"I see you’ve already made friends.” Fabiana indicated the two boys.
“What?” Parker asked. She’d almost forgotten they were still there. “N-no, they’re not my…”
Boo tried to make himself invisible, while Cowboy was desperate to be noticed. “Chancellor Rousseau,” Cowboy said, “it is truly an honor, ma’am.” He took her hand and Parker thought he was going to kiss it.
But the chancellor cupped Cowboy’s chin instead. “Is it?”
No one moved. There it was again. An odd electricity came from the chancellor. Miss Parker’s eardrums crackled. Cowboy remained stock still. He let his chin rest in Fabiana’s buttery palm. His eyes didn’t waver. She gave his face a slight squeeze before letting her hand fall away. “Boys. I’m going to steal Miss Parker. Vous voir!”
Once out of earshot of any other students, the Chancellor turned to Miss Parker. “Well. Finally. I can assure your father that you are alive and well.”
Parker attempted a smile. “If you could leave out the part about the cigarettes, Fabiana, I would appreciate it.”
The woman laughed. It was a high pitched staccato, the sound of dolphins. “Haricot vert,” she said. It meant stringbean in French, her nickname for Miss Parker. “Your father will be thrilled that you are smoking. We encourage all adult behaviors on this campus. You must grow up and grow up fast cherie. You are entering the real world now.”
Miss Parker nodded. Her eyes fixed on a chiclet sized sapphire that rested in the hollow of Fabiana’s throat. It was familiar and yet not. “Do you like it?” Fabiana smiled touching the gem. “It was a gift.”
Parker disappeared within herself for a minute. Her stomach rumbled and her temples ached. Fabiana continued talking. “There are campus restrictions of course. No cohabitation, nor insubordination…” Fabiana winked. “But smoking is encouraged. As is becoming familiar with alcohol consumption, sky diving, peep show concentration games.” Fabiana broke into a grin. “It’s good to have you here.” She squeezed Parker’s hand.
Parker noticed the fine hairs covering her former governess’ face. They took her back. All at once she felt young and uncertain. She recognized that familiar push-pull that had always existed between them. Parker had longed for something from her that wasn’t available. But then she also held Fabiana at arms length. A nagging in Parker's gut had prevented her from trusting this woman all the way.
“Someone put all my stuff in the wrong room, Fabiana.”
Fabiana squeezed Parker hand again, a little too hard. “You are in the quarters I told them to put you in.” Fabiana used her free hand to brush Parker’s hair behind her ears. She smiled with the warmth of the snake in Jungle Book. “And do not use my first name while you are here. Ever. Again. You will address me as Madame, Chancellor or Your Honor.” She let her hand cup Parker’s chin as she had Cowboy’s. But she held tight to Parker’s jaw. “Clear?” she asked.
Her words stung Parker. A flash of rage and tears rushed to escape. Parker held her tongue, held her hurt. Water welled for an instant but Parker did not let it overflow. Fabiana’s stare was steady. She lifted her eyebrows. Parker nodded, twice. Then Fabiana let go of her. “She’s all yours boys!” The chancellor walked away with no glance back.
“Wow,” Cowboy said under his breath. “What a dame.”