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on second thoughts: not same old, same old, in fact, turning
point of my entire life
Half past nine, French. Naturally, by this time I’m staring out of the window. Despite the wad of loo paper stuffed into my pants, the damp patch on my trousers has spread up my zip and is still uncomfortable.
Jack is feeling dejected and upset. Miss Monique DuBois has turned out to have the thickest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever heard. When she speaks French it sounds like an explosion in a razor-blade factory. Haven’t caught a single word of anything she’s said yet. Jack is choking back the emotion of the moment.
So I’m sitting by the window, and I’m staring out of it, and I’m wishing I had my camera with me. Outside, across the sports field, there’s a shifting circle of light, bright shafts piercing the low clouds. They’re moving over the trees next to the main road, and rippling across the field. The effect is weird-looking, sort of unreal. Beautiful. It’s exactly the sort of thing you only see once in a blue month of Sundays.
I curse myself that I’ve left my camera at home. As digital cameras go, it’s one of the smaller, slimmer models, but the lens is a pretty good spec. Not top-of-the-range, optics-wise, but I wanted something compact enough to keep in my pocket. So I guess you have to make compromises. Only . . . of course . . . today . . . it’s on my desk at home.
I let out a sigh. The shafts of light have gone, fading out of existence as the clouds shift and let the sun get a look-in. That would have made a fabulous shot. I can already think of a place for it, once I’d got it printed out: framed next to my shot of the frosted tree I caught in January, that I insisted went in the living room at home.
Everyone’s got a kind of half-frown. If you were being generous you’d say it was the deep concentration of eager, dedicated students. If you weren’t being generous you’d say we were all just trying to make out what the hell Miss Monique DuBois is talking about. Still, credit where credit’s due: it’s got us very quiet and attentive. Well, attentive except for me, really.
No! Wrong attitude! There’s a new me this term, right? No daydreaming, no drifting off the point, no framing terrifically atmospheric photos in the middle of French. It’s a GOOD thing I’ve forgotten my camera.
I sigh again. Quietly. I don’t want to distract the rest of the class from their frowning.
I notice that Kate Stumpage has had a stylishly radical haircut during the holidays. Unfortunately, it doesn’t suit her pointy-chipmunk face. I saw her parents once at a school fête. They’re both pointy-chipmunk too. Poor girl never stood a chance. I mean, she’s a nice person. A bit out of focus from the rest of the world, but a nice person. She has a genuinely impressive memory for interesting trivia, and she IS attractive, at least in a way that makes Jack go all smiles and eyebrows . . . I’m not trying to be nasty, or anything. She just looks pointy-chipmunk, that’s all.
James is frowning hardest of all of us. It’s not that he’s hard of hearing, he’s just a bit dim. I’m not trying to be nasty again, he IS dim. If someone calls out “Oi, James!”, he’s right there, but call out “Jimmy!” or “Jimbo!” and he’s blank as a new jotter pad. He just isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, that’s all. Jack likes to sit well away from him, because James is officially The Boy All Girls Want to Get Stuck in a Lift With. He looks like a male model. I don’t really see it myself — to me, his features look too small to fit properly on to his face. They’re too spaced out. But he’s captain of the school rugby team, too, so that’s an added bonus with the girls. Apparently.
There’s a tap on my shoulder. Oh Gawd, Gregory Timms.
“Kevin, mate,” he whispers. I don’t know why, but it really annoys me when people call me that. “Kev . . . Kev, mate . . .”
I lean back slightly. Turning round would attract too much attention. “What?”
“Do you want to come round to my house and zap things on my Gamecube? After school?”
Oh, blimey. “Sorry, Gregory. Busy. Thanks, though.”
“I’ve got a new train set,” he hisses. I don’t need to turn around to know he’s grinning like a psychopath.
“Oooh, really tempting,” I say. “But I’m busy. Thanks, honestly, thanks, but I can’t.”
“My mum says she’s going to make a cake for tea,” he whispers.
“I’m on a strict diet. For health reasons. Sorry.”
“I didn’t know that,” says Gregory, sounding slightly alarmed. “Are you OK?”
Oh hell’s teeth, shut up. People are looking.
“I’m fine,” I hiss. “Just mustn’t eat icing.”
I lean forward and pretend to be listening intently to a sentence “à la pâtisserie” which sounds like “Ger vinga plaocen le zornki”. Gregory Timms retreats and I catch a glimpse of him biting his lip and wiping his nose on his fingers.
I liked him a lot when we were in the Reception year at PRIMARY school together. But now . . . Do you ever get the feeling that there are some things you just can’t escape? I have enough trouble being labeled: Mr. Background, Mr. Daydream and other assorted children’s characters, without having anoraks like Gregory Timms in tow. Holy cow, the new me is never going to blossom at this rate!
My eyes casually graze the clock on the wall. But it’s like fate. As if time itself is telling me to take note of the exact moment.
10.33 a.m. Now.
Why? Because then it happens.
Then my life changes.
The door creaks open and in shuffles Mr. Pewsey. He’s chewing on one of his nerve pills and washing it down with quick sips from a tiny carton of blackcurrant squash. Miss Monique DuBois halts (whether in mid-sentence or not, nobody can say) and smiles at him.
“My abject apologies for the disturbance, Miss DuBois,” he says flatly, dabbing a hand to his forehead. He casts a watery eye over us all for a moment and puts out a hand. “Oh, please don’t get up, 10L.”
We just sit there waiting.
“Miss DuBois, I have your new pupil. 10L, this is Vanessa Wishart, who will be joining your class. I’m sure I can count on you all to greet her with your unique blend of enthusiasm. Vanessa, there’s a desk free over there next to Kevin Watts . . . er, the fair-haired boy with the glasses. Kevin, you’re a moderately sensible young man. Take Vanessa under your wing for today, will you? Show her the ropes, the toilets, that sort of thing.”
He shuffles to one side. I finally get a clear look at Vanessa.
She steps forward, obviously conscious of the sudden silence, her shoes clumping on the floorboards, walking towards the empty desk next to me. She seems nervous, but doesn’t look down. She seems to feel us watching her, but doesn’t falter, striding along the gap beside the radiator.
She is tall. Her legs are long, her arms slender. Smooth, tapering fingers grip the handle of her bag. She is slim, almost delicate-looking. Straight hair brushes around her neck, the blackest black that hair can be. Her face is pale, sculptured. Elegant, curving lips; a perfect, triangular nose.
And her eyes. Sharp, bright, feline. Spectacular eyes, a vivid, marbled green. Wonderful eyes. She looks at me, into me, through me. Getting closer to me. Her every motion is poise and contour and smoothness.
The bell goes. Kids start moving all around me.
Vanessa is next to me. She flashes me a smile. “Hi. Kevin, is it?”
I appear to stand without using any of the muscles in my legs. I try to speak, I try to tell her that she is the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen, that I will ever see, that has ever existed in all the world.
“Ye . . . Y . . . I . . . Ye-um . . .” I think I may be dribbling.
“Are you OK?” she says.
“He’s on a special diet,” says Gregory Timms, marching past.
“I’m . . . H’lo, I’m Kevin,” I stammer. “So . . . I . . . I’m to show you the ropes and the toilets, that sort of thing.”
Something has caught her attention. She’s looking at my trousers. The wet patch is drier, but still visible. The wad of loo paper is forming a lump between my legs.
“Should we start with the toilets, then?” she says, deadpan.
“Oh! No . . . er, this is . . . no, this was . . . umm, done in Assembly.”
“This school must have some really exciting Assemblies,” she says, even more deadpan.
Suddenly, I see Jack over her shoulder. He gives me a thumbs-up and indicates his reaction to Vanessa in a way which is both clear and graphic. Then he hops over and shoves me aside.
“Hi, babe,” he says. “My name’s Jack. Yours must be Gorgeous.”
Several other boys are hanging around us too. My mind goes sort of blank and mushy, and before I know what’s going on she’s been whirled away amid offers to carry her bag and do her homework. I wish I’d said something more intelligent.
But it changes nothing.
Because I know that I love her.
Completely and totally.
For ever and ever.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Kissing Vanessa by Simon Cheshire Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted June 30, 2011
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Posted November 23, 2008
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Posted August 11, 2010
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