Readings Sundays: THE NON-AFFAIR (Part 2) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

My parents had reluctantly granted my request to go to University, provided that I continue to live with them. When I’d finally gathered the courage in my first year to ask Father why it was necessary to continue living at home, he put down the sermon he was working on and immobilized me with his disapproving look.

“Isn’t it obvious, Caroline?” he said, the tone of his voice making me curl up inside. “Unchaperoned young people get up to all sorts of—unsavory doings. I do not want you to be mixed up in all of that. Your mother and I have certain—expectations.”

Then he cast his eyes down to the sermon on his desk, picked up his fountain pen, and made a note in the margin.

I stood there in that silence, hands clasped in front of me. I knew what his expectations were, to catch a husband. His agreement to my university studies had been bought with Mother’s promise that a prospective suitor would find an educated young woman more interesting. But what were my expectations? I wanted to do something bold—

“Shut the door quietly behind you, please,” he remarked without looking up.

Now, I was completing my final semester at university with few friends there, or indeed anywhere. The friends I’d known since Kindergarten when my family arrived here from Pennsylvania were leaving, marrying, and having children. The few that were left were trying to find husbands, or embarking on careers of their own, mostly nursing, or secretarial, and their lives had become very different from mine. It was captivating to find, at last, such a friend in Professor Szczepanski. I was greedy, wanting him to teach me everything he knew, not just about sociology, but about life and the world he lived in.

And so our friendship began, with regular visits to the office hours he used to hold once a week for each class. It wasn’t hard for me to become his star student. When I wasn’t taking class, I was either perched on a chair in the library, or sitting at home with my parents in the deadening silence Father demanded, working. [To be continued.]