All week Eve hoped for the typhoon. She checked her Apple watch religiously, keeping tabs on the cyclone tracker between lessons and sometimes even during them, when her students’ heads were bent over their grammar exercises and compositions.
There was a time when Eve would have been sorry to miss a day of work. In those early days of teaching, she really believed she was a good teacher, someone who was making a difference. And maybe she was – the cork board behind her desk was covered with thank-you notes and cards, with Teacher of the Year Awards and the Starbucks coupons that came with them.
But when Tom left, a change came over her. It was as if he had taken not only her heart, but her calling, too. Almost overnight, she found she could no longer stand her students: every question they asked grated on her nerves, every misdemeanor felt like a personal attack. She saw her students with fresh, unsympathetic eyes: they were stupid yet entitled, unbearable. She hid her change well, though. Her students didn’t notice that her smiles were now strained, her responses given through gritted teeth.
A typhoon was coming, though. There was that, at least. The Hong Kong Observatory said Hilda would be the strongest typhoon of the last fifty years, more destructive than Mangkhut, the tropical cyclone from three years ago which had immobilized Hong Kong for two whole days and worse even than Wanda, which had torn through Hong Kong in 1962 and left over 70,000 homeless in its wake.
On Thursday night, the Observatory stated that according to Hilda’s cyclone track, there was 90% certainty that Signal 8 would be hoisted early the next morning. This notification popped up on Eve’s phone as she was marking the first of thirty-two book reports. Breathing out a great sigh of relief, she stuffed the entire stack back into her tote bag.
She thought about calling Tom, casually mentioning that tomorrow was going to be a T8 day, and would he like to come over for a drink? But when she imagined herself stammering through a Hello Tom, she could hear his irritated response, perhaps a For God’s sake Eve will you stop calling me. She switched on the television instead. Avengers: Endgame was on. Eve thought Tom looked a bit like Chris Evans.
Eve tossed and turned through the night, checking her watch every few minutes, disappointed each time the weather icon still read T1. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, she finally drifted off.
When the alarm on her watch woke her at the usual time, 6:15AM, she got up immediately, jamming her feet into her slippers and reaching for her glasses the way she did every morning. Outside, the storm was raging, the heads of the trees tossing violently in the wind, the sky the color of slate.
Taking a deep, shuddery breath, she forced herself to look at her watch again. T3, it read. Eve blinked, looked again: it was a 3, she hadn’t misread it the first time. Her hands shook as she kept reading: Typhoon Signal 3 was hoisted at 5:48AM. AM and PM sessions of all kindergartens to be suspended for the day. Primary and secondary school students to proceed with caution to their schools…
Eve felt faint.
It took longer than usual to get to school, the wind constantly threatening to lift her skirt and turn her umbrella inside out. Upon arrival, she headed straight for the staff washroom and soaked up the rainwater that had collected in her shoes with paper towels. Despite her best efforts, the flats remained damp. They stank and made squelching noises as she trudged up to her homeroom.
The usual circus awaited her. Two of the boys were throwing punches in the back; the rest of them were throwing spitballs onto the blackboard. The girls were huddled in the corner, hiding something, probably a mobile phone or an iPad, both expressly forbidden in the student handbook. Eve could see that one of the girls was already in tears.
She dropped her bags onto the teacher’s desk and stared out the window, dimly aware that her students were closing on in her with their barrage of requests and demands, but just then she couldn’t hear anything but the howling wind.
She would have to call Tom another day.
|Publication date:||1st March 2022|
|Primary Genre||Shorter Reads|