Little Black RaincloudA Chapter by avoria
The first day of November brought with it a fuss of damp, browning leaves that fluttered around the college grounds. All through the day there hovered ponderous clouds, rain occasionally dripping from their seams as the wind licked their bursting sides. Students, whose parents had sent them off adorned with raincoats and umbrellas, stared up in quiet abandonment, daring the sky to let rip its oscillating torrent. The weather refused to give in to such glares, however, and it held steadily over the town as the day wore on, casting looming, cold shadows against the concrete world.
Through the college buildings a chill wind blew, echoing doors banging and a faint whistling whispering through the rafters. Clare raised her gaze from her book, eyes lifting to the ceiling as she imagined it caving down on top of her, crushing her beneath a dusty pile of rubble. It might not even have been such a bad thing, she mused before she could stop herself.
She shifted uncomfortably against the cool wall behind her, bum cheeks numb on the tiled floor. The afternoon found her perched outside her English classroom, the library overrun with rowdy Year Eights and the common room too sore a sight for her tiring eyes. Though the corridor beneath the mezzanine rang with the bustle of staff and students on their lunch break it was quiet enough outside the door that Clare could read and jot down an idea or two in her notebook.
She would have gone in, sat quietly at one of the desks, but when she’d tried the door it had been locked; Mr. Logan must have been away having his lunch too and she couldn’t blame him for not wanting to leave his classroom unattended. So she sat and read and waited, the seconds dripping from the hands of the clock on the wall ahead of her.
Before long she heard footfalls echoing up the steps behind her. Quickly, she bundled away her notebook into her bag " it wasn’t the kind of thing for the eyes of strangers. A brown mop of hair appeared above the banister and, around the corner, walked Sam Logan himself. He was holding a half-eaten sandwich with one hand and clasping a pile of papers with the other, but his gait was startled at the sight of the small figure curled just in front of his classroom door.
Clare felt herself blush furiously " why hadn’t she just gone to the common room?
Mr. Logan shifted the papers in his arms. “Afternoon, Clare. You’re … ” His eyebrow raised a twitch, tugging at the corner of his mouth, “a little early. Is there something I can do for you?”
“No. Sorry.” She brushed some hair from her face self-consciously and went to get to her feet. “Library was full and I wanted somewhere quiet to read. I’ll let you get back to your lunch.”
But instead of walking past her to his classroom, like she might have expected, he bent down, placed his papers on the floor, then sat on the floor beside her. Clare stared in alarm, unable to do anything but watch as he plucked the sandwich from its box and went to take a mouthful. He looked up at her before he took a bite.
“Don’t let me disturb you,” he joked, smiling.
“You’re sitting on the floor,” she remarked obviously, cringing inwardly at herself.
Logan’s focus went back to his sandwich. “So I am. Ten out of ten for observational skills,” he dropped in casually, taking a mouthful.
Clare felt herself relax, felt herself slink down the wall and felt her bum meet with the tiles again. Yet, watching Mr. Logan out of the corner of her eye, she her fingers twitched nervously at her knee. He munched on his sandwich, occasionally, glancing down to the papers by he side and leafing through them with his spare hand. There was something about this entire situation that felt … weird. And she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Were teachers supposed to sit with students so informally? Was it allowed? Didn’t they have to stay in their offices or some such malarky? Worrying her bottom lip with her teeth she asked eventually, “Are you allowed to … ?”
Logan looked up, swallowing his mouthful and giving her an amused smile. “To what? Sit on the floor? Yes, I think I’m allowed to do that.”
“Not that!” she rebuked, though she couldn’t deny there was laughter rumbling her voice. “I mean sit. With me. You’re my teacher, so...”
The look he was giving her, something caught between entertained and surprised, just made her blush more and she suddenly felt foolish: foolish for even coming to sit here in the first place, for wanting peace and quiet from everyone else and choosing her English class " her English teacher " as a place to get it. What was she even doing?
He cleared his throat, sandwich finished, and draped an arm lazily over his bent knee. “Are you afraid you might catch something?” he teased. “I’m your teacher, not another " ”
“Sorry,” Clare interrupted, eyes frantically searching the floor for anything of hers as she scrambled to put her bag over her shoulder and get to her feet. “I’ve … I’ve got to be somewhere … very important … ”
She was panicking. She knew she was panicking because she could feel it rise in her chest like a sickness, and for a second she thought she was actually going to be sick. How embarrassing would that be? No, she told herself firmly. Just, no.
It was his voice that stilled her, just as she was midway from the floor to her feet.
His tone was like nothing she’d heard from him before. The witty banter from the laid back man who she’d come to appreciate as her teacher seemed to dissipate, and in his place was someone who sounded … well, the only word she could really think of was ‘forlorn’, but that was a strange enough idea in itself. She braved a look at him, still half hovering between seated and stood.
He wasn’t looking at her. In fact he didn’t seem to be looking at anything much, instead bundling his papers back into his arms and getting to his feet himself. She found herself rising with him, her cheeks crimson as though he’d painted them just so.
He managed a smile at her and though it was gentle, somehow Clare knew it was completely forced. It made her feel uncomfortable, guilty even, as though she’d done something wrong. Have I?
“I really do have somewhere to be,” she lied, hand tightening around the strap of her bag.
Logan chuckled, but it was without warmth. “Go, then,” he said, stepping to one side. “And I’m sorry if I perturbed you.”
She wanted to tell him it was all right " but she wasn’t really even sure what was happening. She was barely even aware of dipping her head, of walking slowly away from the classroom and down the stairs. Which was stupid really, she had to be back there not ten minutes later, but her feet were walking and her mind was wandering and she still couldn’t escape the very strange feeling that something had just ‘happened’.
Damn it, she scolded herself as she walked, path drawn to the girls’ toilets. Why am I so confused?
The toilets were empty, fortunately. Locking herself in one of the cubicles she lowered the loo lid, perched atop it, sat and thought. The previous ten minutes played through her mind like a scratched CD, every replay somehow a little bit different. Something about him, his nature and his way with her, had unsettled her: it felt out of place, as though he were trying to recreate the atmosphere they shared in the writing classes, in the atmosphere at college. And that was … wrong. Here, he was Mr. Logan, English teacher. Little more to her than a stranger. In the town hall he was someone else, Sam Logan, a man who actually seemed to help her with her writing.
And in Soul Blues, way back when, he had been the man who had nearly kissed her.
Sam pressed his fingers to his eyes and sighed heavily into his hands. He had a curious sense of things getting out of control, of his life dribbling just out of reach of his fingertips, yet he knew that that was absurd. He also knew that he might be in trouble.
Dropping his hands to his desk he stared at the stack of year eleven papers he’d collected from his pigeon hole in the staff room earlier that day. They looked so daunting now, demanding his attention on concise use of language and style, and he was already quite distracted enough. Damn it, why did he have to care so much? Why did someone like Clare, whose miseries seemed to far exceed those of her peers, draw him in so much? Why did he feel responsible for her, as though he were in some kind of position to help her? He was no more equipped to help her than Andrew Marx, or any other member of staff who knew her. It wasn’t up to him, it wasn’t his place and it wasn’t, to all intents and purposes, anything to do with him.
But he still cared.
As the weeks had passed he had found it almost agonising to watch her shrinkmore and more into her own shell. She barely spoke in his classes now, either to her friends (if they were even that) or in discussions. She came in by herself and left by herself. He barely knew her, yet even he could see that it was unlike her, that the shining spark in her eyes was somehow lacking.
He caught glimpses of it, every now and then, when he saw her on Tuesdays. It had admittedly been an unwise decision to keep attending the classes but once he’d realised it was a way to understand Clare a little better, the opportunity had been too good to pass up. There was no way he could just leave her to it after that, let alone send in his girlfriend in his place.
It was that damn mysterious air that held around her like mist " that was what kept bringing him back. She was carrying something on her shoulders that she wasn’t letting out, and he feared for his student. He feared for her marks and her studies and, in a broader way, he feared for her future. Did she really have no one to go to? Was everyone else really that blind, that uncaring? What on earth had happened?
Questions raced each other around Sam’s mind, each one demanding he pay attention to it, each one demanding an answer. But he didn’t have any answers besides what he already knew, and all he knew was that if Clare needed help he was willing to give it if no one else was.
Then again, there were times and places. Approaching her outside his own class had probably been a mistake, he decided, remembering that terrible, embarrassed fluster about her as she’d tried to escape from the atmosphere he’d brought to her. The Sam she knew in creative writing classes was certainly not the same Sam who taught her English " not that she knew either particularly well beyond the bonds that were appropriate " and he’d somehow forgotten that he shouldn’t merge the two.
Yet coming up the stairs to his classroom and seeing her there, tucked away neatly in the corner with her book, had warmed something in him. She had come to him to escape everything else, and he was touched by that " because it meant, maybe, that she was starting to loosen up, that she might start accepting some real help from someone who could give it.
But he’d overstepped the mark, been too informal, too ‘friendly’ and had obviously terrified her in the process, unravelling any progress he might have made with her.
The gruelling thing was, he remembered grimly, that it was almost his job not to care. Academically, his interest in her should stop as soon as she left his classroom. By flagging up concern with the counsellor, he had done all that was within his power to help her. Anything else would be deemed inappropriate by a committee board. So inappropriate, in fact, that his teacher training had supposedly equipped him to keep his distance from students he might care for.
He remembered earlier days of dealing with the older students he would end up teaching, of the students who would have crushes on him and " to an extent " of the students he himself would be attracted to. The words of his then-supervisor rang clearly in his head like a bell, echoing through his cavernous mind and bringing all his questions to a blinding halt.
“We can’t pretend it doesn’t happen. We can’t pretend that eighteen-year-old girls aren’t pretty or that eighteen-year-old boys aren’t handsome. But your role " as their teacher, as their academic guardian, as a figure of authority " is to recognise that whilst aesthetically your student might be attractive, it is of absolutely, strictly, no concern of yours. Your student may be bright as a button and have a wicked sense of humour to boot, but it’s nothing you won’t come across time and time again. There’s a fine line between a constructive, working relationship with your student " which is encouraged for their own academic achievement " and something that goes beyond that. And unfortunately it is, and always will be, your call to make sure you stay the right side of that line.”
Sam had never particularly liked his supervisor, but he remembered feeling then " as he still did " the vehemence of disgust with teachers he’d heard of who had abused their position. He had never been able to understand why someone would place an attraction for someone above their job and duty when it was quite clearly doomed to fail from the off. Reason had always escaped him and he just shook his head in disbelief and carried on knowing that he would never allow himself to get to that stage.
The one thing he was sure of " and glad he was sure of it " was that his want to help Clare was completely innocent. Was she attractive? He supposed so, in her own way, but it was the furthest thing from his mind when he looked at her. The want for her to be happy was all he really felt, but it was beginning to dawn on him that that alone might be cause for concern.
Was he in the wrong? He didn’t know. Subjectively, no, but if Drew had waltzed into his classroom demanding just what he thought he was doing sitting so informally with a student and chatting as though they were friends, Sam probably wouldn’t have had a suitable answer. And to make things worse … he didn’t actually care. ‘Suitable answers’ could be damned, really, if it meant he could somehow help Clare. Perhaps he did worry about her more than his other students; but perhaps there was more too worry about. And perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, he was just worrying too much.
He was sorry if he’d embarrassed Clare. But he couldn’t be sorry for taking an interest in her well-being. It wasn’t really in him and it also, he realised as his students started filing in for their lesson and he sought out her familiar form sitting next to the window, wasn’t going to change.
The weather broke just as the college kicked out for home. Fat, lazy droplets of rain fell from the sky in armies, the ground covered in rivulets before the first minute was even up. It was so dark outside it might almost have been mistaken for dusk, the great, hulking clouds blocking out most of the light from the sun. All around the college grounds soggy students pitter-pattered in the puddles, running for their buses and lifts or trudging home slowly, their shoes filling up with muddy water.
Clare glared out at the weather and thought, restlessly, of the long walk home alone. She hadn’t walked home with Annabelle in weeks, had barely spoken to her apart from polite words, and though she knew it would be her job to patch up whatever had happened to their friendship she just hadn’t found it inside herself to make the effort.
She pondered giving her dad a call: but then, he wouldn’t come out to collect her. And even if he would, she didn’t want to distract him from his work any more than she had to. Long gone were the days where she would obstinately demand a lift home just because she couldn’t be bothered to walk the half hour down the road … there was just no joy in it any more.
Had she the money, she would have gritted her teeth and bought a bus ticket, braving the rowdy kids and their rambunctious noise. But she had none, and so instead found herself just staring at raindrops as they chased each other down the windows in the sixth form common room. She wondered, briefly, if she could wait the rain out " but a glance up at the sky told her that it wasn’t going to pass any time soon and she needed to get back to the house.
She was startled by the sound of an opening door, then avid chatter following its way down into the room. The common room had two exits, one deeper into the school and another straight out on to the yard, where a lot of the teachers usually parked. So it wasn’t with great surprise that she saw Mr. Marx and Mr. Logan trotting down the steps towards her.
“Hi, sir,” she said as they passed, not entirely sure which one she was talking to.
It was her maths teacher who responded, however, his tone bright as he shifted his satchel on his shoulder. “I hope you’re not walking in that, Abbott,” he said, making a face at the weather. “It’s bad enough I have to run to my car.”
Clare pulled a smile, averting Logan’s gaze when she felt it on her.
“I’m waiting to be picked up,” she lied, not particularly caring for her maths teacher’s sympathy.
“Well, good job too.” He looked to his co-worker, smiling. “Shall we?”
“Actually, I’ve left something in my office,” Logan replied, looking uncertain as he patted himself down. “Just go on, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Mr. Marx shrugged and began to head off. “Suit yourself,” he said, giving them both a friendly nod before ducking under his coat and heading out into the pouring rain.
Left on their own once more, Clare felt the all too familiar pull of awkwardness creeping up on her. Why did he do this to her? What was worse was that Logan seemed to be … hanging around, waiting for something. Unable to bear it any more she looked up and met his gaze.
The smallest of smiles tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Come on,” he said, jerking his head back towards the corridors of the college.
Clare frowned. “What?”
“I’m not letting you walk home in that.”
“But I said " ”
“Clare.” He laughed, shaking his head. “If I couldn’t tell when my students were lying, I wouldn’t be a very good teacher, would I?”
Mumbling, she replied, “I suppose not.”
“Well. Come on, then.”
She wasn’t really sure what to say in response to that, or do, and she found herself walking with him back towards his office, feet trailing as though he’d dragged her along. She waited, patiently, as he unlocked the door to the classroom, the jingling of his keys almost drowned by the noise of the rain hitting the rooftops. Then she watched as he crossed the room, approached his desk and picked up … a pen. A Bic Biro, in fact. That was apparently it.
A small laugh escaped her, covered quickly by her hand over her mouth. Logan looked up, flicking the pen between his fingers, and gave her a questioning " if knowing " look.
Clare came forward into the room. “That’s what you came back here for? A pen?”
“I’ll have you know,” he said, perching on his desk and pointing the Biro accusingly in her direction, “that this is a very important pen. Can’t do my marking without it.”
“No, I mean it. I try with anything else and it just … veers off.” He grinned, apparently enjoying his own little joke. “I end up scribbling all over the page.”
Clare watched Logan’s smile dissipate as silence consumed them and heard her mouth gamble words whilst her brain just told her to shut up. “You didn’t want Mr. Marx to know you were offering me a lift home, did you?”
He looked momentarily snared, his eyes guarded as his fingers closed around the pen. Then, with a sigh, he pushed himself off the desk and pocketed the tool. “It’s not … usual,” he admitted, not looking at her. “I can’t be seen to " to favour anybody. Not that I am, particularly, but if I " ” He sighed again and Clare frowned, wishing she’d never asked. Why did she ask? Why did her mouth do things her brain knew would be a bad idea? “Tongues will wag, that’s all.”
“Will they?” Why? Why are you pressing this, Clare Abbott? It’s easy " mouth closed, cease communication. Just shut up and let the poor guy give you a lift home, it’s better than bloody walking.
Fortunately, and much to her relief, Logan didn’t seem to be playing ball. He looked up and gave her what she’d come to recognise as his ‘work’ smile and nodded towards the classroom door. “We’d best get you home,” he said quietly.
She nodded in acquiescence, finally managing to stop spouting whatever came to mind. They walked in silence back to the common room, and even out in the rain they said nothing. Clare gave him what little directions were needed towards her road and thanked him, meaningfully, as they pulled up outside her house.
Grabbing her bag in her hands she glanced up, braving a smile in his direction.
“I would appreciate it if you didn’t...” he started, but seemed unable to find the words to finish his sentence, instead sat staring forward with his hands firmly gripped on the steering wheel.
Clare smirked inwardly. “Gob off to everyone that mister English teacher gave me a lift home in his nice, shiny car?” she provided, pleased to see that it relaxed him.
He chuckled and nodded. “Yes. Not doing that would be great.”
“You betcha.” When do I even say that phrase?! she cried out silently to herself. Stop acting like such a stupid teenager and get out of the car. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow. Or something.”
And with those parting words she left him, rain still pouring and getting in her face as she rushed in through her front door, the roaring of his engine fading quietly down the street behind her.
© 2010 avoria
Added on March 25, 2010
Last Updated on March 25, 2010
AboutI've been an amateur writer for more than ten years. When I was fifteen I discovered fanfiction and, in my time writing it, explored my own creative writing style and and branched out significantly. S.. more..
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