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A New Story by Zack Wilson


By Zack Wilson

My last crush occurred when I was 29 and still a schoolteacher. I suppose my age and workplace are relevant. She taught foreign languages and her name was Rachel.

She was a beautiful woman without realising it. About five years younger than me. Her hair was chestnut brown, like her eyes. She had big hands and her skin was ivory—white and soft. I thought I loved her.

I hung about with her most of the time at work. We always sat together in the staffroom. I took her shopping in the Christmas sales. We even went on holiday together for a few days in Edinburgh with some mutual friends. I really thought she liked me. Maybe I thought that if I just hung around with her long enough then we would become a couple.

She had a long-term boyfriend whom she left. I felt like I had a chance. I didn’t. She got back together with him when he got drunk and lay on her mother’s sofa calling her name into a bucket.

Just before the whole thing completely broke my heart and contributed to an alcoholic breakdown, I sat behind her at the Year 11 Awards Evening. This event was a load of self-serving toss dreamt up by the headteacher because of difficulties with Ofsted. It was also an event marked by the speech of a self-declared ‘Motivator’.

This bleached haired twat had been invited into the school as part of what was called ‘The Unstoppable Teen’ programme. This involved vast numbers of children of average ability being taken out of GCSE lessons to go and see this dickhead, who told them that they weren’t average but were brilliant and that they could all achieve great grades. Quite how not being in GCSE lessons would help this, I wasn’t sure. I am sure his fee came directly out of the school’s annual budget.

Anyway, I attended this event because I had to and sat behind Rachel. I’d smoked some dodgy hash to help get me through it and this probably made me a little solipsistic. I think she had a dress on and some kind of cream coloured woollen jumper. Her hair looked darker than usual and had had its style changed indeterminately and subtly in a way that took my breath away. She never looked like she wore makeup. Sitting behind her I could see the way her eyes shone in the twilit hall when she turned to one side.

The evening progressed without incident. There were some speeches and some prizes were handed out. I noticed one of Rachel’s dark brown hairs trailing across her cream shoulder as we stood to applaud deserving geographers or Special Needs scientists. Rachel applauded and smiled with the enthusiasm of a girl who’s been given a pony for Christmas. I couldn’t take my eyes off the trailing hair.

The headteacher made a speech. I can’t recall the details. The Motivator came on.

He told us about himself. About how he’d been a professional footballer as a youth, but had had a bad injury. He’d been hopeless and thought his career, even his life, was over. Rachel looked sympathetic and beautiful in the light reflecting from the stage.

But he’d picked himself up and gone to America. In America, he’d found a way to work, and a way to make money. I lost interest here, but Rachel didn’t. He went on to say something about how he’d found out he had a gift for public speaking. We all have a gift, he said, his blonde hair trembling in the spotlight. I

I noticed a tiny black insect crawling along, parallel to the dark strand of hair on Rachel’s shoulder. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to move it, catch it, hunt it down for her.

Her head was gazing at the trembling blonde thing in the spotlight. He was telling random Year 11s that they were “the best” and pointing into the audience. I forget what had led him to it. I tried to whisper “Rach” twice or three times. She deliberately ignored me.

The grey haired woman next to her smiled sympathetically at me. I grinned back. I tried to remove the insect discreetly with my index finger and thumb, but Rachel lifted her shoulders suddenly and moved slightly forward. She was besotted with the stage.

My hand slapped her on the shoulder, smudging the insect. She leaned forward, away from my offending hands. I could tell that she wasn’t grateful. I tried to stutter an explanation. She dismissed me with an underarm wave and I saw withheld tears reddening her eyes as the speech on stage finished and we all stood to applaud.

I didn’t speak to her again that evening.

I can’t remember speaking to her ever again, actually, and I wish there was some way now that I could tell what I lost.



Anonymous said...

nice ending. damn bugs.

Anonymous said...

nothing like an insect to show you how things are really going.

Anonymous said...

nice story. would be interested in learning more about this narrator. another story maybe???

Anonymous said...

why did he love her so much? what was lost?