“You’ll be glad to know it is now lunchtime,” Miss Lyson announced from the front of the classroom.
“Wonderful,” Don murmured.
He rose slowly to his feet and offered me a hand. I took it and he pulled me up. Before I could protest, he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me, right in front of Lor.
I pulled back, though I’d responded for a second in the whirlwind of the feelings of the moment, and looked at him reproachfully.
“Tell me you’re corrigible.”
“No,” Don replied, grinning. “I am one hundred per cent incorrigible.”
I rolled my eyes, pretending to be exasperated. With mock sarcasm, I said, “Great.”
“Mm-hm,” Don said, nodding.
As we left the classroom, I noticed Lor striding angrily away from us and Teritt ushering Ed to go on while he stayed behind with Dave. Don stayed beside me for the whole journey to the dining room, chatting animatedly about parties here - apparently he was planning one for next Friday. I didn’t really pay attention, as my mind had chosen to think about how I had hurt Lor as I watched his figure precede us.
Suddenly my train of thought was interrupted by Don grabbing my arm. Lor walked off down the stairs to the lab and I blinked, looking at Don. He looked furious.
“Angel, what is wrong with you? You could have fallen down those stairs.”
I stepped away from the top stair and lowered my eyes in shame.
Don sighed heavily.
“Look, I didn’t press you earlier because I hoped you would tell me in your own time. But it would be silly and tragic for you to die from a preoccupation with something.”
He pulled me over to the bench in the room and looked into my eyes.
“Tell me, angel,” he murmured gently.
I gazed into those open, green depths and decided to tell him the truth.
“The day I got told I was a Moon Child - the day Ed, Lor and Teritt came to my house - I...” I took a deep breath. “I nearly kissed Lor.”
“Gross,” Don muttered, looking away.
“I... I’m sorry?” I asked, confused.
“You nearly kissed ... my cousin. Ew.”
“Lor’s your cousin?” I asked, horrified.
“We don’t like to admit it,” Don told me. “In fact, we pretend like we’re not related. Our mothers despair.”
“I can imagine,” I murmured.
Don frowned. “Is that all?”
I was confused again. “What d’you mean ‘Is that all?’? I thought it was pretty big.”
He shrugged. “You chose me, didn’t you? I don’t care who else you’re attracted to, even if it’s my undeserving cousin, as long as you like me more.”
I stared. “So you’re not mad?”
“And you still want to go out with me?”
“And it’s honestly something you’re not bothered about?”
He shook his head, smiling.
“Don...,” I started, though not really knowing what I was about to say. After all that worrying, all that fear, Don was not angry. It wasn’t such a big mess after all. The relief was immense and I might have told him that but he laid a finger on my lips and when I shut my mouth he drew it away and leant in to kiss me passionately.
I gasped in surprise and put one hand on the bench to his right and the other on his left leg to steady myself as I responded. I put a lot of pressure on his leg; he moaned slightly and took that hand, drawing it upwards...
No! I drew back in shock.
“Don, we’re not ready for that yet,” I whispered. “You - you have to be patient.”
Don was breathing heavily.
“We’re still on the first day of kissing. Besides, we’re in public.”
“We could go to my room.”
“That’s against the rules!”
“Penny, please!” Don’s expression was pleading.
I stood up.
“No, Don,” I said firmly. “I’m not ready.”
I began to walk towards the stairs. I glanced back at him.
“Are you coming?”
Don sighed and stood.
We walked to the cafeteria in silence. I almost felt guilty for being so sharp but I was sure relationships weren’t supposed to go so fast.
Lunch was a choice between pasta and pizza. I picked up a slice of the latter, helped myself to the available garlic bread and grabbed a bottle of orangeade.
Don asked for two slices of pizza, grabbed a can of Coke and nothing more.
We sat together at one of the tables, away from the cold-eyed Lor who looked more lupine than human, even though his physical features hadn’t taken on an animalistic appearance.
“Angel, are you still mad at me?” Don asked softly as we started to eat.
I shook my head.
“I wasn’t angry. Just... nervous.”
“Nervous?” he asked, confused. Then, comprehension seemed to dawn on him. “Oh! You’ve never... been with a guy, have you?”
I blushed a little, shaking my head again. I averted my eyes in embarrassment.
“Aw, well, you don’t need to be afraid, Penny. I won’t hurt you.”
“Thanks Don,” I murmured, glancing shyly up again.
He smiled, and the continued with the slice of pizza he was holding in one hand.
After we’d finished our lunch, Don took me to the local town centre, assuring me that this was well within the rules. He put the books I’d been carrying around in his schoolbag, which he put in his room before we left. We strolled casually, he pointing out certain shops, including a café which made great sundaes during the summer, a night club called Crimson Horizon and a Chinese takeaway.
When we returned to the Academy we had five minutes to get to English. Don led me through the corridor between the dining hall and the lab, along the boys’ wing, collecting his schoolbag on the way, to the classroom outside which Lor was waiting on his own.
“Is it just you two?” I asked in surprise.
Lor nodded. “The fun we have, eh, cousin?” he said to Don.
Don glared at him.
“I notice you’re not surprised,” Lor said, turning to me.
“Don told me earlier,” I murmured, casting my eyes to the floor, unable to stand the ice in his gaze.
“I see,” Lor said. “So what have you two been up to?” He addressed Don again. “Is she the right kind of girl? She doesn’t look much of a slu-”
“Hey!” I cried, looking up again.
Lor looked amused as he regarded me.
“You don’t like rude words, do you?”
“It’s not that so much as the fact you’re insulting Don, actually,” I retorted.
Lor’s expression hardened.
“Maybe I’m trying to warn you,” he said, in a deadly serious tone.
“Or maybe you just want me for yourself!” I said angrily.
Lor looked like I’d just slapped him.
“Oh, angel, you go, girl!”
I was appalled at myself. I hadn’t ever meant to insult one of the pair in front of the other.
“So the evil witch shows her true colours,” Lor murmured, shattering me.