21. First Day NervesMature

Thursday came sooner than I was expecting. On Wednesday I had begun to fill with dread, imagining terrifying reactions from Lor at my apparent wish to continue being with Don. Gosh, what would he think of me? He’d never trust me again. But what had happened had happened and if I couldn’t face up to a scary situation I deserved the perpetual self-punishment I would deliver and might as well give up on happiness altogether. It was not my fault that I would have to act like Don’s contented girlfriend and in actual fact I was protecting Lor, not trying to destroy him. The fact that he didn’t know should not matter in the least.

‘No one can rightly judge me,’ I told myself. ‘Not Lor, and not even Ed. And that applies to Teritt and Dave too.’

I saw Dave’s smile in Miss Lyson’s classroom and prayed I wouldn’t lose his friendship, even if what people thought of me was irrelevant. Friendlessness makes anything tricky, even sensible, right things.

Wednesday night was almost sleepless - it took me a long time to relax after getting into bed. At one point I looked at my suitcase, all packed up and seeming raring to go, and breathed deeply, thinking ‘Here it comes’.

Came it did. Thursday morning, and my stomach churned unpleasantly as the cereal I ingested met the resident apprehension.

“Keep in touch,” my dad said, and my suitcase was laid comfortably in the boot of the car while I climbed in with hesitation that was almost noticeable to my parents.

At Lupin Scuela Miss Steel led me to a bedroom in the girls’ wing where I’d sleep - on my own, since the only other girls in the school shared one of the other rooms - and I had a few minutes to gaze unseeingly at a wall before I left and worked out the route to the main teaching corridor, a bag containing a pencil case, calculator, paper and my timetable slung over my shoulder. This was fairly simple. I just walked along the corridor, walked through the door at the end and ended up at the opposite end of the teaching corridor to the one I’d reached when I’d previously gone via the boys’ wing.

Unlike on Monday, not all the boys were there - Lor and Dave were missing - and those assembled were outside a different classroom. The classroom they stood outside was closer to the boys’ wing than the classroom where we had taken Flora.

I walked up, saying “Good morning.”

Teritt greeted me casually, Ed carefully and Don with happiness that made me want to slap him. I played along with the hug he gave me, kissing him on the cheek to be on the safe side - though that kiss was loveless - and I asked if everyone else had Maths as I did. All the boys assented.

“Where’s Dave?” I enquired, a little too worried by Don’s threat to ask after Lor.

“Physics,” Ed answered.

“Such a boring subject,” Teritt said.

I grinned. “I agree.” I was curious as to whether Lor was in Dave’s lesson and reasoning that it was safe to ask about him second, I asked, “Does Lor do Maths or Physics?”

“Neither,” Don answered laconically, not at all seeming fazed. “He has a free.”

“He must get a nice lie-in from that,” I remarked.

Teritt frowned. “Yes, quite enviable really. The things Ed and I could do if we had more time in the morning...”

Don looked disgusted. Ed looked mildly frustrated.

“Teritt, please don’t.”

Teritt sighed loudly.

“You’re no fun when there are other people around,” he complained.

“One of us ought to be sensible.”

Teritt looked exasperated.

“For whose sake in the end? Don’s?  Penny’s?” He gestured to each of us as he spoke our names.

“Yours,” Ed replied. A cheeky smile spread across his features. “If I weren’t boring in terms of public conversation, I’d simply have to make up for it elsewhere.”

Teritt looked puzzled. “What?”

“That’s all I’m saying.”

Teritt frowned in concentration, trying to figure out the meaning behind Ed’s words. I myself could guess but said nothing, knowing that Ed had been trying to stop Teritt being annoyed while remaining delicate with his output.

“Idiot,” Don muttered, as Teritt looked to be having no success.

“Shut up,” I hissed, elbowing him (which simply felt wonderful). “Don’t be horrible.”

Don looked wounded. Ed wasn’t watching and Teritt appeared to have noticed nothing.

“Angel,” Don said softly. “Why would you want to hurt me?”

I folded my arms. “You weren’t being particularly fair.”

Don looked at his feet in repentance.

“I’m sorry.”

I didn’t say anything. A bell rang.

As the Maths teacher - a young man with thick brown hair, grey eyes and a rather drawn face that almost made him look older - approached, Teritt’s face lit up and he said, “I see!”

He winked knowingly at Ed. “Yes, all right, you can be sensible.”

Ed chuckled as the man opened the door. The four of us walked to the front and I found myself sitting next to Teritt as Don sat at a desk with Ed. This could be interesting.

The End

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