I could have got time off while my ankle healed, but since Jen could drive me in I thought there was no point in staying at home. I’d be bored out of my mind again. On the plus side, my book was almost finished. Over the winter break David had asked Carrie out, and she’d said yes, thinking her dreams were coming true. Sally had walked in on her getting ready, and they’d had a big fight. Carrie had gone with David, realised what an ass he was, and left to beg Sally to forgive her. Now all that I had to do was finish the book, and decide whether Sally would forgive her and they would get together officially, or whether she’d suggest they stayed friends, nothing more. I was deliberating as Jen drove me to the first day back at school.
“So, are you looking forward to the tide of one legged jokes that are going to come your way? Or the clumsy jokes, they’re always good.”
“Fully prepared. We had a warm up gig at your Christmas meal remember?”
“Ha! Oh come on, they were quite funny.”
“You don’t think getting me a parrot was a little too far?” She giggled at the memory and pulled in to a parking space. “Well, here we go. You do realise we’re going to have to rope a kid in to carrying some stuff for me?”
“Ooh, slave labour! Fun!” She winked and climbed out of the car. I put my crutches out and stood up, using them to carry my weight. I went round to the boot and watched as Jen tried to get a nearby child to help us out. They generally pretended not to notice.
“I’ll help.” A quiet voice said. Charlie. I knew before I even attempted to turn round.”
“Um, I’m not sure...” Jen started, but I interrupted.
“Thank you Charlie, that’s very thoughtful of you.” She smiled a little and went to take my box from Jen’s arms. “That goes in my room thank you Charlie.” She nodded and headed off.
“What are you doing? I thought you were avoiding.”
“Jen, even if she’s not over me, there’s no point in avoiding her like a leper. I think she’s realised there are boundaries, and I need to be able to work with my students.”
“Well technically she’s not your...” I gave her a look until she sighed and picked up her box, accompanying me to the English corridor. “See you in the staffroom at break?”
“Not at break. Lunch time. There’s no point in me trying to get up those stairs in fifteen minutes.”
“Alright, I’ll see you then.” Jen went to her classroom, and I entered mine. Charlie was sat on a desk, and my box was on the floor by my desk, where I always keep it.
“Thank you Charlie.”
“No problem. Just, before I go, are you feeling better?”
“As long as I’m on painkillers I feel no pain.” I laughed.
“Well, good. I’m glad you’re ok.” She started to leave.
“Charlie. I have something for you.” She came back to face me, but didn’t stand too close. It was obvious she was making a conscious effort to put no more strain on what passed between us. I took The Little Princess from the box and held it out. “I know you wanted to read it.” She looked at it, and then shook her head.
“Thanks, but I really don’t think...”
“No come on, I took the effort to bring it in for you.” She smiled and took the book, and as our fingers brushed I felt a tingle. My cheeks heated up at almost the exact moment as hers went red, and we looked at each other for moments until I pulled my hand away. “We just... we just have to fight it Charlie ok?” Charlie nodded and stepped away hurriedly.
“I’m sorry for putting you through this Summer.”
“No, I’m sorry that you have to go through it Charlie. It’s my fault, because if I didn’t feel... if I didn’t, then you wouldn’t have any encouragement.”
“Summer, are you saying you like me?”
“How can you ask that?” I felt a tear in my eye, and rubbed it away before I could start crying. She grinned and there were tears in her eyes too. “Charlie, nothing can happen ok? It’s illegal.”
“Alright. But Summer? When I leave school, I’m getting your number.”
“I’ll give it to you willingly.” I smiled as she left, and then collapsed on my chair. “That, should most definitely not have happened.”I closed my eyes, put my head in my hands, and tried to drown out the bell which had just rung, signalling the start of what promised to be a very confusing day.