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Chapter no 6 – Awakened Hormones Shannon

Binding 13

I had a moderate concussion that resulted in an overnight stay at the hospital for observation followed by the rest of the week off school.

To be honest, I would have preferred to stay in the hospital the entire time or return to school immediately because the concept of spending the week at home with my father breathing down my neck was a special form of torture that no one deserved.

Miraculously, I managed to survive the week by holing myself up in my room all day, every day, and generally avoiding my father and his tumultuous mood swings like the plague.

When I returned to school the following week, I had been expecting a downpour of mocking and taunting to incur.

Shame was a problematic feeling for me, and sometimes it made it hard for me to function.

I spent the entire day in a sweaty, panic-ridden mess on high alert, waiting for something bad to happen.

Something that never came.

Aside from a few curious stares and knowing smiles from the rugby team – as in, they knew what I looked like in my underwear –I had been left generally unscathed.

I couldn’t comprehend how a humiliating event like that could go unspoken about.

It didn’t make sense to me.

No one brought up the incident on the pitch that day. It was as if it had never happened.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the lingering headache, I would have doubted it happened at all.

Days turned into weeks but the silence remained.

Nothing was ever said to me. It was never brought up again. I wasn’t a target.

And I had peace.

Almost a month had passed since the incident on the pitch and I found myself falling into a steady routine with Claire and Lizzie by my side.

I found myself beginning to look forward to going to school.

It was the strangest turnabout of my life, considering for the majority of my life I had loathed school, but Tommen had become almost like a safe place to be.

Instead of the usual feeling of dread when I stepped off the bus, all I felt was immense relief.

Relief to get away from my house. Relief to be off the bully-radar.

Relief to get away from my father.

Relief to be able to breathe for seven hours of the day.

I was used to coping alone, being alone, sitting alone, eating alone… you get my drift.

I was forever alone so my latest predicament, or should I say the latest development in my social status, was an unexpected one.

They say there’s solidarity in numbers, and I was a firm believer in this. I felt better when I was with my friends.

Maybe it was a teenage insecurity, or maybe it was a result of my past, but I liked that I didn’t have to walk to class on my own anymore, and that I always had someone to sit with or tell me if I had something in my teeth.

Their friendship meant more to me than they would ever know, giving me a support system that I desperately needed, and a buffer in times of panicked uncertainty.

At my old school, I was so stressed and anxious during my lessons that I fell behind a lot in class and had to work late into the night most nights to catch up.

Without the constant threat of attack from my peers, I was keeping up in my classes with little problem, inhaling my lessons like crack.

I even managed to pass most of my pre-junior cert exams, with the exception of Maths and Business Studies.

No amount of studying seemed to help with those subjects.

But I had scored my first A since first year in Science, so I took comfort in that.

During lunch, I had the girls to sit with – not a pity seat with my brother and his buddies – but an actual group of people.

I’d never had this level of normality before. I’d never felt safe.

But I was starting to.

And I had a feeling he had something to do with it. Johnny Kavanagh.

I mean, he had to, right?

I didn’t have that kind of power, so that left him.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the whole event had been erased from everyone’s minds.

I had seen him plenty of times since that day, having passed him countless times in the hallways between classes and in the lunch hall during break, and while he never approached me, he always smiled at me in passing.

To be honest, I was surprised he smiled at me at all considering my mother’s reaction towards him outside the principal’s office that day.

I didn’t know whether or not to apologize for her behavior towards him or not.

Mam had overreacted to the point of being borderline threatening towards him, but then again, Johnny’s actions had resulted in me spending a night in hospital and a further week at home with my father, so I decided against apologizing. Besides, I’d left it too long.

Approaching him now, after almost four weeks had passed by, would just be weird.

Through my friends – and the hushed whispers and rumors from girls in the bathroom – I had learned all kinds of details and information about

Johnny Kavanagh.

He was in fifth year – something I already knew.

He was originally from Dublin – again, no surprises there.

He was incredibly popular – okay, so I didn’t know that but it didn’t take a genius to realize that, what with him being surrounded by students all the time.

He was a massive hit amongst the female student body – again, a blind man could figure that out.

And contrary to his terrible inaccuracy with the ball and his blatant maiming of me, he was supposed to be very good at rugby.

He was the captain of the school rugby team, and with that status came popularity, girls, and some fierce pull with both the faculty and the students. I had no clue about the ins and outs of rugby, our family revolved around GAA, and I cared even less about the popularity ranks at school considering I was usually dumped at the bottom, but the way the girls at school portrayed Johnny Kavanagh sounded nothing like the person I met

that day.

According to the girls, he was aggressive, intense, and a complete snob, with a body to die for and a horrible attitude.

They made him out to be a cocky, rich, rugbyhead who was obsessed with sports, played hard on the pitch, and fucked harder off it – evidently much older girls were his thing.

Okay, so it was quite possible that he did in fact do all these things, but it was hard to piece that information together with the person I’d met.

My memories of that day were still cloudy, the events leading up to my accident still hazy, and the ones afterwards a jumbled mess, but I remembered him.

I remembered the way he had taken care of me.

How he had stayed with me until my mother came.

The way he had touched me with big, dirty, gentle hands.

How he talked to me like he wanted to hear what I had to say. And then listened to my rambling like it was important to him.

I remembered the embarrassing parts, too; the parts that kept me up late into the night with flaming cheeks and a mind full of disconcerting images and fumbling words.

The parts I didn’t dare acknowledge.

I did keep the envelope though, the one I had found in my locker the week I returned to school, with the hastily scrawled, ‘From my people to your people‘ on the front.

The two €50 notes I had given Mam when I got home from school, but I had tucked the envelope into my pillowcase for safekeeping.

I didn’t have an explanation for why I didn’t throw it out, the same way I couldn’t explain why my body broke out in a cold sweat, my hands turning clammy, my heart fluttering rapidly, and my stomach twisting itself up in knots whenever I laid eyes on him.

Well, that wasn’t technically true.

There was an obvious, perfectly logical reason for my reaction towards him.

He was beautiful.

Every single time I spotted him in the hallways, it was as if every delayed urge, feeling, and hormone that had been lying dormant inside of my body for the last fifteen years erupted to life.

I was achingly aware of him; my body shifting into high alert whenever our arms brushed in the crowded hallways between classes.

But it wasn’t his looks or enormous, muscular build that had coaxed my stubborn hormones out of hibernation.

It was the way he had been that day.

During small break last week, when Lizzie caught me red-handed staring at Johnny Kavanagh, she’d decided to dish out all the information she had.

According to Lizzy, Johnny Kavanagh was never tied down to any particular girl or branded as anyone’s boyfriend, though there was Bella Wilkinson to contend with.

The pair had been knocking around together for a long time.

Bella was a couple of years older than him, more experienced, and from what Lizzie had told me, reported to her by the boys, sucked dick like a Dyson.

So yeah, it was a safe bet to say Johnny had been on the receiving end of a healthy number of blowjobs and god knows what else from her.

I was just thankful we had a Henry hoover at home and not a fancy pants Dyson, so I didn’t gag every time I cleaned my room to that particular image.

I wasn’t surprised by any of it though.

Johnny was almost eighteen.

I had two older brothers so I was quite aware what boys of that particular age demographic got up to behind closed bedroom doors.

The information was depressing but the cool dose of reality I needed to strengthen my resolve and douse out my hopes.

It was terribly unfortunate to develop my first crush on a person like him, considering we’d only spoken that one time and he was involved with a suction-mouthed sixth year.

Not that he would be remotely interested in me if he wasn’t. I liked safe.

In my world, invisibility equaled safety.

I was happy to be wallpaper and blend in.

And Johnny Kavanagh was about as opposite of invisible as I could think of.

Before him, I’d never been interested in the opposite sex. I’d never been interested in anyone. But him?

I found myself seeking him out at school just so I could stare.

It was creepy and stalkerish on my behalf but I honestly couldn’t help myself.

I comforted myself with the knowledge that I had no intentions of acting on my feelings or pursuing my first and only crush.

Either way, I was perfectly content with watching from the side-lines, settling for taking sneaky peeks and glances at him whenever I could.

I justified my stalkerish behavior by reminding myself that I was not the only girl in school to lust after the delectable Johnny Kavanagh.

No, I was just one in a long list of many, many girls. But he was just so interesting to observe.

He didn’t act like the rest of the lads at school. He seemed above them in a weird way? Like he was older than his years? Or bored by the mundane way of school life?

It was hard to describe.

He seemed to drum to his own beat. He oozed confidence and had a ‘no fucks given’ attitude that was ridiculously addictive.

He forged his own path at school, and like most natural born leaders, everyone else just followed along after him.

I guess that was the key to popularity; you needed to not want it, or not care that you had it.

The fact that he was beautiful with a body ripped to perfection didn’t hurt his cause either.

It made me a little jealous if I was being honest.

I didn’t care about being popular. It was the fact that it was so easy for some people while others, myself included in the latter group, suffered terribly.

He gave out this ‘I’m the best. You’re fucking with the best right here. You’re not going to find anyone better than me. Bad luck on you’ vibe and walked around with a constant fuck you expression on his face.

It was typical, banging-fists-on-chest, alpha male behavior – which I presumed had a lot to do with why every girl within a ten-mile radius seemed to gravitate towards him.

Thing was, whenever his eyes locked with mine, I never saw any of that fabricated machoism or his notorious glower.

It was hard to describe the look I received because usually when our eyes locked, it was because Johnny had caught me staring at him, be it in the lunch hall or outside classrooms, and I always turned away quickly, mortified.

However, on the rare occasion that I managed to steel myself and meet his stare, I was rewarded with a curious head-tilt and a small, twitching smile.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of any of it, or how to feel.

In a weird way, I kind of felt like one of those baby ducklings who imprint and attach themselves to the first person they see upon being born.

I’d watched a movie about this when I was a kid. Maybe that was what was happening here?

Maybe I’d attached myself to Johnny because not only was he the first person I saw when I came to, but he was the first person who’d shown me genuine kindness.

I wondered if that was an actual thing that could happen to humans after suffering moderate concussions, but then quickly dismissed the crazy notion.

Thoughts like that were not normal and of absolutely no benefit. Also, I wasn’t attached to him.

I simply enjoyed admiring him. From a safe distance.

When he wasn’t looking.

Yeah, that wasn’t unhealthy at all.

 

 

“Do you want to come over after school today?” Claire asked me during big break on Wednesday.

We were sitting at the end of one of the ginormous tables in the luxurious lunch hall that I was still trying to come to terms with.

At BCS, we had a little canteen where people took turns sitting at the small round tables.

Here at Tommen, it was a glorified banquet hall with twenty-five feet tables, hot meals on offer, and enough room to seat the entire school.

The lunch hall was bursting to the seams with other students shouting and talking so loudly that I had to lean across the table to reply. “To your house?”

Claire nodded. “We can hang out and watch a few films or something?” “Aren’t you going into town with Lizzie to see Pierce?” I asked.

At least that’s what I thought they were doing after school today. That’s all Lizzie had been talking about all morning.

Apparently, she was seeing some lad from fifth year named Pierce, and they’d been on and off together for months.

From what I had gathered, they were currently back on.

To be fair, Lizzie had invited me to come with them after school, but I’d declined because town was the last place I ever wanted to be.

My old school was based slap-bang in the middle of town and I tended to avoid all surrounding areas like the plague.

There were too many unwelcome faces that hung around there.

“Nah, Lizzie’s in a mood,” Claire explained, stabbing her pot of yoghurt with her spoon. “So, I’m guessing they had another fight today.”

That explained Lizzie’s noticeable absence at lunch. She was a hard one to figure out.

She held a lot back and I never truly knew what she was thinking or feeling, unlike Claire, who was an open book.

I guess that’s why I had always been closer to Claire growing up.

I loved Lizzie, of course, and considered her a good friend, but if I was to have a best friend, then it would be Claire.

“Besides, I’m not really into being the third wheel with those two,” Claire added, setting her spoon into her lunch box. “So, what do you say? Mam will pick us up and drop you home whenever you want to go.” She leaned back in her chair and flashed me a megawatt smile. “Or you could always sleep over?”

My stomach did a little flip. “Are you sure your Mam won’t mind?” “Shannon, of course she won’t mind,” Claire replied, giving me a

strange look. “My Mam and Dad both love you.” Smiling, she added, “Mam is constantly on my case asking when you’re coming over again.”

A warm sensation flooded me.

Mrs. Biggs nursed in the intensive care unit in the hospital in Cork city, and she was one of the nicest ladies I had ever met.

Claire was a lot like her mother with a sweet nature and a kind heart.

When we were little and Claire and Lizzie were having a birthday party or a playdate, Mrs. Biggs always made it her business to come pick me up.

I was even invited to Claire’s older brother’s birthday parties, and although I never attended Hughie’s parties, I appreciated the invite.

They were the only invites I got growing up.

“I’d love to, but I’ll have to check with my parents,” I told her and then proceeded to pull out my phone and text my brother to scope out the mood at home.

“It’ll be great,” she encouraged happily. “There’s a tub of Ben and Jerry’s in the freezer and I got the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie on DVD.” Waggling her brows, she added, “Johnny and Orlando, what girl can say no to that?”

“Not you,” I laughed. Claire was obsessed with Johnny Depp.

He was her wallpaper on her phone and his face was plastered all over her bedroom walls.

“I love him,” she announced with a dreamy sigh. “I do. It’s real, hardcore love, and one day he’ll come to Ireland, see me and instantly reciprocate my feelings. And then we’ll run away together and create adorable hybrid pirate babies.”

“That sounds like a plan,” I snickered. “Although, you do realize he’s not an actual pirate, don’t you?”

“Shh!” Claire chuckled. “Don’t take that away from me. Let me enjoy the visual.”

My phone vibrated in my hand then with a text from Joey.

Bad idea, Shan. He’s on the warpath.

Dejected, I shoved my phone back into my pocket and released a heavy sigh. “I can’t come over.”

“Your dad?” she asked sadly. I nodded.

Claire looked as disappointed as I felt but she didn’t push it. Deep down, I think she knew.

I never verbalized it and she never pushed. That’s why I loved her.

“Another time then.” Claire offered me a huge smile that almost masked the concern in her brown eyes.

Almost.

“We’ll plan it better next time – give you some notice,” she quickly carried on, tucking her long blonde hair behind her ears. “But our Johnny and Orlando session is definitely happening!”

“How’s it going Claire-bear?” A deep, male voice asked, distracting us both.

“Oh, hey Gerard,” Claire acknowledged in a nonchalant tone, as she looked up at the ginormous, blond boy standing at the end of our table. “How are you?”

“Better now I’m talking to you,” he purred as he walked over and propped his ass on the table, keeping his huge back to me and his attention locked on my friend. “You’re looking as lovely as always.”

Claire’s gaze darted from his face to mine and she gave me a WTF eye- bulge before quickly sobering her features and saying, “Didn’t I hear you spin that same line to Megan Crean on Wednesday?”

I swallowed back a laugh as I watched my friend play the indifference card like a pro, even though she was clearly affected by this boy.

He was tall and tanned, with dirty blond, mussed up hair, and clearly packing some serious muscle beneath his school uniform.

I didn’t blame her for being affected by a boy who looked like that. Most girls would.

Just not this girl.

“Are you jealous?” Gerard teased, tone highly flirtatious. “You know you’re my number one.”

“Spare me,” Claire fake gagged.

“I hear you’re coming to Donegal with the team?” he asked her. “Your class got the go-ahead, didn’t they?”

“Yeah, our class was picked to go,” Claire replied breezily. “Mam hasn’t signed the permission slip for me to go, though.”

Neither had mine.

Tommen College had an away match against some rugby prep school up in Donegal next month after the Easter holidays.

It was an important game for the team, a final of some league cup or another, and my class, along with one other class from sixth year, had been selected at random to attend.

Because the match was being held on the first Friday we were due back to school after Easter break, the school bus was departing from Tommen at 10:45pm on the Thursday night to beat traffic and allow for pitstops since northern Donegal was at least an eight-hour journey from Cork via bus.

According to Lizzie, Tommen’s P.A. were a bunch of tight-asses and had only allocated funding for one night’s accommodation for the trip.

We would be sleeping on the bus on the Thursday night, staying in a hotel on the Friday night and then traveling back to Cork on the Saturday.

Lizzie was thoroughly disgusted with the concept of having to sleep on the bus because the school heads were being stingy and wouldn’t cough up the funds for an extra night in a hotel.

Personally, I couldn’t see what the problem was.

It was an all-expenses paid trip funded by the school and an approved day off school.

Aside from the eight-hour bus ride with the majority of the passengers being testosterone filled teenage boys, it was a win-win.

Of course, that part terrified me to my core, but I was beginning to learn how to manage my anxiety, refusing to allow my past experiences to ruin an opportunity at a much-needed break.

I was trying really hard to just stand back, take a moment, and read situations and scenarios with clear, rational thoughts rather than the terror- induced paranoia that seemed to control me.

Regardless of my enthusiasm at the prospect of getting away from Ballylaggin for a couple of nights, I wasn’t holding out much hope on going.

Because it was an overnight trip, the school required permission slips to be signed by our parents.

I’d given Mam the forms that needed to be signed in order for me to attend last week.

As of this morning, it still laid unsigned on top of the bread-bin at home.

“Ah, your mammy will let you go,” the blond god teased, ruffling Claire’s hair. “Sure big brother will be there to keep an eye on ya – and myself of course.” He leaned closer and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I always play better when I know you’re watching.”

Now I did laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the cheesy chat up line.

I knew my stuff about sports and I had yet to meet a guy who played better because of a girl.

However, when I tried to stifle my laugh, it ended up coming out like a snort.

Slapping a hand over my mouth, I stared at Claire’s horrified expression and mouthed sorry behind my fingers.

As if only just noticing I was present, the blond guy turned around, probably to seek out the snorting culprit.

His gaze landed on my face and immediate recognition flickered in his striking silvery/grey eyes.

“Hey! Little Shannon,” he acknowledged, smiling warmly. “How’s it going?”

“Uh, fine,” I strangled out, as I stared up at him and wondered how the hell he knew my name.

I glanced to Claire who shrugged and gave me a look that told me she was as confused as I was.

“I didn’t know you were friends with Shannon,” he said, turning his attention back to Claire. “That would have been useful information.”

“Uh, I didn’t know you were friends with Shannon?” Claire offered blankly. “And useful for what?”

“I’m not.” He shook his head. “And it doesn’t matter.” He turned back to me and smiled again.

“I’m Gerard Gibson,” he introduced himself. “But everyone calls me Gibsie.”

“I don’t,” Claire tossed out airily.

Gibsie chuckled. “Okay, everyone except for this one calls me Gibsie.” He pointed a thumb at my friend, flashing her an indulgent smile, before returning his attention to me. “She likes to be awkward.”

“No, Gerard, I like to address people by their given name,” Claire corrected, giving him the stink eye. She turned her attention to me and began to explain. “Gerard here is friends with my brother Hugh. You remember Hughie, don’t you, Shan?”

I nodded, clearly remembering Claire’s beautiful, older brother.

With light blond hair and brown eyes, Hugh Biggs was the male equivalent of his sister, except with abs, masculine features, and the obvious boy parts. Hugh didn’t attend the same primary school as us, but he had always been friendly to me when I went to their house. He was one of the few boys aside from Joey that I didn’t feel on edge around. Hughie always left me alone and I appreciated it.

“Well, they’ve been in the same class since Junior Infants, and this monster right here –” she paused to give Gibsie a small shove before continuing, “has been a permanent fixture in my kitchen for most of my life. He lives across the street from us,” she added. “Unfortunately.”

“Come on, Claire-Bear,” he teased. “Is that any way to talk about the guy who gave you your first kiss?”

“That was the result of an unfortunate game of spin the bottle,” she shot back, cheeks turning pink, as she glared up at him. “And I’ve told you a million times to stop calling me that.”

“It’s all a show,” Gibsie informed me with a huge grin. “She loves me really.”

“I really don’t,” Claire shot back, flustered now. “I tolerate him because he brings cookies to my house.” She turned to me and said, “Gerard’s mother owns a bakery in the city. Her cakes are insanely delicious.”

“Gibs! Come on, lad. The team’s waiting for you!” someone called out from the other side of the lunch hall, causing all three of us to swing around.

My heart flatlined for the briefest of moments before somersaulting in my chest when my eyes landed on Johnny Kavanagh standing in the archway of the lunch hall, with his hand gesturing wildly in the air, and a thunderous expression etched on his face.

“Five minutes,” Gibsie called back.

“Coach wants us now,” Johnny barked in that thick, Dublin accent I’d learned to listen out for. “Not in five bleeding minutes,” he added, not giving a damn who was listening to him.

It was quite clear that he didn’t care if people looked at him or not.

Ignoring him, Gibsie held two fingers up and turned his attention back to Claire.

He began to speak to her in a low, hushed tone, but I didn’t catch any of

it.

My entire focus was on the pair of blue eyes that were staring right back

at me.

Usually, when he caught me staring, I would look away or duck my face, but this time I couldn’t.

I felt snared.

Completely and utterly ensnared in his gaze.

Johnny tilted his head to one side, regarding me with a curious expression, the earlier irritation in his eyes replaced with something I couldn’t quite decipher.

My heart hammered violently against my ribcage.

And then he shook his head and looked away, his attention moving to the watch on his left wrist, breaking the weird, trancelike stare-down.

Blowing out a shaky breath, I turned away from him, sagged forward, and let my hair fall forward to conceal my burning cheeks.

“I expect to see pom-poms and the words ‘I heart Gibsie’ in neon letters across your tits next week at the School Boy Shield final,” was all I managed to catch Gibsie say before he waved us off and jogged away.

“Sorry about him,” Claire said, gaze flickering from my face to behind me. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes twinkling. She pulled at an imaginary piece of fluff on her school jumper before adding, “He’s a little strange.”

“He’s a whole lot into you,” I stated, grateful for the distraction from my thoughts.

“Gerard likes everyone,” she replied with a heavy sigh. “Well, everyone with a vagina.”

“I don’t know, Claire. He seemed to really like you,” I began to say, but she quickly cut me off.

“Well, I do know, Shan,” she said, cheeks still flushed. “He’s a player. A total fecking player. He rides anything in a skirt,” she added. “They all do.”

“They?”

“The lads on the rugby team,” she explained. “With the exception of Hugh – and possibly Patrick.”

I scrunched my nose up. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh,” Claire replied, grimacing. “And the only reason Gerard carries on like that with me is because I’m Hughie’s little sister and he knows he can’t have me.” Sighing, she added, “It’s a harmless game of flirting to him that won’t amount to anything.”

“What about you?” I asked, tone gentle. “What’s it to you?”

Claire chewed on her bottom lip for several seconds before whispering, “Torment.”

That was all the clarification I needed to confirm my suspicions. Claire like Gerard –or Gibsie – or whatever his name was.

In that moment, given the recent surge of hormones battering my reproductive system, brought on by the injection of Johnny Kavanagh into my life, I could relate to my friend in the most fundamental way.

“Boys with pretty eyes and big muscles mess everything up for girls,” Claire huffed.

“Yep,” I agreed weakly. “They certainly do.”

“What are we like?” Claire chuckled half-heartedly. “Both liking the worst possible thing for us.”

Me?” I shook my head and jumped into denial mode. “I don’t like anyone.”

“Yeah, right,” Claire scoffed. “Don’t even try to pretend, little miss blush. I see the way you watch him.”

“Claire.” I shook my head and sighed. “You’re imagining things.”

“Oh look,” she gasped, pointing behind me. “Johnny’s coming over here.”

‘W-what?” Startled, I swung around to discover she was lying. “Ha,” Claire snickered. “I knew it.”

“Not funny,” I mumbled, patting my burning cheeks.

“Don’t worry, Shan,” she replied, smiling knowingly. “Your secret’s safe with me.”

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