Chapter 14:


The Wizard's Virginity

Hayley didn’t try to wake me up the next morning. I still heard her stomping around downstairs, but she didn’t come barging into my room, or even shout up to me. I guessed that she was still upset about me being mean to her yesterday.

I checked my phone but hadn’t heard back from Dan yet. I had hoped that he’d reply to tell me he would be back at school today, so that I wouldn’t have to face it alone. I was also just interested to see how he would reply. I couldn’t have blamed him if he thought my message was a joke. After all, he’d only been off school a week, and in that time I had nearly lost my virginity twice, to two different women. It certainly sounded like a joke.

By the time I got showered and dressed, Hayley had already left. As I did my usual breakfast any percent speedrun, Mum sat down opposite me.

“You really upset your sister yesterday.”

She seemed to be waiting for me to respond, but I just kept shovelling Frosties into my mouth.

“She was so excited to show you her art project,” Mum continued, uncharacteristically serious. “She’s been working on it for weeks and finally got to bring it home. Then you couldn’t even spare two minutes to look at it.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, and put down my spoon. “I didn’t mean to be such a dick. But… I’ve been having a hard time at school. I’ve not been in a great place.”

Mum reached out a hand and put it on mine. “I guessed as much. You seemed to be in a good mood last week, but then you came home late on Friday, and since then we’ve barely seen you.”

Damn, I didn’t know Mum had been analysing my behaviour so closely.

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” she asked.

I wanted to. I wanted to share all this insanity with someone else. To get advice, or even just to spill out all my feelings rather than keeping them inside. My fear, my loneliness, my anger. And also my excitement, my sense of vindication that I had been right about magic all along. So much stuff had been building up in my head.

But… No. I couldn’t tell Mum about any of this. She was the one who had removed any trace of Dad from the house after his death. I had kept the notebooks secret from her for all these years. I didn’t know how she’d react if I now told her that I had saved them, and had secretly been planning to become a wizard. Even if I didn’t tell her that much, and just told her a little about what had been happening, it would naturally lead to more questions. In my current state, I didn’t trust myself to stop talking at the right point. So better to just not start talking at all.

“No, it’s all fine now. Thanks.” I pulled my hand away from hers, got up, and deposited my half eaten bowl of cereal in the sink.

I sprinted upstairs to get my bag and noticed that Hayley’s bedroom door was open. This was pretty normal, as Hayley had no concern for anyone’s privacy, including her own. I wondered if that would change soon as she entered her teenage years.

Driven by guilt, I suppose, I stuck my head around her door to look for her art project. Sure enough, propped in front of her wardrobe was the canvas I had seen her holding yesterday. It was positioned with its back facing out, so I had to pick it up and turn it around to see what was painted there.

I was so shocked I nearly dropped it. I felt as though I had been transported back in time. To seven years ago, before Dad had died.

Painted on the canvas were a set of dancing animals. Something that would appear innocuous to anyone else. Just a silly child’s painting. But to me, it was mind-blowing.

These were the same animals that I used to watch dance every night as a young child. The ones that Dad had painted on the wall of my bedroom. I thought that Hayley would have been too young to remember them, but whether consciously or not, she had recreated them almost perfectly on the canvas. There was the zebra on its hind legs, its teeth bared in a cheeky smirk. The lion waggling its bum. The ring-tailed lemur doing the can-can.

Of course, on this canvas, the animals weren’t actually moving, as I was sure they had done on my bedroom wall all those years ago. Aside from that though, they were almost exactly as I remembered them. The memories came flooding back, of me and Hayley sat in my room watching them dance together, and talking about which animal we would ask Dad to add when he next had time. Even with the five year age difference, we used to get on so well.

I realised that I was crying. I quickly returned the painting to its place next to the wardrobe, and wiped my eyes with my sleeve. I shouldn’t think too much about this stuff. I’d had a tough few days and my weird dreams were messing up my sleep, so it made sense for me to be more emotional than usual. Still, I resolved that when I saw Hayley that evening, I would apologise to her, and I would make time to sit with her and look at her painting together.


When I boarded the bus, the first thing I noticed was that the noise levels were much lower than usual. I initially thought that this was a stunned silence at my arrival, given that I expected everyone to be gossiping about my rendezvous with the sexy Biology teacher. By the time I reached my seat, however, I realised that it wasn’t that at all. People were talking to each other as usual, and some were talking about me and Reiko. The reason for the lower volume was that Lawrence, usually an immutable source of constant noise, was completely silent.

I turned to look at him sitting on the back row of the bus, only to find him staring back at me intensely. I couldn’t tell what he was thinking. It was so unusual to see him with his mouth closed that it was hard to tell what his expression was, but at the very least, I could tell he wasn’t smiling. Was he angry at me? I had never seen Lawrence be anything other than an anime and girl-obsessed class clown, so it was difficult to imagine him being angry. Then again, I had allegedly been responsible for Reiko, his ‘beautiful tenshi’, leaving the school. And to add insult to injury, he had apparently come to Miss Byrne’s classroom yesterday hoping to woo her, and instead found me getting intimate with her… Perhaps depriving Lawrence of two potential love interests was enough to finally make him snap.

I faced forward in my seat again. Lawrence seemed content for the moment to just silently stare at me, which was at least preferable to trying to fight me or shout insults at me.

I listened to the conversations of the rest of the bus. The same as before: some more speculation about what horrible, perverted thing I could have done to make Reiko go back to Japan, but that was it. No mention at all of Miss Byrne. Lawrence must have kept that quiet, which was good, but… It worried me as well. It was so unlike Lawrence to keep any piece of information to himself, let alone something as juicy as finding a teacher in her underwear snogging one of his classmates, that it made me wonder what he was planning.

I didn’t have to wonder for long.

Just as the bus entered the school gates, I felt a firm grip on my shoulder.

“James, we need to talk.” Lawrence’s voice was as serious as his expression.

I saw that some of the other kids on the bus were similarly taken aback by this change in attitude.

“Yo, Lawrence is gonna kick James’s arse for scaring away Reiko-chan!” one of them said.

“No,” Lawrence addressed them calmly. “I just need to talk to him.”

His denial didn’t do much to assuage my concerns. Lawrence was always just a silly guy, so I had never really considered it before, but he was a big lad. If he wanted to, I was sure that he could easily beat me up.

We got off the bus, and I was gratified when rather than taking me somewhere completely secluded, Lawrence just suggested that we stand in a quiet corner of the playground. That meant that at least if he did start pummeling me, it wouldn’t take long for a teacher to notice and intervene. Even so, it would be best to try and calm down the situation before it got to that point.

“So, Lawrence,” I started to say, “let me explain about yesterday. You see, I was in detention, and then it got really hot in the classroom, so Miss Byrne took some clothes off. Then I started choking on a fish bone, so she was trying to give me mouth-to-mouth, and then-”

Lawrence held up a hand. “It’s okay, man. You don’t need to explain. I understand everything.”

“Um, what exactly do you understand?”

He looked me deep in the eyes. “I understand that you, James Light, are… A master of women!”


“Seriously dude!” All the vigour was back in Lawrence’s voice, and his eyes lit up with excitement. “I saw how much you were hanging out with Reiko, she was all over you, man. And then Miss Byrne, getting jiggy with you in a classroom. Like, if I hadn’t seen it myself I wouldn’t have believed it! After you left she told me all about you two.”

“She… did?”

“Yeah, man. That the two of you have been having an affair, forbidden love and all that shiz. But don’t worry dude, your secret’s safe with me. I just want one thing in exchange…”

Lawrence suddenly collapsed, and I thought at first that he had passed out. Then I realised that he was crouching on the floor, his head to the ground, in the style of a Japanese salaryman apologising to his boss.

“Please,” he said. “Shishou, take me on as your student and teach me about women!”

Shishou?” I asked.

Lawrence looked up at me, beaming. “It means ‘Master’, like a teacher in the art of the blade. But your knowledge is so much more powerful than that! You know, I always thought that being known as a creep and hating on women would hurt your chances with girls, but man, I guess I underestimated the appeal of the ‘bad boy’!”

While I was still trying to think of an appropriate response to the boy kneeling on the ground before me, a sudden screech filled my head. I crouched to the ground myself, clamping my hands over my ears, trying and failing to block out the sound.

“Yo Shishou, are you okay?” Apparently Lawrence wasn’t affected by the noise, and a quick glance around the playground suggested that nobody else could hear it, either. Why was only I affected?

“JAMES.” The sound echoed in my ears again, but rather than just being a screech, this time I could understand it as my name. It was Aoife’s voice, and she sounded distressed. “Get to the old building, now!”

I got to my feet, giving another glance around me, and confirming that Aoife was nowhere in sight. I realised that this must be a new type of voice magic: making a noise from a distance, and targeting it only at a specific person. A pretty useful power, especially if you needed to call for help. Which is what I assumed she must be doing right now, given her initial screech and urgent tone of voice. Although why she would be calling me for help, I didn’t know.

“Sorry Lawrence, gotta go,” I said, before sprinting off in the direction of the old building.

“No worries, Shishou,” he shouted after me. “We can have our first lesson some other time!”