Mrs Harris' Knickers
Task: Feature colour
White. They had to be white. She was that kind of woman.
I was so confident that I staked my dinner money on it. Stephen had plumped for pink, but then, he did have three sisters so that was a safe bet. Michael said a sexy black, although I don’t think he knew what sexy underwear looked like, let alone whether being black made it sexy. To be honest, I doubt any of us knew.
All I could go on was a private experience I had when I was arriving late from a dental appointment. As I trudged up to reception to sign in, I glanced into the car park and saw her reaching into the boot of her car. At that moment a slight gust of wind lifted her skirt, revealing to my eyes only, two shapely legs and pristine white knickers. I could have burst with joy, but had to go to double History instead; deciding to tell no one. It was my secret image.
So, charged up with excitement, we tumbled into the classroom and sat down sharpish. This was a Geography lesson not to forget.
We never thought Dennis would go through with it, but he nipped under her desk and remained there. Some cheered, others laughed in bewilderment. The rest froze in horror. Only Susan, slow as ever, asked what was going on. She never understood jokes and always missed important events, this one included.
I expected Dennis to come out and even called his name. He was going too far. It was too risky. He would get caught and be in so much trouble.
The door opened and Mrs Harris walked in. Everyone inhaled. That kind of silence smelling so much of innocence that you know there is guilt. She glanced around. Unable to ascertain what it was that troubled her, she spilled some books onto her desk and placed her coffee down.
Eyeing us all individually, perhaps hoping for a chink of weakness on which to seize, she began the lesson, pointing to the board. ‘Turn to page sixty-five: The Life of a Volcano. Covering extinct volcanoes, lava flows, silica content, magma chambers and eruptions. Then complete the Q&A section at the end. Any questions?’
There were none.
‘Good. Off you go.’
Books opened and heads burrowed into them, tense and uncertain about the impending explosion that would undoubtedly happen as soon as she sat down.
I wanted to shout out to her, to release the pressure in the pit of my stomach. Yet, I could only secretly peer at her as she piled up the books on her desk, smoothed her blouse down her sides and straightened her skirt with a quick hip twist. She ran her hand through her curly hair and took a sip from her drink. Her thumb removed some lipstick from the cup. Her eyes thinned a little and she nearly spoke, but decided better of it.
To my delight and amazement, she sat down, after pulling her chair free from the desk, placing herself upon her cushion, then wheeling her chair back under the desk. Previously, I had envied that cushion, having, in my pubescent dreams tried to imagine her sitting upon me. But I was unprepared for this agonising nightmare version.
The plain wooden desk was covered on three sides by varnished wood. She had inserted herself in between the two sets of drawers. Her legs, I assumed, were not crossed, otherwise she would kick him.
I tried to focus on Dennis, stuck inside his dark cube with only the one way out. I wondered whether I was jealous of him and his little torch. He obviously had a view that I would die to see, but could the experience be worth the risk of discovery? I tried to imagine him, in the gloom, peering up along the smooth valleys and trying to get a glimpse of the hidden treasure, the source of the river, the undergrowth and the cave hidden behind, to enlighten us all.
Over ten unbearable minutes went by.
The clock never stopped ticking, my heart constantly pounding.
Not even a fire drill to save us.
Finally, random words on the page in front of me began to grab my attention. I read some sentences a few times until their meaning came to me and sunk into my mind. Before I knew it, like the rest of the class, I was absorbed by the destructive powers flowing from my book and I forgot about Dennis in his solo quest. He was on his own.
I lurched back into panic mode when Mrs Harris mumbled as she dropped a pen. She searched the floor for it and I caught a perfect view of cleavage as she bent down. ‘Don’t find it yet. Not yet,’ I thought. ‘Keep searching. Keep searching...’
She was such an intriguing teacher. A woman none of us knew anything about. No one lived near her or knew anyone who did. Her car had a metal leaping horse in the centre of the bonnet, which looked lethal to me should she ever knock anyone down. She wasn’t the youngest or prettiest member of staff, but she had an air that controlled us. Michael said it was pheromones, but we all agreed that he probably didn’t really know what the word meant.
Alternating between daydreaming and reading, the lesson came to a close. No one had died. No one had been shouted at and sent to the headmaster’s office. No one had been discovered underneath Mrs Harris’ desk.
A few of us fumbled around until she had left the room. Dennis appeared in view, stretching his aching body: a grin prominently fixed on his face, his thumbs up in the air in triumph.
‘Green!’ he proclaimed. ‘I was right.’
Dinner money swapped hands; Dennis pocketing the lot.
Then it dawned on me. We only had his word for it.
Then again, maybe he’d earned it…