Jarvey Quince was in love!
No, strike that. Jarvey Quince wasn’t just in love; he was in LOVE, with capital letters! He would spell it out in neon lights that rose twenty feet into the sky if he knew how, that’s how much in love he was. He would sit by the window for hours on end just staring dreamily at the trees and things and sort of realise for the first time just how wonderful everything was. And it was all because of Miss Gillian Ratcliffe, quite possibly the most beautiful woman he had ever met. To say that his work suffered would be an understatement. A more accurate description would be that it died quietly in its sleep, without as much as a whimper. After all, what could you expect from an eight year old schoolboy? Miracles?
Jarvey couldn’t remember exactly when it was that he had first decided that he loved Miss Ratcliffe but somehow the day had achieved an almost heroic significance in his mind. Since that otherwise ordinary day he had floated from one place to another with a faintly dazed expression on his young, round face. This expression, which many mistook as gormless, was a result of his never-ending daydream in which he would fight off horde after innumerable horde of Space Alien Ninja Zombies to rapturous applause from Miss Ratcliffe. He’d never reached the end of his fantasy but that didn’t matter because he already knew what would happen if he did; Miss Ratcliffe would be so happy that she would kiss him, on the lips. Then Jarvey would smile and smoulder his eyes at her (he wasn’t exactly sure how to do this but he had once read one of his sister’s books where the man had smouldered eyes, so he guessed that it must be a pretty good thing to do). For Jarvey, a single kiss from Miss Ratcliffe would be worth any amount of effort.
So he wore an almost perpetual dreamy expression on his face wherever he went, except Tuesdays and Thursdays, for these were the days that Miss Ratcliffe took the class for English. At these times, Jarvey became the perfect example of an ideal pupil and even though he wasn’t very good at English, Miss Ratcliffe always smiled at him when he handed his projects in and she nearly always told him that it was good work.
It was this smile that haunted Jarvey as he waited quietly outside the English room on the last Thursday of winter term holding his latest project reverently in his hand as if it was an ancient parchment, or The Word of God Himself that he held. In the playground he could hear the faint chatter of the other children at play, occasionally punctuated by Miss Crawthorne shouting at Mugsy Boyce, the school bully but their fun didn’t interest him. No, he was more interested in the lone figure in the classroom. Miss Ratcliffe was busy laying out paper and pencils on each table and every so often she would glance in Jarvey’s direction and smile, her eyes twinkling slightly in the early afternoon light.
As Jarvey watched her in silent adoration the school bell rang, signalling the end of dinner break and pretty soon he was surrounded by a press of other children, all being generally noisy. With a sigh he allowed the other kids to crowd him into the classroom and after depositing his assignment on the front desk he carefully settled into a seat close (but not too close) to where Miss Ratcliffe would sit. Gradually the background noise subsided to a reasonable level as the others slowly ended their dinnertime conversations and awaited the teacher’s instructions.
“As most of you know,” began Miss Ratcliffe, happy that the room was as still as could be expected, “today is your last English lesson before the holiday.” This last comment solicited more than a few cheers from the class which soon died as Miss Ratcliffe continued speaking.
“What you don’t know is that today is also the last time that you will see me as your English teacher. When you come back in the spring you will have a new teacher…” Suddenly the room was awash with young voices, each child clamouring to be heard over his or her class-mates. In fact, the only one who remained seated was Jarvey. For him the news had been something of a shock. She was leaving she had said, but why? Somewhere in the crowd he heard several others ask the same question and listened with a heavy heart as an explanation was given. Apparently Miss Ratcliffe was getting married during the holiday and then going to live somewhere called South Shields. To Jarvey this all meant just one thing; he would never see her again! And he hadn’t even known she had a boyfriend!
For the rest of the lesson Jarvey worked in stunned silence, refusing to acknowledge the presence of the others in his grief. It didn’t seem fair that he could love her so much and then lose her. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he failed to hear the bell ring at three o’clock. Nor did he notice the other children leave in a cloud of noise and activity. He just remained in his seat, silent and dejected.
“Jarvey?” With a start he was brought back to reality by her voice, the sound that liquid honey would make if it could speak. “Jarvey, are you alright?” she asked in concern. “Should I send for your mother to come and fetch you?”
Inside his chest, Jarvey’s heart leapt. Miss Ratcliffe was worried about him. Perhaps if he was nice he could stop her from marrying that other man and stay with him. It was worth a try.
“I’m alright, Miss,” he said, thinking that his voice was maybe just a little too high. “I’m going to miss you.” To Jarvey, this sounded like the right thing to say and he meant every word of it. “Do you have to go? Can’t you stay and teach English?”
At this, Miss Ratcliffe gave a little smile, making her eyes shine in that special way that he liked. “Oh, Jarvey. I’m going to miss you as well,” she told him, “but I love Roger a great deal. I have to go with him.” For a second Jarvey thought that she might not really mean what she said. Desperately, he tried one last attempt.
“But, I … I … Iloveyoumissratcliffe!” The words came out fast, all jumbled together and for a moment she just looked at him. She’s going to laugh at me, he thought in the silence. But she didn’t.
“I’m flattered, Jarvey,” she said when she spoke again. “I really am. But you’ll forget me, I’m sure. One day, when you’re older, you’ll meet another girl and fall in love and maybe even get married. You wait and see.”
But Jarvey didn’t want another girl. He wanted Miss Ratcliffe.
The holidays passed slowly for Jarvey and it was with a certain reluctance that he dragged himself into English when school re-opened. What fun would it be without Miss Ratcliffe? None, he thought.
And then the new English teacher arrived. With interest the class as a whole watched her set her bag on the desk and listened as she introduced herself as Miss Barnham.
And Jarvey Quince? Well, Jarvey Quince was in love!
S. Naomi Scott (c) 1993