Chapter 11:


The Wizard's Virginity

After Biology, the school day became increasingly unpleasant. It was clear that the rumours that had started in my form, about me chasing away Reiko somehow, had spent the day permeating through the rest of the student body. After all, Reiko had been something of a celebrity since she joined as our first ever foreign exchange student, particularly given her fetishistic appeal. So her absence was noticed, and as when anything bad happens, someone needed to be found to blame. And hey, how convenient, it turned out that the guy who Reiko had spent most of her time with was already known for being a creep towards girls. Thus, the narrative was set.

I had free periods in the afternoon. Usually I would have gone home, but given my detention with Miss Byrne I had to stick around until the end of the school day. My second option would typically have been retreating to Ms Matthews’ classroom in the old building, as there weren’t lessons in there on a Monday afternoon, and I could chill out away from prying eyes. Given what had transpired on Friday, however, I didn’t want to risk being alone, much less in the classroom where it had all happened. So I had uncharacteristically eaten lunch in the canteen, and then headed to the library to actually try and revise for a change.

Of course, being in public meant that I was around other students, all of whom had a bone to pick with me about Reiko’s disappearance. Or, rather, a bone to throw at me, in the case of some of the rowdier Year 11s in the canteen. It was fried chicken day, which meant that there was an abundant supply of chicken bones to launch at me as I sat eating my lunch.

Mum had stopped making sandwiches for me the week before when I told her that I was getting food at school. I obviously hadn’t expected Reiko to continue preparing me bento after what happened on Friday, and given the revelation about the secret ingredient in her cookies, I wouldn’t have eaten it even if she had been here and offered one to me. Although I must admit, they tasted so good that I would still have been tempted… That left me with whatever was on offer in the canteen, which on the scale of my recent lunches was only slightly preferable to my famous sandwich balls.

“Oi, creep, ‘ave this,” I heard from behind me, as another chicken bone hit me on the shoulder. There was a small splash on the side of my face, and I realised that this bone had been dipped in gravy before being thrown… If only Dan were here then at least we could laugh about it; when I was suffering alone like this, it was just depressing. I decided to give up on lunch before the Year 11s managed to improvise any more improvements to their projectiles.

The residents of the library were less openly hostile, but I still heard them whispering about me, and hypothesising about what terrible thing I could have done to make a girl leave the school. One kid said that she heard I had been taking photos up Reiko’s skirt and selling them online. Another said he heard that I had locked her in the caretaker’s cupboard and made her watch me jerk off. A third kid joined the conversation, saying that he heard that I had offered Reiko a sushi roll, but wrapped in the seaweed was… I tried my best to ignore them and focus on revision.

I found studying difficult at the best of times, and this certainly wasn’t the best of times. While I was researching my dad’s notebooks, I was able to focus for hours at a time, poring through all sorts of different topics and collating my thoughts. I guess that’s because I was motivated: there was a point to what I was learning, it was to solve a mystery, get closer to my dad, and would be useful for the rest of my life. But when I was trying to memorise stuff just for the sake of regurgitating it on an exam, only to forget it all afterwards, I really struggled. Usually I would put on music to help me focus, but earphones were forbidden in the library, so all I had was the sound of other kids chatting shit about me. In short, the conditions for learning were far from ideal.

Still, I managed to survive until the bell rang to signify the end of school. I left the library and made my way towards Miss Byrne’s biology classroom, praying that I could get there without incident and be done with this crappy day. I must not have been praying hard enough.

Cameron came into view as I turned the corner and started down the corridor approaching the science department. At first I thought it was an unfortunate coincidence, and I intended to just keep walking past without acknowledging him. As I got closer, I saw that he was facing directly towards me, with a group of other kids standing around him, almost forming a wall blocking off the corridor. I turned around, intending to go back the way I came and take a longer route to the science department. Six guys from my year, including a couple from my own form, were standing there, blocking my way back. It was clear that this wasn’t just a coincidence.

I turned back to face Cameron, and he walked closer to me, entourage following. This did not look good.

“Hey James, we’ve been waiting for you to finish in the library. Studying hard?” Cameron was smiling, addressing me like he would any other student. He was clearly in his Head Boy mode for the benefit of the onlookers.

I didn’t answer. We both knew that he didn’t give a damn about my studying habits.

The group had closed in, forming a small circle around Cameron and myself. They had left enough space in the corridor for others to pass by, and at a glance, it would just seem like a bunch of friends making plans. Usually if there was even a whiff of a confrontation happening in school, kids would immediately appear and start chanting “FIGHT”, thereby alerting the teachers who would come to stop it. Cameron and his friends were smarter than that, which was somewhat surprising given that most of them looked like they were from the rugby team.

“Don’t look so nervous!” Cameron laughed. “We just want to have a chat with you. To find out what happened to the little Japanese girl you’ve been hanging around with. You see, it doesn’t look good when an exchange student leaves the school after only a week of being here. Makes it seem like our school is a bad place, filled with bad people. But that’s not true, is it, James?”

“No,” I replied, trying not to sound flustered.

“Exactly! Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few bad people here. Do you think one of those bad people could have done something to Reiko? Something to suddenly make her leave the school, without even saying goodbye?”

“I don’t know.”

“Really?” Cameron feigned surprise. “But I thought you were friends with her, Jamesu-san. You seemed pretty close when I last spoke to you both. And I heard that you’ve been disappearing together at lunch. You’re telling me that you kept little Reiko all to yourself last week, but you still don’t know why she left?”

“Cameron, please,” I could hear the desperation creeping into my voice. I knew there was no way for this to end well. “I have detention. I need to go.”

“Wow, detention! I didn’t know you were such a troublemaker, James!” Cameron’s friends sneered. “You can go once you answer my question. Why did Reiko leave?”

“I seriously don’t know. I didn’t do anything to her.”

“What?” Cameron raised his eyebrows. “I never said that you did do anything to her. That seems like a suspicious thing to say, right boys?” He looked towards his friends, who all nodded or muttered in agreement. They were enjoying this, as was Cameron.

I tried to think through my options. I could try to talk my way out of this, although that didn’t look likely. I could make a run for it, trying to push through a weak point in the crowd. But when the guys surrounding me were all rugby players, I knew my chances were poor, and it would only make the violence start sooner. I could scream for help, trying to attract the attention of a passing teacher before one of the guys clamped a hand around my mouth to shut me up. Again though, if it didn’t work, then it would only prompt a physical confrontation. Lacking any better choices, I decided to just wait and see what would happen, and hope that it wouldn’t escalate into a full-blown fight.

“So, James,” Cameron continued. “What did you do to Reiko?”

“I just told you, I didn’t do anything to her.”

A flash of anger passed across Cameron’s face at me answering him back, but he quickly got it under control. “I asked you again, James, because I don’t think you’re telling the full story. Now, don’t make me ask you a third time.”

I realised I had another option. It was a long shot, but maybe I could try telling the truth. It was a desperate measure, but this definitely counted as a desperate time.

“Reiko attacked me,” I blurted out. “She knocked me unconscious on Friday after school, and tied me to a chair. Then someone came in and fought her, and Reiko smashed the window and ran away. She’s probably in hiding. Go check Ms Matthews’s classroom if you don’t believe me. There will still be blood there, and the smashed window.”

Cameron and his cronies stood silently for a moment, apparently in disbelief. Then one of the guys behind me laughed, and the rest of them, Cameron included, joined in.

One of the boys who I didn’t recognise spoke up. “I was in that classroom this morning. There was no smashed window, and no blood.”

“Of course there wasn’t!” Cameron said. “James here is telling a silly story.” He stopped laughing, his expression suddenly deathly serious. He reached out his left hand and grabbed my collar, pulling me into the air so my feet dangled helplessly off the ground. “The problem is, I’m not in the mood for silly stories.”

I watched Cameron close his right hand into a large fist, and I closed my eyes and clenched my jaw, trying to brace myself for the incoming punch.

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!” A piercing cry cut through the air, delivered in a distinctly Irish accent.

It was unmistakably the shout of Miss Byrne. The same ear-splitting bellow that had silenced the overexcited Biology class in our first lesson with her. I fell to the ground with a thud, and opened my eyes to see Cameron clamping his meaty paws to his ears, trying to block out the noise.

A couple of kids forming the perimeter around us dropped to the floor in anguish, giving Miss Byrne an opportunity to step over them and into the circle. She was still wearing her white suit, and when I looked up at her, I thought she looked like a beautiful angel coming to my rescue. A beautiful angel with a gigantic set of boobs.

Miss Byrne extended a slender hand towards me, which I gratefully accepted, and she pulled me up. The softness of her touch started to cause an involuntary reaction in my lower body. I hastily retrieved my bag, which I had dropped when Cameron grabbed me, and held it in front of my crotch.

“Hey, you. Big boy. What is going on here?” Miss Byrne was addressing Cameron, who had removed his hands from his ears but still looked pretty shaken.

“N-nothing, Miss. We were just talking.” Cameron was trying to return to his regular charming Head Boy mode, but I could see that his previous anger and the shock of Miss Byrne’s shout were making it difficult.

“Talking,” Miss Byrne spat, visibly angry. “Talking doesn’t require you to hold another boy by the throat, does it?”

“No, Miss. But-”

“No buts,” Miss Byrne interrupted. She continued speaking at an amazing speed. “What are you, twelve? You might have the body of a 30 year old, but clearly you don’t have the brain to match. What were you thinking, starting a fight here in the middle of the school corridor? And don’t answer that one, it’s rhetorical. Do you understand that word? Rhe-to-ri-cal. I imagine you’ve been hit in the head enough times that big words are a struggle.”

Cameron’s face reddened, a mixture of embarrassment and fury. I watched his fists clench, and I wondered if he would go so far as to hit a teacher. Not just a teacher, but a female one. A small part of me wished that he would, just because it would definitely spell the end of his school career. Even the Head Boy couldn’t get away with something like that.

Miss Byrne turned to the other boys standing around. “And the rest of you, forming a human shield around your boss. Does he make you do that in the showers, too? So that nobody can see how tiny his cock is?”

I blurted out a laugh at this unexpected comment, and watched Cameron’s face grow even redder.

“Miss, t-that’s not appropriate,” he sputtered out.

“No, I’ll tell you what’s not appropriate. The Head Boy and his gang of mates from the rugby club starting fights on school property. Now jog on, before I decide to call your mammy and daddy.”

Cameron stood completely still for a second, and I wondered if he had reached his breaking point. Then he turned, and without saying a word, marched off down the corridor. His cronies glanced at one another uncertainly, and then took off following him.

“Thanks,” I said. “For saving me.” I remembered Friday evening, when I had said those same words. Now I had to find out: was I saying them to the same person?

“No problem.” Miss Byrne smiled widely. “Couldn’t have my little delinquent getting beaten up before he made it to detention. I thought you’d done a runner and came looking for you, so I’m just glad you actually had a good excuse.”

“Miss…” I said hesitantly. “Can we talk?”

“We sure can. And please, when we’re alone, don’t bother about that ‘Miss’ stuff. Just call me Aoife.”