Steve and Margaret began school on the same day.
She, came to the school several weeks after term started, and he, when the principal of the all-girls’ school, decided that the school needed a full-time maintenance man to take on all of the school projects and manage the ground's staff, as there were no women available locally who were experienced or qualified to do what he could do.
It had been a difficult decision for Mrs. Waring to make, taking him on, and a young man at that; only twenty-five. A young and handsome man in an all girls’ school, where many of those girls were reaching that difficult and dangerous age with boys, was a bit of a risk, but his references had been outstanding, and his qualifications were stellar. She had also interviewed him personally, reaching the conclusion that he would be impervious to all but the most determined young woman, but then what man had a hide that thick? She would also keep track of him where needed, and would know where he was at all times, as well as knowing where all of the more morally-challenged girls were too, and would keep an eye on them and their antics. If anything untoward happened, it would be by design, and by mutual consent so she would not waste any sleep worrying about it.
With his university qualifications he should have been teaching in some university, but needed time to recover from an extensive stay in hospital with his physical and traumatic difficulties, and was not up to a sedentary or professorial lifestyle. He needed physical activity for a few years, and to be away from the usual rat race to get himself back together both physically and mentally.
His personal file said it all. He had been wounded in two theaters of war and was no longer fit for active duty. He’d seen hardship and had been tested to the breaking point. He also needed this job. The only thing left to worry about was his morals when faced with the kind of temptations that nubile, determined young women in the senior years of the school would throw at him. She soon discovered that she had nothing to worry about, though she would keep her eyes on him.
Up to that point, the school had been spending a fortune bringing in several different contractors into the school to do electrical and plumbing work on a continuing basis, and others to see to the grounds maintenance, construction, and yet others to see to the never-ending problems in the computer lab.
Steve had all of the qualifications needed to do a lot of things himself, and to hire the contractors that would be needed to do the rest of it so it was worth paying him even more than the teachers were paid if it would mean an overall saving to the school at the end of the year, and it would. Mrs. Waring did not like negotiating with contractors. A man who had handled men in conflict, could do that far better than she could. This job also gave him his life back.
The day Steve had arrived in the school office was when Margaret Gilbert also presented herself. She was their newest student, eighteen years old, but had come to them for her final two years before either becoming employed, or going on to university. Her academic record suggested that she was ready for university, but had not yet made up her mind about what she would do.
They both seemed to be shy individuals who might have difficulty blending in, and sat at opposite sides of the room, ignoring, and not speaking to each other, waiting for Mrs. Waring to get to them, but each was deeply conscious of the other being there.
There was an almost immediate attraction between them that was hard for them to understand, but it was far too soon to be able to speak of it or to open up those first lines of communication. Those initial feelings of curiosity came and went easily on first meetings, and as soon as they began to get to know even a little about the other. However, that was also when that first optimistic rush of expectation could so easily be dashed... or could be built upon.
While he was looking out of the window, Margaret looked him over without being too obvious, seeing a mature man, probably about twenty-four or twenty-five years old, dressed in workboots, jeans, and a plaid shirt with long sleeves. He also had an open laptop that he was devoting some attention to.
He had shortish, dark hair, strong hands, broad shoulders and a kind face. His general demeanor when he moved, suggested a military background, like her father. She was not sure why he was in the school.
“Mr. Rutherford.” Mrs. Waring approached him first with her hand extended as he stood to greet her (a sign of good manners that was all-too-often absent in the younger generation). He put the open laptop on the seat beside him, and Margaret saw that he was not playing games, but was working on what looked like a Computer Assisted Design program for somewhere in the school.
Mrs. Waring apologized to him. “I hope you will excuse me, but I should see to Miss Gilbert first and get her started. We should be only about ten minutes and then you and I will have most of the morning together.”
He nodded his head. “Of course. I have enough to go on with.” He was soft-spoken and had a nice smile.
Mrs. Waring continued. “And thank you for that heads-up on what we needed in the computer lab. You were right. You and I will need at least a couple of hours to walk around the school premises and for me to show you what is needed of you, and to learn what you see that needs to be done, and then we can discuss a budget for what you will need if it is not already here somewhere.” He had already given her a list of what he would need, but he was sure most of it was already somewhere in the school.
He already knew that the entire school needed to be rewired and the electrical entrance upgraded. A lot of things had been neglected over the years. He’d work into them slowly.
“Margaret. Come this way please and we’ll get you signed in and get your class-schedule organized.”
He watched as Margaret stood up and followed Mrs. Waring, noting that, though young, she had a mature look about her and seemed very assured; not like a typical schoolgirl. She’d already made the transition to being a woman. He guessed eighteen, or a mature seventeen with a good build, but would be completely at ease with wherever she found herself. He liked the way she'd met his eyes and smiled at him. She'd also been curious what he had been working on, just as he was curious about her, but without being too obvious about it.
Army brat, like himself, probably.
Steve’s snap judgments of people were not often wrong.
Mrs. Waring was still speaking all the way into her office. “I see from your past academic studies and grades that we will need to decide whether to put you into the final year, with some special programs, or begin you in the year before that, until you find your feet. We can be flexible with your schedule, and we have an excellent library that I know you will take advantage of. Did you settle in alright last night?”
“Yes, Ma'am.” She was used to the routine, having spent the last few years in boarding schools while her parents had been out of the country.
“Good, we’ll see about getting you out of the dormitory with those younger girls, and into a private room as soon as we can.”
As she went into the principal’s office following Mrs. Waring, Margaret looked back at Steve and smiled apologetically that she was being given preference when he had arrived in the school office first.
He nodded and smiled at her to acknowledge her silent apology. He was looking at her as though he knew her, or should know her, and she had that vague feeling about him, herself.
She almost blundered into Mrs. Waring in her distraction when he did that, and set her heart thumping.
He had a wonderful smile that sent a warm flush through her body that had her wondering about the effect he would have on the other three hundred girls in this school. She, would be just one of many who would be lost in this jungle of raging hormones; most pronounced in the older and more mature and desperate girls already looking for a male to be interested in them in a close and possibly intimate way.
She felt lost, never having experienced those kinds of feelings before or so suddenly, and entered Mrs. Waring office already curious about him.
The office door was closed, but the school was so quiet that Steve could hear everything that was being discussed. He learned a lot about Margaret, including that, like him, she had just come out of hospital after missing several weeks of school. She should have been here weeks ago.
He couldn’t help but be curious. He had been only a week out of hospital himself.
When she emerged with Mrs. Waring, he smiled at her and met her eyes, setting her hormones doing their tricks again. She knew she must be blushing and that he would see that about her, but what could he say or do in that environment? What could she say? Nothing, so she smiled at him again, seeing his face light up.
Steve. Steve what? Rutherford of course. That was what Mrs. Waring had called him. But what exactly did he do?