St George’s College, Wiltshire
“…and these comfortable expectations that we have when we approach a situation, examples of which are stereotypes or even clichés, fit neatly into predetermined models of said situation. These schemas, as these models are known, vary from person to person, from place to place, but they’re usually fairly similar. For example, when we say ‘going to a restaurant’ our ears hear the words, but our mind jumps straight into a schema; making a reservation, being seated at the table, ordering a drink, looking at the menu, etcetera, etcetera, right the way up to tipping the waiter and taking all the after dinner mints.”
Robert flashed a warm smile across the class. “Now, you’ve heard me drone on for the last hour and a bit, so for the next three quarters of an hour, I want you split up into groups of three or four, take a piece of A3 paper and draw a diagram of a schema for a common event. If you need me, I will be marking your coursework. You have forty five minutes, go.”
He sat down and the buzz of activity filled the room. Victoria immediately turned to her two friends, Rebecca and Graham who were sat either side of her. “So, what happened after you told him that you thought he was cute?”
Rebecca looked over at Graham. “Aren’t we going to need a piece of paper for this?”
“Oh, fine,” he sighed, “see if I care, I never get to hear the good gossip.”
Graham moved off and Victoria and Rebecca moved in closer to each other. “So?”
“Ok,” Rebecca smiled, “so by this time, I’ve finally managed to get rid of all of his friends that were hanging around him. And so I say to him that I think he’s cute, he just smiles and blushes a little before saying that he’s ‘not anything special, not like you.’”
Victoria rolled her eyes, but Rebecca continued, seeming not to notice. “So, then I got this, like, dizzy feeling in my stomach, and it just felt like everything was going right, you know? Well, we talked a little more, and then we kissed even more than that, and we’re going out together on Saturday night.”
“So, why wasn’t I allowed to hear that?” Graham returned, unceremoniously dumping down the large sheet of paper and marker pens onto the table. “From what I did manage to hear, there was nothing too raunchy.”
“Sometimes, a girl just likes to keep things secret.” Victoria said, pulling off the lid from a marker and starting to draw on the paper.
“You two don’t have to keep secrets from me. You can tell me anything, I won’t be shocked or offended, I promise.”
“No, but the trouble is,” Rebecca countered wearily, “is that you tell everyone everything. Now that you’ve heard, the whole college will know by tomorrow morning that I’m dating Freddie.”
“Before you even say it, I’m not a gossip, I’m more of a – ”
“Public information service.” Victoria and Rebecca said in unison causing Graham to frown a little.
“So,” he said eventually, distractedly colouring the corner of the paper in green, “where are you two going?”
“Only to the cinema, I think we’re going to start out kind of slow.”
“Slow?” Graham put down his pen. “You were making out with him before you even went on a date, if that’s slow, I’d hate to see what you’re like when you’re fast.”
“Hey, it wasn’t me that started it, I told him he was cute and then he was all over me like a rash.”
“Are you calling my brother a slut?” Victoria smirked.
“Uh-oh.” Graham grinned at his two friends.
“Well, I mean… you know, all l I mean is, that, you know, he’s passionate.”
“Ooh, nice save by the rookie.” Victoria returned to the project in front of her.
“Well, I for one, don’t believe it.” Graham said capping the lid onto his pen.
“You can’t stop there, if you’re going to graffiti in the corner, you’ll have to do it in them all, at least make it look neat.” Victoria said, moving the paper round to give him another corner.
“What don’t you believe?” Rebecca asked with a frown, as she pulled a small compact mirror from her bag, showing no intention to help.
“That Frederick kissed you.” Graham shrugged. “He’s clearly gay.”
“You think every cute guy is gay.”
“That’s because they all are.”
“Steve wasn’t.” Victoria reminded him.
“Yeah, well, I’m over him.”
“Whatever.” Rebecca said.
“No, really, I have since decided that Steve isn’t cute. That was the day I tried those new contact lenses and I was having trouble focusing.”
“Nothing to do with the fact that he turned you down in the middle of the classroom, then?” Rebecca asked.
“No. So, last night, with Frederick,” Graham changed the subject, “just how far did you get?”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, after the kiss, what happened when he took you home? I mean did he go any further?”
“No, he didn’t.” Rebecca smiled at the memory. “He was a perfect gentlemen.”
“Told you he was gay.”
“I bet he’s really good in bed. “
“Ok, guys,” Victoria spoke up, “it’s getting a little weird for me, now. I’m just about coping with Becky going out with him, I don’t need to see the two of you fighting over him. Besides, I’m not sure, I could ever get used to you going out with him, Graham.”
“Why? Because I’m another man?” Graham accused her.
“No, because you’re a freak. I love you, but you’re a freak.”
“Whatever. Becky, you can keep him, I’ve got my eye on someone else.” He looked up at Robert at the front of the class.
“Robert?” Rebecca frowned, following his gaze. “He’s a bit old, isn’t he?”
“I doubt anyone’s got more experience than you, Graham.”
“He’s not that old.” Victoria said quietly.
“See, Vic’s on my side. For once.”
“That doesn’t mean that she fancies him though, does it?”
“Oh come on, look at him.” Graham gestured towards the front of the class. “That rugged chin, dark brown eyes, he’s gorgeous.”
“He’s not bad looking, I’ll give you that,” Rebecca conceded, “but he’s a bit of an idiot, I mean he doesn’t have much of a personality, does he?”
“Honey, for what I want to do to him, he doesn’t need one.”
“You’re a real slut.”
“He’s not that bad.” Victoria protested.
“No, Becky’s right, I am a slut.” Graham confessed.
“What? No, you’re right, you are a slut, I was talking about Robert. He’s quite nice when you get to know him.”
Graham gasped loudly, causing two girls in front of them to turn around. He leant in to Victoria and Rebecca and whispered. “Victoria fancies Robert!”
“What?” Rebecca frowned as she shut her compact. “No, she doesn’t. Does she?”
Victoria continued to write on the paper in front of her, avoiding the gaze of both Rebecca and Graham. “I have nothing to say on the matter.”
This time it was Rebecca’s loud gasp that caused the two girls in front to turn around. “She does!”
“Since Becky seems to have decided that it’s time for an impromptu display of her amateur dramatic skills,” Robert stood up at the front of the class causing Rebecca to blush brightly, “I think it’s about time we took a quick break. I want you all back in ten minutes.”
Everyone started gathering up their bags and Graham and Rebecca joined them, talking in hushed whispers over Victoria’s head.
“I can’t believe she fancies him.”
“Oh, I can,” Graham replied, “but it’s no use, he’s clearly gay.”
“Not everyone’s gay, you know.”
“He is. I’d bet money on it.”
“Did you know that you’ve got green pen on your lip?” Rebecca asked.
“Oh, I thought it was a new fashion statement. Did you want to borrow my compact?” Rebecca started to rummage around in her bag.
“No, it’s ok,” Graham said, reaching into his own bag, “I’ve got my own one in – I mean, sure, that’d be great.”
They had already stepped through the door, when they realised that Victoria was still sitting at the back of the room.
“You two go ahead, I’m not that hungry, besides I want to finish this.”
“Are you sure?” Rebecca asked.
“Err, yeah,” Victoria glanced up at Robert sat at the front of the desk, “I’ll be fine.”
Graham looked around the otherwise empty room and laughed. “Come on, let’s leave her to it. You can tell me all about her brother.” He started to drag Rebecca off towards the stairs.
“There’s nothing to tell.”
“Oh, come on, you can at least tell me how big – ” The door to the classroom shut, and Victoria found herself sitting alone in a room with Robert, a silence filling the space between them. She quietly continued to fill in the steps on her model schema until Robert suddenly stood up and came over towards her.
“I’ve just finished marking your coursework.” He said sitting down next to her in Graham’s unoccupied chair. “It’s very good.”
“Thanks.” Victoria smiled.
“So, what’s your schema on then?”
“Asking someone out on a date.” Victoria turned the paper so he could see it.
“I could certainly do with that,” Robert joked, “I might have to put that up on my wall at home, when you’re finished.”
“I don’t know, Graham might want to use it first.”
Robert laughed at her joke and read the captions underneath the pictures on the paper. “Arrange to be alone together, compliment your partner, appear interested in what they’re doing, make a self deprecating joke, laugh at their jokes. So, what’s next?”
“You tell me.” Victoria said slyly.
“Well, if it was me, I guess I would probably throw another compliment their way.”
“What sort of compliment? You can’t use the same type that you did before.”
“What kind of types are there?”
“There’s only really two types.” Victoria said. “The first is complimenting their work, something they’ve said or done, that’s a mind-compliment. The second type is a body-compliment, something like ‘your hair looks nice’ or – ”
“Your eyes are the most gorgeous, deep blue I have ever seen.”
Victoria smiled. “Exactly.”
“So, what would be next?”
“Well, if you’ve got this far, you just need to bat one last compliment to them, it doesn’t really matter what type, three compliments in a short space will make anyone putty in your hands.”
Robert gave a big smile. “You know, I can’t believe someone as beautiful as you knows so much about asking people out. I’ll bet you’ve never had to do it, the men must be queuing around the block to ask you out.”
“That’ll do it.” Victoria said quietly. For a moment they both stared at each other, before Robert suddenly cleared his throat.
“So, I guess then comes the actual asking out. How would that go exactly?”
“Well, how would you normally do it?”
“I suppose that I would, suggest a dinner, or maybe a movie.”
“That’s good, both very good.” She smiled at Robert as he returned to his desk. “Of course, if you were actually asking me out, you’d have to pick one, I wouldn’t do both.”
Robert stared for a minute. “Dinner?”
“The Italian on the corner down from the college.”
“That’s good. Very classy.”
“I’ll pick you up at half past eight.”
Victoria paused slightly. “I’ll meet you there at eight.”
They smiled at each other for a moment before the door opened and Graham sprinted in.
“Guess what,” he said, “Becky was just telling me that when – ”
“Graham!” Rebecca sprinted into the room behind him. “I told you not to tell anyone!”
“I wasn’t telling her!” Graham protested as the rest of the class filed back into the room and into their seats. Robert had already moved away, back to the front of the class, seemingly unnoticed by Graham and Rebecca.
“No, of course you weren’t.” Rebecca sat back in her seat and looked at the poster that Victoria was still working on. “Hey, we’ve done pretty well.”
“Thanks.” Victoria smiled. “We try.”
“So,” Graham slipped back into his seat. “What did you and the Incredible Hunk get up to while we were gone?”
Victoria smirked slightly. “We’re going out for dinner on Saturday night.”
“No!” Rebecca shouted loudly.
“Hey, Lily!” Graham shouted to the girl sat in front of him. “You’ll never guess –
“Graham!” Victoria glared at him.
“Never mind.” Graham slumped back in his chair. “You two always bag all the cute guys, and you never even let me tell anyone. I mean, who do I get?”
“Well, Steve’s been looking at you all lesson, maybe he really is gay.” Rebecca said, gesturing to the front of the class. “In fact, he’s looking right now.”
“He is?” Graham turned his head quickly just in time to see Steve, sat at the front of the class, flirting very obviously with the girl sat on his right. He back turned to Rebecca and frowned. “You’re such a bitch.”
Victoria & Rebecca’s Flat, Wiltshire
Victoria stepped out of the bathroom and gently shut the door behind her. She walked through to her kitchen and was surprised to find Robert sitting at the table.
“Robert, what are you doing here?”
“We, err, we need to talk.” He said quietly.
Victoria checked her watch. “Could it wait… two minutes?”
“No. No, it can’t. Could you, err – can you sit down, please?”
“Ok.” Victoria sat down opposite him at the table. “What is it?”
“I think that you’re a lovely girl, you already know that, and these last couple of months have been amazing. Especially that time in Aspen – ”
“Robert. Whatever it is you’ve come to say, I think you should say it. Becky will be back soon.”
“I don’t want to see you anymore.”
For a few moments, Victoria said nothing.
“I take my last exam in two weeks time, Robert, I won’t be at college anymore, we can finally be together, we can let people know. We’ll be allowed to go out to real places, I can meet your friends, you can meet my family. We’ll be a real couple.”
“Yeah,” Robert smiled weakly, “I know.”
“So, why dump me?”
“Look, I’m not dumping you, I’m – ”
“You’re what? Letting me go? Setting me free?”
“Yeah, that’s it, you don’t want to be tied down with an old guy like me.”
“You’re thirty five, Robert,” Victoria said, “you’re hardly an old man.”
“I’m hardly a young one, either.” Robert sighed. “Look, Vicky, you’re seventeen, I’m more than twice your age, all I’m going to do is hold you back. You should be out in the clubs, dancing to unnecessarily loud music, drinking, having fun with your friends, not coming with me to Principal Robinson’s dinner parties.”
“Excuse me?” Robert asked.
“It’s rubbish. Whatever the reason is for you splitting up with me, it’s not because of the age difference. What’s the real reason?”
“I already told you, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, if you stay with me, you’ll be tied down, playing the role of a boring middle aged housewife. We both know, that’s not you, you should be out there having fun, living life.”
“You don’t know me at all, do you? If you did, you’d know that I don’t want to be out there sleeping around, getting blind drunk and staggering around throwing up in an alleyway. I want to settle down, I want to get married, I want to be a grown up.”
“You don’t what?”
“I don’t want to settle down, I don’t want to get married, I don’t want to be a grown up.” Robert stood up. “Here’s the deal, when I said it was the age difference, I wasn’t lying, but it’s you that’s the problem, you’re too old for me.”
Victoria’s eyes widened in surprise, “My god, how young do you want?”
“Don’t get me wrong, the body of a seventeen year old, fantastic, you’re gorgeous, but you’ve got the mind of a forty year old. You want to be at home, baking me cakes, raising my children, but that’s not what I want from my mistress.”
“Mistress?” Victoria frowned.
“That’s right. Can you imagine what my girlfriend would say if I introduced you to my friends, I can’t think that she’d be very happy, do you?”
“Girlfriend?” Victoria asked, trying not to, but starting to cry.
“Ok, this is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Believe it or not, Vicky, I do like you, I never wanted to hurt your feelings, but you had to push and push, didn’t you? I never said that you were the only woman in my life.”
“You didn’t exactly tell me you had a girlfriend, though, did you? What did it just slip your mind?”
“Of course not, but I’m sure there’s plenty that you never told me.”
“I’ve not hidden away any secret boyfriends!” Victoria shrieked, finally allowing her emotions to bubble to the surface.
“Look, I’ve had enough of this, we’re over. I’m going.”
“Don’t go. Please don’t go. Please… stay.”
Robert looked at her for a moment before picking up his jacket and walking out the front door. Victoria stood shakily to her feet and walked slowly back to the bathroom. Through the window, she could see him walking towards his car.
She looked from Robert to the pregnancy test that she’d left on the side a few minutes before. Positive.
She quickly ran out of the bathroom, out the front door, waving the small stick in the air. “Robert! Robert, wait!”
He paused, his key in the lock and looked up at her. “What?”
“I’m pregnant.” She said breathlessly.
He stared at her for a moment. “Just another reason for me to leave.”
Hardcastle Family Home, Wiltshire
Victoria pushed open the door to her parent’s house and stepped into the front room. “Dad?”
She heard a pair of heavy footsteps coming down the stairs and her father entered the room.
“Dad, have you got a minute? I need to talk to you.”
“Can it wait, Vicky? I need to go and see your grandfather about something.”
“I promise I won’t take up too much time.”
“Well, go on then.”
“Victoria.” Edward pointed to his watch
“Don’t be so impatient, we have to wait for mummy, where is she?”
“I think she’s watching the television in the bedroom.”
“Well, could you go and get her for me?” Victoria smiled sweetly. “Tell her I’ve got some news.”
“Good news?” Edward asked.
“That depends on how you take it.”
Edward smiled at her, with a confused frown on his forehead and then made his way upstairs. Victoria sat down on the couch and placed a hand on her stomach.
Frederick already knew, he was the one who had finally persuaded her to tell her parents. He’d cleared out of the house for an evening and forced her to go around. He’d been telling her that eventually they would realise she was pregnant, but it was only when she’d failed to fit into her favourite pair of jeans the week before that he had finally convinced her to tell them. Before her rapidly expanding stomach did the job for her.
“What is it then?”
“Sorry?” Victoria looked up to see her father standing in front of her, her mother behind him.
“You said you had some news. What is it?”
“Oh, I… could you – Mum! What happened to your face?”
Elizabeth tugged on her hair, attempting to cover the dark bruise that covered the side of her face next to her left eye. “Nothing, darling, I just slipped and hit my eye on the door handle. Nothing to worry about.”
“Yes, let us forget about your mother’s clumsiness,” Edward said as he sat down, “what is it you want to tell us? I’ve got work to do, so if you could please hurry it up.”
“Right. Mum, could you sit down, please? I’ve got some news for you.”
Elizabeth sat down next to Edward on the couch opposite Victoria.
“Well?” Edward asked.
“I, err, I’m… this is hard to say.”
“Take your time, darling.” Elizabeth smiled weakly.
“But don’t take mine.” Edward frowned pointing to his watch. As he did, Victoria noticed a small bruise on the little finger of his right hand.
There was a silence in the room that seemed to take an age to pass.
“You’re seventeen.” Edward was staring at her as if she’d suddenly grown an extra head.
“I know how old I am.”
“But you’re seventeen.”
“Don’t listen to him.” Elizabeth smiled. “I think it’s fantastic news. It’s rather wonderful, another young child in the family. Though, I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”
Victoria lowered her head.
“Who’s the father, Vicky?” Edward snapped back into action, as if suddenly realising that someone was responsible. “Tell me!”
“You don’t know him. He’s…”
“He is still around isn’t he?”
“Err, no. No. He’s not. I told him I was pregnant and he… he left me.”
“What’s his name?” Edward asked, his face growing red. “Whoever he is, I’ll kill the bastard!”
“No, you won’t.” Victoria said, “he’s a good man, he’s just… he’s not ready to be a dad yet. That’s all.”
“I don’t care! You’ll tell me his name and I’ll bloody well kill him! And if I don’t kill him, your grandfather will!” Edward shouted jumping to his feet.
“Oh, yeah, I’m really going to tell you who it is so that you can go out and commit murder.”
Edward towered over Victoria. “Tell me!”
Victoria said nothing, pursing her lips and staring at her father with a hard decided look on her face. Elizabeth stood up and put her hands on Edward’s shoulder. “Why don’t you just give me and Vicky a minute alone. I’ll talk to her.”
“Very well.” Edward said not tearing his gaze from Victoria. “You two stay here, I’ve got a meeting with your grandfather. I’m going to tell him what you’ve gone and done and the two of us are going to decide what we’re going to do about it.”
Edward stalked out of the room leaving Elizabeth and Victoria alone.
Elizabeth sat down on the couch next to her daughter and hugged her. “Darling, this is wonderful news!”
“Thanks.” Victoria said. “I think it is.”
“But, perhaps your father is right,” Elizabeth said breaking the hug, “perhaps you’re too young for such a burden.”
“It’s not a burden, mother. I would love this baby whether I was seventeen or seventy, whether I had the father around or not. I will love him and I will raise him, and he will grow up to make me the proudest mother ever.”
“Perhaps. All I meant was that, your apartment with Rebecca, though nice, it’s not very big. A baby is very small, yet somehow it can take up an awful lot of room. And your first child as well, it can be difficult just knowing quite what to do. Why don’t you live back here with us, hmm? That way, we can help you, I can answer any of your questions, you won’t be alone. I promise.”
“Mum, I’ll have Rebecca to help me, you forget, she practically raised her brother after her mother died. And it’s not like I’ll never see you, anytime I have a question, you’ll be the first the person I go to. I’ll be fine where I am.”
“Right. Yes. Of course.” Elizabeth smiled slowly, subconsciously tugging on her hair.
“Mum. That bruise. How did it happen?”
“I already told you, darling, I walked into a door.”
“You walked into a door?” Victoria asked. “You said earlier that you slipped and hit the door handle.”
“Well, yes, darling, I was walking when I slipped.”
“Mum… if he was hitting you again, you’d tell me right?”
Elizabeth took hold of her daughter’s hand. “Please, darling, come back here to live with us. With me.”
Victoria hugged her mother. “Of course, I’ll come back. Where else could I be?”
Read the next chapter here