Hi Kevin. Thanks for getting back to me so soon!
I talked to my mother and she'd be willing to meet you over at the school this morning.
If you're available.
Of course I am!! That would be great!
I'll have her meet you over there at ten.
She's sometimes a little late but hopefully nothing major.
That is perfect. Thank you so much!
It’s a crisp morning, despite being warmer than it had been during winter’s tightening grasp. FRIDAY PERKINS has taken the local train to ASTORIA, where a moderate walk brings her to the site of the MAGICADEMY, surrounded by what the HEADMISTRESS had called the AUXILIARY APARTMENTS, where lived some of the older students and recent graduates.
Or, at least, that was how it had been.
FRIDAY learned just yesterday the extent of the school’s closure when she had met a strange old man and his ‘assistant’ claiming to be bringing in the paper.
It’s tragic, she thinks, that such an institution is under the process of being boarded up.
Despite the warm weather, she shivers as she approaches the fence. She looks around her, seeing nothing save a few pedestrians; the occasional dog and its guardian.
In the distance, two yappers yap at each other.
(thinking) How is she getting here? Where does she live?
FRIDAY had tried to extract information from the family yesterday, but they’d been tight-lipped and secretive. She hoped that today the HEADMISTRESS would be in the mood to talk.
She eyes her phone. 9:48 AM. At least she’s early.
Time passes as surely as leaves scraping against pavement. She has decided, unlike yesterday, to remain outside the locked fence as to take as little chance as possible at offending the HEADMISTRESS.
Soon, a car wheels up and halts against the sidewalk. Out of the backseat climbs a tall, thin woman in a knit sweater.
It is the former HEADMISTRESS MYRTLE MARSCAPONE.
GOOD MORNING HEADMISTRESS!
FRIDAY slips her phone into her pocket and walks toward the car, eager to offer any assistance she can provide.
MYRTLE is a prideful woman and although she moves more slowly than she used to, she is loath to admit defeat.
IT’S NICE TO SEE YOU.
MYRTLE has yet to make eye contact with FRIDAY.
LOVELY WEATHER WE’RE HAVING.
IT IS, ISN’T IT.
The old woman yells back into the taxi.
WE’RE ALL SQUARED UP?
HAVE A NICE DAY, MA’AM.
MYRTLE slams the car door and the car careens off to rejoin the flow of traffic.
She finally catches the gaze of FRIDAY, who is wearing sunglasses.
YOU LOOK WELL.
I SEE THAT MY SON LET YOU KNOW I’VE RETIRED.
The pair approach the sidewalk and MYRTLE removes a key from her pocket for the fence.
WELL, I KNEW A WHILE BACK THAT YOU WERE THINKING OF STEPPING DOWN YOUR COMMITMENT BUT…
I DIDN’T THINK THAT YOU’D ACTUALLY LEAVE.
I THOUGHT THE MAGICADEMY WAS YOUR HOME.
FRIDAY tails MYRTLE as she approaches the front door and motions to unlock it.
THE ACADEMY WILL ALWAYS BE MY HOME.
I DID MOVE OUT…
The locks clack noisily open and the inside of the house is dark.
FRIDAY follows the HEADMISTRESS inside and closes the door behind her.
Suddenly the candles in the foyer blaze into life. MYRTLE has her hand raised; she’s performed a cantrip to bring the hallway to light.
I DID MOVE OUT.
BUT MOSTLY BECAUSE I WASN’T CONFIDENT I COULD TEACH THE NEXT GENERATION.
CHILDREN TODAY ARE DIFFERENT THAN THEY USED TO BE.
I DON’T KNOW WHY.
I COULDN’T TEACH THEM WITHOUT BRINGING SOMEONE ELSE ON.
AND I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYONE ANYMORE.
NOT ANYONE I TRUST.
The house has the musty smell of toasted radiator dust.
MY SON IS LOOKING AFTER THE PLACE BUT HE HAS HIS OWN PRIORITIES.
HE’S NOT AS INTERESTED IN PLAYING NURSEMAID AS WAS I.
MYRTLE is leading them into the kitchen.
The left wall has a hearth. To one side, in an iron rack, is a shrink-wrapped cluster of logs. There is a loud, sharp tear as the plastic breaks and three logs are levitated into the fireplace. MYRTLE snaps her fingers and the wood is set ablaze instantly.
FRIDAY removes her sunglasses and folds them, hanging them on the inside edge of her shirt.
WASN’T KEVIN SICK?
MYRTLE pauses while staring at the fire. She takes a breath and speaks, choosing not to look at FRIDAY.
YES. YES, HE WAS.
HE’S DOING MUCH BETTER NOW.
BUT I STILL DON’T WANT TO BURDEN HIM WITH THE SCHOOL.
THE SCHOOL’S DAYS ARE OVER.
They say nothing to each other for a few moments.
BUT ON TO HAPPIER THINGS.
I HEAR YOU’RE CONTINUING YOUR STUDIES.
In the dim light, FRIDAY suppresses a blush.
OH, IT’S NOT MUCH, REALLY.
I WAS LOOKING TO TAKE CLASSES AT A CONVENTIONAL COLLEGE.
COMPUTER SCIENCE WILL BE USEFUL.
I’M LOOKING FOR A JOB BUT I’M COMING UP EMPTY-HANDED.
I WAS WONDERING IF YOU’D BE ABLE TO WRITE ME A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION.
OF COURSE I CAN TYPE SOMETHING UP FOR YOU.
UNFORTUNATELY, THE DEADLINE FOR MY PROGRAM IS THE FIFTEENTH.
MYRTLE turns back toward FRIDAY.
I CAN HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU BY TOMORROW.
I’M HAPPY TO HELP ONE OF MY BEST STUDENTS.
FRIDAY is glad to be blessed with flattery, despite suspecting that all of MYRTLE’s students were, indeed, her best students.
CAN I GET YOU SOME TEA, MY DEAR?
OF COURSE, I WOULD LOVE SOME TEA.
MYRTLE begins to futz around in her kitchen, lighting more candles by the grace of her desire. She leaves the hearth unattended, and FRIDAY takes her place to warm herself.
The kitchen is silent for a while, except for the clatter of dishware.
It’s now or never.
SO WHO WERE THE MEN THAT BROUGHT IN YOUR PAPER?
FRIENDS OF KEVIN’S?
MYRTLE pauses at the young woman’s boldness.
FRIENDS OF KEVIN’S?
OH DEAR, NO.
STRAUD IS ONE OF MY FRIENDS.
HE’S A WELL-READ OLD MAN. A FELLOW WELL-VERSED IN DIVINATIONS.
SOMETHING I NEVER SPENT MUCH TIME ON.
SO HE’S A HOLY MAN.
YOU COULD SAY THAT.
THEY WERE VERY NICE TO ME.
THEY CERTAINLY DIDN’T HAVE TO CALL YOU ON MY BEHALF.
I’M SORRY YOU DIDN’T HAVE MY PHONE NUMBER.
STRAUD IS A VERY KIND MAN.
She pauses, fumbling for words.
HAS ALWAYS BEEN…
A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY.
I’M SORRY YOU NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO MEET HIM.
HE WAS QUITE BUSY DURING YOUR TIME HERE.
I ALWAYS WANTED TO HAVE HIM IN FOR A GUEST LECTURE BUT I SUPPOSE IT NEVER HAPPENED.
IS HIS ASSISTANT?
MYRTLE stops rinsing out the tea kettle.
WHO WAS HE TRAVELING WITH? A PALE YOUNG MAN?
She fills the tea kettle from the tap.
HE WAS WEARING GLASSES.
THAT WAS PROBABLY MANDARC.
A FAIRLY RECENT ADDITION TO HIS ENTOURAGE.
HE’S A NICE YOUNG MAN.
MYRTLE hangs the tea kettle over the fire.
Of course, PERKINS reflects, the HEADMISTRESS was more than capable of producing heated water at the flick of a finger. But she, as always, did things in her own ways and at her own pace.
YOU COULD GIVE ME HIS NUMBER?
The HEADMISTRESS chuckles, silently, and raises her eyebrows toward FRIDAY.
YOU AREN’T SUGGESTING –
She eyes FRIDAY closely, now smirking.
OH MY. YOU ARE.
I DON’T THINK THAT WILL GO OVER SO WELL.
MYRTLE leans in closely, speaking near a whisper despite the empty house.
I BELIEVE HE’S A –
YOU THINK HE’S GAY?
ARE YOU SURE?
MYRTLE seems slightly offended at the request of secondary confirmation.
WELL, NO, I CAN’T SAY FOR CERTAIN.
BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT IS THE CASE.
She’s trying to suppress any visible frustration.
I JUST CAN’T BELIEVE THAT IS TRUE.
HE WAS SO NICE TO ME.
ISN’T THAT ALWAYS THE CASE, DEAR?
MAYBE IT DOESN’T MATTER.
MAYBE WE CAN JUST TALK.
THAT ISN’T HOW THINGS EVER GO, MY DEAR.
THE HEART WANTS WHAT THE HEART WANTS.
MYRTLE points her finger at the bottom of the tea kettle, concentrating the heat, preventing any from escaping through the ambient air.
YOU THOUGHT HE WAS FLIRTING WITH YOU?
FRIDAY’s face flushes, embarrassed.
(quietly) I guess I did.
Suddenly the steam erupts with a whistle. MYRTLE opens the spout and it is quickly silenced.
OH, THEIR KIND IS ALWAYS LIKE THAT.
POLITE TO A FAULT.
YOU CAN NEVER TELL WHAT EXACTLY THEY MEAN, BEHIND ALL THE PLEASES AND MAY IS AND THANK YOUS.
WELL THAT WAS PART OF IT, THOUGH.
HE WASN’T ALL THAT POLITE.
HE REBUKED ME FOR NOT GETTING MY APPLICATION DONE EARLIER.
WAS HE WRONG?
NO, HE WAS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.
THAT IS PART OF WHAT GOT ME.
HE WAS WILLING TO BE HONEST.
STRAUD IS AN IMPECCABLE JUDGE OF CHARACTER.
IF HE REALLY IS GAY, IT WON’T BOTHER ME.
I WON’T BE ABLE TO FORGIVE MYSELF IF I DON’T THANK HIM FOR TELLING IT LIKE IT IS.
IT’S SO RARE NOWADAYS.
I’LL SEND YOUR NUMBER OVER, FRIDAY.
BUT PLEASE DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP.
GREEN OR BLACK?
… I HAVE SOME ROOIBOS, TOO.
Friday? Friday Perkins?
Hi Mandarc! It's so good to hear from you!
I wanted to thank you for forwarding my information to the Headmistress yesterday.
It was really very helpful.
Did you get in contact with the Missus?
I did. I met her yesterday and she said she'd write me a letter.
You're totally right that I should have tried to get this all done sooner.
I'm going over there tomorrow to pick up the letter.
After that... I was wondering.
If you'd like to get some coffee or lunch or something?
I just wanted to thank you for your help.
I can't, I have work tomorrow.
Sunday, then. Brunch?
No... I can't do that either.
It's OK, then.
You can let me down easy.
It's not that.
How about we do drinks, tomorrow, in Astoria?
Seven, or so.
That is perfect.
I know a place.
The Blue Velvet.
Not too far from 31st.