I glanced at my watch briefly as the class packed up their books. 10:20. Thank God that class was over. It was the first class I had on a Monday morning and it was a double. I mean, I love teaching, but when I'm still hung over from the night before, thirty hyper juniors who's voices are so high, sometimes only dogs can hear them, that is just a nightmare. So, as my brain began to pulse and erode my skull, I anticipated my free double I had now. That was the one thing that helped me survive Monday mornings. I could now relax for a double, sneak out for a cigarette and take some aspirin for my head. I couldn't wait for the last annoying junior to leave, I locked the door and trudged to the staff room.

The hustle and bustle of students soon ceased in the corridor, silence soon flooded through the door as I stuffed my smokes in my pocket along with a lighter.

I could hear the late students entering their classrooms and slamming the doors. I walked through the eerily quiet corridors and out the staff entrance towards my smoking spot. It was just outside the school grounds, down the very end of the green area, a large sycamore tree that was as old as time itself. I would sometimes sit here during my free classes and read if it was sunny. It was a perfect spot for me to reflect. I walked over, occasionally glancing over my shoulder to make sure no one was there. I walked behind the tree and my eyes widened. There sat a girl, a student in her uniform. She was deathly pale, her eyes shot up to mine and they immediately hit me hard. They were so striking, they hurt. But the weird thing was I had never seen her before. Her lonely blazer sat beside her and her senior tie hung loosely around her neck, indicating she was definitely in her final year. So why haven't I seen her? Maybe she didn't do History? But I had the only sixth year English class…

"Are you just gonna stand there?" she snapped coldly.

She held a cigarette between her fingers and brought it to her lips, taking a long drag.

"Hey you shouldn't be smoking out here. Actually you shouldn't be out here at all! It's class time!" I said trying to assert authority, but I couldn't help it, she ignored me.

"Then why are you here, sir? Shouldn't you be in class or showing a good example?"

"That's different! And don't give me cheek like that!"

She looked away and inhaled again.

I felt sort of uncomfortable, I couldn't smoke or relax, so I just stood there awkwardly.

She looked up again, then looked back to stare into the distance.

"You can sit you know."

"Why would I do that?"

"Why else would you be here?" she said simply.

Normally I would have marched her back to school but she seemed so uninterested that she wouldn't care if I did. So I went against my better judgement and sat beside her, a fair distance away.

I sat there and slipped into my own mind, thinking about what was happening with my girlfriend.

I had come home early from a conference and thought we could spend the day together, but I came home and found her in bed with someone else. They both sat bolt right up in the bed and tried to explain themselves. But I couldn't hear anything, my ears just ignored them. I closed the door and walked out. I found myself walking around for hours, but ending up in the pub. I drank myself into oblivion. How could she do that to me? Was I that horrible? I mean, I thought she was the one, but I don't think there is anyone out there for me. I'm only twenty eight and I already have a major failed relationship behind me. We were practically married…

"Do you want a smoke?"

I snapped out of my dream, back under the tree.

"What?" I turned glassy eyed to her.

She smiled at me, I didn't think she was capable of smiling. But even her smile looked somewhat sinister.

"You know I've seen you here before, sitting there smoking, reading, looking lost…"

Her voice was like velvet against my ears.

"That's funny, I haven't seen you…"

She was so easy to talk too. I felt totally comfortable with her.

"I'm new, but I normally sit over there…" she said pointing to another tree. "And I've seen you and wanted to come over, but haven't…"

She took out her smokes and handed me one. I took it out of good grace and she whipped out a lighter.

I inhaled the smoke deep into my veins. It was a relief.

"How do you have time to sit out here?" I said blowing the smoke out of my nose.

"I don't like school." she said simply.

I nodded, turning my head away.

"What about you, what's your excuse?" she asked.

"Me? I just like sitting out here, that's all."

I knew she could tell I was lying. I didn't even believe me.

"Liar" she smiled.

I couldn't help but smile back. Her smile made me want to smile, something I hadn't done in a long time.

"I just sit here and think…"

A plume of smoke filtered around us, creating a curtain keeping us away from prying eyes, if there were any.

"What did she do to you?" she said through the smoky cloud.

I looked at her and felt her gaze bore right into my soul.

"Why would you assume it's a woman?"

"Because I know that tone and look."

I smiled and shook my head. "At least you're honest. Well…she cheated on me." I said quietly.

I really wasn't in the mood to discuss this, but I was, with a student I knew nothing about. But I could talk about it, because she made me feel comfortable, like I could tell her anything.

"That's not fair on you. You seem like such a good person who doesn't deserve to be treated like that. You probably gave her everything you could and she just threw it back at you."

I nodded. "Yea so that's what's up with me, I'm a wreak" I said inhaling another drag.

"Ah no you're not. Whoever she is, she obviously doesn't deserve you. You deserve much better and you will find it, I know it."

I don't know why but her words eased my pain. I looked at this mysterious, mature student who had got me to open up my whole world to her in a matter of minutes. I didn't even know her name, but that seemed unimportant.

I took the cigarette from my lips and twisting it in my fingers, blew the smoke out of the corner of my mouth, away from us.

"So why do you hate school?"

"I don't fit in anywhere, but at my old school nobody bothered me, but here, it seems like a big deal everyone wants to know what's wrong and why don't I smile. Everyone has focused in on that and nothing else, except you though."

"You're smiling now…" I said quietly.

"I know, I feel like smiling."

"Well I wont patronise you and make you tell me what's wrong, if you don't want to. I understand how some people want to be alone. That's why I have this place."

"Thank you. I'm sorry I'm intruding…I saw there was no one here, and I didn't think you we're coming…"

"No, no its fine, I'm glad of the company. Why haven't you come over before?"

"I don't know, I guess I was scared you'd tell me to leave."

I shook my head and blew the remainder of the smoke I had in my lungs.

"I wouldn't do that."

She nodded her head. "Well I'll know that for future reference."

Not for once second, did I feel uncomfortable with her.

I smiled at her, and she returned it. But it was a warm smile.

"Do you stay out here a lot?"

"Well not all the time, I do go to class but sometimes I just don't feel like being in close proximity with anyone… I just don't feel comfortable being so close to people." she said flicking the ash off.

I thought about what I was going to say, maybe she might think it inappropriate?

"Well…what about now?"

She looked at the roots of the mature tree. "Except now…"

She exhaled a smoke ring and her eyes met mine. Then I saw something in her eyes, a sparkle, a light showing me who she really was. She wore a mask, and wouldn't let people in, but here, with me, she removed it. Inside her, I could see a little girl in a lot of pain. Pain from being hurt by those she thought cared for her. I was probably one of the few people who saw the real her. Then it hit me, she was me.

She stubbed out her smoke, collected her blazer and stood up.

"Well it was great talking to you Mr…"


"Mr. Swindle, maybe we'll run into each other again." she said putting her blazer on.


A small smile peeked on my face and she knelt down beside me, placing her arms around my shoulders.

"Thank you" she whispered in my ear. She leaned in closer and let her lips brush mine lightly.

"No problem." I smiled warmly at her, letting her kiss me lightly.

She smiled that smile that hit me right in my chest, but this time, it didn't hurt. She stood up and walked around the tree and was gone.

I never did catch her name.