17. Tension builds
Revel had said nothing to Marcy about the Mr Grayson situation after they left the theatre.
She guessed, perhaps, that it was complicated and that Marcy needed to gather her own thoughts. Best of all, Marcy didn’t feel that Revel judged her. Addy had been wildly amused and excited for her, but that was Addy.
Many people would have been shocked and judgemental. Some would have been jealous and nasty; others morally outraged by a liaison between a student and a teacher, or the age gap, or the fact they’d slept together so quickly.
Marcy spent Saturday working in the morning then catching up on homework - there was such a huge amount this year, all the AP classes didn’t help - then on Sunday she had to visit her Great Aunt Esme.
In truth while it had originally seemed like a chore, as she got older herself she increasingly enjoyed the elderly lady’s company. Esme had never married but had worked as a seamstress for much of her life. She was very talented at handicrafts, and they often sat around her table drinking tea and eating homemade cake, while Marcy helped her with a project.
Great Aunt Esme had been away the past month, staying with old friends interstate, so it was the first time Marcy had seen her since school started.
"How’s that young man of yours?" Esme asked.
Marcy started for a moment, her thoughts instantly turning to Gray. Who wasn’t her young man at all, of course. Nothing could be further from reality. Then she realised that Esme must have meant Josh.
"That didn’t really work out," Marcy said.
"All for the better, I expect. You didn’t sound terribly smitten when we last spoke."
Hadn’t she been smitten? Marcy had thought at the time that she was. That she was feeling the most anyone could feel. Of course now she knew very differently.
"He’s seeing someone else now."
Esme shook her head. "Fickle is as fickle does."
Marcy rather winced at this, since her affections had switched just as quickly - within the same day, in fact. Though that was better than cheating. Josh had effectively cheated on her. She highly doubted he had kept Gretchen at arm’s length until his phone call to Marcy that day.
Esme was putting together some patchwork to make a baby’s quilt for a neighbour’s grandchild. She had an endless store of old pieces of fabric in beautiful shades and patterns. The parents of the baby didn’t yet know the gender so Esme had chosen circus colours of red, orange, purple and yellow, suitable for a boy or a girl.
Marcy finished tacking another hexagon in a shiny violet and handed it to Esme. "It’s going to be such a beautiful quilt. Such a lucky baby."
"I hope to still be around to make one for your little ones."
Marcy laughed. "You may have to live past a hundred then." She couldn’t imagine it happening to her for decades. All celebrities had babies after forty these days, didn’t they? You needed the time to establish yourself in a career first.
Great Aunt Esme frowned. "In my day, a girl your age would already have been married and having a family. Not that I’m suggesting a return to the olden days for you modern young women. We didn’t have the educational opportunities you do."
"You went to college, didn’t you?" Marcy asked.
"Only after a monumental battle with my father. I only won because my brother, your Great Uncle Ernest, chose to go into farming rather than Yale."
So Esme had been the bluestocking of the family. But despite her brains, there hadn’t been the career opportunities for her that Marcy and her generation would enjoy when they graduated.
"So don’t you settle down too early," Esme continued. "And don’t leave it too late either."
Faced with this conflicting advice, Marcy stayed silent and continued sewing. She wondered what her great aunt would have thought of Gray.
At school on Monday Marcy felt less stressed about French class. Mr Grayson was at least being civil now: he hadn’t got angry about them both ending up in the theatre group.
She saw Revel first at recess. They sat out on a wall, getting some late September sun.
"I truly didn’t recognise who he was in the bar," Revel said. "Someone pointed him out last week at school and he looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him. The penny didn’t drop until I saw him again at the rehearsal."
It was unusual for Revel to volunteer this much information. In typical Revel style, she didn’t say anything more, or prompt Marcy to say something. Revel’s silence was always very relaxed, she wasn’t sitting there waiting for Marcy to offer an explanation, or confess, or whatever else.
It was because of this that Marcy felt able to confide in her.
"I met him in the last week of vacation. We had a couple of dates, I had no idea who he was," she told Revel.
"I’m guessing he didn’t know who you were, either."
Marcy felt a nudge of guilt. "No. He assumed I was in college, and I didn’t - " she struggled to find the right phrase " - correct him as such."
"Anyone would have done the same."
Marcy was surprised and reassured by this. She had expected to be judged for not being upfront about her age.
"I mean look at him," Revel continued. Mr Grayson had suddenly appeared at the other end of the lawn and was walking into another building. "He looks like a matinée idol."
Trust Revel to use a term like that. But she was right, Gray really was that good looking. Once again, Revel wasn’t directly probing Marcy for her story. So once again, Marcy offered up the information.
"Anyway, then we both got the shock of our lives the first day back. Certainly the shock of mine, anyway. He spoke to me after class and was really furious. Then nothing until that night at the bar."
Revel had a curious expression on her face. "I wonder how long he’ll hold out?"
"Hold out?" Marcy felt weird butterflies at this.
"You know what I mean," Revel said. She swung down from the wall and they made their way back to their next classes.
When Marcy entered her next AP French class, Mr Grayson actually caught her eye and smiled, which left her totally confused and more than a little distracted the entire lesson.
They were studying some French poem and Marcy was struggling to understand a line which read "Que l’astre irise". She had looked up the words, and it seemed to be something about an iris and a star, but it made no sense.
Called on by Mr Grayson to translate, Marcy had to confess her failure.
"Verlaine is using irise as a verb here. So the object is astre, star, and the object is on the former line, firmament, which is an English word too, but you could translate it as sky, or heavens."
Marcy was still lost. "What’s 'to irise'?" she asked.
"To make something the colour of an iris," Mr Grayson told her. "In this case purple."
The star was making the sky purple. It didn’t make much sense, but it was beautiful nonetheless. It reminded Marcy of something but she couldn’t remember what.
Mr Grayson read the entire poem out to them once more. His accent was so flawless, he sounded incredibly sexy speaking French. She might have thought a guy reading poetry would sound soft or geeky, but he sounded really masculine.
On the last words - "l’heure exquise", "the exquisite hour" - his eyes briefly flicked to Marcy.
She felt her cheeks flood red because all she could think of was their first night together, and she was sure he was too.
When class finished he called her back. She went and hovered by his desk while the others left. No one looked suspicious, why would they be? she thought. It wasn’t as though anything was going on and no one would have known about what happened in vacation.
"Don’t look alarmed, you’re doing really well in class," he told her, once they were alone.
Marcy wasn’t actually feeling nervous about that. It was being so near to him that set her on edge, in a scary, good way.
"I just wanted to check you were okay. I mean with everything," he said. She could see genuine concern in his eyes,
She was and she wasn’t. What could she say?
They stood there, looking at one another. He was directly in front of her, after taking a step closer. She could smell him, feel the warmth of his body.
He swayed towards her and for a desperate, intense moment she thought he was going to kiss her. He was so close to her. The world stood still for a moment and she nearly closed her eyes.
But then he moved back. Took a breath. "I’ll see you tomorrow night, Marcy." His voice was low.
Tomorrow night? She was confused.
"Rehearsals," he reminded her.
Feeling dazed, she left the classroom and into the hallway. If they had come close to kissing at school, what was going to happen at the theatre?