Friday 16 November 2018


First Love

He was an Adonis, the new Science teacher. It was days before she could raise her eyes and take in the whole splendour of him.  On the first day of class she spent much time studying his feet, or rather his shoes, for which she was cruelly teased by a classmate who could not possibly understand her dilemma. Kate was in love, and for the first time.

On the second day a piece of chalk landed unceremoniously in her lap; this was his novel way of getting the attention of an erring student. Kate erring? She savoured every syllable he uttered. The truth was, however, that she was wedged between her ebullient-from-birth next door neighbour, Madge Sweeney, and her soi-distant third cousin twice removed, Alice Hamill. In fact, ever since she had started school at the age of five she had been misplaced between these two warring factions who waged continuous battle, in and outside of the classroom. As a result she had spent many of her school days kneeling on hard wooden floorboards, for kneeling in this school was a popular form of punishment. But at thirteen years of age Kate decided that it was high time to seat herself out of misfortune’s way.

The Greek Adonis had tousled fair hair, a Mills and Boon jaw line, sea blue eyes and bandy legs. But since love is blind Kate did not regard this latter apparent defect in his gait as a deal breaker. She thought that it even added a certain jauntiness to his appearance and took away from a certain severity of expression which she attributed to his rather tight lipped smile.
Her love survived the bandy legs and tight lips and thrived. And Kate, like many love stricken adolescents, spent much of her free time haunting street corners where she might be afforded a glimpse of the beloved in transit to and from church, the library or the football pitch, for his habits were simple and his itinerary easily discovered. Many an apparent chance encounter was, in reality, a carefully planned manoeuvre. She probably knew his school timetable better than he did himself and he must have been surprised at the number of times he encountered her on his daily toil to and from the staffroom. She welcomed every opportunity to deliver messages in and around the science lab and became, in short, the perfect pupil.

This frenetic activity continued for some months and could have gone on indefinitely but for a fortunate meeting that set her thinking abut the real disparity between them, apart from the age factor which she chose, rather romantically, to ignore.

Kate was on one of her sojourns to the library which was located at the bottom of Scotch Street and a long way from Adonis’ lodgings. But she had set out in the hope of finding him at the top of those thirty six steps in that small room presided over by Miss Beatty. This lady too had a look of severity that was unsoftened in her case by the adulation of this beholder. But the similarity set Kate to wondering if perhaps there was something in the nature of their chosen professions, as guardians and custodians of young impressionable minds, that caused them to take on such formidable expressions. She wondered if his face, after a lifetime of teaching, might end up like Miss Beatty’s, permanently screwed up in anticipation of misdemeanour. The prospect was daunting, momentarily, even to young love.

She could see from Miss Beatty’s raised eyebrow that the fusty middle-aged librarian did not approve of her choice of fiction. It was historical Romance, verging on the much coveted Mills and Boon, from which section she was rigorously debarred. A little deflated at her failure to make a sighting of the beloved, Kate decided, in spite of the inclement weather, the puddles and potholes to be negotiated and the library books to be protected from the rain, to take a detour up Anne Street, down Church Street; it would only add fifteen minutes to her journey and it had the added advantage of taking in Meany’s Greengrocer where she could purchase a Cox Pippin. It was not every day that she possessed the price of this commodity. Money was scare and treats few but a visit from Aunt Annie had refurbished her empty pocket and the coin was now burning a hole in her coat pocket. And, of course, the main advantage to following this alternative route was that it narrowly skirted the lodgings of the Greek Adonis.

She emerged from Meany’s into an autumn squall. She was carrying in precarious balance the three historical novels and the recently purchased Cox Pippin. She had just taken one delicious bite when her hold loosened. Her choice, in as far as she had one, was between the admonishment of Miss Beatty and the loss of the Cox. The apple fell. In dismay she watched it roll down the street; it would be another week before she could afford another. Her disappointment was acute. But the apple did not roll far, just a few feet, and given the sharp incline that was Church Street this short trajectory was a miracle.

She deliberated only for a second. Then she picked up the errant piece of fruit. It was wet but not bruised, not really dirty and she wiped it on her gabardine coat sleeve. Just as her teeth sank into the salvaged apple a figure overtook her on the kerb. It was a figure sporting bandy legs and a sour expression.

The schoolteacher uttered an unmistakable tut of disapproval; she heard the word hygiene pursed between tight lips. She recalled the dour face of Miss Beatty. There could be no doubt about it. Her beloved was doomed to end up with a permanent scowl on his face.
And so Adonis fell to Earth with the thud of an Icarus. Such is the nature of first love.

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