17 Years Later
He walked through the school gate of yet another new school.
Just one more year and then he will be eighteen. He will be finished with school and finished with foster care. He cannot wait for the day to arrive and it seemed as if he had been waiting for that elusive day forever. His latest foster parents were not that bad, but always though he felt as if he was intruding on their privacy. He knew it was never their intention, but the feeling came to him naturally, as he was sure it would feel to anybody who had to look strangers in the eye for their every need.
The navy and yellow striped tie around his neck pushed uncomfortably against his windpipe, and he pulled at it a little bit, to loosen it. He had pulled the sleeves of the navy jumper he was wearing up over his elbows, and he held onto the straps of the backpack slung casually across his shoulder.
He walked down the slight hill from the gate toward the school building. He was surrounded by many other loud students. Some of them looked at him curiously, but they did not approach him and he was used to it by now. He had never spent more than six months in the same school because he was only in temporary foster care, which meant he moved from house to house, town to town often.
He had the sudden urge to look up and his eyes connected with blue-green aquamarine eyes.
Her eyes glittered with mirth and her wide smile made him feel like smiling as well, although he did not smile at her in return. She looked at him, but he obviously did not make the same impact on her as she had made on him. She turned around and started walking backwards laughing at something her friend said.
As she walked past him, up the hill toward the gate, he looked at her sideways and caught a glimpse of her looking back at him.
He continued walking down the hill and then he entered the warm embrace of the building. He turned to the right and followed the green boards with white lettering toward the administrative office.
When he reached the hole in the wall area, he dropped his backpack next to him on the ground and he leaned with his elbows on the wooden counter.
An elderly lady with grey hair, pulled back in a bun at the back of her head, smiled at him kindly as she came waddling around her desk toward the counter.
She asked friendly, “Can I help you?”
“This is my first day.”
“Ah. Wait your papers are here somewhere.” She turned back toward her desk and started shuffling through a stack of papers. After a few minutes, she said pleased, “Here you go. Damien?”
Damien smiled friendly. “That’s me.”
She opened the light blue folder and pulled a sheet from the top of the stack of papers. Papers which followed him wherever he went. Nothing was ever a secret to the administration staff of the hordes of schools he had attended in the past. They all knew his past.
Because the bell had not gone yet and he did not want to stand around aimlessly, he decided to ask her whether there were any after school activities.
Pleased the lady pulled a sheet from a yellow tray on the side of the counter. “We have the usual. Drama, Rugby, Football and Basketball, but this year we have started a Music program which seems to be very popular. Maybe you would like to sign up?”
Damien looked down at the sheet she put on the counter in front of him. He was not interested in sport or drama, but to keep himself busy in the afternoons, and so that he did not have to spend too much time at his foster home, he decided the music program would suit him. He saw the music group met three times a week and as it was he could play the guitar. Not brilliantly, but he could strum a few chords. He asked interested, “How do I sign up?”
“They meet in the Music Room.” She looked down at the sheet of paper. “Looks like today is one of the days. Just go there after school and then speak with Miss Connell.”
The bell rang just as Damien said, “Thank you.”
“Welcome, Damien. I hope you are happy here.”
He smiled at her as he turned away from the counter. “Thank you.”
He hefted his bag onto his shoulder and walked down the dim carpeted corridor looking at the numbers on the doors. When he reached the door number which corresponded with the door number of the first class on his schedule, he turned into the open doorway.
He walked to the teacher standing in front of the class, wiping the green board clean.
As he reached the teacher, he looked sideways at Damien. “A new student? This late in the year?”
Damien did not know what to say as he handed the teacher the form he received earlier from the administrative office.
The teacher looked down at the sheet of paper and when he looked up at Damien again, he asked, “So, Damien I hope you are up to speed with the syllabus. This is an A-level class.”
Most people thought he was stupid just because he came from an abusive background.
Without expecting an answer, the teacher pointed to a seat at the back of the class, next to the window. “That seat’s vacant. Kyle left us last week, so you can sit there.”
Damien nodded his head and walked toward the seat as other students started walking into the class. Damien sat down in his chair and looked up at the door just as the girl with the aquamarine eyes he saw earlier came walking in, hand in hand with a blonde haired boy.
Their eyes connected and she looked down at the ground as she walked past him. Her boyfriend sat down in the desk behind Damien.
As the blonde haired boy sat down in his chair, he leaned across to Damien, “You new?”
Damien said, “I am.” He smiled amused as he glanced back over his shoulder.
“Nice. I’m Aidan. You?”
“You play sports?”
Damien shook his head as he said, “No.”
“Pity. You’ve got the built for it.”
Damien looked away from Aidan and let his eyes scan the classroom. His eyes came to a stop on the girl who made him feel apprehensive and anxious.
She was already looking at him.
Aidan followed his gaze. “That’s Taylor.”
Damien nodded his head at her as she smiled at him in greeting. He only just met her, but he loved her smile. She was messing with his head.
The teacher cleared his throat and reluctantly Damien turned away from Taylor to face the front of the class.
When the bell rang, Aidan waited for Damien and then they met Taylor and Brianna waiting for them outside the classroom.
As soon as they reached the two girls, Aidan put his arm across Taylor’s shoulders casually.
Brianna asked from the other side of Taylor, “Where do you live?”
“That’s just around the corner from me,” Brianna smiled widely.
Aidan asked, “Do you also have Maths next?”
Damien looked down at his list. “Yeah. A levels.”
“Us too. We’ll walk together.”
As they rounded the corner, Brianna moved from next to Taylor and started walking next to Damien. “Let me see your schedule.”
He handed his schedule to her.
She scanned it quickly. “You have the exact same schedule as me today. We can stick together.”
He did not really need an escort, but she was pretty. She was not like Taylor, there was something about Taylor that pulled at him and it was nothing he could specifically point to. He could not say if it was her dark blonde hair tied in a casual ponytail behind her head, her eyes, her lips, her ears, her hands, her nose, the faint sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of her nose, her legs, the way she walked or the way she smiled. It was all of these things and more that made him feel unsure as he glanced at her.
As they reached the Maths classroom, Aidan stopped and pulled Taylor into him. He kissed her lightly on her lips and whispered something in her ear. She pulled away from him, laughing and then turned on her heels to walk further down the passage.
Brianna saw the way Damien was looking at Taylor walking away. “She does not take Maths A-levels.”
Damien looked back at Brianna and smiled at her, trying hard not to look fazed. He stopped in the door and extended his hand indicating for her to walk into the classroom ahead of him.
Once again Damien stopped in front of the class to be shown to a desk, and once again the teacher showed his displeasure that Damien transferred between schools and counties at such a late stage of the school year.
Damien sat down in the chair behind Brianna and she turned back to him and smiled brightly.
He watched the back of her head as the teacher explained equations Damien had already learned. Brianna had long, straight shiny black hair that hung midway down her back. When she smiled two dimples dipped into her cheeks and she had navy blue eyes, they were only a few shades lighter than black. Her blue eyes, pink cheeks and dark hair contrasted well with her pale skin. Also, unlike Taylor she seemed to be untaken.
Although he had seen Taylor for the first time two hours ago, it would not help if he obsessed about her when she was obviously in a relationship with Aidan.
At lunch, they went to sit outside on the grass of the football field.
Everybody sat down except Taylor. “I am not sitting on the grass. It looks damp.”
Aidan grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her down. She half fell on him and he lifted her by placing his hands around her small waist and lifting her onto his lap.
She laughed as she leaned back into him. “You don’t have to be so violent, Aidan.”
“Sorry.” His lips lingered next to her ear.
Taylor looked up and caught Damien looking at her fascinated. Laughing, she squirmed away from Aidan.
Damien quickly turned to Brianna. “I hear the music program is good here.”
Brianna nodded her head. “You’ll have to ask Taylor. I do Drama.”
Damien glanced at Taylor, but his mouth went dry when he looked at her and he considered he could actually not speak to her.
Taylor did not notice him looking at her again. She had moved from Aidan’s lap and was leaning into him. Their cheeks were pressed against each other and they were talking softly in each other’s ears.
Brianna laughed. “Join the club, they can be very embarrassing, but at least now I have you to keep me company.”
Looking at Taylor, Damien felt his heart pound in his chest. The feelings he seemed to have developed for her instantaneously was totally inappropriate and he would have to get her out of his head. He saw the way she looked at Aidan and although it was completely inappropriate, he had just met her, he wanted her to look at him like that.
As the day progressed he managed to avoid looking at Taylor again. They had accepted him into their group of friends and it would be stupid to now have feelings for a girl who was the girlfriend and love interest of his new friend.
When the last bell of the day rang, Damien walked toward the Music Room.
He was not sure where it was, so he walked through the dimly lit structure and followed the passage to where he could hear voices. As he stepped into the large room, he was amazed to see the large number of musical instruments scattered around the room.
Immediately his eyes settled on Taylor where she was standing across the room laughing and talking with a girl he had not yet met.
As he walked into the room, she turned around to face him as if she could sense his presence.
The Music teacher clapped her hands together as she exclaimed, “Yes! Someone new to join our band.”
Damien was not sure he wanted to join a band.
The teacher saw the apprehensive look he threw her way.
She laughed again. “Not really a band, more a musical group. Can you play a musical instrument?”
“I can play a few songs on the guitar.”
“Perfect. Come here. What’s your name?”
“Welcome, Damien. Come play something for me. Let me hear what you can do.”
Apprehensively Damien stepped toward the teacher.
She handed him a guitar. “Sit on the chair there behind you.”
Damien sat down and held the guitar on his lap comfortably. He strummed the chords to listen if they were in tune and they were. Looking up at the teacher unsure he waited for her to tell him what he should play.
“Go ahead, Damien. Play something.”
“Anything? There isn’t a specific song you want me to play.”
The teacher laughed. “I have the feeling you told me a little fib, Damien. If you are asking for requests, it means you can play the guitar more than just a little bit.”
Damien shrugged. From the corner of his eye, he saw Taylor looking at him interested.
He started playing and a silence fell in the room, and inside of him. Through all the chaos and confusion that added up to his life so far, he always managed to escape into his music. He had his own battered guitar which travelled with him everywhere he went. He would rather pack his guitar than the few pieces of clothes he owned.