NERVES.

ELAINE LOSES NERVE.

Elaine thought the morning would never go; the lessons seemed to go for ever. The brief meeting before school with John has set her on edge; all the anxiety of the day and night before, is still vibrating through her being. She waits for the bell, sitting at the desk, fingering the fountain pen, looking at the blackboard, with its script in white chalk. John said to meet her on the field at lunch recess. She can't eat a thing. She waits anxiously, watching the teacher talk, not listening, letting it pass over her head. The sky looks clear outside the window; the sports field should be nice and dry. She takes off her glasses, and wipes the lens with the small handkerchief she has tucked up the sleeve of her cardigan. She puts them on again. Clearer. The teacher moves to the board and scribbles more script. Her stomach tightens. She feels out on a limb. Her brain seems as if it's about to tightened. The girl next to, her nudges her elbow. She is supposed to write down more. She picks up the pen and copies down the script from the board. It makes no sense to her what she writes. Words on words. She dots the dot, as the bell rings. She puts her pen and books into her bag. The other students begin to move and leave the classroom. She gets up and follows behind the rest. The reality of seeing John again, unsettles her. The corridor is busy and noisy with students and teachers passing by back and forth. She waits. Bites her lip. Move on Frumpy, a girl says, passing by her. She watches the girl move on with others, looking back, grinning. She doesn't feel like eating. I'll miss lunch, she thinks, leave the sandwiches in the bag. She walks down the corridor towards the exit to the playground and sports field. Will he be there? Will he kiss again? She hesitates. Stands still by the exit. Fingers play with her bag strap. Students barge by. She waits by the door. The sun looks inviting. She feels her stomach tighten. Move on Frumpy, a group of boys say, pushing out into the daylight and playground and field.  She moves out into the playground looking about her. Where will he be? He said he will find her. Where should she go? She walks by the playground and wire fence and on to the sports field. Groups of girls are already sitting on the grass, talking and eating, laughing and sipping from bottles. She walks along by the wire fence and leans against it, waiting.  Did other girls feel like this after being kissed? She imagines so. A group of boys come on the field with a football and begin to have a kick around. Their voices are loud and high. She looks away. Two girls on the grass look her way, then look away, giggling. She hadn't expect John to kiss her the day before. It came as a big surprise, unsettled her, unhinged her slightly. The girls gaze at her smirking. She looks away from them, feeling suddenly as if she were on show to the whole world, as if she were naked. She walks on by the fence, looking at the ground, the concrete and tarmac of playground, meeting the green grass. Beware of boys, an aunt had said a while back. Just after one thing. She hadn't said what one thing.  She walks away from the fence and onto the field, the green grass under her shoes. Found you, John says, coming up behind her, touching her elbow with his hand. She looks around at him, nervous, pleased, anxious. Been waiting, she says. Didn't you have lunch? He asks. No, didn't feel like it, she replies. Let's walk up further, he says. And taking her elbow moves her onward. You must eat, he says, or you'll feel nauseous or faint. Felt uneasy about seeing you, she says, looking at him sideways on. Didn't you want to see me? He says. Yes, but I get nervous doing things out of the ordinary, she says. How do you feel now? He asks. Still nervous, she says. He studies her closely as they walk along the field. I shouldn’t have kissed you yesterday like that, John says, put you on edge now. They walk on in silence. Boys behind them, on the field, call out about the ball to  each other. A girl laughs loudly. I liked the kiss, she says suddenly. Didn't expect it. Caught me off guard. Sorry, he says, ought to have said about kissing you. I'm just a frump, she says. Others say I am. I like you as you are, he says. They reach the fence separating the school field from the passing traffic just a few yards away. She looks back at the school and field. I feel out on a limb, like I've got lost, she says.  I thought about you last night, he says. Did you? She says, looking at him, taking in his quiff of hair and the hazel eyes, the grey school jumper and tie untied. Yes, couldn't focus on anything much. What did you think about me for? She asks. I just did. He looks at her. Her hair is well brushed, her glasses have not got the smears they had the day before. Do you like me? She asks softly. Of course I do, he says. I wouldn't kiss you, if I didn't.  What is there to like about me? She says. Who knows what it is, that attracts us deep down, I just like you as you are. She looks at the grass, and sits down by the fence, and looks ahead. My aunt said boys are only after one thing, Elaine says. What thing is that? He asks. She didn't say, Elaine says. Doesn't matter then, he says. No, guess not, she says, looking at the boys kicking the ball around. She feels him near her, his hand inches from hers. She sits cross-legged, her green skirt over her knees, her hands in her lap. He sits beside her, his chin resting on his knees, hands on the grass beside him. Maybe we should meet outside school sometime, he says. Where? She asks. I could come to your village, you could show me around, he says. Not much to show, she says. I could come to your village, but I’m not easy about travelling alone. He touches her hand. I'll come to your village; we can go nature studying, he says. She looks at him sitting there, his hand touching hers, his thumb rubbing against the back of her hand. You do like me, don't you? This isn't some joke? She says. He frowns. Of course not, why would I do that? People do things, she says. Not me, he says. They think I'm a joke, she says, the Frump. What do you think of me? He asks. She hesitates, looks away, feels his thumb on her skin. Thought about you yesterday, and last night, and this morning, getting washed and dressed. She blushes, not you getting washed and dressed, she says. I thought of you, while I was washing and getting dressed. He smiles. I know what you mean. I liked it when you kissed me, she says. It did things to me. What kind of things? he asks. Don't know. Just felt so alive. He nods. Takes her hands in his and strokes them. I like your hands, he says. They're nice and soft, gentle hands, caressing hands. Can I kiss you again? He asks. She takes her hands from his. If you mean it, she says, not just for kissings sake. She tucks her hands in her lap. I mean it when I kiss, I did yesterday, he says. Here, now? She says. Anxiety creeps inside. What if some one sees us? She asks. We'll sell tickets, he says, smiling. Not sure. If maybe. Not sure I know how to kiss. She thinks about getting up; walking helps her think. Kissing is easy. It is lips to lips, he says. It's more, its the build up and the after effects and what it does inside, she says, getting up from the grass. He gets up too, and stands beside her. Another time maybe, he says, her lips seemed kissable to him, but he wasn't going to push it. She  walks off towards the woods, by the sports field, he walks beside her, his hand brushing close to hers. I feel as if I’ve stepped into a different world, she says, a world where I don't know the rules or laws. I can't do it, she says anxiously, and walks away from him, leaving him behind; he watching her go, unsure what to do or say. She walks towards the school now, diverging across the grass, her eyes on the ground, the movement of green, the sound of voices, and laughter, and screams, and her heart thumping inside her, her body hot and sweating, her stomach tightening. He watches her go into the school out if sight. What went wrong? He asks. What was all that about? There is a whistle blown, a call of laughter, a long loud boyish wounding shout.

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