For my darling across the waters. Your passions are endlessly inspiring. To my readers, please leave feedback and vote if you fancy this story... Or any others as you see fit. Thanks and enjoy. Kisses, YLA.
I tried to make the class environment a bit easier for Winter. She was just one of those girls. I gave her more leeway about not answering questions or raising her hand. If she came in looking as if she'd spent the better part of the night before without sleep, I didn't raise too much of a fuss when her eyelids began to flutter. To be honest, Winter never fit in with the popular crowd or, really, any group in school. She wouldn't fit in with the sorority girls in college, or later down the road, the perky mothers' clubs that were all the rage for trendy new housewives these days. To be even more honest, I liked and admired her specifically for that reason.
Spring was in the air. The cherry blossoms were opening to reveal radiant pink splendor. The air was redolent with the sharp green fragrance of newly emerging grass, and my college-prep English class had been stricken with an acute case of senioritis.
While the halls of Mont Blanc High were more tense than usual with all the underclassmen cramming for exams, the senior class moved through the worried younger students like a hot knife through butter. Self-assured that their freedom was at hand, there seemed to be a collective gaiety about most of them. All but quiet Winter T. Melan.
She had made her way through her senior year alone. Just as she had done every day for the last three years.
She'd never seemed to be truly happy from what I'd observed during my fledgling career at Mont Blanc as the "sexy young English teacher." The first two years had been spent getting to know my own teaching style, the other faculty, and just trying to keep organized and cool even when presented with the most difficult students.
This year, I tried to be friendlier in class and got out into the community more in an effort to meet some of the families behind the great—and not so great—kids I taught.
With just days remaining until graduation, I sat at my desk grading junior book reports. I thought about Winter's journey through her senior year of school. In October, when the east coast was draped with heavy skies, Winter seemed to enjoy the gray and drizzle the way a beach bunny enjoys the endless heat and blue of a perfect summer day. For reasons I couldn't fathom, I'd taken more of an interest in the quiet, bookish girl and longed to know more about her life and interests. She piqued my curiosity in much the same way a mystery novel would.
Winter lived on a farm and helped her mother bring in the various harvests from late spring to autumn. I'd try to make idle chatter with her when I stopped by the farmers market to pick up produce, maybe buy some squash and herbs and comment on the delicious produce they'd had grown this year. She'd merely offer me a solemn smile before returning her pretty nose to yet another book. Ms. Melan would give me cooking tips (I suppose being a young, single male allowed people to assume I was lacking in the kitchen, though my family was Portuguese and I'd been helping my mother cook since I could reach the stovetop). Winter would roll her pale blue eyes behind the pages of the latest horror or fantasy book she held.
She showed up for school after Halloween wearing a lovely opal pendant. I commented on it, and she turned bright red beneath the unruly mop of her ash blonde hair.
"Mom gave it to me for my birthday," she mumbled, slinking past my desk to her customary seat in the back of the room. She risked a few more glances my way than usual that day. I imagined her dancing among the falling leaves, her lustrous hair glowing in fading autumn afternoon light, maples and oaks showering her with gold, amber, russet, and mahogany leaves as if sending their own greeting card to assure the waif she wasn't alone on her special day.
There was gossip among the students that Winter's mother had given her an unconventional upbringing, and that she was allowed to roam the acreage behind their old farmhouse and even camp out there for as long as she wanted. The more salacious bent to that rumor was that Winter did a lot of nude swimming and sunbathing in her solitary summer months, and though it was horribly unprofessional, I'd catch myself admiring her narrow bottom or small, perky breasts beneath her shirts. I wondered what she'd look like in various stages of undress. I'd even caught myself fantasizing about how sexy she'd look in nothing but a T-shirt.
During December and January's firm frosty hold, the jocks and cheerleaders planned snowmobile trips, skiing trips, and many other merriments to enjoy the season. Winter lost her slight tan and seemed to withdraw more into herself, almost never offering comment or opinion on the latest work of Dickens or Shakespeare we were analyzing.
The first time I really saw a hint of the woman she'd quietly become happened on Valentine's Day. She arrived in class without her usual well-worn jacket and even more worn boots, tight jeans, and tighter T-shirt, opting instead for a red poet style blouse, flowing black skirt, red heels, and a pair of nude stockings. Her hair was pulled back into a tail and held in place with a black velvet bow. She had put on a hint of tinted lip gloss and a heady floral perfume.
It was amazing to see her entire face, for once not obscured by a hanging fringe of bangs. She was truly beautiful in a dainty way with her fine nose, small mouth, and positively hypnotic eyes. Even the delicate nose stud and silver eyebrow ring she wore seemed to suit her. She carried herself with more confidence, which the boys surreptitiously noticed when they thought no one was watching.
"Did you see Winter Melan's transformation?" Kelly Vance, the art teacher gaped, as we happened to bump into each other in the lounge. "It's like High Class for the Emo Lass got a hold of her. All that effort over some guy she met through an online friend of a friend. It's so sad."
I paused in the process of warming up some leftovers from the night before. "Why? I think she looks nice."
"Oh, she does," Kelly hastily agreed. "But the guy's a sophomore at MIT. I talked to Jenna Melan at the grocery store a couple days ago. He's supposed to pick up Winter and take her out on a date tonight. But you know these guys. He won't show, or worse, he's just out for a..." She trailed off with a meaningful lift of her eyebrows.
I bit my tongue. Winter's mother probably gave the information to Kelly because the art teacher wouldn't stop prying, which Kelly did with abandon.
Kelly sipped her flavored water and offered a sympathetic smile. "I feel so sorry for her not having enough friends that she feels she has to accept the first offer for a date she gets. At least my little Hannah has a lot of friends, and she's only eight."
Something in Kelly's words rubbed me the wrong way. Yes, I felt bad for the girl. Not exactly sympathy, but rather I wondered how Winter maintained the strength she must possess to continue on every day dealing with all she did from the rest of the kids. She was very intelligent, attractive, and would make the right guy extremely lucky someday. To damn a girl who's barely eighteen and do it with a smile was just more than I could take. I decided to pass on lunch and just walk around the halls. The usual chatter of the cafeteria echoed off the walls and seemed to fill the entire building. I had just passed the bathrooms and an exit hall when I saw a hint of red out of the corner of my eye.
Winter stood in the empty hall, back to the wall, nibbling a burrito she held in one hand and gazing starry-eyed at a picture on the cell she clutched in the other. The double indulgence of eating junk food (her mother was an out and proud health nut) and fantasizing over the presumed image of her date was an arresting sight. Here in this empty space, she must have felt comfortable enough to let down her guard. To dream like girls her age dreamed. To eat the same foods as her peers, bask in the same vitality of youth, and finally know the addictive pull of desire she'd apparently missed thus far.
The still of that moment lingered in my mind the next morning when I came to work and began sorting lesson plans and preparing transparencies. Madison and Kaylee, a couple of popular airheads, arrived in class first, all a-giggle about Winter's apparently devastating evening.
"So what did he do?" Kaylee whispered, eyes sparkling as she chomped her gum.
Madison's smile was vicious. "He said that if she didn't want to hang and well ... you know ... give it up, she could get the fuck out of his room. She had to call her mother and tell her the truth about not being at dinner and a movie but at the guy's dorm, and her mother went off when she got there. They got in a shouting match in the dorm parking lot."
"Ooh shit! Why'd she have to be like that? I mean it's just a two minute thing and then it's over," Kaylee said as she tossed her perfectly combed bottled-blonde hair out of her face.
"My man gives it to me for longer than two minutes. Speak for yourself." Madison grinned, fiddling with her latest piece of jewelry from one of the jocks. "Shhhh! Here she comes!"
I was incensed at the pair's laughs at Winter's expense. I could only imagine how heart breaking it must have been for the girl, even if her naiveté had put her in an awkward and possibly dangerous situation. She was lucky not to have been drugged and raped for a laugh between the bastard and his friends.
Winter arrived with a small knot of students. She was back to her tight jeans, limp hair, and her eyes were very red, doubtlessly from a night of sobbing.
To emphasize their discomfort at her obvious distress, the kids in class gave her a wide berth, leaving an empty desk between Winter and themselves when they sat down.
"Good morning," I began, trying not to stare at the tiny girl who had pulled out her notebook and copy of A Tale of Two Cities as if on autopilot, flipping the book open to a random page and hiding behind it. "Who wants to sum up the class differences in this story, and how the Jacobin uprising compares to modern lower class upheaval?"
Class went on as usual, but an incident shortly before it ended set in motion the wheels of an unpredictable twist of fate that would bring Winter and me together, no matter how I tried to stay the proper course.
Winter had been doodling, apparently finished with the five essay question spread I'd handed out. Kaylee had been watching her intently. I don't know precisely who started it since I wasn't looking, but in an instant there was a shrill scream and collective gasp from the class followed by a crash and the slam of running feet toward the door.
From the eruption of instant chaos, I was able to discern that Kaylee had done something to infuriate Winter, and the pixie of a girl had launched herself at the curvy platinum blonde, landing a blow square at Kaylee's nose. The girl's hands were cupped over her bleeding nose, Winter's desk was overturned, and the classroom door was open.
"Kaylee! Go see the nurse!" I ordered. "Everyone else, park your butts and wait. I'll be right back."
A couple of teachers stumbled out of their rooms over the commotion, but I frantically waved them back. Yes, we had a zero tolerance policy and I'd probably have to enforce it, but something had set Winter off, which wasn't easy to do. I ran down past the cafeteria just in time to see her heading toward the exit.
"Melan!" I called.
She paused, backpack slung over one shoulder, her form hunched and quaking.
"Winter, come with me."
"Fuck you!" She screeched, her voice choked with pain.
"Please. I don't want to get anyone else involved here, but I will if you make me."
Whirling on her heel, Winter confronted me with such a pained expression my heart seized up. All I could do was motion her to a nearby conference room and shut the door to give us some peace.
"Why'd you hit Kaylee?" A glare was her only response. "Miss Melan, I'm going to report this to the principal, but if you give me more info, maybe I can help you." Her lower lip quivered. "Please. I know Kaylee is hard to handle sometimes."
With bravery beyond her years, Winter dropped her bag and stared me in the face. Her eyes leaked reluctant tears, and she looked tiny and lost as she studied my eyes.
"Kaylee wrote something on her phone I would kill her for if I could. She's a disgusting bitch, and if she says anything to me again, I'll kick her ass. Screw zero tolerance."
With a fortifying inhalation, Winter cut me off. "She said that I was nothing but a cold fish, and any guy who's stupid enough to want me will get second thoughts and kill themselves just like my dad did."
I took a step backward, my stomach twisting in knots at the horrifying statement delivered with such calm.
When I'd arrived to fill the available teaching post at Mont Blanc, Winter had been pretty much the same as she was now. I had never heard anything about her father's suicide. I had just figured her mother was one of those free spirits who didn't need a man around to help raise her daughter. The likelihood of a divorce or just an out of wedlock pregnancy had always been enough of a catch all reason for me, and it wasn't my business to know for certain.
"Why did she say that?"
"Because I told her this morning that she needed to keep her mouth shut. Her brother knows the guy I met last night, and he told her what happened. She said she'd tell anyone she wanted, and I said the only time a whore like her needed to open her mouth was when Max Wilks unzipped his pants."
I couldn't help the smile that captured my lips for a brief instant. And the most amazing thing happened. Winter smiled back.
As I'd expected, Winter got a week of in-school detention, and Kaylee was cracking wise about the girl's insanity and how the whole school was in danger of her snapping and taking them all out like "the creepy kids like her do in the news."
With barely a handful of weeks left in the school year, I studied the change in Winter's movements. She walked with a little more purpose. Her gaze was more intense, especially when she looked my way. And most of all, she had put the fear of corrective cosmetic surgery into Kaylee and her friends. They tried to keep as much distance between themselves and the girl as physically possible. She showed up in class and defiantly sat wherever she wanted, sometimes choosing to sit in the front row of desks and give me a brief conspiratorial smile when the popular girls arrived to find their usual seat had been taken.
It was the tender and ripe middle of spring when I began to realize Winter occupied more of my mind than was appropriate. Her favorite seat, as of late, was one in the far corner of the room near a window, sunlight slanting in to bathe her in radiance as she watched me from pensive eyes. The first big hint we'd grown closer than we should came that morning.
Second period students filed into the room. Winter took her seat, staring down Kaylee, Taylor, and Madison as they eyed her with contempt for taking the seats they'd wanted. Kaylee turned with an irritated toss of her silvery mane, muttering something under her breath and stamping further away
"I'm sorry Kaylee," Winter piped up, most of the right side of her face hidden by her hair. "Would you repeat that?"
Kaylee stopped dead in her tracks, turning to glare at the girl from the perch of her expensive heels. "Shouldn't you be home writing bad poetry, getting high, and slicing up your arms because the world doesn't understand you?"
A titter came from Taylor as Madison's eyes narrowed in a laughing smile.
"Nope," Winter replied, leaning back in her chair so her lovely tits pressed against the fabric emblazoned with one of her favorite bands. "I had to come to school today in case your mom's fancy insurance needs to blame an act of God to cover your fucked up nose. I can put more into the next blow if that'd help." Winter actually began to favor Kaylee with the prettiest and most innocent smile. The first one I'd seen in weeks, and there was an edge to it that jolted my loins.
"Mr. Brandão!" Kaylee turned toward my desk in shock. "That was a threat! She's so kicked out of this class!"
"Everyone sit down and open your books. Winter? Another comment like that one and you'll be sent to the office. Understood?" For the briefest instant, Winter held my gaze, the edges of her little rosebud mouth curling in a subtle smile.
"Yes, Mr. Brandão."
I tried to ignore the slight tingling in my balls at the sheer coquetry of that expression. The slight shift of her eyes and that smile, one that knew exactly what effect her words had on me, lingered in my mind like an afterimage on the retinas. It was very difficult to keep my thoughts from wandering for the rest of the period.
After work that day, I reclined on the sofa watching something drab on TV, my thoughts returning to Winter's eyes and that playful smile. Damn but she was beautiful. Yes, she made the best effort to pass off that whole Emo look, but under the unkempt hair, tight clothes, and prop glasses she wore from time to time, she was nubile and alluring. I felt like the very worst representation of a high school teacher for having such thoughts, but they would not leave.
I resolved to try and cool things between us in the interest of keeping my job as well as keeping inappropriate feelings from blossoming in both our hearts.
Apparently the power struggle between Winter and Kaylee spilled over into cyberspace. Increasingly catty texts were exchanged, the girls had a good laugh over some inflammatory comments they'd managed to leave on Winter's Deviant Art profile, and the tension further increased as their graduation neared.
Winter, deceptively quiet yet ever resourceful, managed to launch the coup de grace one day before the senior class finished this phase of their lives. Changing her war tactics from stealthy to all out deliciously evil, she managed to coerce Max Wilks, Kaylee's meathead boyfriend, to not only engage in some extremely raunchy chat, but the two had exchanged pictures. Winter sent him a topless, side profile shot that revealed almost her entire left breast, her hair still obscuring her face. Max sent her a far more intimate and explosive shot of his hand (the idiot forgot to take off his class ring which gave him away) masturbating a very erect cock.
The tension between the two girls was palpable. Winter moved with a feline intent that was not lost on the boys. As had become abundantly clear over the last few months, Winter was embracing her angst in new and creative ways, even if they were far from constructive.
The shit hit the fan as the students left for home on their second to last day of school. Winter ducked out of pre-calculus early to leave a little surprise stuffed in Kaylee's locker, then slipped out to her car to leave before the discovery was made.
All I knew was, according to the biology teacher who'd witnessed it all go down in the hall, Kaylee had screamed expletives about the hard copies of the exchange left in her locker which included the pictures and chat text, then she ran out to the parking lot to take Winter out, but arrived too late. Taylor suggested they swing by Winter's house, and apparently they had with no success, or that was the story being told via whispers the next day. Winter had run into the forest and her mother had no idea where she could have gone since the wood was very large, and Winter knew it better than anyone else.
On the next morning and last official day of school for the graduating class, the sun hid behind heavy gray clouds and it was unusually chilly for spring. I returned the results of their final English examination to each student, nearing the end of the list when Winter swept into class. I dropped the last few sheets I'd been holding.