Symphony 118

Fiona looked pained. “They have gotten off your back. What more do you want? Are you going to hide behind that scandal all you life?”

Their eyes locked. “I”m not hiding behind a damned thing, Fiona Kelly! I’m trying to be fair to these parents and to myself, and no one is a better judge of how to do that than I am!”

After a minute, they both grinned. It was a good thing that their one-kiss romance had come to nothing. Life with Fiona would have been fiery.

“Anyway,” Neil said, “I wouldn’t want to teach sex education by myself, even to the boys. There is too much I don’t know.”

“Come on!”

“‘I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies,'”  Neil quoted. “Nor about nursing them, for that matter. How can I answer their questions on that?”

“Do you want me to teach it with you?”

“I think it would be better. And I don’t think it would embarrass them too much. They all think of us as sexless old fogies anyway, just like their parents.”

Fiona thought about it for a minute, then said, “I think that’s a great idea. It also overcomes your objections about the scandal. I’m sure the girls will appreciate your perspective.”

“Now wait a minute . . .”

“What? You’d better not say anything sexist.”

“. . . I did not say that I wanted to teach sex ed. to the girls. That is a whole different story.”

“Oh, it is, is it?” Fiona demanded icily. “And why is that?”

“Because males are threatening creatures in our culture. They wouldn’t want me there.”

“Bull! I’ve seen those girls following you around the playground. You have a regular fan club. You are half way between a father figure and someone safe enough to have a crush on. They may be a little embarrassed, but they aren’t going to feel threatened by you.”

“Their parents’ might.”

“That’s their problem. If they do, let Bill handle them.”

Once Fiona got something in her mind, it was hard to stop her; against his better judgment, Neil found himself helping plan which day to set aside for them to team-teach sex education.

# # #

Late that night, in a state of mellow, playful afterglow, Neil told Carmen about his conversation with Fiona.

At first Carmen was worried for the same reason Neil had been, because of the scandal. Then she shrugged it off. “You have to go on with your life as if Alice Hamilton had never existed. If people give you trouble, you have to face it, but you can’t stop doing things because they might disapprove. As teachers, we get in a habit of being super careful when half the time the rest of the world doesn’t care.”

She burrowed deeper into the holow of his arm and teased, “You and Fiona and sex. Who would have ever thought it?”

“Fiona and I were — friendly — back when you wouldn’t have anything to do with me.”

“Oh!”

“She had me over for a bite of dinner.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t for dinner and a bite?” And she bit him.

“Ouch!” He bit her back, but very gently and on a spot that would best appreciate the tender press of his teeth. Then he gave equal time to that it’s twin sister.

# # #

Carmen rose up on an elbow. She was just a silhouette against the light coming from the half open bathroom door, and Neil could not read her face. She said, “Tell me about you and Fiona.”

“Jealous?”

“Please, Neil. Don’t tease me.” more tomorrow

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