I sat in English class a few hours later, staring straight ahead and not drinking in a single word of the lecture. I think we were studying Romeo and Juliet, but it was too depressing to concentrate on. Did I really need to hear about more love tragedy? Even if it was by the greatest play-writer to ever live, I did not want to be reminded of how tangled love lives could end.
‘Felicity Fletcher,’ my English teacher boomed, ‘what did I just say?’
Oh hell. What did she just say?
I cast my eyes around the room desperately, until they landed on Steve, whose hazel eyes registered sympathy, but were of no real help.
Sighing in despair and facing the front again, I (cheekily) said,’ Well, technically Ms Thompson, you just said: what did I just say?’
After a shocked silence that modest little Felicity had just had a burst of rebellion, the class erupted into startled (if delighted) laughter. Nobody dared cheek our sharp-tongued teacher, especially not a so-called ‘meek’ girl like me – I mean, they still put me in the same category as they did in year seven mostly, when Summer had cried over missing geography homework. Sweet but modest. Well, I thought wryly, just look at me now – first I lust after my best friend’s boyfriend, then I kiss him, and just for good measure, I lash out at the teacher who I wasn’t even listening to. What a terrible immoral person I’d become – still, it gave me a little thrill at the reaction of my class mates. Of course, the smile was soon wiped off my incredulous face.
‘Felicity Fletcher,’ Ms Thompson started again, ‘I do not get paid to teach idle, ungrateful, cheeky little girls...’
I felt my cheeks burning with shame and anger. If truth be told, English was my first love, and I think she knew this, as she was known to stick the needle in where it hurt – still, she had at least praised the majority of my essays, once telling me I had a gift for writing and literary interpretation. And now I couldn’t even be bothered to listen to one of the most famous plays of all time, with an underlying message about love. What an idiot I was these days.
I felt stupid, childish tears prick the back of my eyes, but I couldn’t; wouldn’t let them show.
I was very much into hiding things nowadays, so it came naturally.
After a very painful last twenty minutes of class, Ms Thompson called me back for a ‘talk’.
Summer and Steve shot me agonizing glances, then departed.
I braced myself.
‘Felicity,’ Ms Thompson began, in a much gentler tone to before, ‘what’s going on with you, hmm?’
I made a non-committal noise, eyes on the floor. Ms Thompson took this as a sure sign to carry on the right tracks.
‘Whatever it is, something’s clearly bothering you. I know today’s rather rebellious occurrence was definitely out of character, but all the same, it’s worrying, Felicity...is it something at home, at school, with friends...a boy, perhaps?’
I choked back a lump in my throat, because right now, it was all of those things. Everything was piling on top of me – my parents’ frequent arguments, not able to concentrate at school because of worry, scared about betraying my best friend, longing for a boy I could never have, but did not get the message to stay away. All of these things were making my life spiral out of control, something I always strived for.
Control. That really was laughable, only most things just weren’t funny anymore.
Sensing I would not talk, Ms Thompson dismissed me with a sigh and a shake of her head. Feeling nonplussed, I trudged out, head down, and walked right into...Steve. This was getting ridiculous.
What part of stay away did he not understand? Didn’t he care about Summer, too?
‘You again,’ he grinned, a repeat of this morning’s conversation.
But I wasn’t going to fall for his charm. Not again.
‘Excuse me,’ I said coldly, brushing past him so I didn’t have to feel that ache where he made my heart flutter.
‘Fliss!’ He exclaimed in surprise. ‘I was just waiting for you as a concerned friend, I wasn’t...’
He dropped his eyes to the floor. So he did feel guilty, then. Well, that was a start.
‘How did you shake off Summer?’ I asked, my eyes burning with the hot-red question.
‘It wasn’t like that!’ He shouted, eyes flashing. ‘I don’t mean to hurt her, I just...I just...I mean, I still care about her Fliss, honestly, but...that feeling...it just isn’t there anymore. I don’t think it ever really was – know what I mean?’
For that I did not have a smart reply. I just looked into his desperate eyes and wondered why he had to be so darn cute, why he had to understand how I felt like he was the one who’d known me my whole life...who else could have driven me to betraying the girl who was practically my non-live-in sister?
I tried, really tried, for so long to stay the hell away from him. And I had failed.
Of course, he didn’t make it any easier, waiting for me after class and grinning at me like I was his girlfriend...but it made sense, what he said.
I didn’t mean to hurt her, either. I wasn’t a bad person, not really, and neither was he...I guess we were weak, but I tried my hardest to resist him...but we were on the same wavelength, thought the same kind of things, had the same kind of opinions, made each other’s hearts fly...betrayed someone we were both supposed to love.
That day, I really hated myself. For not sticking to my firm resolution to stay away, ignore any advances.
‘Fliss,’ Steve said softly,’ if...’
‘Please don’t say it,’ I protested,’ it’ll only make it worse. Neither of us want to hurt Summer...least of all me. She’s my best friend,’ I felt a sob catch in my throat, ‘and if she ever finds out, she’s going to hate me. Forever.’
The reality of this had finally caught up on me, and the guilt was overwhelming.
‘I know,’ Steve sighed softly.
‘So that’s why we can have no more to do with each other, other than keep up appearances with Summer, and if...if she invites me out where you’ll be, then, don’t worry, I’ll make my excuses..but you have to stay away from me, Steve, I mean it.’
And I did.
Steve just looked at me, hazel eyes sad but knowing.
Taking the deepest of breaths, I steadied myself and I...walked away.