Belfast, Northern Ireland
The children had gone. She walked down the corridor, breathing in the smell of bleach and old gym shoes. The caretaker's store was open and she could see the red bucket of sand, brought out whenever one of the girls vomited in a classroom, sitting on its hook.
Her room was still there behind the mural of Prince Pondicherry's chocolate palace on the green door. She had wanted to put this off, hoping she would be the last person to see the room before the desks and chairs were sold. All 30 copies of Fair Stood the Wind for France were still stacked by the back wall. The whiteboard had been taken away, revealing the old blackboard where she had written: “What role does fate have to play in The Woodlanders?”
She had not wanted to leave but the school was 'no longer viable'; the spreadsheets said so. Soon weeds would push up through the paving stones in the playground and people would break in to tear out the copper wiring and sell it for scrap.
She unlocked her storeroom and picked up the last cardboard box of old exam papers. A book fell from a high shelf she thought she had cleared. Some of the pages came free and lay in paper curls on the floor. She picked up a page and read, seeing the words she had taught for twenty years as if for the first time:"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day."