Meanwhile, back in the Opportunity Class, 3 weeks into teaching, Rhona sat directly opposite my desk quite placid and content. Her desk was jammed up right against the front of mine. She had an unnerving habit of studying you steadily while at the same time clearly not listening to a word you were saying. Her thoughts were elsewhere.
However it had begun to feel a bit rude not to try to start up some sort of communication between us. So one day when her gaze seemed to have a more enquiring quality than usual, I did a dangerous thing that anybody with more experience would have known to avoid – I asked an open ended question.
“Do you want to ask me something Rhona?” She looked a bit uncertain so I smiled encouragingly. She responded.
“I was just wondering Miss – are you 53 or 54?” (I was 28) “And are you married?”
This was a raw subject. I was going through a nasty divorce at a time when divorce was not nearly as common or acceptable as it is now. I was feeling particularly low and frightened that day, so I hadn’t the imagination or personal resources left to avoid honesty.
” I’m divorced,” I said.
Rhona leant across the desk and patted my arm sympathetically.
“Don’t you worry, Miss. All my Aunties are divorced and they’re doing fine!”