I want to share with you an extract from my new novel: Out by Ten by Anne E. Thompson
As I explained yesterday, it’s listed at the reduced price of £6.99 for just this week so that my friends and neighbours can buy a copy. I will put the Amazon link at the end (it’s available as both Kindle and paperback books).
I shared the bus ride back to Blakeney with a gaggle of teenaged girls, who looked as if they might be bunking off school. As I sat, staring at their snagged tights and improbable shoes, I heard their intense voices, and I remembered being that age, and the glorious excitement of new situations. It was only a few short years ago – and a whole lifetime. I immersed my thoughts in the sound of their whispers, looked at their carefully arranged hair, their casual closeness as they touched an arm, a knee rested against a thigh, feet slid near each other. They didn’t bother with personal space, the flicked hair of one girl brushed the cheek of another, their perfume spilled towards me with their whispered giggles. I remembered the intoxication of friendships, the undiluted energy; I remembered when I first saw Timothy. . .
I am sixteen, my school bag is bouncing on my shoulder, I glide into the classroom and slump into the chair next to Carol. I am looking for Nigel, searching the room for his blond hair whilst pretending to look for my homework book. Perhaps I should be worrying about my father, and his recently diagnosed cancer, but I’m not, I am absorbed by Nigel, hunting for his gangly legs stretching out from his desk, and the slant of his shoulder when he reaches for his bag. Carol digs me in the ribs and jerks her head forwards. I look up. I see Timothy.
He is standing at the front, his stance casual, his eyes watchful. I notice his eyes first, set below straight brows, that dark brown that seems to glow; even from my seat at the back I can tell he is noticing, watching us, in control. He wears a faded jacket, with patches on the elbows, and a white shirt, with the tie knotted to a perfect neat nobble, giving his appearance a tidy, meticulous look. His hair is brown. He has good hair, thick and wavy, cut to just above his ears but not so short that he looks like my dad. He doesn’t look like anyone’s dad, though I suppose, given his age, he might be. He smiles, I forget all about Nigel, forget he exists, forget that he has until now been the focus of every maths lesson I have attended this year.
Timothy is speaking. I notice his voice is deep, and posh, and it makes my stomach tingle. He is telling us his name is Timothy Oakfield and I want to write it in my book, and scribble variations of it. Mr. Oakfield. I realise that maths lessons will never be dull again. He is telling us that he’s our new teacher, that he’s pleased to meet us, let’s begin with an evaluation of what we have studied so far with Mr. Corbin. Mr. Corbin has had to leave, we don’t need to know why; I don’t want to know why, I don’t care. All is absorbed by the deep, posh, voice, and the brown, almost black eyes, and the apparent youth of our new mathematics teacher. He is asking for someone to raise their hand, someone who can give him a quick synopsis of work already covered by the unfortunate Mr. Corbin. Not me, I can’t breathe, let alone speak. I feel Carol stir beside me, she is raising her hand, introducing herself, telling him, Mr. Timothy Oakfield, that we have covered up to page 52 in the text book, and we all completed the questions at the back for homework. He smiles at her. I hate her.
He speaks, telling us about simplified equations, and exponential data, and I am barely listening. His words wash over me as I feel the tingle his voice stimulates, and I imagine how he would look in casual clothes, and wonder if he is married. He issues instructions, and everyone turns to a page in their text books, and I have to stop hating Carol long enough to ask her what the page number is. She slides a piece of paper towards me:
Dreamy is not a word I have ever used before, but it fits, I nod. I glance up.
Mr. Timothy Oakfield is walking round the classroom, peering at books. He pauses by John Simpkins and points at something. John Simpkins looks up, his face is very red, he hunches his shoulders and begins to frantically rub at his exercise book with an eraser. I wonder what he has written.
I glance across to my friend Charlie, she is frowning. I’m not sure if this is because she always finds maths difficult, or because her hair has recently been plaited again and I know that it pulls at her scalp and hurts. Her hair is a constant source of trouble for her, teachers repeatedly tell her it’s untidy and she should cut it. But it grows fast and surrounds her face with frizz, and there is nothing she can do but endure small tight plaits that hurt. Her mother shaves her head and wears a wig, I wonder if Charlie will when she’s older, if she will hide her hair in shame and try to look more ‘white.’ I hope not, I think her hair suits her face, and should be allowed to grow naturally. I wonder if my father will wear a wig too, when he loses more of his hair to the poison of chemotherapy, but this is too horrible to think about, so I spin my thoughts back to Charlie, and I wish she would look up so I can grimace to her in sympathy.
Mr. Timothy Oakfield is on the prowl again, I stare down at my book. We are all quiet, I don’t think this class has ever been silent before, there is something about him, an irresistible authority that has cast a spell on us. I try to see if he is wearing a wedding ring. He sees me raise my head, and approaches. I can feel my heart pounding behind my worn-out-doesn’t-fit-properly bra, the blood has rushed to flood my face and neck, so not-cool. I feel him approach. I have written nothing. I glance sideways, Carol’s book is neatly numbered 1 to 12, I begin to write the numbers in a long line down the margin, as if preparing my page for the answers that will surely follow; I haven’t even read the questions yet. He is here, I have only written up to number 7, and there are no words. He is leaning down, I can smell aftershave, he places a hand on my desk, it is his left hand, it is naked. I glance up, and drown in brown eyes.
“Are you okay? Do you understand what you need to do?”
I nod, my face a furnace. I do not have the first idea what I am supposed to be writing. He moves away. I breathe again, force myself to read the questions. They make no sense, words bouncing on a white page. I sneak a look at Carol’s book. I hate her, but I need her. I begin to copy her answers.
Thanks for reading.
Out by Ten by Anne E. Thompson
Available from an Amazon near you.
UK link here:
US link here:
Amazon India link here:
Amazon Australia link here: