It was a wet day and the children had nothing to do, so young mum Allegra pulled out an old chest of knick-knacks and memorabilia. “Let’s go through this!” She suggested. “There might be something interesting.”
The first things that came to light were some old toys. The children had never seen these before because they belonged to Allegra. Terry picked up the teddy bear and Ellie claimed the battered Barbie dolls. They clearly found it surprising that their mother had once been a young girl. “Where are your cars, Mum? Terry asked as they dipped deeper into the case.
“I don’t think I had a lot of cars Terry,” Allegra replied in amusement. “I was a girl”.
“That doesn’t matter Mum,” young Terry, who had grown up in a society where girls and boys played with much the same toys and were offered much the same opportunities.
“I still liked dolls better,” Allegra said. She found an adorable stuffed dog. “Look at this one.”
Terry took the toy dog, easily satisfied. Ellie, who was a little older, had found a photograph album. “What’s this?”
“Just some old pictures dear,” Allegra said. “That’s me when I was little – and that’s Grandma.”
“The clothes are different,” Ellie said. Her interest was caught. “Look at those lace collars, and those puffy sleeves.”
“It was the 1980’s,” Allegra said. “I don’t remember much from being a baby, but I believe that was the era of the housing boom and rising interest rates; also the period of the ladies power suit with shoulder pads - and the “leg of mutton sleeve” on wedding dresses.
“The leg of mutton sleeve!” Ellie exclaimed, “Whatever was that?”
“A fashion revival from the early 1800s, maybe even dating back to the middle ages!” Allegra explained. “The sleeves were full at the top and slimmed down to the wrist. They gave the woman a wider shoulder line. They originated in France I think…”
“What else has changed do you think?” Ellie inquired.
Allegra shrugged. “Society has changed a lot, I think, but people are still pretty much the same inside.”
Terry was rummaging around in the bottom of the trunk. “A book”, he exclaimed, pulling out a hardcover, floral bound journal.
“It is a diary,” Allegra exclaimed. She took the notebook from her son and turned it over. “1984” she read. “That was the year Grandma met Grandpa.”
“Go on, Mum,” Ellie exclaimed in excitement. “Let’s read it! I want to know how Grandma met Grandpa!”
Chapter One: Orientation
It was late one afternoon in February when Stephanie arrived at Silver Springs University in the north-east of the continent. Silver Springs University was an alternative tertiary institution which awarded degrees in conjunction with a prominent UK university which agreed to underwrite them academically. The northern campus was dedicated to the training of Teachers, Pastors, Nurses and Administrators for the private sector.
Stephanie was over a thousand miles from home, but had not yet had time to become homesick. The era was the nineteen-eighties; and the repressed rebel inside of her sensed that the youth of her generation had missed the fun and freedom of the nineteen-sixties and seventies. Punk glamour was in vogue, but aside from the influence on hair styles and electric music in the "top ten", society was predominantly conservative and materialistic.
Stephanie reflected it seemed unfair that young people were expected to choose a career which would define the rest of their lives, and everyone hoped to buy a house, even though land prices were booming and the required deposits seemed impossibly large. Schools focused upon the academic subjects and business subjects were only offered by a few progressive public schools. Dating opportunities were also restricted and there was a high degree of supervision by strict adults.
Stephanie paid the deposit for her key and was promptly shown upstairs to the room she was to share with another girl for the next forty-odd weeks. There were two beds, two single wardrobes, two sets of drawers, and one large desk. The back of the room was lined with shelves.
All her worldly possessions had been crammed into two huge suitcases. She heaved them both up onto the bed under the window and opened the lids. Her industrious unpacking was interrupted by a knock at the door. A pretty girl with short curly hair stuck her head into the room.
"Hi", she said, "I'm Melanie. I am the Student Dean for this floor, and I was sent to bring you down to worship."
Stephanie smiled, pleased not to have to attend the first worship service alone. The idea was still a little daunting as she had yet to acclimatise to the idea of actually living at a boarding institution.
"Thank you Melanie", she said. "That would be lovely. Let me introduce myself. My name is Stephanie, and I am from Southern Australia".
"I am from Melbourne," Melanie said. "I am completing the final year of the Primary Teaching degree."
"Cool," Stephanie said. "I am doing Secondary Teaching. It sounds like a very interesting course."
"The subjects can be quite challenging," Melanie said. "I am sure you will do well though."
Melanie led the way down two flights of stairs and along a corridor.
"The Girls' Dormitory", she explained, "Has its own meeting hall. Assemblies are compulsory, and once the semester starts, a roll of attendance will be marked each evening. The boys come across and join us for assembly every Tuesday night, and visiting Ministers run services on the weekends for those students who are interested in Christianity."
Melanie sounded as if she enjoyed combined assembly and Stephanie wondered if she had a special boyfriend. It seemed too soon to ask her such a personal question.
Arriving at the Women's assembly area, they sat down on one of the front benches. There were two other girls there already. One was called Grace and the other was called Debbie. Debbie had long brown hair, and Grace had a short stylish "bob" haircut. They were both first-years. Debbie, like Stephanie, was studying to be a Teacher, and Grace was doing her Secretarial Certificate.
Worship began with prayer. The speaker was the Staff Dean of Girls Hall, their "Housemother". The Dean smiled and welcomed all of the girls to the University. She said that she hoped they would all be very happy, and they were to come to her when they needed anything. Then she began to read a list of rules.
Stephanie tensed up as the Dean read. Amongst other things, there was a curfew in the evening. A security system locked the Dormitory at exactly ten-thirty p.m. Each girl had a plastic card designed to work the security system, but they were supposed to apply for permission to use it. Their swipe cards could identify them if they made unauthorised use of the electronic lock and there was an implied penalty for being out late.
The security system provided the girls with privacy and protection, but it also sounded quite restrictive. No males were allowed to progress beyond the Reception area of the Dormitory. There were special recreation areas in another building where guys and girls could meet to play pool and table tennis, or watch television. Similarly, no females were allowed to enter the Boy's Dormitory. Penalties for breaching these provisions were severe, including expulsion from the institution.
Stephanie had known as she packed that radios and contemporary music were not encouraged in the Dormitory, and that due to the strong influence of the local reform church, dancing would not be encouraged - as either a social exercise or form of artistic expression. Stephanie had resolved that, under the circumstances, she would concentrate on study and absorb herself with the facilities that Silver Spring University had to offer. If some of her clothing designs were a little radical for Staff taste that would be her one area of rebellion, as she was very proud of her skill as a seamstress.
At last the Staff Dean finished her speech and sat down. The Assistant Dean then closed with a few words. Assembly over, Stephanie chatted briefly to Grace and Debbie, making a note of their room number and promising to meet up with them sometime the next day. It seemed very likely they would be in some of the same classes.
Melanie left them to talk to her friends. Stephanie admired the older girl’s confident manner as she joined a large group of girls. They were still sitting and talking as she left to return to her room. It sounded like a lot of good natured gossip about their homes, families and boyfriends.
As she approached her room, Stephanie was surprised to hear classical music playing. She concluded that her assigned room-mate must have arrived while she was out. Stephanie pushed the door open somewhat tentatively. A slight blonde girl was busy hanging things up in the wardrobe on the opposite side of the room to mine. Stephanie saw a flash of taffeta and satin as she worked. Her new room-mate evidently had some lovely outfits.
The Girl looked up and said "Hello", then suddenly exclaimed, "Hold it!" as Stephanie pushed the door.
Stephanie jumped backwards. "My name is Stephanie", she stammered, wondering whether the new girl was going to be stand-offish. "I live in this room too!"
The blonde Girl laughed. "Sorry to give you a fright!" she said, "My violin is just behind the door. Let me rescue it and you can come inside."
The girl crossed the floor and picked up the carved case.
Stephanie stepped into the room somewhat tentatively. There was a pile of sheet music in her path. She picked her way around it and sat down on her bed. "Are you studying Music?" she asked.
"Yes", the girl said, "It's my major. By the way, I'm called Joelle."
"What a pretty name!" Stephanie exclaimed, "I'm a Drama major and I'm thinking of doing a Physical Science minor."
"My minor will be History. It goes very well with Music. I guess we will have some Education subjects together." Joelle turned and gestured towards the tape recorder, "Will it bother you if I listen till the end of the tape?"
Stephanie shook her head, "Its lovely music, what piece is it?"
"Chopin. I recorded it on the piano myself!" Joelle smiled at her expression of surprise. "I practice for hours every day. Don't think of me as a snob if I'm not in the room much. I'll be over in the Music hall a lot."
"It's fantastic!" Stephanie said. She had honestly never heard anyone play that well outside of the Symphony Orchestra, or on a commercial record. Her own music lessons had been a severe flop.
"I'm just going to have a shower", Stephanie said, going to her drawer to get her towel and night-dress. "I will see you in the morning."
Stephanie exited the room and went to the bathroom area, when she returned the room was quiet and dark. Joelle was apparently asleep.
Stephanie woke to the sound of a myriad of bells and alarm clocks all ringing simultaneously. Tiptoeing so as to avoid waking Joelle, who somehow had the ability to sleep through her alarm, she collected her things in the semi-dark and sneaked out to the shower-block. After she had finished in the bathroom, Stephanie checked herself in the full length mirror in the corridor. She was reasonably tidy, so she wandered down to the cafeteria.
When Stephanie got to the cafe, it was empty except for two boys sitting at a table. She collected her food and was looking for somewhere to sit alone, when one of the guys waved to her.
"Come and sit with us," he called out, "We don't bite!"
Stephanie carried her tray across to the table, and sat down opposite the guys.
The one who had called out introduced himself as "David", and his friend as "Milton". They both came from Northern Queensland.
David had light brown hair and a comfortably sturdy frame. He appeared to be very outgoing, and kept on calling people over to their table until it was full. Milton was slightly older and much quieter. He had blonde hair and a short beard.
Stephanie busied myself with her food. She had not fully recovered from the self-conscious stage that hits along with the hormones of the teen years. Eating in mixed company made her feel quite shy, so she let the conversation flow around her. Finishing her cereal, Stephanie excused herself simply and said: "Nice to have met you", to everyone at the table.
David was busy talking, but Milton held her gaze. He smiled politely. Stephanie decided he could be a nice person.
Stephanie went back to her room. Joelle was dressed and brushing her hair. "How was breakfast?" she asked.
"Okay", Stephanie replied. "Quiet. Not very many people are out yet. How did you sleep through all those alarms?"
"I can sleep through anything if I know I don't have a deadline in the morning", Joelle answered, "but if I have something to do, I'm up like a shot."
"You're lucky!" Stephanie said, "I wish I had such a good internal rhythm. I am such a light sleeper almost anything wakes me."
Joelle left for the cafeteria and Stephanie began to fill in her sheaf of registration papers.
Half an hour later Stephanie arrived at the main hall to join the line of students waiting to register for their classes. There were a number of check-points set up along the length of the hall. The Lecturers sat along the tables, waiting for us to approach them.
Stephanie walked up to the table with a large handwritten sign saying "Arts" attached.
A cheerful gentleman with short blonde hair greeted her.
"You must be Stephanie," he said, receiving her papers. "I am the English Professor."
The Professor glanced through the forms, ticking as he went, until he came to her choice of major and minor. "You cannot do Drama on its own at Silver Springs University", he observed doubtfully. "I will have to enrol you in some English subjects as well. That will make you much more useful in a school too."
"That is okay", Stephanie said. "I was hoping I could do a couple of specialist theatre subjects from one of the state universities as well."
"We will see what we can do," the Professor murmured. "There are several universities that are willing to cooperate with us."
"That is great!" Stephanie said, and the discussion passed onto her choice of minor.
At first the Professor thought that Physical Science was an unusual area to combine with Drama, but Stephanie explained the connection as they were both movement based to a certain extent, and he observed that she had received unusually high marks in her Matriculation year. Stephanie was also quite young for university entry and considered highly talented.
The Professor, whose name-tag read “Dr. Johnson”, but was rarely addressed by name, "Ummed" and "Aahed" for a bit; and then he checked her application form and confirmed that her Year Twelve score was particularly high. He said he thought Stephanie could probably manage the combination of subjects, but that he had to get special authorisation to enrol her in that manner. He went away for a few minutes and then he returned.
"There may be a few clashes to negotiate in your third and fourth years, but it will mostly be all-right", he said stamping her papers with ink.
Stephanie proceeded to the business office to make arrangements to pay her fees in monthly instalments. The queue there was very long and consequently, she was late for lunch. The afternoon was full of organised tours of the Library and Lecture Theatres.
The next day, Stephanie attended a series of orientation lectures, where they were told how to organise their time and succeed at study. Debbie and Grace were also at the lectures and introduced her to a girl called Phoebe. Phoebe was doing English Teaching so she would be in some of her classes.
Stephanie saw David and Milton in the lecture theatre. David said "Hi, how are you?" and Milton told her that he was doing English and History. That was interesting - Milton would be in English with her, and History with Joelle.
The boys were accompanied by a tall dark-haired guy called Bradley. Bradley was doing a combination of subjects Stephanie found nearly as unusual as her own - English and Geography. However, he explained to her that Geography was considered both a science and a humanities.
Stephanie filled her timetable out ready for starting classes proper on the morrow. It looked quite hectic. Her first class was at 7:30 am. The idea seemed to be for all lectures to be over by lunch, to give them the afternoon to study or do laboratory work. Her Science lab would take all Thursday afternoon.
Stephanie needed to wash some clothes so she asked Melanie to show her where the laundry and the clothes lines were located. The older girl also showed her a heated room where clothes could be dried in-doors. It was a unique idea, but Melanie said that the clothes could come back from the drying room a bit musty. Consequently, most of the girls preferred to use the outdoor lines.
Classes soon started in earnest. Curriculum and Ethics were a compulsory in-house subjects for all first year students. It sounded like there would be a stimulating study of the social aspects of teaching. The Lecturer advised them to buy the recommended text to use for their assignments, and ran through a brief outline of the topics they would cover.
There was half an hour between Curriculum and Ethics and the first convocation program of the year. Most of the girls returned to the Dormitory to check their appearance and tidy their hair. Joelle and Stephanie waited for Melanie, who was changing into a dainty sun-dress.
They walked across to the campus meeting hall, which was a two story, Queenslander-style white structure they were told had been "heritage listed" due to its age and significance. The upstairs area was light and airy, with old fashioned theatre-style seats.
Melanie hesitated at the top of the stairs, obviously scanning the room for someone in particular.
Joelle and Stephanie waited politely, as this would be the first time they met Melanie's steady boyfriend, Jonathon.
"There you are", a male voice said from just behind us, "I was beginning to think I would never catch up!"
"Jonathon!" Melanie exclaimed in delight, and she hugged him right there in front of everybody. Then she introduced Joelle and Stephanie.
Jonathon was a clean-cut guy with blonde hair. He proved to be every bit as friendly as Melanie, shaking hands with us immediately. "Welcome to university!" he exclaimed.
Jonathon had brought a friend, whom he introduced to the girls as "Jeffrey".
Jeffrey was considerably quieter than Jonathon, but Stephanie found myself mesmerised by his deep grey eyes. He smiled, and her heart turned over with a big thump.
"Hello Jeffrey", Stephanie murmured.
"Hello Stephanie," Jeffrey replied. "I'm more often known as Jeff." He continued looking at her, and she began to blush.
Jeff was about six foot tall with brown hair, and something about him appealed to Stephanie’s subconscious. Her parents had not allowed her to date prior to finishing high school, and she had no idea what sort of qualities to look for in a boyfriend. However, Stephanie imagined that if there was someone special out there for her, he stand out from the crowd. So far Jeff fitted that scenario.
Joelle pulled at her arm, "let's find a seat", she said. "Are you coming, Melanie and Jonathon?"
They filed into one of the pews and sat down as a group, with Melanie between the girls and the guys. Stephanie couldn't help sneaking a look at Jeffrey, and went red again when he looked straight back at her.
Joelle was looking at the organ and piano, almost measuring them for her fingers. "They've asked me if I would provide an item for some of the campus meetings," she said.
"That's great!" Stephanie whispered back.
After convocation, Stephanie attended Introduction to Education, another compulsory subject for all teaching students. It consisted of an overview of the theory of education. It was one of the requirements set by the Australian Government for an accredited Bachelor of Education program.
The next morning, Stephanie attended her first English Literature class. English Literature had always been fascinating to her. She enjoyed the drama and artistic effects in narrative, and loved the author's observations of human nature.
The Professor was very enthusiastic, and Stephanie could tell right away that he would be able to deliver the lectures in a fascinating manner. He told them that they would begin by studying George Eliot, then move on to Shakespeare's Hamlet, and a selection of modern poetry. The course was designed to form a complete introduction to the study of literature at tertiary level.
The Physical Science Laboratory Stephanie attended after lunch was a different story altogether. She found she had to learn to draw – instantly; and decipher the most puzzling things viewed under the microscope. Everything was unfamiliar, and Stephanie left the Laboratory at the end of three hours discouraged and exhausted.
Stephanie knew that she would do well at the theory, or else she would have been tempted to withdraw from the subject immediately. (Brenda, who was her lab partner for the first few weeks did decide to withdraw, but we mustn't get ahead of the story.)
The Staff Deans gave Stephanie the task of cleaning Women's Assembly area. This was part of the "student work program" by which they earned credit towards their fees. Stephanie was pleased, because the building was a public venue, and if she kept it looking nice, everyone enjoy the result. It was simple work, but Stephanie could take a pride in completing it thoroughly, and schedule her efforts around the special events held in the area.
Stephanie hummed and thought cheerful thoughts as she vacuumed up and down between the rows of seats. The year seemed to have a lot of potential. She had made a number of female friends already, there were males to meet, a pleasant if somewhat strict atmosphere, and challenging subjects to study.
Half way through, Stephanie had to stop and shift the extension cord. Then she continued cleaning. The Women's Assembly area would be used for co-ed vespers that evening.
The vespers program, besides being a Christian service, offered the students a great opportunity to socialise. It was therefore popular with students of all religious persuasions. The visiting Chaplain was from the recently formed Uniting Church of Australia and did not make heavy weather of any doctorial issues.
Joelle and Stephanie arrived at the Assembly area early, and sat down beside Debbie and Grace. Phoebe came in and joined us. Melanie, Jonathon and Jeff said "Hello" as they passed them, and sat down a couple of benches ahead. Jeff turned and looked at her. His grey eyes were eloquent even from a distance.
After worship concluded, Grace got up and went over to the fourth-year group, talking animatedly to Melanie, but actually casting her eyes towards Jonathon and Jeff. The rest of us were beginning to notice that Grace was quite flirtatious. It seemed harmless enough at this stage.
The next morning, Stephanie consulted the campus bulletin and was thinking about attending the Traditional Service, but Joelle invited her to attend the Reformed Church Service with her. The Reformed Church was one of the biggest movements on campus and Stephanie had heard that most of the students took an interest in their activities at some stage.
Stephanie wore a matching blue skirt and fitted top, with braid around the neck and hemline. It was one of her own retro nineteen-sixty creations, although the length had been adjusted to knee level to suit the eighties. Stephanie had no doubt that she looked smart, but she felt almost plain when she saw Joelle in her full black taffeta skirt and white lace blouse. She was going to be playing the piano, and explained that the outfit comprised part of her function.
They caught up with Phoebe on the stairs and crossed to the Campus Meeting Hall together. Joelle took a seat down the front, but Phoebe and Stephanie were invited to sit with David, who was always friendly, and Milton whom they had gotten to know better in English class.
The Reform Church meeting was a formal seated occasion. Their service followed a basic format with three hymns and a sermon. There were no responsive readings or recitals of faith such as Stephanie was accustomed to at her home church. Someone whispered that she was privileged to be hearing one of the most polished religious speakers in the Australian region, popular theologian and television evangelist Pastor Siemens. He certainly was an interesting character.
Lunch was a leisurely affair, once they had got through the queue that formed when the various church services dispersed. After eating their meal, the students all relaxed and talked amongst themselves. Freed from the pressure of study and classes, some people even appeared prepared to sit in the Cafeteria all afternoon!
Stephanie excused herself and went back to her room to write letters home. Although she had wanted to travel, the sheer distance she had moved from everyone she knew was daunting, and she felt the need to create contact. Writing correspondence also reminded her of how much Stephanie missed the familiar places, and she was busy until tea time.
After tea, David organised a group for a walk down to the suspension bridge. A number of students set off, chattering noisily, and stayed down by the river until it began to get dark.
David, who was majoring in Theology, decided to lead an informal prayer session. Then he fell into a lively ethical discussion with some of the others. Milton walked Phoebe, Joelle and Stephanie back to the Dormitory. His manner was quietly friendly.
The next day was uneventful. Stephanie did some solitary study after class and went to bed with a headache. The memory of her Grandmother's death just before Christmas the previous year was poignant and she shed a few tears. Her dear Grandma had provided her with stability whenever there was trouble at home, and taught her the fine art of dressmaking. Homesickness also hit her in earnest, but she did not expect the melancholy mood to last for long with all the activities Silver Springs made available during the week.
The excitement for the following day was caused by publication of the University news-letter which announced that the first big social event for the year would be the Reverse Tea. "Reverse" didn't mean that they ate desert, then savoury, then soup - which would have been sort of fun - it meant that the girls were expected to ask the guys out. It was presented to the student body as an "ice-breaker". Apparently the Faculty had observed that on the whole, the female students were more outgoing and willing to get involved in social events than the male students.
After classes finished, the girls gathered in Phoebe's room to talk about whom they were going to ask to the tea. Debbie had the Student Directory and was leafing through its pages. Joelle, to her surprise, was the most confident of them all. She had already asked a fellow music student to accompany her "as a friend". Phoebe was also approaching the event practically, and planned to ask Milton during English.
Stephanie kept quiet. She was thinking about asking Jeff, but she didn't want to be teased in an embarrassing way about him.
Debbie said that she didn't know who to ask.
"It has to be someone good-looking and single", Stephanie said. "Why don't you ask David, he is really friendly?"
"I don't know," Debbie said, "David talks to everybody, but he never pays attention to any girl in particular. I would want someone who is interested in me".
"You can't always get that on schedule," Phoebe remarked. "Although it would be nice to be vaguely compatible."
"Why does the person have to be single?" Grace chipped in challengingly, "I am thinking of asking Jonathon."
Stephanie shrugged her shoulders, barely taking her comment seriously. "It is a waste of time asking someone who has a girlfriend. Anyway Jonathon will already be going with Melanie."
Grace looked sulky. Apparently she had meant it, and didn't want to be convinced that some young men were out of the running. The rest of the girls ignored her attitude and went on with their conversation.
Stephanie was both excited and nervous about asking Jeff to the Reverse Tea. "Asking out" was traditionally the males' prerogative, and the liberty to develop a career had little impact on social attitudes in the nineteen-eighties. Stephanie had observed some girls knew how to flirt and drop hints to get what they wanted, but she wasn't one of them.
Stephanie got through her classes somehow, read an English novel throughout the afternoon because it was the easiest type of study to concentrate upon, and then changed into a tropical print shift dress for combined assembly. The design was brighter than the current fashion, but she liked bold colours and felt they were flattering to her complexion.
Arriving at Women's Assembly area, which was the venue for many combined meetings, Stephanie scanned the congregated students for Melanie. She was sitting near the centre of the hall with Jonathon. Stephanie sat down next to her and said, "Hello".
"Hello, Stephanie," Melanie replied. "How have you been settling in?"
"Good thanks, Melanie", Stephanie said. "How have you been?"
"Pretty good," Melanie said, and it was obvious she was content. Jeff arrived just then, and as the other side of Jonathon was already occupied, he sat down beside Stephanie.
Having Jeff sitting right next to her made her feel quite self-conscious. Stephanie tried to sit in a lady-like manner, and not fidget. After a few minutes, she began to relax, and the cheerful strains of items performed by senior music students surrounded them. Assembly had commenced.
After assembly, Jonathon asked Melanie to go for a walk (they were allowed to go outside at night, if they stuck to certain lighted paths and came inside before ten o'clock) and Stephanie was left sitting with Jeff.
"What are you studying?" she asked to break the silence.
"Maths and Computing", Jeff answered. "It's my final year".
"How fascinating", Stephanie said. "I am studying English Literature and Physical Science."
"Very intellectual," Jeff commented. He obviously meant to be complimentary, but Stephanie was vaguely uncomfortable because she made every effort to keep up socially and did not want to be perceived as a nerd, despite being younger than many of her classmates.
Stephanie asked Jeff how long he had known Jonathon, and found out that they had attended High School together in Sydney. She commented that Melanie was very nice and had been showing her around the University. Stephanie said that she had met some other nice people, and hoped to make a lot of new friends during the year.
Then they ran out of easy conversation and fell silent.
Although it was Jeff's turn to speak, he seemed to be waiting for her to say something. ‘He has guessed I am going to ask him to the Reverse Tea', Stephanie thought in sudden panic. `I had better do it now...’
"Jeff," Stephanie said very carefully, "I was wondering if you would come to the Reverse Tea with me, you know - to get to know someone new?"
There, it was out! Stephanie sat still, hardly breathing, waiting for an answer.
"I don't know". Jeff said, cryptically, "I don't go for those functions much... so maybe not this time."
"That's all right", Stephanie said, as graciously and quickly as possible. His answer was confusing, but it mostly sounded like a "No." Moreover, she didn't have the knack of persuasion to turn it into a yes if that was what was needed. "I hope you have a nice week."
Stephanie excused herself in embarrassment. Jeff had turned her down for no good reason, but he had thrown in some mixed signals as well. She went straight to bed, and pretended to be asleep when Joelle arrived in case she asked questions Stephanie could not answer comfortably.
"It always rains in March", commented the Biology Master the next day. He was something of a local expert, and had published some papers on insects in the area. His real name was “Dr. Webb”, but like the other professors, he was rarely referred to by name. He had kept charts of the rainfall ever since commencing lecturing at the University.
The rain matched Stephanie’s mood - blue. She had been forced to duck around between buildings to get to classes. An umbrella covered her about to the waist, but her feet got soaked every time. Someone told her that they wore out a lot of shoes in the tropical climate. Stephanie could see why.
Stephanie spent the afternoon in the Library analysing poetry for English Language, the literacy subject recommended for all students of the Arts and Humanities. Then it was time for tea, and a bit of a break before worship. Stephanie dropped by Melanie's room, confident that she would be there. "Can I talk to you for a moment?" Stephanie asked.