It looked like rain. Dark, thundering clouds were rolling in from the east, threatening to wash away the peace and gentleness that early spring had brought in.
Brennan nearly groaned aloud when he looked out the window. He was sick of all the dreary weather of winter and looking forward to riding through the hills on his mare, Gracebound.
His father had been the one who taught him how to ride and thinking of it still brought a pang to Brennan's heart. His father had passed away nearly three years ago in a tragic accident while working on the farm, but the pain was still fresh in his heart. Maybe that was why Brennan hated the rain. They used to celebrate every drenching rain, because they relied on it so much for the crops. There were no more celebrations.
Brennan sighed and ran his fingers through his unruly mass of dark curls. He turned away from the window and was mildly startled to see his roommate standing in the doorway. Liam, with his blonde hair and bright blue eyes, could always bring a smile to Brennan's face, even on the days he was feeling his mellowest. They had been friends since their first days here at the University. Brennan was studying to be a teacher, a Liam, a doctor. Liam's quick wit and easy charm masked his true sensitivity and compassion.
Now Liam's face was shrouded in concern as he studied Brennan's face, who had never been very good about hiding his emotions. It was painfully clear he'd been thinking of his father again, and Brennan was thankful when Liam didn't press the subject.
"The Headmaster wants to see you," Liam said, looking away and collapsing on his bed.
"Me?" Brennan asked, slightly defensive. The last time he'd been in there it hadn't been for pleasant business.
"Yep," Liam said, stretching out. "As soon as possible."
"Oh." His was hard to disguise the shock in his voice.
"Good luck," Liam said, winking mischievously. "See if you can sneak a few of those little chocolate things he has on his desk for me…"
But Brennan ignored him as he strode from the room.
Classes were finished for the day, so the hallways were unnaturally empty, most students choosing to relax during their few precious hours of freedom, before the next day's routine took them captive again.
Brennan wasn't what one would consider a "bad boy". He wasn't like the guys who would sneak out to town to meet up with improper girls, or steal a few shots of whiskey. In fact, he was extremely studious and down to earth. The one other time he'd been called to the Headmaster's office was under the accusation of plagiarism. He'd been innocent and was quickly deemed as so. So why he was retracing his steps back there baffled him.
The imposing oak door lay straight ahead and Brennan's footsteps echoed strangely on the wood floor. Hesitating ever so slightly, he raised his fist and knocked firmly. There was a moment's pause and then, "come in."
The door didn't creak as he pushed it open. The headmaster's office could be described in one word: books. There were books everywhere. Two massive shelves on either side of the room were groaning against the weight of all the medical journals, history notes, and 'great literature' stuffed inside. Piles were stacked randomly about the room so that one had to be careful where they stepped. The headmaster himself, Professor Kristof, sat in his plush leather behind his ironically organized desk.
With a sweep of is hand, he invited Brennan to sit in one of the straight, spindly chairs before him.
The Professor leaned forward and folded his hands neatly on the desk and arranged his face in what he must have thought was a fatherly expression. "Mr. Mason, how is your education coming along?"
If Brennan was shocked, he struggled not to show it. Why had the headmaster, after years of ignoring him for other, more "profitable" students, suddenly taking notice of him? Brennan was used to working hard alone because so many of his professors thought it a waste of time to teach a "poor farm boy who will probably amount to nothing." Yet, that was why Brennan had left the farm to his younger brother, he wanted to achieve something in life, strive higher, and make a difference in the world. If nothing, his lack of attention only inspired him to work harder and be better.
"Very well, Sir." He struggled to conceal his suspicion.
"Well, good," Professor Kristof said, standing up and coming around to the other side of the desk. He perched himself on the edge and pulled out a cigar from a fancy box on his desk. He took his time lighting it, all the while Brennan sat there with increasing misgivings. Finally, the headmaster took a quick puff and turned his attention back to Brennan. He had the air of someone cutting to the chase rather than fooling with the customary normalcies. "How would you like to graduate early and have a good job offer at hand?"
There was a silent pause as Brennan tried to read the man's expression, but to no avail. "But shouldn't I finish my education, sir? I'm sure there are others who are more qualified than I…" Even as he said, he couldn't believe he was passing up the opportunity. It was often hard to jobs as a teacher, since so many people couldn't afford an education or just didn't bother. But something made him hold back.
"Yes," the headmaster said bluntly. "There are others more ready than you. But," he paused and took a deep drag on his cigar, looking past Brennan. "I knew your father a long time ago. He would have been very proud of you. I think offering you this opportunity would be the best I can do in his memory." A faint smile tugged at the older man's lips.
Brennan sat frozen in his chair. He'd had no idea that his father had known Professor Kristof. Suddenly a thousand questions sprung to his mind that he wanted to ask, but he quickly pushed them aside. This wasn't the proper time.
"Yes, sir," he said, starting to smile. "I will gladly accept your offer. Thank you."
"Excellent," Professor Kristof said, clapping his hands together and exhaling a large cloud of smoke. "Now let me tell you about this job of yours. Lord Renyald Hamilton of Bristol is in need of a tutor. He has two children, daughters I believe, whose governess just left them. You're to teach them all the refinements that soon-to-be ladies need, such as French, Latin, Art, Music…"
Brennan nodded as the headmaster continued explaining. He had always assumed he'd be a schoolteacher, but a tutor was even better. Now he would receive room and board, plus his own private students, rather than a rag-tag mass of children (and sometimes adults) stuffed into a tiny room to serve as a schoolhouse.
"…It's about a day's ride to get there," the headmaster continued. "And I do believe he expects you sometime tomorrow evening." He paused and glanced out the dusty window on his right. The rain was just beginning to fall: large, fat drops that splattered on the ground with only a promise for more. "I would suggest starting out as soon as possible," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll have Harold ready the carriage while you pack your things and say your goodbyes."
"Yes, sir," Brennan answered automatically, but he had only a few meager things to pack and Liam was the only person he'd miss. He pitied Liam. Now his best friend would be all alone with the snotty aristocratic boys. Brennan could hardly believe his own good fortune. "And thank you, sir," he added as the door softly closed shut behind him.