Winter in college
Time becomes a blur within the confines of a prison you’d hear ex-cons say when they share their experiences over a much welcomed pint of ale, and I won’t disclose whether or when I’ve heard that myself. But I felt a connection to that statement. Being a prisoner inside the college of St. Paul’s. Though for the past year, I was a happy inmate. And it was all down to Candy...the girl for who love had crept up on me like a silent killer, invading my entire body, mind and soul.
So with the Scottish summer gone and autumn having rolled away too, winter had quickly descended in London. It was already early December. The whole college was preparing for the imminent arrival of the Christmas holidays. Not that I was sharing the joy. Christmas was not my thing. Everyone kept blurting out the usual cliché, how Christmas is a wonderful holiday for the whole family getting together.
Well I don’t have a bloody family now, do I??
For me Christmas was just a torture. So I gathered I’d stay at the college. It was for the best, and I’d save the so-called family of mine that was only on paper, a lot of shouting and cursing. I might be called a bastard but I could be a considerate bastard if I wanted to be...
Candy and I were still very much a couple. A couple crazy for each other I might add. Just the thought makes me chuckle. If you’d ask me a year ago, I’d never thought I’d be in that position. And everyone in the college had noticed the difference. For starters I smiled more. Especially in situations I’d never smile or laugh but I did. Sometimes, I was more soft-spoken and others even when I’d hear an insulting whisper behind my back, I’d pretend not to listen, I wasn’t in the mood for fighting no one.
After my many attempts to kiss her and the slaps I received in response, she had accepted the fact that I wouldn’t stop. In a moment, unexpected as those particular moments are, she had even admitted in a quiet voice that she liked my kisses. My eyes nearly popped out off their sockets when I heard Candy saying that. But the thing I won’t forget was the thick warmth I felt expanding, hugging my insides in response.
We spent together whatever free time we could get. We weren’t reckless though. It was obvious that some small minded, nasty little rich brats with more venom in their mouths than brain in their skulls were onto us. Squinting evil slits for eyes kept looking for the next trick to play on us, the next slip up from us. Eliza and Neil, the dump as f@ck minion of the “I-have-no-life” Queen of Horrors were the main ones.
I had eventually found out it was she who had played the note trick on us at the stables. I couldn’t help myself...when I saw her, I spitted straight on her face. From then on, she declared war against me and Candy. I didn’t escape the reprimanding pointing of the finger from my girl either. She was never the person seeking revenge. That was very admirable of her, I have to admit...however it didn’t reduce the pleasure I got from that spit. And the chuckle I received in the end from Candy when she asked me to repeat the story was just the cherry on top of the cake.
When the weather permitted we took long walks through the woods of the college estate. Sometimes visiting the Pony’s pretend hill, we threw a blanket on the cold grass and sat down to gaze at London city spreading like a grey and red stone carpet in front of us. We’d imagine the thousands of lives under those roofs and chimney tops and I acted little dramas we thought were taking place under them. She watched and heard attentively, while I was acting them out and she would burst in laughter or tears, always clapping of my impromptu performances when they’d reach the end. I was taking gulps of air to inflate my lungs with happiness and proud feelings for being able to induce such emotional responses from her. Towards the far reaching corners of my soul, shy images of an audience emotionally gripped by me acting out theatre plays, intense stories played on a stage, had also started to appear. It wasn’t something that took me by surprise...I’ve always loved the theatre, only now the feelings of where I was meant to belong were becoming to me more clear.
Some other days, when the cold was biting the skin off your flesh, we sought refuge in a disused old wing of the college, way further towards the edges of the estate. There, inside an abandoned classroom resembling more a forgotten warehouse, we’d sit down sharing a school desk, exchanging stories and glances. I let my fingers to glide over the skin of hers, sort of rubbing her knuckles whilst I heard her narrating those past events of her life, slowly sketching them in my mind. I ended up finding new reasons of why I loved her.
We’d act silly like toddlers. One small spark, a word, a push, and we’d be chasing each other in the corridors of the empty wing. The laughter from the lips would travel wavelike and free and reflect back from the walls into a loud crazy echo like there were ten of us involved in those chases. But I would usually grab her, catching my breath and press her body to the wall.
The triumphant glint in the stare changed to a lost one, the breathing calmed down but the heart beat would sprint inside my chest when our faces came close together and I covered her lips with mine.
A couple of times, I felt daring...
My hand would sneak between the wall and her back. Every time an inch lower, I rested it just above the swelling of her buttocks. My fingers squeezed her warm flesh, caressed her and I could feel her muscles tensing.
An intimate moment between two people in love is built by a chain of actions and reactions.
When her cute behind reacted to my touch, the sensation pushed me to deepen my kiss, to taste her mouth. My tongue mingled with hers slowly, exploring, expecting, relishing. Her tensing changed to a shiver, the same shiver I’d feel inside my knees and I had to press my free hand to the wall, my fingers retracting to a claw almost, on the hard surface to keep me from falling in front of her. A moan faint as a whisper escaped her lips and with that, it was like the signal for her to back off because she did that shortly after. She turned her head the other way, escaping from between my arms. She turned back to look at me, suddenly feeling out of breath and her eyes were like deep green glass marbles on her flustered face.
“What’s wrong?”, I asked her.
She stood with her back on the opposite wall from the one we were leaning while we kissed and she left her body to slide down, until she was sitting on the wooden floor. I followed her move and sat next to her. We didn’t speak for a few seconds. I suppose she was trying to tell me something so I waited.
“It’s just the way you kiss me some times...”, I heard her voice, soft but clear in the silence of the corridor.
“I feel queasy...and then I feel lightheaded...swarms of butterflies lower inside my belly...”, she had continued with cheeks painted brightly red while I watched her knitting the fingers of her hands on her lap.
I let my head lie back to the wall.
“Good grief Freckles...it is as if you’re on the throes of death when I kiss you...”, I said and tried to hold the laughter back down in my throat.
Her push on my shoulder was immediate and strong, enough to throw me off balance, the right side of my body quickly meeting with the floor.
“You’re really awful sometimes Mr. Terrence Grandchester!! Do you know that??!”, she yelled to me right after she had thrown me with one push down.
“Oh, come on Candy! You know I love to tease you!”, I replied as I attempted to regain my position.
“Not when I’m trying to tell you how I feel...”, she cut me.
I got her hands into mine, the same way I would hold her stare with mine.
“You want to know what I feel when I kiss you?”
I had stopped smiling and I could feel my eyes burning as I looked at her. I knew she was trying to imagine my feelings, I was seeing the rapid movements of her eyes staring straight at mine in search of those feelings.
“My mind goes empty and I’m left only with my senses, discovering you, like a lost man being guided to his destination by the stars...”, I said to her with my voice turning low and smooth by the fact I was telling those words to her.
“My heart flutters, the blood in my vessels speeds up and I feel every cell in my body alive because of your kiss”, I added before lowering my eyes and face towards her hands, bringing them to my lips to kiss them.
I lifted my face to look at her with my mouth drawing a wide smile for her.
After a moment of quietness during which Candy digested my words, her eyes looked disappointed. Before I’d ask her why, she left a sigh and told me of the reason for her disappointment.
“It’s not fair...”, she started, “I’m never going to be as good with words as you are Terry...”
The smile on my face didn’t leave, but my eyes mellowed even more towards her as I could see the slight frown of her lips.
“Words are just air Freckles...what count are actions...”, I said to her,
“And if you kiss me once more, my words will turn to dust by it...”, I continued.
She’d move closer and kiss me...and one more minute of daydreaming would be born to fill those hours when we’d be apart.
Christmas came and went. For me, it was the best Christmas I ever had. No lessons, in a semi empty college together with Candy, the days passed like a dream.
On New Year‘s Eve my father came to see me. My mood crashed on the floor when I’ve heard about it. I didn’t know why he was there but I suspected that he would ask me to join the family for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. So I had prepared myself for a confrontation. A confrontation happened indeed, one that was like no other, but not for the reason I expected. Since I was on my last year in college, my father had come to let me know what he had decided for my future.
“Your education is of course of paramount importance”, he had said to me.
I didn’t respond. I never did, until he would come to the point.
“And I am proud of your grades”, he continued, “even if you don’t believe it Terry”
It wasn’t that he was intimidated by my presence to start sweet talking me. My father just liked to take his time saying something, building it up to the point where he thought he was going to sound like saying something of terrible importance.
“After all, a gentleman’s knowledge of the world around him is of great importance in our circle...”, he had kept going.
“Can’t you cut to the chase for once father?”, I decided to interrupt him since I was getting bored of his stiff monologues.
He had looked at me remaining silent for a few seconds. Maybe he was trying to control his nerves, since I never acted like the good obedient son he craved to have. He lit a cigarette, took a drag and pushed the smoke air out.
“Well, that’s just it Terry...”, he had started again.
He turned and looked towards the window and as if there was something of worth to see outside so he moved closer to it, turning his back at me altogether.
“You may have fared decently here, but you lack the discipline needed to be present later on at our family’s obligations in our society...”, he said with a steady voice.
“Don’t start on that crap again...”, I said realising that it was just a lecture that he had come to give me.
“No, I won’t start Terry...I won’t need to...because I’ve enrolled you in the Royal Military Academy for next year”, he announced and turned back towards me, looking at me straight in the eyes.
My fists were so tight by the side of my body I thought my fingernails would pierce the skin of the palms.
“WHAT??!!!”, I exploded without thinking anymore.
He didn’t seem affected by the raise in the tone of my voice.
“Of course...since you carry a certain predicament in your blood line because of your mother...I had to pay slightly more for the Academy to accept you...”
His last words sparked such rage inside me it spread in seconds through my entire body like fire in a dry pine forest on a summer’s day.
“F@CK YOU!!!!”, I screamed at him with such force, I felt my lungs in pain.
“F@CK YOU, DO YOU HEAR ME??!!!”, I continued regardless of him not responding, my voice breaking under the size of the enraged feelings I carried inside.
“I won’t have you living off the family’s fortune like the ungrateful bastard son you intent to act as Terry!”, he finally lashed back.
“WHAT??!!”, I asked again, feeling spit moistening my lips.
“YOU SON OF A B|TCH!!!”, I said and paced back and forward inside the room, trying to hold myself for not attacking him physically.
“You can yell and scream and insult me as much as you like, my word is final and that’s it!”, he said and crashed his cigarette in an empty ashtray before pouring a finger of bourbon in a heavy crystal glass and gulping it down.
“And what if I refuse to attend?”, I managed to ask with a voice that trembled as I was trying to keep it down.
“If you choose that road...the family’s door is closed for you Terry”, he stated like it was the most normal or logical thing in the world.
“That is the way you want to play...”, I said with defiance back to him.
“No, Terry, I’m not playing...this is it”
I didn’t say anything for a minute. I started whispering for him to get out. A whisper that grew stronger and stronger until it transformed to a shout that wanted to hurt, wanted to cry, wanted to hurl out all the hate I carried for my father at that point.
Without saying anything else, he started walking towards the door of the college meeting room, the one that was reserved for meetings between the students and visiting parents.
“Goodbye Terry...”, I heard him say, “I hope you come to your senses with the new year”
That was the last I’ve heard from him. The way I was feeling when that creep left St. Paul’s, was so intense, I wasn’t even in the right mind to see Candy. I just couldn’t. Instead, I put my jacket on, rushed outside and jumped over the walls of the college.
Headed for the nearest pub in the area. Groups of exhilarated people were walking about in the streets. Busy streets, full of smiles and kisses. New Year’s Eve, the most hopeful day of the year. The most hopeless day for me. New York and the theatre looked more inviting than ever inside my head that soon was drowned by alcohol, putting a muffle to my angry thoughts.
I faced New Year drunk as a skunk, emptying my guts inside the toilet ball of the bathroom next to my room. The next day, it was as if I had disappeared from college. I run away, somewhere remote within the college grounds and wrote two letters. One to Candy and one to Sister Grey. I was leaving.
I didn’t have the guts to see Candy face to face despite that I knew she would be out looking for me. Not only I was a quitter, leaving her behind, she would try to persuade me to stay, finish my studies. Worst scenario even, she could pack her bags in a moment of craziness and follow me. I couldn’t let her do that. If I had more money, if I could take care of her the way she deserved to be taken care of, I’d do it. But not like this, under those circumstances I faced. It was my problem, not hers.
I packed a few belongings of mine in a suitcase, left the notes, and left the college altogether, taking a carriage to Southampton for the next ship to the States. With my father’s money I bought the ticket and that put a smile in my face. Using what he owned for my own destiny. I hated his money so I gave it away with great pleasure as a goodbye slap in his face. Future awaited and despite the intense pain I felt leaving Freckles behind, somehow, I was convinced we’d find each other again.