As Jill became more comfortable within our group, her behaviour became more outrageous.
We went to see the Vagina Monologues. In a theatre full of raucously laughing women, Jill's laughter stood out as even more raucous. People turned around to find the source of this laughter. Some members of the group began to give each other knowing looks. When we dropped Jill off, she kept us outside her home for 20 minutes, regaling us with tales of her and her husband's sex life. The laughter, mostly hers, rocked the car.
The PTA went out for a Christmas meal and disco, and of course Jill was invited. She had the vegetarian option because that's what some of the others were having. After the meal, we all got up for a dance or two or three. Jill gyrated and bumped and grinded. During Jumping Jack Flash, she actually went up on stage, climbed on top of the DJ's loudspeaker and jumped down behind us. A few of us stopped dancing and just looked at her dumbfounded. She danced so hard and so long, she developed a damp patch on her trousers. Afterwards, while waiting for the taxi, she treated us and the neighborhood to a serenade (she took singing lessons, remember).
She went up to the husband of one of the women in our group one day at pick-up time and in a manic way told him she was taking singing lessons and would he like to hear her sing and began singing before he had time to register what she was saying. He stood tranfixed, mortified at the public display.
My husband, who was treasurer of the PTA, dubbed her Twitterer for her long, pointless monologues during the meetings. He didn't go to many meetings because he has a day job, and the PTA chair and head teacher preferred to have the meetings during the school day. Our relationship with the PTA was a bit fractious. It had been run by four women for years. They moaned that no one would ever help out, but they didn't exactly make it easy to join. When my daughter was in her first year of school, I found out when they met and told the others. The five of us infiltrated, and the four others begrudgingly welcomed us. Then I was asked to head up an effort to raise funds to improve the school's playground because I appeared to have the most time on my hands. I approached this task with gusto, trying to get non-PTA parents involved as well. The Fearsome Four, and the elderly gentleman who was then the PTA treasurer, weren't happy. "Why aren't we doing the fund-raising?" they complained to the head. And the head told me that the PTA should do the fund-raising. I conceded, with much grace, I thought. I still was included in meetings because of all the work I had done.
Jill started to attend these meetings. I don't know how she found out, but I suspect the head teacher or school secretary told her. As usual, her input was time-consuming but minimal.
I don't know when exactly I began to suspect she was mentally ill. I found her behaviour annoying. But something more than that put me off her. For her part, she didn't exactly seek me out. If none of the others were there at pick-up time to talk to, she'd sidle over to me. Then, as the others arrived, she, and they, would ignore me. I suppose I found this hurtful. I wanted to be friends with the others, though, so I thought I had to try to be friends with Jill. I would invite her if I had a party and I was inviting the others.
Eventually, the others would exchange looks when her name came up in conversation. They dropped hints about her mental state, how she was on anti-depressants, how she would call them at night and keep them on the phone for hours. How they managed this and fed their families and worked (one of them is a music teacher with pupils who come in the evening), I don't know. One of the PTA's Fearsome Four, also a governor, became quite vocal about Jill's monopolisation of the head teacher's time, for Jill was still visiting the head on a daily basis. This woman and the school secretary began to run interference for the head. Jill retaliated by rushing to the toilet, which is located opposite the head teacher's office, every morning. The head, realising at last that she was in over her head with this woman, suggested she seek professional counselling. Jill was no stranger to counselling. She'd had a lot of it over the years to help her cope with her grief. She even had committed herself to the local mental health ward for a week. She went home when they told her nothing was wrong with her. So we were told.
Jill went to her GP (Jill had had a lot of GPs over the years, we learned. Either they would not allow her to come back or she would switch in disgust over how they treated her). He referred her to a psychotherapist. Jill went weekly, and would show up at pick-up time an absolute wreck after each session. This psychotherapist, Jill told some of the others, had suggested to her that the head teacher had behaved inappropriately (remember this word, it comes up later) toward Jill by "counselling" her and she should make a formal complaint to the governors. We don't know if this is actually what the therapist said because Jill was quite skilled at twisting people's words. The two women she told this to panicked. If Jill made a formal complaint, the governors would have to suspend the head while they investigated. The two women didn't feel the head deserved this, and they didn't want their children going to a school where the head was suspended.
They told Jill in no uncertain terms that they did not support her in this, that they felt obliged to tell the head what she had told them, that the head had given her time to Jill out of the goodness of her heart. Jill responded in a frightening way. She shouted on the phone. The women would hang up. She would call back and hurl more abuse at them. This went on all day. Where was her husband during this crisis? Did he take the daughter out and leave Jill to her verbal abuse? I don't know because I was a having a party at my house that night to which all three of these women were invited, and I was completely oblivious to what was going on. Jill found time to phone me in between phoning them, and told me she wouldn't be coming that evening because she had a fever.
The other two showed up late, shaking and on the verge of tears. I gave them each a large glass of wine and we all discussed the day's events and what had happened and what to do. It was agreed one of them would phone one of the governors, whom she knew quite well, and explain the situation. This governor could then inform the head of what was going on.
The next day Jill phoned the two women again, more contrite and in control this time. She wrote them letters, which she hand-delivered. One of them refused to see her. The other, in her jolly hockey-sticks way, told Jill she doesn't do "atmospheres." She also told her she'd already phoned the governor. Jill panicked. She phoned the governor. She wrote her letters. She wrote the head letters. She tried to see her, but the school secretary said she was unavailable. Eventually, the head herself told Jill that she would only speak to her on school matters pertaining to her child(remember the girl?).
I stood back, mouth agape during most of this. But part of me felt "I told you so." I tried to show my support for these two traumatized women. We met for coffee. We met for lunch. And I realised why Jill disturbed me so. I told the women I'd never taken to Jill. I should have kept my mouth shut, for in a few months the upset would be all but forgotten by them. But not by me.
To be continued.