by J. M. Shorney
If Katy Hillier didn’t spend quite so much of her time concentrating on Tom Bridger’s best attributes, she might have been better concentrating on her work, and getting her grades.
The tight black trousers he wore with his familiar tweed jacket, complete with elbow patches, was in keeping with his persona of being a teacher of course.The strident way he had of walking as always with a purpose. Tom was a new addition to Myrtlebank School. Though why he should have chosen this remote South Coastal school after London, she failed to understand. But Katy was so pleased that he did, or she would never have met him.
He just happened to teach her favourite subject, English Lit. The way he recited all those romantic poems;‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ She imagined that Tom was saying them to her exclusively. All the other pupils were merely blurs, faceless non entities, Tom barely noticed.
He wrote poetry too and read it out in class. With his rather upperclass accent, every word he uttered thrilled through her. He wore his dark hair quite long. She caught herself staring at the way his hair sort of curled around his ears almost femininely, that his ears were quite small for a man.
His eyes were so dark and intense when they settled on her. They did now while he recited something from Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet was her favourite. She’d never given Shakespeare the time of day until she met Tom.
Up until a week ago, Tom was merely her teacher, she just another pupil with a crush. Then one afternoon, while she struggled with learning her lines for a play Tom had written and was intent on producing, she had waited until she could grab his attention after class. His head was lowered over marking out places in a book on his desk, the dark curly hair practically obscuring his handsome features. They talked awhile. Then, taking her by surprise, he told her that he would have had to be blind if he hadn’t guessed how she felt. She wished the ground could have opened up beneath her.The colour rushed to her face and she started to apologise, aware how wrong it was to entertain such feelings for a teacher.
After all, he was at twenty six, nine years her senior. Plus there were terrible implications that he could go to jail. Then there was Ursula. Ursula was Tom’s wife. Katy was crushed when she discovered he was married. But he was so young. She’d cried herself to sleep afterward, but it failed to lessen the crush. She fantasised, while she lay on the bed in her room, what it would be like if she and Tom had an affair. Of course it couldn’t possibly happen. It was unthinkable,until that afternoon. When he closed the door, and positioned himself in front of her. Before she could speak, or realise, his arm was around her, and his hand had slithered, like an uncoiling reptile up into her panties. Katy, aware of what they were doing, was so unutterably wrong, but nonetheless exciting.
Reaching up to kiss his lips, with the feeling that she would find herself back in her room,everything nothing more than some beautiful dream when she felt him respond. She’d peeled open her blouse for his searching hands to cup about her breasts. Hazarding an uneasy glance at the door, he assured her that no one would enter. They made love. He was gentle with her because she was a virgin. Tom told her that he was pleased that she was. That she hadn’t given herself to any other man.
From then on the crush deepened into love. She’d penned his name on the back of her hand when she was at home. Her brother Martin teased her about having a boyfriend. When was she going to bring Tom home for tea? Martin had brought all his girlfriends home for tea, but Katy had no intention of doing that. Tom was her secret. He suggested how it would be unwise to tell the world about their affair.
“Are we having an affair then?” she had dared ask.
“You know I want an affair with you, Katherine.” That was her given name. Katy made her sound too childish. The poetry of her name rolled off his tongue, enough to send her to the stars and beyond. In fact Katherine Hillier had grown up, and was now a young woman in love.
If only she hadn’t seen Ursula for the first time, when his wife had picked Tom up from school. Katy froze instinctively Tom’s lips had wandered over his wife’s Jealousy coursed through her and she wished that he would divorce Ursula. Katy had envisioned the woman, who Tom said was a nag and cold in bed, as some kind of shrewish harridan. She was destined to be disappointed when she saw what a stunner Ursula actually was. Katy was pretty, but pitted against Ursula’s sophistication and beauty, Katy felt dowdy and resentful.
She had dared to mention the fact to him that she had seen him kiss his wife. “Well, I’ve got to keep up the pretence haven’t I?” he said, following the contour of her face with a gentle hand. “It’s you I really love.”
He’d picked her up from the corner of her road in his sporty BMW. They’d gone for a drive, his hands had been all over her when they parked, but Katy dreamed of wanting more. Aware the best time to mention it was prior to the sexual act, that he either loved his wife, or he loved her. He should choose. Being a mistress wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and was interfering with her studies.
“But I can’t leave her.” He had appeared suitably shocked at the suggestion.
“Do you love her?”
“You know I don’t. In fact I don’t think I ever loved her. I only married her for her money. Her parents were killed in a car crash, and left her comfortably off.”
“But I can’t be second best.”
Moving into kiss her lips, he said, “then we don’t have a choice,do we?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’ll have to die.”
“But…but that’s a bit drastic isn’t it?” Katy entertained an initial twinge of unease, yet alternatively a sense of something akin to excitement simultaneously. “You mean, kill her?”
Their secret affair had now overspilled into murder. Katy and Tom planned to kill Ursula. But how to do it? He suggested the evening was the best time, when she took the little Pekinese for its walk along the cliff path. They should follow her. What could be more simple but a rough push against her back, and a fall into the sea? Katy hadn’t wanted to be present when he did it.
“But you must,darling. We ‘re both in this together. Besides, I love you.” He did that thing again. His hand roving the outline of her face, telling her how beautiful she was. That they would leave and set up home together. They wouldn’t find Ursula’s body for days. When they did the rocks would have disfigured her too grotesquely for identification. “What about the money if they don’t find her body. You won’t be able to claim.”
“What a shrewd little thing you are. I already have access to her bank account. It’ll be a simple matter of collecting. I shall broadcast that she has left me. That I’m moving to pastures new. What about your family?”
“I don’t care about anything but being with you,” she said, cuddling into him, listening to the rapid beating of his heart against her breasts.
Katy had never once considered the implications of killing someone. She was far too besotted with this man. She considered that once Ursula was removed from their lives and they had her money, they could be together always. They, or rather Tom, had planned it for that very evening. He promised he’d remind Ursula about taking the dog out. Then he’d meet Katy. He advised her to wear dark clothing in case they were seen. From her earlier anxieties,now only the thrill of excitement and danger remained. To think of the secret they would share, in love and death.
It was late in the evening when she received the text from Tom, instructing her to meet him, when she imagined he might have forgotten. She dressed in a dark coat, jeans, and a scarf to cover her distinctive blonde hair. Tom was similarly clad with the addition of a woollen hat. A wild excitement washed over her when she saw him, and he hissed for her to conceal herself behind a tree. She was merely a witness, but they would be in this together nonetheless.
Soon Ursula moved into view, dragging the little Peke on his equally little legs, before pausing to allow him to do his business.It was a fine night, although a trace of wind had sprung up and caused Ursula’s long blonde hair to stream around her. The tide was rising, sweeping over the rocks, and washing back out to sea. She stopped to drink in the idyllic scenery, simultaneously the man in dark clothing stepped out from behind the bushes. A gloved hand appearing from his coat, he pushed the hand hard against her back.The Peke began yapping wildly, as if sensing danger.
From her hiding place, Katy observed the tableau. She heard Ursula exclaim, “Tom!” in surprise.She then slipped, falling on the stones she had loosened with her shoe. She was sent hurtling to her death, her white skin crushed on the rocks. Her screams carried away by the rising wind, the rush of air, unable to save herself.
The sight of Ursula pushed to her deathleft Katy trembling and physically sick. Yet, above it allit meant that Tom must love her enough to kill his wife. His beautiful wife.
He stood there momentarily, as if transfixed by shock over what he had done. Katy rushed into his arms. Feeling their strength envelope her, she was surprised to observe the hint of wetness in his eyes. Now she was the strong one. She comforted him. She declared her love and how Ursula’s murder had sealed their union. She explained how they shouldgo away, leave that place. There were no witnesses, save maybe for the little Peke, who was still yapping, until Katy gathered the small dog up in her arms.
Tom was swift to regain his composure, however, and counselled they should keep up the pretence until he had worked things out. They would need enough money of course. He planned to clean out Ursula’s bank account first. He reckoned she had over a million in there. Ursula had certainly been left comfortably off.
On the following Monday Katy returned to school, although suffering two sleepless nights, admixed with both excitement and fear simultaneously. Her heart accelerated when Tom walked into classand began reciting the romantic poetry that never failed to thrill through her. Now they shared a terrible secret. Katy wondered if maybe she had dreamed the entire thing. She wanted to get away. Abroad. The other side of the world. As long as she was with him, Mars wouldn’t have been far enough.
Katy sensed something different about him. When the poetry that rolled off his tongue so dramatically, which she believed he recited for her alone, he barely glanced her way. Of course she must keep up the pretence that he so insisted on. While he barely acknowledged her, she caught him chatting in earnest to Josephine Rowan, one of the prettiest girls in the school. When Katy accused him, he merely smiled, and referred to keeping up the pretence again. It would look suspicious if they rushed things. She wanted to know if he had broadcast it around that his wife had left him. He assured her that he had. Schools are notorious for circulating rumour, but no one seemed to know anything about Mr Bridger’s wife leaving him. Tom appeared so nonchalant, it was infuriating.
A woman’s body had been recovered from the sea. It was all over the news, but the features were too disfigured to be recognised. She was put down as another unknown victim.Katy listened. The waiting was getting to her now. She had enough. Her texts, calls and e-mails were all ignored.
Sod to keeping up the pretence. Guessing Tom must be alone, she caught a bus to his house.
Waiting patiently for a response to her summons, Katy was astonished when a woman came to the door. Further surprised when she saw that the woman was none other than Ursula Bridger. Ursula Bridger who she had seen plunge to her death on the cliffs. This was definitely the same woman.
“Can I help you?” she enquired, her tone solicitous and friendly.Flicking on the porch light so as to obtain a closer look, she added, “oh, you must be one of my husband’s students.”
Close to fainting, Katy failed to tender any kind of response. Her head was spinning. A dead woman had answered the door. “There’s someone to see you, darling,” Ursula called.
Darling. How could she?
When Tom appeared, his arm encircling his wife’s waist, he said, “Oh it’s Katy isn’t it?” so nonchalantly, she felt sick. “We’re about to have a meal right now. Whatever you want it’ll have to wait until school tomorrow ” He nuzzled his wife’s neck simultaneously.
She was unable to remain any longer, to face the spectacle of Tom cuddling up to a woman he was supposed to have killed. But he had killed her. There was no mistake. She had even heard Ursula exclaim, “Tom!” in surprise.
Katy, ran into the night,her eyes blinded by tears. She flung herself into the nearest police station. There she confessed everything to a sympathetic sergeant, who promised to investigate by going to see the Bridger’s. He returned with news that served to leave Katy cold and numb inside.
Tom Bridger had no idea what she was talking about. He had never once entertained any romantic leanings toward the seventeen year old girl. He valued his job too much. As for his wife, she thought it hilarious that one of her husband’s pupils should imagine he had murdered her. After all, wasn’t she very much alive? They wouldn’t press charges against Katy. She was still a child at heart. She wasn’t the first schoolgirl to have a crush on her teacher, resentful of the wife getting in the way.
“You know what an imagination these young girls have?” Tom Bridger told the sergeant.
“We’ve committed murder, and actually got away with it!” Angela Morton exclaimed, throwing her arms around Tom Bridger’s ‘ neck. “It was really obliging of my sister to have a twin wasn’t it?”
“A twin I’ve been in love with for the last three years,” he said.
Did you enjoy reading this beautiful story, then you will also enjoy J. M. Shorney’s latest novel Progeny of a Killer.
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