Maddy and Toby watched via the monitor as Greg led the two students through a meditation in the adjacent room. Maddy marvelled at the way Greg’s voice dropped in tone, volume and pace, enticing his charges into a deeper state. He really did have a gift for this kind of work. Turning her attention back to Toby, she was a little startled by the odd play of emotions fleeting across his face. “Toby. Are you getting distracted again?” He had a quick mind, certainly, but it did have a tendency to leap about rather than staying focused on the task at hand.
Toby scowled and then laughed, seeming amused and confused all at once. “It’s Gregory. His bloody aura keeps billowing out and getting in the way. What’s the go with that bloke? He’s falling in love? I thought he was married?” Drawing his gaze away from the screen, he searched her face. As always, she was composed and he couldn’t read her. Then he noticed the lines around her eyes crinkle slightly and the corner of her mouth twitch up ever so slightly.
“Discipline, Toby.” She spoke softly but her eyes never left his and there was the tiniest hint of steel in her words. “Are you supposed to be reading Greg’s aura or the students aura’s? And don’t look at me like that. You know I’m not going there with you. Greg’s love life is none of your business. And none of mine.”
His eyes narrowed. Curiosity piqued, he considered pressing the issue, then he shook his head with a grin. “You’re a closed book huh Maddy? Least you can shut yourself up better than old Gregory here. You might wanna talk with him about that.” And with that smug comment, he turned back to the monitor and back to business, as though nothing untoward had occurred between them. She was tempted to feel cross with him but now was not the time. Years of practise had taught her to keep her aura smooth and unruffled, especially around sharp-eyed students.
Together they sat quietly in silence, watching the students rouse from their meditation and joke shyly with one another. And then they were gone, closing the outer door behind them, while Greg turned off the monitor. Maddy caught Toby’s eye with an unspoken warning as Greg came into the room, running his large hand wearily through his hair. He looked tired and Maddy wondered how much sleep he’d been getting. Now wasn’t the time to ask, however; not with young Toby scrutinising their every move. Greg slid himself onto the third chair at the table and looked at them expectantly. “Well? How did we go?”
They both turned to Toby with a questioning look, prompting his assessment.
“Well, it took me a while to find my focus…..” Maddy scowled, but the best Toby could manage in response was to squish his grin into a smirk. “….but the girl is definitely active, the boy relatively inactive. She was lit up like a christmas tree”
Maddy’s brows raised in surprise “Lit up? You got a visual image this time Toby?”
“Yeah, its getting easier. I mean, I could feel-hear like usual; she kind of thrummed and hummed like a Harley, you know?” Looking from face to face he could see that they didn’t really understand so he tried again. “When I focused on the girl, I got a warm vibrating feeling and sound in my body. Imagine a big cat lying on your tummy purring and you’ll get what I mean. This is the feeling and sound I’ve started getting all the time now when it comes to an active. The volume and pitch or speed of the vibrating changes depending on the strength of the active. If a person is really strong, the sound is deeper and louder.”
Greg nodded “So you’re saying the girl is strong?”
“Yep, one of the strongest natural talents we’ve found so far.”
Gregory looked rather pleased with himself but Maddy was more interested in Toby’s blossoming visual ability and turned the conversation back to focus on this point. “Toby, more information please. A christmas tree?”
“Yeah, its like with the sound-feeling of a vibration. If you could imagine that vibration is a bit like a generator, then the deeper and stronger the vibration, the brighter the lights. She really lit up the room. Most people just glow a little.”
“And just how long have you been ‘seeing’, Toby” She wasn’t sure whether to be pleased or exasperated. With Toby adding ‘seeing’ to his repertoire, he would be able to cross reference this ability with with feeling and hearing, for greater accuracy. But it was obvious from what he was saying that he’d been seeing for some time and he hadn’t said anything to her about it. To his credit, he looked a little sheepish and lowered his gaze.
“Ahhh, since Christmas, give or take a few weeks.”
“Christmas!” Rendered speechless, she got up from the table to move away from him and hide her face.
“I’m sorry Maddy! It was so vague and faint, I thought maybe I was imagining things, but with the arrival of your christmas tree girl in there I can safely say I’m not imagining it. My visual ability has finally kicked in!” He hoped she wasn’t too cross with him. Surely she’d be pleased? It was what they’d been waiting for after all. He groaned a little internally. Last time she got this mad with him, she’d stopped talking to him for almost a week. She might seem all smooth and unruffled but this girl had a temper. It was fun pushing her up to the edge of that temper but he wondered if maybe he’d taken it a little too far today.
Finally she turned around. Face composed perhaps, but she did have that flinty look in her eyes. He sighed. Maybe it was time to go. Maddy was cross with him in all the wrong ways and Gregory’s over-tired, over-emotional aura was starting to really irritate him. Why the man couldn’t hold it together he didn’t know. Surely he knew Maddy and Toby could see all his ‘stuff’ hanging out. The sound of rolling thunder in the distance cemented his resolve to leave before the storm arrived. He allowed himself a hopeful glance towards the door, hoping Maddy would take his cue.
Knowing Toby’s mind was elsewhere, Maddy decided to let him go. It wasn’t worth having a conversation with him when he was in this kind of mood; he simply wouldn’t listen. “Okay Toby. Go home, come back in the morning and we’ll talk more then.”
Yes! He was hoping she might mellow after a good nights sleep. He thoughts wandered to the pub and he smiled. Casey’s shift would have just finished and he might have time to catch her before she left.
“No worries Maddy, see you tomorrow.” He pushed up from his chair hurriedly and grabbed for his bag. “Bye Greg.” he added as an after thought. Half way to the door, he felt Maddy tug at him with her mind and turned with a question in his eyes.
“Don’t drink too much. I need you clear.” They locked gaze for a moment. He was annoyed with himself for having dropped his guard. Now she probably knew about Casey too. He nodded and turned again, pushing his way out of the room. As the door swung shut behind him, he shook his aura loose like a dog shaking water from his coat, and imagined sunlight melting away the mood from the room behind him. With a smile and a spring in his step, he focused happily on thoughts of Casey’s welcoming smile, contentedly leaving work behind him.
Greg’s eye’s slid over to hers as the door clicked shut behind Toby. Sighing a little under her breath, Maddy looked away, studying the rivulets of rain starting to form on the windows and the way the light caught on them as cars passed by. Greg really was irritating. He could at least try to hide how he felt. It was almost as though he didn’t care about the consequences. Maybe he was just stressed and tired, worn out from it all. She gathered herself and looked back at him, attempting to sound brighter than she felt.
“He’s a challenge that boy, but when he focusses on the task at hand, he does well.”
Greg managed a half-smile. “He seemed uncomfortable with me tonight.” The way he said it sounded almost like a question.
“You ‘re tired Greg”. She dropped her tone and injected a touch of motherly concern, resisting the temptation to reach out and touch his hand, as once she might have done. If he noticed the physical distance she placed between them, he gave no sign, but she thought she saw a flash of pain pass briefly over his face. She dared not drop her guard and probe, lest she come undone and he see how she really felt. He shrugged in response.
“Maddy…..” And before she could stop him he was looking up into her eyes with a mix of fire and puppy dog eyes, caressing her name with his voice in a way that made her heart sink and sing all at once.
“Gregory”. Her tone in response a rebuke, cool distance and pleading interwoven, asking him to stop, to back off and change the subject before he ruined everything. But he refused to listen.
“You know how I feel” An accusation levelled squarely upon her; he knew she knew and he was done with pretending. The silence between them was charged and tense. She couldn’t look at him. What was worse, she wondered? Letting him see the feelings he longed to see reflected back to him? Or cutting him off coldly and pretending she had no feelings for him at all? He was, after all, a married man. Setting her well practised mask in place, she raised her gaze to his.
“You’ve been working too hard, Greg. I think it might be best if we arranged some time off for you. I’d like you to take a month of paid stress leave. Starting now.” The command in her tone offered no room for negotiation. His courageous stance crumbled and he sagged slightly, but there was a strange stiffness to the set of his jaw and an offended, hurt look in his eyes. He was angry, she realised and felt ashamed. Greg obviously knew she had feelings for him. But no matter, he would never be able to act on them; she wouldn’t let him. Eventually he would give up and move on, and she would be able to breathe again without having to guard every movement and word. But she herself was so tired. It was getting harder to fend him off.
After he left, she called Lucy and asked her to re-arrange classes to make up for Greg’s absence. Blessed Lucy, she never asked too many questions.
“Was that all, Miss Knowles?”
Maddy hesitated. “I’ve been thinking about taking a business trip. Five to seven days, to visit Mr Soma. He’s currently working at the Mental Health Institute in Sydney. Do you think you could work out the best time for me to leave without putting too much pressure on the school? And then book the flights?”