Hmm... seeing as all the posts are gone, thought I'd repost the whole story plus the latest update, hope you enjoy! I'm pushing peas around my plate when my friend Sarah nudges me. “New staff member?” she comments nodding her head towards the staff table. I follow her gaze and see the usual array of teachers chatting over their dinners. With them is a new face. Female, 20 something, long dark hair pulled back, dressed smart/casual. “Huh... oh, must be the new English sub for the junior school,” I remember a conversation I overheard last week. “Here for the rest of the year I think.” “She looks like she's barely out of school herself!” says Sarah and I agree. If it wasn't for where she's sitting I'd think she was in 12th grade like us. The school Sarah and I attend is actually a private boarding school. No, don't start thinking we're all rich and fancy. Well, some of the students are, but not me. It's a pretty small school, only about 150 students from 7th to 12th grade, about 50 of us actually board at the school which is in a massive old house that used to belong to some ultra rich Lord or Lady Someone-or-other. It's on the outskirts of a small country town so has really pretty surrounds. I've been here since the start of 11th grade. To cut a long story short, I'm actually really old to be in high school still. See, I got pretty sick a few years ago and had to miss lots of school, so I fell behind. I had to repeat a grade and I felt pretty shit about it as some people gave me a hard time. I actually convinced my parents to send me here, in the senior school you're treated like an adult, the classes are more like university lectures and you're independent. While the junior girls wear a uniform, we seniors just have to follow a dress code, which is easy when your wardrobe is mainly jeans and t- shirts. So even though I'm just starting 12th grade, I'm already 19 and the oldest student in the school. But it's cool, the staff treat me like the adult I am and I'm really enjoying my studies. The other girls in my year are all nice, though they have all been here since grade 7, so we're not exactly BFF's. That doesn't really bother me, I'm a kind of solitary person and to be honest, I'm also a pretty big nerd. I'm trying to gain a scholarship for university, so I spend a lot of time working. Yeah, yeah I know. I sound like a right pain in the ass. I'm finishing up dinner and taking my plate to the servery when Mrs Ellison approaches me. She's the only teacher we call by their surname, she's the Head and about 90. All the other teachers we call by their first names. “Marley? Can I see you for a minute?” “Sure Mrs Ellison, what can I do for you?” I put my plate down and follow her over to the staff table. “My dear, this is Jocelyn Cheung” she says, indicating the new staff member, “She's filling in for poor Mr Roberts while he recovers from his leg operation.” “Hi, I'm Marley.” I say, shaking her hand. “Nice to meet you,” Jocelyn replies. She has almond shaped eyes and dark brown hair and stands as tall as me, around 5' 8. “Jocelyn is completing her Masters degree in English literature,”says Mrs E. Seriously! How old is this girl? She looks 20 at the most, but then I'm not a good judge of age. Maybe she's like 30 and just well preserved. “Oh, cool...” I respond, not quite sure why this is relevant. She's going to be taking the junior classes, so I doubt I'll have much to do with her. “So I thought I'd show her you marvellous essay you submitted last week dear!” continues Mrs E. My face reddens. I don't like where this is going. “And I told Jocelyn about you scholarship hopes, and she has very kindly agreed to help you with your major English pieces this year. Isn't that marvellous?” Mrs E beams at us both. WTF!? I mean, yeah, I have hopes of studying English literature at university, so having someone who's doing a Masters degree to help me would be cool. But to just dump that on me? Not to mention on Jocelyn... she's probably dreading it. I can't imagine that she actually offered to help, more like Mrs Ellison twisted her arm. “Oh...” I stammer, “Um, wow... thanks. That's really nice of you.” “Good!” Mrs Ellison exclaims and claps her hand together, before Jocelyn has a chance to say anything, “Marley, why don't you get your work and join Ms Cheung in the library during Prep hour?” “What, like now?” Um, I actually have other plans... like eating chocolate and watching The Voice. “No time like the present!” and with that Mrs E turns on her heel and marches away. I look shyly at Jocelyn. “Sorry about that.” She laughs, and her face lights up in a grin. “Don't worry about it. I actually did offer to help, if you're wondering. Your essay was outstanding. You have excellent writing skills, I'd just offer some tips on structure and referencing.” Oh. Wow, ok then. “So I'll see you in the library in a little bit?” “Sure, I'll grab my stuff.” I watch as Jocelyn walks away and realise I'm grinning like an idiot. Twenty minutes later I'm sitting at a corner table and nervously arranging papers. I'm not sure why I'm nervous, but I am. When I see Jocelyn walk through the door my belly does a funny little flip, which is weird. “Hey.” she says as she pulls out the chair next to me and sits down. “Oh, hi Jocelyn!” I say brightly. Why am I talking like an idiot? It's not like I'm surprised to see her here. “Actually, call me Joss,” she says, reaching for my stack of papers. Hmm. Joss... I like it. I watch as she flicks through some of the stuff I've jotted down, mostly a collection of random thoughts on topics I am interested in choosing to write about. “Oh.. good point! This is a good way to start...” I realise she's not really talking to me, more or less thinking out loud. It gives me a good chance to study her face more closely while pretending to be reading the pages in front of her. She is young, she has to be, just the start of a couple of tiny smile lines up by her eyes. If I had to guess I'd say she's half Chinese, she's exceptionally pretty with heavy lashes framing her almond eyes, slightly arched brows, full lips and a very slight rosy hue to her cheeks. Her hair is a rich brown and the overhead lamp above the table has set off glints of red through the strands. She seems to have a habit of catching her bottom lip between her teeth when she's concentrating and I find myself staring at her mouth. I shake my head and look away. It's kind of a new thing for me, this being attracted to girls. For one thing, when you spend a big chunk of your teenage years being in and out of hospital, you don't often have dating on your mind. And I had a few mild crushes on guys, mainly pop stars or movie actors I guess. Thinking about it, I had those crushes because I felt I should have them, not because I actually cared about the boy himself. But liking a girl never, ever occurred to me. I wasn't against it, I just wasn't interested. But I've noticed things changing over the past year or so, and it's a bit disconcerting. And no, before you start thinking about B grade boarding school movies, I don't feel attracted to any of my friends here. It's a gradual realisation I suppose, but now that I'm sitting next to Joss, that realisation is very strong. It's then that I notice that she's talking to me. “Sorry, what?” I say, blushing. “Hello, earth to Marley,” Joss laughs, “You were miles away.” “Yeah, long day I guess. Sorry, that must have seemed rude.” “No, that's ok. I was just saying that if you'd like we can make a time to go through this properly, tease a few of these ideas out...” “Sure!” I exclaim really loudly, cutting Joss off in the middle of her sentence. What. A. Loser. I can't even talk to her properly! What is wrong with me? Joss looks a little taken aback, but she smiles. “well, let's meet later in the week, after I've had a chance to settle in a bit and sort out where Mr Robert's classes are at,” she says, rising from her chair. I stand up as well and manage to knock half the papers onto the floor. Stylish. She's probably thinking I'm a total idiot by now, but just to top things off I nearly bang heads with her as we both bend down at the same time to pick the stuff up. “Oh god, sorry!” I shake my head ruefully, “I'm not usually such a klutz, I promise.” Joss hands me the bundle of papers. “Maybe you should get an early night...” Fantastic, now she thinks I'm a klutz and twelve! I take the papers and head up to my room after mumbling goodnight. I lurch awake, my heart pounding. Images in my head of me and Joss, tangled together on my bed, hands and mouths everywhere..... fuck.... only a dream. It's been a week now since she arrived at the school, and I can't stop thinking of her. I've tried very hard to play it cool, it actually hasn't been difficult because I don't see that much of her. I've deliberately not approached her about my essay, deciding to let her come to me. But it's taken a lot of self control. I lie there in the cold, early morning light, trying to hold on to the dream. It's the second one I've had about her and to be honest, the explicit nature of them has kinda worried me. Having that shit in your head and trying not to blush when you see the person in question is quite tricky. I can't go back to sleep now, even though it's more than an hour before I have to get up. As a senior I have my own tiny bedroom, on the second floor, with a window that looks out over the circular driveway at the front of the building. I sit up in bed and look out, leaning on the window sill. The morning is still and misty, though the early autumn day looks like it might be fine. And as I look, I notice a figure step quietly out of the big front door, feet crunching softly on the gravel drive. I realise it's Joss, dressed in long black running leggings and a grey hooded sweatshirt. As I watch she pulls her long hair back and ties it into a pony tail, and then jogs slowly along the drive, towards the gate that leads to the countryside surrounding the school. Without even thinking about it I'm out of bed. Like a madwoman I grab my running gear from the drawer, where it has sat, unloved for several weeks. I jam my joggers onto my feet, scrunch my blonde hair back in a messy knot and hurry downstairs. I know exactly where Joss is going, there is an awesome track that loops through around the school land, so I slip out the front door and race towards the start of the track, hoping that no one witnesses my bizarre behaviour. It only takes a minute at my crazy pace and I can see her up ahead, just before the track goes through a wooded area. I slow down, thankfully, as I'm out of breath and I don't want Joss to catch me running after her like a maniac. As I approach, I slow my stride to a casual jog. Joss turns at the sound of my footsteps and then stops. A big smile spreads over her face. Yay! “Oh, hi!” I say, trying to sound surprised as I stop next to her. Our breath puffs out in misty clouds and it's so quiet in this stand of trees, it's like we're the only people in the world. “You're up early.” Joss says. She tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear, which almost immediately flops forward again over her face. I fight the urge to reach over and brush it back. “Yeah, I couldn't sleep,” I say and I feel the blush creep over my face as I remember the dream I'd had just a little while ago. I crouch down and fiddle with my shoelaces to avoid her gaze. “Well, its a beautiful morning for a run.” I glance over and look at her feet and then up to the line of skin visible between the top of her sock and the start of her leggings.. I imagine my hands grasping her ankle and running up over her calf, to the sensitive skin at the back of her knee, higher.... I gulp. Fuck. And it hits me, hard, there in that silent place. I'm gay. I am aching to touch this woman in a way I have never ached to touch a man. The moment is such a shock that I actually lose my balance a bit and have to brace myself on my arms. “You ok?” there's concern in Joss's voice as I push myself back up to standing. I can't see through the tears in my eyes, and the only thing I can think of to do is to run. “I'm fine!” I answer with false brightness, “Enjoy your jog!” I run away, fast, not looking behind me, but I can feel Joss's eyes boring into my back. I make the run back to school in record time. Running is something I do sporadically, even though I quite enjoy it. I've never been fast, but knowing that Joss is watching me seems to put wings on my heels. That doesn't make me graceful though and by the time I hurtle back through the school doors I'm red faced and gasping for breath like a pack a day smoker. “Whoa lady! What the hell?” exclaims Sarah as I just about crash tackle her to the floor. “Oh god, sorry...” I push the sweaty hair off my face as Sarah puts her hands on my shoulders to steady me. She's looking at me suspiciously, and when Sarah looks at anyone suspiciously that's never good. She's like the proverbial dog with a bone, never lets anything go. “Have you gone suddenly mad?” she's now saying accusingly, “What's with the running? You hate running.” “I don't! I love it... well, I'm trying to get back into it...” All the while I've got one eye on the door, expecting Joss to come through and ask me what's wrong, which will turn Sarah into bloody Sherlock Holmes. I start backing away towards the stairs, effectively dragging Sarah with me. “What's up with you? You've been funny all week.” And of course, because the universe apparently hates me, that's the moment that Joss walks gracefully through the door, a healthy glow to her face, looking like an ad for Nike. I feel my face burn as I freeze like a deer in headlights. Sarah's eyes narrow as she looks from me, to Joss and back to me. Shit. Sarah shadows me back up to my room and actually does the foot in the door thing to stop me shutting it in her face. “Do you mind? I need to get ready for breakfast.” “Um, yeah I do mind.” she barges in and plonks herself on my bed, “Start talking sister.” And I do. God, it's such a relief! Sarah is a good listener, she doesn't interrupt as I blab on and on. I feel like a plug has been pulled out and all this... stuff... years of stuff is just flowing out. At last I'm done and I stand, leaning against the wall, exhausted. Without a word, Sarah comes over and pulls me into a great big bear hug. It's the first time I've felt calm in as long as I can remember. After my stellar performance out in the woods I do my best to 'calm the fuck down', as Sarah tells me repeatedly and get on with life. My infatuation with Joss clearly has to stop, there's no point to it and it's not helpful at this point in my life. I've only got 5 months left of school and I plan to do well. So when Joss stops by my table at dinner hour a couple of days later and asks if I have some spare time to work on my major essay that evening I take a deep breath and say, “Sure!” in what I consider to be a very mature and cool manner. “It'll be fine!” I mutter to Sarah, who looks at me with concern. And what do you know, it actually is fine. Yes, I feel awkward and hyper- sensitive at first, but gradually I relax in Joss's company. I discover that I really, really like her, completely separate from my crazy crush, and we have lots in common. Even after we've run through the work we still linger at the small table in the library corner, chatting. The best thing is that she's actually a complete nerd like me! I discover that Joss finished high school at the age of 16 after skipping a grade. She looks young because she is young, only 3 years older than me. She gained her degree majoring in English Literature, did her teaching certificate and is now doing her Masters. We talk about the research project she's working on, about how she has to travel up to the city once a month to meet with her University supervisor, about how she dreams of being an academic with a study overflowing with old books. Yep, total nerd. Eventually we notice that we're the only ones left in the library. I glance at my watch. “Oh shit!” I gasp, “It's almost midnight!” Joss laughs, “Who says nerds have no fun?” We gather up our things and head for the stairs. At the landing, I head right to my room, she heads left to hers in the staff accommodation. “Night, Marley,” she whispers. “Night!” I open the door to my room with a big, silly grin plastered on my face, feeling better than I have in ages. The sky is just beginning to lighten in the east and there's a crunchy frost underfoot. I'm standing on the gravel drive, trying to look unconcerned, doing a couple of stretches. Call me pathetic, but I'm hoping that Joss is making a habit of her before breakfast run and I'll get to spend some time with her. And to my delight I see the front door open and Joss step out. She's in her usual running attire, the black leggings making her long legs seem even longer. On me they make my average legs look, um, averager. She smiles when she sees me. “Hey,good morning! Great minds think alike!” “Morning!” I suddenly feel awkward and unsure of myself. Maybe Joss won't want me to run along with her, maybe she likes to run alone, maybe... “So you wanna run together?” she asks, pulling her leg behind her in a stretch and then doing the same with the other leg. “Sure.” I say, cool as you like, my belly flipping with butterflies. We head out towards the track, keeping a steady pace and I find myself enjoying the rhythm of my arms and legs and my breath. I actually do like running, it's just that I'm naturally lazy so need a push to get into gear. Guess I've found the push. For a while we don't talk, which is fine with me. I'm hyper aware of Joss beside me, I can hear her breathing and I keep glancing surreptitiously to the side to watch her. She's a beautiful runner with an easy stride. We continue like that through the woods and out the other side and then up the small rise where the track begins its loop back to the school. The sun is just peeking above the horizon and Joss stops. “Wow, that is so pretty!” she exclaims. I nod in agreement, appreciating the time to catch my breath. “You know, I used to have this girlfriend who had never, ever seen a sunrise. Isn't that weird?” Joss says and I freeze. Does she mean girlfriend as in a friend who is a girl? Or a girlfriend? “Uh, yeah, that is pretty strange. Did she have something against them?” I ask casually. “I dunno. She was a bit weird. Actually she was very weird. Part of the reason we broke up. That and the fact that she cheated on me.” OMG!!! I feel like a fireworks display is going off inside my head. But outside I remain completely cool. After all, just because Joss is talking about an ex girlfriend does not in anyway mean she's trying to send me a message. She's probably just really comfortable with her sexuality and doesn't even think twice about it. “Wow, sounds like you're better off without her.” I comment. Joss nods and turns to look at me with a grin. “Yeah... come on, I'll race you back!” She takes off at a run and I scramble to catch up with her. The routine of running together just seems to flow from there. It's not everyday, but most mornings we meet outside the front doors and head out. Sometimes we chat, sometimes not. Either way it's nice and I'm feeling more comfortable and less stupid in Joss's presence. That in itself is such a relief. I'm pretty sure that nothing can ever happen between me and her, but I sure as hell would like to be her friend and I'm getting the feeling that she'd like to be be mine too. At least I hope it's that, and not the fact that she's the youngest teacher by about 15 years and I'm the oldest student, so we've kind of just ended up hanging out. You may have noticed that I'm not the world's most secure person, but I'm working on it. The truth is, when you've been told by doctors that you're probably going to die, you start to distrust the universe. But I didn't die, and I'm not going to any time soon, so maybe I should start trusting things again. Sarah is like that, she believes things happen when and if they are meant to and keeps telling me that I should go with the flow. She tells me that Joss obviously likes spending time with me because of me, not our common ages. She says that blind Freddie could see it. Well, I haven't met blind Freddie so I don't know. It's a rainy, cold Sunday in the middle of winter. The rain is so torrential that as I stand looking out my window I literally cannot see the fence line through the white sheeting rain. I lean my forehead against the cold glass and sigh, my breath misting the window pane. It's been one of those nothing days and I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. When there's a knock at the door I don't even turn, but just say, “Come in.” “Miserable, isn't it?” That makes me turn, because it's Joss's voice and she's now standing in my room,closing the door behind her. “Oh... hey. Yeah, it's bloody freezing too.” “I brought you something.” Joss sits on the edge of my bed (thank god I made it this morning) and hands me a paper bag. I take it, curious. “I went up to Sydney yesterday to see my Prof, and I thought of you as soon as I saw it.” There's a bit of a glint in her eye and a sly grin on her face. “What.... OH! Oh my god! HAHAHAHAHA” Inside the bag is the DVD box set of the old TV series Bewitched. Joss and I had been talking about TV shows once and somehow it had come up that I used to watch that show all the time and spent hours trying to perfect the Samantha nose twitch. I'm laughing as I pull the DVDs out of the bag. “You're a goose.” I sit next to Joss and shove her shoulder with mine, “But thanks, this is really cool.” “So let's watch some! Come on, put it on now!” Joss is making herself comfy, putting my pillow against her back and leaning on the wall, gesturing to my little TV on the shelf. “All right, bossy boots!” I pop the first DVD into the player and turn to see Joss patting the spot next to her, indicating I should sit there. Now I know what people mean when they say “their heart was singing”. It's like a kind of uplifting joy. But damn this stupid crush! If it had been Sarah sitting there, which it often is, I'd be like, “Move over dude, you're hogging my spot.” But with Joss I'm tingling with the thought of sitting next to her. Obviously I do sit down, I'm not going to pass that opportunity up. We settle back as the show starts. Pretty soon we're both in fits of giggles over the lame special effects and the hysterical dialogue. “You know, I think Samantha was one of my first crushes.” Joss tells me after the first episode finishes. “Oh my god! Me too!” I exclaim before I even think. “I was fascinated by her.” Joss turns to look at me, “I especially liked it when she played her evil cousin... what was her name?” “Um... Serena?” “Oh yeah... mmm mmm... those hot pants.” She wiggles her eyebrows up and down exaggeratedly and I start laughing. “I think you got this DVD for your benefit, not mine.” “No, I would have got the Brady Bunch if that was the case... Oh! Mrs Brady!” Joss clutches at her heart and pretends to swoon. “Err... that's a bit disturbing actually.” I giggle. “What? You're not a 70's pants suit kinda girl?” “Um, no, not that I remember.” “Ok, so who else did you have a crush on?” Joss asks, innocently enough. But I feel my mouth go dry. The truth is, I have had vague “crushes” on girls, but until I met Joss I hadn't put those feelings into perspective. And you know what they say about hindsight. Like, hello bleeding obvious. So where Joss can be all casual about the funny girlhood crushes she has had on TV characters, I just can't right now. I wish I could be, but it's like my brain goes stupid and shuts down. I fiddle with the remote control. “Oh, I don't remember. No one else I guess.” Joss picks up on my sudden change in tone. “Mar? You ok?” She's looking at me with concern in her eyes, her beautiful, clear, cafe latte coloured eyes. And of course, I blush all over, a rush of heat from my toes to the top of my head. What a dork. Jesus, Marley! I think to myself furiously, Act your fucking age! Get it together! “I'm fine!” I say out loud. “Wanna watch another episode?” I point the control at the TV, but Joss grabs my wrist. The feel of her palm against my wrist is all I can take in. “No, actually I want to talk about why you're freaking out on me.” “I'm not!” “Yes, Marley, you are. So spit it out, what's up?” Shit. Shit. Shit. I sigh. I can't pretend I'm not freaking out, cos I am. “It's just...” I have to get up, I can't be close to her right now. I go and sit on my desk chair, and try not to look at Joss. “Ok, here's the thing. I didn't know I liked girls until, well until this year. I mean, I knew, but I didn't Know... god, that sounds stupid.” “Not at all.” Joss says. “Anyway, I still find it hard to admit. Because what if I'm wrong? Or confused? Shit... I dunno. Sorry. You must think I'm a weirdo.” I put my head in my hands and hear Joss get up. I assume she's heading for the door. Instead I feel her hands on my shoulders. “You're not weird.” I realise she's kneeling down in front of me now, her hands sliding down to my forearms. “When I worked out that I'm gay, it was like a cement truck had parked on my chest. I was 15, a total and complete dork with no friends, and I thought, Yay! Another thing to make me different and strange. And sometimes I still feel like that.” I lift my head and her face is level with mine. “So what did you do?” “I got over it. Got on with it. Grew a thick skin. And I realised that most people don't actually care, because they're too busy being confused and stressed by their own lives. Although...” Joss gives a small smile, “I did have one person tell me that I couldn't be a lesbian because I have long hair.” This makes me laugh a little. “Yeah, wow, you should really get that cut.” Joss stands up and takes her hands off me, which I immediately miss. “You'll be OK Marley, I promise.” I nod. “Thanks.” “I'd better go and get ready for dinner.” Joss turns to the door. “Joss?” I ask before she leaves, “How did you know? I mean, did you know, that I'm gay? Or did you guess... or?” She smiles, “I didn't know, I just hoped.” And then for the first time I see a deep red blush spread up Joss's neck and across her face. She looks like she wishes she could grab those words and shove them back down her throat. “I mean... ah...that's to say... I'd better go.” The door shuts quickly and I hear her almost run down the hallway.