XXXVII - Suspicious ex

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[RECAP: Juliet and Carl Spencer are gradually growing closer as she attends his church and attempts to wear down his defences]

The memory of the kiss had to last her all week. Juliet had secretly hoped that Mr Spencer might ask her to stay after class and repeat it but he remained perfectly professional.

It just made her burn up inside even more.

She couldn't wait until the following weekend so she could get to see him outside school again. Carl. She had to keep reminding herself she could call him that now.

But it was hard, because he had to be Mr Spencer in the classroom.

"I can't believe you're this excited to go to church," Margot said. "It's like you're living in some kind of weird parallel dimension."

Since Paris, Juliet had been living in another reality. Her entire world was upturned. She was dizzily crazy about a guy who was holding her at arm's length. He seemed to have so much more control than she did which only intensified her own desire for him.

Band practice was the best escape from the chaos in her mind. Singing gave Juliet focus. Her bandmates were completely disconnected from school, there was nothing to remind her of Mr Spencer when she was with them.

Their sound was really starting to come together. Juliet had thought they sounded okay a couple of months back when they first performed, but it was only now that she realised how much better they could have been. Before, everyone was consciously trying to fit together. Now it was seamless.

Jax and Drew were managing other things behind the scenes too. Juliet had initially thought of it as a hobby, just fun, but Jax in particular was deadly serious. This was his life. He had a day job, as did the drummer and the bassist. Drew and the other guitarist were both college students.

Juliet hadn't paid a lot of attention to what was going on with the management of the band but there was starting to be talk of demos and even a video. Drew had a friend who was a videographer, Jax knew someone who worked in a recording studio. The drummer knew someone who had recording equipment in their basement which might be even cheaper.

It was all favours and freebies and grabbing what they could get, but there was the increasing sense that something was happening. Juliet simply tried to focus on her singing. There was too much other stuff going on in her life to think about more complications. If they started getting more bookings it would only be trickier to hide it from Aunt Mary.

And she had something far bigger to hide from her aunt: that she was becoming involved with her teacher.

* * *

Rebecca. Of all the people Juliet had hoped never to be confronted by, there she was at church. Not actually touching Carl, but all over him in every other sense of the word.

Juliet couldn't help herself analysing Carl's ex-fiancée, trying to figure out what he might have seen in her. She had to admit that Rebecca wasn't unattractive, just kind of severe and serious looking. Her hair was neatly plaited into a braid and she wore a navy cardigan over a long navy skirt.

But Rebecca's face lost any pleasantness when Carl extricated himself and came to meet Juliet at the door. Any smiles were replaced with suspicion and hostility. Of course she put on her fake charm when Juliet was introduced to her but Juliet could clearly see through it.

"I do remember you, you're Carl's student. How interesting that you should start attending the same church," Rebecca said.

Juliet was going to mumble something about exploring her spirituality again but Carl cut in. "Juliet's actually here as my guest," he told his ex-fiancée.

Juliet was shocked that he would admit this. So was Rebecca.

"Really? I shouldn't imagine a Catholic school would approve of you inviting students to another church."

Before Carl could reply Juliet was relieved to see Dan and Jenny arriving. Jenny greeted Juliet warmly and Rebecca raised her eyebrows and looked even more displeased.

Members of the congregation started to move towards their seats. "I guess we should go and take our places," Rebecca said, addressing Carl directly to cut Juliet out. She clearly meant "we" as him and her.

But Carl took his own lead, turning to Juliet. "Let's go and sit down," he said to her, ignoring Rebecca.

Rebecca's eyes narrowed but before she could react, Jenny jumped into to save the situation. "You'll sit with us, won't you Rebecca?" Somehow Jenny managed to usher the furious woman off with her and Dan. Carl cast her a grateful look.

Juliet couldn't bring herself to look at the other woman so kept her eyes down and followed Carl to a row.

"I'm sorry," Carl said. "I should have anticipated that it might be awkward if she came."

"It's not your fault," Juliet told him. She felt bad that her own presence was causing so much disharmony, in a place of faith.

* * *

Carl wanted to avoid Rebecca and he also wanted to invite Juliet back. He had been postponing the invitation, still conflicted on how appropriate it would be.

He also wasn't entirely sure how long his self-control would last. It would be a battle.

But the prospect of enduring tea and stilted conversation with Rebecca was worse. She was clearly suspicious about his friendship with his student, as Jenny had warned him would be the case.

So as they started to file out of their seats, he whispered to Juliet: "would you like to get pizza?"

Surprise and delight showed on her face. "I'd love to."

Carl guided her straight to the door, he didn't even want to stop for a drink and chat with friends.

"Leaving already?" It was Rebecca, trying to corner him by the door.

"Yes, I have to drive Juliet," Carl said. He omitted the word "home" so it wasn't technically a lie.

Rebecca gave Juliet a patronising smile. "I expect you have to get back early, what with school tomorrow," she said.

"Something like that," Juliet said. She tried to be polite but she wanted to kick Rebecca.

Carl wished Rebecca goodnight and he and Juliet left. As before he opened the car door for her. They set off, turning towards his place rather than Aunt Mary's house this time. It was a drive into the unknown for both of them.

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