“A Girls School?” I wailed “A Girls School, Mum?”
“Don’t forget the apostrophe, Jimmy.” was her reply. How the hell could she tell I’d missed out an apostrophe when I spoke? She was that kind of woman. If cleanliness was next to Godliness, then grammar trumped them both. “I know it is not ideal, but this school is terminating my contract. They need the money to teach woodwork or personal hygiene or something equivalent on the intellectual scale. Jimmy, let us be honest; it is not a very good school is it? Your grades could be much better. You have a high IQ.”
This was true, I was already studying ‘A’ levels, which meant I was studying 2 years above my age. I’d taken GCSEs last year and passed all of them, but not necessarily at grades that I should have got. The school had the dubious record of the largest number of different first languages in the county. We had Somalis, Ethiopians, Moroccans, Algerians, Turkish, Korean, Chinese refugees (no Chinese family would willingly send their child here), Ebo, Tutsi, Xhosa; oh you get the picture. So why was Mum teaching bloody Latin? Her classes had become increasingly small (decreasingly large? See, my Mum’s managed to make me obsess over language too). The school had once aspired to be a beacon of opportunity, matching the best the selective schools in the next county could offer. Now it aspired to avoid ‘special measures’. It wasn’t that these refugees and flotsam from around the world were stupid, but how well would YOU do if you were dumped in a Russian school only able to speak English? They struggled, some carried on struggling, others gave up. Latin was not an essential tool for life here, being able to say ‘a pint of milk and a loaf of bread’, in an accent the shop keeper could understand, was.
I looked at Mum, she hated private, fee paying schools; but she was an expert at a language that fewer and fewer schools of any kind taught. She explained that the private sixth form college was keen to offer it, had students half way through their courses, and had a vacancy because the fifty year old teacher had keeled over and died. I found out later that he had keeled over and died while being given fellatio by a student keen on getting better grades. His heart couldn’t cope with the twenty stone of fat and the sexual eruption that was happening. As I say, I found that out much later. She was trying her best. Not the student (who was spirited away for counselling), my Mum. Dad had opted for the easy life of fucking anything with female genitalia, when she was pregnant. By the time I was born, he wasn’t on the scene. She had done a good job of bringing me up. But a girls’ school? I smiled at her, she knew I’d agree, what choice did we have.
“Look, Jimmy, take the admission test. If you pass, then the head has agreed you can join. If not, Bracknell Comprehensive is half an hour on the bus, so not too bad ‘I guess’.” This last in a mock American accent. She hated the terminological inexactitude that much US TV taught her pupils. Actually that sounded pretty awful too; I know lots of kids travel by bus, but I was used to a personal chauffeur – in the form of my Mum – so getting a school bus didn’t hold out a lot of fun to me. “Maybe Douglas could visit at holidays?”
I smiled again. Yes, I’d miss my best friend, of course I would, but that wasn’t what she meant. Douglas McClaren was good looking, handsome beyond his years, firm and muscly without looking like a weightlifter, and had perfect blond hair. He played rugby for the school, had even played for the first team a few times as a three-quarter, even though he was only fourteen; he had a turn of speed that left most forwards standing. He was my best friend. We’d hit it off early on, I really don’t know why. I was okay at sports and – no false modesty – very intelligent; he was very good at sports and – as he put it in a mockney accent ‘Fick as a brick’. He wasn’t, really, but he wasn’t academic. He’d done a few fashion shoots for children’s clothes. That’s how we got talking, he missed a class, I lent him some notes to catch up; he let on that he hadn’t had a ‘severe headache’ as his mother had written, he’d gone up to London for a shoot. He carried on, even after he broke his nose in a match. He had the gift of the gab. His agent was horrified, Dougie explained that he looked a little more rugged, which would appeal to people. Handsome and tough, what boy wouldn’t aspire to that, wearing new Tuff shoes, or whatever he was modelling.
So we made friends, I helped him with his homework sometimes, he helped me with the school bullies. Having a teacher as a mother made me a target, Dougie helped get them off my back. A couple of fights, that’s all it took. I was happy with one-on-one fights, Dougie stepped in to ensure fair play if there was more than one. Oh, and he was the first guy to come out at the school. Now he’d already proved himself on the rugby field, and the rugby teams were generally fine with him being gay, straight, or whatever. Of course they made funny comments about not bending over in the showers, and he told them he’d rather pork his dog than their hairy arses, and everybody was happy. I think he was genuinely concerned about how I’d take it. I didn’t care. So we stayed friends.
We stayed friends, and people assumed I was probably gay because I was his friend. Mum clearly assumed I was gay, which was fine to her. She had probably said that to the head teacher of this new college; which might explain why they were willing to take a boy on. And I might be, I mean, I didn’t know. Dougie is stunningly handsome, does that mean I’m attracted to him or just able to recognise a handsome boy? Plenty of girls at the school would have welcomed the opportunity to try and ‘convert’ him. But me? I don’t know; at fourteen I was unsure of my sexuality. Perhaps I did have a crush on him. Or perhaps I wanted to be friends with him.
Mum had had a hard time with being a single parent; but she’d been great with me. From early on we had talked about stuff. “What should we have for dinner?” she’d ask and she wasn’t some patronising yummy mummy. She expected me to answer. We had chips and ice cream at my suggestion, when I was four. It was horrible. I learnt something about matching flavours. I learnt to cook. I learnt to use the washing machine at eight. I learnt about red and white wine, and I tried beer with my fish and chips at ten. And I was well rounded and not in need of a father figure, because Mum had ensured I understood the offside rule, and how to sew; how to hit a boy in the nads to stop him dead, and how to tie a tie in four different ways. She was great. For a while, she was undoubtedly my best friend, even at fourteen she was in the top five, and now I still think ‘what would she have done’.
She had encouraged me to have friends to stay in primary school (up to 11), and had explained that she, too, liked to have friends to stay. That her friends were always men was not lost on me. She picked carefully before bringing anybody home. No weirdos tried to finger the little boy or anything. They were often nice, well adjusted men. One had a son the same age as me, and we all got on well. Then his wife won custody and moved the boy to Cornwall, and the father took a salary drop and moved to Cornwall, just to be near his son. See? That’s proper, loving parenting. The kind of man my mother dated. It introduced me to sex at an early age too. I understood that the men and my mother liked to share a bed, and that when they were there it generally wasn’t okay to go in until the morning. I kind of got the idea of what they were doing, and asked a question of two and Mum explained like it was all very normal – which of course it is – and I just went along with it. Although when I asked a guy one morning (when I was seven) if he liked sex, he was a little unsure what to say.
So, I wailed more about moving schools than about where it was or what it was. The entrance exam was interesting. A written paper, a multiple choice paper, and a discussion group. Written paper: Brexit is a ridiculous term to describe the catastrophic destruction on the UK, discuss. So I wrote about the term Brexit, most people wrote about whether leaving the EU was good or bad. I heard later that the head actually clapped when she realised someone had properly read the question. Multiple Choice: 8, 15, 106, 34. Next number in the series is 1, 7, 1045, impossible. That kind of thing. Mostly easy. Discussion: So, what is education for? Most of the girls (we were in a group of seven) suggested the standard things, I suggested it was to make lots of money (I was just being provocative). It was really about whether you could be lucid and speak clearly. I was in, actually I think all the girls who were at the selection day were in. It was more about forming an opinion of them than about selecting them. That had been done already.
Bonus, Bona, Bonum;
Boni, Bonae, Boni;
... and so on. I had this all in my head from the age of five. Was I the only five year old whose second language was Latin? Mother and I had shopped in Asda, all in Latin (what’s the latin for hamburger? isicia omentata? Or tritum rhoncus bubulae? It was a challenge to get stuff I wanted. I remember Mum talking to a policeman. Apparently someone thought we might be illegal immigrants. Mum thought Latin was, or should be, an essential part of education. She was lucky to find a school that agreed, I knew that. I’d go along with her.
We arrived three days before school started, with a large van of our personal possessions – half full of books – and Bono. No, not Bonio, or Bone. Bono. Latin, see? Bono was the dog. Five years old and daft as a brush. She was going to enjoy living where there were fields to run in, after the town we’d lived in. (‘in which we lived, Jimmy’, ‘yes Ma’) The school must have been very desperate to accept the dog as well. We had a tied cottage in the grounds. This was as close to Mum’s dream job as it was ever likely to happen. If the school had been a state school, she would have been set for life. She didn’t believe in people paying for education, but then the state of which she was so supportive was the same state that had decided Latin was elitist. So we moved piles of books into one of the two receptions. I moved my pile of books into my bedroom. It was only later that I realised what the view was. I hadn’t chosen this room. It was allocated to me as the smaller of the two bedrooms, with a chalet-style ceiling. What that means is the roof came down, causing the ceiling to slope towards the window. The window stood out from the roof, therefore, with sides of glass too. From one side, I had a view of the open air swimming pool. The girls had a choice, run down from the sports hall changing rooms in their swimming costumes, or change beside the pool. There were no changing rooms at the pool. I was to discover these fringe benefits in the next few days.
So, we unpacked, stacked, arranged, re-arranged and I got bored, and Mum got ratty, and I was sent out. “Before you say something I’ll regret.” was the way she put it. I called Bono and we walked across the playing fields to the school nature reserve; a charming wooded area of perhaps five acres. My last school had a playground of half an acre, this school had so much land, they could allocate five acres to go wild! We explored it, careful not to disturb any wildlife, I kept Bono close. She was desperate to explore, to look, sniff, roll and mark. To ... hello? What’s this? I was looking at a lean-to of willow withies. There were a couple of these, created to provide some cover for wildlife. This one was subtly different. It covered a hole, and when I crawled in and down, the hole became a trench hidden from the outside by more undergrowth. We crept under brambles which must have been carefully grown over the trench, else they would have grown down into it. The trench ended at the earth bank that formed the upper boundary of the reserve. This bank was said to be an Iron Age hill fort ring; if true, this was unusual, since it had a steel door in it. I pulled at the door and revealed that the bank was, in fact, an old air raid shelter. Under the earth bank was a long tunnel, which descended and then headed in the direction of the school. There was no way I was going beyond the limited light. I never did like spiders.
Bono and I left and clambered out of the covered tunnel. Now it made sense, the trench was brick lined, but the bricks had long ago been hidden by undergrowth. This place could be more interesting than I thought. Maybe it had been used by the army and they had left a stack of Lee-Enfields, or a Bren Gun, or, or ... I was getting excited. I returned to our cottage, my interest in the place renewed. I even made the dinner that night – we had thought of going in to the town and buying fish and chips or a takeaway, but we were both too tired. The van would have to be returned to Avis tomorrow, we could get a takeaway then. Mashed potato, onions and chopped bacon with a sprinkle of paprika and a light melted cheese topping. See? Told you I’d learnt to cook.
I went back with Mum to take the van back. She picked up her car and drove us and the car load of more books back. We agreed that we were honour bound to try the fish and chips to compare to our old local. One day, we agreed, the Susan and Jimmy’s Fish and Chip Guide would be a best seller. We had tried them in about thirty places by now. Bono loved her chips without salt and vinegar; I liked mine swimming in vinegar and smothered in salt. Mum always told me how bad the salt was, but it was only once a month or so (once a week if we were in need of cheering up). We bought a battered sausage for the dog as a treat. She wolfed it down and came back for more. Dogs know to fill up when they can. Tomorrow the pack may not manage to kill again – though I’m not sure fish and chips constitute a valid kill.
The day before term began, the place filled up with cars. Some were Ford Fiestas and Smart Cars with girls shouting “Trixie! How lovely!” at each other. Others were Jaguars and BMWs with parents dropping off their daughters. I felt suddenly shy, I didn’t want to be seen and have to explain myself. Then I saw the Morris Minor and couldn’t help but be drawn by its 1960s beauty. I drifted over to admire it, pretending to myself that I was the brother of somebody here, and hoping that would make people assume I was.
“Like it?” said a voice that could have melted a snowball at fifty paces. I turned and looked.
“You’re lovely.” I said and reddened with embarrassment. “I mean it’s lovely.” I’d pictured some butch non-fashion freak with a penchant for old classic cars. The girl looking at me was in skin tight jeans, a buttoned shirt untucked with one too many buttons undone at the top, and a red scarf tied round her neck, not unlike the one we put on Bono sometimes for fun. She had auburn hair, green eyes, red lips; and I was in love. I’d have walked over red hot coals for her, and I’d known her for ten seconds!
“Cynthia. Susan Langham. Pleased to meet you.” I was confused, then I saw the number plate – CYN 812 – the car was Cynthia.
“Hello Jimmy James, your sister here is she?”
“Just Jimmy, or James. No, I’m, that is, my Mum is the new Latin teacher, and I’ve been allowed to join the school.” Her eyes widened briefly.
“Oh, right. That will be interesting. You know this is a sixth form college?”
“Yes, I’m taking A levels, or I will be. It’s nice here isn’t it?”
“Yes, you are. I mean. It is.” I turned redder than a beetroot.
Susan laughed; “You’re sweet.” Which made me feel even more clumsy. “See you around, James.”
My mother called over that she was going to make tea. We’d been told that we could eat with the school if we wanted to, but we both felt this was a special evening for the two of us. Things were about to change.
“So, pizza? Pasta? Or paella? Oh, there is no paella, I just liked the alliteration. Jimmy.”
“Whichever you want. Only ... perhaps I should start a new school with my real name. How about calling me James from now on?” Susan looked at me, perhaps he wasn’t gay? I guessed that she was trying to work it out; was it just that I wanted to seem more grown up to the girls? Well, I did, but for very good, lustful reasons. No, I’d said I’d really miss Douglas McClaren; and Douglas was definitely gay. And also very good looking. She had found his perfect face on top of her in her fantasies a couple of times, to her shame. She had been disgusted when a teacher at another school had had a relationship with one of the girls; she knew she wasn’t much better. Well, maybe a little, she hadn’t slept with Douglas (‘ah’ said her conscience ‘but would you if he fancied you?’). She made a pizza, they watched a DVD - ‘M’ and he went to bed conflicted, he felt sorry for the monster, how to deal with that? Susan was pleased, she liked that he saw the nuances and complications in life. Superheroes were all very well, but people were a mixture of good and bad.
I went up to the bedroom, looked out the window. How come the lights were on at the pool? How come there were lights and no changing rooms? Oh, how come they ... they were ... Oh ... I watched as five of the returning girls got changed. They were a little way away, but I could see. The girls took it in turns to hold up a towel in front of another so no-one in the school could see. But I was on the other side. I watched as an attractive, slight girl bent and pulled down her pants, I willed her to turn round, but she didn’t. She stepped into her costume, pulled it up and hooked the shoulder straps onto her shoulders; ran her fingers round her lower seams – I imagined my fingers running round her legs, adjusting her costume and got an erection, and then she lifted the bust up and got comfortable. I was stroking myself now. “Jimmy? I mean James! Do you want a cup of tea?” Oh shit! Now?
“Yes, okay. I’ll be down in a minute.” Another girl was getting changed, I watched as her milky white bottom was exposed to my view. Did they not realise we’d moved in? She turned slightly, and I was sure I saw a boob. I was rubbing harder, thinking, don’t call up now, Mum. I came with a spurt into my hand as she adjusted her costume on her lithe body. Then they all dived in, I went to the bathroom and washed my hands, remembered to zip up, just in time, and went downstairs. I was still in love with that goddess Susan, but it was hardly my fault if other girls waggled their naked bodies in my sight.
The next day, I walked into school alone. I had to. I couldn’t walk in with my mother. But it was bad, hundreds of pairs of eyes stared at me. Well, it felt like hundreds. In fact there could only be seventy five pairs, that was the sum total of the two years of students. Susan Langham came over. “You look like a fish out of water, or perhaps a rabbit surrounded by dogs? Or maybe you think you’re the dog, surrounded by rabbits? Not sure which to have first?
I’m joking. Come on, lets find out which class you are. Oh yes, Miss Blaine. She’s nice. I was in her group last year. We call them groups, not classes, by the way. Room 5A. Down that corridor. I hope she’s been warned, else she’ll get a shock.
Enjoy. See you at lunch?” Oh yes! If I can, I’ll sit right beside you.
I went in and took the bull by the horns, I went up to Miss Blaine. “Ah, yes, Jimmy or James? James is it? Welcome. Most unusual. I hope you enjoy it.
Come on group. Group!. GROUP! Yes, I’m soooo glad you enjoyed skiing in New Zealand Lucy, but now you have to get back into more broad based geography.
All here? Alright then. Welcome back those of you who have come back, and welcome to the new girls. And the new boy. James is Mrs Antrovers’, (the new Latin teacher’s), son. He is taking his A levels early.” Oh, did you have to tell them I’m much younger than they are? They might have thought I looked young for my age. Maybe it didn’t matter.
Being a newbie, I was dumped at the front along with a couple of other new girls. We grimaced at each other and smiled. The lesson started slowly with a discussion of Ox-bow lakes, and whether straightening rivers is a good idea or not. We moved on and I got into enjoying it now. For fifty minutes we talked about geography. And then Miss Blaine said “Okay Lucy, you have ten minutes to tell us about New Zealand.” I couldn’t believe it, they’d gone all the way to the other side of the world, and all she’d seen was the skiing slopes. Where were the flightless birds, the whales? Lucy, I gathered, was not in line for the academic top flight. But, since we were all listening to her, it allowed me to look at her in detail. She sat on the edge of the table, her short skirt, well above her knees. She started with her legs together, but started waving her legs back and forth, and slowly her knees parted. If any of the girls realised, they said nothing. I sat, transfixed. She had a pixie face, pixie, but just a little bit empty. Her small bust barely moved as she walked up to the front; her legs were, perhaps, a little thin. I realised that she was at risk of verging on anorexia as she hardly ate. Her legs opened enough to reveal the white patch of cotton at the top of her legs. I had the impression they weren’t school approved, proper bottom covering ones. Either that, or they were bunched up at the front as well as the back. Her legs opened a little more, and I was in danger of embarrassing myself as my cock started to harden. I imagined the girls all laughing at me, and it reduced back to good and floppy. I could see the dark line of shadow in the middle of them. Oh my! I can see her slit through her panties! I thought. She finished talking, jumped down and smiled. As they left, Miss Blaine went over and said something.
“No? Really? Oh, my goodness!” she turned and looked at me, smiled, shrugged, walked on.
“James, I hope ... Oh, I don’t know.” said Miss Blaine. I said I understood. And went off to my next lesson – Latin. In which I excelled, of course. The best pupils looked at me as they read carefully their Latin texts and answered questions, in Latin. Then it was my turn and I rabbited away like it was natural to speak a language that had died out a thousand years ago.
As we left, one girl whispered, “Show off.”
“Ignore her, she’s jealous. How come you can speak it so well? Do you talk in Latin at home? Or do you come from ... Latinium?”
“Only sometimes.” I told them about the police incident, okay, with embellishments, and that made them laugh. I asked about the swimming pool “When can we use the pool? Is it cold?”
“Yes, it’s cold, and any group can use it when they want, as long as there are four or more. No swimming alone, or in pairs.”
“Why not in pairs?” The girls went quiet. “I mean someone would still be able to run for help.”
“No, it isn’t that.”
“Tell him.” said another girl.
“Welllll, it’s. No, he’s too young.” My spider sense kicked in. Too young? That meant sex, it always did. How best to play this? I could ask outright, but they might think I was too lewd. No, I would wait it out. “You tell him.”
“Four years ago, two girls were found swimming in the water, nude. Except they weren’t swimming. One was sitting on the side, and the other was standing between her legs.” she dissolved into giggles.
“No ... really? Wow. If only I’d been here four years ago.”
“You’d have been ten, and would have thought they were just talking to each other.” said another girl, poking me. “And if you didn’t, well, you’d have had no chance with them, would you?”
“Hahahah I suppose not.” We walked on to break – hot chocolate and croissants. I was getting to like private schools. My last school had nothing for break, only a tuckshop if you had money.
Three girls were talking about something and saw me “Pas devant l’enfant.” one said. I smiled and replied “Va te faire foutre” and walked on. They had no idea what I’d said, but Susan Langham did. She had walked up to say hello.
“A bit rude. Don’t let the teachers hear you.
A word of advice. Bide your time. Find out who knows what. Then you won’t tell Marie over there – who is half French, and very fluent – to fuck off in French. Now, tell her in German and she’d have no idea.”
“Nein sprechensie Deutsch.” I replied.
“I do, and that was nearly right.”
After break I had Chemistry, then after lunch – soup and a roll; it seems they had special low cal. days - maths and then sport. “Ah, Mr Antrovers.” the sports teacher, Mrs Smith, always called me Mr Antrovers for the whole two years I was there. “What shall we do with you? I hardly think netball would suit you, and hockey might be dangerous – for you I mean. The gals can be jolly rough. Do you run?” It was agreed that I could do running. Cross country, long distance, whatever. She didn’t really care. I ran off, past girls playing hockey. I could see what she meant. They were she-devils in their sexy short skirts. Getting changed had been interesting. I’d had to use a toilet cubicle; there being only changing rooms for girls. I was told I could use one of the staff showers when I got back.
I ran about six miles. I wasn’t a top class runner, but I was okay. It was fun. Then back to the showers. The girls were already in, I could imagine them all running round naked in a steamy atmosphere; the inevitable erection happened. I walked into the staff showers, thinking of this, as Miss Gemima Young stepped out of the shower wrapped in a short towel. Mrs Smith had forgotten to tell the student teacher that I was going to be using the showers. I was stripped from the waist down. She looked at me and I looked at her, her towel barely covering the top of her legs. Then we both did what the English do so well. We pretended nothing had happened. I took off my singlet and walked into a shower cubicle, she dried herself quickly and left. Neither of us said anything to anybody.
Showered and refreshed, I went to the first after-school club. These were optional/compulsory. That is, you didn’t have to go to any specific one, but you did have to join at least three. I signed up for the Science Club, Debating Society, and Judo. Tonight was the Science Club, in which Mr McHenry (who was at least sixty, surely), demonstrated how to make gunpowder, and then encouraged us all to make some for ourselves and add metal shavings to make different fireworks. The idea that girls didn’t like bangs was quickly given the lie, we all joined in and finally tried to make a staged firework in a kitchen roll cardboard tube. It worked pretty well too. It fizzed, glowed green, then sparkled, then red, then exploded in a triumph of unsafe practices. Nothing like that could ever happen in a state school!
Everybody hugged each other at the end, proud of our success. I got several hugs, I’d been promoted to be ‘one of the girls’. There was a time when I would have been offended at being treated like a girl; but with hugs like that, I could accept it. Mr McHenry looked quizzical; as we left he said to me, out of the hearing of the others “I was told you were as gay as a bandicoot. Looking at the way you took those hugs, I’d say someone got here wires crossed there. Relax, I’ll say nothing.” I learned later that Mr McHenry was very happy in supplying sexual services to three of the teachers. It was all ‘no strings’ attached. He avoided the pupils because of the laws and regulations on teachers fucking pupils; anyway, he had plenty of action with more mature ladies who appreciated him once a night rather than the younger sorority who might wear him out.
“How was your first day, James?” asked Mum, when I returned to the cottage.
“Oh, not too bad.” I replied, enigmatically. I couldn’t say “Fucking A!” - mother would have been offended both by the language and even more by the Americanism -, but it was. I had enjoyed my day. I went up to my room to change, and watched Miss MacIntire and Miss Brown – two younger teachers with full and attractive figures – get changed at the pool. Teachers were allowed to swim in pairs, and wear bikinis too (banned for pupils). I watched as they folded the towels, looked around, and kissed with a long and detailed exploration of each other’s body. Then they jumped in. I assumed that Mr McHenry was not servicing these two – unless they were bi-sexual of course.
I went downstairs. “oooo – someone’s happy.” said Mum with a smile.
I smiled back. “Just glad to see you’re happy, Mum.” Which was true. She deserved to be happy. I had the feeling she’d be here for a while.
Day two was more of the same. Every day had some physical exercise in it. This day had a trip to the swimming pool pencilled in. The pool was not heated, it was ‘warmed’ in the winter. That meant it never froze; but apparently it required sterling qualities to go swimming in December. People did. I pointed out that girls had an extra layer of fat to insulate them; two girls said that they weren’t fat! I said that I wasn’t saying they were fat, and if they looked like those two, then extra fat did them a favour. “Was that meant to be a compliment? Sounded like ‘for a fat girl, you look okay’ to me. I’m going to drown you, just saying.” Now the girls paired up to help each other get changed. I was left to cope. I used the toilet again. The ‘unisex’ toilet – that is, it was the girls’ toilet, just the one at the pool, but now it had to be available for me too. It just said ‘Toilet’ on the door, no drawing of a girl on it, so that was alright. The water was freezing, and, true to her word, the well-upholstered figure of Madeleine loomed towards me and pulled me under. I can’t say I objected to struggling with a seventeen year old under water. I’m not a great swimmer, but my hands grabbing her boobs weren’t entirely accidental. I came up spluttering.
“Okay, James, you can let go of my water wings now.”
“Ooops, sorry. I didn’t realise.”
These girls were tough! They swam and floated as if the water was a delight. I swam to stay warm. I did also swim under water to get some views of their divine bodies. And they were good looking. Even the two who were verging on overweight; they both had massive tits! What’s not to like? I would have called them Rubenesque, but I suspect they would have understood what that meant.
I didn’t bother changing back at the pool. There was a small shower block with three shower heads and a communal space. Clearly that was out of bounds. So I walked back to the cottage and had a lovely warm shower. That evening, we ate with the school for the first time. I felt it incumbent on me to moan a little, if only to show how flexible I was being in then agreeing. Mum gave me a hug. We arrived and I ate the food happily. It was a salad for main course – recognising that the girls were, without exception, trying to lose weight. Dessert was suet pudding! I don’t know how that makes sense; but I’m not one to turn down suet pudding and custard.
So the days began to become set. Mornings were academic, afternoons were often practical and always included at least an hour of sport or activity. Then the after school clubs were attended. The debating society held their meetings after dinner. I attended the first one on “The Ethics of Empire”, and I was put down as a speaker for the next - “That Pre-Marital Sex Is Essential” - I was put down as second speaker in favour of it. I think they intended to embarrass me. They succeeded.
I’d nearly forgotten about the nature reserve, and that tunnel. Nearly, but not quite. Later, when I was in town for a wander round the shops; looking for jeans, officially, but Waterstones drew me in to their books. And even HMV had something to offer. Then I bought the jeans – I’d be in trouble if I wore my old pair again. Then I bought a torch, a good, powerful, long lasting torch. I was still thinking, though vaguely distracted by the other attractions of the area.
Susan Langham met me for coffee at the end – for it was she rather than my mother who had offered me a lift in. She’d seen me standing by the bus stop; one bus an hour, and none on a Sunday. “Hop in, I’m going in to town for some things.” I asked what and she said “Sexy underwear, want to help me choose?
Sorry, I just like seeing you go red. I’m actually buying a present for my dad. Any suggestions?” I explained that I had no idea about Dad Presents, and why. Her turn to go red. “Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“No reason you would. Does he like DIY? I understand men do. Try Gables? They sell tools that have absolutely no useful purpose for anything – like a thatchers grindstoke, or something like that.”
“Dad is to DIY what I am to space travel.”
“A good advert?”
“An encumbrance. Doesn’t matter, I’ll buy him a book. See you in Waterstone’s Cafe at 4?”
I bought her a coffee and a piece of walnut cake. “I really shouldn’t, but it would be rude not to, now you’ve bought it. What’s the torch for?” I told her, and she smiled. I suspected she knew a little more than she was telling, which was nothing. I was intrigued now.
There was a barbecue that evening. I was the only male under forty there, which I quite liked. It was one of those late summer evenings that made you glad to be in England. Madame came over to speak to me – Madame is what they/we called the head of the school. “So, James, how are you finding us? Not too odd I hope? Girls don’t bite do they?” She was still under the impression I was gay and therefore disliked females. Even if I was gay, that second assumption was foolish; a lot of gays like women because they are more civilised. A girl ran past, chased by another girl holding a double sized sausage. I guessed what the game was. They saw Madame and stopped, smirking.
“It’s a very pleasant place. Honestly? I’m pleased for my mother; she has found a place that values Latin, and found some students who actually want to learn it. She’s really happy, so I’m happy for her.”
“That’s really thoughtful; and you are learning what you need to?”
“I am, thank you. I’m learning a lot.” I didn’t elucidate that the non-curriculum learning was as interesting as the academic work.
“What did she want?” asked my mother, later.
“Just making sure I was settling in.”
“And are you?”
“Yes ... yes, I am. I like it here.”
“Good, I think I could stay here, even if it is private. You know the next debate is on banning private education? They seem to like to challenge the girls here. I thought it might be made up of spoilt brats with blancmange for brains, but – Oh hello Susan.”
“Mrs Antrovers. Can I get you another glass of white wine? It’s probably all my mousse brain can cope with.”
“Oh, look, I’m sorry, I -”
“Relax, Mum, she’s winding you up.” I interrupted. Susan smiled at my mum, her white, perfect teeth surrounded by her perfect, red lips. What more could one want than to love a beautiful girl with a sense of humour, and her own car?
“Sorry, I was wrong about you girls. But yes, another glass of the Malbec would be nice.” They walked over together. And I was left alone, wondering why my mother deliberately picked the wrong grape variety. Was she testing Susan, or just down-playing her own knowledge. I had the Malbec, it wasn’t very good. But then I was fourteen and able to judge if it was good or not, and the school were happy to go with my mother and allow me to drink. As long as I didn’t get drunk and run amok, it looked like they were happy to treat me as a responsible adult.
I was top in Latin, of course. A couple of girls suggested that was because my mother did all my work, but they knew that wasn’t so. I could talk in Latin, write in Latin in class, and translate Pliny as I read him. Being a couple of years younger than the others, it was to be expected that I would find some of the subjects a challenge. I was good at History, okay at English. I had to play catch up reading the books the school had chosen. As well as them, they insisted all the students read set books. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – it’s about a prostitute! I had no idea; Lady Chatterley’s Lover - even I had to agree, it wasn’t a very good book really (the school copies had notes for school students, several students had found the more explanatory notes on line ‘this passage is about anal intercourse, the final degradation for the lady’); Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – already read that, it was like meeting an old friend; were all required for the first term. The school discouraged television, and actively discouraged use of mobile all the time. Girls found with their phone in their hands during the day were ‘punished’. Punishment could be having the phone taken away for the day/week/month or even term; or it could mean a 3000 word essay on the problems of IT Social interaction. There were also ‘fines’. These could be picking up paper, or making the staff coffee for a day, or a weekend spent confined to the school (being all over sixteen, the girls were allowed out at weekends; they weren’t allowed to get drunk). I did think that I would love to remonstrate in a physical sense with a couple of the more obnoxious girls – in other words, I fantasised about spanking Louise or Simone for their rudeness. I would think about this at night, in bed; the end result was inevitable and I always tried to catch it all in my hand. The good news was this tended to stop me having erotic thoughts about Susan; I always felt guilty about the things I made her do in my thoughts. I didn’t feel guilty about Louise or Simone, they deserved what they got in my daydreams.
A weekend came when Mum had a day out alone. I was fourteen, I could easily be left. She wanted to go up to London and see ‘a show’. I was tempted because it was London, but not to see some musical. Anyway, the time had come to explore that tunnel. So Saturday came, Mum left early; she was lucky, Mr McHenry was going up to London too, so she got a lift to the station and then a travelling companion. I grabbed the torch, left Bono sleeping, and headed for the nature reserve.