Fall from India Place Page 2

“You leave and you’ll be right back at square one. Unemployable.”

“No fer a f**kin’ cleanin’ jobe.”

“And is that what you want?”

Lorraine whirled around, her eyes spitting fire as she sneered, “Whit? Is that no gid enough fer ye? Aye? Too f**kin’ gid tae be a cleaner? Look at ye. Whit the hell dae ye ken aboot hard graft and huvin’ nae money? And am supposed tae learn fae ye? I dinnae think sae.”

Calmly, I took in her dark hair scraped back into a scraggly ponytail, her cheap makeup, her inexpensive and untidy shirt and trousers, and the thin waterproof jacket she wore over them. Finally, I saw the scuffed boots that had seen too many rough days on her feet.

Lorraine was only two years older than me, but there was a hardness in her eyes that made her appear much older. I didn’t know anything about her life, but I did know she was lashing out at me because she was scared.

Who knows? Maybe she was also lashing out at me because of the way I talked, looked, dressed, and held myself. I was educated. I was confident. Two things she was not. Sometimes that’s enough for someone to take a dislike to you. Was I the wrong person to teach Lorraine? Perhaps. But I wasn’t quite ready to give up.

“Working hard comes in all forms, Lorraine,” I told her quietly, careful to keep the kindness out of my voice in case she made the assumption I was being condescending. “The cleaners in the high school where I teach work their arses off tidying up after those kids.” I wrinkled my nose. “I don’t even want to think about what they find in the boys’ toilets.

“But I work my arse off teaching those very same kids – lesson plans, piles of marking that eat into my evenings and weekends, spending my own personal money on resources because the school never seems to have enough in the budget, and I work on the lesson plans for this class and I teach this class for free. I know what it’s like to work hard. It’s not as physically tiring as cleaning, but it’s mentally draining.” I took a step toward her. “You’re used to physical hard graft, Lorraine. This stuff” – I gestured to the board – “this is completely out of your comfort zone. I understand that. But that’s why I’m here. I’m here to teach you to read and write so you can apply for a job that you actually want, and you wouldn’t be here if you wanted to be a cleaner.

“Although, on a side note I’m guessing you’d still need reading and writing skills for that job. There are applications to fill out, client checklists to read through…” I saw her lips pinch and got back to the point. “You don’t like me, fine, I could give a shit. I don’t need you to like me. I need you to listen to me when I say I’m not here to embarrass you or make you feel bad about yourself. I’m here to teach you. You don’t need to like me to learn what I have to teach. You do need to like yourself enough to believe you deserve more out of life.”

Silence fell between us.

Slowly, the tension in her shoulders seemed to disappear as they slumped from the tips of her ears back into place.

“Can you do that?” I pushed her with the question.

Lorraine swallowed and gave me a jerky nod.

“I’ll see you next class, then?”


I sighed inwardly, feeling my own tension melt. “If you need me to go over anything, or sit with you one-on-one, just say so. There is no one in this class that is rooting for you to fail. They’re all in the same boat. They get it, even if you think I don’t.”

“Aye, aye, okay.” She rolled her eyes and turned on her heel to walk out. “Calm the beans.”

Okay, so sometimes it was like teaching a high school English class.

I grinned, collected my things, and headed for the door. Switching off the lights, I nodded to myself. Every time I walked out of a classroom at the end of the day, I wanted to feel like I’d won something and that therefore so had the people I was teaching. Sometimes, unfortunately, I just felt exhausted and stressed.

Tonight I felt like Lorraine and I had won.

In a good mood, and determined to take some “me time,” I texted two of my friends from university, Suzanne and Michaela, and arranged for Friday night cocktails the next evening.

It was clear from the moment we met up that night that Suzanne was in the mood to party and pick up a stranger for a random hookup. She eyed the men as though she were searching for the best piece of meat at a buffet. Her eyes swung back to me as we sat at our table in a bar on George IV Bridge, and she grinned when I burst out laughing at her.

Michaela rolled her eyes at Suzanne and sipped quietly from her drink.

I’d met the girls at Edinburgh University after moving into Pollock Halls and then we’d gotten a flat together in second year. Michaela moved in with her boyfriend, Colin, in third year and I moved into a smaller flat with Suzanne. Then we’d gone our separate ways accommodations-wise after graduation. Suzanne was originally from Aberdeen, but after graduation she’d gotten a position at a large financial company in the city. She made pretty good money, so she could afford a one-bedroom flat in Marchmont. I, on the other hand, was extremely lucky. My big sister, Ellie, and her half brother, Braden, whom I thought of as a big brother, were well off, and for my graduation they’d bought me a chic two-bedroom flat on Clarence Street in Stockbridge. It did not escape my notice that this put me in the middle between my parents’ house on St. Bernard’s Crescent to my west, and Braden and his wife, Joss’s house and Ellie and her husband, Adam’s house, to my east on Dublin Street and Scotland Street. They were all just a short walking distance from me.

My family was overprotective. They always had been. Unfortunately, this meant I felt the need to dodge their protective instincts from time to time. However, the flat was a different matter altogether. It was the most amazing, outlandish graduation gift – a gift I could never have afforded on my teacher’s pay. I was overwhelmed and eternally grateful to them for it. And honestly I was happy it was so close to my family. I had a growing bunch of nieces and nephews that I loved just as much as I loved their parents.

“See anything you like?” I asked Suzanne as I surveyed the talent. There were a couple of good-looking guys standing by the bar.

“Of course she does,” Michaela teased. “She probably sees five.”

Suzanne huffed. “Well, some of us didn’t find our one true love when we were eighteen. Some of us have a lot of frogs to kiss before we find our prince. And some of us like it that way.”

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