My first day on the job I am called to the Principal’s office to discuss my role and responsibilities and complete some paperwork. He ushers me in and offers me a chair. With glasses perched on his nose he flips a manila folder onto the desk.
‘Please, eat your lunch while we chat,’ he says. ‘You might not get time later.’
I open my tuna and cheese sandwich, smile apologetically and take a bite. My stomach relaxes. Yes, I can eat this.
Principal Campbell shows no reaction as he explains how the two schools will be sharing my Japanese language tuition, which means half the lesson prep for twice the contact hours. He says I am replacing a teacher who took maternity leave, but who in the end decided not to return to work. He mentions how hard it has been to fill the role, two prospective teachers had balked at the daily commute, and the one who they’d contracted for this year had taught all Term One but left at Easter for a school closer to home. He presents me with my schedule on a single sheet of paper which, blessedly, has all of Friday free.
‘You live in Brisbane, is that right? How far are you travelling to be here every day?’
‘It’s almost one and a half hours door to door,’ I say.
‘And are you confident driving the mountain range twice a day?’
‘That doesn’t worry me at all,’ I smile. ‘I have always loved Tamborine.’ It’s true. My husband and I visited on our honeymoon. It’s a beautiful location.
He looks relieved. ‘Well, that is great to hear, Jodie. We are lucky to have you. Maybe your husband will see fit to relocate to our wonderful mountain,in due course.’
In due course? I thought this was a contract until the end of the year. Is he suggesting this could become permanent?
‘Um, Mister Campbell,’ I start.
‘Call me Tom.’
‘Tom…ah, there’s one thing I need to check with you.’
He peers over his glasses, eyebrows arched.
‘Did the Department…tell you?’
‘Tell me what? No.’
‘I’m pregnant. It’s my first baby. Due in February next year.’
He looks crushed. Removing his glasses he rubs his eyes with the other hand. After a moment he gathers himself and straightens his back.
‘I’m so sorry. Congratulations is more like it,’ he smiles bravely, ‘and I hope the commute isn’t a burden. You qualify for transport allowance but because this is a contract we can’t offer you maternity leave.’
‘And we can’t guarantee the role will still be available if you decide to reapply later.’
‘Yes, I know.’ Can he hear that I am disappointed too? I pack up my lunchbox and he shows me to the door. No doubt the stink of tuna remained long after I left the room.