As Edgar finished his tirade against Mr. Harford and his daughter, Mr Kraus sat back in his chair, a little shocked. He had met Sir Edgar Watson a few times since Thea and Marcia had been at the school, and had always found him very genial and laid-back. He would never have imagined him losing his temper like that. Not that he could blame him, of course. Anyone would have done the same.
“We don’t believe a word of it, Sir Edgar, I assure you, and even if he tries to take it further, you have my word that we will defend her to the hilt.”
Edgar nodded, still shaking a little from his outburst. Truth be told, he was a little shocked at himself as well, but the thought of that family victimising his daughter yet again was just too much for him to take calmly.
Getting a grip on himself, he gave the headmaster a grateful smile. “Thank you, Mr, Kraus. We appreciate your support, we really do. I’m sorry about…”
“Please, don’t mention it,” Mr. Kraus interrupted hurriedly, anxious to let his visitor know that he didn’t mind. “I really don’t blame you in the least. I’m just sorry to have had to break it to you like this, but I wanted to let you or your wife know as soon as possible. Thea seemed rather upset by it all, and I thought you should be prepared.”
Edgar took a deep breath to steady his voice. “Of course. Thank you.” Then after a brief pause, he added, “If it’s alright with you, I think I’d like to take her home with me now.”
“Yes, of course. Keep her off as long as you need to. We’ll make sure any work is sent home with Marcia so she can keep up with her class. I’ll ask Miss Engel to take you to her now.”
Getting up from his seat, the headmaster walked through to the outer office and asked his secretary to go and find Miss Engel. A couple of minutes later, there was a knock on the door and the lady herself arrived.
“You wanted to see me?”
“Would you mind taking Sir Edgar to find Thea please? She’s going to be going home for the rest of the today, and possibly a little longer.”
Miss Engel nodded. “Of course. Follow me,” she added, turning to Edgar with a smile.
Getting to his feet, Edgar thanked the Headmaster again, and then followed Thea’s teacher out of the study. They headed in the direction of the Middle School playground, and had just turned the corner leading to the outside door when they heard a commotion and looked up to see a crowd of pupils outside the girls’ washrooms.
“I’d better go and see what’s happening,” Miss Engel said under her breath. “I won’t be a moment,” and she hurried down the passageway towards the crowd, leaving Edgar to follow in her wake.
The children fell silent as she approached, and spotting Celine and Lucy nearest the door, she asked, “What’s going on?”
Lucy turned worried eyes on her teacher. “Thea’s in there. She’s locked herself in and Kate’s trying to get her to come out.”
Edgar came up behind them just in time to hear Lucy’s words, and instantly tried to push his way through. Miss Engel put her arm out to stop him, and nodded her head towards the ‘girls’ sign on the door.
“I’ll get her, don’t worry,” she said quickly, as Edgar stopped reluctantly, and pushing her way into the washrooms, she found Kate wrestling with a cubicle door and calling her friend’s name.
Kate looked round at her teacher, her distress clear on her face. “Miss Engel, please help. Thea won’t come out and she’s crying and I don’t know what to do.”
She was near to tears herself, and Miss Engel put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and moved her away from the door.
“It’s alright, Kate, stand back. Thea?” she called, knocking on the toilet door. There was no reply. “Thea, it’s Miss Engel. Can you open up please?”
There was silence again for a moment, and then they heard the sound of a muffled sob. Pulling out one of her hairpins, Miss Engel crouched down and proceeded to fiddle with the lock. Eventually it opened, and pushing the door back slowly, she found Thea curled up in a ball on the floor, tears streaming down her face. Rushing forward, Miss Engel put her arms around her and pulled her up. Thea tried to resist her teacher’s help, but Miss Engel was persistent and eventually got her to her feet.
“It’s okay, Thea, your father’s here, he’s waiting just outside. He’s going to take you home,” and holding Thea firmly to steady her, she led her slowly out of the washrooms, as the young girl did her best to stifle her sobs.
Edgar pushed through the crowd of children towards them and Miss Engel steered Thea gently in his direction, his daughter barely registering that he was there. Then nodding his thanks to Miss Engel, he wrapped his arm tight around Thea's shoulders and led her down the corridor and out towards the car.
The journey home passed in silence. Thea was doing her best to check her tears, without much success, and Edgar drove with one hand on her arm, trying to reassure her, only removing it when he had to change gear.
He pulled the car up in front of the house, and before he had even switched off the engine, Thea wrenched open the door and jumped out. Evadne had been waiting anxiously for them to get home, and as she opened the front door to greet them, Thea raced past her and up the stairs. Evvy watched her in amazement, and then turned back to her husband as he followed his daughter towards the house.
“Edgar what’s wrong?”
Anxious to follow Thea up to her room, Edgar stopped and impatiently imparted the story of Franny and Mr. Harford to his wife. Evadne stared at him in disbelief, and then as her husband's words sink in, she let rip, telling him exactly what her views on the Harfords were.
Tired, anxious and upset about his daughter, Edgar interrupted her in full flow.
“Evvy, leave it, please,” he said wearily.
“I said leave it!” he repeated, his patience wearing thin. “For once, just keep it to yourself. I don’t want to hear it. I’m really not in the mood.”
“They can’t get away with this, Edgar!” she retorted, getting angry herself at the way he was speaking to her. “I’ll show them...”
“No, you won’t!” he shouted, as he finally lost his rag. “You won’t do anything! You’ll stay right here and look after our children and leave the school to take care of the Harfords themselves.” Evadne gaped at him, shocked into silence at the tone of his voice. Edgar stared at her for a second, and then turned to walk up the stairs. “I’m going to see Thea,” he stated, and leaving his shocked wife standing in the hallway, he made his way up to his daughter’s room.
Thea had locked herself in her bedroom and, despite Edgar’s best efforts, she flatly refused to let him in. She was still crying, and the sound of her sobs through the locked door was breaking his heart. He tried knocking and cajoling for almost half an hour, to no avail, and eventually gave up and sat down on the landing outside her room. She would have to come out eventually to go to the bathroom, and he would sit and wait until she did.
Two hours later, Evadne made her way upstairs and found him still sitting on the landing, his head in his hands. He looked up as she approached and she gave him a tentative smile.
“I need to go take Scrabble for a walk, and then collect Marcia from school,” she said slowly, taking in his pale, tired face. “Can you listen out for Henry, please? He’s down in the sitting room in his Moses basket. Hopefully he won’t wake ‘til I get back, but just in case?” Edgar nodded and stared down at the carpet again. Evadne crouched down beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Edgar glanced back up at her, and then shook his head. “She won’t come out or let me in,” he replied, his voice catching slightly as he spoke. “I’m going to sit here until she has to come out, even if it takes all night.”
He rested his head on the wall behind him, closing his eyes, and Evvy ran hand gently through his thick, greying hair.
“Edgar, I’m sorry…”
“Not now, Evvy, please,” he interrupted quietly, not opening his eyes. “We’ll talk about it later, okay?”
Dropping her hand back to her side, Evadne stared at him in silence. Then getting to her feet, she turned and made her way back downstairs.
A second later, he heard a key turning and Thea slowly opened the door. Walking out onto the landing, she stood over her father, staring down at him as he looked up in surprise. Recalling himself to his senses, Edgar reached his arms up towards her, saying nothing. Thea took hold of his hands, and the next moment she collapsed into his lap, her body wracking with sobs once more.
The rest of the afternoon and evening passed by in a subdued and awkward atmosphere. Thea eventually tired herself out from crying, and once he had tucked her up in her bed and made sure that she was fast asleep, Edgar shut himself in his study for the remainder of the day. Upset by what had happened to her sister, Marcia was far from her usual ebullient self, and took herself off to her bedroom immediately after dinner, and Evadne’s time was taken up looking after Henry, who was teething again and making sure she knew all about it.
It was gone ten before Evvy finally got him settled, and coming out of his room, she found the house in darkness. Making her way to their room, she found Edgar in bed, lying on his side, his eyes closed, the light on his nightstand turned off. As quietly as she could, she undressed and climbed into bed beside him, leaning over to kiss him on the side of the head. There was no reaction, but she was not entirely convinced that he was asleep - his breathing seemed a little too forced. She watched him for a moment, biting her lips as she felt a lump rising in her throat, and then turning onto her side, her back towards him, she closed her eyes and eventually drifted off to sleep.
She woke a few hours later to find the other half of the bed empty, and Edgar’s dressing gown missing from the its peg on the back of the door. Climbing out of bed herself, she made her way downstairs, and eventually tracked him down to the kitchen where he was sitting at the large pine table, Henry asleep against his chest. He looked up as she came into the room and put a finger to his lips.
She walked across to join him, gazing down over his shoulder at their son. “Couldn’t you sleep?”
Edgar shook his head. “Henry started grizzling and I didn’t want him to wake you, so I thought I’d bring him down here, see if I could calm him down. We’ve been here for an hour or so, haven’t we, little man?” he whispered, gently stroking his sleeping son’s head.
Evadne smiled and squeezed his shoulder. “Want me to take him back up, now he’s asleep?”
“No, I’ll do it,” he replied, carefully getting to his feet. “Any chance of a cocoa though?”
Evvy nodded and as he left the room to return his son to his cot, she took out the milk and proceeded to pour it into a pan.
By the time he returned, the milk was boiling, and as he seated himself at the table again, she poured it into two mugs, mixing in the cocoa powder and sugar. Then she set them both on the table, before pulling up a chair for herself.
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, before Evvy swallowed hard and gazed up at her husband, remorse written all over her face. “Edgar, I’m so sorry about before.” He stared down at the table as she tried to apologise, and she swallowed again before continuing. “I didn't mean to go on. I wasn’t thinking. You know me - I’m not always so tactful.”
Edgar glanced up at her, and then heaving a sigh, he placed a hand over hers. “Sometimes it’s just too much, Evvy.”
She stared down at the table and gave a slight nod. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Gripping her fingers, Edgar entwined them with his own. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn't have shouted at you. I’m just so worried about her, I’ve never seen her like this.”
Evadne squeezed his hand. “Did she say anything about it?”
Edgar shook his head. “Not yet. She was too tired from crying. She just went to sleep. I’m so worried about what this could do to her,” and taking his fingers from his wife's, he leant forward and put his head in his hands.
Shifting her chair around the table towards him, Evvy reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck. He raised his hands to clasp her forearm, leaning into her and resting his head on her shoulder and she kissed him gently on the forehead, before laying her cheek against his hair. The next moment they heard a distant whimpering from upstairs, and then Henry began to yell at the full pitch of his lungs.
Heaving a sigh, Evadne kissed her husband’s head once more and got to her feet. “I'll go see to him. Why don’t you take the cocoa upstairs, I’ll bring him into our room.”