by Lady Holly
He catches her eye and winks. She fakes throwing up in disgust and turns away.
His Kiss - Part Three
It was Monday morning, and Henry was running late.
“Catherine! Come and put your shoes on we're going to be late!” She yells up the stairs. Her sister was messing around on the musical keyboard that Henry had picked up the other week in a charity shop in the nearby town. Henry hears about ten different keys being pressed down at once, sounding like some terrible funeral march, and then footsteps on the stairs.
Henry's mornings were always hectic. They lived in a tiny house, which they’d moved to after their dad left and just before Henry started secondary school. Even with the money their dad sent over to help, the Morgan’s still had next to nothing in the way of money. Consequently, Henry’s mum worked three part-time jobs, and was rarely at home. Each weekday morning Henry had to get Catherine and Zoe up, breakfasted and dressed, ready to leave the house by half past eight, and then drop them at their schools on the way to her own.
It was now twenty minutes to nine, and Henry was frantically buttering slices of bread to make jam sandwiches for her and Catherine's packed lunch. Zoe was in her high chair, currently mashing her banana into a nice gooey mess on the tray.
“Oh Zoe, not again!” She lifts the child out of the chair, placing her onto the floor where Catherine magically appears, shoes on, holding out her hand to Zoe to help her put on her own tiny shoes.
Henry quickly wraps the squashed sandwiches in cling film, putting one into Catherine's pink ballerina lunch box along with cheese and onion crisps, an apple, and a Kit-Kat. She snaps the box shut and hands it to Catherine.
Picking up her own school bag, stuffing her lunch inside, and putting on her jacket, she bends down to strap Zoe into the buggy, then herds them out of the front door, locking it behind them.
Only to unlock it a minute later because Catherine has forgotten her special donkey for show and tell.
At quarter to nine, the trio of Morgan girls, wrapped up suitably for the turning weather, were finally on their way down the road lined with autumn coloured trees, the air crisp but thankfully no chilling wind.
By the time Henry reached her school, registration was over, so she had to go into the main office to sign in.
Running down the empty corridor, she tries to work out exactly how late she is to chemistry. By her calculations, it is only about three minutes. Hopefully, Mr Fletcher will be in a good mood, he very rarely wasn't, recent encounter being dismissed as an anomaly.
Henry attempts to peer through the glass panel in the door but it has been covered up with sugar paper, so she tentatively opens the door and steps through. And has a heart attack.
There, sitting in her seat at her desk and looking equally as shocked as she feels, is James Stevens.
She freezes, the room falling away from her vision to be replaced by painful memories.
...Aged about three, both sitting on piles of cushions on chairs in Henry's kitchen, a paint set spread out in front of them. Henry has blue paint stuck in the ends of her curls, where she's bent over too close to the paper in concentration and her hair has dragged through the sky. She's finished her painting, and turns to James to wait till he's finished. He has the point of his tongue sticking out the corner of his mouth as he dots with the paint brush. Leaning back, he brushes his dark curls off of his forehead, leaving a green tree streak across his face. Henry giggles.
Simultaneously, they both hold up their finished pictures, and let out cries of delight. They've both painted the same picture – the two of them standing in the park...
… In reception class, building the highest tower they've ever built, then posing in front of it while their teacher takes a picture...
...Little Henry in navy blue dungarees, sitting on the top of the slide, laughing gleefully. Mini James, climbing up the steps to give Henry a push. She speeds down the slide, flying through the air when she leaves the bottom and landing in a huge pile of mud. In a fit of giggles, James lands next to her. A mud fight breaks out....
…At the school disco, James showing Henry how to run and skid on her knees, neither paying attention to the girls clattering around in their first pairs of high heels in short skirts, squealing as the boys chase them and try to kiss them...
… Aged eight, racing across the field out the back of their houses and into the spinney. James, having grown a foot taller than her with long gangly legs, could have beaten her easily, but he let her win. Henry ran over to one of the biggest trees.
“Give me a leg up, J!” James obediently interlaces his fingers for Henry to place her foot in and swing herself onto the lowest branch. He pulls himself up to sit next to her.
There was a pause, the only sounds are the trees rustling, pigeons softly cooing nearby, and their heavy pants while they catch their breath from the race.
Henry turns to grin at James, but catches an unusual look on his face. He’s staring intensely at her. She jumps up and climbs onto the next branch, scared at how that look made her insides summersault...
… A year later, Henry's sleeping over at James' house. There is a massive thunderstorm raging over their heads, and Henry has always been terrified of thunder. James is holding her hand tightly, somehow making it that little bit easier...
… They're eleven now, and Henry is standing stiffly, fists scrunched at her sides and angry tears stinging her eyes.
“How could you?!” She accuses.
“It's not my fault!” James glares at her. He stands pitifully in his doorway, the door resting behind him so that Henry can't see inside.
She thinks back to the moment she'd overheard James giggling with Claudia in the book corner, trying to figure out a new funny name they could call the nerdy girl who loved to tell everyone when they were wrong.
He thinks this is just about him moving away, but it’s so much more than that.
Tears begin to trickle down her cheeks, she wants to hit him and make him understand her pain, and she probably would have, if he didn't throw her one last pitiful look, and close the door in her face...
...This time she is standing on the beach, facing James off. Behind him stands a bleach blonde girl in a skimpy bikini, toying with his left hand.
“Jammeeessss, can we go get an ice cream now?” She whines in an awfully squeaky voice.
“Not now, Haley, just leave us alone a minute” The blonde sulks off, throwing a dark look at Henry for disrupting them.
When she is a safe distance away, Henry cries “How could you?!” Deja Vu.
“Hennie, it's not what it looks like.” Henry can't believe what she was hearing. James looks at the floor.
When he brings his eyes up to meet hers, they are filled with remorse. “She doesn't mean anything.”
“Liar” Henry's words are bitter.
“No, Hennie I love you. I've already lost you once, don't leave me again!” His voice breaks.
“I think there's something wrong with your memory; it was you who left me!” Henry growls.
“You were the one who walked away!” James accuses.
“Because of you!”
“We could have talked about it!”
“You moved away!”
“We could have stayed in touch!”
By now, they are yelling at each other, receiving strange looks from the innocent beach goers watching.
“Well, it's too late now.” Henry says, losing some of her fight.
“She means nothing. I swear.” James looks into her eyes, stepping closer. Henry turns and walks away without looking back.
The next day she leaves the seaside. She hasn't seen him since that summer a year ago...
All of this flashes through her mind in a matter of seconds, and when she is pulled back to the present, she realises James is having similar flashbacks.
The whole class, including Mr Fletcher, are staring at her.
Avoiding looking at James and instead studying the science room floor, Henry takes a few shaky steps forward, shuffling into the seat next to Emma. She looks up at Mr Fletcher, willing him not to mention what had just happened.
Mr Fletcher clears his throat, and, after a brief pause, begins to lecture them on Hydrocarbons. The lesson goes on.
Henry tries her best to avoid staring at the back of James’ head. She really does. But she can’t help noticing he’s cut it shorter than how he was wearing it a year ago; where it had been long, side swept and slightly curly, he now wore it in a neater, sharper style, cutting out most of the curl.
She also notices that although his clothes complied with school sixth form regulation; smart, collared shirt, suit trousers and tie, his shoes went against the policy; black converse. Typical James; always rebelling. It hurts her to realise that she still remembers exactly what James is like; time hasn’t made her memory of him even slightly fuzzy. This alone annoys her immensely.
“Henry what on earth is going on?!” Emma hisses at her when Mr Fletcher turns his back to scribble an equation on the board.
At that particular moment in time, Henry was staring intently at James’ back, eyes slightly squinty from the concentration. Could he feel she was looking at him? Did he want to turn around and look at her with the same intensity that she wanted to study him? She was definitely in the position of power; she gave herself a mental pat on the back for choosing a seat behind and not in front of him in such a panicky moment. “Nothing.” She answers, as Mr Fletcher turns around and begins talking again.
Henry could tell Emma was dying to know what was up, and hoped Emma wouldn’t mention it when they were with all of the others at break time.
As they are packing up their bags, Mr Fletcher asks Henry to stay behind. The bell rings out and everyone files out of the classroom, leaving Mr Fletcher and Henry alone. As Emma left their table, she gave Henry ‘we need to talk’ eyes. James is the last one to leave the classroom, Henry can see him hovering on the edge of her vision in his converse and refuses to look directly at him. At Mr Fletcher’s cough James turns around and shuffles out, the door clicking shut after him. Henry suddenly feels nervous.
“Your detention for your actions last Friday is this lunchtime.” Henry nods, relieved. After the drama of this morning she’d completely forgotten about her impending detention.
Mr Fletcher sighs and sat down at his desk. “Morgan, what were you doing in the cupboard?” He sounds very old all of a sudden, as if he knew the answer and was very disappointed in her.
Henry decides to tell the truth, because what Mr Fletcher thought they were doing was way more embarrassing.
“Our year were playing hide and seek. We both chose the same place to hide, and then it was too late to find somewhere else to hide.” Mr Fletcher nods, satisfied she is telling the truth.
“Well, you know you're not meant to be up here at break times.” He scolds.
Henry bows her head.
“Okay. I've told Roberts about the detention. You'll both be helping the technicians clean up the test tubes.” Nodding again, Henry turns to go.
“Oh and Morgan?”
Henry swivels back around to face him.
“What was all that at the start of the lesson about?”
In a split-second decision, Henry decides to feign innocence. “I’m not really sure what you mean, Sir.”
Mr Fletcher frowns. “When you walked into the room and froze…” He trails off when he catches her confused expression. He clears his throat. “Just makes sure you’re not late for class again, Miss Morgan.”
“Yes, Sir.” Henry replies, nodding. She pauses for a moment to make sure the conversation is over, then turns and makes her way out of the room.
“Lunchtime!” He shouts after her. Henry rolls her eyes.
As she leaves the science block, she steps quietly, peering around corners. If Mr Fletcher was to walk out of his room now, he’d think for sure she had gone mad. She’s terrified James is hanging about somewhere, ready to pounce. But she doesn’t catch another glimpse of him, and makes it safely across the playground and into her group’s usual break time hang out.
She can feel Emma’s eyes on her as soon as she walks into the room.
“Ooh I haven’t seen him yet, what does he look like?!” Amy’s eyes are wide and her voice high.
“He’s gorgeous.” Beth gushes. “He’s got these chocolate brown eyes that you could just melt into.”
“Tell me more!” If it’s possible, Amy’s voice goes even higher.
“Oh come on guys, we’re not Grease.” Emma rolls her eyes, concerned at the shade of white Henry has turned.
“Do you know anything about him, Emma?” Amy asks, turning to her.
“Nothing really. Only that he’s new, and he’s called James Stevens. He was in my Chemistry class this morning.”
“Did he introduce himself?” Beth questions.
“Just said he’d moved from down south. I think he said he likes to play rugby. Nothing that interesting.” Emma shrugged, trying to end the conversation as soon as possible.
“God Emma you’re useless. Henry, you were in that class. Do you have anything more?”
Henry looks up from her daze at the sound of her name. She’d been going over and over how it couldn’t be a consequence that James had started school here. It just didn’t make sense.
“Oh, Henry was late so she missed the introduction.” Emma buts in, covering for her friend. She sends Henry another worried, questioning glance, but Henry shakes her head.
Amy and Beth finally realise they’re not going to get any more information from the pair. “Where is Darcy? She’s bound to have all the gossip.”
For the first time, Henry realises Darcy isn’t in the room. It’s very unlike her. But she doesn’t have the head space at the moment to wonder about where Darcy has got to on top of everything else.
Darcy doesn’t make an appearance for the rest of the break. The bell rings out and Henry groans inwardly. Now she would have to leave the sanctuary of this James-free classroom. And she’s got maths next. She would be willing to bet money on James being in her class.
Sure enough, as she walks through the door, there he is sitting right at the front. She’s aware he’s noticed that she’s entered the class, and she walks straight past him, eyes dead ahead, and takes a seat at the back. As far away as humanly possible.
He turns around to look at her. Out of the corner of her eye she sees Mark walking towards her, and she looks up, catching his eye as he looks from James back to her and then raises his eyebrows.
“Lunchtime, Morgan.” He stops in front of her desk.
“Lunchtime, Morgan.” She imitates him badly, on purpose. “Yes yes, I know.”
“Good girl.” As he starts to walk past her he goes to pat her head and she swipes his arm away and shoots him a dirty look. He just laughs and takes his usual seat in the corner of the classroom.
When he realises she’s still looking at him, he catches her eye and winks. She fakes throwing up in disgust and turns away.
The teacher attempts to settle the class down, and Henry looks up to the front of the classroom, only to see James had just witnessed her exchange with Mark. She glances away again, unsure why she’s suddenly feeling so guilty. What was he doing here? Why did he have to come crashing back into her life? She had so many questions she wanted to ask him, but equally she just wanted to run away and never have to look at him again.
Unsurprisingly, Henry found it hard to concentrate on Trigonometry with so much rushing through her head. At the end of the class, she stays behind to ask the teacher for help on one of the homework questions. She doesn’t need the help, she just wants to avoid walking out of class and potentially having to speak to James.