It was cold, bitterly cold. My scarf was not succeeding in fulfilling its job of keeping me warm, just collecting my condensed breath in its woven sections. It was about to rain, that was for sure. The clouds had covered the sun and the trees were delicately silhouetted against the moody sky. The weather, itself, was sinister.
I was making each step last longer and longer, until I was almost tripping over myself. With each step I was getting closer to what I hated most of all in the whole world, maths. With each step there was no going back. It was my second lesson of private maths tuition with Mr Smith, my second hour of my brain dancing in my head, my second hour of my whole mind being in absolute oblivion, an hour which seemed to want to last forever. I became increasingly more nervous as I neared his house.
Mum was walking in a morose manner; she didn’t want to be there as much as I didn’t. School had made me attend the classes as punishment for my dire behaviour. I was there, I knocked at the door. Mum left me standing outside the house. It had a huge, pretentious door; it looked like it was an entrance to a giant’s castle. I could hear his footsteps coming down the stairs; they were in rhythm with my heartbeat. My stomach was quivering in my mouth. I could see his face in the panes in the door. I watched him unlock the door and gently press down the handle. The door creaked as it opened, revealing Mr Smith.
“Come in!” He spoke sharply.
He was an old man; I guessed he was about seventy years old. A poorly disguised wig lay on his head covering his one long eyebrow. He had peculiar eyes, they were a murky green colour, and he had a sight infringement as I could never tell when he was looking at me. (It was rumoured at school that he had a glass eye because a witch pulled it out when he was a baby, but they were silly kinder garden tales) His nose was long and thin. He had ruby red, plump lips which surrounded a significant lack of teeth. He wore a plain black polo neck sweater and black trousers. He wore shoes, inside the house. The man was scary.
“Thank you.” I murmured when the words finally escaped my lips.
I followed him through the dark hall way and into the room where I studied with him. The room was extremely small and dingy for a house the size of his. He pointed to the desk and I sat down.
“Get out your work you have practised from last week, please.” He spoke in a militarial type manner and paused before he said please as if it was a strain to use such manners. I got out my prep book and began to find the homework he had set me. He gave me a sheet and told me to read from it. I read the words quickly and quietly, without understanding anything I was saying. My mind was not in conjunction with my mouth. The atmosphere in the room was rigid.
“Do you understand what is written there?” he asked.
“Yeh, sort of.” I spoke without looking at him.
I shuddered as he placed his hand on my shoulder; I felt each finger lie down separately, each one digging into my tight shoulders. My tense body, warmed from the heating, turned cold all over.
* * *
That night I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about Mr Smith, what was a man like him doing in a state like Dallas? Something was really bizarre about him. My head ached intensely, making my eyes strain to see anything before me. Every time I let my eyes go I could see the great, giant door, but instead of Mr Smith being behind the frosted panes, it was me.
The next time I went to see him I walked there alone. The same feelings of nervousness were there as they were before.
I was sat in the seat at the desk in the room. This time he sat beside me rather than standing behind me. I could smell his old breath stained with coffee. I felt it getting closer to me but could not bring myself to have eye contact with him. I continued to stare at the sheet which lay before me, covered with numbers which had no importance to me whatsoever. Why was I so scared of someone so weak and frail? He had a strange presence about him, he seemed as on edge as I was.
It was cold and bleak outside and every so often the curtains would ripple from the wind outside. BANG. The door of the room slammed shut. Mr Smith and I had eye contact for the first time. He looked at me as if to look straight through me, yet I could feel his glare pump through my body. He looked away before I did, and concentrated on the sheet.
“It’s an old house.” He spoke his words all on the same tone, at the same speed. I acknowledged him with a nod.
“Do you understand the basic rules of geometry?” he asked as a reply to the confusion on my face. Again I nodded.
The hour was coming to a close.
“That’ll be enough for today, learn what you’ve been taught this lesson and I will test you on it next week.”
He gave me a strained smile of satisfaction, and opened the door to dismiss me from the room. As I walked out the door he, as before, put his long, aged weathered fingers on my shoulder. Again I had that same feeling of horror running all over me, I felt the adrenaline and energy being drained out of me. My eyes felt blurred and my head felt buoyant upon my shoulders.
I must only have been unconscious for a few seconds; my eyes couldn’t focus for seconds afterwards though. I looked up from the hard stone floor, to see Mr Smith standing there, glaring at me with his malicious eyes. He spoke no words, just stood there looking as pale as I felt.
I walked out of the house, I didn’t say as much as goodbye to him; I felt my time had more than expired in that house for one day. AS I walked home, however, I felt the peculiar pain in my head as I did last week. I had a ten minute walk home. Already it was turning dark, it was unbelievably cold and their was a thick fog building up, I turned back, only several feet away from Mr smiths house and could barely see the door, the fog, however left room to see a humbled window at the top of the house. I took a double glance at the window, I thought it was an illusion but I could see Mr Smith, his face in the window staring straight through me.
“Argghhh!” the pain was getting unbearable. I broke out into a run. I was scared. As I ran I kept looking back, with each step that I ran, more pain was brought to my head.
When I arrived home I flew up the stairs and buried myself in the warm, soft, reassuring duvet. My head continued to pulsate and the pain inside me was more excruciating than ever. I quickly drifted off into a deep sleep. I dreamt of going to Mr Smith’s house but it taking me a considerable amount of time. It was foggy outside, like earlier and it was difficult to find my way. I kept looking and aiming for his unnerving face behind the small window at the top of the house. I continued to walk though, as though possessed by my motivation to get there.
I eventually saw the window, his face was there, but instead of the old, expressionless face, I saw myself again. I was knocking on the window telling myself to hurry. How was I telling myself something? Who was I? I walked up to the house and entered it, not knocking on the door, as I would normally do. I led myself up the winding staircase, the fog had followed me from outside and I was travelling through a thick mist, it was biting my face but I couldn’t feel the pain, only the tedious pain inside my head. When the stairs had ended I came to a door, it opened without me even touching it, as if it had read my mind. I stood in the doorway in utter shock and confusion. I was looking at myself in the room; there was a clone of me standing at the window. My head was spinning with ambiguity, what was happening?
“So, you came.” My clone spoke. It wasn’t my voice though. It was Mr Smith’s.
“What are you doing? Why? How…” it took me a couple of seconds to realise. I was speaking in Mr Smith’s voice too. I looked around the room, a mirror hung on the wall near my clone. I walked over to it with anxiety and anticipation. A regular feeling was coming back to me; my stomach, yet again, was in my throat. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and looked in the mirror.