“Juliet Martin, are you wearing lipstick?”
Oh no. The first day of term and already Miss Villiers was on her case.
“Go and wash your face immediately. And don’t be late for class.”
Juliet dragged herself off into the nearest cloakroom. Her best friend Margot was in there, sitting up on the washbasins and leaning against the mirror, her eyes half closed. She was listening to music and showed no intention of going to class. Several of her braids had escaped her ponytail and she hadn’t taken her second ear studs out, as you were supposed to.
“Villiers?” she asked, seeing Juliet wiping her mouth with a tissue.
“She’s always on my case.”
Margot, like Juliet, wore as much make up as she could get away with. Even though St Gillian’s was a girls-only Catholic school, appearances mattered. Plus there could always be some random event like half a dozen hot paratroopers accidentally landing in the school yard.
This had never happened, but they lived in hope.
“You’re going to be late,” Juliet said, tying her own blonde hair back neatly in case the teacher was still lurking outside. She got in enough trouble as it was, she didn’t need any more on the first day. She and Margot both had the same Latin class to get to so they headed there together.
Margot looked at her through heavily mascaraed lashes that definitely wouldn’t have passed Miss Villiers’ inspection, any more than her multiple earrings. “Tell me again why the hell I ever decided to take Latin?”
The answer to this was quite simple. Old Mr Bryan, who taught Latin, was considered to be a soft touch and his classes were very laid back.
Truth be told, Juliet had secretly grown to love the Roman poetry they translated. Even more than the Romantic poets they studied in English. But she kept this quiet from her friends who might have mocked her.
“It’s stupid, all these rules. We’re eighteen now, legal adults, and we’re still treated like little kids,” Margot said as they walked down the corridor together.
They arrived and went to take their seats at the back as usual. It was such a small class that there was plenty of choice where to sit, though no one ever dared sit on the back row. It was established as Juliet’s and Margot’s territory.
“Oh look, what joy, it’s the charity case foster slut and her sidekick.”
It was Cynthia, their nemesis, scowling one of her usual greetings.
Juliet stiffened but Margot wasn’t going to give Cynthia the satisfaction of seeing Juliet upset.
“I think you have chocolate on your chin, bitch. Oh wait no, it’s just the shit that comes out of your mouth.”
Without giving Cynthia a chance to respond she brushed past her desk, pushing Juliet along with her so she didn’t try to retaliate as well. Cynthia always managed to make trouble for Juliet.
They took their places and got ready for the class. Margot still had her earbuds in as she figured Mr Bryan wouldn’t notice.
The class was kept waiting for a few minutes for the Latin teacher to arrive. The conversation level rose as students relaxed and chatted, even though they were supposed to keep quiet.
Suddenly the room fell silent.
“Ave Caesar, what do we have here?” Margot suddenly murmured.
Juliet had been buried in her exercise book, doodling while she awaited Mr Bryan. She looked up.
Whoever this was, it wasn’t Mr Bryan.
A young man - and not just that, an incredibly good looking young man - was arranging some books and papers on Mr Bryan’s desk. He was tall, with dark brown hair and greenish hazel eyes.
He immediately had their full and undivided attention, although he didn’t realise it. When he was ready, he stood up before them.
“Good morning, I’m Mr Spencer and I’ll be taking you for Latin this term.”
He assumed a confident air yet Juliet wasn’t entirely sure that it was solid. Facing a classroom of girls as new teacher was always going to be nerve-wracking. Or in any social situation where you were a stranger introducing yourself to a roomful of people, she thought.
“Where’s Mr Bryan?”
“Is Mr Bryan coming back?”
“Is he dead?”
The new teacher smiled at this one. “No, he’s very much alive and well. He’s just taken a sabbatical and I’m filling in.”
There was silence while people digested this.
What everyone wanted to know was who he was, where he was from, how old he was - Juliet guessed mid twenties - and whether he would be a pushover like Mr Bryan. Hopefully so, since he didn’t look too strict.
They couldn’t directly ask this last question of course, but they did manage to extract that he was twenty-seven, had previously taught at a private boys’ school, and had studied in the United Kingdom at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.
“St Stephen’s?” one girl said. “Isn’t that for priests? Our neighbours’ pastor went there.”
“It is a theological foundation, but not all students are ordinands. Studying for ordination I mean,” he explained.
“So you’re not a priest?”
“No, I’m not.”
“But you could have been?” This came from Margot. She was merciless when she wanted to be.
“It isn’t my immediate plan.”
So was that his plan in future? Was this super hot, super fit guy going to end up ordained and celibate? He looked more like he should be modelling outdoor clothing for some mountain gear catalogue.
“So what are you into?” Juliet asked.
Mr Spencer looked disconcerted. “Excuse me?”
Juliet gave one of her sweet but suggestive smiles that from experience, completely unnerved most men. “What Latin writers are your favourites, I mean?”
It had the desired effect. He almost blushed. “Much of my study has been in mediaeval Latin, though this year we’ll be doing Vergil and Cicero.” It wasn’t really an answer.
“Doing Vergil?” Margot said, putting innuendo on the first word. A few people snickered.
Mr Spencer either didn’t notice or ignored this. “Cicero’s Pro Catiline and the Aeneid, Book IV. Now if you could hand round these worksheets, starting with…” he looked questioningly at Cynthia on the front row.
Mr Bryan had made the grave error of letting the class know that “Cynthia” was pronounced “Koontia” by the Ancient Greeks, so Juliet and Margot had taken to pronouncing it that way to annoy her, as it sounded like the C-word.
“Koontia,” Margot helpfully supplied.
“…Koontia,” he repeated, looking at Cynthia and frowning slightly.
“It’s Cynthia!” She swung her head around to glare at Margot and Juliet. In her irritation Cynthia managed to make her name sound even more like a snake’s hiss than ever.
Margot’s face was the picture of innocence, as much as Margot could look innocent anyway. Juliet was trying not to laugh. She briefly caught the new teacher’s eye and he did look flushed and confused.
She almost felt bad. But he was a new teacher, and temporary. Being put through the wringer was expected.
As Mr Spencer turned back to write something on the whiteboard, Juliet noticed how strong and broad his back was. His hands were really masculine and strong as well. She found herself imagining what they might feel like on her body: undoing her clothes, pushing them off. Firmly, maybe a little bit rough.
She squirmed in her seat, just thinking about it. Maybe he hadn’t had sex for a while and would be really pent up. Locking the door when everyone else had left he classroom, pinning her down, not taking no for an answer. His lips on her neck. Sliding his hands between her thighs…
Juliet shook herself out of the daydream. What the hell had come over her? She found herself blushing when he turned around. He caught her eye momentarily and for a moment she freaked out that he could read her thoughts. She should be concentrating on the Latin text.
Afterwards they walked back through the courtyard together.
“Well that was a dead loss,” Margot said.
Juliet asked what she meant.
“All that hot male talent and it’s practically wearing a dog collar. Not that it matters, he’s not my type.”
“Isn’t he?” Juliet thought a man that attractive would be anyone’s type, particularly in the Great Man Desert that was St Gillian’s.
“Too much of a Gilbert. As in Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables. Wholesome boy next door. I guess he’s okay for a white guy.”
Juliet nearly choked. “For a white guy? What does that mean? Your last three boyfriends were white.”
“Yeah, and look where that got me. I think it’s time to switch back. Mr Spencer is all yours, if that bitch doesn’t get him first.” She meant Cynthia, who had been making obvious eyes at the new Latin teacher all class.
“Well thank you kindly, ma’am, for leaving at least one specimen for me,” Juliet said, her tone mock-sarcastic.
Margot shrugged. “He looks like the sort of guy who’d rather go for a bike ride and picnic than get down and dirty. The type of boy your parents would love you to date. If he wasn’t your teacher, obviously. The kind of man who…”
“Okay, I get the picture!” Juliet said. “What makes you sure he wouldn’t get down and dirty? He might have a whole secret life going on.”
“Yeah, you just think that if you want to. Honestly, look at the guy. He actually had a bible on his desk. He’s so much of a virgin that he makes the Pope look like a stud.”
For some reason this annoyed Juliet. “I bet I could change that.”
“I bet you could not.”
“He’s just a guy. He must have urges,” Juliet said. “He probably had girlfriends at university, all students screw around.”
Margot shot her a wicked glance. “Fifty bucks says he’s a virgin and will still have his V-card by the end of the year.”
“A hundred bucks says he won’t.”
Margot started laughing. “Girl, are we seriously betting on whether you can seduce our new Latin teacher?”
Juliet wavered for a moment, then felt resolute. “Yes. Why not?”
“I can think of a million reasons but they’re all as sensible as hell. This actually sounds amusing. I’ll even help you.”
“You’re not going to have a go yourself?”
“Jesus no,” Margot said. “As I said he’s not my type. I mean I wouldn’t kick him out if I was feeling bored and horny, but the effort of seducing someone like that, no thanks. Not worth it. Imagine how useless he’d be in bed, the first time. All fumbling.”
Margot was a lot more sexually experienced than Juliet. Even so, Juliet wasn’t going to take her word for it.
“You never know. Some guys are naturally gifted.” She had personally thought that Mr Spencer looked very capable.
“I can assure you he won’t be. But if you want that hundred dollars so badly, I guess you’ll find out one way or another.”
It was a sunny day so they ate their lunch on the grass with their other friend, Fhemie, who didn’t do Latin with them.
“So I heard Mr Bryan got fired and has a hot new replacement,” Fhemie said. “What’s he like?”
Fhemie was even more boy crazy than both Juliet and Margot combined. This was despite the fact her grandmother wanted her to become a nun.
“Hot enough that you’ll wish you’ll did Latin once you see him,” Juliet said.
Fhemie laughed, biting into a brownie. “Never!” she said, her mouth full of chocolate.
“I never know how you can eat all that and stay so skinny,” Juliet said. Fhemie’s first course had been two bags of chips. “You’re addicted to junk.”
“It’s all the dancing. I burn it off. I really can’t be doing with that quinoa shit you eat, it looks gross.”
Margot, who only ever ate fruit for lunch, lay back in the sun. “Once you stop dancing you’ll balloon up like a fat bag of dough. I saw it happen to Ashley Neiman when she did her knee in and couldn’t do athletics any more.”
“I will never stop dancing.” Fhemie’s only ambition, despite her family’s opposition, was to become a dancer. They regarded it as an immodest profession. Her grandmother had never forgiven her father for dropping out of seminary in Manila to marry Fhemie’s mother. She saw Fhemie entering a convent as compensation, not that Fhemie was having any of it.
Juliet envied Fhemie her single-mindedness. She still had no idea what she wanted to do when they finished school. She was looking at getting loans for college but it would be a struggle.
She stretched out her legs in the September sun, enjoying the contrast of the warm rays on top and the cool grass beneath her skin. Her skirt was riding up but she didn’t care.
“You’re practically showing your va-jay,” Margot said.
“Look who’s walking past.”
Juliet sat up with a jerk, causing her skirt to fall right back and momentarily flash her underwear. Only to see Mr Spencer walking past them at that exact moment. He clearly saw what she had on display, but turned his head away abruptly.
Margot laughed. “I swear he’s crossing himself mentally at the sight of such temptation. He’ll be off to bathe in holy water.”
“Is that him?” Fhemie said. “Wow. That has to be the hottest teacher I’ve ever seen. Including in TV shows or movies. Maybe he’ll hold detention and I can get myself in trouble.”
“Hands off, because he’s Juliet’s. She’s going to seduce him by the end of term. Otherwise I win a hundred bucks.”
Fhemie rolled her eyes. “Like a hundred bucks matters to you, you’re such a little rich girl.” Fhemie’s family were also wealthy - you had to be to afford the fees at St Gillian’s - but her grandmother kept a tight hold on the purse strings.
Juliet had been given a subsidised place, something Cynthia constantly taunted her about. Margot and Fhemie couldn’t have cared less whether Juliet’s family were bankrupt or billionaires, which was why they were such great friends. All they cared about was having fun, and getting away with breaking as many rules as possible.
There was no bigger rule to break than having an affair with a teacher, Juliet thought. She would totally be expelled if she was ever found out.
Juliet might have given up on the bet as a stupid joke or whim, except she found herself dreaming of Mr Spencer that night.
It started all weird and twisted about all over the place, as dreams do. All her friends were waving goodbye to her, going on a school trip to the moon in the school bus. “They’ve put wings on it!” Fhemie was saying.
But Juliet was left behind because she had forgotten her shoes. She was desperately trying to find them but the others were getting further and further way. She had to have shoes because it was going to be very rocky. Where were they?
She was going through every classroom searching for them, and then she was in the Latin classroom.
“You don’t have your shoes Juliet. You’ll have to stay and do more Latin,” Mr Spencer was saying. For some reason he was dressed as a priest with a black shirt and a white collar.
In her dream Juliet felt really torn between wanting to go to the moon with her friends and staying behind in Latin. Mr Spencer was looking at her with searing eyes.
Then suddenly she was lying over his desk and he was pinning her down.
“This is how you need to learn Latin. Here…” Mr Spencer’s hand had slipped beneath her underwear and he was teasing her, bringing her to the brink.
His lips hovered over hers… so close… she could feel the air move between his face and hers but he wouldn’t bring his lips down on her or press hard enough with his hands. His fingers were circling around her sensitive flesh, tormenting, driving her nerves wild.
She was writhing up against him, trying to get him to give her the pressure she needed.
“Please, please…” she was crying out, but Mr Spencer was telling her it was forbidden to go any further. Then suddenly everything was sucked away and she was naked and freezing cold and alone and he was gone.
Juliet woke up with a start. She had kicked her quilt off and was lying there in nothing but her thin nightgown: no wonder she was freezing in her dream. She rarely ever had dreams this vivid or about actual people. What could it mean?