Chapter Eleven

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         A text from Deelie when Connie got home that evening informed her that the first meeting of the Oakham Hall Polo Club Centenary Ball Committee would be at 7pm on Thursday that week at the Hall. Seeing the length of the agenda Deelie had attached to the text, Connie realised there was no way she would have time for school work that evening so resolved to stay in her classroom at lunchtime the next day to get on top of her marking.

       Half an hour into the lunch break, there was a tap on the door and Em popped her head into the room.

"Hey, babe!"

"Oh, hi Em," said Connie.

"You not eating again, today?" Em asked. "That's like two days in a row. Hope you're not avoiding me or something?"

Unusually, she didn't look like she was joking.

"Nothing like that," smiled Connie.

"My friend, Deelie, conned me into being on the organising committee for a Christmas ball and we've got the first meeting tonight so I won't have time for marking when I get home. I'm starving actually."

"You're probably pleased I brought this then," Em waved the ham salad baguette she held in her hand.

"Is that for me? You're a life-saver!" said Connie.

"I won't disturb you now," continued Em, "but I could do with a chat".

Connie frowned, feeling slightly unnerved by Em's uncharacteristically serious tone.

"Everything okay?"

"Yes! I just wanted to talk about our pact to keep each other away from colleagues," explained Em.

"Oh that!"

Connie felt the heat in her cheeks as, with a twist of excitement, she recalled the almost kiss with a particular colleague following the parents evening; the burn of Matt's touch on her back, his stubble rough against the delicate skin of her lips. Connie shook away the images crowding her head. Surely Em didn't know about that?

"Has something happened?" she asked, keeping her tone neutral.

"I'm not sure," said Em, "but I'd rather have your full attention."

She eyed the pile of exercise books on Connie's desk.

"Can you do lunch tomorrow? We could pop out to the café by the park?"

"Sure," said Connie, "I'd like that."

She smiled at Em.

"Sorry about this," she indicated the pile of marking with a nod.

"No sweat," grinned Em. "Occupational hazard. See you tomorrow, babe."

"Thanks for the sandwich," said Connie to Em's departing back.

                Matt had been carrying Connie around in his head since the parents evening. The fragrance she'd been wearing, not unlike the smell of the freshly cut flowers Maggie always had in the house, had been playing on the edge of his consciousness, filling him with an ache that was discovery and loss all at once. He wanted to go to the local chemist and hunt down a bottle for himself but knew it would be a pointless activity; without the sweetness of her skin to warm it, it would just be perfume. With a now familiar jolt, he remembered the sensation of holding her close. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to have slid his arm more firmly around her, to pull her body into his, to turn his head just a centimetre more. He wasn't going to pretend to himself that wasn't what he'd wanted to do and he was pretty certain she wouldn't have offered up much resistance. The way her eyes had locked with his, her pulse beating visibly at the base of her throat.

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