The first day at any school is terrifying enough when you're a teenager, especially if you're starting a new school where you don't know anyone, or even starting in the next year up where you know the work load is going to be bigger than ever with those all important exams slowly creeping their way up on you. The pressure is unlike any other you've ever known throughout your school days. Even going back after a school holiday is tough enough, getting up early again, having to remember everything you need for each day when your timetable is different from the day before - it's a lot of pressure.
But none of that could ever compare to going back to the same school, with the same people, after two weeks off for a reason that only a certain group of people know about. Except, when you walk in those front doors and find out that in fact, during your absence, every single person, not just in your year, but in the entire school (including the staff) know exactly what happened just two weeks before and the sordid activities you got up to on school grounds, it goes without saying that the urge to run away and hide for the rest of your life is pretty tempting.
This is where I find myself on the Monday two weeks after I got Mr. Evans fired. Me. A mere seventeen year old made a terrible decision that not only cost a teacher his job at this school, but probably ruined his career as a teacher altogether. I mean, who the hell would ever hire a teacher who let a student corrupt him like that instead of taking the professional approach of reporting said student and her obvious mental health needs?
Thing is the idea of getting with a teacher always seems so exciting and the danger that comes with it is the ultimate appeal, but from experience I bestow upon to you all a major piece of advice - no matter how much you fancy one of your teachers, don't try and get it on with them; it will not end well for anybody. Least of all yourself, who has to then face the rest of your school days with everyone knowing what you did. Unless, you do it near the summer holidays I guess, or just don't get caught altogether - that would definitely help. Actually, just make sure you don't meet up with them like that on school grounds - find a more secure and private location. Not that I'm condoning or encouraging this at all...
Anyway, I digress. Let's just go back to the beginning of the day when I didn't know just yet that every single damn person in my high school knew exactly what I had been up to. Of course, that didn't last long because as soon as I saw my three best friends, it was written all over their faces...
I arrive at school, a bundle of nerves as if it is my first day here. But then, it kind of is in a way. My last year of high school is forever tainted with the images of me straddling Casey's lap, getting us both severely worked up only to get caught and ruin both our lives forever. Well, his more so than mine. I stare at the sixth form canteen building, not sure how I can set foot in there. Sure, only a select group of people know the truth, but it doesn't make walking in there after two weeks off any easier. The people that don't know will be asking why I was off for that long and in all honestly I have not prepared a convincing lie for that just yet. Maybe it will come to me in the moment.
I tentatively take a few steps forward and reach out for the first door which opens up into a small hallway. The door to the right leads off to the hall and other parts of the building, while the door to the left leads to the canteen and ultimately my impending doom that is the rest of this year. I take a deep breath and enter the canteen, surprised at one, how many people are here this early before school starts and two, how quickly the noise drops when I step forward to let the door close. You know, the same way in movies when one person notices the change and it ripples out a few people at a time until the whole room is staring at that one character.
I do my best to ignore the stares and hushed whispers clearly being aimed at me as I focus on the three faces ahead of me, sitting at our usual table. Their expressions added with the quiet chatter around me tells me all I need to know - there are no secrets now. Everything that happened two weeks before is common knowledge and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
"Secret's out, then?" I sit down in the seat next to Leah and do my best not to flop over the table and hide my face. Thankfully some of the noise picks up again and I can forget about the stares and whispers I was greeted with moments before.
"'Fraid so." Kim gives me a sympathetic nod. You'd think I'd be mad at her given the whole bet was her idea, but at the same time I agreed to it - she didn't force me to play so ultimately I've only myself to blame. "By the way, your new art teacher wants to see you. Now." She hands me a note introducing himself (of course it's another guy) and I stand ready to leave.
"Might as well get this over with then." I sigh heavily. "Tell me, just how many people know what happened?"
Leah looks away out the window and Kim pretends to pick at her nails. Cat is the only one brave enough to look me in the eye. "Everyone."
"Everyone, as in..." I ask despite pretty confident that I already know the answer.
"The entire school, staff included. I guess they'll be keeping a close eye on you from now on."
"Fantastic!" I adjust the strap of my bag and momentarily close my eyes, picturing a life where this didn't happen, only there he is again in my mind; that last moment together burned into my memories. I open them and it floats away. "I'll see you girls later, then." I don't wait for their responses before leaving, heading to the art building, wishing I didn't have to set foot in the same damned classroom.
I stare through the window of my classroom, the events from two weeks before playing out before me like a movie. It wasn't the best decision I've ever made, but part of me doesn't even regret it. Of course, I regret the part where I got Casey fired, but before that. We had something; there was something but our recklessness; my recklessness burnt any chance we had to the ground.
"Are you going to stare through the door or come in?" I jump back slightly, forced out of my thoughts to a tall bearded man in front of me. "You must be Evie." He gestures for me to enter and I notice the tattoo peeking out his rolled up sleeve.
"You must be..." I hesitate realising that in the short walk over here, I had already forgotten his name at the bottom of the note.
"CJ, but you can call me Mr. Carter." He walks back to his desk and I want to tell him how dare he sit where Casey once did.
"Right." I follow him, not intending to ever have to use his name. Hopefully from now I can keep my head down and not focus on any guys until I am miles away from this place living it up on my own for my uni days. If I can even get in without my recent record dragging me down.
"So, I assume you know why I called you in here?"
I shrug my shoulders, knowing that if he wants to talk, he can talk and I will remain absolutely and completely silent.
"Okay, then." He sighs heavily and sits on his chair, gesturing for me to do so too. I sit on the nearest stool, in no mood to move any closer to him. "Look, I'm not here to judge your life choices or anything; I just wanted you to know that if you need to talk, you can talk to me."
"Right, because I'm sure you know all about getting a teacher fired because you tried to get in his trousers."
"Okay, when you put it like that, maybe I don't exactly what you are going through, but what if I told you that I was the Mr. Casey at my last school?"
"Excuse me?" I look at him for the first time since I sat down and wait for him to elaborate.
"I may not know about getting a teacher fired, but I do know about almost being fired for the very same reason. I was, involved, with a student at my last school, and it became too risky very quickly. I realised that I needed to get out of there while I still could. Luckily, I found this job was available, so I took it as a sign and went for it. Now, here I am." He leans forward on his desk. "So, I may not know how you feel, but I do know a little bit about what it is like to be in that situation."
I sit back, slightly dazed from this revelation. Here I am, sitting in front of a teacher openly admitting to me that he got involved in the exact same situation I had been in. He really could be the only person I can confide in this year. Except that could be dangerous in itself - I don't know the guy yet, but if I spend too much time with him, I could be right back where I was before. This could be the best and worst thing I do. Having someone to talk to would be great, but the risk of getting too close to someone else that I shouldn't is too high.
"No offence, but I'm not sure this is a good idea." I stand and back away from him. "I really need to keep my head down low for the rest of the year and if I do this, that might not happen." I throw my bag on my shoulder. "I should go."
"Okay." Mr. Carter stands and follows me to the door, holding it open for me. "But if you change your mind, the offer stands."
I smile politely and step outside the door. "Thanks. I'll, uh, see you in class later then." I give a small wave, not my usual style, and hurry away quickly, not daring to look back behind me.
If there was one thing I didn't need this year, it's him. Not that I am interested in the slightest and given his previous record, I guess he isn't either, but I have to make sure that whatever happens, I never let myself be alone with him. I will not fall into that trap again.
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