He smiles faintly as he walks past me and I turn to look at him as he walks toward the little lane away from the station.
Shannon exclaims, “He is so yummy! Did you see the way he looked at you?”
I start walking toward the lane and I reply indifferently, “I am not interested.”
She falls into step next to me. “You are kidding, right? When have you not been interested?”
“Out with it. Tell me.”
“Ugh! My dad is moving out tomorrow. Actually, I think he moved out on Wednesday, but he will be fetching his things tomorrow, I suppose.”
“Huh? When did this happen?”
“Apparently for a while now, he has a new girlfriend.”
“No, I am not. It is the honest truth.”
“I cannot believe it.” She looks at me concerned. “Are you okay though?”
“It just made me wonder, what happened to their love? Where did it go?”
“Ah, this is why you are pretending not to be interested in fresh meat.”
I smile. “He is very handsome.”
“He is. Maybe with him you can find out where the love went.”
I scoff. “Shannon, I am serious! What is the use of falling for someone, and pledging your undying love if it is just going to disappear one day?”
“My gran and grandpa have been married forever and the way they look at each other is embarrassing. So it depends.”
I sigh. “I suppose.”
We walk through the gates on the main road into the school grounds and as we pass smoker’s alley, Dermot calls Shannon’s name.
We stop and he comes loping toward us. He crushes the cigarette under his shoe when he stops in front of us. He bends down to Shannon, and he is about to give her a peck on her lips when she pushes him away. “Dermot, gawd you stink!”
He smiles bashfully. “Sorry, my sugar.” He looks at me and greets me, “Hiya, Heather. You look different.”
Shannon says mockingly, “Yes, eejit she cut and coloured her hair.”
He looks at me approvingly. “It looks nice.”
“Thanks.” My hand comes up to my hair again.
He folds his hand around Shannon’s and we walk through the parking area toward the school entrance.
When we walk into the school building, Shannon and I walk to the bathrooms, as we always do, first thing every school day.
As I wait for her while she uses the facilities, I glance at myself in the mirror. Without thinking, I reach for my lip-gloss in the front pouch of my bag. I lean closer to the mirror across the basin and smear the gloss onto my lips liberally. I smack my lips together as I push the gloss back into the pouch. I thought the new black hairstyle would be harsh, but I like it. It makes me look extra pale, almost fragile. It makes my watered-down grey eyes look bluer. I step away from the mirror and lean against the basin as I wait for Shannon.
At last, I hear Shannon flush. When she walks out of the cubicle, I sigh exasperated. “I thought you were stuck in there.”
She replies vaguely, “Monthlies.”
I groan, feeling sorry for her.
We walk to our lockers to collect our books for class and Dermot and the new boy is already standing there waiting for us.
Dermot says excitedly as he steps in behind Shannon and wraps his arms around her waist. “Have you met Kieran, yet?”
I look at the new boy and I smile friendly. Even if love has gone lost, there is no need not to have manners. I say pleasantly, “Hiya.” I bring my hand up to my chest as if to point me out to him, as I say, “I am Heather.”
He smiles faintly and there is a gleam in his eyes. He looks at me as if he knows me and this makes me feel awkward, so I turn away from him and reach up to my locker to get my books.
It turns out Kieran is in almost all of my classes. He slouches in his chair in every class, twirling his pen through his fingers. He must be clever because he seems not to make any effort to pay attention. Whenever I glance in his direction, I see him staring at me absorbed. Either he is psycho or he likes me. These days it is hard to tell and I hope, against my will, because of the love thing, it might be the latter.
When we walk into our History class, Mr. Hittler instructs Kieran in his clipped words to, “Please wait. Here. Young Mr. Fitzgerald.”
As I walk past Kieran on my way to my desk, I glance at him sideways, amused.
Mr. Hittler is not related to the Hitler from Germany, although my history teacher did adopt some of the historical tyrant’s mannerisms and fashion sense. Mr. Hittler combs his short black hair in a severe middle path and he has a moustache. I surmise he is not brave enough to have only the little square to underline his nose, so his is a little bit longer.
Usually when we take too long to settle down, he knocks his heels together and I always have the urge to jump up and point my fingers, palm face-down, into the distant horizon and exclaim, “Yawhol,” but I never have enough courage. If I ever did it though, I am positive Mr. Hittler will confine me to life detention without parole.
I can see Mr. Hittler is starting to get itchy and then he brings his heels together with a loud knocking sound. Often I wonder if this hurts, but if it did, he never shows the pain.
The class falls silent immediately and all eyes are focused on Mr. Hittler. He swishes his leather whip through the air like a magic wand. This is where his power lies. Although all hell will break loose if he ever did hit any of us with it, we are too scared to push him over the edge. Even if he is fired and our parents came to school, threatening to sue every living person associated with the school for every penny they own or ever will own, it just is not worth the pain we would have to endure first to set this chain of events into motion.
Mr. Hittler turns to Kieran. “Mr. Fitzgerald. Tell us. A little. About your history.”
Kieran raises his eyebrows amused. He looks across the faces of the students seated in front of him and he shrugs. “I don’t really know what to say.” He adds unsure, “My history?”
Mr. Hittler looks agitated. “Yes. What is. Your Christian Name?” He looks down at a piece of paper in his hand. When he looks up, he says, “Kieran?”
Kieran looks at Mr. Hittler questioningly.
Mr. Hittler continues, “For instance. Your history. Are you perhaps. Related to the Fitzgerald’s. From Kildare?”
Kieran shakes his head in denial. “I don’t think so.”
“You are not. Irish?”
“No,” Kieran says unsure.
Mr. Hittler mutters impatiently and then tell him, “Take a seat. Lad.”
Kieran walks away from him and then sits down in the only vacant seat behind me. I feel every muscle in my body go rigid.
I feel his breath on my neck as he leans across his desk. I hear his voice say close to my ear, “Relax Heather, I won’t bite you.”
I keep my eyes on Mr. Hittler and I hear Mr. Hittler say, “In fourteen seventy-seven. Géaroid Mór Fitzgerald. Became the. Chief Deputy of Ireland. In fact. He was so. Powerful. He was looked upon. As the uncrowned. King of Ireland.”
After that, everything goes blank as I zone out.
At lunch break, Shannon and I wait for Dermot in smoker’s alley. I lean against the brick wall, annoyed, because I am hungry and I want to run across the road to get a warm chicken and mayo baguette, but Shannon wants to wait for Dermot.
When Shannon stops mid-sentence and stares past me, I turn to look around as well.