The next morning, I stand in the playground during playtime with my best friend, Gina. It’s freezing, and we’re bundled up in coats and scarves, and clutching our travel cups of hot drinks, our breaths plumes of white in the cold air. The playground is filled with the shrieks, screams, and pandemonium that always marks playtime. Children tear around us, throwing themselves about in games and strange dance moves.
Gina nudges me. “So, you’re off on the ski trip, then?”
I roll my eyes and take a sip of my coffee. “For my sins. Which must have been absolutely legion in a former life.”
“It’ll be alright,” she says comfortingly.
I stare at her. “Do you remember the horror of the Year Five outward-bound trip with that appallingly energetic instructor who thought the staff should be involved in all the activities?” She shudders, and I nod. “Multiply that by a billion times.”
“That was awful,” she says.
Gina, like me, is not much of a one for outdoor activities. We’re quite happy with shopping trips and eating at nice restaurants and going to the pictures.
“Bloody Brant and his compound fracture.”
I gag at the thought. “Oh my God, that bone was poking through the skin. I thought I’d throw up.”
“I don’t think Brant was too keen either,” a deep voice says from behind us.
Gina and I spin around to find Doug watching us. He’s wearing a dark blue suit under his black coat, so he must be teaching next period. The PE staff have to wear suits like the rest of us if they’re not teaching a sports lesson. The dark fabric clings to his broad shoulders and long legs, and the white of his shirt contrasts with his golden-brown skin.
Gina nudges me subtly, and I realise that I’m staring at Doug and that he’s watching me with a rather funny look on his face. Probably alarm.
“Are you on playground duty?” I ask quickly. “I thought Hannah was timetabled on.”
“She was, but she had to ring a parent, so she asked me to come out.”
“Which I bet you were glad to do,” Gina mutters.
Doug smiles at her. “Pardon? I missed that.”
“I said you’re very good like that,” she says.
She winks at me when he bends to tie a little boy’s shoelaces that have come loose.
I stare down at the brown waves of Doug’s hair. It looks as though it would be silky and soft—perfect for touching or burying my face in it.
Gina nudges me with a sharp elbow to the ribs, and I come back to earth. “Ungh,” I say, and they both stare at me. Doug smiles kindly at me. “So, have you come to terms with the fact that you’re going on the ski trip?”
“If I hadn’t, I don’t think that parent meeting would have improved it,” I say sourly.“
They were a bit intense.” He laughs.
“Intense? My mother is intense. Those people could give her lessons.”
“Jesus.” Gina shudders, as she’s met my mum. “That’s scary.”