Chapter Thirteen

***

As always, dedicated to kissofdeath, KristaMarie, micha, and tabbyhearts.

Parts of the letter are absconded from a letter written by Dame Edith Evans to Sir Michael Redgrave.

The very last chapter. Thank you so much for all your reviews, and I hope you enjoy!

***

Her heart ached desperately, sharply, for several weeks. Gordon had avoided her, not knowing what to say after his outburst. Perhaps it was for the best, he decided. Perhaps they should not begin seeing each other again. But he couldn't help himself – he loved her, couldn't get enough of her. So, after a month of weekends spent with Heather Lockhart rather that Jean, he approached her after school on Wednesday.

"Jean," he began nervously, "I was wondering if you'd care to come to Cramond this weekend."

She looked up at him. "Really, Gordon?"

"Really, Jean. That is, if you'd like..." he trailed off as she took his hand.

"I would enjoy that," she said. "When will you pick me up?"

He smiled down at her. "Friday evening?"

"Friday evening," she agreed, and, looking around, stretched up to kiss him lightly. Automatically he wrapped his arms around her waist and deepened the kiss, but she pulled back a few moments later. "We mustn't get caught," she whispered. He nodded.

"I can't wait until Friday," he said quietly, and she smiled.

"Nor can I."

Three days later, he arrived at her flat to pick her up for the weekend, just like old times. She had missed him. They walked out to his car in silence, Jean slipped her hand in Gordon's. He squeezed her hand lightly.

When they arrived at Cramond, Gordon brought her suitcase upstairs while Jean busied herself in the kitchen preparing their dinner.

They sat down to supper and Jean smiled across the table at her lover. She was so pleased to be with him again, despite the fact that she loved Teddy more. But she did enjoy spending time with Gordon.

After their dinner, which they cleaned up together, Jean stretched up to kiss him.

"Oh, Gordon, I've missed you these past weeks," she whispered. "I'm sorry, so sorry for my outburst." She rested her head against his shoulder, allowing herself a small, contented smile as he stroked her hair.

"It's all right," he soothed, holding her close. "Oh, Jean, it's all right."

She looked up at him and he looked down at her, both of them poised in the moment before their kiss. Tentatively, he raised his hand to her face, running his thumb along the fine line of her cheekbone.

"I love you, Gordon."

"Jean," he whispered, and bent down to kiss her. She rested her hands on his chest and deepened the kiss.

"Mmm..." she moaned softly, stepping closer to Gordon. She felt herself becoming aroused – it had been nearly a month, after all, since they had made love, and she had needed him. He had needed her too, as was made increasingly clear to both of them as they continued to kiss.

They finally broke apart and she looked up at him, her cheeks flushed, her lips deep red from kissing him, her eyes dark. He felt an incredible surge of desire as he looked down at his lover – how could he have ever considered leaving her?

"Oh, darling," he whispered, and she beamed at him. He hadn't called her 'darling' for so long, so, so long...

"Gordon," she replied, wrapping her arms around him. "Oh, my love..."

He kissed her again, and again, and still again, pushing her against the wall. She moaned again, clutching his back as he kissed her neck.

"Gordon, take me now, now!" she moaned, unbuttoning his trousers. "Oh, darling, yes, please!"

He pushed up the skirts of her dress and pulled down her knickers, pressing his erection against her. She was so ready for him, and he for her, that they didn't bother to take their time with each other. Pushing into her once, twice, three times, they climaxed and collapsed in a heap on the ground.

"Mmm, my love," she whispered, absolutely content in that moment, happy to be back in his arms.

"Jean, darling," he whispered, kissing her neck lightly.

"I do love you," she whispered softly.

He smiled. "I love you, too."

"Let's go upstairs, hmm?" she suggested, and he nodded. They stood up, gathered their things together, and walked up the stairs to his bedroom.

"I'm going to take a shower, Jean," Gordon said.

She nodded. "I'll be in bed." He gave her a light, affectionate kiss on her forehead and stepped into his bathroom. She slipped between the sheets of his bed and rested her head on the pillow. Stretching out, she accidentally knocked a pillow on his side off the bed. She climbed out of bed and picked it up; as she placed it back on the bed, a letter on his sheets caught her eye. She opened the letter and began to read it.

"Dear Gordon," it began in an unfamiliar hand, "I so enjoyed playing golf with you this past weekend. I hope it does not seem too forward of me, but I thought that you ought to know that I can think of nothing more enjoyable than spending my leisure time with you. I am so pleased that it seems that you, too, enjoy the time we spend together. I am anxiously awaiting the next weekend we are able to spend together.
With great affection,
Heather."

Jean set the letter down, her hands shaking. He was courting Heather Lockhart, she knew that for certain now. Carefully replacing the letter beneath his pillow, she turned back to her side of the bed and closed her eyes, hoping to prevent tears from falling. She heard the water shut off and, a few moments later, her lover emerged from the bathroom. She feigned sleep, knowing that she wouldn't be able to talk to him without crying. Jean heard him walk softly over to her, felt him tenderly kiss her forehead. He then walked to the other side of the bed and crawled between the covers. As he moved his pillow, he felt the letter from Heather beneath it. He hoped that Jean had not found it. He didn't think she did – she would have mentioned it, he believed, if she had seen it.

He tucked the letter in his nightstand and turned off the light. He wrapped his arms around her, sighing happily as her weight settled against him. How could he consider making a life with Heather when Jean was so wonderful?

She was still awake, still in a state of panic about the letter she had just read. How could he do this to her? How could he want to leave her, after all the times he had professed his deep and undying love for her?

It was May 25th, 1935, and her world had all but come to an end.

***

The school year ended and Gordon had once again invited Jean to spend the summer with him. She accepted.

Though he had invited her to spend the summer with him, he didn't make an effort to have her enjoy herself as he had in years previous. Her birthday, for instance, was passed in quite a lacklustre style this year, with no tickets to exotic locations for their summer holidays. She was disappointed but tried not to show it – she knew that he wanted to spend the summer with Heather.

***

"I've bought us tickets for Italy," she said a few days after her birthday. His face fell slightly. "Is something wrong?"

"No, not at all," he lied. In reality, he had been looking forward to remaining in Edinburgh and seeing Heather, perhaps playing golf with her...

"I'm afraid that I couldn't afford for us to stay in luxury hotels like last time," she said apologetically. "But I have managed to afford first-class tickets on the Orient Express, and have reserved rooms for us at a lovely pensione in Florence. I used to stay there when I went to Italy by myself. I hope you'll like it. I know it won't be what you're used to, but it was all I could afford. I'm sorry, Gordon," she apologised, knowing her apology would make him love her more.

Indeed, he did smile, caressing her cheek lightly. "I'm sure it will be fine, Jean," he said.

"I hope so, my dear," she replied. "I know that you're used to the fine things in life..."

"Jean, darling," she smiled at him, "It will be all right, I'm sure."

She snuggled close to him. "I do love you, Gordon," she whispered.

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, kissing the top of her head lightly.

"I love you, too."

As he absentmindedly stroked her hair, she wondered how much longer he would love her. Already he was straying from her. If they were to get engaged, then maybe he'd abandon Heather... she'd have to seriously consider that option. She couldn't lose him, not when she had no one else...

***

They left for Italy ten days later. Gordon told Heather that he was going abroad with a friend who had purchased the tickets as a surprise. She was quite disappointed, but had accepted his excuse without question.

"I'll miss you, Heather," he said.

"And I'll miss you, Gordon," she replied. They were in her flat.

He moved closer to her. "Heather, I think – I think I'm falling in love with you."

She smiled softly at him. "I am falling in love with you as well," she whispered, resting her hands lightly on his chest. He bent down and kissed her – their first kiss.

Kissing her was not like kissing Jean. Jean was passionate even when she kissed him gently, while Heather was timid. It wasn't unpleasant, he decided as they broke apart, just different.

"I'll write to you, Heather dear," he said, stroking her cheek lightly.

"I'm glad," she said. "I'll miss you, Gordon."

"And I'll miss you."

He stayed with her for the rest of the afternoon. They talked quietly about things that had been and things to be in their relationship.

He was comfortable with her, he knew where he stood, unlike with Jean. She was such a complicated woman...

Heather was simple. She would want to settle down with him, marry him, have children with him. Jean did not – she wanted to teach. And while teaching was an admirable profession, he wished that she could see that being a mother was just as good.

He finally left Heather's house just as the sun began to set. Driving back to Cramond, he wondered what kind of excuse he could give Jean for his absence. He'd just say he was arranging a few things for their trip.

Gordon pulled up to his house, which was dark. He was worried for a moment before he saw her wandering along the beach.

He watched her from the driveway, noting the sadness that seemed to engulf her figure. Her expressive hands were linked behind her back as she wandered.

"Not all who wander are lost, Gordon," she'd said to him once.

But she looked lost now, lost and dejected. He couldn't help but feel like he had done this to her, couldn't help but feel that she knew about his relationship with Heather. Gordon watched as she sat down on a large rock and buried her face in her hands. The shaking of her shoulders made it clear that she was crying, sobbing her heart out.

He began to walk down to the beach, laying a hand on her shoulder when he reached her. She jumped, looking up at him.

"Are you all right, Jean?" he asked her, sitting down next to her.

She closed her eyes, turning away from him. She didn't want him to see her tears.

"I'm all right," she murmured.

"Won't you come inside, dear?" he asked her, and she nodded, allowing him to lead her into the house.

"Gordon, darling, if you don't want to go to Italy we don't have to," she said. "I'm sure that I can cancel the tickets."

"I do want to go, love," he said.

"Really?"

He nodded.

She gave him a trembling smile. "I'm going to bed – we do have to get up early in the morning."

"Don't you want dinner?"

She shook her head. "I'll set the alarm for four thirty, all right?"

He nodded.

"I love you, Gordon," she said, kissing his lips lightly. He watched as she mounted the stairs to his bedroom. He entered the kitchen and began to make a sandwich for himself for supper.

Chewing pensively, he thought of his lover and his would-be wife. He loved Jean, oh, how he loved her! But she would never marry him, he realised now. She had only accepted his ring because she had never intended to marry him. He was saddened by this realisation, but it made his decision to leave Jean for Heather easier.

He cleaned up his dishes and walked up the stairs, entering his bedroom. Jean was sleeping soundly in the bed. Her diary was spread open on the nightstand. He felt a surge of curiosity, and, despite his better judgement, he picked it up and left the room to read it.

'Gordon doesn't love me anymore, I just know it. Oh, why, why? I DO love him, though I know I haven't shown it nearly enough. I can't lose him...' He shut the diary, feeling incredibly guilty for having invaded her privacy and for what he had read. Quietly, he re-entered the bedroom and placed her diary softly on the nightstand, before getting changed into his pyjamas. He slipped into bed beside her and tried to fall asleep, but he couldn't. He wanted to know what else was written in her diary.

He reached for the slender leather volume and, just as he was about to open it, she turned over, moving closer to him. She was shivering and moaning.

"Don't leave me, please, please, don't leave me," she moaned, and he set the diary back down, wrapping his arms around her. She stirred, waking, and looked up at him, fear in her eyes.

"Jean, are you all right?"

"Gordon, are you real?" she asked him, her voice trembling along with the rest of her body.

"Of course, darling," he said, stroking her cheek softly. She urged him to wrap his arms tightly around her, trying to get as close to him as possible.

"Oh, God, Gordon," she whispered, "Gordon..."

He kissed her forehead lightly. "What did you dream, my darling?"

"You left me – I always have nightmares of you leaving me, Gordon."

He held her close. "I'm right here, Jean." She noticed that he didn't say he would never leave her.

"Gordon, love," she took a deep breath, "I love you so much – with all my heart. And, and..." she burst out crying

"Shh," he soothed her, stroking her hair.

"I don't think you love me anymore," she sobbed. "In fact, I know it. You've been growing apart from me for weeks now, months even! It's my fault – I didn't show you enough of my love. Oh, Gordon..."

He continued to stroke her hair, sitting up in bed. He pulled her up with him, cradling her in his lap. She buried her face against his neck, her hands clutching his nightshirt. She cried as he rocked her slowly back and forth, crooning words of comfort into her ear. He felt her slender body racked with sobs.

"Jean, love, don't cry, don't cry..."

"Love me, please love me," she whispered. He didn't hear her. She didn't want to repeat herself, didn't want him to know how much she needed love – not necessarily HIS love, but love in general.

"Go to sleep, darling," he said softly. "We have an early start tomorrow." She closed her eyes to stop her tears and allowed him to gently pull the sheets over her once more.

"I love you, Gordon."

He kissed her forehead. "Sleep, dear."

She closed her eyes and rested her head against his chest, trying to sleep. She couldn't, though he dropped off quite quickly. Finally, though, she joined him in slumber.

Gordon woke up a half an hour before the alarm clock and slipped out of bed, going downstairs to make breakfast for the two of them. Jean woke up as she heard the bedroom door close behind him. She sighed and climbed out of the bed, noticing that her diary was sitting on her nightstand – closed – and that was not how she left it.

Oh, God, Gordon might have read it! She closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down. She couldn't, wouldn't panic...

The alarm clock went off and she leapt out of the bed, surprised by the sound of the buzzer. She fumbled for the off button, finally managing to turn off the alarm. She got out of bed and then dressed before joining her lover downstairs.

"Good morning, darling," she said, joining him.

"Good morning, Jean."

She sat down at the table as he brought their breakfast to the table. He had made eggs and bacon, simple but nourishing. They ate their breakfast in silence, both of them exhausted from the previous night's events, and then, when they were finished, they cleaned up the dishes.

"Nearly ready, Jean?"

She nodded in response, standing up to gather her things together. He had brought their trunks down last night and loaded them in the boot. Picking up her purse and cardigan, she linked her arm through his and they walked out to the car.

They made good time, arriving at the station an hour before the train was to leave. Their things were taken by a porter and they were showed to their compartment. Though it was a first class compartment, it was smaller than the one they had had on their previous trip to Italy.

"I am quite sorry, Gordon," she said, blushing slightly as she noticed his expression of disapproval. "My meagre budget does not extend to the luxury that you are used to."

He turned to her. "It will be fine, Jean," he said. And he supposed it would be, though he now wished that he had bought the tickets himself. If he had, then they at least would have had a better compartment.

"Shall I begin to unpack?" her voice broke him out of his thoughts.

"All right," he responded, and she opened their trunks. "I'll see what time the meals are served."

"Mmm," she responded, absorbed in her task. He walked over to her, wanting to press a light kiss against her golden hair, but changed his mind and exited the room without another word. She paused in the unpacking and closed her eyes. She knew that this was the beginning of the end. After this trip something would change – either she would be engaged to him or they would not see each other again. And she didn't know what the preferable option was.

Shaking her head slightly, she resumed the unpacking. She had time, not a lot, but enough. And she would make up her mind before the end of their trip.

Jean had finished unpacking quite quickly and settled on the bed, a copy of D.H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" in hand. The bed was quite narrow, and one of them would have to risk tumbling to the floor. During the beginning of their relationship, he would have gallantly offered to have the outside, but now... now she suspected that he would not.

She opened her book and began to read, finishing the first two chapters before Gordon joined her.

"Dinner's in a half-hour," he told her, seating himself on the small sofa in their room. She set aside the book and joined him, resting her head on his shoulder. Jean took his hand and entwined her fingers with his; he looked away.

"Gordon, I'm sorry that this compartment bothers you so much," she said.

"It's fine, Jean," he said, his voice tense. She stroked his chest lightly with her free hand.

"We'll have a better room in Florence," she continued, "We've been promised a room with a view."

He made a non-committal sound and Jean stopped speaking.

"I'll get ready for dinner, then," she said and stood up from the couch. She made her way to the vanity and began applying her cosmetics – she had already changed. He watched her impassively, his detached gaze noticing the sadness that was expressed in her blue eyes.

She finished and stood up from the vanity. He stood as well and offered her his arm and they went to dinner.

They returned several hours later, and, after getting changed, they curled up in bed together.

She began to kiss him. This was their last chance, she thought with a kind of desperate passion. If things did not work out then their relationship would end when they returned to Edinburgh. She couldn't have that happen.

His response was lacklustre, his caresses hardly caresses at all.

"Gordon," she whispered when they broke apart, "what's wrong?"

"I'm tired," he said. She nodded and allowed him to lie back against the pillows, closing his eyes. Snuggling closer to him, she closed her eyes to stop the tears from coming when he didn't wrap his arms around her. She waited until she believed he was asleep to begin sob.

He wasn't asleep. He listened to his lover cry, unwilling to do anything to comfort her.

The next morning, after breakfast, Jean returned to their compartment while Gordon went to the smoking room. While he was away, she began drafting a letter to him.

"My dearest, most darling Gordon,
Oh, I love you, I do. These past few years have been so wonderful. I do enjoy spending time with you – just relaxing together, or travelling together, but especially when we make love. Gordon, I love you – I always have and I always will. You have been so kind, so gentle to me during these four wonderful years, and I love you so, so much.

I know that things have been difficult during the past few weeks, and I am willing to try to make things better. However, if you don't want us to be together anymore, then I will accept your decision.

Whatever happens between us, darling, please don't alter. I love you shamelessly.

Yours,
Jean."

She read the letter once more before placing it in an envelope. She sealed the envelope and wrote his name on the outside, placing it on his pillow. Jean looked at her watch – it was nearly time for lunch. She powdered her nose lightly before joining her lover in the dining room.

After lunch they returned to their compartment, and Gordon noticed the letter on his pillow.

"What's this?" he asked her.

She smiled nervously at him. "It's a letter I wrote to you," she said.

He was touched and told her so.

"Open it," she urged him, and he did, sitting down on the bed. She perched anxiously on the opposite edge.

"My dearest, most darling Gordon,
Oh, I love you, I do. These past few years have been so wonderful. I do enjoy spending time with you – just relaxing together, or travelling together, but especially when we make love. Gordon, I love you – I always have and I always will. You have been so kind, so gentle to me during these four wonderful years, and I love you so, so much.

I know that things have been difficult during the past few weeks, and I am willing to try to make things better. However, if you don't want us to be together anymore, then I will accept your decision.

Whatever happens between us, darling, please don't alter. I love you shamelessly.

Yours,
Jean."

He looked up at her. "Did you mean it, Jean?"

She nodded tentatively. "Did – did you like it?"

He stood up and walked over to her, cupping her face in his hands.

"Oh, my darling," he whispered, "I do love you."

She closed her eyes and their lips met in a blissful kiss.

***

The rest of their trip passed in comparative delight, both Gordon and Jean enjoying each other's company. And when they were in Florence, Jean made up her mind about the future of their relationship.

"In a year or so, after my girls have graduated, we should get married here," she said one evening when they were dining in a small outdoor café, a few days before they were to leave for Edinburgh.

He dropped his glass in surprise, the red wine pooling on the cobblestones like blood. A waiter rushed over and began mopping up the spill but Gordon paid him no mind.

"What?"

"We should get married here," she repeated.

"Jean – do you mean that?"

She took a deep breath. "Yes."

He raised her hand to her lips, his eyes filled with love.

"Oh, darling, I love you."

She smiled at him. "I love you too."

***

They re-boarded the train three days later. Gordon had wanted to give her his mother's engagement ring, but she had demurred.

"Not yet, darling," she said, "After my girls graduate, then we can announce our engagement."

During their time in Italy, despite their relative happiness, he wrote to Heather every day.

"Dear Heather,
Italy is lovely, though I wish you were here with me to enjoy the sights..."

"Dear Heather,
I've seen so many wonderful things, though I cannot enjoy them as I would if you were here with me..."

"Dear Heather,
I hope you are well – I miss you. Though Italy is still wonderful, I just want to be back in Edinburgh with you..."

Jean found one of these letters before he mailed it. She was injured by its affectionate, loving contents – especially as it was the day after they had agreed to marry in a year.

She couldn't lose him. She couldn't...

***

"Jean, after we're married, will we have children?" he asked her as they lay in their bed on the Orient Express. They were still six days away from Edinburgh.

She turned to him in the narrow bed, propping herself up on her elbow.

"I'd like to, Gordon," she said. She did want to be a mother, but when Hugh had died, she never thought that she'd have a chance. And now... well, she wanted Teddy's children, she wanted to be with Teddy, but that would never happen. She'd have to settle for Gordon... "I think you'd be a wonderful father, though I'm not quite so sure how I'll measure up as a mother."

He stroked her cheek lightly, smiling up at her. "Jean, you'll be a magnificent mother. Just look at your girls – they've all turned out wonderfully." His hand moved from her cheek to her abdomen, settling on her flat stomach. His eyes travelled up to catch her gaze, which was warm and loving.

"Just one more year," he whispered, his hand rubbing soft circles on her belly.

"One more year," Jean echoed. She leaned down and kissed him again.

She lay in his arms afterwards, her blue eyes sparkling, her lips red from kissing him, and her body soft and warm against his.

"You are beautiful, Jean Brodie," he said.

She smiled softly. "Thank you."

He loved her more in that moment than he had in quite some time. He pressed a kiss in her soft golden hair as he felt her breathing even out and saw her eyelids flutter closed, hiding her deep blue eyes from view. Her gentle curves rested against his body as she breathed in, out, slowly. Oh, how he loved her...

***

But their happiness came to quite an abrupt end when they returned to Edinburgh. Away from the romantic climate of Italy, he once more took up with Heather Lockhart, neglecting his fiancée.

She was desperate – she had tried everything, everything! to keep him with her. She had even promised to marry him, to have children with him. But still he saw Heather.

Was it her fault? Had she changed him so much by having an affair with him? She hated to admit it but she loved him. She even half-believed that, with time, she could grow to love him as much as she loved Teddy. But if he took up with Heather...

***

Over the summer Sandy seduced Teddy. It was easy, so easy for her to do – he wanted Jean so very much, and she was so like her teacher, that it took very little effort to lure him to bed. She enjoyed sleeping with him because it made her feel closer to Jean.

During this time she came to the conclusion that she, too, was in love with Jean Brodie. And how could she not be? Jean was beautiful, clever, passionate... she couldn't help herself. So she placed herself in a position to receive Jean's love. But she hadn't told her of her affair with the man she loved – not yet. She was waiting for the right time...

***

In October, Mary McGregor's brother ran away to Spain to fight. Jean, who had channelled her excess energy into politics, had begun raising money for Franco. Even though she had agreed to marry Gordon in the summer, he had stopped spending so much time with her. She was desperate to keep him, tried desperately to make him love her, but it was to no avail. But every once in a while, he would desire her desperately and sweep her off to Cramond, where they would make passionate love until dawn. But he always returned her to her flat on Sunday evenings.

So she began channelling her excess energy into preparing Jenny to be Teddy's lover and Mary to go to Spain to fight with Franco. That was her sole purpose in life, now that Gordon had distanced himself from her.

***

She hated the way she needed love. It made her weak, and Jean Brodie was NOT weak. But she craved love like some people craved alcohol. She needed affection, tenderness, and sex. She was a very physical and passionate woman, desiring a man's warmth in her bed at night as much as she desired a man's love.

And so these long weeks without Gordon or any other man seemed interminable. She needed him, she did – the longer they were apart the more frustrated she grew. It seemed as though this cycle of dissatisfaction would continue forever.

***

She brought her new group of students out to the oak tree that spring, just as she had brought her girls.

"Generalissimo Franco is called El Jefe, the chief. J-E-F-E, the "j" is silent. El Jefe. He is a dedicated man. You must all grow up to be dedicated women, as Generalissimo Franco has dedicated himself to a cause; as I have dedicated myself to you. Dedication is the order of the day." She saw Mary, Jenny, and Monica approaching her, her girls dressed in tennis whites and carrying their racquets.

"Oh, Mary McGregor, girls, come and join us!" She took Mary's hand. "Mary, dear, is there any news from your brother from Spain?"

"No, Miss Brodie," Mary replied, worried, "nothing. Mr. Ealing at the b-bank is sending for him – sending d-d-detectives to Spain!"

"Your brother is being sent for?" she turned to her girls in anger. "Mr. Ealing at the bank would send for Caesar! The Mr. Ealings at the bank have tried throughout history to stay the march of civilisation. Why can't they understand? It should be obvious to the meanest intelligence. Franco's army comprises the best elements of Spain and her supporters. They are committed to heroic action. You little girls are living in a time that will demand all that you have to give of courage and gallantry. You must become heroines. Heroines!"

"Do you mean we will have to march and shoot guns?" one of her girls piped up.

"If you are called."

"Girls?"

"Have you never heard of Hannah Snell? She was an English girl born in 1723 and sailed in Admiral Boscawen's fleet, and fought at Araapong. She was wounded, but without medical aid, she extracted the bullet from her own shoulder and lived to serve again. Hannah Snell was a girl!"

"Oh!" her girls exclaimed.

"Now, you, too, must be prepared to serve, suffer, and sacrifice. Are you prepared?"

"Yes, Miss Brodie!" her girls chimed.

"Yes, Miss Brodie," Mary McGregor said.

Jean beamed.

***

But then something wonderful happened, breaking the despondency that had settled over her. Mary McGregor, the girl who had often frustrated her to no end, finally did something worthwhile. She ran off to Spain to fight for Franco.

Jean was beside herself with joy, thrilled that her least-favourite girl had finally, FINALLY proved her worth. She hadn't made a mistake in singling her out all those years ago.

***

She began tracking the troops' movements, and Teddy found her one morning doing just that.

"Moving your troops to Barcelona?" he asked her.

She still felt her heart flutter as he spoke to her, but she recovered quickly. "Mary McGregor has gone to join her brother," Jean explained, "he is her only kin."

"Yes, I heard you've been raising funds for Franco – I find that extraordinary."

She shrugged. "The times are extraordinary."

He stayed and watched until she finished, then left as quietly as he came.

***

Three days after Mary McGregor had left for Spain, Gordon Lowther proposed to Heather Lockhart, who accepted. They had agreed to announce their engagement to Miss Mackay the day before the end-of-term party.

He had slept with Jean a month before for the last time, though he did not have the courage to tell her so. He would miss her, miss her desperately, but he never believed that, when it came to it, she'd marry him – even though she had promised him they would marry this summer. So he had decided to propose to Heather instead, knowing that she would settle down with him, bear his children. And she had accepted.

***

Three days after Mary had left for Spain, while she was taking a shower, she heard someone banging on her door. She dried off as quickly as she could, slipping into her dressing gown, but by the time she opened her door whoever it was had gone.

She looked around and saw a newspaper lying on the ground, Mary McGregor's photograph prominently displayed. She felt a sinking feeling of foreboding as she picked up the newspaper.

"Oh! Oh, Mary McGregor..." she trailed off, placing one hand on the wall for support. She was dead. Mary was dead.

***

The next day, two days before the end-of-term party, she wore black. Miss Mackay gave an abbreviated version of a memorial service for Mary, one that did not properly honour her. So Jean gathered her girls together to tell them the truth.

"Girls, I have called you together – my special girls – to tell you the truth about Mary McGregor. Miss Mackay has told you the facts about Mary's death – how the train was bombed and machine-gunned as it crossed the frontier – but only I can tell you the truth. Mary McGregor died a heroine. It was her intention to fight for Franco against the forces of darkness. So although she was killed before she herself could strike a blow, her intention was a noble and heroic one. Had she lived, Mary would have become a woman of great spirit and initiative. Hers would have been a dedicated life. You must all grow up to be dedicated women – as Mary McGregor dedicated her youth to a cause – as I have dedicated myself to you. Tonight, little girls, let your imaginations soar. Think of Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale. Think of Mary McGregor. Who among you has the makings of a heroine?"

Clara, one of her favourites, raised her hand.

"Yes, Clara?"

"May we think of you, Miss Brodie?"

Jean was touched. "Well, why not? Deep in most of us is the potential for greatness, or the potential to inspire greatness." She paused, noticing the sunset streaking across the floor of her classroom like blood. "The day draws late. Your families will be expecting you. Take home the story of Mary McGregor." Her girls filed out, Sandy lingering a bit behind.

"Sandy?" Jean called, and she turned. "I thought you and I might have tea together. I wanted to talk to you about Mary."

"I'm sorry, but I have some work to do," Sandy replied.

Jean sighed. "How busy and grown-up you've become. Well, I won't try to stop you, but you must remember how much I do depend on you."

"I'll remember," Sandy said. Jean watched as she left her classroom, feeling as though this was the end of an era. And, in a way, it was.

END

CONTINUED IN "A TEACHER OR A LEADER?"