We sat around the classroom waiting for our tutor group teacher to turn up. I liked this aspect of 6th form life, along with the awe-struck looks of the younger kids, being able to lounge around in the warm, while the rest of the school shivered in this year's unseasonably early October frosts was cool. Of course it would have been better if we could have stayed in the 6th form centre, but registration was due to be called and so we had to hang around waiting for Mrs. Wolf to deign to come to us and call register. It wasn't so bad, conversations started earlier continued and most of the members of 'my gang' were in this tutor group with me.
"Hey, John, why so down?"
This was Julie; my best mate; well one of them; she was cute. We had almost gone out together, but drawn back and now we were just good mates. Not that I didn't lust after her occasionally, you understand.
"I'm not. I was just wondering where our esteemed tutor-group tutor had got to."
I checked my watch. There were 10 minutes of registration period left, before lessons were supposed to start. Actually I had none this morning and normally I only came in for the afternoon - another 6th form perk - but today I felt like some company and I needed to use the library anyway.
"Oh. I heard we had a new girl starting; she's probably giving her the tour. I thought you knew, otherwise why are you here?"
"I was pining for your luscious body."
"You weren't pining yesterday evening! That was you with Mary trying to give her a hands free tonsillectomy wasn't it?"
I grinned; Jules wasn't jealous, well, not much.
"So tell me about the new girl?"
But before she could tell me more, the door opened and the aptly named Mrs. Wolf entered the room. She was followed by the new girl. She seemed shy and looked pretty in an unconventional way, it was hard to tell as she staring very hard at her feet. Then she looked up and caught me looking at her.
Our eyes locked. I'd never believed anyone when they said that; but they did. I couldn't explain it; I couldn't stop staring at her and she, apparently, was equally as unable to do anything but return my stare. I became aware that some one was punching my arm.
"Breathe! You idiot! Breathe or you'll faint." Suddenly I noticed that my peripheral vision was going. With a great effort I concentrated on returning my breathing to normal.
"Is everything all right, John?"
"Sorry Mrs. Wolf, I'm OK now."
"In that case, I'd like to introduce you all to Alice."
The new girl smiled shyly at us and I managed to look at her without becoming entranced again.
"And the idiot sitting next to me is John, the 6th Form Committee Chairman, who would normally say a few words - it's hard to stop him - but it since he seems to have lost the power of coherent speech, I'll say it. 'Welcome to the 6th form.' Oh yeah, I'm Julie, this idiot's treasurer and right-hand woman."
"Look, come and sit over here with us, before John's drool floods the room."
I roused myself at this outrageous remark.
"Oi! I was not drooling." Mrs. Wolf interrupted any further repartee by asking the tutor group if we knew where Tim was. A chorus of half-hearted explanations along the lines of 'had too much too drink last night' was finally brought to a halt by a knock on the door.
"Come in!" The knock was unusual, most people who went visiting at this time of day, just opened the door with a cursory knuckle rap, usually made by knocking on the door frame as the door was half-open. A hesitant first-year was revealed as the door opened.
"Please miss, I've got a note from Mum about Timothy."
"Oh I was just asking about him, is he alright?"
"The doctor says he has the 'flu, an' he won't be well enough to come to school for ages." This was delivered in a breathless rush by Tim's sister who was still a little overawed by the presence of all these 6th formers, normally 1st years only got to see us in ones and twos. Since I was nearest the door I jumped down from my seat on a desk and took the letter from her. I glanced at Mrs. Wolf, who nodded slightly.
"Thanks Andrea. Tell Tim when you get home that we're all thinking of him and we hope he gets well soon."
"Tell him not to worry about his course work, I'll see that we set up a home-study pack for when he's better." Mrs. Wolf added.
Andrea nodded and ran off, grateful to have bearded the lions in their den with so little harm to herself. I passed the letter to Mrs. Wolf, who read it and tucked it into the register and prepared to leave the room. The bell went for the first period. Alice was looking lost and apprehensive.
"Do you know what you're supposed to be doing this period?"
She glanced at the timetable, "It says 'Free Study'". I thanked whatever Gods were looking after me that morning.
"Look, I'll take you to the 6th form centre; we can't stay here or Mr. Jarret will rope us into teaching the 2nd years French. I don't know about you but my French will set the 'Entente Cordiale' back half a century."
She smiled and nodded, and we followed the rest of the tutor group out of the room, by this time a gaggle of 2nd years were hanging around the door waiting to go in. A few of the girls started to giggle when they saw me, and half-whispered comments about Alice and me followed us down the corridor.
"Sorry about that. They don't mean anything by it."
Alice smiled again, "It seems I'm in the clutches of the School Casanova!"
"I'm no monk, but if you believe the gossip I've been out with all of the 6th form and half the staff as well!"
"So. You and Julie are you... ?"
"Oh no. We nearly did, but we decided not too. She said it was like kissing her brother." I tried to smile at the memory. "So we decided to be mates; anyway she's been attached to Martin for nearly two years now - it looks like true love - I've learned to live with it."
We had reached the door to the 6th form centre - our little haven of peace and... The sounds of some raucous thrash metal assaulted our ears.
"SORRY ABOUT THIS." I shouted as I raced to switch off the second-hand sound system that some generous parent had endowed us with. "OK which dickhead left it on this time?" I asked the room. "Didn't you hear the bells?" No one answered and half of them looked quite sheepish. "I wouldn't care one way or the other, but you've missed registration and now I'll get in the neck at the next liaison meeting. If they decide to take this thing away I'm not fighting it this time!"
The silence stretched and became uncomfortable, they were in the wrong and they knew it. I sighed with exasperation. "You know the rules we agreed to: 'Not in lesson time.' Which one of those four words do you not understand?" No one met my eye.
I turned to Alice, "They're OK really, it's just they have to be slapped down once a week or so." I turned back to them. "This is Alice, take it easy on her for a week or two OK?" They nodded, relieved that I wasn't playing the heavy chairman any longer. "I won't introduce them all individually but collectively this lot are the 'Monday Morning Mafia' or the 'Three Ems' and I get more grief about them, than about everything else put together - why I agreed to stand for the committee I'll never know and why I let them vote me in as chairman is beyond me..."
"You love it and you know it!" Said a familiar voice from the doorway.
"Take no notice of Jules; she's just jealous."
"Yeah, I still have to go to all the meetings, but I don't get followed around by a gang of adoring 2nd years!"
"Well if you'd just ditch Martin and go out with me we'd kill two birds with one stone."
"In your dreams! However, much as I'm enjoying this, some of us have work to do. Nice to see you again Alice; just remember that every second thing he tells you is a lie and you won't go far wrong." And with a wave she left the room letting the door bang shut behind her.
I steered Alice over to a couple of chairs in the corner and we subsided into them. "So, Alice, where're you from?"
"We've been living abroad mostly, my dad's job means that we move around a lot. We've just got back from Romania."
"Oh the land of Vampires and Werewolves."
She jerked her head up.
"Sorry I shouldn't have interrupted - it was a stupid line anyway."
"'S Okay, I'm just a bit jittery; this is all so different from where I've been for the last year or so."
"What subjects are you doing?"
"Well I did Maths in a year last year so I'm doing Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry."
The Gods were having a field day with me - my subjects too - I was in for some serious bad luck to offset all this good luck.
"Those are my subjects too! So just 'stick with me kid' and I'll see that you don't get lost."
We chatted some more; she was easy to talk to and she seemed to open up with me after a while too. I still had difficult looking into her eyes, it was all too easy to forget to breathe; I was going to have to do something about that; I'd lost one girl already by not being clear about how I'd felt about her and I was not going to make the same mistake twice. So I gathered all my courage and started to speak.
"Look, this is going to sound really strange - but I promised myself that the next time I felt anything like this I'd say something - do you believe in love at first sight?"
"Oh thank God! I thought it was just me; when I saw you for the first time I just..."
By this time she'd grabbed my hand; the electric feel of her skin against mine was like nothing I'd ever felt before.
"How do you feel about going to see a film with me tonight?"
"I think I'd love it. We don't have to go out though, my parents aren't at home this evening."
"We don't have to..."