One week later, I was back outside the Costa Coffee by Romeo's school. It was still early enough in the school year to mean the nights drew in quickly. This meant I walked in at 4pm with the lampposts shining their light through the windows of the coffee house.
Romeo was once again already sat at the same table as the week before. Leant back on the small chair, smiling as he sent a text to who-knows-who. It made me desperately hope that he wasn't texting a special someone in his life.
The routine was the same as last time: I walked over, hand in pocket, bag on chair opposite him, coat just so. "What are you having, Romeo?" I asked.
"Erm, can I have a hot chocolate, please?" And with a nod of the head, I walked to the counter.
From here, I could admire him, a little less obvious than when I was sat with him. The jawline that seemed to never end, hidden by his blonde locks; thick and folded to the side furthest from me. The dimples in his cheeks as he smiled at the latest reply from the mystery person on the other end of his messages. The clothes, which seemed to be a perfect mixture of baggy and tight.
Once again, he wore tight Adidas joggers, the grey NorthFace t-shirt allowing the smallest glance at a pair of yellow Calvin Klein boxers. This time, his hoodie was off, in a heap on the window ledge beside him along with his fur-lined coat and school bag.
As he texted the person back, his long fingers effortlessly tapped his phone (one of the latest Apple versions) and then he put it back on the table, face down.
That's when my heart nearly missed a beat; stretching up, his chair leaning back onto two legs, the t-shirt rode higher and higher, revealing a huge sag and then some hairless, toned abs.
"Sir? Sir?" The tap on the shoulder brought me back to this world. "Sorry Sir, your drinks are ready?" The young lady looked concerned as she passed the tray over.
"Oh… Of course. Thank you." I finally responded. Digging into my pocket, I flicked an extra pound coin into the tip jar before walking across the café floor, back to Romeo.
"One Latte," I said, keeping my eyes down at the job in hand. "And one hot chocolate."
"Thank you" He muttered, sliding his bum to the back of the seat and leaning forward to take a tentative slurp of his drink. Meanwhile, I was turned around to slip my silenced phone into my coat pocket. When I turned around, I could see his lips millimetres from the – I imagined – burning how liquid.
"Careful it may be……"
"Hot! You okay, there, Rome?"
Touching his top lip, he nodded "Yeah, I……I should be okay" He nodded again and then chuckled "Literally, I'd be that kid who'd touch the wall that said wet paint"
I laughed, too, shaking my head "Deary me. Well, if you're ready, let's start with our first lesson. Do you have some work for me to look at?"
Romeo went into his bag on the window ledge, digging into it and bringing out two books. One was the purple book from last time, the other had written on the front:
He opened them, both contained a worksheet. At that moment, the lightbulb on his phone flashed once, twice, three times. Instinctively, he reached out to get it. I pounced
"That might be your girlfriend, Romeo, but I am giving you 30 years of teaching experience for free. You'll have plenty of time to talk to her later. Put it somewhere you won't be tempted by it"
Almost as soon as I said 'girlfriend' the red flush grew across Rome's face, only continuing with more shades of red as I gently but firmly reprimanded him. "Phone in pocket" he muttered "And. And no girlfriend, Sir. Just a mate" Phew. Good.
"Okay, but the fact still stands; phone away, Rome" and he dutifully patted his pocket.
It was obvious what my job was with Romeo. He was a bright boy, easily a B+ if not an A- student. What I had to do was polish the rough edges to create an A+ or A* student from the great foundations of his natural talent.
Over the 90 minutes, we started the process of doing just that.
"Fantastic work, here, Rome. If you keep this up, you'll be top of your year"
"Yeah?" He asked, a half-smile and cocked head showing a mix of awe, embarrassment and scepticism on his handsome, young face.
The shop workers were starting to clean around us. A sure sign that they wanted us out of the way
"Sure! Come on, though, these workers want to get home" I chuckled, grabbing my coat and notepad.
Arms up, t-shirt riding up, hoodie sliding them all away, I tried to look away as Romeo got himself ready for the outside world again as his coat was slid on and finally his bag was put onto his back.
Back outside, Romeo plonked himself down on one of the pillers that stopped cars coming near the coffee house entrance "Wait, isn't that extremely cold?" I quickly asked
"What? No, its fine" He smiled, those dimples coming out again. Meanwhile, the shutters of the Costa Coffee came down. We really had outstayed our welcome!
"Well…..if you're sure. Anyway, the point I was trying to say is that I used to mark exams for a living. Even by those old standards, you are a high-performing student. With my help, we can easily get you to the top of your class, if not your year!"
I couldn't help but laugh; both from the cold and from my enthusiasm. This boy, this beautiful, beautiful boy had it all going for him and I could help him through a small but important part of his life. I was absolutely loving life.
And then, the most beautiful thing happened. He laughed too, stretching his arms again, reaching under his unzipped coat and zipless hoodie to scratch his stomach, revealing those boxers again (was that a bulge?) and shook his head, looking down the road where I looked too.
A car had pulled up in the car park about 20 meters away from us. Metallic black. A quick flash and then a vibration from Romeo's jogger's pocket.
"Yo….Erm" he mumbled, his voice an octave lower, the hand going from his stomach, down his boxers "I've got to go. Erm….see you next week?" He mumbled and, before I could say another word, he walked down to the new car and into the front passenger seat.
I was confused and a bit hurt. Who on earth had that been? Did I even want to know?
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