I thought I was one of the smart ones. I was
one of the smart ones, at least on an academic level. It was only when it came to guys that I was a complete failure. They should have had a ‘Relationships’ subject at school because some people just don’t get that kind of thing. All they ever taught was not to say ‘Yes’ until you felt ready. What does ‘ready’ even mean? I never felt I was ready. I just did it because everyone else was doing it and it was a total anti-climax… in more ways than one.
I wasn’t really sure what I wanted or why I wanted it. I hung out with the misfits, the kids who listened to MCR, the kind of music I just didn’t get. I didn’t understand the geeks, the populars, the players, the kaleidoscope of high school kids that all seemed to be doing whatever the fuck they wanted with their lives. It made no sense to me. I felt so alone. I dreaded the weekends because it meant spending time with my family; the family I was a constant disappointment to. At school it was easy enough to hole away in the toilets or just skive the lessons but at home, it felt like hell. I’d barely say two words to my dad, preferring to skulk around and pretend to be studying, while daydreaming pointless fantasies about fame, fortune and love.
I was lost in a world of indie music, trying to fit in though I knew that I was a fraud. I was so bad. I was afraid that people would see the real me; the fucked-up recluse that was in trouble for all the wrong reasons. I had friends but then again they weren’t friends because they didn’t know anything about the real me. I put on a front to be normal and they accepted that front. They didn’t see past the façade. I didn’t let them. I knew that if they did the show would be over. I was so good at hiding stuff, at hiding everything that mattered.
On the surface I wasn’t someone who people would class as a loner. I preferred my own company though, simply because I knew there was no chance no-one would ever ‘get’ me. I didn’t want to try and explain myself to them because that opened the door for criticism, something I already had enough of. I knew people, classmates, who were kind but I dared not let them see my weaknesses and shortcomings because I knew their opinions of me would change forever, and besides, I liked pretending to be who they thought I was.
I had this mind-set all the way through to high school and it stuck with me, got me through the torturous five years. Growing up is hard enough without all the cliques, gossip and grades to worry about. Everyone was talking about everyone, even the teachers and I was constantly trying to keep myself covered, desperately afraid that one day I’d accidentally let something slip and I’d be the next infamous student thrown under the limelight to be dissected under the cruel crowd of judgemental eyes.
I guess I was fair game for anyone with a brain back then. Attention, even the wrong kind, had me grateful. I don’t know why I was so needy. I still don’t get it. They say ‘attention-seeker’ like it’s a bad thing but is it really? What’s so bad about wanting recognition, wanting praise, wanting to be made a fuss of? Nobody ever did that for me. I was the girl who just got by in the background but inside I was screaming to be heard, to be seen, to be cared about. But I never actively made people look at me. I wanted to but I was scared that once they started looking they’d keep looking until they’d stripped back the smokescreen and revealed the shitty person I really was.
Sounds negative, I know it does, but that was me, that was what I thought of myself. Sure, I had my qualities; kind, caring, hard worker but they never seemed strong enough to overpower the demons I’d created and couldn’t let go of. It was my own fault. Everyone has a choice between good and bad and bad was so tempting that I just succumbed; did it, enjoyed it, and then hated my fucking self for years afterwards.
I guess that’s why people turn to religion; Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, they all say the same stuff when you get down to it – you do good, resist evil and you’ll get rewarded in the next life. But it’s hard. It’s so fucking hard when temptation is dancing in front of you, and the reward for resisting is a lifetime away – when you’re a teenager, death seems like something so distant. I’d never had anyone that mattered to me die so I never really felt like it was a ‘real’ concept. It’s hard to explain. How can you think of life after death? An endless existence where you’ll either burn in Hell or sip milk and honey in Heaven? It’s like a fairy-tale; a total fantasy.
He was good-looking. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but really, why wouldn’t you? Writing a book is damn hard work and if you want people to read it, you’ve got to get the cover right. But then again, I’ve picked up a lot of books with awesome covers and then been let down by the shit story inside. It’s true; appearances can be deceptive, but most of the time I forget this. I see a cute guy and automatically think he’s a nice guy. That’s what happened with Mr O’Connor and that’s what happened with a whole string of guys since.
Mr O’Connor was in his twenties, had been teaching for about five years when he ended up at our school. I remember the first time I saw him. First day of the school year. Autumn. Leaves outside, and a wind cold enough to remind you that summer was definitely over. They used to have these assemblies, special ones at the start of the term, like they’d motivate us to achieve something.
Anyway, so we were all there, the one hundred and fifty kids in year eleven, listening to the Head teacher go on about successes and futures when the girl next to me, Hannah, elbowed me. Hannah was a nice enough girl, but she had the whole ‘emo’ thing going on; liberal black eye make-up, pink streaks in her hair and a whole host of cryptic badges on her uniform. She looked a mess but I never told her that. How could I? I was her friend.
Anyhow, so she elbowed me in the ribs, jerked her head at the line of teachers standing at the side of the hall and whispered, “Who’s the new guy?”
I glanced over; saw all the teachers who were looking good for their first day back at work. But then, teachers get paid in the holidays so I guess they were pretty happy with their lot in life. I didn’t think much of Mr O’Connor at first. Sure, he was tall, and he had a pretty enough face but whatever, he was a teacher y’know? They’re all the same.
My opinion changed when I ended up in his English class. They taught English Language and English Literature in one class so we had him for poems, plays, speaking and listening, all that kind of stuff. We got lumbered with studying some Irish poet called Seamus Heaney. It fit that Mr O’Connor was from Ireland too, he had the accent and the charm and he made all the lessons so interesting, simply because his passion for the subject was contagious.
I started looking forward to English because it was something I was good at. Some kids just didn’t get how to write but it came naturally to me. String some words together, make them sound fancy, expand on all the stuff you’re taught in class and hey presto, you’ve got an A* grade piece of coursework.
English is an art really. The way art critics can make a meaningless blob of paint into something unique and dazzling, is echoed in the way you can make a shit poem sound like the work of a genius. It’s like a game. Who can make this poem sound like the poet was actually thinking about it when he wrote it? Hyperboles, pathetic fallacy, alliteration, metaphors, onomatopoeias… you bring them all out and then say they represent something.
Mr O’Connor didn’t think like that. He genuinely believed that Seamus Heaney meant something incredibly profound when he wrote a poem about watching his father dig up potatoes. I remember making a five thousand word essay out of that. You see, Seamus Heaney didn’t want to be a farmer like his dad and granddad. He wanted to ‘dig with his pen’ i.e. write poems rather than dig up potatoes. What I got from that was that he was downright lazy but of course, my essay never said that. It went on about guilt and expectations and other assorted bullshit. And of course, I got an A.
The best part about English was that it was a free class. You could say what you wanted because of course we were exploring language and views and how words and stories affect people in different ways. We also got to study Charles Dickens which I loved. People say Shakespeare was awesome but a play is so much easier to write than a story, and Dickens was an amazing storyteller.
Mr O’Connor agreed. So much so that he decided to use A Christmas Carol
as the basis for the annual charity Christmas play he’d been guilt-tripped into producing. He put a sheet up on the noticeboard next to where I sat for anyone who wanted to sign up and be a part of it, whether as an actor, writer, costume producer and any of that other stuff like setting the scenery on stage or playing the music. I didn’t put my name down. I wanted to, sure I did, but I didn’t know if I’d be taken seriously. There was always a very particular sort of group that did all the performing arts stuff and I wasn’t part of it.
It wasn’t like I wanted to act in it. I couldn’t act. I hated even speaking in public because I knew there’d always be someone who’d laugh at me and then it’d all end in a spectacularly embarrassing way. The only reason I wanted to be involved at all was because I though it’d be pretty cool to be involved in the writing team, throw some ideas around and see if any of them made it into the final production.
The days went by. The list filled up with names. All the regulars were on it. I imagined my name underneath all theirs. It wouldn’t fit. I knew it wouldn’t. I wished I didn’t care what anyone else thought, but I did.
Mr O’Connor caught me looking. “You going to sign up, Fiona?” He leaned against the noticeboard with his arms crossed, smiling that brilliant smile at me.
I shrugged. “No. I don’t think so.”
His smile disappeared. “What? Why not?”
“I just… wouldn’t fit.”
“Sure you would.” He frowned. “I need someone like you.”
I laughed. “I don’t act.”
“I guessed. I’m talking about the writing. You can’t expect me to write an entire script on my own, can you?” He turned to look at the list. “See, all these guys are for acting and scenery. No writers. None.”
I pulled a face. “I guess I could…”
“Excellent,” his smile reappeared and he took the liberty of writing my name on the sheet in his scruffy italic scrawl. “You won’t regret it.”
And just like that, I found myself participating in the first extracurricular activity of my life.
I didn’t fall for him straightaway. Sure, I thought he was attractive and something nice to look at but I never thought of him as anything more than a teacher for the first month or so that I was in his class. It was just little things that kind of added up without me quite realising it. I got on with him without having to make an effort. Usually when I wanted someone to like me, I’d pretend to be a really cool person that I figured they’d want to be friends with. When I talked to Mr O’Connor though, I was just me.
In the beginning that was mainly because I didn’t really care what he thought of me. But then, he seemed to like the ‘real’ me. He always found an excuse to talk to me, to laugh about something, or tell me about his weekend. He appreciated me for who I was, even though I could be cynical and sarcastic and moody, he brought out the best in me.
I felt like he was my friend. Like, a real friend. You know how girls are meant to have best friends who they tell everything to? I never got that, I never had a BFF, still don’t. My closest confidante had always been my little sister, and she was six years younger than me so I couldn’t tell her everything. I felt like Mr O’Connor was my closest friend in a way, which was weird because we’d only known each other for a short period of time.
I started looking forward to school; only because I spent every spare minute I had with him. We had the production planned out; a modern and humorous twist on the classic tale, with a fat-cat banker version of Scrooge, and a Christmas song packed into every available space. It wasn’t perfect, but it was bound to be fun and we had an awesome cast.
At times I wondered if I was overthinking things. I tend to do that a lot; overanalyse things in my brain, make something out of nothing and then get laughed at when I act on it. But there was a definite chemistry between Mr O’Connor and me. All the signs were there. Eye-contact that went on for way longer than it should, his gaze on my mouth when I spoke, accidental brushes, his hand touching mine. We worked on the production all the time. Lunchtimes, after school, sometimes even before school. Sure, there was a whole team there, about thirty of us in total but it only ever felt like me and him. He made me feel so important.
I thought I was in love. I was
in love. I thought he was amazing. He got me, he really
got me, and he cared about everything I said; he didn’t ridicule my ideas, he took them and used them and treated me like an adult. I was playing with fire, I knew I was, but the spark between us was warm and I wanted to keep it alive, even if nothing else happened. I was so content with just having him in my life, even if I didn’t tell him how much I thought of him.
I don’t know why it took so long for the invisible boundary between teacher and student to be overstepped but right up until the final performance of the play, we didn’t actually do anything we shouldn’t have. Sure, we were close but to anyone else, it was a perfectly innocent relationship. So we talked a lot… there was nothing wrong with that.
The play went down a storm. It ran for the week before school broke up for the Christmas holidays, and I think pretty much everyone must have seen it. The tickets were sold out; we ended up raising almost a thousand pounds for charity and Mr O’Connor threw all the cast and crew a party the night it closed. Sometimes I wonder why he did that. Maybe he had the night planned out in his head. Why else would he have come prepared with a condom in his back pocket?
We ended up in the toilets. Didn’t seem all that romantic but hey, it was the most private place we could go. If it had been a regular party and we’d got caught, we could have written it off to alcohol. But it was at school and there was no alcohol so we were jointly responsible for any decision we made that night.
I remember the tinsel. Gold, silver, green and red; all draped around the hall. The curtain went down, the lights went on and within the hour, everyone but those directly involved with the production had gone home. We laughed a lot, all of us that were left. I felt more connected to that group of people than I had to any of my friends before. I finally fit in somewhere. And somehow, indirectly, I attributed that feeling of belonging to Mr O’Connor. Stupid, I know, but everything good in my life I liked to associate with him.
We drank flat cola, ate mince pies and little gingerbread biscuits, put some music on. Nobody really wanted to go home. We just hung out, like a weird sort of family. I remember Mr O’Connor’s arm around my shoulder, as I thought about my real family. They were always negative thoughts. Not aimed at people in particular but more at myself. I felt like the black sheep; I felt like I ruined the mood for the rest of them, that they were better off without me. I knew my dad would wait up for me though. He always did.
I didn’t want to think about it. It made me feel guilty and then I’d beat myself up over it and when I was done I was back to square one; having achieved nothing but a whole bunch of negative emotions. I focused on my own personal brand of positive which was epitomised in Mr O’Connor.
It had got to the point between us that a silence wasn’t awkward. Sometimes when you’re walking down the road with someone you’re constantly thinking, ‘Fuck, why aren’t we talking? Don’t they like me? What should I say?! Crap, crap, CRAP!’ I don’t know. It happens to me a lot. Even now, I hate silences. I always have to smooth out my clothes or start messing with my phone or hair. The only time a silence isn’t hell for me is if it’s between me and my dad or me and my little sister. Anybody else, and I’m getting palpitations over how to make conversation. And before you ask, yes, I really am
But it wasn’t awkward for me to be sitting silently in the school hall next to Mr O’Connor watching the rest of the group dancing and singing along to every Christmas song that ever existed. It was a bit of a mess but no one cared because it was the last day of term. The last day of term. Two weeks of holidays. I knew what it was going to be like. Christmas at our house… my step-mum’s parents causing arguments between the rest of us. It was like the script was already written. They’d start on my dad, my dad would hold his tongue before he had too much to drink and then it would be one big explosion of pent-up frustration, his language as colourful as the lights strung up on the tree. Merry fucking Christmas.
“I got you something,” Mr O’Connor interrupted my thoughts. He winked at me, started looking through his pockets. It wasn’t much; just Top Trumps cards, the Indiana Jones version. We’d once talked about how much we loved the movies and I was kind of flattered that he’d remembered. Okay, understatement. Kind of flattered? More like over-the-fucking-moon, actually.
I hid my elation well, told him I was embarrassed I hadn’t got him anything and he waved it off and said it didn’t matter. Then we just kind of looked at each other and it was strange. That look set the script for the rest of the night. If either of us had looked away, nothing would have happened, I’m sure of it. If one of us had smiled or started laughing, there would’ve been nothing. But we didn’t. I just looked into his intense blue eyes and felt like something… happened. If you’re laughing when you read this, then stop! Now! I’m serious. I got that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind of feeling you get when you’re either in the hugest amount of shit, or when something absolutely amazing is going to happen.
I wasn’t in the hugest amount of shit (for once). Something amazing happened.
“I want to kiss you.”
said it. Not me. He
set the ball rolling. I just sort of had a minor heart attack.
“You can’t,” I said, a little quicker than was kind. He looked surprised but then he followed my gaze to the rest of the kids who were still clowning around in spectacular fashion and seemed to get it.
“We’ll go somewhere,” he murmured and he held his hand out to me before realising that that was a pretty risky gesture too.
He got up, headed out of the hall and after an agonising thirty seconds, I followed. The school corridors were deserted. We paused for a second, like we were silently confirming that both of us wanted the same thing and then he took my hands, stepped forward and kissed me. I think it only felt so good because I’d been waiting for it so long, but no matter what; it was sublime. My mouth opened against his and his tongue took the opportunity to brush lightly against mine, and then his teeth pulled at my lip, and neither of us were even attempting to control ourselves anymore.
His body pressed against mine; pushing me against the door we’d just exited. We kissed again, his hands running up my arms and all the way up to hold my face. I just held onto his arms and lost myself in the sweet sensation. I’d never been so close to him. I felt giddy and breathless and excited and… wanted. Wanted. Desired. Why else would I be able to feel the hardness in his pants pressing against my stomach? It scared me for a reason I couldn’t figure out. It wasn’t like it was going to be my first time. But then, in a way it would be, because he was the only guy I’d ever had real feelings for. But maybe things were getting out of perspective. We weren’t going to have sex. Surely not. We were in school.
I was wrong.
We ran down the corridor, laughing, kissing, just because we could and because there was no one there to see us or to judge us or to stop us. The classrooms were dark and locked up and we didn’t want to open one up in case the caretaker happened to pass by on his rounds. So we went to the staff toilets. The cubicle on the end. It was clean, at least. The smell of bleach and hand wash hung in the air.
He locked the door behind us. It was small but not as cramped as you might expect. He didn’t waste any time. We kissed hard, over and over, almost like we were making up for all the missed opportunities. He flicked open the buttons on my shirt without invitation, not that I minded – I did the same on his, letting my hands explore the contours and creases of his lean torso. I pushed his shirt off over his shoulders and he pulled me close so I could feel him against me; skin against skin, simple and beautiful.
His fingers brushed against my thigh, cautiously working their way up under my skirt. I don’t know what he was so worried about – there was no chance I was ever going to tell him to stop. Eventually his fingers slipped beneath my panties and found their target. I buried my face in his neck as he slid his fingers back and forth, gently slipping one inside my wet heat. His thumb found my clit and stroked it hard enough to make me moan into his neck.
His hand moved away, finding mine and guiding it to his cock. I felt the wetness on his fingers as they brushed mine and then I felt the hard bulge of his cock pressing against his pants. He kissed me hard on the mouth and then he was unzipping his pants, pushing me against the wall of the cubicle and stroking between my legs again. His hand fumbled as he searched his pockets before he eventually emerged with a condom. He dropped the foil wrapper in the toilet, eased it on and then he was pushing my panties aside and fitting the head of his cock to my opening.
He slammed inside. Nothing gentle, believe me. I’d never felt as incredibly wanton as I did in that moment. I didn’t care about what I was doing or what I was saying because all I wanted to do was match his thrusts and lose myself in the transcendent feeling. It was incredible. He slammed into me over and over, lifting me off the floor slightly, so he didn’t have to crouch down. I felt weightless, high and above all, I felt hot
… something I’d never experienced before.
I could see the sheen of sweat on his forehead, the gritty determination in his face as we fucked in the tiny cubicle, his fingertips digging into my thighs and his grunts echoing in the small room. He leaned forward and ran his teeth along my neck hard enough to make me bite my lip. I didn’t stop him though. I genuinely would have done anything for him in that moment.
His hands moved to grip my waist tight as he moved harder and faster, his teeth clenched and his eyes dark as they roved over my half-naked body. I could feel my legs tensing up and I knew the orgasm was coming. I wanted to hold it off, to stay in that crazy tense fuck for ever but it was totally beyond my control. I came hard, clenching around his cock and I knew he felt it because half a minute later his eyes squeezed shut and he came too, groaning his release.
His cock slipped out of me and he set me down carefully on the floor, his weight leaning against me. We didn’t say anything for a second and just when I thought everything was going to be awkward and ruined, he stepped back and grinned at me.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to do that,” he confessed a little guiltily.
I just smiled.
He stepped forward, pulled the two sides of my shirt closed and kissed me gently, long and lingering, like it meant something to him. When he was done, he smiled. “I guess the least I can do is drive you home.”
We cleaned up the best we could and headed outside into the cool, crisp air and to the parking lot. I remember the ride in his car. He had The Killers on. I was still on a high; feeling on top of the world. I thought everything was amazing and perfect. It was Christmas and I’d just fucked the man I loved. Things couldn’t get any better. And they didn’t. Fate gave me the high, and then it turned around and gave me the low to balance things out. I guess it wanted to keep me grounded. Things got worse.
It didn’t last. It was constrained as it was, because to even be together in the way we wanted was a constant risk. We couldn’t be seen together, couldn’t even talk much because in a school people always mange to dig up the dirt. It lasted a couple of beautiful months. Sixty four days in total. It was fun, I can’t deny that. We fucked in the locker room, the art supplies cupboard, the backseat of his car… anywhere we could get half an hour to ourselves. At the time, I thought I meant as much to him as he did to me.
But obviously I was wrong.
He handed in his notice; left his job at the school at the beginning of March. It made sense when he explained. If he wasn’t teaching at the school where I studied, then obviously we could see each other without getting in trouble. That wasn’t the truth though. I never heard from him after the day he left. Sometimes I thought I was the reason he went. I never found out though. I could have got my revenge - I could have told someone that he’d been in a relationship with a student. But I didn’t. I think he knew I wouldn’t. He was smart like that.
The truth hurts but it’s the only thing you can rely on. And the truth in that situation was that I was just an immature girl who thought she’d got a hold of the glitter that love and dreams are made out. But the glitter turned into nothing, just like the perfect dream does when the alarm clock rings, bringing you back into the shit reality of your monotonous life. Sometimes I want to turn the alarm off and try and get back into that sweet dream, sometimes I want to cry over losing something I never had, but the days I decide to get out of bed and say, “That was a nice dream but it’s over now,” are the most progressive days of my life.
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