I deserved him. My body was cold, and it needed warmth. My insides empty and my smile appeared only on my lips, missing my eyes. I had forgotten what it felt like to have fingers run through my hair, to have a person stand back and admire me like I belong to a wall of fine art.
In the moment it was simple. An action without consequences, movements without repercussions. It was only the two of us existing in our tiny world. His smooth skin rubbed against the cracks forming across my face, and my dry hands measured the width of his growing chest. And we smiled, a smile ending in laughter.
“Stop this immediately.” The counsellor said. Her frown carved wrinkles into her face.
“I don’t want to stop it.” I replied, my voice firm, ready for a fight.
“But you are breaking the law.” She mirrored my tone and shoved her head towards me.
“He makes me feel alive.” I cried. “And we are falling for each other.”
“But it is wrong.”
Yes, it was wrong, but we never planned it. Fate had forced it. He entered my classroom late in the year. A student who had spent his teenage years fleeting between schools, struggling to fit it and obey the rules.
“Are you my teacher?” He asked, the curve of his lip pointing upwards.
Something grabbed hold of my throat and I was speechless. All I could do was point to the chair nearest to my desk.
“I am rubbish at English. Hope you can help me.” Those words fell from his lips like fertilizer to a dying tree. Or maybe it was poison, poison in disguise.
His after-school sessions of practising spelling and the structure of sentences made him frail, robbing him of confidence, and he would kick the chair in fits of anger. He would still stare at me. His eyes assessing me as I hovered over his desk.
He would compliment my perfume. “Honey, with a hint of peach.” He whispered, his tongue slipping out of his mouth and tracing his lips.
My eyes would close as I searched for my breath.
We moved on to literature and I knew trouble was simmering. Perhaps I should send him to another teacher? But I winced at the thought of him not in my room. His chocolate eyes not watching me as I scribbled on the board. His head, not resting in his hands, tilted to one side as I praised his effort.
I told myself it was a crush. Nothing more than a harmless crush.
It was Friday, and students and staff had fled the school grounds like an evacuation was underway. He remained and perched at the end of his desk, a copy of Romeo and Juliet. He opened it up, his eyes jumping from their sockets as he described their love.
“Have you ever felt like that, Miss? Like you would rather die than not be with someone?”
It was a confusing moment, remembered by his touch. His finger scraping my arm. On the outside we could forget it, but inside tingles raced through my veins and I lost myself in his face. His wide eyes, his bulky lips and the frays of facial hair clinging to his chin.
We were in trouble. But we were alone swimming in this sea of danger and the shore was too far away for us to stop.
He slipped his number into my pocket and I spent my evening staring at it. My conscience battling with my heart. Every time it got the better of me, I imagined his touch and what it did to me.
He knew it was me as soon as I called. “I have been expecting you.” His voice was low, and it came out like a hiss.
“Where shall we meet?” The words flew from my mouth.
We were both so nervous, our hearts ramming into our chest, our skin sticky and our speech stuttered. We had to get on with it, do what we came here to do and struggling to undo each button, each zip we ripped the clothes from our backs. My skin was like leather, hard, full of lines of experience, and his youthful, shiny. You could slide down it. But he didn’t care, and neither did I.
It was after when it became something else, something other than lust. My car was small and he would flip the chair back, demanding I nestle into him and with my head pressed against his chest he would talk to me. Not like a student talks to their teacher, but like two beings with a connection.
“I have always wanted to travel.”
“So have I.”
“I want to go to Africa. We could meet in the middle?”
“Let’s meet in India.”
We never played games, we never got bored, tired, jealous. We were living in the present, our heightened senses taking in each moment. Was it the simplicity of our relationship? The fact we were bound to a car with an hour together or a classroom where only our eyes and whispers could share the way we cared for each other.
“I love you.” He hummed while the rain pounded the car, and the wind roared through the clouds.
“I love you too.” I replied. My tongue fell out of my mouth, finding itself against his lips, but with this kiss a knot formed in my stomach. A reminder of what she said.
My loyal counsellor rose from her chair, her jaw dropping when I returned to her office. This lady had helped me through my father’s death, the years of loneliness, and she was the only person, other than him to share my secret.
“So, what do I do now?” I asked as I observed her certificates in white frames hanging from her wall. They teased me with the assumption she knows more and I should listen.
“End it. Just say no.”
And that is what I did. A letter of resignation broke it off. I quit teaching; I was not fit to be a teacher, and I welcomed back emptiness. He left shortly after. A fight with another student where he decorated a boy’s face with bruises and cuts, ended in his expulsion.
Mrs. Mathers dropped this information over a casual chat, and I had to bite lip to stop the tears. I wanted to stroke his face, to patch up the wounds, and to sing to him. I wanted to make him smile. But he had gone, and so had I.
Time caught up, and the days turned into months, reaching years. Every time I glanced in the mirror a new set of lines appeared on my face and grey highlights climbed out of my roots, into my mane.
I drifted between jobs and lived in my memories, my dreams, my what ifs. I lost myself in books, in fantasy worlds where rules were broken. Where nothing fitted into boxes. Where we celebrate differences.
The weekends lasted forever and I would amuse myself with hot drinks and my latest novel while I sat in a comfy chair, occasionally noticing those around me. Coffee shops in the city center offered the best entertainment. Distracted people with drama flaring around their bodies and no loved-up couples. It was stress and tension, and bustling with arrogance.
I flinched as the coffee met my lips. “Extra milk.” I muttered.
I twisted my neck, searching for the waiter. The cup in my hand wobbled and as I gasped it fell into tiny pieces, and the charcoal liquid burnt my lap, but I was too numb to register.
The waiter observed it all, his face torn between amazement, shock and ending in a familiar smile.
My heart throbbed, my stomach fluttered, and every nerve twitched.
“Hey Miss.” The fingers on his left hand stretched out wide.
“You work here.” I replied, choking on each word.
He took a step towards me, the closer he got the broader his shoulders appeared and his long neck towered over me. He moved down towards my midriff, and as his napkin to tended to my lap, his face beamed with radiance.
“I am saving to go to India.” His eyes fell to the ground, but like a boomerang they returned to me. “I am hoping someone special will be there.”