NOTE: This story involves a relationship between an almost 18-year-old student and her teacher. Things are not as bad as what they seem... But for the record... I DO NOT promote romantic relationships between students and teachers... this is just a 'what if' scenario.

IF you are experiencing a questionable relationship with a teacher, do the smart thing and BACK OFF at LEAST until after you graduate high school.

Thank you.

Jen

Ok, this story will strike some as a bit odd, but the pieces will fit together eventually. Though the mystery runs throughout, John winds up needing help- Will Diana step up to the plate then?

PROLOGUE (Not a prologue as much as it is a teaser)

Fear of memories, fear of fear

Fear of red eyes glaring there

Fear of guilt, fear of night

Fear for Pearl, fear for right

Fear of leaving, fear of staying

Fear of losing, fear of gaining

Fear of letting go, fear of holding on

Fear of time as it marches on

Fear of memories, fear of doubt

Fear that love… will just run out

-Diana Hawthorne

A thick hand reached out in front of her, and she thought she'd vomit on the black dress shoes she spotted beside her desk. Mr. Carpenter lifted the notebook, and Diana bit her lip while awaiting his chastisement.

He leaned over slightly, asking in a hushed tone, "Miss Hawthorne, we're studying Trigonometry. Why are you writing depressing poetry?"

She found the courage to look up. He was studying her over his glasses like an old man. But old he was not. He was young and sharp-looking, his sky blue eyes piercing straight through her… studying her confused, morbid, lost soul.

Lost? I'm not lost.

She lowered her pencil, directing her scowl toward the blackboard. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Mr. Carpenter ripping out, folding and pocketing her paper. "You'll get this back after class," he said, and then headed back to the front of the room to continue his instructions. He seemed to be a melancholic, serious and analytical, and she sometimes wondered if he ever smiled.

She was a sanguine, like Kayla. But not now. The Melancholy Monster had chased the sanguine away.

OOOOO

Diana fingered the bandage under the sleeve of her dress. She didn't know how many times she'd had her blood tested while in the hospital, but thankfully the nightly blood draws had died down in the past couple of weeks.

Here she was, out for the weekend, thanks to her aunt, and there was only one person she was dying to see, and she knew exactly where he was tonight- The Victorian Christmas party. Every year, the school hosted a different themed holiday party, and this year, they'd taken it upscale with the Victorian theme. Students were expected to come dressed in the proper attire, but Diana hadn't enough time to find a Victorian gown. Instead, she wore the gown she'd chosen for last Spring's formal dance. Who cared if she looked a little out of place? After everything she'd been going through, that was the least of her worries.

Joanna dropped her off promptly at seven, announcing as Diana opened the car door, "I have to go show a house, among other things, so see if Kayla can give you a ride home, OK?"

Had it not been for Diana's black-out episodes, she would have been able to drive herself; but not if Jo was going to hog the car all night. "Ok," Diana said, bending over the passenger seat to collect her handbag and wave goodbye to her aunt.

She pulled her coat close as the wind beat sharply against her petite frame. The entrance to the dance was at the other end of the building, but as usual, Diana preferred to go in the back way. That way she didn't draw too much attention, and God knew she'd had her share of unwanted attention!!

Down the empty, silent corridors she walked, passing the office and spying a few teachers chatting over the front desk. Around the next corner to the right, and there was a conspicuous entrance to the gym. She paused, closed her eyes, feeling the classical music dance into her soul, giving her troubled spirits a momentary lift. It wasn't likely the other students found this music as soothing or fascinating as she did.

She hung her coat on the nearby rack, smoothed her white gown that hugged her hourglass figure a little too dangerously, and placed her hand on the doorknob.

"Diana?"

His voice had the same effect on her insides as the music. He'd been tutoring her three days a week since she'd been in the hospital, and there was no other teacher in the world she'd rather have doing it.

She turned slowly, meeting Mr. Carpenter's wide-eyed, warm gaze that traveled from her stylish updo, down to her figure and up to her eyes. He looked strikingly handsome, wearing a black tux- apparently he'd no Victorian garb, either- and his glasses were absent. What did he do, buy contacts?

She cleared her throat. "Hi."

He took slow, casual steps in her direction while his hands rested in his pockets. The small cove in which they stood housed a few vending machines- apparently he'd been standing to the side of them so that she hadn't noticed him as she'd walked past.

When he stopped about a foot away from her, she noticed the bobbing of his Adam's Apple. "Wow," he said.

Wow? Was that all? She pursed her lips. She and her hunky, though overly serious, teacher had begun to loosen up during their tutorial sessions; but the awkwardness between them now was so thick she thought she could slice it with- Oh. That thought made her wrist throb, and nearly destroyed the moment. How could she not remember doing what she'd done? She'd lie awake many nights trying to solve that puzzle… and it always came back to that one, looming fear…No matter what the doctors or the pastor or Father Davies said, she had to wonder if, at least briefly, someone else had been at the controls that night.

She shivered, hugging herself. Relax. Don't give in to fear… don't give in to fear…

Mr. Carpenter shook his head in what appeared to be awestruck amazement. "You don't look like you belong at a high school Christmas dance, Diana Hawthorne."

Heat filled her cheeks. "This is the only gown I had. We don't keep Victorian clothes lying around the house," she teased. "And I got out of the hospital too late today to go shopping, so…"

"That's not what I meant." His soft frown could only be described as sexy. "I mean that you're so outlandishly beautiful."

Oh. He'd never vocalized his admiration of her before tonight, but she'd read it in his expressions. Hearing it brought a flood of goose bumps down her arms and back.

If anyone else had said what he'd just said, she'd feel like storming away in fury. Her beauty was a curse, as the past few months had proven, and the only way she could think to end her nightmares- short of mutilating herself- was to join the nunnery. Tonight the nun idea held very little appeal, as she held Mr. Carpenter's startling, sky blue eyes with her own.

OOO

K, this last scene at the Victorian party will appear later in the story but it won't be written exactly the same. Some of the details are of course unchangeable but I had to be careful not to divulge too much here while at the same time giving you a taste of the blossoming romance. Just so you know, Diana is a month away from 18 years old, and John Carpenter is 25. :-)