Oh God, I can’t believe I’m writing this letter! It’s soooo embarrassing. I mean, you know I’ve fancied you for, like, ages, and I know it makes things a bit weird for you, you being a teacher and all that, and me just being fifteen. But when two people love each other, rules and age and stuff like that, they just don’t matter, do they?
That day, when you first started at our school, was the best ever. Let’s just say French classes got a whole lot better after that. I was in Year NIne, but at the time, you didn’t notice me because I was still pretty small and, really, I suppose I was just a kid. I’ve changed a lot since then. Grown up. I think you’d only been teaching for a few years, because on your first day you looked dead young and just like one of those models in the magazines. I loved the waistcoat you wore. Dead tight around your body, not one of those awful baggy jackets other teachers wear. Some days, you still wear it now. Makes you look different – you know, stand out? Course, you always look dead fit – not like someone’s grandad. To be honest, just about everyone fancies you. When you pass by in corridors, there’s always loads of pushing and giggling and stuff, and ‘Hi, Mr Worrall’ in that stupid high-pitched voice everyone does when they’re taking the piss. Course, you’re always dead nice and that, smiling and stuff, but I know that, really, you think they’re idiots. That’s why I don’t let myself behave like them – just stay at the back and watch. I don’t want you to think I’m one of them. Not that I ever have been.
After school, the only thing I want to do is be on my own so I can think of you. Whatever I do, watch tv, go on the internet, mess around on the Playstation, read a book, whatever, I just can’t concentrate, because all there is in my head is you. Mr Worrall, Mr Worrall, Mr Worrall. I let you stay in there. It’s like you’re my own personal visitor. Mum’s always out since dad left, so you’re good company. A lot of nights, what I like to do is lie on my bed with my notebook, you know, one of the spiral-bound ones with frayed strips of paper trapped in the metal coils, and I write your name over and over and over again. Mr Worrall, Andrew Worrall, Monsieur Worrall, Monsieur Andrew Worrall, Andy Worrall, Mr Andy Worrall, Monsieur Andy Worrall. And then I write my first name together with your surname, first in print, and then in different types of joined-up writing, and I practise my signature in case we ever get married. Over and over and over again. Then I decorate the whole lot with flowers and hearts, and those, like, little curl thingies – what are they called? Curlicues? And arrows. Lots of arrows. I love all that Cupid stuff. People say romance is dead, but not with me. There’s this daft game everyone does with the boys they fancy – dunno if you know it? You write out your own name, and the name of the person you fancy, and then you, like, cross out the letters in the two names that are the same. From the letters that are left, you work out if you love or hate each other, if you’re going to marry or divorce. Love, hate, marry, divorce. Love, hate, marry, divorce. But no matter how many times I do it, no matter how many times I change the way I write your name or mine, you always hate me. Always. That makes me really angry.
I’ve never told you about the photos, have I? I’ve got so many of you. I really wanted to stick them next to my bed, but if Mum saw she’d take the piss, and I couldn’t put up with that. So instead I stole a photo album from a shop in town and put them in there. I collected some from school yearbooks, and others from the local paper. I also have your staff ID card. That’s naughty of me, I know, but now I’ve told you how much I love you, I think you understand. You left it on the desk once at the beginning of French, and I put it in my pocket as I walked past. Later, when the bell went, you were looking for it in the drawer and under the table, and as I walked past I said ‘Bye, Mr Worrall,’ You looked up and smiled and said bye. People don’t usually hear me, but you did. For the rest of the day, I put my hand in my blazer pocket and rubbed the corner of the ID card with my finger.
You’re always in the local paper with school stuff and that; with the athletics club, and chess club, and guitar club. They’re always winning awards. I always have a little laugh to myself, thinking how it’s just like you’re famous. I’m no good at sports. I’m always picked last for the teams in PE, but I joined the chess and guitar sessions after school. I go, but I don’t really like it because out of school I want you to myself. Sometimes it’s better at home with just me and your photos. I’m in one of the pictures, you know? From the music festival – but you can barely see me. Everyone’s in a group, laughing around you, and I’m like a speck at the back.
The only one I didn’t keep was the one when you got married. The paper cottoned onto it, and did a big story on it. You remember? Popular Local Teacher Marries. I tried to cut her out. You know – her. But in the picture, her hair covered part of your face. Cutting her out of the picture meant I cut part of you out too. I hated her even more after that, scribbled all over her ugly face and stupid dress with a red biro, and then I got the matches and burned every scrap of paper there was. Her. The headline. Even you.
The most precious pictures I have are the ones I’ve taken of you myself. They’re pretty fuzzy, because I took them quickly – from the back of the class, or in the corridor, or when I’ve waited outside your house. I think you saw me once. You wrinkled your forehead like you weren’t sure about something, but she shouted you, and you went back in.
I have to admit, I visit your house quite a lot. I feel a lot closer to you there. I stand outside and I watch and I watch. Usually I stay until my feet and hands are past cold and past pain and have gone totally numb. I kind of enjoy it – seeing how long I can last. Each time, I see if I can beat my own record. When I get home it takes hours to warm up and I can’t sleep, but it doesn’t matter. It gives me more time to think about you and what I’ve seen. Sometimes the curtains twitch, and I know you’re sending me a message. That you know I’m out there, that you’re asking me to wait. That it’s only a question of time. Once the postman arrived with a package for you. He brushed past the laurels in your front garden, and they made, like, a whispering sound. They were telling me that your love for me was pure. I like that – pure. It reminds me of when I was younger, before dad left. It was better when he was home, but Mum always says that that silly bitch and kid are welcome to him.
Even though the signals helped me, it’s really hard to keep focused sometimes. ‘Specially now she’s just had a baby. To be honest, I’m, like, really angry about that. I’m really, like – what’s the word? Betrayed? Yeah, betrayed. You let me down. ‘Course, it feels worse because you ended up taking a couple of weeks off school, and now, when I stand outside your house, the curtains and the laurels, they’re really silent. They say nothing. Nothing at all. One time, you came out of your house to go to the shops for some milk, and I was standing much closer than I usually did. You didn’t even notice me.
The last French lesson we had together, you asked me to conjugate the verb aimer. Usually I find French really hard, but this was easy. Aimer. To like, to love. It was something I’d practised over and over again with your photo in my hand. I love – j’aime. You love – tu aimes. We love – nous aimons. I realised right then that you loved me too. So a few days later, when they said in assembly she’d had a baby, it was a huge shock. The signals didn’t prepare me for that.
I heard you were going to be back in school today. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about it, and I can’t wait to see you, but I’ve got something to do first. ‘Specially when I got that new message, which really, like, cheered me up, you know? I was walking to school through the park, past the bench near the bandstand. It’s a bench I walk past every day, but that day, there were some words written on it. Usually, that really annoys me, how people wreck stuff, can’t leave anything nice. It’s like they have to poison everything. But this time I knew it was a message for me. It was in thick marker pen, soaked into the wood, clear for me and everyone else to see: a black-filled love heart and the words je t’aime. I knew then that you and I were meant to be, and that nothing could ever stop it.
Once I’ve dropped this letter off on your desk, I’m going straight to your house. You’ll be at school by then and reading this, and it means I get chance to be alone with her and the baby. I don’t want to say what I’m going to do. I want it to be a surprise. But then, you and me, we’ll get chance to be together, won’t we?
I think you like the idea of that, don’t you, Andy?
Thank you for loving me.
Photo by Tomek Dzido
5 comments on “New Short Story – Je t’aime – by Sally-Anne Wilkinson”
Reblogged this on Writing – Beginning and Beyond and commented:
Teenagers in love with their French teacher? We’ve seen it all before…
This is great Sally. It put the fear of God into me it’s so sinister. And as always I love the twist in the tail 🙂
Thanks EL. I’m glad you like it. Inspired by good old Ian McEwan and his novel Enduring Love.
Knock-out story Sally; quite ‘creep-ed’ me out and yes, I too picked up on the Ian McEwan influence since we worked on it on the York course. Your character portrayal is excellent, you seemed to get inside her head.
Taken from my own stalkerly teenage experience, Anne 😉 Thanks ever so much for reading x