Chapter 46: A Time To Mourn And A Time To Dance
“So when ya punched out the bully, were you pretending to be Wonder Woman or Supergirl?” Jackson jabs his fists into the air, striking out at unseen enemies floating between the kindergarten fence and Ilona.
“You have asked me that same question every day this week,” Ilona sighs, “and for the millionth billionth time, I was not pretending to be Wonder Woman or Supergirl. I was simply being me.” She warily watches as Jackson keeps prancing about, throwing punches and the occasional kick, at his imaginary foe. “The boy I attacked has a name, by the way. He is Simon.”
“Kapow! Their goes the bully!” Jackson shouts, thrusting his fist upward.
“Simon,” Ilona states.
“Who?” Jackson asks.
“Simon! Simon is his name!” Ilona snaps, giving Jackson a cross look.
Jackson stops his constant frantic fighting and stares at Ilona. “Are you mad at me?”
Ilona gets down on her knees, lowering her head to be face to face with Jackson.
“Jackson, my wonderful boyfriend,” she starts, putting her hands on his cheeks, “I am not mad at you. But you are acting like I am a superhero for beating up Simon. And the thing is, I really don’t know if what I did was right.” She stares intently into his eyes. “Violence is not always the answer to every problem. Sometimes, instead of solving something, you just make it worse.”
Jackson eyes go wide as he quietly asks, “do you wish now you hadn’t beaten up Simon?”
Ilona sighs. “I don’t know Jackson. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe. And maybe he got what he deserved. I don’t know.”
The honk of the mini van breaks their moment, causing Ilona to stand up and Jackson to grab his bag. They walk over, exchange greetings with Jackson’s mother, and strap the young boy into his car seat. Just before Ilona shuts the door, Jackson pipes up.
“Ilona, maybe Simon is wondering if he was wrong for what he did as well. Maybe he feels sorry too.”
She smiles at him. “Maybe he does. I hope so. I really hope so.”
Ilona goes back into the school and completes her lunch with her friends. She can tell Cynthia is trying to gently guide everyone to their new reality, with much talk about the Trident book movie coming up. Quickly the discussion veers to the possibly almost completed new Lost finale by Susan, which Ilona is also possibly almost completed editing. By the time the group hit the wall, they bury themselves in their books. The Diary of Anne Frank is now being passed around, with Cynthia having finished already and Collette about halfway through. Madison and Clara are doing another epic reread of Harry Potter, or as Clara put it, “hoping this time around that Ron is not so whiny.” For Ilona, her days and nights are taken up by another book that is fast becoming one of her favourites, and has been on her list for awhile now thanks to Joy’s recommendation, the classic To Kill A Mockingbird.
Partway through reading time, Madison decides to go “Kaboom” and roll over everyone, resulting in Cynthia ordering Ilona to attack, a joke they all laugh at.
When the lunch bell rings, the girls amble into the line-up to re-enter SummerFall with the usual chatter. Clara comments about the texts from her mother, a reminder of Saturday night dinner with her grandfather, while Collette expounds to Cynthia the glories of the Mrs. Chase’s other favorite book, Our Town.
Minutes of almost merriment go by as the friends come back into school and enter their respective classrooms.
Ilona, Susan and Clara cross through the doorway and suddenly stare at the blackboard.
A completely different note is greeting the class.
More and more students come into the room and see the words. Some gasp. A few cry. One girl starts frantically texting. Susan turns to her friends and whispers, “we will survive this. We will.”
Everyone starts taking their seats, and Ilona keeps her eyes on the blackboard all along the way.
The words, filling the entire area, all in different coloured chalk, is simple and heartbreaking.
Ilona feels tears build up and her breathing go deep. And seeing Mrs. Chase pop in the door, still smiling and flipping her red hair behind her ears, does not help.
“Hello all!” Mrs. Chase shouts, spreading her arms wide, much like she is trying to pull all the hurting kids into an embrace. “I am guessing from the, shall we say, stunned faces, that everyone has seen my note. I found out during lunch that today-”
A chorus of anger and disbelief erupts from the students, making the air explode with pain. Ilona’s body slides down into her seat, hoping to pull herself down into the desk.
Mrs. Chase raises her hands, all to restore order. ‘Now now, everyone remain calm. I understand you are all upset, and trust me, I am not happy either, but today is my last day.” More painful noise waves off of the kids and washes up onto Mrs. Chase, who again raises her hands, hoping for the best. “Tomorrow, which is only a day away, is when Mr. Micheals comes back.”
Shouts of protest rise into a cacophony that bangs against the walls. Ilona finally lets the tears fall. She can hear other students weeping around her.
Mrs. Chase keeps her arms up, in defiance of all the anguish before her, and speaks in a very calm, very reassuring tone. “Everyone, all of my beloved Muggles, please calm down, for me, for everything we have experienced together. Please calm down.”
Mrs. Chase’s words, her outstretched arms always ready for a hug, and the her of being her, brings a blanket of peace over the class.
“I know it is not fair, and I know we all wanted to stay together forever, but right from the start we knew that was not going to be our fate. Someday I would leave and Mr. Micheals would come back. We can do nothing about tomorrow, but we can do plenty about today, our last time together.”
Everyone listens in rapt attention, the crying having subsided and even Ilona stopping her slow slide under the desk.
Mrs. Chase picks up a piece of red chalk and starts flipping it high into the air, spiraling it majestically, and catching everyone’s attention. Just like on her first day, all those short months ago.
“What I propose, and hopefully all of you Hogwarts attendees will agree, is that we throw the lesson plan out this afternoon,” she pauses and gives the room a wicked smile, “And have some fun and talk about life, the universe and everything.”
The class slams into deafening cheers, which makes Mrs. Chase laugh. Ilona pops up in her seat. Not only was this going to be a tremendous, if bittersweet, afternoon, but Mrs. Chase has just proven her Geek cred even more. Ilona snaps her head around and sees Clara and Susan, both of whom are giving approving nods, and can tell Clara is already texting the world at large about these developments.
After a few minutes of some hustle and brustle and settling down, the class is ready for the most awesome afternoon ever, hoping it will ease the heartbreak. Mrs. Chase finds a stool and is now sitting before them, giving the air of your best friend who has been with you since forever.
Mrs. Chase starts by asking for any questions they might have about her. Every hand shoots up, but Ilona is the first, which Mrs. Chase notices and immediately points at her.
“You have mentioned several times that grade ten was a big year for you. Why was that?” Ilona asks in a load crisp voice.
Mrs. Chase smiles, flips her red hair behind her ears for what Ilona hopes is not the last time ever, and starts to answer. “Well, grade ten began with a new friend in my life, one who kinda sorta convinced me to dye my hair red, which it still is to this day,” she laughs, pointing with both hands at her head. This is where she originates her tale, entrancing her young friends with all that she was and is. The boy she always knew and who became her husband. Her first meeting with Anne Frank. The drama and chaos and battleground that high school could be. The sad day a friend got a part in Our Town. A little sister whom she once put in the dryer. All sorts of bits and pieces and fragments of what she called her new life from that very special year. By the time she finished, everyone was enraptured, recess was upon them, and all reluctantly straggled out.
The schoolyard is abuzz with the news, since Clara’s text to Madison then proceeded to go viral. All social media related to SummerFall is trending with the double sad news. Thoughts of petitions are floated about, and even protest marches, but Cynthia quickly spreads the word that this is beyond the schools control.
After the bell and back in class, Mrs. Chase now randomly points with her chalk at different students. Each one stands up and talks for a bit about their hopes and dreams and what they want to be when they grow up. Several mention building video games, some want to follow parent’s paths of becoming police or engineers, and many have no clue whatsoever. Ilona loves the answers and happiness this truthfulness brings on, but also really has no idea of what to say.
When Susan’s turn comes up, she says her future thoughts are on possibly becoming an accountant, just like her mother, and how she really wants to meet her online girlfriend Samantha. No one reacts to the Samantha part, Ilona notices, and Susan barely registers what she said as well.
Clara gets picked shortly after. Standing quickly, she clears her throat and speaks about her mother and father and brothers and how amazing they are, how everyday with them is a treat, and the many many ways they feed her love of fun. What her days hold way down the line, she has no clue, but if she is even half as incredible as her familys are, she will be happy.
As the last few students are done, Ilona realizes she will be the final one. And with this, Mrs. Chase swings the chalk at her.
Ilona stands, fidgets her fingers, and her gaze hits Mrs. Chase’s beautiful smile. The butterflies and worry all evaporate from her. And Ilona speaks.
“My parents got me a book. It was the one with the man with the trident on the cover. The sacrifice they made to get me this book changed my world. And for that I can never truly repay them. I don’t know what my future holds, but if it includes my friends and my books and my parents, than I will be happy. Even tomorrow, when you are not here Mrs. Chase and being amazing. Even tomorrow.”
Ilona sits down and feels a tingle go up her spine, one that makes her realize she can survive today, and the next day. Without Cecily, without Mrs. Chase, but still with hope.
Class ends and hugs galore are passed around by Mrs. Chase, with laughter and giggles and high fives becoming the new normal. The bell rings and slowly everyone takes their leave, while Clara grabs Ilona and Susan and marches them to get their things and head to the parking lot.
Gathered together, right by Mrs. Chase’s car, is Ilona and her friends. Waiting. Minutes later, the coolest teacher ever comes upon them.
“Well hello all! How is everyone doing this fine after school?” Mrs. Chase shouts.
Cynthia immediately gives Mrs. Chase a hug. “We shall miss you. You and your wonderfulness.”
Susan jumps in as well. “Mrs. Chase…” she catches herself from crying, but finally gives in.
Ilona, Clara, Madison and Collette pile on to the lovefest. Mrs. Chase takes her arms and brings them all into herself, letting the tears and goodbyes wash over her. “Remember,” she says, “to not be like other human beings, realize life while you live it. Every minute.” Ilona, Cynthia and Collette give each other knowing looks and gradually let go, all because they understand. Following their leads, Susan, Clara and Madison leave the hug as well.
Mrs. Chase gets into her car, does a final wave, and flips her red hair one more time behind her ears, all before she drives off and away from SummerFall.
Mumblings and comments ramble amoungst the friends, but eventually everyone heads home. Ilona enters the apartment and does her tasks, still working away when her parents come home. Her mother helps finish up, all while asking Ilona all about the last day of Mrs. Chase. Laying in bed that night, Ilona prays that her strength from today will survive tomorrow.
When the morning lends itself to class beginning again, the friends make their way into SummerFall and go to their respective rooms.
Ilona, Susan and Clara cross through the doorway and stare at something unbelievable.
A completely different Mr. Micheals is greeting them.
His stride, his demeanor, his worried smile, all are foreign to them. The quick “hello” he gives as he rushes by makes all eyes go wide. Ambling along in shock, Ilona, her friends, and the rest of the class take their seats, with so many waiting for the real Mr. Micheals to appear.
After the last student is settled in, they all stare directly at the slightly uncomfortable looking Mr. Micheals, who clears his throat with a shrug.
“Well, hello all. I’m back,” he states flatly.
No one replies. Quiet rules.
“So, I was away for awhile. Spent a lot of time contemplating, well, everything, and I have one thing to say,” Mr. Micheals clears his throat again, even wincing a bit, “I am sorry. Very sorry for how I acted. I was wrong.”
Silence and shock fills the air.
“And to Susan,” he looks directly at her with soulful eyes, “I am also very sorry.”
All heads snap from Mr. Micheals to Susan, who promptly stands up and gives a hard glare to the teacher.
“What happened?” Susan states in a demanding tone.
All heads snap back to Mr. Micheals, who frowns into a sad face.
“Everything. My ignorance and blindness was my downfall. Once I was lost, but now I see. And now I have a new life of joy and peace,” Mr. Micheals states calmly.
Everyone twists back to see Susan, who sits down, but still glares at Mr. Micheals.
“Well, as we all get adjusted to this new reality, we should probably get back to the lesson plan now,” Mr. Micheals says, putting on a happy smile. “But first, I heard you all liked this.”
He grabs a piece of white chalk, and flips it into the air. Shooting his other hand forward, he snatches at it and misses. The chalk clatters to the ground. Mr. Micheals glances at the floor, then up at the class.
“Hmmm,” he says with a bit of a smirk, “I think I am going to have to work on that.”
Song For This Chapter: Teach Your Children by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.