XX - The Green Room

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[UPDATE: Juliet's hot teacher Carl Spencer has just broken up with his fiancée Rebecca]

There were so many people. Obviously there would be, since it was a Friday night, but Juliet had secretly been hoping that the place would be half-empty. If she screwed up there would be such a huge crowd to witness it.

Drew was really supportive of her. They'd become firm friends over the weeks of rehearsing and he could see how nervous she was.

She kind of wished Margot and Fhemie weren't coming. It would be all the worse if they witnessed her humiliation.

"You okay?" Drew asked, while they were still setting up.

"I think so." She was as ready as she would ever be.

"You look great," he told her.

Juliet was actually wearing her school uniform, though it had undergone such a transformation that Miss Villiers would have barely recognised it. If she had, she would have had a heart attack.

Juliet's oldest school skirt - now too short to meet regulations - was rolled up at the waist, paired with a white blouse tied to show her midriff below and unbuttoned to show the top of her bra. This was black and lacy, also against regulations which required discreet, neutral underwear. The outfit had been Jax's sister's idea. The band had been amused when they found out Juliet went to St Gillian's, which was a relief as she had worried they might object to her still being at high school.

"Good Catholic girl gone wild. Let's do that," Jax's sister had said.

It certainly made it easier than buying new clothes. Juliet need to save all her money for the Paris trip.

She wasn't sure how she would feel when the performance started. She was fretting that she would get stage fright. Yet when they were finally announced, and the first song started, Juliet found herself going into a kind of trance. She and the band and the stage formed their own world. The audience was there but further away, separate. She wasn't even distracted by trying to see Margot and Fhemie in the crowd.

* * *

Dan had dragged Carl out on the town to drown his sorrows.

"Better to face the world than sit about brooding."

Carl had been reluctant to go out for a drink, since he rarely touched alcohol though Dan was a bit more lapsed his in habits. It felt too much like celebrating something that had been a painful event. The relief he felt at having broken off his engagement only made it more uncomfortable because he felt guilty.

He hadn't even been sure if he should show up to church or not, in case it made things harder for Rebecca. So he had skipped services for the first week, then gone and tried to keep low key. Rebecca had been there, she had given him a tight, formal nod but hadn't otherwise spoken to him.

He wasn't sure if he should have spoken to her. But what could he say. "Hope you're okay?" "No hard feelings?"

It was such an awkward situation.

Dan was right: if Carl stayed at home he would just sit about brooding and getting distracted from his marking by thoughts of a certain student that he was still struggling to forget. So he accepted Dan's invitation.

They ended up in a noisy, crowded bar that Carl had previously walked past but never gone into. He usually preferred quieter places, and Rebecca hadn't even liked to go to bars and pubs at all.

"This looks lively," Dan said as they made their way to the bar. "And there's a band going to play."

A beer in hand, letting the noise of the crowd and the currently playing music wash over him, Carl was starting to feel grounded again.

"You made the right decision," Dan said.

"Really?" Dan's and Jenny's reaction was something that Carl had initially feared, since they had frequently socialised as a foursome.

"If you're not suited, you're not suited," Dan said. "And in all honesty, Jen and I had wondered about you both a few times." This was putting it mildly. Jenny did her absolute best to like Rebecca but the other woman wasn't really her chosen type of friend. Christian forbearance only went so far: there were more than a few occasions when Jenny had vented to her husband after Carl and Rebecca had left, usually about something sanctimonious Rebecca had said.

Deep down Carl knew he had done the right thing. The problem was that it had all got confused and complicated by the Juliet Martin situation. He had also mistakenly thought that finishing with Rebecca would defuse the tensions he felt over his student.

Instead the opposite had happened. He dreamt about her even more, and the dreams were even less appropriate than previously. He would wake up feeling frustrated, aching hard at the image of her and trying to concentrate on other thoughts.

What was the purpose of this temptation? He prayed about it constantly. If it was a test, when would it be over?

Which was why for a moment Carl thought he was hallucinating when he suddenly saw Juliet's face, light shining on her hair like a halo, just across the room. Her face was that of an angel, and her body...

Carl nearly dropped his beer. Just what was she wearing? It was like the sexiest, most illicit parody of St Gillian's school uniform imaginable. It made her Hallowe'en costume look modest. Juliet was singing and she sounded like a sensual angel, the slim curves of her body winding with the music.

He couldn't tear his eyes away.

Dan noticed him looking. "That singer's something, isn't she? Young though. She looks vaguely familiar."

Please don't recognise her, Carl thought. Dan had been there the nights that Juliet had come to their church but they hadn't been introduced.

How could anyone look so angelic and so erotic at the same time? Carl was transfixed. If the crowd suddenly melted away and she came over to him, he wouldn't be able to resist her. He could only imagine how she would feel: soft, pliant, curving and arching against him. Reaching up to him as he crushed her in an embrace.

Enough! He prayed again for strength. He tried recalling a passage of Latin text. He even tried thinking about Rebecca to blot out his ardour for Juliet.

Nothing worked.

How he was going to face her in class, in her school uniform after seeing her like his, he had no idea.

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