Ha! Simple-minded and not remotely natural. The kids he knew were ignorant idiots who valued
nothing except junk food, porn videos and sex with their unwholesome, loud and vulgar classmates.
His mind was made up and his parents would have to accept that he was not going back to that
school next year. Although he might enjoy one more week so he could pretend the walk home in his
birthday suit had been fun, making their stupid joke fall flat.
A soft cough made him look into the shadows. Bloody Raylene must have come back! Probably
felt sorry and brought back his clothes. A pity; he’d been looking forward to sneaking home naked.
He ought to drag the bird-brained bitch into the water and drown her. Determined to ignore her he
turned his back and began walking down to the river when a cultivated voice called politely, ‘Zeno!
May I come over?’
He knew that voice! Ms Nimffo! What the fuck was she doing there? And how did she know
who he was in the dark?
‘Don’t be shy,’ she said in a singsong baby voice as if talking to an idiot.
That did it. One thing Zeno wasn’t was shy, so he wandered casually over and stood
unnecessarily close, hands on hips, towering over his diminutive History teacher who, in the detail-
obscuring moonlight, appeared a decade younger than her twenty-eight years.
‘I live a little way up the road,’ she explained, placing a tiny hand on Zeno’s arm as if worried
she might frighten the wild young thing away. ‘Every evening I walk past here for exercise and
fresh air. Tonight as I was returning I heard shouts, then saw all those flashlights. Imagining it was
hooligans I remained hidden but saw and heard everything, then waited till they drove away leaving
It didn’t occur to Zeno to wonder what she’d been doing since the cars took off, instead he
smiled and said it didn’t worry him, he’d walk home.
‘How resourceful of you,’ Adele Nimffo said with not even a hint of scepticism. ‘Perhaps you’d
accept a little nourishment before you set off? Coffee and a sandwich perhaps? And something with
which to gird your loins? I can’t imagine you want to walk home like that.’
‘Wouldn’t worry me,’ he boasted. ‘There’s no need to look after me, I’m OK, honestly. Anyway,
I thought single teachers weren’t allowed to invite pupils home?’
‘Teachers don’t usually find themselves on a deserted river bank in the moonlight with a naked
and handsome young student,’ she said with a light laugh. ‘Come on.’ She hoisted a small pack
onto her shoulder and led the way along the track to the main road, across it and down a short
gravel road past a row of old fishermen’s huts set high on stumps in case of flooding. Over the
years they’d been renovated and were now desirable properties. The hum of air conditioners and
television soaps floated on the hot night air. Teacher and pupil seemed to be the only people abroad
as he followed her along a path enclosed by dense shrubbery and up five steps to a small entrance
hall where she kicked off her sandals, then through to a tiny sitting room with polished wooden
floors, a full bookcase, two comfortable armchairs and a computer desk. No television set.
With no mention of his nudity, nor any offer of the means to cover himself, Adele Nimffo tossed
her backpack onto a chair and disappeared through a doorway.
‘What would you like on your sandwiches?’ she asked as he followed her into a cramped but
sparkling kitchen in which an antique gas oven at least as old as the house occupied the extension
that had once held an old wood burner. After placing every possible ingredient on the spotless
bench and putting the espresso coffee maker on the gas she turned to face him. The space was so
small they were almost touching. She was wearing only a halter bra and abbreviated shorts. Zeno
could sense the warmth of her skin and the first twinges of an erection announced themselves.
‘I need freshening up, so while I’m showering you make yourself something to eat.’
Relieved that she hadn’t noticed his arousal, Zeno made a thick sandwich of ham, mayonnaise
and tomatoes and had just turned off the coffee when there was a loud bang and a cry from the other
side of the house. He raced towards the sound and pushed open the door. Ms Nimffo was on the
bathroom floor jammed between the toilet and the shower, head at an odd angle, legs spread, her
right hand scrabbling at the edge of the vanity unit in a vain effort to regain her feet.
‘Oh…’ she wailed. ‘My head.’