La Faculté is an exclusive restaurant on the campus of the private Lejeune Women’s College. In this dining room the walls are antiqued brick. Tall arched windows with their sheer curtains provide an ambience of casual elegance. The variously sized round tables all have white tablecloths. There is the usual mix of clientele: Professors, Donors, Alumni, and their special Invités.
A young woman enters the room escorted by the Maître d’. She causes a ripple of attention because she is young and wears a tasteful red dress but also because she wears a pair of wrap-around sunglasses; most unusual. She turns her head pensively as she walks; she is apparently a student; most unusual. She is soon seated at a table for two, yet alone, choosing to face the entrance to the dining room.
Minutes later the Maître d’ escorts a more mature woman along the same pathway toward the young woman’s table for two. The mature woman causes a ripple of attention because so many persons at the restaurant appear to know her. She nods graciously left and right, but with only a half-smile, seeming preoccupied, and then she is seated at the young woman’s table. They stare at each other.
The mature woman speaks first, “I’m so glad you are here, Leandra. How are you?”
The young Leandra leans forward and raises her sunglasses which reveals that her eyes are surrounded by bruises, greenish with healing, “This is how I am, Narissa.”
Narissa MacKenzie, Ph.D., the Dean of Women’s Studies, looks downward and says very gently, “I reserved this table as you requested. I was happy that you picked the place to which we came on our first night together, Leandra.”
Leandra hisses, “I picked this place so you wouldn’t dare make a scene in front of your admirers who think you are so perfect.”
Narissa’s shoulders slump, “Leandra, you know how sorry I am. I haven’t been able to live with myself these past weeks.”
“I can’t live with you anymore, either,” Leandra decrees.
Narissa whispers back, “Please don’t say that, Leandra, please.”
Leandra continues, “How could I have been so wrong about you?”
Narissa pleads, “Haven’t I been good to you?”
A tear glistens below Leandra’s dark glasses and she scratches it away quickly, “You met me when I didn’t believe in myself. I trusted you. I needed you. You gave me your confidence,” then Leandra’s voice rises and trembles, “You gave me your love.”
Narissa adds, “I still do, Leandra. You know I love you. Back then I saw a wonderful young woman who was lost and full of doubts about herself,” Narissa gestures toward Leandra with open palms, “Look at what you’ve become.”
Leandra says coldly, touching her sunglasses, “I’ve been looking at myself for weeks.”
Narissa stutters, “I, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”
Leandra continues, “You make me feel like I’m crazy; like it’s me,” and then Leandra seems to be talking to herself, louder and louder, “Everybody thinks you’re so perfect; oh, sure, how could it be you? They think I’m to blame; that I’m crazy. They can’t see what I see. Well fuck them.”
Heads turn at the nearby tables.
Narissa leans in and bows to Leandra, “OK, OK. There is no need to be agitated.”
Leandra opens her mouth wide, “Agitated? You mean like a mental patient? Like you were that night…?” Leandra is savoring Narissa’s discomfort.
Narissa begs, “Leandra, I thought you didn’t want a scene.”
“What I didn’t want is another fucking violent scene from you.”
Narissa gives a false smile and whispers, “Please, Leandra. People are looking.”
“Oh, really? And what do they see? The perfect Dean MacKenzie of Women’s Studies quarreling with a silly graduate student? Well, study this,” and Leandra makes a V-sign with her fingers and sticks her tongue between them.
Narissa grows apprehensive, “Is this why you wanted to meet here? To humiliate me?”
“You are the one who wanted to meet. I just picked the place, Dean MacKenzie.”
The background noises clink and rattle into Dean Narissa MacKenzie’s ears like a train is coming.
A waitress steps discretely into the conversation gap, “Dean MacKenzie, Chef Perello will prepare for you a special meal of Herbed Yogurt and Crepes, if you please.”
Narissa is grateful for the distraction and she smiles and nods.
“And what will Miss be having?” asks the waitress, bowing slightly toward Leandra.
Leandra asks with a straight face, “I hear that you serve Bourré de Merde here?”
The waitress is stunned, “I’m… sorry, Miss?”
Narissa is aghast, but salvages her smile with effort, “Joking. Always joking.”
Leandra mercifully concludes, “I’ll have a glass of your best champagne. That’s all.”
“Very good,” says the waitress as if saying “Thank God”, and she departs their table.
Leandra taunts Narissa, “Well does my French meet your standards yet? God knows I only want to please you.”
When the glass of champagne arrives Leandra drinks quickly half of it, and taunts Narissa again, “Oh, I’m sorry, was that not the perfect way to drink fine champagne?”
Suddenly Narissa’s gaze changes as if she too is raising a pair of eye shades, “You need to remember, Leandra, if my position is threatened because of you, then you can be damn certain that all of your ‘achievements’ since you have been with me shall be exposed.”
Leandra rallies defensively, “What I have achieved I have earned myself!”
Narissa sits back, tasting blood, “Oh, really. And just who will believe that?”
Leandra falters, “You fucking bitch. You’re the one who kept me isolated, pretending to shelter my confidence.”
A dignified woman approaches their table as Narissa, who saw the woman in the corner of her eye, concludes with a saccharine non sequitur to Leandra, “So now you can be anything you want to be,” and then Narissa looks up at the dignified woman as if surprised, “Oh, hello, Rebecca.”
“Dean MacKenzie, I just wanted to tell you how proud we all are of your Lejeune Achievement Award. I look forward to the ceremony,” and then she respectfully departs the table.
Leandra mumbles, “Better make sure she didn’t leave her nose in your butt,” and then pointedly, “I’m already gone, Narissa, and you just can’t accept it. Let. Go.”
Suddenly a thought strikes Leandra, “Won’t your crazy mother be attending that ceremony?”
Narissa bristles, “You little tramp. You wouldn’t dare.”
Leandra pretends to muse, “Hmmm. I might sit right next to her. I’m sure we would have a lot to discuss about you. She and I have a lot in common: we both have screwed you,” and Leandra sneers.
Narissa slaps the table making both the silverware and Leandra jump.
Narissa trembles. Her eyes flash with acid tears.
Suddenly Narissa has a look of terror as if a trap door is opening beneath her. She topples forward onto the table, banging it hard with her head, and rolls onto the floor. Leandra screams. Others are screaming, “Call an ambulance!”
When the Emergency Medical Technicians arrive, Leandra rides with Narissa in the ambulance, insisting with a lie, “I’m her niece.”
“She needs me.”
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