By Simon Stone
This is a story involving gay males and as such should not be read if the subject matter is likely to cause you offense. All comments or criticisms are welcome and will be answered.
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What would you say is the worst thing in the world you could do? Don't say kill a man, because unless I'm talking to some kind of psychotic lunatic with a history of violence, its not very likely that you'll ever be in that situation. I mean from day to day, the stuff you face as you go about your life, what's the worst thing you could see yourself doing? Cheating on your partner, double-crossing a work colleague, lying to your family maybe? Getting in your car, even though you know you've had one drink too many, spreading those rumours that probably aren't true but that make good gossip. Telling those white lies that you doubt anyone will call you up on, those not-quite-so-white lies that you use to make things go your way. People used and then left at the wayside; the one night stand you never called back; the lover you made do with until someone better came along.
What's the worst thing that you could do? I'll tell you one thing, whatever answer you come up with forget it, because at the end of the day you can look as long and as hard as you want at your morals and your standards and what's important to you, but you can never guess the things you'll do when it comes right down to it. I should know; I used to think I was pretty decent and look what happened to me. Maybe that's where I went wrong. Never believe you're a good person, because the next thing you know you'll be justifying anything you want with the excuse 'its not so bad because deep down I'm a nice person'.
I still want to defend myself, even now, playing the odds I guess; banking on the fact that if I tell enough people my story I'll find one person who'll tell me that what I did wasn't so bad. But it was. I know that it was. It's just that back then, when I was caught up in it all, it seemed like the only thing I could do. You see, there I go again trying to justify it; all the pain and anger and hurt, the life that was ruined, and I still try to hide from the truth. It wasn't fate that made this happen, it was me, and I can never put it right.
The first time I met him was 3.30pm on Wednesday the 23rd of April. Don't worry, I'm not so sad that I committed the whole thing to memory; the only reason I remember the date is that it was my sister's birthday, and even the prospect of staying behind after class was preferable to joining in the celebrations for everyone's favourite daughter. So there I was in the Art room, a tiny little cubicle really, with barely the space for the three tables it housed, and with my current project covering the entire expanse of one.
I had managed to come up with the idea that biggest is best, and convinced myself that I would somehow score higher if my final picture was twice the size of everyone else's. After all, if you're faced with a postage stamp and a billboard, which one are you going to notice first? Unfortunately, the extra size also meant extra work, and while everyone else was making great strides towards completing their project for the deadline, I was falling behind quickly. That was another reason why I was now giving up my free time; if I didn't make some real progress soon, I was in trouble. Luckily there was pretty much an open-door policy, and we were welcome anytime.
The Art department was housed in a separate building, along with the Music department and several rooms which were used for evening classes. These out of hours classes meant that the place was never locked up until late, so we were free to stay behind until well into the evening. The downside to this being that we were so separate from the rest of the school, and also that we had to make do with one of the tiniest rooms you can imagine.
With the Art room being so small, or 'compact' as our teacher, Mr Keyes, liked to describe it, our class was actually split into two groups. At least that was in theory, but what this meant in practice was that for our one supervised lesson of the week we were divided into two sets. Group one, of which I was a member, met on Monday morning, while group two got together on Tuesday afternoon. The rest of the time we were left to sort things out on our own, which is why I'd just spent the past two hours in the company of Amanda Carter, a girl who I would normally avoid like the plague. This had nothing to do with her personally as she's actually pretty nice, but to cut a long and painful story short, she is friends with my number one enemy, Paul, and as such must be treated with extreme caution.
In another world, I could probably have really liked her, but having to watch every word I say around her is too much of a chore to face on a regular basis. That's why I would normally avoid her, or at least make sure there was someone else in the room to bring into the conversation. Luck really hadn't been on my side that day, though. Instead, I'd spent the afternoon silently dying inside as I made dumb comment after dumb comment, with a few lousy jokes thrown in for good measure, all of which I was convinced would be repeated to Paul the second Amanda left the room.
I moved around in my seat and glanced at my reflection in the mirror which hung from the side of the one bookcase in the room. I wanted to settle once and for all the feeling I'd had all afternoon that my hair was a complete mess.
I hadn't been happy with it since I'd had it cut the week before, the hairdresser having interpreted my request to 'tidy it up' as meaning cut it as short as possible. I would have felt unbelievably vain checking it in front of Amanda but with her gone I was free to indulge my shallowness.
I didn't look that bad I suppose, meaning I'm sure I could look worse, my hair was light brown although you couldn't really tell given how short it was, my eyes now seeming to be a few shades lighter than the hair which normally they matched. I liked my eyes, probably the only part of my physical self I really did approve of. That doesn't mean I disliked the rest, just that I'm sure it could be improved, whereas my eyes, well I couldn't think of anything I'd do to them to improve them.
I could be taller, more muscular, have a nicer smile and hair that didn't spring up in a mass of uncontrollable curls the second it grew longer than a couple of inches, but my eyes, they were for keeps.
I reached up and touched my forehead, convinced I could literally feel a spot developing under the skin. I knew that the worst thing I could do was to rub at it but I couldn't help myself. In stressful situations one of two things could happen, either my skin would break out or I'd develop a splitting headache, today it looked like I was going to find an angry red blotch on my face at any moment. Just what I needed, especially given the fact I didn't even have enough hair to brush down and cover it.
To top it all off, I'd made a complete mess of my painting, or at least I thought I had. I was just in one of those moods where everything I said and did seemed the stupidest thing ever, and I'm sure I could have discovered a way to turn lead to gold and still have found a downside. Anyway, Amanda had just left, supposedly to get a lift home, but in my eyes to get away from me and of course tell Paul how sad I was. I sat down, regretting ever getting out of bed that morning, wishing I could just crawl into a hole and hide from everything, and that's when it happened; my life changed forever. He walked into it.
You would think that after an afternoon spent humiliating myself in front of Amanda, I would have learnt some kind of lesson, like never to open my mouth again, or at least to stop with the supposedly funny comments. But no, I wasn't going to be satisfied until my humiliation was absolute, and so it was that five minutes after she had left, I heard the door open.
"You just cant keep away from me can you?" I shouted out, assuming it was Amanda returning for something she'd forgotten.
What was I thinking? There is no situation on earth in which that line would be anything other than shameful, and yet there I was saying it. I just couldn't stop myself.
I looked up, this stupid smile plastered to my face, and I felt the blood just drain away as I saw who stood there. In the doorway wasn't, as I had expected, Amanda or even Mr Keyes, or for that matter any of the other students in my class. No, it was someone I'd seen around the college maybe once or twice at most, and I didn't know his name or a single thing about him.
The blood rushed back to my face as I blushed what felt like a bright crimson red, a flush of heat sweeping over my skin as I realised that, unfortunately, it isn't possible to die of embarrassment, however much you might wish that it was.
He ignored my comment, thankfully, so I was spared the further embarrassment of making another so-called joke. He stepped further into the room, and as he moved forward, he entered the large patch of light which streamed in through the main window. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the dazzling glare of the sunlight, and as he did so, my mouthed dropped open as I realised I was standing in the presence of a God.
How had I not seen it before? Was I blind? He was gorgeous; tall, well built, and with an athlete's body. That was where I'd seen him before, practising on the track. Thick brown hair that fell long over his eyes; blue eyes, I think - damn the light, I couldn't see the colour of his eyes. His smile, his amazing smile. He was smiling, and he was smiling at me!
I felt that if something didn't happen soon, I would either start drooling or panting, or gawk like an idiot as I pondered on the mathematical probability of his belt snapping and his pants dropping down in front of me. Luckily, he spoke, and I half snapped out of my stupor.
"I don't suppose Kelly's here is she?"
He stepped forward out of the sunlight, pushing his hair back from his face. Blue eyes. He has blue eyes; sparkling, intense, incredible blue eyes, and now I'm slack-jawed again and he's waiting for an answer.
He said the name slowly, as if he was talking in a foreign language that I had trouble comprehending. Kelly Dawson, a fellow Art student and officially the second greatest girl in the world. She hadn't mentioned a new boyfriend, but given her track record that's probably what he was.
'"No, I haven't seen her all day," I stuttered slightly as I spoke.
Why does whatever I say sound stupid when in the presence of people I need to impress?
He paused for a moment, as if unsure as to what to do next, and then he decided. Kelly wasn't here, I didn't know where she was, so what was there left to do but leave. A lock of hair fell back down over his forehead, hanging over his left eye. He brushed it back, distracted for a moment, then he smiled again and began to turn back to the door. My mouth opened, and although I didn't know what I was going to say, I just knew that I had to say something.
"She's normally in on a Wednesday, but I don't know why she hasn't turned up today."
Actually, for all I knew she might have never set foot in the place on a Wednesday, but if I was going to scare this guy off it was going to be through jumping on him, not by telling him the truth. My brain was actually kicking into gear now.
"If I see her who should I tell her was after her?"
"You don't know who I am?"
That really wasn't the answer that I wanted. He was supposed to tell me his name so that I'd have more than just a face to fantasise about, not make me feel even more embarrassed. I had to turn the tables, and fast.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Steven, isn't it? I don't think I know the surname. No, wait, it's Anderson right? Steven Anderson."
I nodded and muttered an agreement. How does he know who I am, and why do I not have a clue who he is? This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Nobody knows who I am; I'm one of those people who blends into the background, never to be noticed. Good looking strangers do not know or recognise me, ever.
"Kelly's mentioned you a few times," he explained.
He was probably guessing from my expression that I was surprised he knew I even went to the same school as he did. This never happened. Kelly's boyfriends were normally the type of guy who wouldn't even acknowledge my existence, let alone speak to me, and though they sometimes scared me, it was never in the good kind of way I was now experiencing.
He stopped his retreat and stepped forward. He's heading towards me. This was the kind of moment dreams are made of, but also the kind of moment where in the here and now you kind of wish they would stay as just dreams, because its actually terrifying to have to face them in reality.
He was standing barely a metre away from me, close enough for me to reach out and touch him, and most probably close enough for him to see the sweat I was about to break out into.
One thing I'm not very good at is being around men, especially men my own age, which sadly isn't a good character trait for a gay lad to have, as it's impractical to say the least. I just panic and go to pieces, convinced that every man within a ten mile radius can see quite clearly that I am practically drooling over them. So needless to say, much as I was thrilled to have a fantasy come half true, I felt about as talkative as a shy mute.
Just in case anyone is wondering - all I needed to make the fantasy complete was for him to sweep someone's work from the table and throw me across it before ripping open his shirt. It has to be somebody else's work mind you; it may be a fantasy, but there's no need to ruin my stuff in the name of wishful thinking.
Anyway, at that particular real-life moment, all I could think of was which was more embarrassing, an awkward silence or another embarrassing comment? Luckily my mystery man spoke up again.
"This is good," he said, looking down at my work.
"Thanks." I think I mumbled. I made some noise anyway, but really all I could concentrate on was the fact that someone gorgeous was giving me a compliment. Shallow as it may be, this was the greatest moment in living history. Okay, I admit I am so easily pleased. Forget teachers or parents or classmates, all that matters is that he thinks it's good, so now I could fail and not care.
He began to move around the desk. He was actually getting closer. Alright, so all he's doing is getting a better view of my painting, but forget the details, he was within touching distance. No, he was actually touching me. Okay, so it was just the bag which he carried over one shoulder that touched me, but the chills I got for the brief moment I thought it was him were more than enough. I know I'm going over the top, but you should see him, he's perfect.
"Kelly said you were the best in the class."
"I wouldn't go that far." I said as I tried to act casual.
I smiled the kind of lopsided, fake smile that people in trouble often fall back on, all the while trying to get as good a look at him as I could without being obvious. Glancing sideways with such effort it hurt my eyes. Then just as quickly as he'd moved next to me, he moved away again, adjusting the strap of his bag to keep it secure on his shoulder as he casually walked to the door.
"Well, if you see her, can you just tell her someone was looking for her?" he asked with a smile.
My Answer was not exactly the profound, meaningful sentence I was hoping for.
"Thanks. I'll see you around," he said.
Then he opened the door, and just as quickly as he'd entered the room, he was gone and I was left alone. I sighed a deep, cleansing sigh. It was like I could breathe easy again, now the pressure was finally off. I sat there staring at the door like some kind of loved-up zombie. I really needed a man. I must have far too much pent-up energy if I felt this way about any guy who just happened to wander into my line of vision.
I think its a sickness really, and its not like I can go to the doctors for a cure. But in my defence, I had genuine cause for excitement this time. This guy, he was something else. Anyone with half a brain would be crazy about him. It hit me, then, that I still didn't know his name. I meet the most amazing guy in the world and I haven't a clue who he is. It was like Cinderella, only crueller, and I didn't even have a glass slipper to find him with.
I shook my head as if to shake off whatever had come over me. I wasn't normally like this, I felt slightly embarrassed by the way I felt, completely falling to pieces like that. I wouldn't have said I was the most confident person in the world but I was never that tongue tied, I hadn't even found out his name I'd been that flustered and the depths of my conversational skills had been plumbed to come up with one word answers to just about everything he'd said..
Still, if I looked on the plus side I had met him, and for now that would provide ample material for my dreams. The details could wait for now.
I sat back in my chair, all thoughts of getting any work done had disappeared from my mind, and now all I could think about was him, the perfect man. When my mind starts running there's no stopping it, and it's all I can do to keep up with it. So I didn't fight it, I just went with the flow, forgot about reality and let my dreams take over...
The door opened again, and he walked back into the room, greeting me with the sort of smile you only ever usually see on magazine covers and pop videos. He ran his fingers through his thick, curly, dark brown hair, which in the poor light by the door seemed almost black.
"Forget something?" I asked, smiling back at him.
"No," he replied nervously.
He just stood there, all six foot of him, well built and athletic, and he seemed somewhat anxious at being in my company. I ignored the possible downside that he'd heard some terrible rumour about me and was fearful for his safety, and instead decided to assume he just had something he needed to either ask or tell me, something he was reluctant to say.
"So what is it?" I said in the most sympathetic voice I could muster.
I wanted to put him at ease. Whatever it was that had brought him back here must have been important.
"I just wanted to clear something up."
He shifted uncomfortably on the spot as if unsure whether he should move forward or not.
"Okay," I replied, bracing myself for whatever was about to come.
He stepped towards me, his smile faltering. I have to admit, I quite liked seeing him looking so nervous, it was quite a power trip and to be honest not something I'm not that used to feeling. People really have no reason to feel insecure around me, why would they? If you're interested in a wager I'd be willing to bet that if you asked anyone who's ever met me to describe me in one word, they'd use 'nice', or some thesaurus-listed alternative to it.
"It's just that, well, I didn't really come here to see Kelly," he said, his voice almost cracking as he tried to get the words out.
"Well, no, that's not right either. I did come to see Kelly, but its not because I needed to speak to her."
He could barely look at me now but he seemed to be on a roll and didn't want to stop.
"She was going to introduce me."
'"You." He said that word with his head bowed, as if he dare not see my reaction.
"Why did you want to meet me?" I asked.
It wasn't so much a question as an invitation. I wanted him to tell me everything.
"I just did. I thought... I wondered..."
He was struggling to find the words now. He raised his head and looked at me as I smiled.
"I wanted to get to know you," he continued, "I've seen you around college, and I just thought you were..."
"Hot?" I interrupted him.
He looked shocked at what I'd just said.
"You must be hot," I continued, "You've got a bead of sweat on your forehead."
"It is warm in here," he said, and rubbed the back of his hand across his face.
"I'll open a window."
I turned around and undid the catch on the large window behind my desk. It was the only one in the place that really opened more than a couple of inches, and even then it was sometimes almost impossible to budge. This, of course, was one of those times, and so I was left to struggle in vain. I knew that at any minute it would either fly open, possibly taking me with it, or just not move at all, leaving me looking a like an idiot. I jumped as I felt something brush my shoulder. An arm reached over and pressed against the window frame. It was him.
"Let me help," he offered.
I turned my head and I was gazing directly into his eyes.
We both pushed against the window and it jerked open. As it did, he bumped against me, and his body pressed against my side. Now, with the window open, mission accomplished, he was still pressed against me. Neither one of us seemed to want to move. A breeze blew in through the newly-created opening, but even with the cool late-afternoon air circling around me, I was still so hot. I looked away from him, gazing instead outside at the playing fields which surrounded the college. He still didn't move, though, and I could feel him next to me.
I moved my hands away from the window ledge where I'd been resting them, and let my arms fall to my side. I gasped as I realised that my wrist was now pressed against his crotch. He moved away slightly, a reflex reaction from the shock of it. It was an accident, an honest accident, but how was I going to explain it to him?
Before I had time to apologise, he moved in closer. My hand was now touching the inside of his thigh and I didn't know what to do. Alright, so that's not strictly true. I knew what I wanted to do, but we were in the middle of a classroom and he was practically a complete stranger. Also, as unlikely as it now seemed, given the fact that I'd just heard a tiny but audible moan coming from his lips, what if I had completely misread the signs? What if he screamed for help if I squeezed something of his I shouldn't?
I felt his hot, sweet breath on my neck, and then the gentle caress of his lips against my skin. Shivers ran down my spine as he delicately kissed my neck. Quick, tiny kisses, so soft I could barely feel them. This is what it feels like to surrender to a vampire, I thought; caught in the moment and oblivious to anything but him and me and the sensations that were swimming over me.
I closed my eyes as he slowly moved around, his tongue tracing a path to my throat, and then up to my ear. He gently bit my earlobe. His hands held me by my waist as I turned to face him. Despite his purposeful actions, he looked so unsure and awkward. I must have appeared similarly awkward, because its certainly the way I felt.
The moment stretched on for what seemed like forever as the two of us stood there gazing into each other's eyes. I moved my hand, and as I did, I felt his bulge straining against his trousers. I paused there for a moment, my fingers moving slowly over the woven fabric. He moaned again, a little louder this time; his eyes were now closed and his mouth was slightly open.
I moved my face closer to his and kissed him on the corner of his lips. He responded, opening his mouth and pulling me more tightly against his firm body. The next kiss was full on, our mouths open, and as I felt his tongue enter, I responded. In a deep passionate embrace, I held the back of his head, my fingers running through his hair, pulling him into me. Not that I really needed to pull him, as he was keen enough on his own. I felt his fingers stroking my body, running up and down my back, making me shiver and causing my knees to buckle. I pulled away from him for a moment, leaning back and looking him straight in the eyes.
"This is why I wanted to meet you," he said.
We kissed again, our bodies pressed tight together. It was like we were made for each other, the perfect fit. He held me close, my back to the window, I could feel the sunlight on my back. His hands cupped my face, his fingers brushed against my lips. I opened my mouth and his little finger entered, my tongue ran across the tip as my lips closed around it.
He looked into my eyes and I just melted, I couldn't imagine anyone I'd rather be with, and in that exact moment nothing else in the world mattered. It was just the two of us. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me again, and as he did I felt him rise against me. I moved slightly and he groaned as I pressed against his crotch.
He closed his eyes, biting the corner of his bottom lip as I pressed harder against his bulge, feeling him through the material of his pants. My trembling fingers reached for the zip. It caught as I tried to pull it down, an awkward moment as I fumbled with the metal clasp, and then it fully opened and my fingers slipped inside. I touched him lightly, and then unable to resist, I pressed my hand against him, feeling him through the thin material of his underwear. Already hard, his dick twitched at the sensation of my pressure against it.
Slowly but surely I moved down his body, lightly planting kisses all over. A trail of affection leading from his lips to his neck and downwards. My hands reaching under his shirt and moving up his chest, exposing the cool bare skin to my mouth. I kissed his smooth toned stomach, my fingers reaching under the waistband of his underwear. I licked my dry lips as I pushed down his pants and gasped as...
I heard footsteps in the corridor, and jumped at the sound of the door flying open and hitting the doorstop. I immediately snapped out of my daydream and faced reality.
Mr Keyes stepped inside, carrying a large bundle of paper and a big box containing what I assumed were bottles of paint. He seemed surprised to see me there, but not half as surprised as I was to see him. My initial shock gave way to a moment of annoyance as I realised he'd ruined my fantasy with his untimely interruption. However, that feeling quickly died as the reality of the situation took over. My fantasy may have ended, but the after effects were still lingering and showed no sign of going down, in spite of the embarrassment I now felt.
"Steven, I didn't expect you to still be here."
"I thought I'd try and get a bit more work done. It's alright isn't it?"
"Of course. It's always nice to see students taking an interest," Mr Keyes answered, sounding slightly out of breath.
He looked around, trying to find a place to put the supplies he was carrying, but with the room being so small, free space was at a premium and there were no obvious homes for his increasingly awkward load. As he looked around, trying not to tip the precariously balanced box of paints, I was sat trying desperately to think of as many unerotic images as I could. Unfortunately, I was in one of those moods where no matter what I thought about, I managed to quickly switch my mind to something more appealing.
Even the thought of Mr Keyes being here and the potential shame if he caught sight of my aroused state wasn't enough to quell my excitement. If anything, it heightened it. I had to stop myself from letting thoughts of a new fantasy fill my head. I'd always had a thing for teachers, and Mr Keyes wasn't totally repulsive, in a suit-and-tie, older-and-distinguished kind of way. I wonder what he looked like naked? He had a moustache and a permanent five o'clock shadow, and in the summer, when he wore short sleeved shirts, I could tell his arms were covered in course, dark hair. He must be hairy all over.
I mentally kicked myself and tried to think of my grandparents having sex, but it wasn't working. Now all I could think about was Mr Keyes letting me make up my grades in ways other than painting. I wondered what it would feel like, our naked bodies rubbing together. I bet it would feel good to kiss him, not just from the whole power trip of being with someone I shouldn't, but the rub of his stubble against my smooth skin. Needless to say, these thoughts were not helping my passions cool and my dick, far from relaxing, was rock hard and straining against the leg of my pants.
"Could you give me a hand?" he asked, nodding at the corner desk. "Just move some of that stuff to one side for a minute."
I froze. I couldn't say no, but at the same time I couldn't very well stand up while in this state. What could I do? My mind raced, and I had just a couple of seconds to think of something. Underneath the desk and hopefully out of sight, I thrust one hand down my trousers, grabbed my still stiff cock and guided it away from my leg. I pressed it against my stomach, pointing towards my navel, where hopefully it wouldn't form an obvious tent in my pants. Then I stood and walked carefully towards him.
"Just that stuff there," he said nodding again at the notes and sketches which someone had left on the bench.
I manoeuvred myself around him, carefully trying to avoid knocking the paper he carried out of his hands. Then I set about clearing a space for the supplies.
"Is this alright?" I asked, unsure.
"Hopefully," he replied as he tried to set everything down.
The box of paint bottles slid slightly as he lowered it to meet the bench. He probably could have saved it from falling, but I decided not to risk it, and instead took it from the top of the paper.
"Thanks," he said as he set the paper down before taking the box from me and placing it on a stool standing next to the desk.
Free from his load, he stepped over to my work bench to view my still far from finished picture.
"Its coming along nicely isn't it?" He said, ever the optimist.
"I suppose so," I replied.
It never paid to argue with him. His rose-tinted view of the world was seen through glasses which were bolted to his face.
"Do you know what it reminds me of?"
"An explosion in an acrylic paint factory?" I said, deadly serious.
He completely ignored the comment.
"Remember those pictures we looked at in Art History last month? Giotto's early works?"
I didn't, but I didn't like to say that. Art History was Mr Keyes' great love, a love he thought we should all share, and while I did quite enjoy the subject, that was a secret I really didn't want to share with him for fear of being inundated with information on every artist who ever lived. A brief interest in one period in the history of Art does not a full-on passion make.
Besides which, I still have vivid memories of the disappointed look on his face when he found out that the class' request to borrow the radio from his office was not so we could all sit and listen to news bulletins and educational programs. Rather, we wanted to listen to music which to him was both tuneless and mind numbing. He had us all painted in his head as perfect students, our faults hidden somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind. Any proof offered by us that we were, in fact, far from perfect, was enough to crush him. So I lied.
"Sort of," I replied.
"You must have been inspired by his use of perspective."
"I don't think so."
"Very subconsciously, maybe."
"I have some books with a few of his works. You might find them interesting."
I looked at my watch as I planned my escape from the potential nightmare of being trapped looking at old pictures for an eternity.
My erection had long since died down, and with it any possible thrill I might have found in being stuck in a small room with Mr Keyes. It was one thing to waste my free time on my own work, but to waste it looking at reprints of someone else's, that's something I wasn't prepared to do.
"I really have to get going." I mumbled as I grabbed my bag from beneath my desk.
I quickly proceeded to stuff my belongings inside. I didn't want to leave any time for Mr Keyes to try and persuade me that Art was more important than freedom.
"Will you be in tomorrow?" he asked casually, no mention made of my turning down his request to stay a little longer.
Strangely I felt a bit disappointed. It's not that I really wanted to stay or anything, it's just that I thought he might have tried a little harder to persuade me.
"I don't know. Maybe." I answered, not wanting to commit myself.
"It's just that I'm just trying to get as many of the class in as possible. I might have an announcement to make about a new student joining us."
"A new student?."
My interest was immediately piqued.
"Nothing's set in stone yet, but it's looking very likely. They're extremely enthusiastic about joining us, which is really all that matters isn't it?"
I didn't like to say 'No', but it's what I was thinking. Mr Keyes has a nasty habit of backing the student who seems to enjoy their work the most rather the one who's any good at it, which is frustrating to say the least. The last thing I needed was more competition, or even just another body taking up space in an already overcrowded room.
"Who is it?" I didn't mean my question to sound as abrupt as it did.
"That would be telling. You'll have to be here tomorrow if you want to find out."
A seed of doubt entered my mind as I wondered for a moment if this was another one of Mr Keyes many attempts to encourage us to spend more time on our work. Would I show up tomorrow only to find out that this imaginary new student had decided against joining us? It didn't matter, I had to be there just in case it did turn out to be true.
"Is tomorrow morning okay?" I asked, trying to disguise all signs of curiosity from my voice.
"Brilliant. I do think a formal introduction is best. Having everyone together at the same time, it just makes it so much easier for everyone."
I nodded in agreement as I headed for the door. I decided that before I left, I might as well make one last attempt to get at least a small piece of information about this new student.
"So is he new here or not?"
"What makes you think he's male?" Mr Keyes asked, smiling. He seemed to be enjoying his moment of feeling in demand.
"The fact you've just said he." I answered, not thinking there was any great significance in what he had said, I just wanted to pretend I had a reason.
"They are male and that is all I'm telling you. We don't want to curse this now do we?"
It was probably making his day that he might potentially now have more students than the Music department, and felt it was his right to milk the moment for all it was worth.
"Well are they new here or just switching subjects?" I asked.
"All will be revealed tomorrow," he answered, enigmatically.
"Not even a tiny clue?" I asked, opening the door and stepping into the corridor.
"He's already a student here. Now that's all I'm saying."
I let the door swing shut, and set off slowly down the hall. Already a student here? I wondered who it could be. I knew the Head was pretty flexible when it came to students switching courses, but we were a good few months into the term. Surely it was too late for someone here to change their minds and decide they wanted to do something different. I could maybe understand it if they were moving here from another school and had to start their lessons over again, but other than that, I couldn't see how it would work. Really, I may as well have been on holiday for three months if all the work we did during that time is so dispensable someone can walk into the room and just pick up from where we are now.
My mind was still going over this as I turned the corner and almost walked straight into a rapidly approaching figure. Quick reflexes from both of us were all that stopped us from colliding. As we both side stepped around each other, our apologies sounding simultaneously, we each realised who it was we had almost crashed into.
There she was, Kelly Dawson. A girl so perfect that even I was attracted to her. It wasn't her looks, although she was beautiful. Long, wavy brown hair framing creamy smooth skin. Hazel eyes that sparkled all the time. That was her secret, she sparkled. Her beauty was all natural, unlike the more typical popular girls around here, with their identikit bleached blonde hair and high-street clothes. Kelly was an individual, offbeat I suppose you'd call it, and as such she stood out a mile from everyone.
"You're here late," I said assuming, as I'd always done, that Kelly had to catch a bus home, and so never hung around after hours.
"So are you," she replied smiling.
She had one of those Mona Lisa smiles, never showing teeth, always making you wonder what was going on in her mind.
"Yes, but I'm leaving, but you're just on your way in. Technically that's sadder." I joked.
"I just can't keep away," she replied, her voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Mr Keyes is down there, mind."
This piece of news seemed to disappoint her enormously. I almost wished I hadn't said anything. I knew that I had to, but seeing Kelly anything less than completely happy was enough to bring my mood down several levels.
"Really? Do you think he'll be long?" she asked.
"I don't know. He was clearing stuff away when I left."
"Well so much for that plan," she said, sounding defeated.
"Come on, what plan?"
I was curious now. With Kelly you never knew what she might be up to, and when your life is so sad your only self created excitement comes from fantasies, you grab onto any chance of a vicarious thrill you can get.
"What are you up to?" I persisted.
''Nothing. Not now anyway."
She paused for a moment as if considering her options, and from the look on her face nothing had sprung to mind.
"Well what would you have been doing?"
She carried off the innocent act surprisingly well. Her parents were religious, though, so she'd obviously had lots of practice.
"Go on, you can trust me. I won't tell anyone."
I put on a mock hurt tone to my voice and fixed a serious look to my face. It was only a joke, but she seemed to take it seriously.
"I know that. I didn't mean I couldn't trust you. I'm sorry."
She sounded really flustered now. Again, I was hurting her for no good reason. Sometimes, no, a lot of the time I underestimate other people's reactions to what I say. Its like I know its meant as a joke, so I assume everyone else should, but they don't.
"Come on I was joking. I don't mind if you don't tell me. Well, I do but that just because I'm nosy."
I smiled and she smiled back, and I thought to myself 'How is it possible to be attracted to someone of the opposite sex?'
Its not physical; I don't want to see her naked or anything stupid like that. I think I'm just in love with her personality. Which is a cliché, I know, and probably something guys say to girls all the time to hide the fact that it's the size of their chest they're really attracted to. But as Kelly's, or for that matter any woman's, chest holds absolutely no interest for me, it really is all down to personalities. And Kelly's must be pretty damn spectacular to make me consider her better than most men.
"I just wanted somewhere quiet to hang out. It was going to be perfect."
"Of Mice and Men," I said off the top of my head.
"Yeah, best laid plans and all that," she replied.
This was why I got on so well with her. No matter what I said, however obscure or off on a tangent it was, she understood. How often do you find that in a person?
"Someone was looking for you," I said, suddenly remembering her visitor from earlier.
The suprise of bumping into her had made me forget all about pretty much everything.
"I don't know who it was though. Some guy," I added, vaguely.
"Martin?" she asked.
"I don't know. He didn't give his name."
"Tall, good looking?"
"Aren't all your boyfriends?" I said smiling.
This time she took the joke well and laughed.
"They're not all tall."
"Name one that wasn't," I challenged.
I could have let it go, but I wanted to see how she would get out of this. If there was one thing she liked in her men, it was height, but if there was one thing she hated, it was being told she had a type.
"Dan Reynolds," she said triumphantly after a long pause.
"Who was he?" I asked, trying to put the name to a face.
"That exchange student from Canada. Remember? He came over for a few months before the summer break last year."
I laughed and shook my head. The description had jogged my memory.
"You mean those few months when you were in a wheelchair after you hurt your knee? A midget would have been taller than you when you were sitting in that thing."
"The fact remains, he was not shorter than me."
"This guy had brown hair."
"Martin," she said, nodding her head.
So that was his name. Martin. He didn't look like a Martin. I don't know what he did look like, but I didn't think it was a Martin.
"I thought you were seeing Joe."
"That was last month," Kelly seemed to find it funny I was so behind with the times.
"I didn't realise there was a time limit on these things," I said half jokingly, knowing full well that in Kelly's world the worlds greatest love affair could be done and dusted within a week. I mean take Martin for instance, if I hadn't bumped into him today he would have just joined the list of men Kelly would occasionally mention as being the last man to take her to such and such a place and I'm left thinking where I was while she was dating the guy.
Kelly's routine went something along the lines of 'if it lasts more than a week introduce him to other people, if it doesn't make it through the seven days forget about it'. Joe, who I'd assumed she was still seeing had lasted a good few weeks and as such had been a regular figure around the art room where nobody really minded if you weren't part of the class.
"So he's already been and gone?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied.
She didn't seem anywhere near as disappointed as I thought she should have been. She had just missed meeting the best man I'd ever seen her with, and that's saying something. Kelly has been out with some top quality men.
"Well, we wouldn't have had anywhere to go anyway. I'll just have to see him tomorrow."
"What exactly were you planning on doing in that room?" I asked, not really needing to, as I had a pretty good idea.
Trust Kelly to be actually living out the fantasies I conjured up.
"I was just going to talk to him."
"A likely story."
"No, its true. I'm finishing with him."
She stated this quite matter of factly, which given the number of times she'd done it, was probably understandable. It still broke my heart, though, even if it meant nothing much to her. She couldn't dump Martin - how would I get to see him again?
"Why, what's wrong with him?"
As I asked the question my mind strayed to the wholly unrealistic possibility that she had discovered he was secretly gay and was using her to get to someone close to her, say in her Art class. Unfortunately, knowing my luck, all that would lead to was the discovery that he was in love with Mr Keyes.
"It wasn't what I thought it would be like. You know how you can picture yourself with someone and then, when you finally get with them, it's completely different to how you imagined it?"
"Yes," I agreed, lying.
I really had no idea what that was like, but it would be a real conversation killer to admit it.
"Maybe if you give him another chance he could change," I said hopefully, clinging to the possibility Kelly could change her mind.
"I don't think so. Anyway he shouldn't have to change just to keep me happy. That's not right."
"I'm sure he wouldn't mind," I said.
"Well even if he didn't I've kind of found someone else now anyway."
"Already? You don't think maybe you should slow down a little bit?"
"Well at this rate you're going to run out of people to date."
"We've already talked about this. You worry too much, anyway it's my reputation."
"Never mind your reputation. I just think maybe you're jumping the gun a bit with some of these guys. If you gave them a bit more of a chance maybe you'd really get to like them."
"I don't know. You really think Martin was okay?"
"He seemed nice enough." I said, grossly underplaying my enthusiasm for him. Kelly paused, obviously thinking over what I'd said and most probably taken aback by my sudden interest in her love life.
"I suppose I didn't give him much of a chance. I don't know he seemed pretty full of himself."
"Maybe he was just nervous," I said.
"Maybe. I guess I could sleep on it. It mightn't hurt to give him one more chance," Kelly said.
"Sounds like a plan," I said, my emotions a mixture of relief that I had at least bought myself some time to work on my Martin campaign and also guilt that I was using my friend like this.
Of course, I knew full well I shouldn't be giving advice based on what suited me, rather than what was best for the people who were actually caught up in the situation. However, it's easy enough to know what the right thing is, but it's a completely different matter to actually set about putting it into practice, and I was in far too selfish a mood to think rationally.
Somewhere in my mind, the justification process had kicked into gear, and I was convincing myself that with a few pushes in the right direction, Kelly and Martin could have a long and happy relationship, with me standing in the middle. It was crazed, and most probably delusional, but it was a plan. Underneath it all was the knowledge that, brilliant though Kelly was, her taste in men was usually questionable to say the least. This wasn't much of an excuse, I know, but it was enough to allow me to convince myself that I wasn't being completely selfish in my actions. I saw a future where Kelly had a boyfriend I liked, a boyfriend I really liked, and I knew that I had to do whatever I could to try and make that dream scenario a reality.