by Lady H
The air is stuffy and smells stale; there is no window and no ventilation.
His Kiss - Part One
Mark only has a second to choose; get caught first in hide and seek or get into the science cupboard with his sixth-form nemesis Henrietta Morgan. It’s a close call. He figures if the catchers run past quickly, he’s only going to have to spend about thirty seconds shut in the cupboard with Henry. There’s no telling how long he will have to suffer his mate’s teasing if he gets caught within minutes of the game starting, most likely for the rest of the school year until they leave for university.
Pride wins out. As the thudding footsteps near the corner, Mark dives into the cupboard, slamming the door behind him. He draws a breath. The cupboard is apparently a lot smaller than he’d anticipated, and he now stands pressed up against Henry’s body. She growls through the darkness. He smirks, enjoying the fact that he’s already managed to annoy her.
“What the hell do you think you're doing, Roberts?” She hisses, and Mark quickly fumbles as his eyes adjust to the light to cover her mouth with his hand. She’d hate that too, he thinks gleefully.
Henry fumes that he has the audacity to steal her well-thought-out hiding spot. And he was touching her face! She grabs for his arm and attempts to peel his sweaty hand off, but he’s too strong and wraps his other arm around her back to hold her in place. Frustrated, she lets go, and tries to suck in a lungful of the stuffy air through her nose in preparation of attempting a scream. She doesn’t really give a toss if they’re caught; it's only a silly final-year September tradition.
“Shhhhhh” His voice is barely audible, a split-second reaction to hearing her inhale. He’s surprised when instead of arguing back, she lets the breath back out slowly. They both stand still, straining their ears for footsteps, but hear nothing.
“Mmmfmfm” She mumbles, and then she’s hit with a genius idea, and goes ahead and licks his hand. He withdraws it in horror, wiping it down his trouser leg. Unexpected behaviour from a seventeen-year-old, but this was Henrietta Morgan, and he was Mark Roberts; apparently there weren’t any rules. She doesn’t appear to be sorry and carries on “there's no one there!” He can’t tell in the darkness, but he can almost feel that she’s raising her eyebrows at him incredulously.
“There is, I heard them!” He whispers back at her. She sighs, unintentionally pressing her chest closer to his and causing him to inhale sharply. Yes, it should be uncomfortable up against a girl he has disliked for years, but this is something different. Feeling her pressed against him makes his stomach flutter, his muscles tighten, and god knows what else. Knowing it is wrong just makes him feel it even more. This is unbearable.
He reaches out behind her, to see how far away the wall is. It isn’t far at all. Sweeping his hands around, he can touch all four walls without fully extending his arms. Definitely not enough room for two people. Even with just one person in here it would be claustrophobic. He’s never enjoyed small spaces. Now here he is, sharing with Henry this tiny dark prison. Oh, the lengths he is willing to go for pride.
He can smell her, and she smells so good. What is happening to him? He shouldn't be thinking about Henry in this way. Alright, he's always found something about her attractive, but he can usually control this easily by thinking about how much she annoys him, and how much she hates his guts and winds him up at every opportunity. He shakes his head, then feels her gaze. He looks down.
In the dim light, all he can see are her bright blue eyes shining up at him, reflecting from a slit of light escaping through the gap at the top of the door. He wants to kiss her.
Good God! He thinks to himself; what is going on? Why can he suddenly not take his eyes off Morgan, the girl who everyone, including himself, knows he has always disliked?
Meanwhile Henry has begun to fidget. She has always hated standing up and being so close to Mark Roberts makes her uncomfortable. She changes her weight from her left foot to her right, her eyes slowly growing adjusted to the dark. She looks around, wondering how on earth such a tiny cupboard could be any use to the science department. From what she can see, there isn't any room for anything! Just a few shelves on one wall crammed with old, torn exercise books, a mop and bucket standing in one corner, some old sheets dumped on the floor which Henry fears would house spiders, and a hoover, which is currently digging into her hip. The air is stuffy and smells stale; there is no window and no ventilation.
She swallows nervously. Here she is, up close and personal with the boy who’d taken it upon himself since year seven to wind her up at every opportunity. Normally she could bounce off of his annoying personality with sarcasm and wit, but this just felt too intimate, her body pressed up against his. She can smell him, not the heavy deodorant smell boys favoured more today, but his scent is much more subtle. Like soap. And before she can stop herself, she begins to wonder what would happen if she tipped her head up just a bit, and Mark lowered his to look down at her, and then brushed his lips against hers... STOP! She cries in her head. Such insane thoughts, coming to her at the most awkward time. She shakes her head, trying to jolt the images from her mind.
Shifting her weight again, she peers around Mark to look at the door. “I'm sure they've gone now.” She says, not bothering to whisper, just wanting to get out as quickly as possible.
“Look, they haven't gone! I'll tell you when they've gone!” He growls, glaring down at her. Under no circumstances does he want to be the first to be found in this giant game of hide and seek, especially being found with Henrietta Morgan in a science cupboard, and she’s attracting attention by talking out loud. It doesn't matter that he himself has just growled a response; this is all Henry's fault. Definitely.
“Well I don't want to be in here anymore!” She cries, shifting again and making him even more uncomfortable.
“Shut up whining! Do you think I like being in here anymore than you do?” He throws out his arms in frustration, remembering too late that the cupboard is far too small to do such a thing. He is rewarded with two throbbing hands.
“Ooowwww!” He yells, forgetting that he is meant to be quiet. Again. Henry doesn't seem to have any sympathy for him. Instead, she takes his outburst as a sign that it is all clear outside.
“Get out!” She snarls, pushing him backwards into the door. “I don’t want to play this stupid game anymore.”
“Look seriously, can you just shut up for two minutes? I don’t want to lose.” He snaps, grabbing her wrists and pulling her hands from off of his chest.
“Oh poor, sad Roberts, scared to lose a child’s game of hide and seek.” Henry uses the whiny baby voice she always uses to impersonate him – the voice she knows he hates.
“For the love of god girl, what is your problem?!” He finally loses it, and she grins. He catches her smug face in the crack of light and swallows the words about to leave his mouth, trying to reign in his anger. She yanks at her hands in his grip, not enjoying the contact. He releases them without a fight.
Before the argument can continue, they hear the most sickening sound. The click of a key turning in the lock.
“Hey! We're in here! Let us out!” Henry yells, reaching around Mark to thump on the door.
“There are signs up all around this block. No access at break and lunch times. I'm going to fetch Mr Fletcher.” Responds angry voice from outside. Henry feels herself pale; Mr Fletcher was the Head of Science. She took two of his sixth form classes, so he would have a lot of influence on her university application and she didn’t want anything tarnishing her excellent track record. If she were to get on the wrong side of him, it could affect her whole future. Not to mention that Mr Fletcher was young, good looking, and it would be so incredibly embarrassing for her to be found in a cupboard with Mark Roberts, of all boys.
Absolutely everyone knew that her and Mark didn't get along, so much so that teachers purposely wouldn't sit them near each other if they both shared a class. It baffled most people. Henry was a well-behaved student, who focused on her studies and always achieved high grades. The opposite of Mark, she let her intelligence shine through in classes, while Mark kept quiet, played the class clown, yet always managed to get the grades when it mattered. Henry was always the first to volunteer the answer, frequently handing in her homework early, and often completing research projects outside of class. It was a widely shared opinion that out of all the students in her year, she was the most determined and dedicated and as a result would likely get into a top university.
She rarely had loud public arguments, and if Henry was ever behind a minor disturbance in class, you could guarantee that Mark Roberts was right there alongside her. No-one really knew why there was so much angst between the two, it had just become part of school life. Everyone learned that it was best to keep Roberts and Morgan as far apart as possible.
Only the two themselves could remember exactly when the feud had started. Six years ago, when Henry had moved to her new secondary school, Henry and Mark were assigned seats next to each other in their maths class.
Henry had taken an immediate dislike to Mark; he reminded her of the boy who’d just broken her ten-year-old heart. It wasn’t just the way he looked, with dark hair and broad shoulders, but it was also his confidence and the way he behaved in class. Henry hated it. She was polite enough but tried to avoid him as much as possible.
Henry had felt like her world ended when Mark’s doppelganger had left her primary school. He had been her best friend, her only friend, really. They spent all their time together. And although she didn’t like to admit it, he was the only one who put up with her constant know-it-all attitude, the only one who found it funny instead of annoying.
She’d heard the whispers, caught the sneering looks from her other classmates. They all called her ‘teacher’s pet’ behind her back, and spread rumours that Henry thought herself above everyone else because she was so clever. It wasn’t true though. When Henry corrected a wrong answer, she wasn’t trying to mock the student that had got it wrong, she just wanted everyone to know the right answer. She wasn’t trying to show off, she just couldn’t control herself when she knew what the teacher was asking for.
For a child moving into a new school, who’d lost the only person that was ever nice to her, Henry liked to think that her immediate reaction to Mark was perfectly acceptable. As she grew up, she realised her initial judgement of Mark, simply based on him reminding her of her past, was silly. But as the years went on, her reasons for disliking Mark multiplied, new entries added to the list monthly if not weekly. By the time they turned seventeen, Henry had lost count of all the little things that added up to her dislike of the boy.
Back when they first met, Henry’s refusal to look at Mark in the eye confused him. He’d seen her talking to other children, both girls and boys. What was wrong with him? Everyone else liked him; he’d quickly established his position in the hierarchy of the school. Right at the top where he had always been. All the boys wanted to be his friend, and he knew at least half of the girls had a crush on him.
He could distinctly remember one occasion, a few weeks into the first term, when he was leading a conversation about a big, up and coming band, and he’d directed a question at her. He was determined to involve her in conversation, get her to like him. Instead of answering him, or even acknowledging the question, she turned her head away and lowered her nose even closer to her maths workbook, scribbling out the equations the class had been tasked with. But he knew she had heard him.
By lunchtime curiosity had got the better of him and he sought her out, baffled at this apparent problem she had with him personally. As he got closer to her, he became more and more angry.
When he reached her, it all came out a bit harsher and more accusatory than he had intended. “What the hell is your problem?”
Henry blinked at him, infuriatingly feeling herself tearing up. He really did look just like James.
Mark was shocked. Why did she look like she was about to cry? Irritated they were now causing a bit of a scene in the school canteen, he followed her down the corridor as she turned to walk away.
“Why won’t you even talk to me?” He glared at her back, confused at how the situation had escalated.
When she was safely through the doors and out into the back courtyard, which was thankfully deserted, she turned to face him. “Could you stop following me please?”
“Could you answer my questions please?”
She sighed and crossed her arms over her body. “You just remind me of someone I’d rather just forget.” Even as she said it, she knew it sounded ridiculous. And she knew she was over-reacting about the band; Mark wasn’t to know that she had been going to see them with James last year, until he’d given away their tickets.
Mark, equally aware that what Henry was accusing him of was ridiculous, didn’t hold back. “You can’t just attack me for being myself.” He threw his arms out, shaking his head. “Who cares if I look like him? There’s plenty of people in the world with brown hair. You need to grow up and get over it!”
Henry’s eyes flashed. “Well it seems to me you don't really care about anyone but yourself anyway! Everyone's always talking about how self-centred you are. And it's obvious in the way you treat George, who's supposed to be your best friend!” She looked ready to say more, eyes wide. The words stung Mark. The smart-arse was lying, of course she was. He wanted to hurt her as much as she'd just hurt him.
“Wow, you’re crazy! I bet everyone wishes you hadn’t moved here, because now we’re stuck with you!”
Henry stared at him, mouth open. How could he say something like that? It just proved to Henry that what she heard was true; he was a completely selfish prick who didn't give a damn about anyone but himself.
After that, they turned away from each other in class, pulling their chairs as far away from each other as possible. Luckily, that term it was only one maths class that they shared, so Henry only had to endure his immature pranks for an hour a day. She learned to tone-down her eagerness to please the teacher, and unlike in primary school, she did make a few friends.
Mark knew it was childish from the start but couldn't help trying to annoy Henry at every opportunity. It started off just little things, like taking her pen when she wasn't looking then feigning innocence or knocking her books to the floor and refusing to pick them up.
Then he started interrupting her whenever she answered a question the teacher asked and scribbling on her exercise book when her back was turned, writing crude messages and drawing rude pictures.
He was only twelve when it started, after all. He wasn’t going to be grown up about this situation, especially if Henry, the teacher’s pet, couldn’t be reasonable and give him a smile every so often.
There was one particular incident when Henry had come into Maths late, and as she sat down, he kicked her chair out behind her, causing Henry to tumble to the floor. Mark had got a week’s detention for that, picking the chewing gum off the underside of the tables. But he thought it was worth it.
Next term, they were paired up to work on a Patterns of Squared Numbers project. By then, Mark had had time to reflect on what Henry had shouted at him. He'd convinced himself that no one was talking about him behind his back. If he apologised to her, she would accept, and they could laugh about it all. He honestly didn’t see why they couldn’t be friends, she got on well enough with everyone else. And she was pretty. Not that conventional pretty, more of a quirky, unusual pretty. Okay, so she was a bit too 'teacher's pet' for his liking, but he still wanted her to like him. Everyone liked him.
“I'm sorry you got upset about the band thing and shouted things you didn’t mean at me, but I forgive you.” He beamed at her. Henry couldn't believe what she was hearing.
“You're what?” Henry stuttered. Her pencil stopped halfway through the ‘4’ in ‘1024’. If he'd have given her a proper apology, for all the mean tricks he’d pulled on her, then she would have considered moving past it. But she just couldn’t understand, or deal with, how full the boy was of himself.
Mark sensed something was wrong, the beam sliding from his face. “I'm sorry?” He faltered, watching his plan crumble to pieces.
“God, you are such a pig, Mark Roberts!” Henry shook her head in disgust and turned back to her list of squared numbers. And that was the end of that.
Next lesson Henry asked the teacher if she could swap partners. Their teacher, Mrs Bennett, jumped at the chance of having no more Morgan-Roberts interruptions.
Henry completed her project with George, while Mark had to work with irritating Isabelle and listen to George relay how much fun he'd had with Henry, sharing stories about their past and their interests, and how clever and pretty and cute she was.
From then on, Mark and Henry took to scowling at each other whenever they passed in the corridors, taking every opportunity to jibe and generally throw hate and abuse.
Now, six years on, things were pretty much the same, if not worse.
“Look what you’ve done.” Mark is quick to place the blame as the footfalls outside stride towards the Science teacher’s staff room.
“Me? You’re the one who barged in here, knowing I’d already claimed this hiding spot!” She can feel herself getting worked up now, the anticipation of the trouble she might get in causing her to lose the control she had moments earlier. “AND you’re the one that wouldn’t let me out!”
Mark senses her rising panic and goes in for the kill. “Aww, is little Morgan scared that Mr Fletcher’s going to get mad at her?” He can almost feel the heat radiating off her body. He hears her swallow, then realises there’s more to it. “Ooh, has Morgan got a crush on Mr Fletcher? Does Morgan want to kiss Mr Fletcher?” He mimics the baby voice Henry herself used to mock him moments earlier, before the tables turned.
Her foot slams down on top of his with purpose. In the dark, Mark’s triumph morphs into pain. How can a girl so small exert so much force? His foot throbs.
Before he can retaliate, the door clicks behind him and they both tumble out of the cupboard into the light and open space of the corridor. Letting out the breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding in, Mark blinks at the sudden change in brightness, watching a flickering Henry do the same.
She wraps her arms around herself, seemingly subconsciously, afraid to look the teacher in the eye.
“Morgan! Roberts! What the hell are doing in a cupboard up here! You know these corridors are off limits!” Mr Fletcher was one of the few young male teachers at the school. He had cool blond hair and bright blue eyes, and, doubling up as a P.E teacher, he was muscular and fit. It wasn't hard to see why most of the girls fancied him.
Henry thought herself above childish crushes, but even she had to admit Mr Fletcher did have something. Whenever he smiled directly at her, for example when she answered one of his questions correctly, her stomach flipped over and she found herself grinning back and blushing madly. Alongside the fact that science was her life, she really didn’t want to disappoint him.
And what would her mum say if she found out? She’d go off on one about Henry’s future, how important it was for Henry to get into a good university and get a well-paid job. At the moment it was all her mum was focused on; her sisters were too young for her mother to worry about. All the pressure was on Henry to succeed and provide for her broken family. Not that Henry minded; she’d always been driven and wanted the future her mother had set out for her. At least, she knew it was best for everyone if she stuck to the plan. Why did Mark Roberts always have a way of ruining everything?
Henry knew that being caught in the science block at break time would get her into trouble, but she is surprised at the dark look on Mr Fletcher’s face. Even she herself thought her worries about the future and university were a bit over the top, but the teachers’ tone is unimpressed.
“Morgan I expected better from you.” Just like that, he dismisses her with one cutting statement, refusing to catch her eye and turning to address Mark. “You will both come up here Monday lunch time and help the technicians clean up the labs. Now get out!”
Neither Henry nor Mark had ever seen Mr Fletcher so furious. Technically they weren't allowed in the science department at break times, but most students used it as a walk-through. As long as they didn't enter the labs and cause any damage none of the teachers minded, especially Mr Fletcher. He was always so laid back. Right now, he looks like he is about to explode.
Henry takes off at something just short of a jog, with Mark right behind her. When they are safely through the swinging doors and out of ear shot, Henry speaks out loud.
“I don't think I've ever seen Mr Fletcher like that.” She exclaims, running down the stairs, desperate to get away.
“Maybe he’s having a bad day.” Mark says thoughtfully, keeping pace with her.
“What makes you say that?”
“Any other time he’s caught people up here he’s just laughed.”
Henry is about to respond but stops. Thinking about it, she knows that Mr Fletcher has caught couples up to no good before, hiding out in the corridors at break times. All the stories she’s heard he’s laughed and shooed them away, telling them to save it until they’re off school grounds. His reaction did seem a bit over the top. Not that her and Mark had been up to no good. But Mr Fletcher didn't know that, and Henry hadn't wanted to hang about any longer to get the story straight.
They break into the early autumn daylight before anything further can be said, and without another look at him, Henry heads over to the block opposite, where she knows her friends will be sitting in her English classroom; their usual hang out at break times.
“Was that Mark Roberts you were with?” Darcy grins, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively as Henry enters through the class room door. She’s sitting on the window ledge facing the court yard, so must have spied Henry and Mark leave the opposite building together.
“Yeah. Being an idiot as usual.” Henry replies, sitting down in the soft chair behind the teacher’s desk. “What happened to the game?” She asks, trying to change the subject.
“What was he doing?” Darcy asks, sitting up straighter. Henry can feel all of the girl’s eyes on her.
“Oh, you know, just trying to annoy me.” She sighs, pretending it’s nothing interesting.
“You looked like you were actually having a conversation though?” Henry realises Darcy is not going to drop this quickly. Darcy flicks her long hair backwards over her shoulder, eyes not leaving Henry’s face.
“It wasn’t anything interesting, he was just asking me about the maths homework.” She thought the mention of maths would put her friend off, but it seems to have the opposite effect.
“Mark Roberts was asking about homework?” Now she is leaning forward, captivated.
“Pfft. I don’t know. Maybe he’s finally decided to actually do some work?” She shrugs. There’s a pause, and she takes advantage of the silence to once again try and change the subject. “Why is no one playing hide and seek anymore?”
“Oh, most of us got caught, and then Jack couldn't be bothered to search anymore, so we stopped playing.” Emma replies from across the room. She seems aware she has saved Henry from further interrogation and sends her a stern look. Henry knows Emma will be asking her own in-depth questions later, out of earshot from the rest of the girls.
“Amy, what’s that nail varnish you’ve got on? I really like it.” Darcy asks one of the other girls. She is leaning back again now, twirling a strand of her shining hair around one of her fingers slowly. She’s clearly satisfied with Henry’s answers, or now bored of the conversation.
“Ooh it’s called cherry red – my mum picked it up from Boots last week. I’ve forgotten what brand.” Amy, eager to please, responds, adding when Darcy makes no further comment “You can borrow it if you like.”
Henry fights the urge to shake her head. Some of the girls she hangs out with, more Darcy’s friends than her own, sometimes make her question humanity. Apart from her and Emma, everyone basically worships the ground Darcy walks on. And what is worse, Darcy knows it. Henry loves Darcy, but doesn’t like watching people play up to her and sometimes just wishes people were more real around her.
“Thanks Amy that would be great.” Darcy smiles briefly, her stunning eyes crinkling at the edges and her dimples making a brief appearance.
Glad her heart had finally stopped racing, that she was back with familiar people and that the conversation had moved on to a safer topic, Henry leans back into the chair, spreading out and letting her arms hang at her sides, feet out in front like she is star fishing. She banishes thoughts of cupboards, Mark Roberts and Mr Fletcher from her mind and instead begins thinking about how much studying she has to do at the weekend.
Thank you for reading the first part of Henry's story! This is something I've been working on for a while now, based on a dream I had. It still needs a lot of work, so if you could take a moment and let me know your thoughts in a review I'd be eternally grateful. What did you think to the characters? Was there too much history in between the action? Do you feel present tense helps you to feel more involved with the story line?
Any feedback, positive or negative, will help me grow as a writer. I always take any comments on board when I go back to edit, and also when I'm writing new things.
Thanks for reading
P.s If you'd like to continue Henry's story, just click on the link below!