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The classroom was in darkness, empty and abandoned. Miss Hunter gazed around for the last time at what had once been her domain. In the typing room, she had been queen. All the typewriters looked forlorn, sitting silently on each desk, their dust jackets covering them like a shroud. Did they mourn her leaving? Did they even know, or was it just the fancies of an old woman, an old woman who was no longer needed? A door on her life had closed, and no matter how much she wanted it, she knew it could never be re-opened.
Oh, she would visit the school occasionally, she supposed, but she would no longer be a part of it. Things would go on without her and she didn't know how she was going to cope with that. Yes, she was sixty with greying hair and more wrinkles than she cared to count, but she could still think, she could still feel, she could still teach if they'd only let her.
And what did she get for her forty years of loyal service? A gold plated carriage clock that she could put on the mantelpiece ticking off the little time she had left. She got a nice "Thank you" from the headmaster, but she could tell what he was really thinking, that she was too old and they were glad to get rid of her. She shuddered at the memory.
Who gave them the right to decide whether she was too old or not? What had age got to do with anything? She was older, wiser, and more mature. Surely they were qualities to admire in a teacher? She could just imagine who they would hire as her replacement, some vivacious young thing straight out of teacher training college full of new ideas and tricks to keep the pupils interested. Emily had never had toresort to trickery to help her students learn. She tried to dismiss the thought and sighed. Was she really that out of touch?
It was difficult for her to think of someone else using her desk, sitting in her chair, teaching her class. Would her pupils miss her or would they even think of her now that she was gone? Would they even care? Perhaps they wouldn't even remember her after a few weeks.
Emily was reluctant to leave the classroom that she had spent so much time in. She had never married, never had a family, the one thing she regretted above all others. It would have been nice to be surrounded by grandchildren in her last years. As it was, she had been alone.
There had been a young man once, Andrew Samson. Her parents had been friends of his parents and they met at one of her parents' parties. They were always throwing parties, trying to throw their money around to impress people and Emily hated the parties. She was always paraded like some sort of trophy. After the party where she'd first met Andrew, he came to visit her, always with her mother or father in the parlour with them. Every time Andrew looked at her, she felt her heart flutter and her knees tremble.
He brought gifts of flowers and chocolates every day he visited, but she didn't care that he gave her presents; she just wanted to see him. She grew to anticipate the time when she would see him next. On one occasion, she came downstairs to hear Andrew and her father having a quiet discussion in the parlour. They both stopped speaking as she came into the room.
"Emily," her father had said. "Mr. Samson wishes to speak with you alone for a few minutes. I will allow it just this once, as it is a special occasion." Her father was smiling indulgently and she knew then what Andrew wanted to talk to her about.
Once her father had left, Andrew drew her to one of the armchairs and knelt down resting his hand lightly on her knee. She hoped her father hadn't seen that. Her heart was thumping wildly against her ribs and she feared that at any moment it might escape and fly away like some exotic bird.
"Emily, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?" His eyes, such a sparkling blue, were begging with her, pleading with her to say yes. Emily had nodded, she didn't trust herself to speak with the tears streaming down her face and clogging her throat. He had kissed her then, just a quick touch of soft lips against hers, a touch so fleeting that she wondered sometimes if it had really happened, or if she had imagined the kiss. Sometimes the memory of that fleeting touch was all that had kept her going.
But it was never to be, they never got married, Andrew had been killed in a car crash two weeks before the wedding and she had been inconsolable. Her parents hadn't known what to do with her and she was sent away to recover. Nowadays, people would have said what had really happened. She'd had a nervous breakdown and was sent to a mental hospital, but of course her parents couldn't tell all their posh friends that, now could they?
She had never met anyone else, she didn't want to. No one could compare to Andrew. Maybe some people could have settled for second best, but she knew she wasn't one of them.
"It is time to go, Emily," said a voice behind her and she turned around to see the figure there. She thought of the figure as male, although she knew now that they were neither male nor female, they weren't human at all. The figure was arrayed in a white robe, light emanating from within. He'd folded his wings back and stood there patiently while Emily reconciled herself to the fact that she was no longer a part of earth anymore. It was nice to be given this chance to say goodbye, to attend to things before she had to go.
She smiled at the angel, feeling young again. No longer was she plagued by the crippling arthritis that had made her last days full of agony. The angel took her hand and led her towards the tunnel, guiding her towards her final destination. There were figures there to welcome her, her grandparents, her parents, and there he was, hanging back from the rest, looking just as handsome as she remembered him. He smiled at her and opened his arms.
She glanced at the angel by her side and then back towards him. The angel may have guided her here, but she knew that there was only one angel for her.
Copyright © 2003 by Annette Gisby
Posted April 7, 2004
I'm not fond of short stories, but every now and then I come across a writer who handles this format so well that my enjoyment surprises me. Annette Gisby is such a writer, because her collection of suspense tales (whose endings I could NOT see coming the proverbial 'mile away') had me gulping it down in a single evening. Most of the tales, like opener 'Emily's Angel,' run between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Their settings vary from contemporary England, to the 17th Century, to the future on Earth and in space. The closing story, a paranormal romance entitled 'Leonae,' reaches the lower limits of novella length without giving the reader any sense that it's gone on too long. My personal favorite from this collection, 'Witch Hunter,' opens in a 17th Century dungeon. Katherine, a young noblewoman without male relatives to protect her, is confined there under horrific conditions-supposedly for practicing the black arts. In reality, her crime is refusing Sir Robert's marriage proposal. Sir Robert (a man whom no woman with a choice would be likely to accept!) sends for the noted 'witch hunter' Lord William Alden, even after Katherine's herbal healing skills have saved his life, so that he can force her to stand trial by ordeal. Lady Katherine is doomed, like so many other women of her era, to die by the means she has always feared most...and more than that, I wouldn't dream of telling you. The writing in these tales is frank. I found its handling of sensitive subjects (both positive-a few sensual love scenes, and negative-the aftereffects of rape) appropriate, and the scenes themselves not at all gratuitous. If you enjoy irony, and strong heroines whose lives you can live right along with them as you read, then I heartily recommend 'Shadows of the Rose.'
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Posted April 9, 2013
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This is a neat book of short stories in various genres that you will absolutely love. Annette Gisby immediately draws you into her world with each captivating story. When it’s over you’re so engrossed that you don’t want to leave. My favorite of the collection is The Witch Hunter. A young woman is accused of Witchcraft and she stands trial before a man she once loved. He saves her life and marries her, but when her daughter is born we get a huge surprise!
This was an interesting collection, with characters that draw you in. Unfortunately, some of the stories stop a bit too soon and it felt like it was a sample of a complete novel and you’re left wanting more. Some just don’t seem to come across as finished to me. Otherwise, they were fantastic and very imaginative.
Posted November 12, 2009
No text was provided for this review.