I met Stephanie, the new arts teacher, the week after I saw Caroline on the plane to England.
"I'd like someone's help to hang my paintings?" Stephanie said at morning recess after everyone had introduced themselves.
"I'll give you a hand," I said, attracted by her vivacious pixie face framed by short dark hair so different to Caroline's cool blondeness. We made a date that evening.
Stephanie's eyes lit up. "Thank you. Come for dinner."
Nigel, the manual arts teacher, a gangling one hundred and ninety centimetres, leered at us in his usual inane way.
I knew what he thought: Caroline has been gone a week and you aree already on to another.
Stephanie's front door was open when I arrived at her unit on the second floor of a three-story block of flats. Receiving no answer to my knock and call, I went in.
She sat on the mat in the living area wearing a pale blue sari, edged with silver and red trimmings, staring through me as if in some subliminal trance.
I went outside and lit a cigarette, wondering whether I should go home. I'd finished my second cigarette when she came out.
"Oh, there you are. Do you want to hang the paintings before or after dinner?"
During my few minutes in her unit, I hadn't seen a sign of a meal in preparation. I glanced at my watch: seven o'clock. I was hungry. Caroline and I always had dinner at seven. I did most of the cooking. Caroline decided the time. “Have we time before we eat?”
Stephanie nodded, confirming my fears that dinner would be much later.
Substitute Bride - a Regency novel