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The Christmas Production

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Although I was heavily involved in the sports side of school life, I had never had much input in other areas other than academic, it was therefore with some trepidation, that I agreed to assist the Head of Drama with the forthcoming Christmas production of ‘Tommy, A Rock Opera’.

I had taken drama lessons as part of the national curriculum, because I had to, and only in the first year at this school, I was thirteen and couldn’t wait until the next year, when I could opt for other subjects, I did and they didn’t include drama! Now I am eighteen and have never regretted that decision.

I sauntered along one of the many and almost identical hallways to my next lesson, lost in my own thoughts and oblivious to the sound of running footsteps closing in on me at a rapid speed. A firm hand grabbed my upper arm and spun me around. “It’s true what they say about you, Claire. “You really are in a world of your own.”

It took a few seconds for my eyes to catch up to my head in order to identify the owner of the hand, which was still firmly attached to my upper arm. “My world is a much better place, there is no winter, where the wind-chill factor rules the decision making process and where sunshine and sea breezes are readily available to wrap you in contented happiness.” I replied, somewhat stunned when I realised that not only was I revealing a side of me that very few people knew but, I was revealing it to a teacher!

“I have been calling you for the last five minutes and ended up chasing after you along hallways.” Mr. Priestley said.

“No running in the hallways,” it was drilled into us, frequently, “it’s dangerous.” I added with a slightly sarcastic but joking tone.

“Claire, I need your help. I need someone organised and disciplined to oversee the costume department for the Christmas production.” Mr. Priestley said, still holding my arm.

“I can’t sew a button on, never mind make costumes. Why don’t you go to the needlework group?” At a loss as to why he would ask me.

“No sewing skills required, meet me in the theatre at the end of the day, all will be revealed. Got to go, twenty five third year hooligans will be causing havoc in my classroom,” he said with a smile and was gone.

I was standing outside the theatre doors at 4pm, no Mr. Priestley in sight.

“Thanks for coming.”

I nearly passed out on the spot, “where did you come from?”

“That’s twice today, you really ought to be more aware of your surroundings, it could save your life one day,” the twinkle in his eyes relayed messages that were in direct conflict with what I knew to be the correct etiquette for a teacher/pupil relationship.

At around 5’10, slim but definitely fit with jet black hair and the deepest green eyes you are ever likely to see, Mr. Priestley had many admirers. It helped of course that at 29 years, he was very young to be the head of a department. The subject of countless schoolgirl fantasies, he seemed to be oblivious or too cool to show that he knew what girls were thinking in his classes. I’m sure he had a few ‘unteacherly’ thoughts himself, the man would have to be blind not to see the way the girls would dress for school in the most provocative way they could and still be in school uniform!

We were in the theatre, both sitting in the ‘audience’ seating.

“So have you invented some magical dust?” I said teasingly.

“Huh, oh, yeah, the costumes. No, what I need you to do is more like project management.” He gave me a copy of a schedule of works.

“Keep everything running and on time, you’ll even have to make sure that the teachers who are assisting are on track. You don’t get to boss them around though, that’s my job!” His face was serious but a smirk was appearing.

“We will be working closely together as we don’t have a lot of time to play with. Rehearsals start this week, full costume rehearsal in 4 weeks, production on stage 1 week after that.” He paused, trying to read the look in my eyes. “Think you can handle that? Good, that’s settled.”

“Er, hang on a minute, when am I supposed to do all this?” I was annoyed that he had just assumed that I would want to do this. “I have gymnastics every evening from 5pm to 7pm and my mornings are taken up with keeping fit from 6am to 8am and then I come to school.”

He looked me straight in the eyes, “I have agreed with the Head that you can leave your last lesson every day to check on our progress, you will of course have to do some catch up learning at the weekend.”

I believe my response was “Go to hell,” and with that I stormed out of the theatre.

By the time I reached home, I was so angry that I was ready to explode. You could have floored me when my Aunt, with whom I had lived since my parents had died, told me how pleased she was that I was to be so involved with the production and what a nice man my teacher was!

His was the bright red car I had seen leaving the driveway, he’d beaten me home and got my Aunt and Uncle on side, before I could Gaziantep Kavaklık Escort tell them. Who did he think he was? Why was he so desperate to get me to do this? How the hell was I going to get out of it?

We were 3 weeks into the rehearsals and although things had been strained at first, we managed to work through it, for the good of the school, you understand. We had even progressed to my using his first name, Tony and to him taking me home every evening after gym practice. The problem was, however, I was beginning to look forward to my ride home. I couldn’t take my eyes off his legs and hips when he was driving, they were so lean and strong, not an ounce of fat on him, anywhere!

We had 2 weeks left and people were beginning to get stressed, I told him we needed to do a costume rehearsal now, next week would leave little time to make alterations in time.

“If that’s what you think,” he said. “I did get you on board to do exactly this.”

My request was borne out when we discovered that we had not made enough nurses outfits, we were four short. We had many arguments Tony and I during the build up to opening night. We were to put on four evening performances and one matinee on Saturday, by special arrangement with the local education authority.

I found myself getting to like Tony more and more, he was nothing like the person who taught drama in a big comprehensive school. He was like Jekyll and Hyde, only Mr. Hyde was not an evil madman, in Tony’s case, he was just impatient and assuming. These are not endearing qualities.

The Friday before the first performance, which was to be the following Tuesday night, Tony was driving me home, just as he had done every evening for the past four weeks.

He was unusually quiet and as the journey could take fifteen minutes under normal road conditions and these were not normal by any stretch of the imagination. The snow had been falling pretty much all day, driving required a lot of concentration and due to the weather, there were far more cars on the road, even at 7.30 at night.

As we approached the Dolphin Inn, Tony slowly turned the car into the car park, taking care to park as close to the doors as possible.

I looked at him, wondering what he had planned.

“We can’t go any further, the roads are almost impassable now, and we still have nearly three miles to go.”

He looked at me, then said “Get changed into your jeans, we can go in and have a drink, you’ll easily pass for twenty-one.”

“What!” I was stunned, and speechless, unusual for me!

“If you try to get in wearing your track suit, you won’t get passed the door. Hop in the back seat and get changed.”

“I’ll have to ring home; they will be worried, especially with the bad weather.” I tried to sound like normal, but my pulse was racing, not sure whether it was nerves or excitement. This was a very sudden and unexpected turn of events.

He opened his door, “I’ll go phone them whilst you get changed, then I’ll come back for you.” With that he was gone.

I watched him walk carefully across the car park and into the pub. Was this really happening? It would be like a date. I jumped into the back seat and retrieved my jeans and a warm t-shirt from my gym bag. My hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t get out of my track suit fast enough.

I was just fastening the button at the waistband of my jeans when I saw him coming back. My heart was pounding and there was a layer of sweat building on my hands.

He opened the rear passenger door and leaned in to help me out, “All sorted, your Aunt was pleased I had called and I promised to keep her updated regarding the weather and driving conditions.”

Taking my hand he helped me from the car and escorted me inside.

He was right; no one paid any attention to us, other than when we first entered the room.

He motioned for me to sit at a spare table, “What would you like to drink?”

“Coke, please” I replied.

“Have a proper drink, I’m buying,” he said with a wink.

“Barcardi and coke, then please.” This was too unreal, but I intended to enjoy it whilst it lasted.

My hands were still shaking and I thought to myself that I couldn’t risk picking up my glass until they had stopped. Hoping it was not obvious, but knowing that it was, I cursed myself and put both hands in my lap.

Tony leaned over and took both of my hands in his left hand and gave a little squeeze, “calm down, or you’ll blow it.”

He smiled and said, “have a drink, you’ll feel better.”

It took three drinks to bring me back to earth, I was worried that Tony was drinking and would be driving again soon.

“I’ll be sober by tomorrow morning,” he said with a glint in his eye, he was teasing again, I think.

“We need to make a move, or I’ll never get home.” I said, rising from my chair. He put his hand on my forearm.

“It’s too dangerous to try for home tonight.”

I just looked at him, with a blank look on my face, gradually it dawned on me, the Dolphin was an inn, and it has rooms.

“I can’t stay here overnight, my Aunt would never go for that,” I said meekly, almost in a whisper.

“She already has, I told her when I rang earlier that we would have to stay here as the roads were treacherous. She didn’t seem to have a problem with it. She obvious trusts me.” His voice was quieter than normal. “And, so can you.”

I looked around; no one seemed to hear us. “How many rooms did you book?” I was almost too scared to hear the answer; my fantasies hadn’t had nearly enough time to formulate in my head. Sleeping with him was just that, a fantasy,

“Time for one more drink I think. Sit down and don’t look so worried, you have nothing to fear, I won’t hurt you.” And with that he stood and went to the bar.

At this point, my brain started working over time. Had he really called my home, my Aunt would never have agreed to this, no way! I am going to have to call myself. How am I going to get out of this? I’m only eighteen, very mature and sensible but still only eighteen and bloody scared now. I really had to get out of here.

Tony was at the bar ordering drinks, his back to me. I made for the door, it swung out and I was immediately blasted by freezing cold air, I stepped out into the car park, everything was silent, I mean there was no sound at all.

I headed for the main road, it was only three miles home, I jogged more than that every morning, ok, there wasn’t usually a foot of snow on the ground, but, that would just slow me down.

There wasn’t a single car on the road and the road was completely snowbound. Hell, I couldn’t go back and it didn’t look like I could go forward.

I was suddenly aware of the icy wind whipping my face, I could only just open my eyes a little or the icy snow would blind me. I wrapped my arms around me, to protect myself from the cold. Not a very effective method.

“You’ll freeze before you get to the end of the road.” His voice broke into my thoughts, I turned around, he was leaning against the door frame, his hands in his front pockets and his feet crossed at the ankles. He looked very relaxed and too dam good looking.

He smiled at me and my heart leapt suddenly and my stomach turned over. I began to shiver and not just from the cold.

“I can’t stay here with you, it’s not right, you’re a teacher and I’m a student.” I tried to say, through chattering teeth.

He pushed himself away from the door frame and started to walk towards me. I backed away but stumbled on what was probably the curb, hidden under the snow. He was upon me in seconds, holding out his hand to help me up, taking his hand I looked up at him. His eyes were darker now, even though the reflection of the snow made his face clearer. His eyes displayed only anger and impatience.

“Take my hand, come on lets get back inside, you’re shaking with the cold and now your clothes are wet, if you don’t get out of them you’ll end up with the flu or something worse!” He bent down and took hold of my hands and pulled me to my feet, I slipped but he caught me with both arms, mind you I didn’t weigh that much, so it wouldn’t have been too difficult for him.

He put his arms around me and pulled my head to his chest, I could feel his heart, not exactly pounding but it seemed a little fast. “Come on; let’s go inside before we both freeze.” He said quietly into my hair, it was a surreal moment which would remain in my memory for a long time to come.

The last remnants of the customers were leaving now, ready to leave their vehicles and walk home. The bar was closed and the only activity was the staff clearing away.

Tony picked up our drinks, “the landlord says we can take our drinks upstairs, he’ll collect the glasses in the morning.”

I froze to the spot, suddenly I couldn’t breathe, my eyes were glued to his, oh, my god, what now? I could feel the sweat running down my spine. I could feel the colour draining from face. The room began to move around me, I gripped the chair back to steady myself.

Tony was standing in front of me, watching my reaction, then, I think I saw the realisation dawn on him. He put my glass containing my fourth drink into my hand and then used his free hand to produce a room key with a red tag on it, smiling he placed the key into my hand, “this is your room key, it’s on the first floor, top of the stairs,” he then produced another key, this time with a green tag, “and, this is my room key.” He said quietly.

I was so relieved but, oddly disappointed at the same time. I felt foolish, acting just like the inexperienced teenager that I was.

As we made our way to the stairs, Tony put his hand on the small of my back, guiding me. At the top of the stairs, he stopped me “make sure you put your wet clothes on the radiator to dry.”

“Yes sir! I won’t forget, sir.” I replied with a little more sarcasm than I intended. I saluted and turned to unlock my room, before I could get the key in the lock, I felt him behind me, very close.

I turned to face him; he leaned against me, pushing me up against the door. His hands supporting his weight on the door on both sides of my head, I could see his eyes had that dark appearance again, if the eyes truly were a window to the sole, then his sole was in big trouble. Looking down at me, his face serious and his eyes warning me to be careful, he smiled a little, bent his head and his lips brushed mine, very lightly at first, then more intensely. A fire burned within me, my head just didn’t know what to do, my senses were being assaulted and my brain simply couldn’t think. My body however, had no such reservations, my arms snaked up his chest and around his neck. A small groan escaped deep from him and he intensified the kiss. My head was swimming but the rest of me was flying. His tongue slipped along my lips and they seemed to automatically open, he gently probed the inside of my mouth, careful to avoid my tongue. I kissed him back, gingerly. He pulled me away from the door and his arms circled me, my body was reacting to this onslaught, every nerve seemed to come alive.

Suddenly, he broke away and stepped back, “I’m sorry, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Go into your room and lock the door!” Turning, he ascended a second flight of stairs and disappeared.

I couldn’t move, my legs were like jelly and my lips quivered where his had been just seconds ago, wow….! It was completely unexpected and worth waiting for.

Saturday evening…..

The production had been a resounding success, everybody, the cast, theatre crew, make-up and costume department had all headed over to the local nightclub, which had been hired at great expense, I might add, for an end of run party. Some of the cast were still in full costume and make-up. It was the week before Christmas, so the party served two purposes.

The disco was in full swing, there were bodies everywhere, the club was allowed six hundred patrons, but I’m sure there were nearer eight hundred. It was incredibly hot and very noisy.

I picked up my drink and headed for the back door to get some air and to cool down, if I used the front door, I might not get back in again. Although not a terrific disco dancer, when it came to ballroom or Latin American I could more than hold my own. As there were people of all ages and backgrounds, I had found myself being asked to dance a lot, this was something I was not accustomed too. My gymnastic abilities were a great asset when it came to Latin American dancing.

As I leaned against the wall outside I looked back over the past six weeks, everything had changed for me personally. My focus had changed from gymnastics to anything else but gymnastics, much to the consternation of the coach and other members of the team. I had not kept to all the training sessions and my interest was definitely shifting away from gymnastics, but, I didn’t know which direction to go. I had done this for so long, that I didn’t know what else to try, I never wanted to do gymnastics in the first place, it just turned out to be a talent and the schools made use of it. I definitely did not want to move into drama or anything associated with it, that hadn’t changed.

Earlier, there had been acknowledgments for everyone’s efforts with the production. Sarah, Miss Lewis received a massive bouquet of flowers for her astounding stage management skills. Tony had been awarded 12 months membership to a gym of his choosing, in recognition for all his hard work and sleepless nights. He’d said in a short speech that he was sure that the parents of his new born twin cousins probably got more sleep than he had. I was given tickets for a weekend break in London, with a choice of West End shows and a pass to tour the BBC Studios.

It was nice outside, unusually warm for a December night. Maybe it was just that I was too hot. It was a clear night and I could see the crescent moon and thousands of twinkling diamonds, there was no light except for the moonlight, so the stars were incredibly bright. I heard the door open and close, another poor soul trying for some relief.

“Thought I’d find you out here,” Tony was pouring Bacardi into my coke, I’m not old enough to drink but, as he says, he is.

“That’s four now,” I said with a smile. I had long given up trying to stop him. We had become firm friends since that night in the snow. He never kissed me again, but I lived in hope. I was attracted to him but not to the exclusion of all others, there was no future for us and we both knew it, so we didn’t pursue it. We became friends instead.

“Eight actually, they’re doubles.” His smile was warm and his eyes inviting, he looked younger than his 29 years and always looked fabulous in jeans and a t-shirt, there had been no dress code for tonight.

Lucky really as there were a lot still in costume.

“You will lose your job if anyone finds out that you are supplying alcohol to a minor,” it was an obvious observation, but a necessary one.

“Well, if I’m going to lose my job, then it’s going to be for something worthwhile.”

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