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As Henry walked around the classroom, he quickly put things to rights. He liked everything to be in order with all items put in their proper place. He detested chaos since his life was chaotic on all but the very best days.
It wasn’t easy being deaf. In the 1870s, there were no interpreters to communicate one’s feelings to the public. And most people didn’t understand sign language. Writing was the only way to let others know what he needed. Let alone what he dreamed.
She would be coming to his classroom this afternoon. He tried to think about something, anything else, but all he could see was her lovely blonde hair all braided up around her head. He longed to run his fingers through those braids. Thought of it often, too often lately.
But that was no good. Even though she had completed all of her classes technically, she was still a student. She’d been tutoring a few of the younger girls this semester and might be considered for a teaching job, should she want to return in the fall. When the Dean had informed him, Henry had tried not to look too pleased with the idea.
He reminded himself that they came from two very different worlds. Her father was the mayor of a nearby city, while he was from a poor farm family. The fact that he’d been given the opportunity to go to school was by the grace of a nearby wealthy neighbor. She had been his salvation or so he had thought. The chance to find books and learn to communicate with others like himself. Yet, now that he’d been teaching these seven long years, all he could think about (besides those braids) was how much he missed the farm. And the days, when no one had wanted him to settle petty disputes or grade papers.
He remembered the lovely way the sun rose over the hills in the morning or the brilliant colors as it sank in the evening. And his horses. How he longed to have his own horse again.
He continued checking around the room, making sure everything was put away for the weekend. After this final class, he would be free for two days with the luxury to read what he liked. And thank goodness, no papers to grade this weekend. He was so involved in his thoughts that he jumped when he felt the soft touch on his shoulder.
There she was, lovely golden braids and all. God, he would love to see her with her hair down. But he pushed all such thoughts out of his head and smiled, waiting for her to sign why she was there.
Clara caught her breath and smiled at the man before her. He was a popular teacher and very well-respected at the school. He taught mainly the boys, but she had been in his science lab a few years ago and remembered how he would run his hand through his hair, when he explained the amazing wonders of the universe. He would forget and stop signing, then catch himself and go back to his lecture.
As she looked up at him this afternoon, she saw yet again those intense blue eyes. Eyes she felt she could drown in. But she stood tall and signed to him that she would like to ask him a question. “As you know, I’ve been tutoring a few of the younger girls with their studies and usually come with them to the afternoon class. Today, I am leaving early to travel home for the weekend. May I have their homework assignment, so I can leave notes for them?”
Henry nodded and walked over to his desk by the blackboard. He pulled out his notes and wrote down a few questions. This was the gist of the lecture and he knew she would have no trouble with the topic. She had done well in the class he’d taught two years ago. Back then, the braids had hung down past her shoulders. He had merely thought her a pretty girl, but was more focused on her quick intellect. Over the past few months, he had been watching her work with the two younger girls. She was so good with them. So patient. And so beautiful.
He smoothed down the sides of his jacket and took the notes over to her. “Are you looking forward to seeing your family?” he signed.
Clara was surprised by the question, as Mr. Graves was known for rarely getting involved in personal issues or even asking about what went on outside the school.
She smiled and replied, “Yes, I am happy to be going home for a few days and to be able to spend time with my sisters.”
Suddenly, not sure if she was pressing her luck, she signed another question. “Do you think I should go home after graduating next month…or possibly take a position teaching the younger girls? There’s a chance I might be asked back as a teacher this fall.”
Henry tried not to smile. Looking as serious as he could, he sat back down at his desk and inquired, “What do you want to do?”
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