On Monday night Dan dropped round to Carl’s.
“Just on my way home from the hospital, it’s all good. Jenny should be coming home tomorrow around lunchtime.”
“How are they?” Carl asked.
“Both doing beautifully. Jenny says she’s got my ears and chin but I can’t tell with these things.”
“Poor baby,” Carl joked. “She’s alright then? I was concerned, given the early arrival.”
Dan, cracking open a can of Coke, looked somewhat shamefaced. “About that.”
“The premie thing. She’s not premature at all, bang on time in fact. Even a couple of days late.”
Carl was confused. “But how?” There had been a big deal made at church of the baby being a “honeymoon baby”, along with some kindly meant jokes, but it was only eight months since Dan’s and Jenny’s wedding.
“Let’s just say there were more than two of us walking up that aisle. In fairness we didn’t know at that point, so it wasn’t a shotgun wedding or anything.”
Knowing Dan and Jenny, Carl wasn’t as shocked as he might have been. Dan had dropped hints previously that he and Jenny hadn’t maintained perfect celibacy until their wedding day. But this was the first proof that Carl had of this, let alone that they had conceived their first child before marriage.
The most important thing was that mother and child were healthy and well. Privately, Carl thought that Dan was going to have a job concealing the true dates from Agnes and some of the other old ladies and church. He’d heard snatches of their conversation before: they’d seen enough babies over the years to know what was what.
But they were generally kind women, and Jenny was well liked, so Carl hoped tact would prevail.
He changed the subject. “You’re off work for a while then?”
“Two weeks. Jenny’s mother flies over then, and she’ll help out. What about you? How’s your little blonde temptress?”
Carl wasn’t certain he liked Juliet being referred to in those terms, for a host of reasons. “She’s hardly little.” The term carried implications he didn’t like. After all Juliet wasn’t a child, and she was reasonably tall. Taller than Jenny, and Dan would never refer to his wife as “little”.
“You know what I mean. You’re absolutely hooked on her, aren’t you?” Dan said with a grin.
“She’s my student.”
“Yes, of course.” Dan made a pretence of being serious. “Until June, and then she’s not.”
“That’s beside the point. She’ll be going off to college, starting her life. The timing is all wrong, regardless.”
Dan scrutinised his friend. “And if the timing wasn’t wrong?”
“What do you want me to say? What do you think?”
“That if I was in your shoes, I’d have far fewer inhibitions,” Dan said.
Carl hadn’t wanted an answer, his question had been rhetorical, but now he had one.
“Jenny likes her too,” Dan added. “Of course she has the advantage of being ABR.”
“Anyone But Rebecca. Jenny’s term, not mine, and I shouldn’t have repeated it. But at least you know where we stand on it all.”
There was an uneasy ceasefire between Juliet and Aunt Mary. Nothing more had been mentioned about the band, though Juliet knew her aunt expected her to give it up.
The newspaper review had gone around St Gillian’s like wildfire, impressing some people and causing others like Cynthia to be more spiteful than ever.
Juliet could tell that Cynthia was jealous and it wouldn’t have bothered her, but Cynthia was relentlessly in her face about it.
“It’s the singing foster slut. Which of the band members are you banging? All of them, I shouldn’t wonder.”
Margot and Fhemie did what they could to defend Juliet but it was an uphill task. Cynthia was very clever at getting other people into trouble for retaliating when she bullied them.
None of the teachers made mention of Juliet’s band except Miss Mead. She made a remark about it being “rather disappointing to use God’s gifts for such an unholy purpose” and didn’t give Juliet any more solos. This would have been okay but instead the verses went to Cynthia, which stung.
Cynthia unwisely tried to ridicule Juliet in Latin. Her own crush on Mr Spencer still hadn’t entirely abated, and from time to time she would make last gasp attempts to win his approval of her and his condemnation of Juliet. Little did she know that she only made herself look a thousand times worse in his eyes.
In the end the Latin teacher lost his patience. When Cynthia muttered yet another snide remark to her friend, looking sidelong at Juliet, he ordered her out of the room.
“Get out. When you can finally stop talking in class given all the occasions I’ve asked you to do so, you can return.”
Cynthia’s mouth fell open and several girls gasped in shock. Cynthia never got taken to task by any of the teachers, no matter how malevolent she was.
“You can’t send me out. I need to be in this class,” she protested.
“If you needed to be here, you would have been paying attention,” he told her. “Now leave.”
Furious, Cynthia gathered up her things. As she left she shot a vicious glance at Juliet and Margot and hissed at them. “You’ll pay for this.”
The mood in the classroom was very much on edge after Cynthia departed. Everyone was shocked by Mr Spencer refusing to overlook her behaviour. People were dying to discuss it.
It was hard for anyone to concentrate on Latin verse. Mr Spencer had won a new level of admiration for standing up to Cynthia but there was also concern for him.
He nodded and smiled to Juliet as she filed out with Margot. His eyes told what he couldn’t say. That he was worried about her and that he was sorry for what Cynthia was putting her through.
“Get a room,” Margot muttered, seeing their gaze, and Juliet shoved her in the back to hurry her out of the room before Mr Spencer could react.
“He nearly heard!” Juliet said.
“He must know I know. Anyway, that’s the least of his worries. I shouldn’t be surprised if Cynthia tries to get him fired,” Margot said.
Juliet was worried. “What do you mean?”
“Get her daddy to threaten to withdraw his donation towards the new sports hall.”
“Surely she wouldn’t try something like that?”
Margot shrugged. “She’s enough of a spoilt little bitch to try anything. She now knows unequivocally that Mr Spencer can’t stand her, which is humiliating because she was crushing on him before. God forbid she ever finds out about you and him, because your life won’t be worth living.”
A cold fear crept up Juliet’s spine. “But she wouldn’t, would she? I mean there’s nothing actually happening. Officially we’re just friends.”
“Yeah right, girl. You’d just better hope she doesn’t get an urge to convert to Baptism.”
Shooting the video was far more exhausting than Juliet had imagined. She had thought it would be a relatively simple affair, but it took hours with endless takes.
Drew’s videographer friend was very meticulous and insisted on the light and angle being perfect in each shot. Some of the guys started grumbling but he wouldn’t relent.
“You’re not going to use every shot, are you? Surely you’ve got enough of us miming?”
Juliet tried to be as cooperative as possible and not complain. She was also on edge because of the issue with Aunt Mary. Doing this video was in direct defiance of her.
The one who impressed everyone was Fhemie. She danced and danced and danced, never seemingly getting tired. Juliet couldn’t tell if it was fitness, stamina or sheer determination.
She was glad they had decided to use Fhemie. It took a lot of the pressure off her and also enabled her to wear more regular clothes: jeans and a tight top. Which was freezing since it was a cold day, but she wore her warmest jacket between takes and Drew regularly fetched coffee for her.
“Can you dance in double time?” the videographer asked Fhemie. “I can use a technique to slow it back to normal speed, then it will look like the world around you is all smooth and slow.”
Fhemie looked him directly in the eye. “There’s nothing I can’t do,” she said.
The band might have snickered at her supreme confidence at the start of the day, but as time wore on they could see that it wasn’t a boast. It was simply Fhemie.
Juliet saw that Jax’s eyes were lingering on her friend more than he probably intended them to be. Or at least more than he intended anyone to notice.
The song they were filming was called “Write you out”. It was about someone writing their ex out of their life after he falls for someone else. Juliet, as the singer, was obviously the rejected party, Drew was playing her ex boyfriend, and Fhemie was the girl who had lured him away.
“I don’t get this song,” Fhemie said when they took a break. “Why doesn’t she just move on? All this stuff about writing him out of her history. If a guy cheated on me, I would have forgotten him already. I wouldn’t sing about it.” She cast a glance at Jax. “I like the music though.”
Juliet, who had written most of the lyrics with Drew, tried to explain. “It’s from this thing we learnt about in Latin. Damnatio memoriae. If someone was a traitor, they wrote them out of history and destroyed their statues.”
“I should have guessed Mr Spencer would come into it somewhere,” Fhemie said.
Drew was curious. “Mr Spencer?”
“Our school Latin teacher. Juliet’s boyfriend.”
None of the band knew about Juliet’s complicated private life and it raised a lot of eyebrows. “You’re dating your teacher?” Drew asked.
“We’re just friends.” Juliet hoped the redness she felt in her face wouldn’t give her away. Thank goodness for thick make up. She kicked Fhemie who grinned evilly.
The videographer called them back for another take. Juliet had to mask a wave of fatigue that overtook her. It wasn’t just the exertions of the shoot. The ongoing stress with Aunt Mary was wearing her out. She just wished it could be resolved.
Juliet nearly dozed off during the service at Carl’s church the following evening. She had slept badly, tired from the video and worried about further conflict with her aunt.
He was anxious about her. “Should I drive you straight home? You look like you could do with some sleep.”
“I told Aunt Mary I would be out for dinner, so she’s not expecting me,” Juliet said.
“We won’t hang around here then, we’ll go straight back to mine.”
There was another motive for this and that was avoiding Rebecca. She seemed to make a beeline for Carl every time now. She would try to cut Juliet out of the conversation or slight her in a way that was just too subtle for someone to actually pull her up on it. It was worse now Jenny was away with the baby because she had acted like a kind of shield before.
Despite wanting to leave immediately they got waylaid by Pastor Brown who wanted to talk to Carl about some youth event the church was holding.
Dan, who wasn’t involved, chatted to Juliet. He had started coming back to the evening service as his mother-in-law was now helping with the baby.
“You should pay Jen a visit, she’d love to see you,” he told Juliet. “The baby’s fine for visitors.”
Juliet was surprised by the invitation as Dan and Jenny were Carl’s friends, not hers. She didn’t feel that she knew them very well though she liked them both.
“I’d be happy to visit,” she said to Dan.
“Great. Carl can give you our address. Only if you have time, I imagine your schedule’s pretty tight with all your band stuff. You’ll also have to let me know when your next gig is.”
Juliet promised to do so, and as Carl was finally finished with his discussions with the pastor, the two of them farewelled Dan and left for Carl’s place.
Juliet told Carl about the invitation as they drove to his home. “Do you think he meant us both to come?” she asked.
Carl, knowing Jenny, doubted this. “I think she’s interested in getting to know you better,” he said. He imagined his ears would probably be burning if Juliet did go round there, but Jenny at least meant well.
Juliet felt happy to be at Carl’s. She felt increasingly relaxed there despite the unresolved tension between them. How he managed to be so self-disciplined she had no idea.
“What would you like to eat?” he asked her.
“I’m actually not that hungry.” She had other plans.
They stood there, gazing at one another, an invisible thread between them, drawing them together.
“I’ve missed you,” he told her.
“You see me at school everyday.”
“It’s not the same. You know what I mean.” He cupped her face in hands and tilted it so he could kiss her.
Her stomach flipped and she was dizzy, drowning in him.
Juliet broke off and looked up at Carl. His eyes were hazy with desire. “There’s nothing stopping us, if you want to,” she said.
She knew full well he wanted to.
She reached up and kissed him again, drawing him down to her. Feeling his tongue push with more force into her mouth. Then he was pushing her onto the couch, shifting her underneath him so he could lie above her and keep kissing her, moving from her lips down to the sensitive hollows at the base of her neck.
His hands were on her shoulders, staying there. Juliet took his right hand and moved it down over her breast. Above her clothes, but it was still the most intimately he had touched her.
Carl froze for a moment and she panicked she had gone too far. Then his fingers moulded around the curve, his thumb gently pressing and squeezing the soft roundness into his hand. His thumb brushed across and she let out a small cry, pressing her hips up against him. Even through the layers of clothing her nipple peaked and tightened at the feel of him.
Carl could barely think straight, he was so turned on. To have his hand on her breast, her warm body beneath him: no matter how he shifted he couldn’t prevent his hardness from pressing into her thigh. He was too distracted to even try praying.
Juliet squirmed, to try and centre him against her. She wrapped her legs around him, trying to get the pressure of him where she needed it. She started rocking against him and he ended up matching her rhythm. She moved her hands down his back, revelling in the feel of his lean muscles, and put her hands on his butt, trying to draw him against her more tightly.
She could only imagine how much better it would be to be naked with him, skin on skin, with him deep inside her instead of this through-clothing frustration. If only he would move his hand lower, slip it below her waistband, let his fingers curl around…
“I need you,” she whispered.
Carl groaned. “I can’t do this, I’ll lose it,” he warned her.
“Couldn’t we just lie naked together? Not actually do it, but be closer to each other?” she begged.
They both knew that removing the barrier of clothing would result in only one thing. Neither of them had the physical capacity to hold back, despite Carl’s earnest intentions to keep things under control.
He screwed his hips into her, as hard as he could. “I have never wanted anyone as badly as I want you right now,” he told her. His breathing was ragged and his brow was damp. “But you know we can’t go further.”
Juliet slid her hand between them, trying to feel for him. That brought him up with a sharp movement. “Don’t! I will literally explode if you do that,” he said.
Somehow Carl managed to gather enough resolve to get a grip of himself, and he slowed down and moved away from her. He saw the disappointment and unsated desire in her face: it was no less than his.
“I’m sorry.” He really was. He felt like he was leading her on through his poor self-control. After all, he was the adult. She was his student and it was his responsibility to prevent them from going too far.
And he felt bad because he had failed to pray to stop things, and even now, he didn’t feel like he even wanted to pray. He almost envied Dan and Jenny their more relaxed approach. Though in fairness they had at least been officially betrothed.
That wasn’t even a possibility with Juliet. She was nearly a decade younger than him, still not out of school. In a few months time she would doubtless move on to college and it would be worse and harder for both of them if their relationship became too intense.
He was ready for the next step: she surely wasn’t. And nothing could be done about it.