This was going to be an interesting year. I had been hired over the phone for this prestigious sounding school, I wasn't sure what they thought a first year English teacher could give them that an older man might not, but I wasn't going to complain.
That Eve gave me pause. I had thought for sure that she was older than a student. I shook my head, trying to get back to the present, I had to concentrate now, I was a teacher. A professor.
"Oliver?" The headmistress' voice called me back to the present. What was her name again? Maria?
"Yes!" I snapped to attention, years of schooling in the church had trained me well.
"Stand down," Maria laughed. "We are all peers here. Debra was trying to tell you something." She gestured at the receptionist.
"Yes, here is the schedule and map, all newcomers get them." Debra handed one to me and one to Maria. I looked at the map, pulling my reading spectacles out of my pocket. Reading in bad lighting had ruined my eyesight. People said it made me look smarter. The schedule was simple, dictating breakfast, lunch, and dinner times as well as classes. Unlike a student schedule it had all one classroom on it. This was going to take some getting used to.
"We will talk about the rest of this during the staff meeting, and after you can see your rooms, Headmistress your suite is lovely with a full veiw of the grounds, Professor you have a room over looking the lake, it is lovely too." Debra was still explaining things. My mind wandered, a bad habit I retained from my school days, not so far behind me. I wondered what the students were like, if I was going to have anymore surprises like Eve. It seemed I was going to be on a first name basis with that girl, as much as I had tried, awkwardly, to fix that.
"And here is one of the students, Naomi Machness." Debbie said, calling out so that the student could hear. Maria and I turned. It was a small girl, barefoot and in an awkward sneaking position. She had been trying to get past unnoticed. This was my chance to assert myself as a teacher. I walked toward her, smiling. The girl stood up straight with her hands behind her back, she looked ready to jump out of her shoes... If she had been wearing shoes. I stopped in front of her, hand out.
"I'm Oliver Robyns, the new English teacher, call me Professor Robyns, or just Robyns if you like." I thought it was a good start, they could call me by my last name, very casual. She just stared at my hand as if it was going to bite her. I was about to make a joke, try to lighten things up, but she mumbled something about being in the garden and I dropped my hand, not wanting to scare this girl. She was already edging away. Was I that intimidating? It didn't seem like that outside.
"It was nice to meet you." The girl said, before running up the stairs.
"You too." I muttered. Strange students they have here, it seemed I was going to have a hard time with them, given the polar opposite reactions I got between Eve and this girl, Naomi. Debra came up behind me,
"Don't mind her, she will warm up to you, she has been here a long time and so isn't used to strangers." She said. I nodded and went back to the desk where I had left my papers.
"Shall we go to the staff room Professor?" Maria said, smiling. I smiled back, at least she was friendly. And held out my arm. Maria took it and we walked to the staff room together.
The staff room was a large room. It was split into two different areas, one area held several sofas and a large fireplace, the other had a long table with chairs all along it. Several teachers were already in the room, two men and three women, including Agnes who I had met earlier. They all stood and introduced themselves.
"Anthony, Biology, I'm also the head gardener." Said a tall thin man with a large mustache. He shook my hand heartily. A large round man with out a hint of hair on his head came up and shook my hand with much gusto.
"Harold, I teach chemistry" he said. The women in the room nodded to me, saying their names and what they taught like it was part of their names.
"Jemima, Art." She was warm looking, not too thin, with a kind face and a massive bun, I had to wonder how it got like that.
"Melissa, Music." A thin pencil shaped woman, she didn't offer much more than that. I hoped her students weren't as rigid as she was.
"Zelda, History." Another thin woman, not as uptight it seemed, but it was hard to tell.
I nodded back to each of them before introducing myself in the same manner,
"Oliver, English." I gave a slight bow, being as I had already shaken hands and nodded, it seemed the only thing left to do. I got a few smiles from the other teachers.
Maria introduced herself as well and we all sat down.
"So, what qualifies you two to be teachers here, if you don't mind me asking." Said Harold, leaning back in his chair. I looked at him confused, but Maria seemed to understand his question.
"My daughter is a student here." She said, clipped, as if she wasn't proud of that fact. It also seemed that her daughter being student made her the headmistress, not the other way around. I looked around at the other teachers, they were nodding, as if it all made sense now, but I was more lost than before.
"I guess I had good credentials." I said it in a joking manner, but the other teachers looked shocked and some muttering went around the table. Suddenly the door opened and a flustered man walked in.
"Oh, pardonez moi, pardonez moi, je suis desole ca je suis retarde!" He said. He must be the French teacher. Harold laughed,
"Pierre, you know we don't understand you when you speak French!" He said, still laughing. Pierre looked terrified of the bigger man, I decided to put him at ease.
"C'est rien monsieur," I said, "Come sit by me." I beckoned the man over and he sat down nervously.
"Oliver, where did you say you were from?" Anthony asked. I shrugged.
"I grew up in the monasteries in Italy and Germany, I was moved around a lot. I went to school in Germany and now here I am in England."
"You've never been to France?" Asked Pierre in thickly accented English.
"No, I haven't, why?" I was confused again. But the teachers just nodded solemnly.
"That explains it," said Melissa, then the subject changed to academics and no matter what I tried I couldn't make the teachers explain their reaction to my statements.
This was a very confusing place.