It was a Wednesday afternoon when she walked into my life and changed everything.
Later, I'd look back on that day time and time again and wonder why I didn't just let her pass me by. Pretend like I was deep in conversation or something and let her go sit with the skanks or the nerds or the guffawing rugby boys. She would've fit in with any of them. 'Hi guys, how's my hairstyle? That guy's pretty cute, isn't he? Did you see Orlando Bloom in that movie the other night? Like oh my god!' or 'Hey, do you know what I got this weekend? A brand spanking new 3 GHZ Pentium with cable internet!' or 'Hi boys, wasn't that Crusaders v Hurricanes game like totally amazing?' She has this incredible knack of fitting in with anything. Not that she's a conformist - in fact she's just the opposite. But I didn't know any of that then.
English class. The year wearing down, and we were all fully aware of the exams drawing precariously close. For Nick and I, the stakes were a little higher - we were both sitting three scholarship exams, tough beasts that would need to be pummelled whereas regular NCEA exams could just be bitch-slapped. Neither of us were quite sure why we'd decided to put ourselves though the torture, but it seemed in the end to be in some odd way subverting the system that aimed for universal mediocrity by achieving and standing out. Makes very little sense unless you're actually embroiled in the whole NCEA fiasco.
Regardless of all this, our English class had somehow become involved in a conversation about sex. Again. A common enough occurrence when you bring together a bunch of hormone-ridden and not particularly mature seventeen-year-olds and the most liberal teacher in the school. She'd just sit calmly, let us discuss things. Eventually, she'd bring us back to the book or film or whatever and we'd realise we suddenly understood it. It was quite miraculous really.
'Did anyone see that movie in the weekend? There were two chicks kissing, and I was like fuck yeah!' bellowed Matt, a rugby boy with enough beef to feed several Third World countries.
'I think it's disgusting!' shrieked Suzy, who is possibly the shrillest, dumbest and most annoying girl I've ever encountered. 'I mean like, hello? How could you go for another girl when there's so many hot guys out there. Like you, Matt!' She shot him what she probably thought was a flirtatious smile, but somehow managed to make even that look stupid and annoying.
'You know what would be hot, Suzy? If you pashed Jane!' said Matt, pointing at Jane, a small, quiet girl who huddled in the front row looking terrified and jumped when anyone tried to talk to her. Jane immediately burst out crying. Matt laughed oafishly and slapped palms with his mates.
At this, She walked in.
I've been attracted to many, many girls in this pubescent hurricane, but never as strongly and instantaneously as that day. I fell for her, fast and hard and to this day I can't explain why. It wasn't love at first sight - it was more primal than that. Sort of a mixture between sharp lust and the days of endless longing stretched out when you're off on school holidays without your crush, but compressed into this one moment. It reminded me of the vicious pounding of the heart when I'd first crushed on a girl, but it was more mature than that, stronger somehow, more definite. But the same lack of cynicism.
It wasn't that she had stunning supermodel looks. Most of the guys didn't give her a second glance. There was a faintly dykey energy about her, despite her femininity. Blonde hair, shortish, cut to just above her shoulders. Facial features that surely obeyed all the rules of proportion. Straight nose, eyes somewhere between blue and green. Her build combined the slight bulk of an athlete with an entirely feminine softness around the hips. I suppose it was the little things that really attracted me to her; the way her full lips curved into a slight smile that seemed to be a million things at once - intelligent, friendly, knowing, seductive, entirely comfortable. The way an unruly strip of hair loosed itself and partially obscured one eye. The way she wore her uniform, vaguely non-conformist with the tie knotted loosely, baggy, slightly mannish black pants contrasting the shape of her long-sleeve white shirt, cuffs pulled back a little. The way she stood at the door, not in the slightest bit awkward, observing everyone.
'Did you check out the new exemplar on the internet? They've got some extra questions up for the Roman art part of scholarship classics. There was this particularly interesting one about the relief sculpture in...' Nick was talking, I know that much. But exactly what he said I'll never know. When he gets off on an academic tangent he tends to go into his own world and fail to notice that no-one's interested. I was openly staring at this girl, emotions of various sizes catapulting themselves around inside me. Her flickering gaze finally stopped, and I was shocked to find it rested on me. The smile broadened a little, and I returned it, despite the fact I suddenly felt horribly light-headed. Nick, finally realising I wasn't paying any attention, piped up. 'Hey, are you even hearing...' He stopped abruptly when he noticed the girl, drawing his glance quickly between me and her, and grinning astutely.
I've made all this seem like it was a long time, but she'd probably only been standing there a minute or so. Miss Green noticed her and gave her a questioning look.
'Hey. I'll be joining you, if no-one objects,' she said. God, it was crazy. Even her voice was sexy. Everyday Kiwi accent, with a touch of urbaneness and that conspicuous cool awareness that seemed to define her. Speaking with the confidence she did, even the rugby boys were powerless to object to her presence. 'That's great. Choose your clique,' said Miss Green, making a sweeping gesture at the class. 'Why don't you sit with us?' said Nick, 'I think my mate here needs some female influence. She's had way too much of me lately.' At that moment, I loved him even more than I normally do. My emotions came to a head when she sat down next to me and I saw her up close. The eye colour struck me. One minute it was green, the next blue, then a sort of grey. I couldn't quite work it out.
'So, who are you?' asked Miss Green. The girl didn't seem to care that the whole class was now focussed on her. 'Katherine Andrews, I'm in 13BS. As for names, I get the gamut. Kathy, Kath, Kat, Katie, whatever, doesn't worry me. As long as it stops somewhere short of 'Hey you, shithead!'' Miss Green gave her a slightly reprimanding look. 'You know, if I was most teachers I'd be pretty pissed off with that language.'
'Well, I can see you're definitely not most teachers,' said Katherine, and seemed to almost imperceptively check her out. I won't say that didn't disturb me - but in a way I was pleased. Interest in any woman is better than interest in none...
My first words to her were as random as any. 'That eye colour can't be real!' I couldn't resist blurting out, after some rather close examination. She didn't seem to care that I had been staring at her. 'Coloured contacts, honey. Not only do I get to ditch the glasses, but I also to tantalise the boys,' she said, winking. My irony detector started beeping, and its accuracy had never mattered so much. She leant in a little closer to me, smile sparkling, and muttered, 'you realise that by 'boys' I really mean 'girls'.' I felt weak-kneed, despite the fact I was sitting. Just as I was sure I would dissolve into helpless goo, Nick came to the rescue. He'd been sitting, quietly observing.
'I'm Nick, by the way. This is Liz. She's boy-crazy. I swear, I can never get her to shut up about Ben Affleck,' he said, and extended his hand. Katherine shook it briefly, then turned to me. I presented a limp, shaking paw, not entirely sure if I'd live through this. She took it, and for far too long a moment curled long, agile fingers around mine and gave a gentle squeeze. Needless to say, nice hands have instant connotations, and I knew exactly how I'd be spending that night.