Memory Motel: A Rock And Roll Fantasy, Part Two Section Nine: Michelle Becomes Electra
Part Two: Two Years Later (Continued)
As Michele followed Phillip’s story on google he dropped out of the papers soon after he resigned from the force. Other than a DUI ten years ago, everything else she read was about his private investigation work: all peering through windows at women cheating on their husband’s: nothing interesting, exciting or important, a pointlessness.
Michele lost interest in her father though at the age of 15 it manifested itself a different way. An affair with her 37 year old teacher Ian Cardigan, seemed, even to her, like an attempt at a father figure. Ian wasn’t what you’d call handsome, tall, very thin with a steady hand and a ready wit, he was a good but not inspired teacher and he was worse than that with women. For as long as Ian could remember he fell in love with the wrong girls, invariably, wrong so wrong, that most of them didn’t even sleep with him. And the girls he had slept with, a fair amount but the wrong ones, he couldn’t keep and didn’t want. As long as Ian could remember he’d had his heart broken and though he didn’t know it, he was about to have it ripped out of his chest and stomped on.
If you asked Ian today, four years after he left Alwood High because the pain was so acute he couldn’t bear to stay there, he’d have said, nothing had changed, nothing had improved. When Ian was teaching a class, or watching a movie, or just living his daily life, he didn’t think of Michelle but when his brain stopped for even a second it went back to her. He would close his eyes and just every inch of her face, he would see her again the way she was that first day she came to him for help with a Math problem. She’d stayed after school and he had patiently explained and she watched him, absorbed him, and then said. “OK, now start again”. Michelle didn’t think he was handsome, didn’t think of him in those terms at all and yet despite that, despite the fact that the rock god who took her for the first time was around a million times better at this sorta stuff, still there was something very kind about Ian. And he was really funny. And when he decided to take her side in life, he really did take her side in life, it felt as though they were a team.
Ian didn’t know how it happened, how he went from a life where this kid barely existed to a place where his entire happiness evolved into a secret smile shared, like something wrong yet innocent, and then those words which seemed to come from nowhere to him, just like that, so sudden. In class, a text, “could you please help me today after school Mr. Cardigan”. His heart would stop and then his hands would speed up and he would go to text her but for some reason, like even if he could admit he felt something for the girl, he resisted, he slowed himself and like the tinglinest of anticipations 5 minutes ten minutes. The “I have plans but let me see if I can move them.” Whether he had them at all, it didn’t matter. She replied, quickly, unlike a year from then when he could wait a day to hear from her, “I don’t want to inconvenience you.”
Part of his attraction was a gift Michelle had, though quite where she got it from, certainly not her mother or Grandmother, of making people feel as though they are special to her. It wasn’t something she turned on, it wasn’t a switch, it was an unconscious ability to concentrate upon the person that was speaking to her. It was a reason she was a leader, everybody thought she cared about them even when she didn’t even quite notice them. And she was , for such a popular girl, quiet. However, to get the reason for her quietness correctly, she didn’t feel the need to impress anyone and so only engaged them when the urge took her. She didn’t speak because she wouldn’t speak unless she wanted something. And she didn’t want much.
These two abilities made her very popular with boys (she never dated High School boys, even college was a rarity when she was 15 years old, they tended to be 20 year old plus musicians) and she neither used it nor didn’t use it but the effect engulfed Ian. This quiet not quiet girl, with piercing beauty, a legend at fifteen years of age, had an intense interest in him and the result was to make him feel something no girl had ever made him feel: special.
Something else, Michee treated him differently than she treated everybody else. This Michelle was aware of and as things went further along, was a little disappointed in, Ian. She considered him a father figure but was too careful to quite see it and as the weeks turned to months the two became more careful with each other, more professional and yet some moments, some moments were seared on his brain as though they would be a guiding light, something he wanted to be the last thing he ever saw. Another sunny day, again in the classroom, again explaining algebraic theory, “Algebraic problem solving could be considered in two ways “structural (systemic)” and “procedural (surface)”. Abstract mathematical notions can be conceived in two fundamentally different ways. They are structurally as objects and operationally as processes, the structural conception is static, instantaneous, and integrative while the operational conception is dynamic, sequential, and detailed.”
Michelle looked up at Ian and she smiled widely and said “I think that is the most you’ve ever said to me at one time.” Ian blushed and if possible blushed upon his blush and they both started to laugh and not just for Ian but for Michelle as well it was a change in their relationship. A secret easing up upon the two of them. Michelle intuited immediately that he liked her? Loved her? That he was no longer a father figure but a man who she reached in some strange way and who she wanted to reach. And Ian was simply, irresponsibly and completely in love with her.
By the end of the school year, Michelle was the captain of Alwood’s Girls Soccer team, a popular leader moving effortlessly from one faction in the school to another, and a straight “A” student. On some level, there was nothing Michelle turned her hand to she couldn’t do, and she did it with a terrifying quiet confidence that had other girls come to her for advice on how do you get everything? How do you get the most popular boy in school begging for her attention, how do you snap everybody to attention.
The answer was simple to Michelle and she shared it promiscuously though it didn’t much help any one. “The way to get what you want is not to care if you get it.”
In a sense, Michelle saw this as a secret reason why she couldn’t get to the bottom of the question as to who her father actually was. She cared too much and it clouded her mind. And to a degree, she had a similar problem with Ian. She cared for him, she cared… when the head boy Charlie said he loved her, after she let him take her out on a date and wouldn’t kiss him, he cared for her in as a reflection of his desire to be seen with her. She was his trophy for doing so well. So she dated older men who didn’t see her like a trophy but like an adjunct, a guitarist for a local band called the Hilarious, who added beats to classic rock, saw her as a part of him for the three weeks they dated: as though what he was was a guitarist with this girl, the reward for being famous to a slight degree. But she never saw that in Ian, when Ian spoke to her, the concern wasn’t love or sex or him or youth, it was Michelle, he was concerned only about her and all he wanted was to see her through to somewhere else entirely. To take her and make her whole, he could tell there was a piece of her that was missing, and no one else could even expect it.
Michee told her Mom she wanted Ian hired as a private tutor for the summer, she wanted to jump a grade and Hannah, who knew Ian and didn’t consider Ian the slightest sexual threat to her, still was alarmed though she didn’t know why but try and tell Michelle anything. Try and have a sensible conversation. It couldn’t be done and Hannah was very nervous even discussing it with Michelle. I mean, instead of wanting to get in trouble all summer long, Michelle wanted to study and skip a grade.
Hannah waited till a Sunday afternoon in early June as they sat by the pool, the Beach Boys on the speakers and both of them a little tired from the sun.
“Darling do you really want to-“
And that was the end of the conversation.
Hannah contacted Cardigan on the Monday and when he got the call and realized who it was a feeling of intense panic came over him. He stuttered a little, closed his eyes and tried again.
“Mr Cardigan, I’d appreciate you answering a question, please.”
Damn damn, damn, damn… that’s it but what? I haven’t done anything. She can’t read my mind but I bet Michelle can. “Certainly, please feel free.How may I help you?”
“My daughter is doing very well in school, the best ever, and she feels that with a push this summer she could skip a grade. I am not sure what her hurry is to be quite honest but if that’s her feeling I see no reason not to help her achieve her goals and with that in mind…”
Ian was to personally tutor Michelle through July and August and the school was to give her a special exam at the end of the two months. Three days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, nine to three pm with an hour break. He was to be paid $100 an hour.
From dreading the end of the school year with a horror that could make him cry if he concentrated hard enough suddenly a weight had been lifted off his heart, that girl he saw all day he would see all day and be paid, and be private. Ian could hardly believe it. Drinking with some of his friends, Janet and Shamir, who were secretly dating though they would break up within the month after Janet discovered Shamir’s secret gay life in a cachet of files, gay porn, which she could’ve forgiven, but gay dating services, which she really couldn’t at all, the couple noted his exuberance. “I got a dream job , a dream job, $200 an hour, 24 hours a week, off the books, tutoring Michelle Fellowes.”
Shamir whistled under his breath and Janet elbowed him. “Wow, still… play your cards right Ian, go after the Mom –she is crazy but beautiful and very rich. You’ll be made for life.” They had another round of drinks and another and then played some pool, and drunk some more and with all that alcohol, and the feeling end of school always brings teachers in summer, of months of freedom, like they’ve never grown up, like it is the same as for the kids, that feeling, still his talk was evasive, still he refused to discuss it for a moment. Just a lot of money and if they’d understood Ian better, noted he was meant to go back east and visit his family and had cancelled it, they might have known that money was not in any sense a deciding factor here.