Zelda Spellman made a lot of choices in her life. Some of them she made based on necessity, others based on nothing but her own selfish needs. There were the ones that she would stand behind until her death. There were ones that she regretted the moment she made them, the weight of her actions stabbing her deep in her gut. This was not one of them.
With a file box under her arm Zelda entered her new place of employment, Baxter High. After Labor day Zelda would be the schools new language teacher. The superintendent and the principle both drooled when they read over her certification that deemed her fluid in not one language like French or Spanish (which she was), but several including Russian and Chinese. It meant that they only needed to hire her, one woman that can do it all, instead of two or three, to simplify the budget to benefit the whole school. Zelda didn’t believe them for one second, and she felt bad for maybe half a second on behalf of the teachers who might of lost their jobs because of her. Zelda has never denied that she is a selfish woman, and she needed the job.
Zelda’s heels clicked against the linoleum floor, she was supposed to pick up her keys and badge from the school secretary, a sharp angle mousy blonde by the name of Mrs. Meeks. Mrs. Meeks gave her another box, much to her dismay, that had her name along with the number for her classroom, office number, and class schedule taped to the lid. Now with two boxes of considerable weight she turned to leave the office. That’s when she heard Mr. Hawthorne, principal and her new boss, call her name.
“Mrs. Spellman.” Mr. Hawthorne came up to her, a half a step too close for her liking. Zelda just gritted her teeth and held her tongue. “How are you settling in? Do you need help with those?” Before she could protest Mr. Hawthorne had already taken the boxes from her and started walking down the hallway. He talked all the while expecting Zelda to be following and listening to him. Yes, she did follow him, because he took her belongings. However, that didn’t mean she listened to a word he said. She focused more on where she was going, not listening to a life story she never wanted to hear. When they reached her classroom, Mr. Hawthorne opened the door with a smile that made her skin crawl. Zelda entered the space, silently observing the surrounding, her desk, students desk, chalkboards. “I believe I rambled on long enough.” Zelda just hummed and hoped with everything she had that Mr. Hawthorne would take his leave. “What about you Mrs. Spellman?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’m a very hands on principal, as you will come to learn now that you have joined our little family here at Baxter High.” He smiled at her again and Zelda fought the mental image of his wormy head popping open like a zit. It wouldn’t be pretty, and she sighed to rid herself of the thought. “And I’m always interested in how one of our members has come to join us.” Zelda froze where she was taking out her things from her first file box and, not for the first time, thanked whomever that he could not see her face as her heart stopped cold. Mr. Hawthorne’s words sounded no different than ones that she’s heard before back when…
“Mr. Hawthorne.” The sudden crashing of the present startled Zelda and she dropped her binder containing her lessons for French 1. Mr. Hawthorne, for the first time, ignored her as he turned his attention to the other woman. “Ms. Glover is looking for you.”
“Ah, thank you Ms. Wardwell.” Without even a word or a single glance at her Mr. Hawthorn left, brushing pass Ms. Wardwell. To her credit, Ms. Wardwell did not move from where she blocked half of the doorway, nor did she shrink away when Mr. Hawthorn had to flatten himself to get by her. When he left Ms. Wardwell rolled her eyes but didn’t take her leave, she ventured further into the room, her gaze never leaving Zelda. Before Zelda could yell at this woman to demand why she was entitled to enter her space Ms. Wardwell bent down elegantly at the knee to retrieve the binder that was still on the floor. She was careful of the binders rings falling open, and set it gently down on the empty desk.
“I don’t think there’s anything about Hawthorne I need to tell you that you haven’t already figured out yourself.” Ms. Wardwell’s eyes were a crystal clear blue, her finely shaped eyebrows arched elegantly. A half smirk formed on her lips, which were painted a red color that Zelda found sinful, as well as classic. “You seem like an intelligent woman Ms…”
“Spellman. Zelda Spellman.” Ms. Wardwell held out her hand, her nails were neat and painted a shiny red color similar to her lipstick. Her fingers were warm when Zelda offered her hand to shake, the action was firm and strong, it told Zelda all she needed to know about Ms. Wardwell.
“Mary Wardwell. Spellman, I have a student by that same name. Sabrina Spellman.”
“Well then, now I know you’re an intelligent woman, Zelda Spellman.” Ms. Wardwell smiled at her in a way that Zelda could just make out a smirk. She turned to leave, her soft brown hair bounced on her shoulder like it was cotton. There was a trail of perfume that was sweet yet sharp, just like Ms. Wardwell. “See you around Ms. Spellman.” And just like that Ms. Wardwell was gone, the door closing behind her softly. Three whole minutes ticked by, before Zelda’s mind snapped out of it. She wasn’t even sure what had happened, and returned her focus to why she was here in the first place.
Zelda left Baxter High around four o’clock. With summer still clinging to life, the sun sat high and round in the sky. As luck would have it, no one else disturbed her and she was able to put the finishing touches on her classroom and office. On her way to the car she called her sister at her bookstore job to see if Hilda needed a ride home. Her sister was working late and the owner offered to take her home later. Zelda wasn’t a fan of Dr. Cerberus, but she bit her tongue for Hilda’s sake. So, she went home where the remainder of her family was. There was something calming about driving through the woods, it didn’t matter the time or the season. Zelda would always roll down the window, and no matter what happened that day it flew away with the wind. She parked her car on a patch of grass and walked up the porch steps, they creaked with her weight but it was comforting, it was home, just like her keys jingling in the lock.
“Mommy!” A little girl no more than four with blazing red hair that fell off her shoulders in neat ringlets sat and waited on the entry steps. Her little body rocked with excitement as she anticipated her sign that Zelda was ready to take her into her arms. Had the car ride not been sufficient in placing her in a better mood, her daughter surely would. She looked at her like she was everything, and it always made her smile. Zelda did not hesitate, she scooped her daughter from the steps, the little girls laugh rang in her ear and her skin felt soft when she pressed a kiss to the child’s tiny cheek.
“My darling, how I missed you. Did you behave for Sabrina? What did you do?” Vida lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder and launched into her childlike details on how she watched a few cartoons. Zelda didn’t approve of much TV and Vida didn’t care much for it. How she did the tree on the puzzle she and Hilda had on the table in the parlor. It was never a rule that no one could work on the Spellman sisters’ puzzle but Vida was the only one that was ever interested. She also proudly described how she finished a page of the workbook Zelda made for her to improve her language skill.
“Hello Auntie Zee.” Sabrina was in the kitchen, reading a book, she looked up when Zelda entered Vida perched on her hip. Zelda placed a kiss on top of the teen’s head as she placed her daughter in an unoccupied chair. “How’d it go?”
“Uneventful.” With Hilda working late it was up to her to prepare dinner. It wasn’t that she minded, it was just that Hilda was better at things like cooking and baking . There was chicken thawed in the fridge, she could work with that. “I did however, meet Ms. Wardwell. Is Ambrose here?”
“Really?” Sabrina perked up, her hands stopping mid motion where she was playing some clapping game with her cousin. “Didn’t I tell you she’s great! She-”
“Sabrina, Ambrose, is he here?” Zelda knew all about Ms. Wardwell, Sabrina hasn’t stopped talking about the teacher since last year. While she was grateful to place the name with a face, plus the help with Hawthorne, she didn’t need to hear more about Ms. Wardwell.
“Oh? No. He left a while ago to do… something. I thought best not to ask.” Smart girl, Zelda learned that it was best not to know where her nephew spent most of his time. “Ah! Before I forget, Aunt Zelda, Roz called and asked if I can go see a movie with her and Susie.” And Harvey, Sabrina didn’t need to say that part, Harvey was rarely not around when she went out with her friends. Zelda was not the most comfortable with her niece dating.
“What time will you be back?”
“Acceptable.” Sabrina squealed and hugged Zelda from behind, she left in a swirl of teenage whim. A sort of melecolly feeling over took Zelda as Sabrina buzzed around the house She understood that her niece was growing up, no longer content with staying home with her aunts, but Zelda still missed her, missed her family being here. She had Vida who, when Zelda turned back around to place the extra chicken back in the fridge, was smiling at her from the back of the chair.
“Am I writing Aunt Hilda’s post-it?” Her intuitive little girl, Zelda nodded and while the chicken was cooking in the pan she washed her hands and gave her daughter the pad of paper from the fridge. Whenever Hilda couldn’t join them, Zelda got things ready for when she got home. It often included a portion of the nights meal in the fridge with a note written by Vida (sometimes with touches from Ambrose or Sabrina), tea leafs in her cup covered with a saucer, and kettle on the burner ready to go. Zelda would admit that she hadn’t been the best, most supportive sister, but Vida, who loved so deeply and knew how to care for others, helped. Along with the chicken, Zelda fixed some rice and broccoli. Vida was like any typical child and didn’t want to eat vegetables, but Hilda was always baking something. This time it was blondies that she spent all last Sunday afternoon making, and they made for excellent bribes. Vida was rarely disappointing, and she was munching on a small square of blondie as Zelda finished.
After dinner and dishes, Vida would read from her book with help from Zelda. Very early on she supplied her daughter with books in several languages, mainly English and French. Vida enjoyed this part of the day, being curled up in her mother’s lap, that strong steady heartbeat and soft breathing that soothed her since before she was born. When she started to show the first signs of sleepiness, which was usually around 8:30, Zelda would take her daughter upstairs to ready her for bed; bath with bubblegum bubble bath and strawberry scented shampoo that added even more sweetness to the air, fresh PJ’s, teeth brushed, and then cocooned in her blankets with her favorite always in reach, Hilda knitted it for her from soft thick blue yarn when Zelda told her that she was pregnant. Last was Oso, her favorite stuffed black bear that was missing one eye, tucked under her arm. Zelda stayed until the small girl’s breathing become deep and slow, leaving one last small kiss on the girl’s temple. Zelda then got ready for bed herself, but didn’t go to sleep till much later. Sometimes she’d go back downstairs and wait for Hilda to return. Other times she would turn on the small lamp so she could read without disturbing her daughter who was in the same room. Before Vida was born, she used to share the room with her sister but Hilda has since moved down the hall.
Tonight, she stayed up reading but not really absorbing what was on the page. Instead she listened, the front door slamming softly shut and the whistle of the kettle at twenty to ten which meant that Hilda was home. Then there was the creaking of the floorboards at eleven o’five when Sabrina tried to sneak back into the house at lights out, thirty five minutes past her curfew. Zelda finally settled down, hanging her robe on her bed post and switching off the light. The room plunged into total darkness, minus the soft pulse of her daughters elephant night light. The night was peaceful and warm, the air was filled with the soft sounds of crickets, Zelda had no problem falling asleep.
Her life might not be perfect, nor one she expected to have, but regret? She had none.