On Jerome’s return to the capital, he had mentioned in passing by the following Monday morning that he had spoken with Jewel, and that she had sent us her love; and I had not been able to resist taking a shot in the dark and ask if he had given her the ring, a question with which I had utterly floored him.
He had reacted sharply with:”What ring?” And, at what I had tried to be a knowing look, continued with, “Good Lord! Is nothing at all private in this place?” before he had walked off.
During the time between the Valentine fund-raiser and the government’s creation of the Cancer Unit Fund, when he had been making himself scarce, he had made a trip by air across the northern border to the capital city of the neighbouring province one weekend, and, by sheer coincidence, I had heard about it from one of my ex-colleagues, who had migrated there after training and working here.
She had come home very briefly for her sister’s wedding, paying visits to local friends before returning; and had “pinched” me with the news that she had acted as interpreter for Doctor St. John when he had visited a jewellery shop on that occasion, at which time he had bought a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring. I had kept this secret to myself the whole time, in the hope that it had been intended for my dear protégé!
I’ll give you three versions of what had taken place on that Saturday, from the accounts of Lucille, Jerome and Jewel, in the chronological order in which it had occurred, but not in which I had received the reports.
Lucille had said that at about twelve-thirty that afternoon she had seen a male figure in dark glasses striding along the road towards their dwelling, discovering with surprise that it had been Miss Millicent’s nephew, who used to visit her regularly but had not been seen in the area for quite a long time. She had said that the moment she had seen him she had been instinctively struck with the thought that something had not been as it should be; and his businesslike air had evinced a resolve to bring order or, at least, his brand of it.
When Jewel had arrived home just after Christmas, Abel and she had detected a new maturity since seeing her five years before, as if she had undergone experiences which had tested her spirit to its limits; but, as she had still stood solidly, they had asked no questions and decided to wait until such time as she was ready to unburden herself.
About a month after settling in she had got into a conversation with Abel about her future, when she had expressed her intention of returning to the capital to continue her education after about a year at home, but that she needed to be away from that scene after the punishing time she had undergone during the last general elections.
Abel had ventured to ask if everything was now all right with her, to which she had replied that they were as well as could be expected, which had been his cue to press for further information, with the comment that it sounded as if she had something worrying her still.
At his concern she had finally broken down under his gentle probing and admitted to him that, along with other trying occurrences, she had fallen in love with someone but had made a mistake in believing he had felt as she did. She had bravely asserted, as people unlucky in love have done before her, that she was not the first person to whom this had happened and would not be the last; that he could share the information with her Mam, but must not worry about her as she was now an adult who could take care of herself.
On Valentine’s Day, Jewel’s brothers had mentioned around the supper table an incident of some of the girls at school anonymously sending a card to their male Math teacher, and word of it having reached the Principal. Jewel had wanted to know how that had happened, and they had regaled her with the details of the incident, the assertive Kiah doing most of the talking.
He had said that one of the girls had foolishly confided in the class “regulator” and she had taken it on herself to expose it to the rest of the class. In an effort to counter any blame that might adhere to him and to discourage that kind of activity in his female students in the future, the teacher had felt obliged to report the matter to the Principal.
When Kiah had expressed the opinion in disgust that the girls were silly and trying to play “grown-up,” Jewel had wondered why he was so rough on them; and he had answered that it was girls like those who got innocent guys into trouble. Probing further, Jewel had discovered that Kiah was irritated by girls who tried to distract him with this kind of attention when he was serious about his school work!
(Chapter 38 continues in Friday’s issue of the Amandala.)