This chapter is told from the perspective a secondary school Chemistry teacher who has fallen in love with one of his students.
“Ah, that movember tache. Looking good, John.” Winston Gale looks at me from the other side of the room. I hadn’t even noticed him.
“Thanks, Stoney. Your’s is also… well, barely there at all really.” He’s only 25 and a ginger. I don’t know why he thought he could grow a moustache. He laughs anyway.
“Well, I’ll be off. Gotta make supper for Helen, check on Lily… see you later, Stoney.”
He salutes me. I pick up my coursework to mark and go to the car. Driving home I think about the last 2 years. I left the school for a year, went to teach at an Academy in the city to get away from my feelings. But they didn’t go away. I grew miserable in that year, away from Lex. I thought of her not all the time, but often. I was determined in my new life without her, to get back to my wife and baby and forget her and move on but then I saw her outside New Look and it all flooded back. I remembered her laugh, the way she spoke, how great she made me feel. I’d forgotten her face, and though not beautiful in the convesional way, I thought it perfect. And it was her soul, her essence that attracted me. Not her face or body. Then, I couldn’t bear to be away from her any more. I handled it the rest of that year but I was sick. Helen suggested I go back to my old school and gladly I took her up on it. The science department there had fallen apart without me and they were glad to have me back. And I saw her. Every day. It was enough to keep me strong. I didn’t talk to her, I was still delusioned into keeping myself true to my wife but after a term I talked to her. Just once. She rambled on a bit to see me. Her essence is the same.
“John, honey, can you watch Lily a minute? I just need to go check on my mum. I’ll be back in 10 minutes.” I smile and Helen leaves. I can bear doing this to her. My love for her was incomparable to my love for Lex. But looking at Lily, my little baby, my little piece of me in a crib grabbing her toes and giggling, my love for her was inexplicable.
I know Lex likes me too. I know it. She was depressed in the year without me. I don’t teach her anymore, but I teach Jess and she said that Lex had become anorexic in the past year and she’d barely seen her smile all through year 10. But when I saw Lex, I saw the girl she’d been in year 9. That girl was still there, improved by another year’s experience, still funny, and clever, and beautiful. And I knew it was because of me. Since the year had started she’d gone from ghostly skinny to a filled out girl, and stayed a beautiful, content, curvy little Lex that I loved even more that the 13 year-old version.
The 13 year old version. Is that how sick I am. This girl was 17 years younger than me, a 15 year old who wasn’t even legal to drink or have sex or gamble or vote or anything. She’s so young.
Helen reappears behind me, wrapping her arms around my neck from behind and kissing my head.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” She asked.
“Yes.” I forgot that she was speaking about Lilly, not the Lex I could see in my head.