The teacher is in her mid to late fifties. She always wears her hair pinned up, make up powdery but impeccable, and skirts slightly longer than knee length. Her life revolved around the school: she attended PAGS, then went to teacher’s college, then to France, and then came back and joined PAGS as staff. She never married. In class, she picks her nose with a long nail openly while we’re doing exercises, a careful cleaning surprisingly not at odds with her propriety. English, French and Latin are her charges. Latin is an extra-curricular subject she offers for free, taught from books twenty years old and intended for English schoolboys, with covers faded to pink and held together with contact.

The class is small. There’s about seven of us in total. She once spent half the hour we had for class waxing lyrical about how wonderful a dot of lavender oil on handkerchiefs was, the luxury of taking a purely white handkerchief from one’s pocket, and the scent of lavender rising from it. We surreptitiously encouraged it: there was a kind of game to keeping her talking about crap.

This particular day, she’s running late. We’re sitting chatting, when she hastens through the door. “So, girls, are we all ready to learn to be elegant young ladies?”

I stand. “I think I’m in the wrong class,” I say, grabbing my books.

There’s a pause. I sit. “What, don’t you all want to learn to become elegant young ladies?” she asks in seemingly honest bemusement.

As one, we all rock our chairs back, spread our legs, dangle a hand in our laps, slouch, and announce “Nuuuh!”

Word to live by.

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