Eva Byrne, the leading lady in The Dark Side trilogy is a bright girl. Off the scale bright. She's what the educational machine used to call 'profoundly gifted' (what a ridiculous label) but is nowadays known as 'highly able'. Lots of people are highly able. It's not just about academic talent, it could be sport, the arts, a combination. But, as Eva knows very well, emotional intelligence trumps the lot. If you can't form relationships that work, more or less, most of the time at least, life is a lonely carry on.
But enough on that. I'll save my thoughts on loneliness for another day. Back to the plot.
In my zeal to make myself useful I joined the Board of governors at my daughter's secondary school, and somehow ended up as the lead governor for 'gifted and talented' - another education label. This means I get to go along and talk to the teacher in charge of cultivating said talents and gifts. And that's how I found myself in a broom cupboard office one wet Tuesday morning, drinking staffroom tea and listening to a very nice PE teacher explaining how she did her best but there was no money to spend, etc. etc. In fairness, she was impressive, and she knew her stuff.
So do I, and I felt I should at least explain why I'd been researching this issue. So I explained about having written The Dark Side the previous year, and that the story hinges around emotional intelligence, relationships, and the highly able. She was impressed. An author! She offered me a biscuit. I declined.
She asked me, naturally enough, to tell her more about the book. So I did. I told her it was a grittier, more realistic twist on the Fifty Shades theme, set in the UK. Lots of sexy scenes, lots of spanking. Had she read Fifty Shades, I asked politely? Then I ducked as a mouthful of staffroom tea and digestive biscuit shot across the desk. It missed me, but unfortunately the rather tired looking yucca plant behind me copped the lot. But Miss Gifted and Talented was puce. Obviously not all the tea had been ejected. Some had gone down the wrong hole. She was choking. I wondered if I might need to thump her between the shoulder blades, or even attempt the Heimlich manoeuvre if I could remember how.
Mercifully it didn't come to that. PE teachers are made of stern stuff and she managed to recover control of her bodily functions after a couple of minutes of gasping and wheezing and frantic coughing. And then, incredibly, she announced that she might like to order a couple of copies of The Dark Side for the school library. I managed to hang on to my tea but advised that any such decision be approached with great caution. It's most definitely not suitable for adolescent boys awash with testosterone. And it'll be an e-book.
She nodded wisely, agreed I was probably right. But I do suspect if it ever emerges in print that the staff room will see a copy or two. Well thumbed. It's all good I suppose, a sale is a sale. And I'm expecting some odd looks at the next governors' meeting.