Susan walked among the columns of King's College, feeling the brisk autumn wind whipping around the stone and chilling her legs.
She looked up and smiled as Hattie Pergil, a pretty girl with curly walnut hair and glasses, ran toward her. Well, I suppose ran would not be the proper term.
Hattie was a sweet-natured girl, but she was of the sort endowed with those funny quirks that made others want to initially avoid them, but in reality they were completely harmless. Hattie's "quirk" was immediately evident in the way she walked. As long as she kept a slow pace, you couldn't tell, but Hattie's knees weren't quite what they ought to have been. When she wanted to go any faster than a walk, the joints "wobbled" (no other word could express the commotion!) in their sockets, giving the hastening girl the appearance that her legs might collapse at any moment.
She "wobbled" up to Susan now. Hattie was such a sweet girl that Susan purposely chose to overlook her defect, or if there were any feelings of revulsion within her, she suppressed them for the sake of civility. "Hello, Hattie," she said amiably.
"Say, I've invited some girls to my house this evening for a dinner party. Do you want to come? Please say yes!"
Susan laughed at the eager petition. "I suppose you've left me no option, dear Hattie! Of course I'll come."
Hattie's eyes shone behind her lenses. "Oh, wonderful! See you tonight then!"
Susan smiled as Hattie walked away.
Susan ate lunch that day with two other girls, Mirabelle Anthony and Charity Daniels. They were discussing their after-college plans when a quiet voice behind Susan asked, "May I sit here?"
Susan turned to face Etienne Genoud, the French exchange student. "Hello, Ettie; of course you may," she said, pulling out the chair next to her.
"Ettie," Charity piped up as the French girl took her seat, "we were just talking about what we want to do after college. Do you have any plans?"
Ettie, as the other girls called her, was mildly perplexed for a moment. "What I will do tonight, non? Ah, oui, after I finish my education." She smiled, "I would like to become what you English call a midwife, to help the mothers with the babies."
Susan nodded. The petite French girl had hands and temperament as gentle as her voice. Etienne was adequately suited for such an occupation.
Mirabelle sniffed, "Well, I don't want to be stuck with squalling babies. I want to become a surgeon's assistant, maybe even surgeon someday."
Charity cocked her head at her friend. "Can a woman be surgeon?"
Mirabelle shrugged, "Well, I don't know if any have, but it doesn't mean they can't! You all know me, I don't mind being the first."
The girls all laughed, and Susan pondered her friend's ambitions during the rest of her classes.
She and Benton met after classes, and Susan asked what he thought about women filling professional positions normally dominated by men. Benton thought carefully before giving his reply.
"I do not think it wise for women to feed their domineering nature when it comes to holding positions higher than men," he stated firmly.
Susan was confused. "But what about the lecture you gave me last week on attaining my independence? If women begin obtaining key positions formerly dominated by men, do you not agree this is a step in the right direction?"
Benton paused for a moment. "What I told you last week is true, but this . . . infiltration, for lack of a better term, may be a step too far. Women should seek positions in the workforce, I support that premise, but only as high as a position such as 'Assistant Something-or-other.' They should not be leaders of men."
"But even as assistant, wouldn't they be leading some men?"
"The difference there is that she is still directly answerable to a man, as opposed to being manager herself, and answerable to some impersonal, external government or parliament, which I believe is unhealthy for a woman. By the way, since when were you so interested in the finer points of feminism?"
Susan blushed, but told him about the lunchtime conversation.
"On another note," Benton continued, "There's an article about the paranormal our professor gave us this morning. It discusses some reasons people choose to believe in the supernatural, and describes options more applicable to real life for those reasons. I found it very intriguing, and I want to discuss it with you. Can you come over for supper, and we can talk then?"
Susan hesitated. "I can't come over tonight, but perhaps tomorrow."
"Whyever not?" Benton asked.
Susan blushed, "Hattie Pergil invited me to a dinner-party at her house tonight."
"Hattie? The gimp?"
"I'm sorry, that's just how everyone knows her."
"She is a very nice girl and I am glad to be her friend!"
Benton turned urgently to Susan. "Will you be so glad when she prevents you from forgetting Narnia?"