What the hell was he going to do? Carl even thought the word “hell” in his head, which was a blasphemy. But what was happening was throwing him into turmoil.
He had been inches - seconds - away from leaning in and kissing a student. What the hell was wrong with him?
Just touching her hand, the softness of her skin, had been electric.
He remembered the tip of her tongue passing over her lips, and the way it had taken all his strength not to put his hands on her head, tilt her face towards him, and bring his lips down upon hers.
He had wanted to press her against him, to drink her in. To feel her soft body moulded against his. But she was a student! Someone who was absolutely forbidden fruit, over whom he was in a position of authority. To abuse that would be unthinkable.
Maybe he should confess and get it off his chest. For a moment he envied the Catholic confessional, where you could tell everything to a priest who would keep it sacrosanct. His church didn’t exactly work like that. Things were more open, more communal. The pastor would probably try to get him to confess it all to Rebecca and talk it through with her. Carl did not think she would take it well at all.
Maybe the problem was that he and Rebecca were being too formal with one another. They barely even held hands. Carl decided he would try and encourage a little more physical affection between them.
He must stop thinking of Juliet. Even being alone with her in his classroom was playing with fire.
Resolving to get better control of himself, Carl got up when he heard the doorbell go. Rebecca was supposed to be coming over for more wedding planning.
“Hello.” He went to kiss her but she coyly turned her head so his lips met her cheek. In fairness they had been advised to keep the “wedding kiss” special.
Rebecca came in, carrying a large bag which Carl knew would contain various magazines and brochures related to weddings and marriage. She set the bag down, hung up her coat, and drew out a DVD. “I thought we could watch this together. Ruth recommended it.” Ruth was a mutual friend at their church.
The DVD was titled: “Sacred Respect: A Couple’s Guide to Marriage in Christ”. Carl doubted it could offer much more than the marriage classes they already went to but he was happy to watch it for Rebecca’s sake. There was a documentary on Caesar and Rome that he had hoped to watch, but he could record that.
Carl fetched Rebecca a drink and slid the DVD into the player. He sat next to her on the couch and they watched as the video started. As it got underway he sat a little closer to her and reached for her hand, but Rebecca withdrew it.
“We’re supposed to be watching this. It’s really important for our future,” she told him.
“I only wanted to hold your hand.” He tried to be light-hearted about it.
Rebecca turned to him. “You know where that stuff leads. And we both want to wait, right?”
“I think I can control myself, Rebecca. We don’t have to keep distance between us all the time.”
But his fiancée seemed unwilling to risk closer physical contact, so Carl suppressed a sigh and continued watching the marriage video. He was trying to imagine how it would be when they were finally married. Relaxing on the couch together, in one another’s arms, being affectionate and sharing a joke. Sharing a bed…
The problem was not simply that he couldn’t imagine it. After all, this was a good thing: he had been praying hard to keep those kinds of thoughts out of his head. Why stir up sexual frustration unnecessarily? All that, as Rebecca said, could wait.
No, the problem was that he didn’t particularly want to imagine it. It just didn’t seem to hold much appeal. Maybe it was because Rebecca was being so rigid now that it wasn’t easy to create an image of her being the opposite.
Carl took a swig of his drink, a soda.
He was lying to himself, of course, and he knew it.
The real reason he couldn’t imagine Rebecca lying in his arms, and didn’t even want to try to envision it, was because he couldn’t stop thinking of holding Juliet instead. Feeling her soft, slender curves and the warmth of her body against him.
Carl wasn’t nearly so confident that he would be able to control himself around her if she was next to him on the sofa. His mind wandered from the Christian couples talking about their vows on the television, wondering what Juliet was up to.
Aunt Mary was satisfied with Juliet watching the documentary on Caesar and Rome because it was educational. She had studied Latin herself as a girl and was pleased to see Juliet showing an interest.
They sat and watched the show together. Juliet hadn’t yet broached the subject of the choir trip as she was waiting for a time when her relative might be most receptive. Now seemed as good a time as any.
“There’s going to be a choir trip at school, and there’s a fund available to help with the costs,” she began.
Aunt Mary put down her knitting. “St Gillian’s has already been very generous to you, providing you with a free place. I don’t think it would do to seek further charity.”
Juliet had feared something like this. “I didn’t ask, Miss Mead - the choir mistress - told me about it. I think she wants me to attend because I’m doing some solos.”
“There must be many other girls with good voices, Juliet. I hope that being singled out is not leading to vanity.” Aunt Mary’s tone was very disapproving.
“It’s not that at all, truly.” How was she going to make her aunt understand? “Maybe if you spoke with Miss Mead…?”
Having completed another row of knitting, Aunt Mary adjusted her wool. “I’ll consider it. Where is this trip to?”
“Paris!” Aunt Mary dropped several stitches. “Why on earth would they be going somewhere so remote and so expensive?”
“It’s also a cultural trip,” Juliet said. “We’ll be seeing other things, such as - ” she scoured her brain for French religious sites ” - Notre Dame cathedral, and Lourdes.”
This was something of a trump card as Aunt Mary had often mentioned Lourdes. Several of her friends had made pilgrimages there, and one even claimed to have been cured from arthritis after praying at the holy grotto.
Even Aunt Mary had been sceptical of this miracle as the woman in question continued to take various medications, but it remained a place she was interested in.
Fortunately her geography wasn’t much better than Juliet’s when it came to mainland Europe. The five hundred mile distance between Paris and Lourdes made it highly unlikely the choir would get to take a day trip there. But for now she was mollified.
Juliet was a step closer to taking her first ever trip overseas.