Read Chapter One of BOUND TO FATE #secondchance #contemporaryromance
This is the first day of the rest of your life.
Lara Johnson chanted the words as she trudged down the stairs from her bedroom, her school bag slung across her shoulder. The phrase had been one her mother had taught her to use when the weight of her troubles threatened to crash down on her.
Hollowness in her chest reminded her that her world had ended three months previously.
The familiar crashing and smashing sounds of the Tom and Jerry cartoon coming from the television drew her into the living room. Lola, her younger sister by two years, reclined on a cream upholstered sofa, her school bag abandoned on the carpeted floor at her feet. In her hands, she held her Blackberry and tapped away at the keyboard with her thumbs. She appeared as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Lara sometimes wondered how they could be related, because just as she proved to be an introvert, Lola was the opposite.
The tap, tap of footsteps in the hallway had Lara reaching for the remote control to switch off the television.
“Are you girls ready to go?” Judy called out. As their mother’s younger sister, she had become their guardian after their parents died in a car crash.
“Yes, Aunty,” Lara replied. “Come on, Lola.”
Ignoring everything else, her sister carried on texting for a few more seconds as if whoever was on the other end of the virtual conversation proved more important at this moment. She wouldn’t move until the last second.
Lara heaved a sigh and strode across the room. She grabbed Lola’s bag and dumped it on her lap.
Lola lifted her head and gave her the evil eye. “What?”
“Aunty's waiting. Or do you want to walk to school on your first day?”
“I don’t care. I don’t want to go to this school, anyway.”
Despite the grumbling, her sister got off the sofa with her bag and headed outside.
Lara shook her head as she followed, switching off the ceiling fan on the way. She had misgivings, too, about starting a new school, especially in her senior year when she needed to prepare for final exams. Neither of them had had any choice but to move after tragedy had befallen them.
Outside, a breeze flapped the admiral-blue skirt around her knees and the rising sun reflected off the small pools of water on the concrete driveway from the rain that had fallen at dawn. She checked her bag for her small umbrella, not wanting to get soaked if it rained again later.
For October, the temperature felt cooler and fresher than the humid heat she’d been used to in Lagos. From what she’d learnt in geography, Enugu lay over two hundred metres above sea level compared to Lagos’s eleven metres.
The engine of the silver Honda CR-V revved, making her flinch. Against the background of the quiet neighbourhood, the sound became augmented, especially this early in the morning. Her gaze darted to the car. Judy already sat in the driver’s position and Lola climbed in beside her.
“Lara, lock the door,” her aunt called out through the open window.
“Okay.” Puffing out a breath, she pulled out the bunch of keys she’d been given and did as instructed.
In her old house, she’d been used to securing the premises when going out. As the oldest child, many similar responsibilities fell on her shoulders. She didn’t have the luxury of sitting in the car messaging friends on BBM like Lola while someone else did the chores. Then again, these little chores kept her busy with less time to think about the dreadful past. Or scary future.
With the lock in place, she returned her bunch into the bag and hurried to the vehicle now facing towards the gates. She pulled the door and climbed into the back seat.
The grating sound of metal on metal made her wince as the watchman tugged open the gates and they drove out. Today, her senses seemed more acutely sensitive to sounds as her anxiety spiked. Her foot bounced against the floor mat, making her black patent leather shoes squeak. She pressed her palms on her knees to stop the restless motion.
“Aunty, do we really have to go to this school? Can’t we go back to our old school?” Lola asked in a sweet voice, finally putting aside the phone. “I’m sure they’ll take us back. No problem.”
“No, you can’t, sweetie.” Judy gave her a glance. “We discussed this already. You need to stay with me for now. You’ll get used to the new school in no time.”
There were a few other reasons they couldn’t go back to their old school, even if their aunt didn’t say them out loud. For one, it had been an expensive boarding school. Secondly, it lay over five hundred kilometres away in Lagos State while their aunt lived in Enugu State. And according to the bereavement counsellor, they needed to be around family.
“Aunty's house is nicer than boarding school,” Lara chimed in. Although she missed the familiarity of her old school friends—not that she ever had that many—she wouldn’t swap it for the security and compassion she’d received from Judy, who’d taken them in as if they were her own. Especially as they hadn’t seen much of the woman since they were little.
“You say that because you didn’t have many friends,” Lola said in a sarcastic voice. “I did.”
“Honey, I know you miss your friends from your old school, but you’ll make new ones here, too. So don’t worry about it. You’ll both be fine.” Judy squeezed Lola’s shoulder.
“Okay,” her sister said in a resigned voice.
“Lara, you remember where to go to get the registration sorted out?” Judy asked.
“Yes. The school admin office.”
“Good. Once you show them the letter, they will let you know where to go. I won’t be able to come and pick you after school. But the two of you can take a taxi home together since it’s the first day. You will have to take the bus home next time.”
“Thank you, Aunty,” they both chorused.
Thirty minutes later, they stood in front of the school gates. Tens of kids in blue and white uniform milled around or headed into buildings.
“Hi, Lola!” someone called out.
Lola waved back.
“You know that girl?” Lara asked, astonished since her sister hadn’t mentioned she knew anyone in this school.
Lola shrugged. “She lives on the same street as Aunty Judy.”
“How do you know anyone already? We’ve only been in Enugu for a month.”
“You’re the one who chooses to lock yourself away in the house all the time. Anyway, where’s this admin office we’re supposed to find?”
Lara breath hitched and she felt as if she’d been hit with a sledgehammer. She bit back a retort and shook her head. She hadn’t been locking herself away. She’d been in mourning.
Then again, she shouldn’t be surprised about Lola. Her sister was pretty and had been popular at their last school. It looked like she would fit right in at Hillcrest.
As for herself, her goals for the year were simple—pass her exams and gain a university place. She didn’t need the attention, and if no one accepted her, she would just have to cope with it as best she could.
“It’s this way.” She pointed to a sign on the wall and they headed in that direction.
Half an hour later, they’d filled out forms and were directed to their classes. Lola’s were in a different building from hers.
“Do you want to meet for lunch?” Lara asked.
Lola shrugged and started walking off.
“If you need anything, just call or text me,” Lara said.
“Yeah. Stop fussing, will you?” Glancing back, Lola rolled her eyes and walked off.
Lara couldn’t help fussing. Lola was the only member of her family she had left. Okay, she had Judy, but it wasn’t the same thing. She’d taken care of her sister since she was a baby and always felt responsible for her, even more so now that their parents were gone.
Sighing, she turned and hurried across the walkway to the class building. Students gazed at her but no one spoke to her. She kept her chin up and her shoulders stiff, determined to project confidence and determination. The truth was, she wasn’t very good with change. Unlike Lola who complained about it and seemed to adapt a whole lot quicker.
By the time she arrived at the door to the correct class, it was already shut and the class seemed to be in session. She paused, brushed her palm over her braided hair packed in a ponytail style, and took a deep breath. Then she turned the metal handle, pushed the door open, and walked in.
The class was silent as they listened to the teacher but a murmur passed when she closed the door behind her.
A middle-aged man in brown jacket and trouser suit, white and green striped shirt, and a plain green tie stood at the front. Focusing on him, she walked over.
“Mr. Ejiofor?” When he nodded, she handed over the sheet of paper she’d been given at the office. “I was asked to give you this.”
He took the paper and read it.
“We have a new student joining the class today.” He glanced at the paper again. “This is Lara Johnson.”
Clutching her hands to the back to hide their shaking, she turned to face the class. Big windows sat on the side. The back wall was plain white with a white board over it. On the side wall next to the door was a geopolitical map of the world.
The students sat in columns of two per desk in six columns and four rows. All of them stared at her with different degrees of curiosity.
Lara swallowed, her shoulders tightening. She hated being the centre of attention and even more so to a group of strangers. Her darting gaze caught onto another girl in the front row who smiled at her. There was an empty seat next to her. The only empty seat.
Mr. Ejiofor picked a book from the pile in front of him and handed it over to her. “Take a seat, Lara.”
“Thank you,” she mouthed and walked over to the empty chair quickly. The sooner she sat down, the sooner everyone else would stop staring at her. She dumped her bag on the aisle beside her and placed the book on the desk top.
The girl next to her turned and smiled. She was the picture of wholesome perfection. Her straight hair was packed neatly into a ponytail, not one strand out of place. Her school uniform was creaseless and fitted, unlike Lara’s which needed adjusting around the waist. Her oval face was smooth and lovely, no acne in sight. Even the cheer in her curled lips and the twinkle in her brown eyes showed she was a happy and content girl.
Lara hadn’t been happy or content in months.
“I’m Ada Obi. Welcome to Hillcrest School,” the girl said in a low voice. “If you need someone to show you around, I can help you.”
Lara gave a small smile as some of the tension left her body. Someone was being nice to her. Perhaps she’d make a new friend, after all. “Ada, thank you.”
Mr. Ejiofor resumed the lesson in English Literature. Luckily, she’d bought a copy and already started reading the assigned book so she didn’t feel too lost in the class discussion although she didn’t attempt to raise her hand to answer any questions and the teacher didn’t bother directing any queries at her. She managed to sit up straight instead of slumping under the melancholic weight that rested on her shoulders.
Time flew quickly and Mr. Ejiofor left. During the break before the next teacher arrived, the class erupted into chaos.
Shifting in the seat, Lara picked out her timetable and checked the next lesson. Geography—a subject she wasn’t so good at.
Flicking the page of the textbook, she glanced at the door. A boy stood there as if on sentry duty, watching for the arrival of the next teacher. The flutter of the sheet did little to calm her nerves as it should. In her old school, she’d acquired the nickname ‘Bookworm’ because she loved immersing herself into the knowledge hidden between the covers of the printed work.
Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the words on the page. Aside from noting the topic of the chapter as ‘Population Change,’ none of the text registered.
First day back at school for a new term usually didn’t leave her this agitated. She loved school. But while it was the first day back for her, the school had been back for a few weeks already. She’d missed weeks of lessons and studying.
She sucked in a deep breath and gave another glance at the door. The student standing at the entrance hadn’t moved, although his attention was focused on the chaos in class rather than checking if the Geography teacher was on the way.
The churning in her stomach returned, her breathing accelerated. Crossing her arms over on the desk, she lowered her head and started blowing out short breaths.
I can do this. I’m just sitting in a room with other students. Nothing bad will happen.
Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, she repeated the calming actions.
Where was the teacher? Perhaps if he turned up, her anxiety would ease just as it had done in the literature lesson.
She’d been having panic attacks since the traffic accident. The doctor had offered to sign her off school for another week or month if she didn’t feel ready to be here. Her physical wounds had healed. Mentally, she didn’t know if she’d be ever fully recovered.
Tired of hiding from the world, she had to face her life. Face her future, such as it was.
Lifting her head, her gaze swept the class. No one else seemed interested in preparing for the next subject. Not even the girl sitting next to her. She seemed rapt on a lanky male student who was telling a story. His hand and body movements as well as the jokes he cracked identified him as the class comedian. They’d had a similar boy in her last school.
“What’s his name?” Lara asked in a low voice. She couldn’t be sure Ada heard her above the raucous sound of laughter.
Giggling, the girl turned to look at her. “That’s Jimoh. He thinks he’s the next Basketmouth.”
With a half-smile, Lara’s raised a brow in confusion. “Basketmouth?”
“Come on. You know Basketmouth?”
“Yes, I do.” She chuckled. “He’s good but not as good as a popular Nigerian stand-up comedian.” She tilted her head in the direction of some girls sitting in the middle row who’d been staring at her and not so nicely. “What about those girls over there?”
“Oh, that’s Princess Gloria and her coterie.”
“You know? Gang, Pack, Clique, Circle. Don’t mind me. I like big words.” Ada chuckled again.
Warmth spread across Lara’s chest as a big smile filled her face. She liked this girl a lot already.
“Is she really a princess?”
“No, she’s not. We call her Princess because she walks around as if her father is the Obi of Onitsha.”
Lara glanced at the girl again and she did have a haughty air about her, with the tilt of her raised nose and the group surrounding her.
White paper planes making turbulent journeys above heads bobbing with raucous laughter snagged her attention next. Most of the boys sat on their desk instead of the appointed chairs, either cloistered in smaller groups or listening in on the more general conversation.
“I never thought so many people would sign up to take Geography this year,” Jimoh said.
“It’s because of the fine boy teacher,” another boy chipped in.
“No. You’ve got that wrong. I know it’s because of me everyone is in this class, because no one fine pass me. Check me now.” He started doing the vogue pose, causing everybody to break out into laughter.
“What is he talking about?” Lara asked, now curious about why the class seemed to be this full for an elective subject. Geography hadn’t been that popular in her previous school.
“Don’t worry,” Ada said. “You’ll understand when you see the teacher. He is something else. Half the class wants to be him and the other wants him as boyfriend.”
“He’s coming!” shouted the boy standing by the door, and everyone scrambled back to their seats just in time to stand up as the teacher walked in.
“Good morning, Mr. Thomas,” the class chorused.
Lara’s breath caught in her throat. This was their teacher? It couldn’t be.
“Good morning, class,” the man replied. “You may take your seats.”
OMG! Lara couldn’t take her gaze away from the man who was going to be her new geography tutor. The world and everything in it seemed to disappear. Just him.
Somebody tugged her arm and she turned to find it was Ada. The rest of the class were now seated down. Her face burned as she picked her mouth off the floor.
“You must be the new student,” the teacher said.
“Yes, sir.” She swallowed. “I’m Lara Johnson.”
“Welcome, Lara.” His lips curled in a boyish grin with a dimple on the left cheek.
Her heart thumped against her chest and her skin tingled as if he’d reserved the smile especially for her. She couldn’t help smiling in return. Geography would be her best subject this year.
“You can sit down.”
“Thank you, sir.” Sweeping a hand under her skirt, she turned to sit down and caught the glare coming from Gloria. If eyes could kill, she’d be dead. She lowered her gaze and was glad to have her back to the girl. What was Gloria’s problem, anyway?
“Before we get started,” Mr. Thomas said in a deep, mellow voice that captured the attention of the whole class. “I want to let you know that the registrations for the exam preparations tutorials are open today. If you’d like extra help with preparing for your finals, then get your name down.”
Leaning forward with elbows on the desk, Lara rested her chin in her palms and just stared at the new teacher. She’d had young teachers in her previous school, mostly Youth Corpers, but she’d didn’t recall anyone looking this young. Or this good.
He stood strikingly handsome and tall. They were all seated but she’d bet he’d tower over everyone around if they stood close to him. His skin, a dark, hickory-brown shade, contrasted brilliantly with his white shirt. The top two buttons lay undone, leading her to look up at his face.
With fascinating almond-shaped mocha-brown eyes, thick curved brows, balanced nose, full sensuous lips, and square jaw line, his face suited the cover of a magazine. Model David Agbodji had nothing on him.
Her mouth watered and she licked her lips. One word whispered in her mind. Sexy. She’d heard the term bandied about by her friends, but she’d never used it to describe anyone until now.
She’d never been more sexually aware of anyone until now.
The thought had her straightening her posture as her body warmed. She’d never had a boyfriend before, although she’d attended a mixed boarding school. Boys her age never appealed to her. Also, her parents had been strict about boyfriends. She’d been taught that boys were bad and getting involved could only lead to trouble.
Her focus had always been on academics and getting great results.
All that flew far from her mind as she couldn’t look away, absorbing every word the teacher spoke as if he addressed her alone.
“My tutorial classes will run on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. All those interested should register using the forms on the Year Twelve notice boards.” He placed both hands on his desk and leaned forward. “Next week, there will be a test, which will cover everything we’ve discussed so far this term.”
A murmur passed through the class. Lara insides quivered and she swallowed down the panic, surprisingly not at the thought of failing the test but at disappointing her teacher. She’d have to study extra hard this week. Of course, she’d be signing up for his tutorials.
“Sir?” A student at the back raised a hand.
“This is unfair. A week is not enough notice.”
“Have you been paying attention in class since the start of the term?”
“Of course, sir.”
“Then you should have nothing to complain about. If anyone should complain about short notice, it should be Lara.”
“That’s what I meant, sir. I was complaining on behalf of the new student. It’s unfair for her to take a test when she hasn’t been in class with us.”
“Well, let’s ask her. Lara, do you think the test next week is unfair to you?”
OMG! He’s talking directly to me. Her face heated up and she swallowed a few times before she could speak.
“Well...um...it is short notice for me, sir.” Her voice sounded squeaky. She swallowed again.
“In that case, you are exempted from next week’s test, Lara.”
Another murmur went through the class and she could hear the disappointment in her classmates’ voices. She crossed her arms and shook her head. She didn’t want to be singled out for favour and end up being hated by the rest of the class.
“Excuse me, sir.” She raised her right hand.
“Yes, Lara,” the teacher replied.
“Sir, I want to take part in next week’s test.”
“Good.” He smiled at her again, making warmth spread through her chest. “Now turn to chapter four of the Physical Geography textbook.”
The class settled down as the lesson went along. His mastery of the subject and the engaging way he discussed with the class only added to her admiration of him. For a young person who was probably only a few years older than she was, his confidence and ability to keep the entire class active and participating made her want to learn so much from him. Could she stand in front of a class of teenagers and get them to listen?
Before long, the bell rang to signify the end of the class and break time. Mr. Thomas dismissed everyone and the students dispersed.
Lara sighed, disappointed that the class had ended so quickly, although a glance at her wristwatch indicated two hours had gone by since Mr. Thomas had arrived in class.
“Are you going to the canteen for lunch?” Ada asked as she got off the chair.
“Yeah. Okay,” she replied and packed up her items.
“Lara, I want to talk to you,” Mr. Thomas said.
“I’ll wait for you outside.” Ada headed for the door.
Lara remained standing on the spot.
Mr. Thomas came around to lean back on the desk, facing her. He was less than a metre away from her. Her heart thudded in her chest, her pulse skyrocketing. If she stretched out her hand and leaned forward, her finger tips would graze the front of his shirt. Would his skin feel warm to the touch? Did he have hard muscles beneath the fabric?
“I’m impressed that you agreed to take the test next week with the rest of the class,” he said, his gaze both assessing and amazed, his hand resting on his chest with his fingers splayed.
Cheeks burning, she lowered her gaze and muttered shyly, “Thank you, sir.”
“But as you can tell from the protests, my tests are not easy. As this subject is an elective, I’m determined that every student who signs up for it achieves the best result. With that in mind, I’m also aware that you’re currently at a disadvantage since you haven’t been in school from the start of the school year. I want to level out the playing field for you.”
She lifted her head, meeting his gaze. “How’s that, sir?”
“I strongly suggest you sign up for the extra weekly tutorials. But for next week, I’m offering you a daily tuition for half an hour during your lunch break.”
“All week, sir?” Her brows shot up as her pulse accelerated. She was going to be in a room alone with him for the next few days?
“Yes. Is that a problem?” His brows drew together in a frown as he leaned back on his hands.
“No, sir.” She bit her lower lip and twisted her watch around, fretting that he would withdraw the offer. “I’m just worried that you’ll be using your personal time to coach me.”
“Your concern is duly noted, Lara. But as I said earlier, I’m determined to achieve one hundred percent pass rate for my subject. You have one week to learn topics your classmates have been studying for six weeks. The work isn’t optional unless you want to drop the subject altogether.”
“No, sir,” she said quickly. The thought of not being in his class made her heart sick.
“In that case, go and grab a quick lunch and get back here in twenty minutes so we can get started.
“Thank you.” Hands shaking, she pulled her bag off the floor and hurried out of the room.
Ada stood in the hallway, fingers pressing buttons on her phone. “There you are. What did he want?”
“He’s going to give me extra lessons to catch up.”
As she spoke, Mr. Thomas came out of the classroom. He stared at both of them sternly as if he knew they were talking about him.
She bit her lip and avoided his gaze as she blushed.
“I expect you back in class at the correct time, Lara.” He turned and walked away.
“Yes, sir,” she muttered and grabbed Ada’s hand. “I don’t want to get into trouble on my first day. Please show me to the canteen.”
By the time they got to the building housing the restaurant, it was already teeming with students and teachers. Lara searched the room for Lola but couldn’t find her so she sent her a message. She couldn’t stay and eat in there. She bought a meat pie and bottle of Fanta to go instead with the cash Judy had given her this morning. She then bid farewell to Ada who went to queue with another group of girls, and returned to the class.
She sat in her chair and ate her food, checking her phone for messages from Lola. None came.
Right on time, Mr. Thomas strode in. Her respect for this man ratcheted up another notch. It had to be genuine passion for his students and subject that would make him sacrifice his own personal time for her. She’d had good teachers in the past but couldn’t think of any who had done something like this before.
She pushed her chair back to stand up.
He waved a hand.
“Don’t stand up.” He stopped beside the desk.
Pulse racing, she sat forward, her attention focused on him. Would he come closer?
Her shoulders slumped when he remained where he stood. “These sessions are informal. I expect you to be on time. I expect you to pay attention, ask questions, and do the work given to you.”
“Yes, sir.” Rubbing her clammy hands against her skirt, she licked her dry lips. More than anything else, she wanted to please him. Her foot bounced against the bottom of the desk.
The loud sound made her jump back. Eyes bulging, body trembling, she hyperventilated. Shards of broken bottle lay scattered on the linoleum floor, triggering memories of another time and place.
Broken glass shattered on tarmac. Crumpled metal, trapped bodies. The stomach-curdling smell of petrol. Crunching sounds over people’s voices. Someone called her name from far away.
A fever swept through her. Sweat trickled down her back and face. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.
Someone grabbed her shoulders. Dragged her out of the wreckage. No, the person wasn’t dragging her. She was being shaken.
She looked up at the person calling her name. The same person shaking her.
What’s he doing here? He doesn’t belong in this memory.
Slowly, her environment returned to her. She blinked several times as she struggled to get air into her lungs.
“Mr. Thomas?” Her voice came out scratchy and weak, her throat dry.
“Lara, do you know where you are?” He squatted beside her, brow wrinkled.
Blinking again, she swallowed the bile in her throat and nodded. “In school.”
His gaze flitted over her body, the frown still in place. “Are you hurt?”
She stared from her hands to the glass on the floor. “No. I’m sorry. Let me clean up the mess.”
Shifting, she scrambled to get up.
“Stay there.” His tone was gentle and firm.
Stiffening, she didn’t move as she watched him stride across the room.
He snatched a sheet of paper off the table and came back to pick up the broken pieces from the floor. He dumped the big chunks in the paper bin, opened the door, and disappeared.
Rubbing her palms down her skirt, she hunched over. First day in a new school and she’d had a panic attack. In front of the most intriguing man she’d ever met, with skin like dark chocolate and eyes like the sky at night.
Oh, God! Heat crept up from her chest to her face. Wanting to get out before he came back, she grabbed her bag.
The door squeaked as it swung open and he returned with a small brush and pan.
Chest feeling tight and frozen to the spot, she watched him.
He worked quickly and thoroughly, sweeping up any last trace of glass and binning them. Striding to his desk, he pulled a bottle of water from his satchel and came back to sit in a chair across from her.
“Drink this.” He passed her the plastic container.
She unscrewed the sealed cap, tipped her head slightly back, and drank, glad to soothe her parched throat. When she finished, she stretched out her hand to pass it back.
“You can keep it,” he said, his gaze fixed to her face.
“Thank you.” She broke eye contact and stared at the desk, clutching the bottle to her side as she wrapped her arms across her body to hide her tremors.
“Lara, why did you have a panic attack?” he asked, his voice low and filled with concern.
Eyes wide, she glanced at him. How did he know? Her foot bounced on the floor. “I...I...” she stuttered.
His hand settled on her knee. Warm. Calming. “It’s okay. Breathe in and out slowly.”
She followed the instructions of his compelling voice. Her breathing evened out and the shaking stopped eventually.
“Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night from a nightmare,” he continued. “I’ll be shivering and sweating and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin.”
“Really?” Her breath caught and she placed the water bottle on the desk. Why was he telling her something so personal? Something he must be ashamed to share with anyone.
Just as she was ashamed of the bad memories that plagued her.
“Yes. So if something’s happened, you can tell me. I’ll understand.” Withdrawing his hand, he leaned it on the desk beside him, the other on his knee.
She sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Something about him made her want to share her experience, although she hadn’t discussed it with anyone after it happened.
Then again, people didn’t like to talk about tragedies, afraid of inviting those things into their lives. She was trying to move on from her parents’ death, but the memory stalked her. Being in a new school environment didn’t help matters.
She glanced up at Mr. Thomas. He nodded as if in understanding as his lips curled in a sad smile. His sympathetic expression bolstered her resolve. She released another slow breath.
“I was in a car crash with my parents. They were killed.” Tears misted her eyes and she swiped them with her palms. “Sometimes when I hear a loud noise, I feel as if I’m trapped in that car.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
The stress in his voice made her look across to him. His hands clenched into fists and the skin around his eyes bunched as he gave her a pained stare.
She recognised that expression. It was like staring in a mirror. Staring at a boy who’d undergone suffering. Someone like her. A kindred spirit.
He blinked and the distressed expression eased away as if it was an oil portrait brushed over with new paint.
“Surviving a tragedy like that is tough on anybody. We have a counsellor here at Hillcrest. If you need to talk more about it, she’s a good person.”
The tormented boy had gone and in his place sat the articulate teacher.
She nodded. But she wouldn’t talk to anyone else unless it was him. For one, she didn’t like reliving the event. Anyway, no one else would understand what it felt like to carry this guilt around unless they’d been through something similar. Why was she alive when her parents were dead? She’d asked herself the question ever since the accident.
“Good.” He lifted his arm and glanced at his watch. “Lunch break is almost over. We’ll have to pick up the lesson tomorrow. Read the whole of chapter one from the textbook before we meet then.”
She swallowed. “Yes, sir.”
Nodding, he strode to the desk and grabbed his satchel.
As she bit her lips and gripped her elbows, disappointment that he was leaving made her chest tighten. Unable to move, she watched him head to the door.
Twisting the handle, he turned back to look at her. “Lara, you’re going to be fine. With time, the way you feel will get better.”
His lips curled at one corner and he was back to looking boyish in a charming boy-next-door sort of way. Then he was gone.
Butterflies fluttered in her belly. Heat flushed her skin. For the first time in her life, she wanted a boy to notice her. Except this wasn’t a boy. He was a man, her teacher, and totally forbidden.
She wanted him nonetheless.
Continue reading BOUND TO FATE