I saw Lule in the street with a group of students. All of them were boys. They were outside her flat, standing on the pavement. There was a kind of shape about them, this little, male crowd and Lule. I thought they were going somewhere. A boy said they were going up to Lule’s. It was the student she had kissed. He suggested I come too. It was nice of him.
She hadn’t told me about the party. When the boy did, she looked annoyed. Stop taking liberties. It’s one of the clearest memories I have, Lule’s face when he asked me along. The school owned the flat. I'd been before, but not while she was there. She didn’t want me now. It’s the only reason I went. Along with the kissing business.
We sat in the living room. There were half a dozen boys, Romeo in one place and Lule in another, studiously apart – if there’d been a kiss. Perhaps there hadn’t. Liddie could have made it up. If she did, it was her finest lie.
The boy was more at ease than anyone. So confident. It’s why you kiss a boy, or what comes from kissing. Not just kissing Lule, but there was something else. She didn’t speak to him, not once, even when she stopped looking cross. If her eyes came close to his, they lightly passed by. It wasn’t accidental. But she didn’t speak to me, either. Has she ever kissed me?
We were drinking heavily. Lule pointed out, with a proud chuckle, that Albanians were drinkers too. Someone mentioned the police state. She said Albanians were happy.
“No one leaves.”
“They’re too drunk to find the border.” It’s the only thing I remember saying. She was annoyed again. The Greek boys shook with laughter. The one she kissed laughed loudest. I can see his quivering face. Laughter makes a difference. I started to enjoy the party.
At the cram school, complaints were being made about Lule. She wasn’t teaching anything. The director asked me to talk to her. He didn’t want to lose students. He was also a coward. He should have talked to her himself. I was a coward too. I should have said no.
When I mentioned the complaints, she looked surprised. I’m not sure what surprised her more, hearing that students had complained, or hearing it from me. It wasn’t fair on Lule. She was teaching things. It must have been the girls who complained. Anyway, she didn’t listen. There were more complaints. I mark pupils' work. I’m not very good at correcting women.
Lule was sacked at the end of the year. She booked the coach to Athens. A small group was there to see her off, no students, mainly teachers. A Greek man was there as well. I’d never seen him. He was older than her students. He looked like an official lover. I was still learning things about Lule.
They spoke confidentially until the coach arrived. Then he walked over to another teacher, one of the English girls, and started talking to her. She didn’t seem to know him. Lule was holding her suitcase, ready to board the coach. He could have waited till she’d gone. He could have kissed her, said goodbye at the last moment, done the things that boyfriends do. But when the coach left, the girl would too. He mightn’t get another chance. Feigning warmth for Lule was no use now. He could lose them both.
I didn’t want Lule pining over him. She might have been the pining sort. I said, so everyone could hear, “He’s not wasting much time.”
Of all the things I said to Lule, or said and did when I was next to her, this was the cruellest.
“I don’t blame him,” she muttered.