A love story for my maths buddy who likes my stuff
It was a hot September. The fan whirred noisily in the corner of the room; the cool air it produced was wasted by being sucked out of the open windows that lined one wall of the prison cell that doubled as a room in the maths department. The stuffy classroom was decorated with brightly coloured posters made out of sugar paper sporting wonkily cut nets and diagrams of 3D shapes, with random formulae and equations dotted around them. Explosive colour attempting to conceal the usually dull and grey interior; the product of one too many summer lessons when no one can be bothered to do much...including the teachers.
Aafreen’s mind wandered while she tried to concentrate on the symbols of sine and tangent as they swam across the page before her. She put her head in her hands; sine thirty equals...what?! A groan escaped her and she moved her fingers slightly so she could peer between them and glare at the swirling numbers that rendered her helpless.
“Need a hand?” Aafreen looked up and noticed – as if for the first time – a friendly pair of green eyes giving her a concerned look. Personal MP3 flicked her too-long side fringe out of her face and repeated the question. Aafreen let her arms fall softly to the table and she muttered with a surrendering smile on her face;
Personal MP3 smiled and was about to reveal an extremely clever yet completely complicated way of finding the missing angles of irregular triangles when a faint drumbeat resounded through the humid atmosphere. To make sure she wasn’t going crazy, Aafreen looked across the table to the person leaning against the wall and found the answer to the question that had raised itself to her lips. Gnemo must have used her sixth sense to feel the chocolate eyes boring into her as she twisted herself around to look at the pair sitting behind her. She took the headphones out of her ears and gave an innocent:
At that moment, the class was disturbed by an almost silent tap at the door. No one noticed the figure in the tiny excuse for a window protected in the painted pine apart from Aafreen. Without taking her eyes off the blurry silhouette, she tentatively raised her hand in order to get the attention of the 118 man who was supposed to be teaching them. As usual, she was ignored. Personal MP3 muttered murderously, “Do you think he’d reply to Brian?” before yelling, “Mr Sharpe, there’s someone at the door!” over the din of the rowdy Set One students while Aafreen giggled quietly at her side.
The-hippy-turned-‘80s-that-hadn’t-made-it-to-the-21st-Century-yet spun around at the sound of Personal MP3’s voice and finally spotted the patiently waiting student behind the tinted glass. He crossed to the door and opened it to reveal a Lower 6th Former on the other side. Aafreen couldn’t see him very clearly until he stepped into the room.
He was gorgeous. Tussled dark hair fell over his forehead but stopped before reaching even darker eyes that a girl could easily get lost in. They seemed to go on forever; churning new and exciting shades of brown into view, meaning that you never wanted to look away in case you missed something.
Aafreen realised she was staring and felt the heat rising to her cheeks. She lowered her gaze and pretended to be doing advanced trigonometry. Gnemo and Personal MP3 exchanged knowing glances but said nothing. They had spotted something she hadn’t; she was so busy getting lost in the endless depths of his bright eyes that she hadn’t noticed him staring straight back at her.
When Mr Sharpe called her name, she was glad for the distraction and answered readily, much more conscious of her appearance and how she portrayed herself than normal. “Aafreen,” Mr Sharpe repeated, “can I have a word?” Aafreen sent her friends a confused expression but their reply was that of equal bemusement. She stood up and walked quickly through the door that her gorgeous 6th Former was holding open for her. To her embarrassment, he followed close behind her and into the corridor where the heir to the throne of the Head of Maths stood waiting.
“Aafreen,” he said again, “you are a very bright girl, don’t get me wrong, but I’m afraid standards are slipping. You are very smart but you don’t have the confidence. Am I correct?” Aafreen nodded mutely. “You can stay in set one it is not your ability I am concerned about. To solve this problem, this nice young man has agreed to help you.”
The nice young man smiled sheepishly and suddenly found his shoe exceedingly interesting. Aafreen blanched but quickly recovered composure. She didn’t trust herself to talk so nodded once again. “Fantastic!” crowed Mr Sharpe in his Northern accent common to the residents of Boston (apart from Personal MP3 who never lost her London dialect). “You start on Thursday at lunchtime, I’ve booked M7 for the pair of you (it’s the only place available) but you’ll be completely alone.” He clapped his hands together, startling the both of them and turned lightly on his heel, sending his skinny frame back through the door into the classroom.
The atmosphere between the two was not what you would call comfortable.
She opened her mouth to say something just as he was, leading to a small round of ‘After you!’s and ‘No, please!’s before he held up his hands with an exasperated smile in order to end the politeness bout. He held out his hand,
She shook his outstretched hand; it was cool and dry beneath hers.
“Hi, I’m Aafreen.”
“I know, Mr Sharpe told me.”
She tried to hide the faint disappointment in her voice. She succeeded. Just.
“I’m supposed to help you with your maths.”
“I know, Mr Sharpe told me.”
A sly smile crept across his face, curling the corners of his mouth upwards. Aafreen matched this expression and couldn’t stop herself from taking a minute to stare at this attractive feature that she hoped suit his personality as perfect as it did his looks. In fact, she was so entranced that it took her a second or two to realise that he was talking again, “Sorry, what?”
“So, what do you have the most trouble with?”
“Umm...trigonometry mainly, you know: sine, cosine, tangent and the Pythagoras Theorem, that sort of thing.”
“Oh Trig! Trig is rather easy once you know how to do it, all you need to do is try and get the ha –“
Neither of them had noticed Mr Sharpe poke his head back out of the door and into the corridor, making him look strangely like a head floating in mid-air. Both of them jumped at the sound of his summons. “You’re meant to be practising triangle maths, not having a good old chit-chat, come back inside please.” His head disappeared back into the room; his voice could be heard trying to bring some control back to the set.
Aafreen turned to her new maths tutor and gave a small apologetic smile.
“Sorry ‘bout him, see you on Thursday, yeah?”
“Yeah, see you Thursday...umm...enjoy your lesson.”
Just before she closed the door behind her, she just caught him saying to himself: “Enjoy your lesson? Come on! You can do better than that!”
Personal MP3 looked curiously at the huge grin on Aafreen’s face as she walked to her seat and sat down, only to gaze at the wall dreamily as if she was imagining it was made of chocolate.
“Aafreen?” There was no reply. “Aafreen!”
“Huh?” She was jogged out of her reverie and dragged unwillingly back to the real world.
“What was that all about?”
“Oh.” Aafreen felt her cheeks warm, they glowed a healthy shade of pink, somewhere in the vicinity of fuchsia with maybe a hint of magenta. Could she pass it off as being due to the freak heat wave? Why couldn’t they have weather like this when there wasn’t any school? “Oh, what, now? Not much to be perfectly honest. I’ve been given a tutor to help me.”
“Is it for maths?” asked Gnemo. This, rather silly question, earned her a sarcastic ‘nooooo’ from Personal MP3 and a despaired sigh from Aafreen.
“Yes, of course, answered Personal MP3 “’Is it for maths?’ indeed!” She muttered, shaking her head. “So who was that hottie at the door?” She turned her attention back to the blushing Aafreen who decided to ignore the forwardness of the inquiry.
“I didn’t catch his name...in fact...he didn’t really say much at all, it was mostly Mr Sharpe actually-“
“Well that’s a surprise.” Gnemo said sarcastically and rolled her eyes, exchanging a look with Personal MP3 that Aafreen couldn’t decode. Oh well, she didn’t think she’d ever get those two.
Aafreen opened the door to M7 and was surprised to find him already there. At first she believed he was ignoring her but she saw in his brilliant eyes the depth of his submersion in the book that he held open on the table. The expression on his face was one of sheer bewilderment. His hair was tousled and the reason for that was revealed when he ran his fingers through his midnight locks. Letting out an astounded sigh, he sat back in his chair and finally noticed his spectator standing in the doorway. With an embarrassed mutter of apology; he scrambled to put away his book in the battered bag at his feet. As he did this, Aafreen caught a glimpse of the reading material that enraptured him so.
“You like Lord of the Rings?” That was interesting.
“Can’t put it down; J.R.R. Tolkien is a genius, they’re just too good to only read once.”
“No one else believes me when I say something like that about a book, usually it’s a case of an incredulous look and then they shuffle in the opposite direction along the table, apart from my maths buddies that is.”
“Yeah, same, but music mates for me.”
“‘You take music? Wow.”
“Yeah, it is pretty cool. I love it.”
“Can you play an instrument?” Aafreen asked excitedly.
“Guitar and violin-“
Aafreen swore she had just melted; this guy was too good to be true!
“-but the violin not so well.”
Aafreen kept her cool and raised her eyebrows, that was suitably nonchalant, wasn’t it? “Not so well?” she repeated, toning down the disbelief a bit...ok...more than a bit.
“No, not even a Grade 5.”
Aafreen knew enough from long, tedious Celebration assemblies to know that Grade 4 was not that shabby. “Still more than me, though,” she reasoned. He merely grinned and a warm shiver tingled up her spine. “So,” she said, moving the conversation back to one of her favourites, “what bit were you up to before I interrupted?”
His grin widened. “There was no interruption, and for your information I was up to the bit where the Ents wreck Isengard after much persuasion by Merry and Pippin. Best bit in my opinion.”
“It is pretty exciting.” He stared at her for a few seconds and she became uncomfortable under his intense gaze. It did something to her insides that – for a moment – persuaded her to think that his eyes were made of warm butter. They widened almost comically as he shot out of his seat.
“Oh God, I’m so sorry, I’ve been rather rude. Please, sit down.” He pulled out the chair next to him from under the table and gestured for her to take it. Pleasantly pleased, Aafreen obliged. It’s a surprise close to shock to discover a guy with impeccable manners such as his in this day and age. The most a boy had ever done for her was open a door one day at school when she couldn’t, due to the gigantic amount of folders cradled in her arms. This was solely because of his impatience at having to wait behind her.
However, this guy was something else, she felt spoilt. He grinned at her at her astonishment.
“My mother always told me that being polite never hurt anyone. I found out for myself that, apparently, it is also very attractive.” He winked at her conspiratorially which made her blush.
“I’m not going to dignify that remark with an answer,” she scolded. His grin became more pronounced as he gazed at her. Aafreen did nothing to discourage the eye-lock. When he finally realised what he was doing, he looked away swiftly and cleared his throat. She could swear that his skin coloured slightly. His next few words were released in a flurry as he struggled to cover the awkward silence.
“So...umm...trigonometry. Good old trigonometry.”
Aafreen stifled a giggle, then gave up and set it free. It was impossible not to laugh at his sudden boyishness. His cheeks reddened further and glanced up at her amused expression. He ended up laughing with her, nervously at first but eventually his mirth matched her own. The hilarity that started off the fits of hysterics was nothing special, nothing major; it was merely the other person’s delight that resulted in the Catch 22. She was laughing because he was and vice versa.
After a few minutes, the chuckling subsided and both of them discovered that being in the company of the other was refreshing. It made them feel as if they could say anything and be anyone and it would be absorbed and analysed with good grace, with a smart and relevant reply waiting. There was a great deal of comfort to be taken from the easy atmosphere that hung between them. It felt good.
“Trigonometry.” He said again. Aafreen groaned and he smiled. “I’ll try to make it as quick and painless as possible,” he promised before launching into what Aafreen regarded as an impossible task; teaching her about triangles. Fun.
Aafreen left the poky room half an hour later, none the wiser about how angles could be found by examining sides and pressing buttons on a ridiculously small machine that looked no more capable of performing advanced maths than a monkey with an abacus.
The main distraction had been the heat. Not directly of course but it had a large part to play. The temperature was unbearable, making her head swim and her concentration waver. Next, it intensified the smell of him; being so close, she would get whiffs of him every now and then which fogged her brain and threw her completely off track. He smelt of some random aftershave she didn’t know the name of, worn, old paper and freshly cut grass all mixed into one. As soon as she recovered from the last wave, another would hit her with as much force as the last, rendering her just as helpless.
It was intoxicating.
Finally, the humid air forced him to remove his jumper and loosen his tie, giving Aafreen the opportunity to get a peek of his chest through the thin, pale shirt, which did nothing to hide the flawless dark skin beneath. Aafreen found herself strangely breathless – again – for the rest of the time they were together that lunch. She tried to diminish the dreams and half-formulated ideas that popped into her head. She had no such luck.
“What are you doing after school next Wednesday?” He asked her one lunchtime. Aafreen stopped what she was doing to look up at him quizzically.
“Not a lot. Why?”
“Well, I can’t make our session next week because I’m going away for a while. I was wondering whether it was ok if we re-scheduled.”
“Ummm. Ok. I suppose. I’ll have to ask but I’m sure it’ll be alright.” She hoped. He smiled and her heart was all aflutter.
“So what time will we be finished?”
“However long it takes, we’ll have no limit,” he grinned wickedly with a smile she had grown to love. Her cheeks flushed a little and she turned away for a moment to regain her composure before facing him again. “I can drive you home afterwards if you like; save your parents the trouble,” he offered.
“That would be...nice.” Nice! Is that all she could think of: nice? She really needed to stretch her imagination some more, she mused. She tried to rescue her last, rather lame, sentence from ‘lame sentence’ hell. “I mean, I would be very grateful. Thank you.”
“Anytime; the more time I spend with you the better, although I’d prefer it if it had nothing to do with maths.” He looked rather embarrassed, as if his confession was much more honest than he wanted it to be.
Aafreen danced a merry mental jig at the thought of being able to spend more time with him. In his car! He interrupted her celebration.
“So. Graphical equations!” Aafreen groaned and she slumped forward, resting her head on her crossed arms that lay on the table. Whenever things were going well, he really could spoil it. Ugh, he knew how to ruin a moment. And, ugh, the guy could be a bit thick – being the maths whizz that he was – and not spot the moment as it flew past him, waving slowly and squeaking in a soft, high voice, ‘Goodbyeeeeeeeee!’ He just chuckled.
When she got home, her mother called her into the kitchen to help her with the dinner. Aafreen dodged her sister as she galloped down the stairs down the stairs, dumped her bag on the kitchen table and joined her mum by the cooker.
“Stir this if you will, please, I have to chop the peppers and can’t do two things at once.” Aafreen obliged and rhythmically pushed the thick, sweet smelling sauce around the metal pan.
“Yes?” Aafreen took a deep breath before continuing, the hand with the moving wooden spoon was shaking a little.
“You know I’m taking extra maths sessions at school recently.”
“Yes.” Her mother dragged the syllable out a bit to make it sound faintly suspicious. Aafreen looked up at her and spilled out what she wanted to say before she lost the nerve. Her parent didn’t know about the gorgeous guy who taught her. Curiously, her marks had gone up a lot in the few weeks since they met. It was rather funny since she did nothing much more than stare as inconspicuously as possible at him.
“Well, my tutor can’t be there next week and he’s asked if we can swap to Wednesday after school.” She held her breath in anticipation and crossed her fingers behind her back.
“So?” The clack of the sharp knife slicing through the poor defenceless pepper sounded throughout the room, accompanying the soft sizzle of the sauce Aafreen was meant to be tending to. Her little sister’s excited scream came from somewhere above their heads. It was ignored. “Eyes on the pot!” Her mother scolded.
“Yes, Mum.” She began stirring again.
Silence. Both waiting.
“So?” Aafreen’s mother repeated.
“Can I go?”
“Of course, if it’s to help you then why not?”
Aafreen breathed a sigh of relief. “Thanks Mum.”
Her mother looked at her daughter curiously. “You sound as if you actually want to go. Maths! I thought you hated maths?”
“I did,” Aafreen murmured, staring into the depths of dinner, “but it’s not so bad now.” Her mother just shook her head despairingly. Teenagers.
“How are they going by the way? You’ve been taking them long enough. 3 weeks now isn’t it? Getting along ok?”
“I’ve been doing just fine Mum. They are actually really helpful.” It also means she gets to spend time with him, getting to know him. He was just so fascinating and interesting and they had so much in common...“ I’m just off to do some homework, ok?”
“Alright, but lay the table before you go. Oh, and take the sauce of the heat as well will you? Don’t want it burnt now.”
Aafreen rolled her eyes humorously. “Yes, Mum.”
Wednesday afternoon. 6 days to go. Wednesday afternoon. 5 days to go. Wednesday afternoon. 4 days to go. Wednesday afternoon. 3 days to go. Wednesday afternoon. 2 days to go. Wednesday afternoon. 1 day to go. Wednesday afternoon. Today!!!
Aafreen was anxious and anticipatory all day. All through English – the last lesson of the day – she was literally bouncing with excitement, seated right on the edge of her chair gaining funny looks from Mr Guilliat, not-so-funny looks from Gnemo and also the urge to keep on glancing at the clock on the wall every few minutes or so. WHY WAS IT GOING SO SLOWLY!?!?!?!?
Time is so damn fickle. If you’re waiting for something or waiting for something marvellous to happen, then Time will lie down on its front, head in its hands and feet in the air, staring at you, smiling. It will torture you by making each second last just a little bit longer than it should do. However, if you are foreboding something or having a wonderful time and don’t want it to end; it will laugh gleefully, rub its hands together and cackle insanely. It will run ahead, to see the disappointment on your face when what you dread comes to pass, making the whole day seem only two hours instead of the full twenty-four, then send off the Sun before it is due to go.
Yes, Time was very fickle.
Aafreen was getting the full brunt of Time’s influence. She had half an hour. HALF AN HOUR! How on earth was she supposed to wait that long? Ok, she had made it through the week, half an hour was nothing compared to that.
But it was.
She fled out the room as soon as the bell went and the class had been dismissed. She crossed the courtyard – trying not to look too eager of course – and round the Dining hall, passed the Technology block and dodged the cyclists who tinkled their bells at her when she got in the way. She navigated through the surge of people emerging from the Humanities block and finally managed to get into the small building. She rushed up the stairs and swung round the corner dangerously in her haste. As soon as she reached the top corridor, she stopped abruptly, her bag dangling from her shoulder as she took a deep breath to calm herself.
Righting her bag and quickly combing her fingers through her ponytail, she grasped the door handle in her damp palm and pushed open the door.
He wasn’t there. Goddamn it he wasn’t there!
Dejected, she begun to enter the room. Just then, the most beautiful voice she had ever heard yelled her name from down the corridor. The voice she could pick out from miles away was calling to her, luring her from the straight and narrow path to follow him. ‘Oh get a grip Aafreen’ she told herself, ‘all he is, is an attractive guy who just so happens to take your breath away, there’s no need to go over the top!’
“Aafreen,” he breathed when he finally jogged up to her side, clutching a stitch in his side as if he had been running, “you’re early!” She let him catch his breath for a few moments, silently sniggering at his condition before asking;
“Why are you so breathless?” She waited to see how he would answer this one.
“Oh, that...I have...just...had P.E.”
“You don’t do P.E. you do Enrichment.”
This caught him for a moment and he looked up at her from his position – hands on knees and panting heavily – to grin at her conspiratorially. She raised her eyebrows as she waited for a reply.
“Oh yeah, so I do.”
He straightened up when he has calmed down a bit and gestured to the tiny room in which they would carry on studying the most tedious of subjects: maths. They entered the room together; he pushed her ahead of him and all she could concentrate on was the heat of his palm on the small of her back, where it smouldered like a cooling ember through her clothes to the skin. ‘Get a grip Aafreen’ she reminded herself as he once again pulled out her chair so she could sit down.
“So,” he said, “let’s start on the last topic shall we?” Aafreen thought she detected a hint of sadness lacing his tone. “Factorising; now you see there are the two brackets...” He stopped as Aafreen had coughed in a trying-not-to-be-but-totally-obvious way.
“I know how to do these. I had trouble in the past but thanks to my Personal MP3, I can do them now,” she said meekly. He gazed at her steadily for a few minutes and then a slow smirk crawled across his face. He put his hands behind his head and swung on the back pair of legs of his chair.
“So,” he enquired, “what do you want to do instead then?”
Aafreen couldn’t speak, for her thumping heart had just jumped into her mouth.
“Umm...” She mumbled incoherently. “I don’t know, what would you like to do?”
“I want to ask you a question which you must answer as truthfully as possible.”
“Of course.” Aafreen agreed, puzzled. His eyes didn’t leave hers as he landed on all four of his legs on the plastic fibre carpet with a thud. She didn’t encourage him to break the contact.
“If I may be so bold,” he paused and moved towards her, drawing his seat up beside hers, licking his lips nervously as he did so, “I would like to ask your opinion of me.”
Stunned, Aafreen remained silent for a moment. “That’s not a question.”
Suddenly embarrassed, Aafreen averted her gaze and pretended to focus her attention elsewhere.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I think you do,” he whispered. A small laugh escaped him. “Your nostrils flare slightly when you lie; I picked that up a while ago. It’s rather amusing actually.” Faintly annoyed, she looked up to glare at him through her lashes but failed to complete her intention when she realised how close he was. “You know what I mean,” reminding her of the conversation at hand.
The fine hairs on the back of her neck prickled in a way that wasn’t exactly uncomfortable. She shouldn’t like having him so near... But she did. Was that such a sin? Was that so wrong?
“I like you,” she said finally, her face reddening and her pulse tripping. She turned her head away from him, unable to look at him properly without getting distracted. “I like you very much.” She felt his finger hook beneath her chin and tilted her face back to his. Her eyes followed much too willingly for her liking and locked onto his mahogany ones far too easily.
“Good,” was his reply.
He approached her slowly, her heart pounding at double the speed of what was healthy and her breathing quickened significantly to match. Another one of his sly smiles passed his lips briefly before they touched hers.
Aafreen held her breath while he kissed her. His lips were warm, gentle and oh so soft, putting only the smallest amount of pressure upon hers, giving her the opportunity to pull away and regain her composure if she wanted... but she did not.
It felt so good.
After too short a time, he pulled away from her and the grin that lit up his features was brilliant.
“It’s a good thing I like you too then, isn’t it?”
Aafreen couldn’t help grinning back and reached forward for seconds.