"A spot of tea, vicar?"
"Just there, on your... trousers." Colin winked.
"Oh my, that won't do! What will the other parishioners think?"
"Well vicar, I do have a washing machine. I mean, the wife has a washing machine."
"What a jolly good idea; I'll just slip them off and if you could pop them in there for a cycle–"
Miss Snippett stared aghast at her class of seven-year-olds, who were supposed to be performing a scene from A Man for all Seasons, and were apparently about to start undressing. Not that she felt there was anything to get excited about there, but she was aware that the parents who would be attending the Spring Play might get a little excited by it. And not in the applauding frantically and writing to the headmaster to recommend her way, either.
"What is going on? I left you with Act two, scene three to rehearse, and although Thomas More was deeply religious, I don't believe he could have been a vicar. Especially since the play deals with the events that led Henry VIII to found his own church."
"Er, we couldn't understand the words, miss," said Colin, looking angelically unrepentant. Miss Snippet, who'd found his with a different copy of Hustler every time he'd had a tea-break when she was using them as navvies to build a school garden, was not deceived.
"So there was this other script that was easier to follow, miss."
"And where did this script come from?"
"There miss." He pointed, and several other children in the class nodded, suggesting that he might be telling the truth. She looked where he was pointing, and frowned. It was Miss Flebbers desk.
Miss Flebbers had joined the staff just after the nativity play, when the headmaster was keen to hire people who clearly weren't related to him, or looked like they were likely to drink copiously and then catch fire in front of the parents. She was broad, tee-total, claimed to be vegan and allegedly went and built houses for homeless people on her weekends. She wore wellies to school which she didn't always remember to change out of, and she had her own teabags in the staffroom that smelled like mildew. Miss Snippet had been instantly suspicious of her, and had spent the first few days spreading the rumour that she didn't build houses for homeless people, but instead built houses out of homeless people, until Miss Davenport told her that she felt that she wasn't really giving the newcomer a chance.
Miss Snippet held her hand out for the script, and George, who was playing the vicar, surrendered it. It was a handwritten manuscript and when Miss Snippet turned the page to see what happened after the vicar took his trousers off she dropped the manuscript in surprise.
"How much of this did you read?" she asked, hurriedly picking the manuscript back up again.
"Just the pages you saw, miss," said Colin. She suspected he was lying, but she wanted to believe the lie. Except that she couldn't resist asking: "And why aren't you playing the vicar, Colin? I thought you liked to have roles with titles?"
His silence, the very faint hint of a flush to his cheeks told her that he was well aware of what the vicar was about to invite in just a couple of pages time, just as the look of bewilderment on George's face suggested he'd been in for a surprise.
"Right," she said. "I don't think this is appropriate for your parents, but a Man for All Seasons is, so we will return to rehearsing that. Colin, you may hand out the correct scripts and we shall start from the top. That is, the start of the scene."
She walked over to Miss Flebbers's desk as she spoke, intending to put the manuscript back. When she opened the desk though, she saw that the manuscript was one of at least eight, and paused for a moment. She flicked to the back of the manuscript she was holding. It certainly looked complete, so perhaps Miss Flebbers wouldn't notice it missing for a few days.
She closed the desk and shoved the manuscript into her handbag. She really ought to know what kind of woman she was dealing with here.
"Right, children," she said. "Action!"