by Stefanie Moore
‘Well, spit it out then – you don’t have to swallow.’ Chloe flipped the water bottle 360 degrees and Yvette kissed her teeth in agreement.
‘Right, thanks for that, Chloe. You could do that, Skye, if you were concerned. Or you could just not do it all if you didn’t want to. Use your assertiveness – remember our assertiveness from last term? Well use that to say, no thank you, Lawson.’
‘His name is Dawson, Miss.’
‘No, thank you Lawson, that’s enough for now. Let’s watch a film or hold hands or . . . something else. You could say that and not do it at all.’ She looked at the clock. Why hadn’t the hands moved? Sweat sprung along her hairline and spread in her armpits – not the menopause, was it? How bloody apt. Sex education had withered her ovaries.
‘Miss Nesbitt, man, this is long!’
‘I know, Taylor, but we need to do it – just try to stay calm, could you?’ She looked at the pile of word searches teetering on the edge of her desk. Remnants from a cover lesson: Religions of the World, they were titled. Could she make them last till break if she explained them slowly?
‘Does . . . anyone else have a question?’
‘If only a little bit of sperm gets in, do I get a midget baby?’
‘Like that guy on Games of Thrones?’
‘Yes like the guy on Games of Thrones!’
‘Or the adverts.’
‘Yeah the adverts.’
She closed her eyes in a slow blink, as if in thought. When she opened them, fifteen Year 10 girls were looking back at her, waiting for an answer.
It made sense. They knew enough about sex to roll their skirts up to their knicker line, but not enough to close their legs when they sat at the bus stop, enough to giggle at men who stared at them through car windows but not enough to understand the casual violence of the words flung in their direction. Enough to demonstrate blowjob etiquette but not enough to grasp basic reproduction.
“They knew enough to giggle at men who stared at them through car windows but not enough to understand the casual violence of the words flung in their direction.”
They were still looking at her.
‘No, it doesn’t matter about the sperm. It’s only one sperm that gets you pregnant.’
‘Do you have kids, Miss?’
‘Do you want them, though?’
‘Man, shut up, that’s personal to Miss, isn’t it?’
‘It’s okay. Grace. This is an honest space. We’d like to, and we’re trying. Okay, enough questions – I have a treat for you. Here is . . . a word search for you to complete. Religions of the world! It is, however, a little bit tricky, this one, so I’ll just talk you through it, okay?’
Eventually, they settled.
She cast her eyes over Francesca and Ruby, who were stooped together, sharing headphone buds. Chloe was applying blusher with one of those sponge bullets that had replaced pens and pencils in the coterie of must-haves for all teenage girls. Or at least the ones that she taught, here, in Sex Ed.
‘Miss, can I talk to you?’ Olivia, a new girl from another borough, was standing in front of her desk. She was tall and awkward and her mouth hung open when she thought no one was looking.
‘Of course – here?’
‘No – after.’
She hoped it wouldn’t be for long – she hoped that Olivia might forget – she needed coffee and a little scream in the toilet. But once the bell had rung and the girls departed with nary a glance in Miss Nesbitt’s direction, Olivia was still waiting. In fact, she was sitting down in a chair opposite her desk.
Miss Nesbitt stooped to the floor and began raking the blank word searches towards her.
‘Okay, what’s up?’
‘I was wondering – can you be just a little bit pregnant?’
Olivia had put her notepad on the desk and was fiddling with the strap on her rucksack. On the pad there was a biro drawing of a boy in a baseball cap, like a Duplo figure, lines and circles.
‘Well, you’re either pregnant or you’re not.’ She scrunched up a loose sheet.
‘Yep, but can you be a bit pregnant and then it go away?’
‘You can miscarry or have an abortion, but, no, otherwise, you’re pregnant.’
‘Even if it’s just a little bit?’
Miss Nesbitt stood. Her knees creaked. She looked at the girl in the chair.
‘Is there something that you want to tell me? Remember, if you are in trouble, I may have to let somebody else know. I can’t keep it a secret, okay, Olivia?’
‘It’s this.’ She bent down to her rucksack and banged her forehead on the edge of the desk in her hurry. She muttered ‘God’ and tears jumped.
She held out a white cylinder, the length of a pen, and gave it to her teacher. Miss Nesbitt knew what it was and she knew what she saw.
Two lines. One fainter than the other. But two lines nonetheless. She put it on the desk.
‘Is this yours, Olivia?’
‘I did it this morning.’
‘I thought, because it’s just a faint line, it might be, not really, you know?’
‘Do you have a boyfriend?’
Yes, she should get the counsellor, or the girl’s head of year. But she’d never seen the two lines before.
‘Is he here?’
‘We only did it once. Before I left my old school. I’ve only done it once.’
‘So, because it’s only a bit there, it could be wrong, I thought?’
Miss Nesbitt put her hands in front of her lips in prayer position. Her eyes moved from side to side. To the girl, it looked like she was reading a very serious text message. Finally, she closed the classroom door, threw the word searches near the bin, smoothed her hands over her skirt and came to sit next to the girl.
‘Okay, Olivia. Thank you for coming to me, that must have been very difficult for you, so well done, okay? I think I can help you with this, but what we need to do is trust each other – no-one else – for the time being – can you do that?’
The girl closed her mouth and nodded.
Stefanie spends some of her week teaching English and Drama and the rest of her time with her three-year-old son. Over the years she has left a trail of half finished scripts, songs and story ideas on old bus tickets and receipts in the murky depths of myriad handbags; but she is trying to move beyond this. She is just starting to refer to herself (quietly and in her own head) as a writer. She is an alumnae of the Write Like A Grrrl course and has performed her writing at That’s What She Said and for the charity A New Leaf in Manchester. She has had work published with Dear Damsels and is part of the 100 Voices for 100 Years project.