DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Not mine, no profit, just some day-dreaming I wrote down - everything belongs to the BBC and Sally Wainwright).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is gentle fluff - it has neither angst nor high drama but gently potters along and is almost certainly a little bit sugary and 'neat', but that's what this pairing triggers for me and I make no apology. It is self-contained, but there will be more self-contained one-shots in the same 'story canon' of 'Some Dances in Harrogate' and will make more sense if you have already read 'Invitations' and everything that follows.
STORY CANON POINTS: To make things work, I've decided Kate went to Cambridge University (to compliment Caroline's Oxford University pedigree) and William is now there himself. Lawrence is about 14 and in his last year before embarking on the two year GCSE courses (UK school years 10 and 11). John is still being brattish but the divorce is progressing to plan and very much 'off screen'. I assumed (based on the references to A Level exams, that the first series ended in June/July and that therefore, this story arc starts about 8 months later.
WARNING: There are a couple of instances of racist and homophobic language - it is not gratuitous and is relevant to the plot.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Some Dances in Harrogate
"I don't believe this." The quiet of the staff room was broken by Josephine Connors' statement, her strong voice easily carrying across the room, attracting the attention of most of the staff present which, owing to the lunch break only just starting, was a large number.
"What is it?" asked someone quietly, unable to contain their curiosity despite their better judgement which was, based on experience, to not engage with the English teacher.
"Just because his mother's the headmistress, thinks he can get away with anything." Whether she realised it or not, she was now the focus of everyone in the staff room.
"Lawrence?" asked another teacher, frowning.
"Cocky little arrogant so-and-so " In hindsight, the general consensus amongst the staff would be that, despite how it appeared (and sounded given how well she projected her voice), Josephine Connors had been providing a running commentary on her marking that, to use a phrase familiar to many parents and teachers of small children, should have been delivered using her 'inside voice' and wasn't, as it sounded, a declamatory speech intended for general consumption. However, they were going to need hindsight for that.
"Josephine, really!" protested Mrs Aspinal, the Head of Geography, not prepared to tolerate the behaviour, "that's hardly fair, Lawrence is an excellent student."
"I find that hard to believe." The unpleasant teacher looked at her colleague, definitely no longer talking with just herself about this, "I can see you're all blinkered, too scared of his mother, but this is it, he's going in detention for this and there is nothing you can do or say that will stop me."
"What are you talking about?" Kate couldn't place whose voice it was, not able to identify all of her colleagues (the Biology Department was a mystery to her for example) by voice alone, and certainly not when there were clearly infused with anger. She also wasn't about to sit up and literally raise her head up above the parapet (well, chair back in this case) to see who was taking up the cause, sensing her presence, once known, would only inflame the situation which was rapidly deteriorating.
"This!" exclaimed Josephine, her earlier loudness meaning the simple exclamation sounded like a shout as she brandished an exercise book.
"Seems like a neatly written essay," noted Mrs Aspinal, the formidable despatcher of Michael-bloody-Dobson with such apparent ease at the start of the academic year, "was he rude in class?" she asked reasonably, trying to work out what might be going on and also calm the irate teacher down.
"Late to submit?"
"I'm sorry Josephine how exactly has he transgressed in your eyes?"
"It's on a bloody comic book!" shouted Josephine, her frustration at her colleague's lack of agreement with her adding to her fury as she got up so as to reclaim the apparently offensive exercise book and, in doing so, saw Kate. "You! You and your mumbo jumbo the boy's not dyslexic, just slow and lazy and he doesn't need you fawning about doing whatever disgusting stuff you do with his mother, some mother she is, messing around with a queer nig "
"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?" shouted Caroline, bursting through the door just in time to drown out the racist part of the insulting rant but unfortunately not arriving soon enough to have prevented the damage being done if the shell-shocked expression on Kate's face and the sniggers from the corridor were any indication. Slamming the staff room door behind her, not waiting for a response to her question, she set about doing some damage control, pleased to note that there were enough staff present to make that at least reasonably straightforward.
"Jennifer, please escort Josephine to my office I'll be along in a few minutes. Could you tell Beverley that I will also be a few minutes late for the Governors' meeting?"
"Leave your marking and bring your coat and bag you won't be coming back," said Jennifer Robertshaw coldly, not remotely sympathetic towards her colleague, the elderly librarian finally prepared to show quite what she really thought and felt about the English teacher after all these years.
"Caroline, I "
"You've said quite enough Josephine, please go to my office," said Caroline icily, not remotely interested. "Could someone go find Helen and ask her to meet me at my office?" At Caroline's request, Mrs Aspinal set off to find her fellow Head of Department and get her up to speed on the problems she now had to deal with as well as pass on advice about how to quickly restructure a department to absorb the lessons from a recently dismissed teacher.
"At the most basic human level, I do not expect to hear that sort of language used and opinion expressed, by anyone about anyone," began Caroline, addressing the room at large, not remotely concerned she was treating virtually her entire staff like naughty eleven year olds, "as Headmistress, I do not expect and will not tolerate such language or opinions from my staff. I am disappointed that I did not address this particular situation sooner." She didn't need to also ask why no one else had intervened before she arrived everyone was already asking themselves that. "I hope that you all agree with me that we do not want such language used by our pupils and that you will be extremely conscientious in how you address all the questions that will no doubt be asked by them before the end of term tomorrow." Caroline paused for a moment, taking a deep breath to give her strength for what she wanted to say next, her gaze sweeping around the room before landing on Kate who, to Caroline's experienced eye, was clearly shaken and upset, even though she was trying to hide it.
"I am also incandescent with rage that such language can be used, without apparent challenge, about a pupil with a diagnosis of dyslexia. Claiming shock is, for the majority of you, not good enough. I will not even attempt to describe what I'm thinking right now about you as Lawrence's mother.
"No Mike, not interested. You all know Josephine Connors was a loose cannon who was always unlikely to keep her opinions to herself, especially in light of last Friday's incident, not least because we discussed it at the Heads of Department meeting on Monday. You also know how quickly news travels around this building and how your behaviour and example sets the tone. I could hear her in the corridor outside MY office, not to mention the fifty or so kids who were there too." The Deputy Head looked sheepish, unable to argue her point when she put it like that. "If anyone agrees with what that woman had to say about me personally, they can go keep her company in my office." No one moved.
"You okay?" asked Caroline quietly, moving across the room so she was only an arm's length away from Kate, seemingly oblivious to the stunned staff around them.
"It's not like she was particularly original " Kate tried for humour but the tears flowed in spite of her best efforts to supress them now the reality of what just happened, and what more might have been said had Caroline not appeared when she had, began to sink in.
"Could someone go find Lawrence for us please? He's probably " Caroline paused, looking at Kate as she tried to remember his timetable.
"Computer lab, robotics club," said Kate, dragging her cardigan cuff across her damp eyes.
"I'll go, and I'll cover your classes this afternoon," said Kate's Head of Department, having a rough idea what Kate had planned to do as 'fun' on this final day of lessons before term's formal end tomorrow.
"Can the rest of you go out and prowl? With it raining so hard they're all lounging around gossiping."
"Of course." Eager to redeem himself in Caroline's eyes, the Deputy Head began ushering his colleagues out into the corridor to start some very intensive hall monitoring for the remainder of the lunch break. It was almost certainly too little too late but what little it was would be done with commitment and determination by the embarrassed staff who were, now the shock was passing, absolutely mortified at their collective behaviour.
"Hey " said Caroline gently, stepping closer to Kate, who instinctively brought her arms up and wrapped them tightly around her waist as she buried her face in the crook of Caroline's neck and let the emotions take over, neither woman caring if there were any of their colleagues still left in the room. "Sshh " soothed Caroline, wrapping her own arms around Kate and rocking her gently as she felt the tears come, " I'm sorry you had to listen to that she's clearly bonkers and she's going, right now," continued Caroline, resolute. It was something she didn't like doing but Josephine Connors had crossed too many lines and, as far as Caroline was concerned, she was getting the agreement of the Governors this afternoon that would see the unpleasant woman gone for good.
"I'm sorry " mumbled Kate, her tears easing as the solid, comforting presence of Caroline calmed her.
"That " sniffed Kate, looking up at Caroline's confused face.
"What did you do?" Caroline was lost.
"If I hadn't, that is " Kate stumbled over her words, struggling to complete a statement, but it was enough for Caroline to get enough of a hint and disagree.
"No, no, no, no, no my darling no," she said firmly, emphasising her point with a kiss that Kate couldn't stop herself instinctively responding to, much to Caroline's relief. "You have nothing to apologise for and nothing to doubt what would William and Matt think if we began apologising for the Josephine Connors of this world rather than standing up to it when we can?" asked Caroline, remembering their time with the boys over the weekend when they'd, in many ways, got to know William better as well as getting to know Matt as well.
"Okay " agreed Kate, accepting Caroline's point, " but I am sorry you were talked about like that."
"Pfft! It says more about her than it ever will about you and me," said Caroline, not remotely concerned about the substance of the vitriol spouted about Kate and Lawrence, " I'm more worried about you."
"She wasn't exactly original," repeated Kate, " it's not like I've not heard it before," shrugged Kate, smiling weakly, "which I know upsets you but it's true. And I'm okay, or will be the shock everyone will be fine with me it's Lawrence I'm worried about."
"I love you." The spontaneity of Caroline's unexpected declaration confused Kate, prompting Caroline to rapidly elaborate, "you're worried about Lawrence you're entitled to be a wailing puddle of angry goo but you're worried about Lawrence." As visuals went, it wasn't Caroline's finest, but it made her point.
"I love you too " Before Kate could add anything more, about how overwhelming it was to hear Caroline putting her concern for Kate ahead of younger son, they were interrupted.
"Mum?" Lawrence was standing just inside the staff room door, confused, although seeing both his Mum and Kate did make him less worried than he had been when he'd been collected by his French teacher and brought to the staff room.
"Thanks Jake," said Kate, stepping out from behind Caroline so she could acknowledge her immediate boss who, with a nod and a smile, stepped back out into the corridor, leaving the family alone.
"Kate? What's going on?" Lawrence looked between the two women who both looked like they were upset, although only Kate looked like she'd been crying.
"I think you're going to get a commendation for your book report," joked Kate finally, unsure how else to start the conversation.
"Really? Cool " Lawrence's initial enthusiasm at receiving the praise was tempered with suspicion, " why have you been crying?"
"Come sit down," suggested Caroline, gesturing to the couch in the corner of the staff room that the three of them would just fit on, Lawrence sandwiched in the middle. "Whilst you were away, there was an incident I had to sort out in a classroom."
"Tamara and Jackson kissing in English? Your face was amazing Mum."
"Wait, how did you oh, it's on Facebook?" she asked, seeing the funny side.
"Yeah, umm, someone took pictures with their phone and put them up at the weekend," said Lawrence carefully, not wanting to get anyone in trouble with his mother for using their phone in class.
"You're showing me those pictures later," stage-whispered Kate conspiratorially, looking slyly at Caroline over Lawrence's head, earning her an un-headmistress-y tongue stuck out at her.
"Sure," agreed Lawrence, "what's that got to do with this?"
"Mrs Connors was the teacher. She and I had to have a little chat on Monday morning," Lawrence's eyes widened his mother's 'little chats' were famous and not for nice reasons, "and she wasn't very happy with me."
"Was she mean to you?" asked Lawrence, holding his mother's hand as he remember their night-time talk on her birthday.
"No, but just now she was very mean to you and Kate, here, in the staff room."
"Because of my book report?"
"A little," said Kate honestly, knowing he needed to be told the whole truth no matter how painful it might be, "and she said some unpleasant things about your dyslexia and my relationship with you and your mum."
"That's not " Lawrence was getting upset, " no one should say that you and Mum are brilliant."
"She also said some nasty things about Kate, and started to use bad words to describe her based on the colour of her skin," explained Caroline carefully, hating that she was even having to explain such hatred and unpleasantness to her son at all but knowing he had to hear it from them before he heard it from another pupil.
"Where have you heard that word?" asked Kate, not denying it but concerned.
"Boys around not from here Mum, but in town, when I've been out with Sam once or twice; I never said anything because they shouted it at Sam, and we told his Dad I'll tell you next time, promise " he finished in a rush, worried in case he was in trouble.
"Let's hope there won't be a next time," said Caroline kindly, not remotely interested in telling him off (even though she probably should) but instead selfishly relieved he'd not heard any taunts because of Kate being in his life.
"So is Mrs Connors in a lot of trouble?" asked Lawrence, his natural schoolboy's curiosity about grown-ups in trouble surfacing.
"A lot of trouble," agreed Caroline, letting her head drop onto the back of the couch.
"You gonna growl?" joked Lawrence, a little happier now his Mum and Kate seemed to be starting to laugh a little.
"Oh, I'm going to ROAR!" laughed Caroline before sobering as she realised the final thing they had to explain to him. Fortunately though, Kate was already ready.
"You might get teased a lot tomorrow Mrs Connors did quite a lot of shouting."
"She's good at that," he agreed, remembering his classes with her, "was she very loud?"
"I could hear her from the corridor," said Caroline sadly.
"So everyone else could too " sighed Lawrence, knowing at least five people who would make it their mission to tease him.
"You going to be okay?" he asked of both of them being teachers they couldn't exactly hit back like he could in lunch break, or at least, that's what it seemed like to him.
"Nobody's going to be mean to us, nobody that matters," said Kate, making eye-contact with Caroline over his head, who nodded her agreement, adding,
"And we can handle mean if they try."
"You always say that Mum."
"And I always mean that," she said, sitting up and realising she really couldn't put off going to deal with that bloody woman any longer, "you want to stay here with Kate?" she asked, seeing the half smile from Kate and the sharp nod from her son, confirming she'd made the right suggestion.
"Can I? Really?" Rarely did she ever use her authority like this, so Lawrence wasn't going to pass up on the chance.
"You were only going to be in the library for most of it, weren't you?" checked Caroline, glancing down at his sprained wrist, an unexpected souvenir from his rugby trip that meant his afternoon timetable of Sport followed by Art was not going to have been much fun with a bandaged hand.
"Yeah," agreed Lawrence, " but what about your classes Kate?"
"Mr Blanchard is covering for me," said Kate, naming her Head of Department who had brought Lawrence to the staff room for them, her shaky voice revealing to both mother and son that the earlier events in the supposed calm haven of the staff room had still left her unsettled.
"So, how about you keep Kate company whilst I do my meetings, then we go to the concert together?" proposed Caroline, remembering the annual school vocal concert that was taking place tonight and which they had all been looking forward to this morning, "I've got a picnic in my office for us," she concluded, sending a quick prayer of thanks in Beverley's direction for getting that organised that morning.
"Sounds like a plan to me, Lawrence?"
"Cool do I have to wear my uniform?"
"There's some jeans in the car," Caroline remembered the bag she'd packed whilst he was in the bathroom getting ready that morning, not having enough time to consult with him but deciding the jeans and top he'd been wearing the evening before would be far better than staying in his school clothes.
"Cool!" And, content with the plans, Lawrence set about rummaging through his school bag to find his mobile phone so he could text his brother the news about Mrs Connors being in trouble and Caroline letting him miss an afternoon of (admittedly not academically significant) classes to hang out with Kate in the staff room, leaving Kate and Caroline to have a brief whispered conversation above him.
"You going to be okay?" asked Caroline, reaching out to stroke Kate's still damp cheek.
"We will be," she smiled gently, "I will be," she confirmed, glad Caroline hadn't asked if she was okay as, with the shock fading, it was obvious she wasn't quite herself again just yet.
"You don't have to come tonight," offered Caroline, understanding if Kate wanted to disappear from her colleagues and pupils, " you could both go home now and I could come and get him "
"I want to." Caroline studied Kate's face for a long moment, searching for any signs of doubt or reluctance.
"Okay then." With a quick glance towards the engrossed Lawrence, Caroline leaned forward and was met by Kate halfway. When their quick kiss ended, she whispered, " love you," before clearing her throat and, ruffling Lawrence's hair as she stood, "I'll come find you after my meetings are finished."
"We'll be waiting," confirmed Kate as Lawrence, his text message finished, added, "bye Mum!"
"Do you really have no lessons?"
"Seems like it?"
"And it's really okay for you to be here with me?" The fact that he was even asking told Kate that he, like her, wasn't quite as relaxed about what had happened as they'd both tried to make it appear like when Caroline had been there. At 14, he was definitely growing up but there were still moments when the child he still was surfaced.
"Very okay," promised Kate, pulling him into a one-armed hug.
"Want to read some Asterix?" and, laughing at how, so innocently, her lunchtime had come full circle, she settled down to do battle with Asterix's own battles, even it was already in translation
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