue marks so you mustn’t be terrifying poor little girls like you used to. Her voice was soft and melodious, and she was developing into a beautiful young woman. Got to get back to my team or they’ll think I’ve deserted them. Too bad we ended up in different high schools or I’d have been keeping an eye on you to see you behaved well. She sighed, then turned to re-join her team waving to him as she joined a queue to reboard their bus. Allan felt sad as he watched the bus depart.
After graduation Allan decided to seek work while he saved up for a return to school to get his college degree. Eventually he found work in one of the banks and saved hard avoiding the social scene as much as possible while he took night classes which could count for credits when he eventually returned to school. It was in his second year at the bank he was approached by one of the staff June Walker asking if he’d do her a favour. Her brother had four tickets to a basketball match and was bringing someone but wanted to take his sister along if she could get a date. Would he come with her? At first Allan said he needed to study for an exam, but June continued to plead, and he eventually agreed.
That evening dressed smart casual he picked June up at her apartment and they headed for a restaurant where they’d enjoy a snack before proceeding to the game. As they were ushered to the reserved table Allan gasped in surprise as June introduced him to her brother Rick. Then June smiled as she turned to the mystery woman beside her brother. “I think you may know our cousin Janet Carseldine. We’re going to let you guys get reacquainted. She’s on holidays.”
Brother and sister sat together as they indicated the empty place next to Janet. Janet smiled and picked up his left hand.
“Good, I see you’re still behaving well and not scaring girls. June told me you’re a real sober side now which is not the way I remember you. June almost had fits when I told her what you did to me in class back in the good old days. I warned her not to share the story at work.” They all laughed as they saw Allan’s face turn red.
Janet continued. “Here I bought you a gift to remember our time together at rural school.” She produced a professionally wrapped small package and handed it to Allan. “Go on open it!”
Allan unwrapped the package wondering what kind of gift Janet would be giving him. “I didn’t know you’d be here tonight so didn’t bring you anything, I’m sorry!” Then after taking the lid off the box within outside wrapping he burst into laughter and the rest of them laughed too. Inside were five ceramic frogs.
Allan relaxed and began to enjoy the evening with Janet and her cousins. Imagine working with Janet’s cousin June and not knowing.
He turned to June. “You should have told me, then I could have bought flowers for Janet at least!”
June smiled. “That would have spoiled the surprise. Beside I had no idea you two knew each other until yesterday when I casually mentioned the names of some I worked with.”
In later conversation Janet revealed she’d commenced her second year of nursing training and Allan shared his plans to carry on with college work he’d started with night school classes he could take for credit. When he discovered she was leaving next day to return to classes he grew silent.
June and Rick had been observing the chemistry between Allan and Janet and June with her woman’s insight saw the change of mood clearly putting it together with Janet’s confession she’d always hoped her early school heart throb would come back into her orbit. She’d not known who that wonder boy was until yesterday when Allan’s name came up in casual conversation and she saw her cousin’s eager response.
While Janet and Allan were in conversation she whispered in her brother’s ear as she pretended to need to freshen up in the rest room. Rick nodded.
June addressed her cousin, “Jan I may need your help for a minute in the powder room can you spare a moment?”
Janet got up and the two girls went off to the rest room.
Rick got down to business when the two women were out of hearing. “Allan what do you think of our cousin Janet?”
“I’ve always got on well with her and was disappointed I couldn’t spend some time with her when her school played against ours back in High School. She and her team really trashed our girls as I recall. She had to leave by bus with her team before I could spend time with her”
Rick got back to business. “Did you know she carried the torch for you all these years and I think she’s a wonderful catch. She was sad when your family left the farm for town and even sadder when she only had a few minutes with you at the inter-sports competitions you talked about. I think you like her so why don’t you get smart and see she doesn’t leave here without you showing you care for her because if you don’t there are many male students in her class who are pestering her for a relationship and you could miss out.”
Allan’s initial reaction was to be irritated at Rick’s blunt approach. But thinking it over quickly he could see Rick was right. He loved this girl and realized why he’d not responded to the obvious interest of girls he knew through work and night school. He too had been hoping Janet would somehow come back into his orbit.
So, when the women returned he addressed Rick and June. “If it’s OK with you two I’d rather spend time with Janet than go to your ball game, that’s if it’s OK with Janet of course.
Janet slid into the seat beside Allan and said, “Yes of course my cousins don’t mind going by themselves.”
June and Rick suppressed a laugh and got up from the table.
Rick said, “I’m paying the bill at the counter, so you’ll have to pay for anything you eat after this!” The brother and sister went off arm in arm feeling very pleased with themselves and laughing.
Rick turned to Janet. “I don’t want you to leave tomorrow.”
Janet studied the ceramic frogs thoughtfully. “Well I have to Allan, but there is one way we could perhaps see I came back whenever there’s a holiday opportunity and I wonder if you can think what that may be.
This was happening faster than Allan would think. “What if I said I’d love to see you again?”
“Good start. Keep trying!” Janet reached for his hand and took it in hers looking intently at him.
Allan squirmed. “I’ve always liked you Janet.”
“I’ve been miserable thinking about you all these years and wondering if I’d ever see you again.”
“Keep talking.” Janet’s pressure on his hand increased and Allan’s courage rose.
“I love you Janet.” The pressure released.
“I love you too, wasn’t so hard to say was it? I’ve dreamed about you since I was a kid. You were so mischievous and always in trouble with that teacher. He was moved soon after you left for town under pressure from parents. Why are you so sober now? Don’t you ever go out and have fun with people like you used to. June said she tried to get your attention but finally gave up.”
“Well I think I’m going to be more relaxed now that I found you. Did you say June was interested in me?”
“My cousin will be warned off tonight when we get home so don’t get any ideas Allan. Now tell me why I should continue to live in hope when I’m studying in the city and you are working here?”
“I could try to get a transfer to a branch in the city for work but really couldn’t afford to save for full time college and pay high rents there so may have to forget college.”
Janet thought about that. “What say I delay my trip back to the city by a couple of hours while you think of a pledge to show you’re serious about me?”
Allan was thinking fast now. “Could we get engaged then?”
“Not a very romantic way of asking me Allan but I suppose you’re a man so yes, I’d love to be engaged to you and even better married to you. I have two more years to go before I finish my nursing degree. I suppose that would be a possible time for us to get married?”
Now Allan was thinking at lightning speed. “I’ll get a job in the city so I can be with you whenever you can get free time from studies. College will have to wait but I’ll continue with night classes if I can.”
Janet sat in silence thinking. “My parents were killed in a car accident and my brother Colin is now running the farm, but I have some inheritance money I’m using to pay for my nursing course and staying in student housing. If we were married we could use the money from student housing rent and put it together with some of your salary to rent a cheap apartment. That way you could still save something toward finalizing your college. I’m not into a big wedding so can’t we just have a quiet ceremony with a few family members in attendance? Oh, and while we are thinking, Allan I hate the city. When we are finished our degrees can we please come back here to live. I like the proximity to rural life. It has a different feel about it here.”
Allan was overcome with emotion. “I can hardly wait to be married to you Janet. You made me really happy tonight.” He was about to lean over and kiss Janet when a gruff voice said, “Are you finished with this table Sir, there are people waiting!”
Allan and Janet got up and were just about to leave when the waiter said, “You left something behind you Sir!” Oh yes, the ceramic frogs!
Allan and Janet stood on the street corner locked in embrace while the minutes ticked by. There was certainly chemistry at work between them and they luxuriated in just being in silence alone together. Finally. Allan shook his head and looked at his watch. “It’s late, I need to get you home.”
Janet continued to hold onto him. It had been a long time she’d waited, and she was leaving tomorrow so what was the hurry? In the car they continued to sit holding each other outside June’s apartment where June and her brother waited impatiently for Janet to come in and tell them the news. They hadn’t been to the ball game, there were no tickets and they were glad it hadn’t ended up with them having to confess that at the restaurant. That would have been an embarrassing confession. But the plot had worked, and they were looking forward to good news when Janet finally came in.
June yawned, “I wonder if they remembered to pick up those frogs?”
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