"Ssssshhhh. Ok, ok, class, settle down please. Could you all please settle down and be quiet."
Miss Taylor glanced around the room, waiting for the class to listen. “Thomas! Can you get your feet off the desk please. Thank you.”
Gradually, the noise dulled to a murmur. She flashed a white smile and waited for the last of the whispers to stop. “Now then, if you remember, last time I saw you, I asked you to write about something that's beautiful in your life. Like, I don't know, your Mum or Dad or, say, I don’t know, your cat?”
The class began to shuffle. Chairs squeaked on the polished floor as pupils rummaged through their bags, looking for their offering. Brad, sitting on the desk in front of her, raised his hand. Miss Taylor, unable to hide her surprise, pointed and gestured for him to stand.
“Brad, have you got something for us?” Brad hung his head, clutching his paper.
“Yes Miss.” He whispered.
"Step-mum!" Someone shouted, from the back of the room. The class started laughing. Miss Taylor held up her hand.
“Quiet please. Have you got something to share with the rest of the class, Thomas? Come on, don’t keep it to yourself. Spit it out!”
Thomas flushed red. "Is it true you dated Brad’s dad?”
Miss Taylor perched herself on the front of her desk. She looked over the rim of her glasses at him.
“Well, Thomas, don’t you think that’s my business, not yours?” She turned back to Brad. “Go ahead, read it out to the rest of the class. Nice and clear so everyone can hear." This should be good, she thought to herself. Didn't even know he could read, let alone write. A real chip off the old block! Brad stood and cleared his throat. He stared at Miss Taylor.
“Off you go then. We’re all listening.”
“A Glance.” Brad’s voice came out loud and clear. It made him jump.
“A smile. An almost touchable feeling, rushing to the surface. So intense it takes my breath away. An awakening, deep inside. Has it been there all along just waiting for me? Did we just conceive it from nothing? Did you create it from nothing? Are we full of dawns waiting patiently to rise? Or is this the only one I’ll ever feel? I think it’s the only one I’ll ever feel.”
Brad paused and looked up At Miss Taylor. Thomas pretended to be sick into his bag, loudly. Miss Taylor began to slowly clap
“Wait.” Said Brad. “I’m not finished.” She gestured for him to continue.
“A beauty. A touch. Chemistry, working beyond our control. Beyond our understanding. Millions of us, drifting through the universe, hoping to collide one day like asteroids following the same trajectory. Destined to smash into one another when the time is right, and explode into the most beautiful, painful love.”
He glanced at Miss Taylor then back to his paper.
“When the time is perfect. The universe will decide. A whisper. A Kiss, maybe. A yearning. A desire, so powerful it makes you sick in your stomach. A Joy so uplifting, so addictive, it leaves you floating, suspended. Everything momentarily disappears. Chemicals rush through every cell in your body. Racing to get to the surface. To live and be alive. A search. An obsession. Blindly seeking an asteroid to collide with. To explode with. Only to find many come close but fail and fall. Taking your dreams tumbling back down through the void. Back to the beginning. Back to being alone. I’m so alone.”
He paused, the class stayed silent. He could hear Thomas giggling at the back of the room.
“A want. A longing. It blinded me. How did I not see you before? You’ve been with me the whole time. Did you hide your beauty from me? How is that possible?”
Brad lowered his paper and stared at Miss Taylor as he continued.
“I will take off your mask? I can see you now as if for the first time. We no longer need to disguise ourselves. I am ready to collide with you. To explode with you—”
Thomas burst out laughing. “I bet I know what’s going to explode!”
Miss Taylor shot Thomas a look. "Please, continue Brad."
“To explode with you into our beautiful all-consuming love. I can feel those chemicals racing to the surface. To live and be alive. A Thirst. A Quenching.”
Miss Taylor slowly removed her glasses, unable to take her eyes from Brad's mouth. His word's paralysing her. He continued.
“You’re an oasis, bursting up in my barren existence. Pouring the waters of desire into my dormant soul. I’ve been sleeping until now. Waiting. Dreaming. My energy building to stratospheric levels, as I hurtle through the darkness awaiting my collision. Awaiting you. I am ready. Finally. A collision. An explosion. A destiny. Our destiny”
Brad lowered his head.
A slow clap started to ripple through the echoey classroom. Miss Taylor tried to speak, her lips moved, but nothing came out. She cleared her throat, snapping herself out of her trance.
“Wow. I mean wow, Brad. Such depth. Such emotion. And for a fourteen-year-old, such wide use of vocabulary. Well done Brad, well done. A round of applause for Brad please class.” Brad’s face burned red from ear to ear. Miss Taylor waited for the room to quieten again. Her mind still spinning. She leaned forward and whispered to Brad.
“Say, did you have any help with that, Brad?”
Brad stared at his desk.
“Well, my Dad helped me a little. And I used a thesaurus. A bit . . . Miss.” Brad hesitated. “It’s just that I—”
She put her hand on his shoulder and whispered.
“Get your dad to call me, would you?”
Miss Taylor stood and straightened her dress. She pulled a tissue from her sleeve and dabbed at the corner of her eye. Putting her glasses back on, she took a deep breath.
“Ok!” She said, clapping her hands together. “Anyone else want to share anything?” The class fell silent. Thomas stood up and raised his hand.
“I wrote about my cat Miss.” He said, triumphantly, from the back of the classroom. He pulled a small crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and began to straighten it out. “He’s called Onion . . . He’s only got three legs and he smell’s real bad. But I think he’s Kinda’ beautiful.”