"Bonjour, Madame," Don greeted with a charming smile. He walked up to her, pulled a blue exercise book out of his schoolbag and handed it to her.
"Vos devoirs?" the teacher asked, looking amused.
"Mais bien sûr," he replied, eyes twinkling. "Un poème à propos des étoiles."
The teacher rolled her eyes. The homework had evidently not been to write a poem about ‘the stars'.
"Asseyez-vous," she instructed.
Don moved to sit on the right hand side of the left desk of a pair of tables facing the platform on which the teacher's stood - which was identical to the one in the classroom where we had had Flora.
The woman glanced at me and smiled.
"Penny 'Owler?" she asked, in her native French accent.
"Um, bonjour," I said nervously.
Don turned to me, also smiling.
"Come on in, Penny. Mrs de Lys doesn't bite."
I walked up and sat on Don's right.
"What books are you carrying?" Mrs de Lys inquired, sitting on Don's desk.
"Oh, these?" I said, blushing, as I held out the poetry anthologies for her to look at. "I borrowed them from the library. Lor gave me ‘Silver Kiss'."
Don's smile disappeared.
"Lor gave you what?"
Mrs de Lys had taken the books and was examining each one.
"Oh, they're poems about the moon," I replied.
Don continued to frown.
"Why must he interfere?" he muttered.
"He wasn't making a move on me," I protested.
Don looked up into my eyes.
"Angel, he's in love with you? Can't you see that?"
I flushed bright red.
"He wouldn't force himse-..."
"Of course he would," Don interrupted. He reached into his bag to get out his things for the lesson: his pencil case, his notebook and an A4 writing pad. When he straightened up, he regarded me intently. "You're too trusting, angel: you can't take that risk with a guy like Lor. One second he's in love with you and you're under his spell and he woos you and the next he won't care at all and he'll throw you out on the Dumpster because he's bored."
"What is the meaning of ‘woos'?" Mrs de Lys asked as she gave me back the books. She looked as if she genuinely didn't know.
"To woo is to flirt with someone," Don replied, seeming unashamed of his use of the word in her lesson, "basically."
"It's so much more beautiful than that," I murmured, to no one in particular. "Romeo wooed Juliet." I sighed. "I love archaic language."
Don smiled at me.
"So you're romantic too, are you, angel?" he asked softly.
I blushed and averted my eyes from his slightly intense gaze, not replying.
"Enough cheet-chat," Mrs de Lys said briskly. "We must work." She looked at Don. "Don, recite the six forms of 'être' when you conjugate into the present tense."
Don smiled. "Je sois, tu sois, il soit, nous soyons, vous soyez, ils soient."
His confidence threw me. I was sure the conjugations were ‘Je suis, tu es, il est, nous sommes, vous êtes, ils sont.' I didn't say anything, however, and watched Mrs de Lys's reaction.
The teacher looked angry at Don.
"I did not ask for the subjunctive, Donald," she said.
"What's the subjunctive?" I asked Don, intrigued.
"I've no idea. I saw it in my book and I learnt it. They're conjugations of être too, you know."
Mrs de Lys still looked cross.
"If you think you're too good for this lesson, I assure you you are free to leave, Mr Blackmaw I do not appreciate disrespect."
Don frowned, surprising me.
"I like French, actually."
"Then you need to learn to 'ave patience," she said. "Now, present tense of ‘avoir'. And this time, if you decide to conjugate any form wrongly, you will 'ave a detention."
Don sighed. "J'ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez, ils ont."
"What do ‘avoir' and ‘être' mean, Don?"
"To have and to be," he replied.
Mrs de Lys sighed and her anger visibly faded.
"You are good at French, Mr Blackmaw. You just need lessons in 'ow to be a good student."
Don shrugged again.
Mrs de Lys walked over to sit behind her desk.
"Today we are going to learn 'ow to say the time. Penny, 'ow much French 'ave you studied?"
"I'm currently in my fifth year," I answered, happy that I could actually participate in this class.
Mrs de Lys beamed.
"And do you know 'ow to say ‘What time is it?'?"
"Quelle heure est-il?" I replied.
"Good. " Mrs de Lys stood up and wrote the words down on the whiteboard. I was facing the front but I noticed Don looking at me. I regarded him, curious.
One corner of his mouth had pulled up into a half-smile of amusement.
"What?" I asked, mystified.
"You know la langue d'amour."
I hit him playfully, chuckling.
"Yes, I know ‘la langue d'amour'. It's compulsory up to year 9 in my school."
"You'll have to teach me some advanced French," Don said, and his smile hinted at something completely different to teaching.
I blushed and returned my gaze to Mrs de Lys. She was writing phrases down: ‘Il est ... heures', ‘et quart', ‘et demie', ‘moins le quart', ‘midi' and ‘minuit'.
When I glanced back at Don, he was copying everything down.
So the first part of the lesson was spent learning what the phrases meant. As I knew (but didn't say I knew), ‘Il est ... heures et quart' meant ‘It's quarter past...', replacing ‘quart' with ‘demie' gave you the phrase ‘It's half past' and replacing ‘et quart' with ‘moins le quart' gave you ‘It's quarter to...'. ‘Midi' and ‘minuit' were respectively midday and midnight; the latter made Don smile so broadly that I was almost scared by him.
"Please don't voice whatever you're thinking," I whispered.
At this time, Mrs Lys was waiting for Don to write everything down and she didn't turn to tell us off for talking as Don replied.
"What, ‘Je suis tombé amoureux d'un ange'?"
He chuckled at the tension in my shoulders that had appeared when he had been about to speak the thought.
He rubbed my shoulder and I relaxed slightly. I ought to have been annoyed at him but somehow I couldn't be in a bad mood with him.
"D'you know what that means?" he murmured.
"I fell/ I've fallen in love with an angel," I replied softly. "You used the perfect tense."
He grinned. "Why, yes, it was perfect. Anything is if it's related to you."
"It's called the perfect," I said, but I smiled all the same.
"Are we finished, Don?" Mrs de Lys asked, making me jump.
Don slowly and deliberately drew a single star before replying, "Yes, Madame?"
For the rest of the first forty minutes, the new phrases were practised, Mrs de Lys alternating between asking Don and then me to translate sentences.
Afterwards, she, like Mr Pots had, announced that we could do whatever we wanted. She even left the classroom to get a cup of tea.
When she was gone, Don kissed me on the cheek.
"So patient, angel," he murmured admiringly.
I moved to his lap and let him put his arms around me. He leant forwards and his breath tickled the back of my neck before he kissed the skin there. I found myself relaxing into him, sighing contentedly.
"How lucky am I, huh?" He rested his chin on my shoulder.
"Is this going too fast?" I wondered aloud. "You've been kissing me and it's only the second day we've seen each other."
Don laughed lightly.
"You are an angel. Penny, I assure you if we went any slower, we'd be sloths."
I was dubious about this but I accepted his words of reassurance and said nothing more on the subject.
"You'll still join, won't you?" Don asked, suddenly sounding anxious. "Despite how tedious the lessons are?"
"Some people actually don't mind education," I told him.
"But you won't leave me?"
"Sure I won't," I answered.
I was rewarded with another kiss on my neck.
"Good. I'll make it fun for you. I promise."