"Come on!" Hannah impatiently motioned April to follow her.
Hannah was dragging her along to the health centre, fed up with her excuses.
"You're gonna have to do this sooner or later, so pick it up!"
"Ok, ok!" April begrudgingly conceded, steeling herself for the humiliation she was about to endure.
Hannah practically pushed her through the door, crossing her arms and rolling her eyes as April was ushered into the school nurse's office.
"So what can I do for you today, dear?" the older lady kindly asked, warm smile on her face.
"Um...," she hesitated, swallowing hard, eyes firmly fixed on her hands wringing in her lap.
"I was thinking of going on the pill, maybe?" Her voice barely carried across the room, so the nurse had to lean in to catch her meaning.
"Right, I see," she said cheerfully. "Any particular reason why?"
April cursed Hannah for making her go through with this on her own, scrambling to find the words.
"Well...," she attempted, flailing, but finally unable to continue.
"Are you having sexual intercourse regularly?" the nurse finally came to her rescue.
Regularly? She wasn't sure if once counted as regular, but didn't know what else to say.
"Yes," she managed, flushing deeply. "Please don't tell my parents!"
"I'm here as a health care professional, my dear," she explained, waving her hand dismissively. "I'm not allowed to disclose any confidential information, but as you know sexual activity within the school premises is not allowed at Hartwell."
She swallowed hard before nodding solemnly. The nurse asked her a few more questions and sent her on her way, clutching her prescription in her hands.
"See, that wasn't so bad was it?" Hannah offered, slipping her arm around April's waist.
"That was mortifying," she hissed. "I hate you."
"You fucking love me, you big whore," Hannah laughed, making her cringe at the crass words.
Her face was still bright red and hot as they walked down towards breakfast, running into Jackson and Rich on the way. Hannah quickly abandoned her, falling into step with Rich, practically skipping next to him. Jackson eyed her inquisitively, flinging his arm around her shoulders.
"Yup," she nodded, carefully slipping the white paper bag into her school bag.
"Just... Not sure how I feel about that." She motioned towards Rich and Hannah flirting like crazy in front of them.
"He's not too bad, honestly," he shrugged, turning his attention back to her. "Everything else ok?"
His voice dropped, thick with implication. He fixed her in his gaze, arm moving down around her waist, fingers caressing her side, pulling her in tighter. She felt her face burn hot again, flashing her eyelashes down, warm feeling igniting in her stomach.
"Stop it!" she whispered loudly, unable to stop a smile spreading across her face.
Days had passed since he had come to her room that night, both of them trying to cool down, acutely aware of the lack of privacy they were afforded at Hartwell. They were circling around each other, but every time she had been with him since that night she had felt an electric current running between them. She'd jolt whenever he touched her, hold her breath when he locked eyes with her, shudder when he said her name a certain way. She was back in that place where she couldn't concentrate in class, catching herself running her fingers over her mouth absentmindedly, staring into space and smiling for no reason.
She tried to pull herself out of it, forcing herself to run a little harder each night, but then she'd see him and she would be right back in that place. It was hard to keep her mind from him when they were apart and harder still to keep her hands from him when they were together. She had a constant need to be near him, each meeting bringing them closer, tension building, frustration mounting.
Finally, it overwhelmed them. They had ducked into the athletics centre to escape a particularly icy rain shower, only to be frozen in each other's stare, breathless and wet from the downpour. He pulled her down a quiet hallway and into an equipment room, pushing a metal cage filled with volleyballs in front of the door to stop anyone entering. They clung to one another desperately, lips crashing into each other, teeth meeting skin. His hands were greedily exploring her, groping her ass a little too hard, but she didn't mind. He pushed her up against the wall, her head colliding with a mess of tangled up volleyball nets. His hands moved to her front, roughly kneading her breasts, as she grabbed his behind, pulling him in to her. She gasped out loud as he undid the top button of her jeans and slid his hand inside. He pulled out of her mouth as he pushed his fingers inside her, eyes boring into hers, causing her to whimper.
"Jackson," she whispered, voice unsteady. "What if someone hears us?"
He hushed her, focusing his attention on her neck, kissing and softly biting. His lips on her neck sent shivers directly to her centre, her body automatically buckling under his touch. He pulled out of her, lifting her up and depositing her on a stack of mats. Her eyes widened as he pulled his sweatshirt over his head and started to undo his jeans, concerns about being interrupted melting away as she let her eyes roam over his body.
The room was considerably better lit than her bedroom, and as he discarded his clothes and went to work on hers she found herself diverted, her focus entirely on him. His skin was still damp from the rain, the muscles in his arms rippling as he moved above her, strong jaw clenched in concentration as he attempted to remove her bra. She giggled softly, arching her back away from the mat to allow him better access. He seemed to appreciate the bright fluorescent lights too, transfixed by her bare chest, hands and mouth caressing her naked skin.
His mouth searched for hers, hungry and impatient, tongue pushing her lips apart. She wrapped herself around him, arms clutching his back, legs hitched up and folded around his hips, pushing herself into him. He pulled back briefly, discarding a foil wrapper on the floor, hurrying back to her. He slipped her panties to one side before pushing into her, surprising her with his urgency.
There was no pain this time, just an impossible fullness. He set a furious pace, diving into her over and over, tilting up her hips to meet his. She held her breath, scared it would come out in moans if she released it. He moved over her body with his mouth, groaning quietly into her skin, clutching her hips hard. She bit into her lip, letting short, staggered breaths out through her teeth, tension building deep within her.
Suddenly he flipped her so he was under her, the new position confounding her. She hesitated, experimenting with the pace, watching the expression on his face change under her. His eyes darkened, lids growing heavy as she found the right speed, swivelling her hips gently, feeling him reach deep inside her. Her blood was pounding in her ears, his heavy breath mixing with her own, her body finding a natural rhythm on top of him. The tension inside her was mounting, causing her to dig her hands into his chest, tightening her thighs around him, pointing her toes behind her. Suddenly she was released, her mind frozen, lights flashing inside her closed eyes, body shuddering over him. She was vaguely aware that he had sat up, arms folded around her back, stroking her hair as she continued to convulse around him. It was a while until she could open her eyes again, short laugh escaping her lips as she did, too exhausted to talk.
"Holy shit!" he laughed quietly into her shoulder, him also out of breath, holding her tightly.
Their physical relationship consumed her as they continued their game, tension building up until it became unbareable, then finding release whenever they could. It was exhausting and distracting, she had to plead with him to give her days off so she could try to focus her mind on something other than him. Somehow she managed to keep her grades up, though it felt like a miracle.
Christmas break had been unbareable, three weeks of torture, her body memory making her squirm in her seat whenever she thought of him, which was all the time. Her mother noticed, questioning her about it over dinner, making her squirm even more. Libby merely looked at her with a knowing smile, winking at her from across the table. She had to get up and leave, shooting her sister a dirty look before leaving the room.
The long phone conversations she had with Jackson each night didn't help, though she wouldn't have gone without them. She was happy that their relationship was deepening outside their physical connection, feeling a closeness with him despite their seperation.
A few weeks after Christmas he was in her bed, his hot body tangled around her, his weight pinning her down to the mattress. His head was resting on her naked chest, his body rising and falling with heavy breaths. They had spent the last hour exhausting each other, so she had let him fall asleep on top of her for a little while. It was nearly five in the morning, the alarm clock next to her bed informed her, almost time for him to sneak out of her room and return to his own.
She was about to wake him when the loud, piercing sound of a siren jolted them both. It took her a couple of seconds for her brain to register what was happening, before panic gripped her bones, forcing her to scramble out of bed. Jackson was way ahead of her, already struggling to get into his clothes as the fire alarm blared around them. She grabbed a t-shirt and some leggings, his hand already on the door knob, shouting something at her which she couldn't identify through the sound of the alarm. She held her breath as he ripped open the door, looking both ways into the hallway before sprinting out, disappearing. She stood frozen to the floor, praying he would make it out unseen, when her door burst wide open, George incoherently screaming at her. She finally registered, grabbing her thick coat on the way out, rushing through the fire door at the end of the corridor, scrambling down the stairs. As they huddled around in the courtyard outside the dorm with the other bleary eyed, scantily dressed girls, she realised she had forgot to put on her shoes, the icy ground burning her bare feet. George offered her scarf, making April stand on it while their dorm head, Mr Boyd, started calling names, checking off his list.
"Jackson?" George whispered in her ear, raising one eyebrow.
She shrugged imperceptibly, widening her eyes. She scanned the crowds, noting that all the dorm buildings had huddles of frozen and confused students outside them, before finally catching a glimpse of Jackson standing together with the other boys in his dorm. He didn't get caught! She exhaled with relief, motioning her head towards him so George could see. But when she glanced over again Jackson was standing next to Mr Lane, his dorm head, eyes to the ground. Some of the boys around him were patting his back, laughing at some unheard joke, whilst Mr Lane was folding his arms, face grim as he called over to Mr Boyd, leaning in for a hushed, serious conversation. She caught Jackson's eyes, face filled with regret as he shrugged his shoulders, mouthing "sorry" at her from across the courtyard. Her heart sank as Mr Boyd made his way over to her group, stern look on his face.
"Right, everybody inside, thank you!" he shouted, ushering the shivering gaggle of girls back in the dorm building, holding her back.
"Let's get you into some shoes, Miss Kepner, then come into my office for a chat."
The next day she sat outside the headmasters office, fidgeting uncomfortably, pulling at her skirt, waiting to be called in. She had just seen Jackson come out, shamefaced, eyes filled with apology as he had been rushed away by Mr Lane. She had not been allowed to go to class that morning, not been allowed to speak to either Jackson or any other student, phone confiscated in the early hours of the morning. Mr Boyd motioned for her to enter Dr Holden's office, opening the door and following her in.
"Miss Kepner," the headmaster boomed, terrifying her even though he had just indicated that she should sit down. "Please."
"Mr Boyd tells me that young Mr Avery was caught sneaking out of your dorm during the fire drill this morning," he started, folding his hands on the giant oak desk he was sitting behind.
"I assume it was your room he was, what shall we say...visiting?"
There was no point denying it, so she nodded curtly, eyes flickering down to the floor, face burning hot.
"As you know," Dr Holden continued. "We insist that students refrain from intimate sexual relationships whilst at Hartwell. This goes against school rules and the student's honour code, as I'm sure you are aware."
She could feel both Dr Holden and Mr Boyd's eyes on her as she hung her head in shame, knowing the inevitable conclusion she was about to be faced with.
"I have no choice but to suspend you both for a week," Dr Holden concluded, opening his hands, indicating that her actions had sealed her own fate. "I have already informed your parents."
Oh shit! She whipped her head up to face the headmaster at the last comment, her heart jumping to her throat, tears stinging her eyes as she realised the implication of his words. Her parents knew! Her stomach immediately twisted into a hard knot, imagining the disappointment her parents must feel, wondering if they would be angry with her.
"There is one problem, however," Dr Holden said, voice a little lower, almost uncomfortable. "Your parents have informed me that they simply don't have the money to pay for your fare back home."
She winced under his words, humiliation deepening, forcing her to pinch the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes hoping the earth would open and swallow her whole.
"You can absolutely not stay here, so after discussing this with both your parents and Mrs Avery, we have decided that you should go to Boston with Mr Avery," he said, tone serious again, pausing for effect. "Under the strict supervision of Mrs Avery of course."
She was stunned, mortified, mind reeling. Slowly, she was gripped with terror, realising she was going to have to spend a week with her boyfriend's mother, and under what circumstances.
"This is not a reward, Miss Kepner," Dr Holden warned. She had been under no illusion that it was.
"This is very much a punishment. You will have to hand in extra coursework at the end of the week, which Mr Boyd will give you before you leave."
"Of course," she finally managed, scrambling to keep her composure. "I'm sorry."
"I have to say we are all very disappointed in you, Miss Kepner," Dr Holden said, getting up from behind his desk.
"I'm surprised you could be so easily distracted from achieving the self discipline of a mature young adult."
With those final humiliating words, she was escorted out of the headmaster's office and back to her dorm to pack up her things.