There were only two secrets

you’d be coming down the corridor and the heat would rise in my body to see the shape of you tall against the corridor wall and your walk was full of dignity perhaps you never knew how much dignity /you needed admiration creeping from the four walls and crisping your shoulders and catching your smile like a piece of sunlight with humour and biting your lip to stay in control out of uncertainty and because you liked us underneath you liked us and our cheek and our testing you out /glory be it was the battle of the prefect and the fifth form no less and you say

you girls can’t stay in here come on off you go all of you

come on off you go outside

and we’d stand beyond the door of your mind and we’d giggle just as you giggled in the years before about some other girl

wasn’t it our history?

you’d never know what we said about you nor which of us had the crush on you but you had to wonder and there was power in this for all of us

you can’t stay in here come on all of you outside


with a flick of your eyes

and the wry twist to your mouth holding onto your dignity with humour and control

touch me brush against me in the press of the dinner queue or

or heaven of heavens I’d turn to sit down in the crush of my gang in the gaggle of laughing and talking and coming in hungry for lunch waiting all morning didn’t have breakfast I’m so hungry and companionship arm in arm or arm around shoulders in the middle of who’d sit with and finishing off just tell me what did she do then? and she said.. or he said and just imagine I thought.. and how could we be all together and how could I whisper the rest of the story and you sit over there and you sit next to me /no come on sit here

and I’d turn round at the table from speaking to my best friend who ended up on the next table

and I’d turn round and find myself at your table

and there’d be that glance between me and her and then she’d giggle and nudge me and I’d say stop it and glance at you or her and you’d be standing up with your partner reaching over to pass out the plates and we’d say give me extra of that /or I don’t want any or no I can’t eat that ugh and you’d supervise like a mother and serve and say stop complaining leave it if you don’t like it this family of girls and treacle pudding and custard being enough for each other serving my minced meat and gravy and the chocolate pudding to follow

your eyes would be raised to heaven at my giggling and your lips would twitch at my jokes and asides loud enough for you to hear but never ever giving away the flush under the white blouse or the heat that made us breathe heavy inside the white bra

patience and authority &nbs; shh she’s coming this way hissed

and then you’d be watching us standing with one hand on your hip as perhaps you ordered us out of the cloakrooms for the third time and waited as we gathered our books so slowly

it wasn’t you I mocked innocent unmerciful that was the new maths teacher who lost her temper so fast with me and hissed that I was insolent only inches from my face

you knew the score better than to enter that close in the battle or to lose control so distinctly /every girl in the classroom knew who’d won and it wasn’t the teacher you were the prefect who who’d toss your head and cut your eyes at us over and over again flushing slightly from the impact of our pleading

anita or lesley or pam

it’s five to now it’s started to rain our tutor said we could you can’t make us

and anyhow

growing up to bargain and challenge and reason

it’s not raining you’d say and you know you’re not allowed in here during break

love you love your power and your tired exaggeration of our badness as if it weren’t a ritual a history of /of girls and the weight of your body melted under the praise we silently gave and the weight of your body remembers the feel of your limbs remembers us watching you walk anywhere and you loved it

it was your movement across our lives as you give everything you’ve got and we stand and admire and mock

it’s the weight of your thighs the calmness of your mind pushing that achievement further and higher the torsion the stretch of the muscle we were not supposed to have and certainly not look at

you are gathering your accolades your high marks your grades and trophies

you are reaching to catch or throw the racquet against the necessary object pounding full of possibility and still caressing your chances

and they gave way for you /chances and opportunity melted for you in the force of your forward movement as we watched

as we watched and noted somewhere in the soles of our feet in the sensation in our palms