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Adjusting One’s Drawers


“Helen Cassidy, Matron wants you – now!”

In fear and trembling she presents herself to Matron, who glares and points. “Your drawers are a disgrace, my dear. I will give you ten minutes.....”

Awed by the fierce glare, and casting anxious looks at her watch as she works hard to make everything as meticulous as Matron expects, Helen finishes and then stands and waits, rather apprehensively, for approval. Goodness, boarding school is strict!

Alas, alack! Approval will be slow in coming! More trouble is to follow! Matron stalks into the room in silence and pulls open the drawers one by one. Helen quakes in her sensible shoes. With a tightening of Matron’s lips, as though she is cross at now finding nothing out of place, the drawers are closed with a loud snap.

She spins round and says, with an ominous note in her voice, “And the bathroom?”

Helen gawps, her knees knocking, and Matron smiles without humour. “Wet towels and pools of water on the floor, hairs in the plughole, taps left dripping….” Each word drops separately and unpleasantly from her lips, then she lets the silence linger, increasing the tension. “If this is some strange Irish custom, I would remind you that you are not at home now, dear, and there are others to consider,”

Helen scurries off at a nod from Matron, berating herself for sleeping late and thus not leaving enough time to dash back to the bathroom before the breakfast bell. She had hoped to steal in after breakfast, but Matron had been too quick for her. How did the blessed woman know when the rules were being disobeyed? Helen winces when she walks in the bathroom and sees the state she had left it in. She acknowledges, dolefully, that Matron has a right to her wrath.

Never has she worked so fast and soon she is back before Matron, whose eyes are on her nurse’s fob watch, her foot tapping impatiently. She raises glacial blue eyes, then smiles and says with great relish, “If you’re quick no one will have noticed your absence.”

Helen quickly turns to descend the stairs, but Matron’s voice follows her. “I shall be keeping a watching brief, my dear Helen. This really will not do, you know.”

Stumbling at these portentious words, Helen manages to catch the banister and makes it safely to the bottom. Once there, she hurries to her locker and pulls out her books and files, wondering why it is that Matron always manages to make her feel like a naughty two year old. I’m a big girl now, she thinks resentfully to herself. Little does she know that even her calm and stately Headmistress trembles when she hears a certain note in Matron’s voice!

Reaching the classroom, she stops to run her hand through her hair and compose herself before turning the handle and stalking through the sudden, charged silence to her desk.

“Good morning, girls,” she says, her Irish accent somewhat more pronounced than usual.

Wondering why their Maths teacher is gasping for breath, the girls chorus back, “Good morning, Miss Cassidy.”

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