The awesome foursome huddle into the corner of the staffroom. Swanky Geoff in his tweed waistcoat and matching tie, lounges on the bottle green armchair. His best mate, Fuckwit Frenchy, prefers the seat with wheels. The tailored office chair. And Luscious Lucy, her rectangular glasses perched at the edge of her nose, sits on a seat stolen from the canteen. Middle-aged Marian opts for the comfiest chair, where the spongy fabric sucks you inwards.
“How was your last lesson?” Swanky Geoff asks. Using his left palm, he hides the remains of a shortcake biscuit clinging to his lips and teeth.
“Shit.” Luscious Lucy sighs.
“Crap.” Middle-aged Marian shouts.
“Bollocks.” Fuckwit Frenchy joins in. His is more of a mumble and the words get lost over his generous bite of a custard cream.
“Yes, mine was not good either. We should think about a new career.”
The awesome foursome burst into laughter. It is laughter that lasts longer than normal. An animated cheer where Middle-aged Marian throws her head back and Fuckwit Frenchy’s chair knocks into a table leg, and is accompanied by a pause. A lingering silence where the awesome foursome stare into invisible mirrors, dreaming of a life different to the one they are living.
“What is everyone doing this weekend?” Swanky Geoff is in a conversational mood and hops around his armchair. His work friends shake heads, shrug shoulders and Fuckwit Frenchy unveils the inner part of his lower lip.
“Well, I have a date.” Swanky Geoff smiles, showing off the crumbs of his biscuit gripping to his teeth.
“Really, that is amazing.” Middle-aged Marian leans into her good buddy and rubs his arm. It will be nice to have one of her work friends in a relationship. Miles would enjoy it. It will encourage him to come to work functions, and they could go on double dates, couple’s dinner parties. Perhaps even holidays.
“Where did you meet her?” Fuckwit Frenchy asks, furrowing his unruly brow.
Frenchy and Marian reignite their laughter. A reserved laughter, one that remains in the throat and does not require the throwing of arms or dancing on chairs. Luscious Lucy chooses not to join them. She lowers her gaze to the floor, pulling her neck down a few centimeters. Her glasses fall off the ridge of her nose and her fingers work quickly to reposition them. She keeps staring at the frays on the carpet, focusing on how the fabric shoots upwards. Her breath becomes heavy and her attention changes to the way it leaves her mouth and is trapped again by her nose.
“What is her name and what does she do?” Marian enquires.
“She is a nurse and her name is Jenny.”
Fuckwit Frenchy elbows his best mate. He loves women in uniform. Online dating never worked for him; he is not a photogenic, and the camera adds ten pounds. This is what he tells himself. It is not because he enjoys his mother’s company and the room he spent his childhood in. It is because he is a fatty. And a teacher.
“I wanted to be a nurse, but I don’t like blood.” Marian adds. She shakes her tousled hair, allowing the strips of white to become intertwined with her charcoal strands.
“Well, thank god for that. You wouldn’t be a good nurse if you don’t like blood.” Fuckwit Frenchy’s laughter deepens, falling into his chest. His eyes inspect each member of his work friends. Geoff chuckles with him, and Marian’s facial expressions growl at him, but Lucy is oblivious to his witty comment.
“What did you want to be, Lucy?” He asks.
Luscious Lucy raises her head. Her emerald green eyes hidden behind the thick lens interlock with Fuckwit Frenchy brown irises and her throat tightens. “I always wanted to be a teacher.”
Marian and Frenchy can’t help themselves. Their jaws fall to the floor and they explode into shrieks.
“I did not know how rubbish it would be.” Lucy works hard to fight away the tears. On each inhale she counts to two and on three she blows out her frustration.
Swanky Geoff sees her pain. It is written in her quivering rosebud lips and the way her delicate fingers caress the skin on her hands.
“No, I was the same.” He defends. “I loved school. Hanging out with my mates at the bike sheds. Playing footie every lunch time. The greasy canteen food. It was such a good time.” Swanky Geoff’s fading smile moves towards the pile of worksheets stacked on top of his leather bag.
“What we took for granted. Freedom, limited responsibilities.” He picks up a worksheet dangling on top of the messy pile and his eyes dart over the spider-scrawled writing and misspelled words.
Luscious Lucy realizes Geoff defended her. She removes her glasses, allowing flickers of sunlight to reflect into her emerald green eyes. Swanky Geoff is a blur in her vision, the lines on his waistcoat turn into blobs and his face has no recognizable features. It is just an oval shape of olive brown with two symmetrical blue dots nearing the top.
“I hope you have a lovely date.” Lucy says. She places her glasses back in position and moves her dainty fingers over Crying Connor's work, tapping it with encouragement.
“Thanks.” Geoff gulps, his heart beating faster than normal. “So, what has everyone got next?”
“Year 7.” Marian grumbles.
“Year 13 and we are watching a French movie.” Fuckwit Frenchy smirks.
“Aren’t French movies another word for porn?” Swanky Geoff smiles.
“Couldn’t help you there Geoff, I don’t watch porn.”
It’s banter, laughter with cheekiness, naughtiness and lots of insults. Geoff and Frenchy hit this ball all day long. That’s why they are best mates. Being a dick to one another is the foundation of their friendship. They steal many of their slanderous remarks from students and only deliver when there is an audience. Their aim is to the get the biggest laugh. Frenchy is quicker and regularly outsmarts Swanky Geoff, but now and then Swanky Geoff gets the ball right on point. His infrequent wit and one-liners impress the harshest of judges. Middle-aged Marian joins them, her humor is an acquired taste and a puzzle to figure out. Luscious Lucy delivers the occasional sarcastic remark, but she doesn’t like to upset.
It is a drill in your ears. A clanging that acts like a hammer to your head. And even though it goes off eight times a day, you never get used to it. Middle-aged Marian jumps out of her chair. Year 7 are eager beavers and she paces past me. Fuckwit Frenchy follows her, but his eyes watch his feet. I take a deep breath; Swanky Geoff is heading straight for me.
“Why are you in here?”
“I am a prefect, sir; I am allowed to use your photocopier.”
“Is this a new rule?”
I nod my head, moving it multiple times. “Sir.” I swallow a pocket of air. “I think Miss Bell likes you.”
Luscious Lucy cannot hear us. She remains on the stolen cafeteria chair, engrossed in the movement of her red pen and its decoration of a student’s book. Her neck returns to its usual length, pulling her shoulders backwards and adding a sense of gracefulness to her exterior. All the boys fancy Luscious Lucy. She is the second hottest female teacher in the school. Busty Bianca, the Head of English is first. Her beauty is obvious. She struts around the corridors with her stiletto heels drumming the floor and her knee-length skirt clinging to her hips. Luscious Lucy’s beauty is different. She is a timid creature, filled with self-doubt and uncertainty, and this makes her almost perfect.
Swanky Geoff stares into my eyes, the curve of his lip pointing upwards. Two weeks ago, I was a fly on the wall, a shadow meant for the library. I found myself pressed against a display outside their classrooms. They waved at each other from the doorway, but Luscious Lucy's eyes refused to move. She kept staring at him, ignoring wafts of paper and student faces jumping into her eyeline. Swanky Geoff was in a playful mood, he high fived every correct answer and giggled with the Turnip twins. Something felt off, like a burning in his back. It was a slight turn, barely a movement in his feet and only caught by the corner of his eye. Luscious Lucy’s chest was moving rapidly, and she kept wrapping her hair around her fingers. All the while her eyes remain attached to his frame. Of course, he fancies her, everyone does. But they are mates and work together and its common knowledge you don’t shit in your front garden.
“You need to spend you breaks with students, people you own age.”
“I prefer adult company, sir.”
Swanky Geoff doesn’t need to ask me to leave. The bang of the staffroom door does that for me. It's only four strides until I am back with the idiots. Adolescents using half of their brain, caged in corridors and claustrophobic playgrounds, and their emotions poisoned with hormones. It is a battlefield out there, one where I have no place to flourish. People like me hate school, but we have got it wrong. It is not about trying to fit in with cool dudes, or achieving the highest marks on your math’s paper. It’s about observing, admiring those who teach you. I cannot observe them all, and I select my favorites. I follow them around the school, watch them in their offices and on their break duties. Doors are always open and it is easy to listen to their conversations. Middle-aged Marian answers her calls in corridors, especially before registration. This morning I was hiding in the stairwell listening to her whimpers, pleading for Miles to seek help. Occasionally I take a different route home. This is where it gets exciting, watching them smoke a cigarette as they wait for a bus or discovering they have a purple front door and a tabby cat.
“Dick head.” Macho Michael hovers over me. The hairs on his chin stroke my mane and I inhale his offensive scent. “You being a weirdo again?”
I reply with silence and a thorough examination of his Nike Air maxes.
“I said are you being a weirdo again.”
“What’s going on here?” I smell her before her voice resonates through me. Honey with a hint of peach.
“Nothing, Miss Bell, just on my way to class.” Macho Michael glares at me, his nostrils pulsating in response to my smile. I enjoy it when he looks like this, I also enjoy watching his oversized legs waddle away.
“Let me know if he bothers you again.” Luscious Lucy whispers. She moves in closer, her breath trickling down my neck.
“Mr. Dickson is right about you; you are kind.”
Luscious Lucy stares at me, her cheeks warming as she dissects my comment. She reveals her teeth and the dimple in her cheek, and it is as if all her self-loathing and insecurities have disappeared. She deserves that remark. She also deserves to be monitored as she selects her evening meal from the supermarket. I wonder if she will choose a vegetarian option and it is Thursday, so that means Pilates—tight fitted leggings, and her crop top revealing that inch of stubborn fat she is desperate to get rid of.
I push an annoying strand of hair away from my face and tuck it behind my ear, whilst my pinky finger traces my lips. Swanky Geoff is right, school is amazing.