DISCLAIMER: the characters don't belong to me, but to Katherine Brooks. I'm just borrowing them for a while. After I'm done toying with them, I'll give them back in one piece, I promise *evil laugh* Please don't sue, all I have left in my wallet is a couple of Euros. Really not worth the hassle.
WARNING: 1: English isn't my mother tongue, so you'll probably encounter a lot of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes along the way. It's my way of annoying the hell out of everyone lol. 2: I haven't seen the movie yet, I'm anxiously counting the days for the DVD to come out. Anyway, this means that I had to rely on other people's detailed plot spoilers to get this thing written. So erm…Sorry for plot mistakes you might encounter. 3: I've added things to scenes, just because I can mwuhahahaha. Nah, did it because I wanted to explain things and so forth…..
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: to my Beta for all the help.

All Over Me
By Piranha


Part Three

She watched as Mother Emaculata ascended the stairs, precariously holding on to the wooden railing, Annabelles face a picture of baffled astonishment, much to Simone's amusement. Annabelle couldn't quite take it all in; watching the wicked witch of the East morph into someone.... well, almost human and likeable doesn't just happen every day and her mouth hung open in utter shock. Was she still dreaming? Stuck in some sort of weird and surreal twilight zone? What could she expect next, Cruella DeVille standing on the barricades to save baby seals? Her mother doing the French can can at her next political rally? Shaking her head in disbelief, actually pinching herself to see if she was really awake, she kept watching Mother Emaculatas ascent, completely oblivious of Simone's amused smile.

Only the door shutting close brought her out of her stupor and blinking a couple of times, she turned a questioning gaze to Simone who just shrugged and remained silent, her eyes sparkling brightly with ill concealed mirth at Annabelles astonishment, which she found completely adorable. Annabelle couldn't help but return the goofy smile, revelling in Simones adoring and loving stare, butterflies fluttering in her stomach again simply at being near her. Realising that they had a rare moment alone together, even if it was in a damp, dark and cold basement, not really the most romantic of places, she hooked her fingers through the loops of Simones jeans and pulled her near.

Not expecting the sudden movement, too busy staring at Annabelle, drinking in her beauty, Simone quickly lost her balance and toppled on top of her, their heads crashing together quite painfully. Rubbing her forehead as she leant up on one arm, she took a moment to just look at Annabelle, her breath hitching. Revelling in the feeling of Annabelles arms snaking around her, pulling her even closer, the length of Annabelles body stretching out underneath her, shaking slightly as Annabelle laughed at their clumsiness, she just stared into her eyes for a moment, drowning in the depth of those cerulean blue eyes. Realising that Annabelles eyes shone with love for her, only for her, she felt desire stir in her stomach again; even though they had spent the most magical night together, she still wanted her.

As if in trance she watched Annabelle lick her dry lips, barely able to suppress a moan as liquid desire shot through her like wild fire. Annabelles lips were just too close by, she had to taste them again, feel their velvet softness beneath her own. Shivering slightly with anticipation, she slowly leant down and without any hesitation she kissed Annabelle, a deep tongue duelling kiss full of passion and molten want, slowly tasting each other, their tongues dangling and colliding together, leaving them moaning in each other's mouth. When they finally broke free, Annabelle softly caressed Simone's cheek before whispering reverently: "I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way".

Simone's eyes brimming at the heartfelt statement, adoring how Annabelle seemed to share her passion for poetry, how she always seemed able to portray her emotions in the simplest and most beautiful ways, she looked at her face, soulful blue eyes full of love and adoration staring back at her and felt her heart contract. Her voice croaking, she whispered: "I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out."

Annabelle saw the truth of the statement in Simone's eyes, a tantalizing contradiction of icy blue and smouldering fire. She pulled Simone's lips to her own and they kissed slowly, languidly, both realising that they didn't have time for anything more, but needing to affirm their feelings, their connection. When they finally came up for air, Simone caressed Annabelles flushed cheeks, enjoying the feel of her strong arms around her, holding her close. When she heard Annabelles stomach rumble beneath her, she gave her a last, teasing kiss on her nose before breaking out of their embrace and pulling herself to an upright position, asking: "how about we both go to the kitchen to have some breakfast? It seems you're hungry."

"Yes, for you. I want nothing more than to ravish you right now," Annabelle husked, sitting up to kiss Simone again.

Simone would have none of it however. When she saw Annabelles flushed cheeks and the disappointment in her eyes, she said: "we have to meet Mother Emaculata soon, remember?"

Groaning at the intrusion of reality into their private little cocoon, Annabelle let herself drop back to the make shift bed, sighing deeply as she stared at the ceiling. This was their reality now, snatched moments here and there, always too short, always leaving them wanting more, but… That was the rub, there would always be a 'but'. She knew that, she accepted it as a consequence of being with the woman of her dreams, but that didn't mean she had to like it. "I'd rather stay here with you all day," she sighed, opening her eyes to look at Simone. When she noticed the forlorn expression on Simones face, realising that she was disappointed too and that her behaviour was only adding to Simones grieve, she continued: "but I guess duty calls. Oh, that reminds me, I'd better give you the key back." Fishing the key out of her cleavage, infinitely pleased when she noticed Simone following her every move with eager eyes, she accepted Simones hand in pulling her up. In total silence they left the basement.

"Cat has gone too far this time," Kristen said, dropping down on her bed and turning around to face Collins. "I mean, it's one thing to spout her wild speculations and accusations to us, but to go to Mother Emaculata to blab… simply out of spite, you … you just don't do that. I know there's no such thing as a pupil or student code, but if there were, that would be rule number one."

Shaking her head in agreement, Collins then asked the question that had been on her mind for a long time. "Do you think Annabelle and Miss Bradley are having an affair?"

"I highly doubt it," Kristen replied. "I think it's all in Cats head. Ever since she found out that Annabelle's a lesbian, she's been obsessed with her and if what Miss Bradley has said is true, if Annabelle has turned her down… well, we both know she handles rejection badly. These past couple of weeks, she's done nothing but taunt and provoke Annabelle; she doesn't seem to know when to stop. I mean, she deliberately started that fight a couple of days ago, she was pushing for a fight in the Dining Hall too before. Personally I don't get her, she always wants what she can't get and if someone dares to refuse her, if someone dares to say no, she makes their life a living hell. She has a rather vindictive streak running through her if you ask me.

She always wants to be the centre of attention, on every level. I mean… you saw how she reacted when we said her brother was cute, she was jealous as hell simply because we paid him more attention that we did her. That's something she can't handle. Then when we had to write those poems in class and Miss Bradley asked you to read yours, she just snatched it out of your hands, knowing that you had written something deeply personal you didn't want to share with the rest of the world. She didn't care she was hurting you; all she wanted was everyone's attention. The same thing with your porcupine. When he died and we held that ceremony, she just had to put in a nasty remark to draw all attention back to her. She simply craves that spotlight. She revels in being the most popular and talked about girl of campus and would go to great lengths to keep that revered title. She doesn't care if she hurts people in the process.

The way I see it, she was the school's rebel and bad ass until Annabelle came along, so Annabelle became a threat. She must have thought 'when you can't beat them, join them' and set out to seduce Annabelle, thinking that with being in a relationship with Annabelle, she'd strengthen her own popularity. When Annabelle rejected her advances, it must have been a big blow to Cats ego; she's simply not used to being turned down. In her own mind, Cat's the biggest catch on campus, so she really wasn't expecting a turn down. There had to be a reason for it, there had to be someone else in Annabelle's life, so she fabricated this whole ludicrous idea that Miss Bradley and Annabelle are having a passionate affair. Miss Bradley is a whole other league, so if it ever got out that Annabelle rejected her, her reputation and by default her ego stay intact. What I don't get is what she hoped to achieve by telling Mother Emaculata? What does she get out of it? Was she simply hoping Annabelle would be kicked out of school? Didn't she realise Mother Emaculata would need more than her opinion?"

Kristens explanations were cut short when there was a ruckus by the door and a moment later a very pissed off Cat stormed into the room, not even acknowledging Collins and Kristen's presence but heading straight for her bed. She yanked her dressing open, pulled out a big rucksack and started throwing clothes in it, all the time mumbling and cursing under her breath, her anger vibrating through the room. Collins and Kristen just looked at each other before turning their attention back to the clearly enraged Cat, who was by now filling a second rucksack. Knowing they'd need to tread very carefully to come out of a conversation with Cat unscathed right now, Kristen cleared her throat and asked: "Cat, what are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Cat bristled, the force of her evil glare actually making Kristen, who wasn't really the scared type, shrink back on her bed even more. Cat was really giving her the creeps right now, she had never seen her so mad. "I'm packing my bags, I thought that was blindingly obvious. Do you want to know why I am packing my bags?" Not even giving Collins and Kristen the chance to interrupt, she continued: "let me tell you why I'm packing my bags. I've been kicked out of school. It seems that my latest 'stunt' was the final straw." She was reinforcing her words with wild gesticulations, hyphenating the word straw with her fingers.

"A bunch of petty lies by a vindictive, spoilt little girl Mother Emaculata called it … Me, a vindictive spoilt little girl spreading lies out of spite! How dare she say that! The stupid bat wouldn't know the truth if it stood up and bit her in the ass. Is she blind as well as stupid? Everybody knows that Annabelle and Miss Bradley were fucking each other's brains out last night, just like they have been doing ever since Spring break. How else can you explain both their disappearances? I bet miss 'oh look at me, I can sing' Tillman has been lining Emaculatas pocket. Her mother's a State senator, she's bound to be loaded and then there's the whole political game, the senator calling in a few favours could surely lead to more state funding for the school. You know Mother Emaculata would do anything for money, even if it means turning a blind eye on inappropriate behaviour."

Not wanting to call attention to the fatal flaw in Cat's logic, namely that private schools receive no state funding, Collins, suddenly not afraid of Cat anymore now she knew she was kicked out of school, replied: "like she did when your father gave that hundred thousand donation to the school you mean?" Not even waiting for Cat to reply – not that a reply was coming, Cat was too busy doing her startled fish expression at Collins' sudden audacity, opening and closing her mouth with no sound coming out – Collins continued: "I for one don't believe a word of what you're saying. You just have it in for Annabelle; you've been taunting her for weeks now. And for what? Because she didn't kiss you back? Credit her with a little taste! I think Mother Emaculata is right; you are a vindictive spoilt little brat and as far as you being kicked out of school is concerned…. Good riddance!" With that Collins jumped up and left the room, leaving both Kristen and Cat looking at her in astonished silence.

Slowly Cat turned to face Kristen and in a rather small voice, not really expecting all this hostility, actually thinking Collins and Kristen would be on her side, she asked: "you believe me Kristen, don't you?"

Getting up from her bed, Kristen slowly walked over to Cat. Giving her a slow once over, the contempt plain on her face, she replied: "actually no I don't. I don't believe Annabelle and Miss Bradley are having an affair, I don't believe Annabelle is bribing Mother Emaculata. I don't believe a single word that comes out of your mouth anymore. You've done some shitty things over the years Cat and gotten away with most of them, but this… this one takes the cake." Shaking her head with disdain, Kristen left the room, leaving Cat all alone with her thoughts, hugging herself as she tried to hold back the tears. She knew she was right, Annabelle and Miss Bradley were having an affair. Why wouldn't anyone believe her?

Settling down in front of each other at the huge table in the kitchen as the cook fluttered around them, busy preparing a light breakfast – actually grumbling under her breath that she was too busy to prepare yet another breakfast when she really ought to start preparing lunch for over three hundred people – Annabelle and Simone just looked at each other, not really knowing what to say with the grumbling cook around. Their feet touching as they both needed some kind of contact, the divine aromas soon spreading through the kitchen making their mouths water as they were hungrier than they thought, they both tucked into their omelettes when the cook handed them their plates.

Her hunger appeased, Annabelle brought her plate to the sink before sitting down again. As the cook and her helpers were now busy cutting vegetables at the other end of the kitchen, she asked: "what do you think Mother wants? You don't think she believed Cat, do you?"

Pushing her empty plate a bit further away, Simone looked up and replied: "I don't really know why she wants to see us both. I do know she doesn't believe Cat, especially not after my little rant." At Annabelles raised eyebrows, she continued, a light blush on her cheeks: "I kind of blew up at her when she entered my room without knocking, looking for you. Blew up is probably even an understatement, I exploded like Mount Vesuvius. I don't think she was expecting that, I didn't even know I had it in me. So I guess we're safe for now, but that doesn't mean we don't have to remain careful. Anyway, let's talk about something else, it's not often we have a moment alone like this."

"Okay, what do you want to talk about?" Annabelle asked.

"I don't really know," Simone said with a depreciating laugh, "I hadn't really come to that yet."

Laughing Annabelle replied: "okay, why don't I choose something then?" When Simone nodded, she continued: "why did you choose teaching? I mean, like I've said before, you're a great teacher, but you could have just as easily have chosen a career in photography. Why the one and not the other?"

"Wow, when you ask a question, you certainly ask a question, don't you?" Simone said. Toying with the knife on her plate she thought about her answer before looking up again and saying: "I don't really know. I love both but I actually never considered pursuing a career in photography, I always thought of it as a hobby. I guess it's because, deep down, I'm rather conservative, I'm not much of a risk taker. At least now I know when my next pay check is going to come. But it's more than that, I love teaching, I love sharing my interest in literature. I feel it gives me a purpose in life when I get you to think about the point some author's trying to make. I get enormous satisfaction out of the discussions and differences of opinion there sometimes are in class about the topic we're discussing. I guess teaching also gives my life the structure I crave for, I know what to expect every day. The rest of my life might be unsettled, lacking direction but work wise I always know what's coming next and in a way, I need that normalcy and security.

Besides… being a teacher is much more passive than being a photographer. I know class is pretty interactive, but … I don't really know how to explain. Painters use their canvass to show you how they feel; musicians give you their deepest thoughts through their music, authors through their words. Photography is exactly the same; a camera is just another medium of self-expression. You use the camera to capture an image that touches your heart. The photograph shows how you felt at that time; it shows your heart and soul. As a photographer you have to search for the emotion, you have to create it yourself. You make yourself vulnerable by showing everyone how you feel. I guess what I'm trying to say is that… as a photographer I'd have to own up to my true feelings, to my true self and that has always scared me. As a teacher, the emotions are already there, the words are someone else's, so it's less confronting. I'm not explaining this right, I…"

"No, I understand what you're saying," Annabelle said. "There's less emotional investment and involvement. It's like this school is your big security blanket, you enjoy teaching, but at the same time it allows you to keep your emotional distance, you can close yourself off from possible hurt. I don't know… to me it seems like you've buried yourself here, especially because it's your last link to Amanda."

"You think I'm a coward, don't you?" Simone sighed, not daring to look up.

Putting her hand over Simones and giving it a reassuring squeeze, Annabelle replied: "no I don't, it's perfectly understandable. Besides… it's not up to me to decide how you should live your life, that's a decision only you can make. Furthermore, I think you're being too harsh on yourself. I think it took a lot of guts to come back here, face the demons of your past and live with them day in, day out. That's not something I could have done. I think Amanda was right, you are strong, and you're stronger than you think and give yourself credit for. You also say that you're conservative, that you don't like taking risks that your life needs to be perfectly ordered and structured, but…. You took one hell of a chance on me, choosing me means a life of chaos, never knowing what's going to happen next. The fact that we're teacher and pupil with a fifteen year age gap… that doesn't exactly sound like walking between the lines, does it? You're not conservative, you're wild… you had just temporarily forgotten it, that's all."

"Yes, I guess you're right," Simone replied. "You know… I see a lot of myself in you, the way I was when I was a teenager. You bring out my true self, who I really am. Like you said, I had just temporarily forgotten. Anyway, what do you want to do professionally? Have you got any idea what you want to do when you graduate from here in a couple of weeks time?" Before Annabelle could reply however Sister Claire walks in, telling them both Mother Emaculata is expecting them in her office. As Annabelle still hadn't changed out of her red slip, they hurried out of the kitchen. The conversation about Annabelle's and by default probably also Simone's future would have to wait.

"Okay, you've stated your case Annabelle, I've heard your side of the story and I have to admit you have a point. As you so …eloquently demonstrated, you haven't actually broken any of the school rules. Still… I have no choice than to punish you, I have to set an example for the others. I can't allow students to sneak around school, to use the basement as their own personal sanctuary just because they're at odds with one of their roommates. If I'd allow it, soon chaos and anarchy would rule this school. Order and obedience has to be kept," Mother Emaculata said, shuffling her papers so they were perfectly aligned. Annabelle wanted to protest, but a quick look at Simone made her hold her tongue and she turned back to listen to Mother Emaculata, who continued: "I've decided you're not allowed to go on the three day school trip at the end of next week. As we're so close to the exams, I'm sure you can use your free time wisely to study." Looking Annabelle straight in the eye, she then said: "you can go now." With one last look at Simone, Annabelle said her goodbyes.

When the door closed, Mother Emaculata turned around to face Simone and said: "though I must admit I'm not really a fan of your softly softly approach, in my opinion you mollycoddle your students too much, I have to admit that you've done an excellent job with Annabelle." Not even noticing Simone's baffled expression, it was probably the first time her aunt had ever complimented her on anything, Emaculata continued: "anyway, Annabelle's punishment of course has repercussions for you too. We can hardly allow a student to remain in school unattended, so naturally you'll need to stay here too."

Still bitter about the way her aunt had behaved earlier, Simone replied: "you trust me alone with Annabelle all of a sudden? Only an hour ago, you thought we were having a sordid affair."

Not daring to look her niece in the eye, fiddling with her ruler, Emaculata replied: "yes … well, I'm sorry about that."

Knowing this was as close to an apology from Emaculata she'd get, Simone then asked: "who's going to take my place on the excursion then? I mean, they'll be a teacher short?"

"I'll take your place," Emaculata replied. "I think it'll do me good to do some actual 'field work' again. As this little episode with Cat has proven, I don't really know what's going on anymore amongst the students, the administrative side of running a school has made me temporarily blind, so yes… I think this little trip will do me the world of good." The look on Emaculatas face letting her know that she was also dismissed; Simone left the room, shaking her head in disbelief at the day's events. Only outside Emaculatas room did she realise what this meant: they had three whole days together.

Annabelle hadn't seen Simone since the morning before and not for lack of trying on both parts, but somehow Fate seemed to be conspiring against them; there was always something or someone keeping them apart: Mother Emaculatas' clumsy and roundabout way of making up to her niece, Kristens and especially Collins' newfound freedom now they were liberated from Cats oppressing tyranny and at one point even Sister Claire. Simone was so close by, only across the hallway, but at the same time, she couldn't be further away. Sighing Annabelle got up from her bed and grabbed her books. She might as well get some work done, she still had two papers to finish before tomorrow.

Nodding politely at Sister Claire as she entered the library, she settled down at a desk at the back, hidden from view by a row of books. She laid all her books on the table in front of her, pulling out the draft versions of her papers and placing them neatly in front of her. She even searched for the books she wanted to use for research purposes but then sat tapping her pen on her chin, staring in front of her, unable to make a start on the projects. She really couldn't concentrate, her thoughts were all jumbled up. She thought the change of venue would do her the world of good, truth be told Collins and Kristen's chattering was beginning to grate on her nerves, but even the peace and quiet offered by the library didn't inspire her.

Her papers were mostly done, she only needed to put some finishing touches on them, verifying some ideas, put down a couple of quotes to illustrate her point, but still…. It seemed her inspiration was at an all time low, she just couldn't get into the right mind frame. As she sat there, surrounded by books, yellow post it notes marking all the relevant paragraphs, her mind kept drifting back to Simone. She knew she had to do something, if she couldn't tell her how much she loved her and missed her in person, there had to be another way. Wasn't the way to a Literature teacher's heart through words? Perhaps she should write her a letter or even a little poem to show what lived within her heart? Lord knows she wasn't really good at that kind of stuff, writing songs was so much easier, but as long as it came from the heart, she figured she would do just fine.

Pleased with the new goal she had set herself, Annabelle reached for her notebook and began scribbling her feelings, hope and desire down, knowing exactly what she wanted to say, the words flowing out. Happy with the end result, the waste paper basket only half full with discarded draft versions – she was her own worst critic, she wanted the poem to be perfect-, she quickly put the poem away and grabbed her English paper when she heard a noise behind her. Looking up, straight into Mother Emaculatas eyes, she felt a sudden chill invade her heart at the older womans stern expression, but determined not to show Emaculata that she was getting to her, she nodded politely. To her amazement and probably even annoyance, the older woman pulled a chair back and sat down beside Annabelle, glancing at the books spread out on the table, before saying: "you seem busy."

"Yes, I have two papers due tomorrow, I'm just putting the finishing touches to them," Annabelle replied politely, her nose back into her books again, searching for an illusive quote, not too subtly trying to let Emaculata know that she really didn't have time for idle chitchat.

It went right over Emaculatas' head however. "You're leaving it a bit late, aren't you?" she replied, unable to hold a normal conversation with a teenager, always reverting back to her preaching and patronising ways.

"No, not really," Annabelle replied, "I have it all written out already, the arguments I'm basing my point of view upon; how I want to dispute the validity of counterarguments, … I'm just searching for some quotes to glue all the pieces together. You know… to make the transference between paragraphs more natural and fluent. Besides I'm someone who works better under pressure. What I mean is… I always make a skeleton version of the paper, outlining where I'm going and what I want to say, searching for ideas and quotes to build upon, but … the actual paper itself, that's always last minute stuff."

Nodding as she glanced at the books, post it notes and papers spread out on the table, thinking that even amidst this chaos there was order to be found, Emaculata then mumbled under her breath: "I guess everyone has his own system." Reminding herself that she was here for a reason - she was determined to get to know her students better, to find out what really makes them tick and what better guinea pig for her new found zeal than the class rebel? She had some time to kill anyway, vespers didn't start for another half hour- she cleared her throat and asked: "So what are your papers on?"

Thinking that at this rate, she'd never get rid of Emaculata, Annabelle took a deep breath before replying: "well for sociology Miss Johnson wanted us to write an opinion piece on a current affair theme. In class we've been discussing several court cases and how public opinion about matters can change over the years. She wanted us to pick a theme and explore these changes. I picked 'rape' and after exploring the reasons behind rape on the one hand and the reasons why male rape is so unheard of on the other, I argued that the changed perspective on rape, both culturally and legally; is mostly due to feminism and the still growing independence of women. You can't compare society nowadays with the Victorian ages; gender roles and expectations have changed dramatically, cultural norms and values have altered, public opinion has mellowed to a less puritan point of view. All these changes have had repercussion for our view on not only sexuality, but also on rape and those changes have only been accelerated when feminism emerged. The criminalisation of rape within marriage is only one example. So I guess I put a sociological, cultural and socio-biological spin on things. Anyway, then I also had to write an English paper. Miss Bradley asked us the work out an underlining theme of one of the plays we've read this semester and I chose the topic 'Romeo and Juliet', more specifically if love's worth dying for."

"And is it?" Emaculata asked, suddenly intrigued to find out Annabelles answer to such a philosophical question.

"I don't know," Annabelle sighed, rubbing her temples in deep thought as she still wasn't clear on her own position. "I'm rather ambivalent about it. My heart says one thing, my mind another. I guess it all depends on whether or not you're in love at the time. When you're in love, all of your feelings are maximised, you'd gladly give your life for your lover, to spend one more minute in erm …. his company you're willing to give up everything. You'd simply do anything to be with him again. The one thing most of us, if not all of us, secretly hope for from early life onwards, perhaps we are even conditioned to do so, is that we will find an earth-shattering romance with one other person and that it will last a lifetime.

We have given up on all political and religious illusions, at least officially we claim to have given them up, but the one thing we adamantly refuse to abandon is this quest for love, a naïve hope for romantic perfection. It's a hope that sustains, even in your worst moments; it offers something to dream about, a holy grail to pursue as it were. This dream of love is century old, it can be found in all cultures and ages, Aristophanes and Shakespeare wrote about it, philosophers and psychologists argued about it, Hollywood makes a killing on it. But… do soul mates really exist?

Is there something like a soul mate, someone you're destined to be with? Someone who's exactly right for you, with whom you have perfect chemistry? Does romantic destiny exist? In theory the concept is terrific, but does a perfect match truly exist? Doesn't the concept of a soul mate imply that you can't achieve perfection without uniting with that other person? If you can't achieve perfection and happiness on your own, then what is the point of living? Personally I think people are whole in and of themselves, you don't need someone else to reach that perfection. What you do need is a loving, harmonious, passionate relationship to enrich your life even more.

To me a soul mate isn't necessarily the other part of your soul, the one person you're destined to be with. I don't believe you are miserable for the rest of your life if you don't meet your soul mate. I think Richard Bach, though he spouted a lot of New Age drivel, was right; a soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys and our keys fit their lock. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. A soul mate shares our deepest longings and our sense of direction. A soul mate makes our life come to life. But unlike him, I think several people can fulfil that role. That doesn't mean I don't believe in true love, I do, but … I simply believe it's possible to love several people in a lifetime. Your happiness doesn't depend on just that one person, I believe it's possible you can find that happiness with several people. Perhaps the love differs in every situation, but they're still the key to your lock, they still give your life purpose and meaning, they still enrich your life. It all depends on the decisions you make along the way I suppose. I believe that you're pretty much in charge of your own destiny, that depending on your decisions someone else can be the love of your life. Besides… you have to admit that the odds of ever finding that one true soul mate, the one person that remains your perfect match independent of your own decisions amongst billions of people, it's astronomically low or am I being too much of a defeatist here?

As we're now in the 21st century, the age of knowledge and wisdom where we scientifically try to prove or disprove ancient theories and ideas, many enlightened people thought it was time to let go of this antiquated idea of love eternal, of soul mate forever too. Freud said that maturity, the becoming of age is the final abandonment of illusions, but isn't this ideal of love ever after an illusion too? When you think about the divorce rate, all the failed marriages… don't you think that the increasing responsibility of the individual for his own life, his rising maturity requires that he gives up this final illusion? If so, why is it that we're unable to relinquish this hope? Why do we keep clinging to it? Why do we have this resisting need for a happy ending in fiction? I guess there are several notions to be answered here. Is it possible to find a romantic love that lasts over a lifetime in this day and age? Is it possible that, even as we expect relationships to fail, we keep striving for this perfect union, because it's what we've been taught to do? If so, should this striving be abandoned?

Contemporary philosophers seem to think so. Nietzsche says that all relationships amount to a struggle for power, equality in a relationship is but an illusion; radical feminism says that romance is a form of prostitution, a disguise for economic exploitation; Freud says that love is an illusion, meant to obscure the force of sexual appetite. Yet the cynicism of these thinkers, though persuasive, does not diminish the hope for romance and love, even for the thinkers themselves. You can rationalise love all you want, but in the end somehow you still believe in it, you still have this hope, whether it is unfounded remains to be seen. Perhaps despite all evidence of the contrary, the belief in true love, in love ever after remains high and we'd give anything, even our life, to achieve it. Keats worded it perfectly: 'I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion, I have shuddered at it, I shudder no more, I could be martyred for my religion, love is my religion, I could die for that, I could die for you'.

Maybe the cynicism is justified to a certain level; I mean… people seem to hope for a Hallmark notion of love, a sugar coated version, but … any concept of romantic love that fails to recognise the pain inherent in all love, the suffering that goes with the joy, is inadequate. Love isn't just a walk on the beach, everyone has some pain to carry with him. Loving is willingly making yourself vulnerable, accepting the other's pain and sharing your own. It's the beginning of all wisdom. To reject love because it could lead to pain, is to reject life. But isn't dieing for love rejecting life too? Friendships, family and romance dramatically enhance the quality of life and should never be taken for granted. Do I think love is worth the pain? Yes, I do. Do I think love is worth risking everything for? Yes, I do. Do I think love is worth dying for? No.

Basing your entire happiness on one single area of your life, such as a particular relationship…. It seems ludicrous to me, you can't let your whole existence depend on one single person, you're more than the relationships you have. What sense does it make to die for someone if you won't be alive to experience who you're dieing for? Those who survive no longer come in contact with your warmth, your beauty, your pleasant conversations. They can't share their ideas with you anymore, their passions, … sharing, which enriches couples' lives, is made impossible, for you aren't there anymore. You can consider giving your life for someone else to be very altruistic, but isn't it at the same time the most selfish thing you can do? Aren't you denying your partner his or her life at the same time?

In my opinion life and love are worth fighting for and living for, but never worth dieing for, but at the same time… when you're in love, everything is different; all rational ideas you may have held fly out the window. I don't know, it's like the other person becomes your whole world. You'd do anything to be with them, you'd do anything they ask. Didn't Edith Piaf sing 'J`irais jusqu`au bout du monde, je me ferais teindre en blonde, si tu me le demandais. J`irais décrocher la lune, j'irais voler la fortune, si tu me le demandais. Je renierais ma patrie, je renierais mes amis, si tu me le demandais. On peut bien rire de moi, je ferais n`importe quoi si tu me le demandais?' Love is all consuming, it makes you lose your rational mind, it makes you do things you'd otherwise never have done and yes, in that context I can believe love is worth dieing for. I do believe that in a life and death situation you can value your lover's life worth more than your own. Anyway, that was the gist of it, the paper itself is much more detailed. So… like I said, I'm rather ambivalent about it."

Astonished by Annabelles' rather complex view on the matter, though admittedly the girl hadn't answered her own three questions and had rather conflicting premises to start from, Emaculata suddenly wanted to know more. If that was only the gist of the girl's opinion, what would the actual paper hold? She already knew Annabelle could hold her own in a debate, stating her case in a clear and very concise manner, she had actually witnessed it first hand, but could she do the same on paper? After all, Annabelle's mother was a politician, oratory prowess probably ran in the Tillman family. "May I?" Emaculata asked, not really waiting for Annabelle's permission before taking the paper and starting to read. Mumbling and nodding all the way through, she finally replied: "I see what you mean, quite a few interesting points that you've raised. You've certainly given me a lot to think about. I guess I'd better let you get on with your paper, I've taken too much of your time already."

Shrugging at Emaculatas rather fast exit, she was running like the devil was on her heels as she was late for vespers, Annabelle went back to work. Perhaps if she was lucky, she might be able to catch Simone on her own later tonight after dinner, well …. that is if she was able to escape Collins and Kristens' clutches for an hour. Ever since they found out she wasn't allowed to come on the trip with them, they were desperately trying to make it up to her. They felt guilty by ratting on her to Mother Emaculata. Though she had tried and tried again to persuade them otherwise, it was no use, they were determined on including her in everything they did, trying to spend as much time together as possible before her forced three day exile. Though she was deeply touched by the gesture, it was starting to get on her nerves, her privacy now pretty much non existent. Sighing she went back to work, she'd try to think up an escape plan later.

Simone felt Annabelle's gaze upon her, her eyes following her every move and felt desire flame up in the pit of her stomach, the tingling sensation making her gasp and shiver slightly. Closing her eyes for just a moment, she hugged herself close, reminding herself she was in the middle of a literature class. Clearing her throat, she quickly wrote something on the blackboard, giving herself some more time to compose herself, before turning around again. Leaning against her desk, not really daring to look up, Simone fixated her gaze on the floor as she explained the author's motives. She knew she couldn't look in Annabelle's direction, she'd only get distracted again and lose her trail of thought, just like moments before, but she couldn't help it. It was stronger than herself, Annabelle's smile was just too bright, her eyes too sparkling. They hadn't seen each other for too long. Only glimpses here and there weren't enough to keep her going. She needed more than that, she needed to touch her, breathe her, feel her. Annabelle was like a drug she couldn't live without. She couldn't but look up, right into Annabelle's eyes. Hypnotised by the cerulean blue eyes, she felt she couldn't breathe, her mind short-circuiting with all the emotions warring within her: tenderness, love, lust, anticipation, giddiness and even a sliver of fear.

Abruptly stopping in the middle of a sentence, she couldn't help but smile as she noticed that she had Annabelle's total attention, the younger woman following her every move, the blue eyes piercing through her soul, the intensity of Annabelles stare making her shudder involuntarily, the warm feeling of love and giddiness almost overwhelming her. Her breathing became shallow as she watched Annabelle lick her lips quite unconsciously, her eyes glued to Annabelles tongue, slowly swirling around, making her remember their night of passion, making her yearn for a repeat as her desire flared up again, even stronger than before. Mesmerised she watched the gesture in slow motion, for a moment her whole world narrowing down to just the two of them, wrapped up in a cocoon of their own. Gone were the other students, gone was Mother Emaculatas looming presence, she only had eyes for Annabelle. Then the spell was broken as the school bell rang and chairs were pushed back, the screeching sound abruptly pulling her from her sexual daydream. Blinking a couple of time at the sudden intrusion of real life, she cleared her throat and said, her voice croaking a bit: "please read the next two poems for tomorrow and hand in your papers as you leave."

Ordering the papers haphazardly handed to her, some were even thrown on her desk in passing, she remained leaning on her desk, waiting on Annabelle. She just knew she'd be lingering in the back, waiting for everyone else to leave, waiting for an opportunity to talk to her on her own. Looking up, she watched her approach, her eyes sparkling at Annabelle's smile, butterflies fluttering wildly again, sending her heart (and hormones) into a frenzy. Their fingers touched as Annabelle handed her the paper and Simone had to suppress a shiver at the electricity coursing through her. Their touch lingering too long to just be casual, she heard Annabelle say 'I put something inside the paper, for your eyes only', the husky whisper of her voice stirring something deep inside, making her feel weak.

She wanted nothing more than to kiss her right now, feel the velvety softness of Annabelle's lips underneath her own, run her fingers through her hair, pull her close to just enjoy her warmth, to just quietly be, but the risk was just too big. Biting down her disappointment, she contented herself with curling a stray lock of hair behind Annabelle's ear before letting her trembling hand drop again, too afraid of getting caught. Before she could do or say anything else, the door burst open and Collins came running in. Guiltily springing apart to a more acceptable distance, she watched Collins nod sheepishly at her before grabbing a reluctant and rather startled Annabelle by the arm, all the while babbling about urgently needing Annabelle's help. Whilst being manhandled out the door quite forcefully, Annabelle turned around one final time and with an apologetic expression on her face she mouthed 'love you' before disappearing out of sight.

Taking a shuddering breath, Simone sat down at her desk, relieved at yet another narrow escape, but at the same time also extremely disappointed. She had hardly spent any quality time with Annabelle. She knew beforehand it would be difficult, this sneaking around and hiding, but she had never thought it would be so frustrating. She craved Annabelle with an unprecedented intensity; she desperately needed to be with her, not necessarily in a sexual way, though she certainly wouldn't say no if the opportunity should arise. No, it was more than that, Annabelle meant more than that. It was just so damn ….. well, frustrating. Sighing Simone closed her eyes as she leaned back in her chair, rubbing her temples in frustrated annoyance. Another opportunity snatched away from them in the blink of an eye, now she had to wait until dinner before she could see Annabelle again and that would only be from afar. It just wasn't fair. She couldn't wait until their three day reprieve at the end of next week when the others went away on their little trip. Three full days together, without getting interrupted, without needing to look over their shoulder, without having to hide how they felt about each other. It sounded like heaven on earth, she really couldn't wait. Maybe they could go back to the beach house, even if it was just for a day? She always felt freer there, more herself, besides …. It would give them the chance to step out of their teacher/student roles, it would give them a chance to just be Simone and Annabelle.

A smile tugging at her lips, Simone pushed the stack of papers nearer, knowing she'd better get some work done during her two free hours. You never know …. Maybe Annabelle would be able to sneak away for a while later that day, she didn't want paper grading to be in the way of their scarce time together. Suddenly she remembered what Annabelle had whispered to her, that she had hidden something in her paper, 'something for her eyes only'. Intrigued she took Annabelle's paper from the top of the stack, giving it a curious once over before flipping through the pages. Somewhere near the end, she found a folded up paper. Her heart speeding up, she carefully unfolded it, delighting in Annabelle's strong and bold handwriting before glancing upwards again to start reading. Moaning softly at Annabelle's delicate words of love and desire, she took a shuddering breath as she read on about all the things Annabelle wanted to do, her cheeks blushing at the younger woman's erotic directness. Before she could finish the poem however, there was a rapid knock on the door. Quickly folding the poem up and hiding it in her desk, she watched Mother Emaculata walk into the class room.

"Are you okay?" Emaculata asked concerned, "you look rather flushed."

"Yes, I'm fine," Simone croaked, desperately trying to get her emotions under control. "It's just a bit hot in here. I was just about to open a window actually." When Emaculata just nodded but didn't say anything more, she continued: "anything I can help you with?"

Walking over to the window before opening it up, Emaculata said, her back still to Simone as she stared at the immaculate gardens below: "no, not really. I was just passing by. I knew you had two free periods coming up and thought I'd drop in to see how you were doing." Not even noticing Simone's flabbergasted look, she continued: "like I've said before, I've realised that I allowed myself to get buried in the administrative side of running a school. I've lost touch with what it really means to teach young adults." Turning around to give Simone a self depreciating smile, she looked out the gardens again before saying: "I decided I should find out what lives amongst the students, how their minds work, what they find important. I decided I should get to know the students again. Anyway, I ran into Annabelle Tillman in the library yesterday and we had a really interesting conversation about love. I even read the paper she wrote for your class. A very interesting read indeed."

At hearing that, Simone spluttered water all over her desk, coughing violently as tears trickled down her cheeks. Her eyes bulging out in shock, her face bright red with exertion, she thumped her fist hard on the desk, desperately trying to get her coughing under control. "Are you alright?" Emaculata asked, thumping her niece on the back, none too gently either, but that was just Emaculatas way.

"Yes, yes, I'm fine," Simone gurgled, still trying to get her wheezing under control. "It just went down the wrong way. Anyway, you were saying about Annabelle?"

After she was sure Simone was alright, she had never seen anyone turn quite so red before, Emaculata replied: "well yes…. After she told me the gist of her paper, I was intrigued. Though I don't believe in some of the arguments she used, I have to admit she stated her case quite admirably; she certainly made me reconsider some things. But… that wasn't what struck me most. We both know that the girl has a way with words. She quite knows how to defend herself in an argument or in a debate, a skill she probably inherited from her mother. No, what I wanted to know is whether or not she could do the same on paper and it appears she can. The girl has a lot of potential, more than I gave her credit for when we first met. If she ever gets over that defiant, rebellious streak, she might just turn into a fine young woman. Anyway, my talk with Annabelle gave me an idea for next school year. We should hold regular meetings about the students' progress, discuss each student's shortcomings and strong points so we can develop a much more individual approach. If a student is lagging a bit in one area, we can discuss what the best way to help her is. What do you think?"

Noticing the very expectant expression on Emaculatas face and actually feeling sorry to burst her bubble, Simone replied: "it's a very good idea, but we already do that. The teachers hold a weekly assessment of each student just for that purpose."

"Oh….. oh, I didn't know," Emaculata sighed dejectedly. "I guess it only goes to show how truly out of touch I really am. Erm… well, keep up the good work then I guess." With that Emaculata bolted out of the door, thinking she had humiliated herself enough. Shaking her head in a mix of merriment and astonishment, thinking she had somehow landed in the twilight zone, Simone watched her aunt's rather fast exit, sighing deeply as she realised that she had only one hour left before her next class. Opening the drawer to get out some tissues, her desk was rather wet after she had inundated it with water, her eye fell on Annabelle's poem again. Dabbing her desk dry before throwing the tissues in the paper basket – she didn't want the poem to be ruined – she started to read it again from the beginning, her cheeks already flushing with anticipation, desire fluttering in the pit of her stomach. As she finished, she carefully folded the poem up, her hands trembling with emotion. Her breathing ragged, her heart racing as liquid desire coursed through her veins, she slowly stood up and left the classroom.

The short walk over to the bathroom doing nothing to suppress her desire, she took a few calming breaths, leaning heavily on the sink as she watched herself in the mirror, her eyes lidded, her pupils dilated. Her fingers trembling as she reached for the tap, she splashed cold water in her face, but to no avail. Her breathing still shallow, her cheeks still flushed, she had to bite her lips to suppress a lustful moan. She couldn't believe how turned on she was by a mere poem, but Annabelle making herself vulnerable, laying herself so open, divulging her inner most secrets, thoughts, wishes and desires, painting such an erotic tableau of passion, love and understanding … it rocked her to the core. She just seemed to have a way of getting to her, whether through a song or though a poem. It's like Annabelle possessed an innate understanding of her desires and feelings.

Right now she wanted nothing more than wrap Annabelle up in her arms and kiss her all over, whisper softly in her ear that she felt the same before ravishing her completely. She wanted nothing more than to hear her whimper and gasp her name in delicious agony as she tipped her into the abyss of pleasurable weightlessness, to feel her nails scratching along her back as she teased her mercilessly, to hold her close as the tremors subsided, kissing her softly as she told her over and over again how much she loved her. She wanted to be with Annabelle, even if it was just to hold her near and talk about something inconsequential. But it just wasn't in the cards right now, they both had class all afternoon. Sighing deeply she let her head hang low as she groaned at the mad rush of desire coursing though her veins.

Just then a stall door swung open and looking up into the mirror, she stared right into Annabelles eyes, her heartbeat increasing with exhilaration, her core throbbing with want as she watched Annabelles face break out in a bright smile. They looked at each other for long moments before Simone pushed herself off the sink, stealthily moving in on Annabelle like an unrelenting and famished predator approaching its innocent and unsuspecting prey. Her breathing increasing with each step, she pushed Annabelle back into the bathroom stall before locking it closed, still staring into her eyes, now dark with desire and need. Breaking their eye contact, she looked at her lips, unconsciously licking her own before kissing her wildly, passionately, the intensity surprising Annabelle. One of Simone's hands tangled itself in Annabelle's hair, her nails lightly scratching her neck as she pulled her even closer, pushing her against the wall. Annabelle went rigid for a second before emitting a low pitched growl and moulding herself even further to Simone's form, her arms draped over Simone's shoulders. Deepening the kiss, Simone's hand slowly wandered from Annabelle's hip to her pristine white shirt, sliding under it, brushing over the bare flesh of a quivering stomach, lightly tickling sensitive skin, Simone's sudden aggression making Annabelle's breath hitch, making her ache for more of the feather light, tantalising touch.

Breaking away from the kiss as oxygen became a necessity, they stared at each other, both panting hard, hardly an inch of space between them. Gasping as she watched Annabelle wet her lips, swollen by her kisses, Simone just knew she had to have her, she couldn't hold off any longer. She didn't care where they were, she didn't care if someone could walk in on them; she desperately needed to make love to Annabelle, feel her quiver and convulse beneath her touch. She started to open the buttons on Annabelle's shirt achingly slow, delighting in Annabelle's shiver of anticipation as she trailed soft kisses along her jaw line. As Annabelle craned her neck, giving her more access, she kissed and nibbled at the sensitive skin, licking over the pulse point, not daring to leave a mark, before venturing even further down. Her hand pushed Annabelle's shirt further open before slowly meandering its way up, leaving behind a trail of goose bumps and quivering muscles, cupping a breast through a satin bra, tweaking a nipple between her fingers, causing Annabelle to whimper and tighten her hold on Simone's hips, her knees threatening to collapse. Unclasping the bra in one smooth move, she kissed her way down the valley between Annabelle's breasts, running her tongue along the curve of one breast while her fingers kneaded and massaged the other. She flicked her tongue over a rock hard nipple before sucking it gently, making Annabelle arch her back as she moaned softly.

Giving Annabelle a wolfish smile, she turned her attention to the other breast and captured the hardened nipple between her teeth, scraping over it just hard enough to elicit a yelp of surprise and a gasp of pleasure before licking it soothingly with the flat of her tongue. Her fingers crawled downwards achingly slow, making Annabelle's stomach flutter and quiver at the touch. She cupped Annabelle through her skirt, the tantalizing friction causing Annabelle to shudder. Feeling her push herself onto her hand, desperately looking for some kind of release, Simone teasingly stroked her a couple of times before removing her hand completely, making Annabelle groan with disappointment. Her hand went sliding down over the skirt, only to slide up again along the inside of her thigh, the touch ever so light, making Annabelle tremble with want, her fingernails digging hard into Simone shoulders. Finding the thin material of the satin thong soaked with want, Annabelle's breathing nothing more than jagged gasps, she ran her fingers over Annabelle's lips, never applying enough pressure to give Annabelle what she needed.

Annabelle groaned again and began to rock against Simone's hand, inviting it to enter her. Softly sinking her teeth onto Annabelle's nipple, Simone pushed the flimsy material aside and trailed a finger through the copious amounts of wetness, making Annabelle whimper and resume her rocking. Slowly she pushed a finger inside, quickly followed by a second one. Her fingers penetrating deeply, she slowly ventured in and out, matching the rhythm set by Annabelle's rocking hips. Still nipping and sucking at her breast, she continued to thrust her fingers in and out, pumping harder and faster each time while keeping a constant pressure on Annabelle's engorged and throbbing clit with her thumb. Sliding in and out at a frantic pace, she felt the first signs of Annabelle's impending orgasm and curled her fingers, finding that special spot. Breathlessly Annabelle whispered her name over and over again as she came, her vaginal walls clamping down tightly around Simone's fingers, trapping them motionlessly inside. Annabelle was flying. The rollercoaster ride she was on carried her to the top of the world and left her writhing in ecstasy. Riding out the last of the waves, she kissed Simone passionately before slumping against her shoulder. Her breathing still erratic, still tightly holding on to Simone to stay upright, she eased back a little so Simone could retract her still trapped fingers and moaned loudly when she saw her licking them clean. The gesture so intimate and erotic, rocking her to the core, she pressed forward and captured Simone's lips with her own. Enjoying the taste of her own juices mixed with something uniquely Simone; Annabelle kissed her languidly, her tongue roaming all over Simone's mouth. "I love you," she whispered after breaking free.

Pressing her forehead against Annabelle's, Simone whispered "I love you too, so much more than words can ever say" before pulling her into a tight embrace, soaking in her warmth and love, rubbing a hand over Annabelle's still trembling back. Hearing the cloister bell in the distance, realising that classes would finish for the morning in about fifteen minutes, she pulled back, intent on straightening Annabelle's clothes. "But what about you?" Annabelle asked in a husky whisper. Her fingers trembling slightly at Annabelle's warm breath near her ear, Simone fumbled with the tiny buttons. "Next time," she mumbled, "it's too dangerous to stay here for too long." Giving her a last passionate kiss, she added: "you'd better go now before your teacher reports you missing."

"When will I see you again?" Annabelle asked, her breathing slowly easing up, wiping her hand over her skirt in an attempt to get the wrinkles out.

"I have a teacher's meeting tonight, but it shouldn't take too long," Simone said, thinking about her schedule. "Why don't you meet me in the gardens around nine, if you can sneak out that is?"

"Okay, I'll try," Annabelle said with a smile. "I can't promise anything though. Collins and Kristen are watching me like hawks."

"Do you think they suspect something?" Simone asked.

"No, not at all," Annabelle replied. "They're feeling guilty. They think it's their fault that I'm not allowed to go on that three day trip. I've tried and tried again to convince them otherwise, but…"

"Oh, about that trip…. As Emaculata put it so eloquently 'my student, my dorm, my responsibility' which means I'm not going on that trip either," Simone said, with a mischievous glint in her eyes.

Her eyes opening wide with shocked surprise, Annabelle said: "you mean…. We've got three days together?" When Simone just nodded, smiling brightly, Annabelle kissed her hard before saying "three days together… I can't believe it, whatever will we do with ourselves?", her eyes narrowing with an amused glint.

"I'm sure we'll figure something out," Simone laughed softly, "we've still got a whole week to make plans. Anyway, you'd better go now." Nodding, Annabelle gave Simone a final peck on the cheek before leaving the stall.

As Simone had been whisked away yet again by Mother Emaculata for some obtuse reason, at least it seemed that way to her, a rather annoyed Annabelle plopped down on her bed, sighing deeply. She had been in a foul mood all day, pissed off by her mother's phone call, well technically it had been her campaign leader making the stupid request she had no choice but agree to, bored out of her mind by Father Harris' longwinded sermon that seemed to go on and on without reaching any conclusion, irritated that her talk with Simone in the library had been cut short by the untimely arrival of Sister Claire. It all made Annabelle want to scream into her pillow, venting all frustration with one loud, primeval yell, but she couldn't. She wasn't alone, in this godforsaken place you never had a moment of privacy, a minute just to yourself and it was slowly driving her up the walls. Anger, frustration, lust and annoyance were bubbling dangerously close to the surface, looking for some release; Annabelle wasn't a happy bunny to say the least.

Although Collins had buried herself in the library a little while ago to work on her long overdue geography assignment, Kristin was still there slaving away over their calculus homework, deftly tapping on her calculator as she tried to figure out a way out of the mathematical conundrum, effectively stripping Annabelle from the only sliver of privacy she could have had that day. Really not in the mood for homework, she figured she'd do it over lunch tomorrow as they didn't have miss Simpson until the afternoon anyway, she had been roaming the hallways aimlessly, not really knowing what to do with herself the mood she was in. She stopped in some rooms, exchanging some words with the other girls, but she had soon found their inane adolescent bantering and gossiping too tedious for words. Who cared if Cynthia's best friend's stepmother was doing the horizontal tango with the pool boy or that Miss Johnson from sociology had been caught kissing an unnamed Saint Paul's teacher at the dance?

Bored out of her mind, Annabelle laid staring at the ceiling, unconsciously tapping her fingers to the rhythm of the new song she had thought up that afternoon, religious studies being so boring that she needed something to keep her from nodding off. Daydreaming about Simone, though fun at the time, only led to more frustration in the end, so shehad decided to write off her frustration in a new song. Realising that this was perhaps the ideal opportunity to perfect the song, she didn't have anything else to do anyway, she sprang up and grabbed her guitar. Leaning against the headboard of her bed, she strummed her guitar, trying out different keys before writing down some changes in her notebook. Pleased with how the song sounded so far, she softly sang the chorus, not even noticing that she had Kristen's undivided attention.

Throwing her pen on the desk in dismay, ink blotting her little hangman doodle of miss Simpson, Kristen groaned frustrated and leaned back in her chair. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn't find the answer to the equation. Mathematical hieroglyphics dancing and twirling in her mind, giving her a headache, she closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, trying to come up with the most efficient way of murdering Miss Simpson, preferably in the slowest and most painful manner. Snorting at the absurdity of her own thoughts, she was just about to ask for Annabelle's help with the calculus when she heard her strum the guitar. Finding the melody very catching, dark and haunted which seemed to have been Annabelle's mood all day long, she swivelled around on her chair, listening intently to the lyrics. The words of unconditional love, longing and forced separation ringing so true to her, she couldn't help but whisper as Annabelle finished, fighting back the tears as she thought of her little girl: "that was beautiful."

Startled by Kristen softly spoken words, she had been so focused on her own anguish as she sang that she had actually forgotten that the other girl was in the room, Annabelle said: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you."

Waving Annabelle's apology away, Kristen replied: "oh don't be, I wasn't getting anywhere anyway, not unless you consider doodling miss Simpson ten million ways productive. I'll ask Collins to explain it to me when she gets back, she's our resident maths whiz after all. If she gets back that is, she's been in that library for hours now. I can't believe that she plain forgot about that geography assignment. Anyway, I like that song. I haven't heard you sing it before, is it a new one?" When Annabelle simply nodded, she continued: "the words… they're simply beautiful. Simple, but yet so true, containing so much emotion. It reminded me of Emily and how much I miss her, you know? It'll be her birthday soon, she turns one next month and I won't be there. I'll still be stuck here sitting a stupid calculus exam." When she saw that Annabelle was about to speak, she held up her hand and said: "I'll be home a couple of days later, I'll make it up to her. I don't know how yet, but I will make it up to her.

The thing is … I'm missing out on so much of her life. I wasn't there when she started teething or when she started to crawl, I probably missed her first word and the worst thing is that when she'll say 'mama' for the first time, she won't be looking at me, but to my mother. As far as Emily is concerned I'm just her goofy big sister. Rationally… rationally I know that my parents raising her is the best thing for Emily. I'm only seventeen, I couldn't take care of her, not properly. I'm still a kid myself most of the time, but emotionally…. I can't handle it. I'm jealous of my own mother. She gets to spend time with Emily while I can't. I want to scream out that I'M her mother, I want to take Emily away to a secret place where it's only her and me, but I can't. I just miss her so much, you know?"

As Kristen was in tears, really letting her emotions run free now Cat wasn't there anymore to scathe her, Annabelle put her guitar down on the bed and walked over, crouching down on her knees beside Kristen's chair. Engulfing the very distraught girl in a warm hug, realising how petty and insignificant her own woes were in comparison to Kristen's heartache and anguish, she let the girl cry on her shoulder, whispering soft soothing words in her ear as she rubbed her back. When Kristen broke free from the embrace, her breathing still hiccupped but at least she wasn't crying anymore, she looked at her and asked: "what about your boyfriend? Do you still see him?"

"No," Kristin replied in a very monotonous voice, "we broke up the day I told him that I was pregnant. He called me every name you could think of, even questioned his paternity though he was my first boyfriend and then ordered me to have an abortion immediately. I knew my parents would never go for that, so.."

"What did you want?" Annabelle asked.

"Well, you know it's strange, I've always felt abortion was a woman's own choice, but the moment I found out I was pregnant, I immediately felt this connection, this strong bond with Emily. I just couldn't see myself do it, have an abortion I mean. I immediately loved her, unconditionally and it's that love that gave me the strength to bite the bullet and face my parents. They were just great… sure they were angry and disappointed at first, but they were there for me all the way, helping and supporting me. You know how parents are."

"No, not really," Annabelle mumbled under her breath before saying a bit louder: "anyway, I've got an idea how you can make it up to Emily. How about we make her a very special lullaby? A song that'll only be yours and hers? I know she probably won't understand the words just yet, but she will eventually and she'll always remember the song."

"That's a great idea," Kristen replied, full of enthusiasm. "When can we start?"

Laughing, Annabelle replied: "well, how about now? I've got some time on my hands."

After finding Collins snoring softly in the library, drooling on the geography book she was consulting, Simone was guiding the clearly embarrassed girl back to her room. <It's your duty as a teacher>, her angelic inner voice said, making her demonic inner voice burst out in boisterous laughter at the lie. <Nonsense>, her diabolical self said, <you just relish the opportunity of seeing Annabelle again before you go to bed>. As Collins opened the door to her shared room, she watched Kristen and Annabelle sitting on Annabelle's bed, their heads closely together, Kristen jotting down some words as Annabelle played the guitar and Simone felt suddenly felt overwhelmed by an irrational surge of jealousy. She was jealous that Kristen could sit closely to Annabelle without arousing suspicion, she was jealous that Kristen had got to spend some time with Annabelle while she had had to do with a few stolen moments here and there. In a haze she heard Collins say 'hey guys, what are you doing?"

<That's exactly what I would like to know>, her little green monster said before she managed to beat it into submission. "Annabelle had this great idea on how I can make it up to Emily, you know for missing her birthday next month. We're making her a very special lullaby, want to help?" she heard Kristen say and as she watched the girl more closely she found the telltale signs of a full fledged crying spell still on her face. Looking over to Annabelle and the embarrassment flushing the younger woman's cheeks, she was reminded all over again why she had fallen for her in the first place. The bad ass chick with the soft touch. As she stared into her eyes, there was so much she wanted to say or do, but she couldn't, they weren't alone. Wordlessly trying to convey Annabelle her love, feeling positively giddy when Annabelle smiled at her, she cleared her throat before saying: "it's getting rather late girls, don't stay up for too long." Giving Annabelle one last look of longing, she left the room, closing the door behind her.

A couple of days later, Simone was sitting in the solitude of her room, old jazz music playing softly on the radio. Her courses over for the day, she thought she might as well get a head start on the paper grading. It wasn't like she had anything better to do anyway, Annabelle still being in class for another three hours. Billie Holiday's haunting lament of love lost and hungry longing near unheard in the background, she groaned with annoyance as Cynthia seemed to have completely missed the author's point, waffling on and on about an inconsequential detail. Putting some advice on the paper before she graded it, she filed it away before leaning back in her chair, relieved Cynthia's abysmal attempt was the last one of the lot. Sighing deeply, she threw her glasses on the desk, absentmindedly rubbing her eyes before walking over and plopping down on her bed, glad to have finished for the day. Reaching into the drawer of her night table, she got her black and white photographs of Annabelle out, the ones she took on their day together at the beach. Leaning against the headboard, she looked at the pictures, a bright smile immediately appearing as she lovingly rubbed her thumb over Annabelle's face, an overwhelming feeling of love and longing stirring in her stomach.

Annabelle's smile awakening her soul, the mischievous glint in her cerulean eyes, the whisper of her enticing lips, the caress of her comforting hug, … the memories of their shared moments helped her through the day and left her desperate and longing for the evening to come. She craved those snatched moments of intimacy with a force unseen, their talks about everything and anything or their time to just quietly be a new drug she couldn't live without, however scarce and far in between they were. Annabelle's voice made her tremble inside, her smile was an invitation for her imagination to go wild. When she looked her way and smiled, she knew she was loved, she felt the fire in her soul. Like George Sand once said 'after living in the dark for so long, a glimpse of the light can make you giddy.' When she looked into Annabelle's eyes, she saw the reflection of her own poet soul and it was frighteningly beautiful, awesome and silent at the same time. She desperately wanted to speak out, but ordinary speech seemed so inadequate; she feared that by defining her love for Annabelle, she would limit it, diminish it somehow, so she vowed to just enjoy that love, to let it flow over her.

Feeling somewhat restless, whenever they were apart she missed Annabelle's nearness but at the same time she had this warm feeling inside because they were close in heart, she put the photographs away again before walking over to the window to let a refreshing breeze in. As she breathed in the earthy early Summer air, birds chirping in a nearby tree, the sun kissing her skin with her soft and warm golden rays, she looked over the grounds, concentrating on the hockey field in the far distance, knowing Annabelle would be there soon for her P.E. class. Like some lovesick teenager she had her whole schedule memorised, knowing exactly where and when they could have some time together. It was funny how much her life had changed in the space of a couple of weeks. Gone were the dark days of loneliness and despair, for the first time in her life she was truly happy. She was at peace with herself; all her worries, all the haunting memories were temporarily pushed aside. The only thing that counted was here and now.

No one had ever made her feel this way by simply being near or smiling at her. Annabelle's smile, it had the most beguiling effect on her, making her heart skip a beat, making her feel like she could take on the world. Desperately suppressing a groan, she felt the old, familiar rush of desire course through her veins again and sighed deeply as she wouldn't be able to indulge in the sweet pleasure Annabelle was for another couple of hours and then only if they were very lucky. But maybe she should just go over to the hockey field and watch Annabelle play? Maybe being near her would take away the edge, her immediate need? Or would it only strengthen it, her desire becoming an explosive ball of fire desperately seeking release? Would it be obvious to the others that she was only there for Annabelle? Perhaps she could just stay hidden near the trees? Wasn't her desperate ogling a telltale sign of stalker's behaviour or even worse, was she turning into a peeping Tomasina? Or did that tag only apply if she were to wear a long trench coat with nothing underneath?

Putting a stop to her mental debate, her musings weren't getting her anywhere anyway, pulling her in one direction and then the other and frankly her last train of thought was bordering on the ridiculously absurd, she decided to just give into her more base needs and urges. She knew she couldn't wait any longer, she had to see Annabelle right away, even if it was only to stare at her from a safe distance. Her mind made up, she left her room and took a leisurely stroll through the school's gardens to the hockey field. Seeing Mother Emaculata approach in the distance, her almost military walk was easily recognisable, reminding Simone of a Russian military parade, she avoided yet another awkward conversation with her aunt by taking an alternative route away from the path, walking right across the lawn, though she knew all too well Emaculata didn't really like that.

Smirking she thought that perhaps Emaculata's known disapproval was why it felt so good. Not even noticing Emaculata's frown at her niece's audacity in breaking one of her unspoken laws, she walked on, feeling positively giddy by her own defiance and the thought of seeing Annabelle soon. It seemed that her rebellious lover was rubbing off on her and that thought made her smile brightly. Though breaking away from the path was perhaps only a ridiculously small act of rebellion, especially in comparison of some of the stuff Annabelle had no doubt pulled off, to Simone however it was symbolic of taking charge again of her own life and destiny, of not letting Emaculata's rules and regulations define her any further. She was done with the ostrich approach of life. Nearing the hockey field, she went to lean against a tree, holding her hand above her head to shield her eyes from the sun.

With a smile on her face, she watched Annabelle sprint across the field, deftly evading the other team's attacks, only to give a last minute pass to Collins, who was known for her sport ineptitude and just stood there flabbergasted at suddenly receiving the ball, not really knowing what to do with it for a couple of seconds. Then she swung her hockey stick into the air, her tongue sticking out as she concentrated and the ball hurled through the air at an incredible speed, past the goal keeper, only to bounce of the goal post back into the field, making all Collins' team mates groan with frustration. One of the defenders even threw her hockey stick onto the ground in disappointment as she threw Collins a murderous glare. That was the best chance they'd had all game to score a goal. Her head hanging in shame, Collins slowly walked back, startled when Annabelle suddenly threw a supportive arm around her and told her 'never mind, it was a very good try, we'll get there in the end'. Before Collins could reply however, Annabelle took off again, sprinting across the field to steal the ball from an unsuspecting Cynthia, the weak link in the other team.

Making a mad dash along the line, she suddenly cut to the left, rapidly making her way to the goal. As the goalkeeper got into place, trying to minimise her shot opportunity, she swung her hockey stick back. Instead of aiming it directly at the goal however, the goalie already jumping to the corner she thought Annabelle would shoot at, she gave a soft pass to Collins who had followed behind her. Even though Collins, suddenly very nervous, totally messed up her shot, the ball slowly hobbled over the line, making Annabelle scream out in delight as she engulfed Collins in a warm embrace, seconds before their other team mates did the same and they fell to the ground in a wriggling mess of arms and legs. Simone had to laugh at the sight, she admired Annabelle's enthusiasm and selflessness, the hung go way she approached life, her boundless energy, the way she always seemed to totally focus on the task at hand. It always made her smile when she saw her totally enraptured by a book, a poem or even the song she was writing at that time, not having eye for anything or anyone else. A bomb could go off beside her and she'd never notice. But when that attention was solely focused on her … it was such a highly erotic experience, it turned her on beyond comprehension, always craving more.

Adrenaline coursing through her, jubilant with glee, feeling like she had made the goal herself, Annabelle flung herself around Collins, who looked like a deer caught in the headlights at the sight of their other team mates approaching them like a stampede on the run. At the P.E. teachers insistence to break it up already, Annabelle crawled from underneath the big human pile of giggling girls and dusted off her clothes, grinning widely as she looked at Collins who was blushing profusively at the praise lavished upon her. Giving her a hand up, they took their positions again, adamant at defending their new found lead in the game. Looking on as their winger sprinted up the field, she suddenly thought she had seen Simone in the corner of her eye, standing near the trees. Looking behind her as she continued running, she didn't see Mathilda, the other team's bulldozer, standing there and collided with her, quite forcefully. Falling to the ground, hitting her knee on the one rock in the whole field, she groaned in pain, before rolling over and staring into the concerned faces of her team mates gathering around her. "Are you alright?" Collins asked.

The P.E. teacher kneeled down beside her and after inspecting the wound, she said: "you'd better go and see the nurse, Annabelle. It looks pretty deep."

"I'll take her," Collins announced before looking over to the P.E. teacher to see if that was alright. Miss Danes didn't reply right away, she realised that with both Annabelle and Collins gone, the game would be very unequal and was mentally trying to reassemble the teams. Just then she noticed Simone lurking in the sidelines and waved her over. Jogging up to meet her, she said: "how extremely fortunate that you happened to pass, Simone. Would you mind taking Annabelle to the nurse? She has banged her knee on a rock."

"Of course not," Simone replied, following Catrina Danes over to where Annabelle was sitting, the thick wave of curious and concerned students dividing like the Red Sea before Moses as they neared. Helping Annabelle up, she looped Annabelle's arm over her shoulder as they hopped their way back to the school building. As soon as they were out of sight, she tightened her hold on Annabelle and asked: "are you alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, it doesn't hurt much," Annabelle replied, quite out of breath from all the hopping. Looking at Simone with a rather sly expression on her face, she then added: "Cook used to kiss all my booboos away though."

Laughing merrily, Simone answered: "let's get you cleaned up first and then I'll see what I can do."

Part 4

Return to Miscellaneous Fiction

Return to Main Page