by Brooklyn Beckings

Chapter 1

Every September, the top of the educational circle starts again.

The advert had not taken me long to write, it was simple enough. Indeed, it was the same every year except the phone number:

'Would you like help for your English GCSE exams? Please contact 029 2018 09 54'

Within a few hours of submitting it into the school magazine & website, I had a response via text:

'Is this the English tutor? I could do with loads of help, please. '

I quickly tapped back a response: 'Yes, it is. Just an FYI, I will meet around 20 students and from there will decide on 5 students that I will tutor. When would be best to meet you?'

'Okay. Gucci' Gucci? What did that mean? I quickly look it up to find out:

'Gucci: to mean okay/good/great/fantastic/awesome.' Oh. Okay.

'Where will be best for you to meet?'

'The Costa by my school? The one on Lord Street?'

'Brilliant. What day? Time?' He was going to be my first student so he could have any time & date.

'Thursday 4pm will be best'

'Thanks, see you on Thursday at 4 at the Costa Coffee near the school. Sorry, what's your name?'

'Sorry, Romeo. Speak soon''

Over the rest of the week, my diary filled up with initial meetings – new possibilities as well as students already under my tutorage. I always relished the prospect of meeting them all. They say the best way of staying young is to surround yourself with young people and – after being retired 15 years but still being reasonably fit – I was testament to this adage.

Thursday 3:45 – Costa Coffee Car Park

I was ready for my appointment with Romeo. I had my questions written out on a cue card, excited to meet a new potential student.

I pulled up in the car park in my Volkswagen Polo. It was 6 years old and £6,000 when I bought it 4 years ago. Sure, there were a few rattles, however, it was still serving me well. The car park was mostly empty so I parked in one of the bays nearest to the Coffee house. Being early allowed me to watch the patrons coming in, checking to see who could be my potential student.

As I sat waiting for him to arrive, I couldn't stop thinking about what a sweet name he had. I kept looking for my wannabe student but eventually, after yet another regular customer walked in I give up and sent a quick text message.

'Just coming in now' I messaged him and then my eyes scanned the floor-to-ceiling windows, looking for anyone who checked their phone.

There he was was. Skinny Adidas joggers sagging very low. A baggy, grey NorthFace t-shirt under an orange champion hoodie. He looked stylish, young, bright. I walked in, noticing his blue eyes looking up as I did.

"Romeo?" I mouthed. He nodded, nay, gaped. His skin was almost luminous, tight against his jawbone. He was obviously fit; did he play a sport? Or maybe he just went to the gym a lot? I already had so many questions that I wanted to find out, already excited at the opportunity to get to know more about him. Yet, I had my initial questions. I decided I needed to stick to my plan A. I couldn't get too personal too quickly.

I walked over, reaching into my pocket for my wallet.

"What are you having, then?" I asked him, as I approach the table.

"Oh, erm. I'll have a large hot chocolate, please" he said, smiling and revealing his perfect pearly white teeth.

"Fantastic. I'll be back in a moment" taking my coat off. Placing it on the chair just so. Only a few minutes later, I was back, two drinks in my hands, I sat opposite him, placing my coffee with the handle perpendicular to where I sat at the table. Perfect.

As I dug out my notepad I couldn't help but contemplate how much I loved this part of my job "Okay, Romeo – do you prefer Romeo or is there an alternative?"

"Romeo, Rome or Ro, whichever you prefer." He chuckled, folding his blonde floppy hair away from his eyes, his hands going back down under the small circular metallic table between us.

"Okay, Ro it is," I chuckled too. "Do you have any work for me to have a look at?"

Ro spun round and dug out a neat A4 purple book, on the front in neat handwriting were the words:

Romeo Lloyd-Johnson

English Language

Year 10

I wrote a few scribbles on my book and then opened his book up. Each page was full of neat writing but I turned to the last full page dated today, looking at the work. "Working on Shakespeare, I see?" It was more of a statement than a question and he dutifully stayed quiet as I read the pages of notes.

"Is this your own work? Or work you copied?" I asked, turning the book so he could see it and pointing to the bullet points.

"Well… It's… Erm… We were doing some group work but they were mostly notes I wrote for myself." He answered, his hands stayed under the table, presumably between his legs – as he spoke, looking down and then running a hand over the relevant bullet points. "And from here is the rest of the group work." He explained.

I nodded and carried on reading. It was rather good stuff; good analysis of the play, characters and plot. I already knew he was going to be a student of mine. The rest of the 'interview' was mostly a formality.

"Okay, that all looks good. Thank you." I said, adding a few more notes in my notebook. "And which set are you in at the school?"

"Me? Oh, I'm in set 2." Romeo answered me. So he was clever but still requiring some work to be working with the top leagues. Excellent. Something to work with and get this lad's confidence going up and up. Perfect.

"Okay, and you are in year 10? So you are 14 or 15 years old?" I asked, well aware of the ages each year group encompassed after a lifetime working in education.

He nodded again. "14, Sir. 15 in July." Romeo replied.

What was it about summer babies & blondes that they always wanted - perhaps it was more that they needed - to have lots of fun?

"Okay, that's good to know. So I used to be an English tutor at Phillips High School," Romeo's neighbouring school. "However, since I retired, I have kept up to date with the legislation and curriculum and so far no student has moved up less than 2 grades whilst working with me." I said, sort of selling myself to him now. This meeting was two-way and he could easily decide that he didn't want me as a tutor.

He nodded, looking a little dumbstruck. He obviously didn't have a clue about what to expect from this initial meeting nor the next 2 years of sessions that were about to begin.

"So, I meet my students once a week at a place and time of their choosing. I am reasonably flexible as long as it is after school on a weekday. They can also be in the morning or afternoon during the weekends. I don't charge anything, this service is complementary however I do ask that you show me all the work you get from school and not show your school what I give you. It's going to be tough work, however – if I choose you – it will be worth it. Understood?" I asked seriously. I wanted to make sure that he was fully informed and completely committed to this.

He looked at me, still dumbstruck, eyes slightly glazed but finally nodded his consent. "Yeah, that all sounds Gucci… I mean, good, yeah, it all sounds good!" He nodded again making me smile. His skin truly was flawless, all his pores tight, young and fresh.

"Okay, well do you have any other questions, Ro?" I asked him, a little less seriously than before.

He shook his head and then smiled again. "I guess I just hope this sort of goes well? And yeah, thanks for meeting me."

If he hadn't already won me over, he had now!

"That's very sweet, Romeo. Thank you. As I say, I will let you know in the next week or so and then we can go from there." I smiled, and with that, Romeo had finished his hot chocolate. I stood up and we shook hands before he went off, pulling his joggers up a bit to hide his sag to the world.

Did I wait 7 days, I hear you ask? Definitely, not.

'Hello, Romeo, I'm happy to accept you as one of students! When is best to have our first session?'

'That's great, thank you! Would the Costa Coffee be okay again? 4pm on a Thursday?' He very quickly replied.

'Brilliant, works for me. Please bring your English work and any homework you might have due in the near future.'

Our journey together was just starting

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