Exclusive: Backstage with ‘But She Is My Student’ Actress Shanika Ocean

An exclusive Lucy-focused excerpt from the novel ‘But She Is My Student’

‘Oh My God! I’m so pleased to see you! How are you?’ Lucy was wiggling her fingers with excitement like a grandma looking at their long lost grandchild for the first time in years. ‘You look incredible by the way. I love that shirt! What are you doing here?’ She buzzed her own head with her index finger. ‘Durrr! You’ve seen Kat haven’t you? I’m thrilled! Come here!’ She threw her arms tightly around Freya.

Freya could hardly breathe. ‘Hello. I remember you from the club. Beyoncé wasn’t it?’

Lucy put her ring finger to her face and stuck out her bottom. ‘Uh oh oh, uh oh oh oh oh!’

Freya felt buffeted, she could hardly remember the woman. ‘That was it.’

‘Come here!’ Lucy dragged her to the brown tub chairs squashed between the tall, slightly dusty, plastic dragon trees. ‘We’ve got so much to talk about! Sorry if I look a bit rough – I’ve just led two hours of pelvic floor! Whatever anyone says, it works, and I’m burning if you know what I mean! Listen to me jabbering on. What’s new!?’

Freya sucked on her bottom lip and paused.

‘Lucy! Kat must have mentioned me?’

‘Lucy, sorry. Harley loves his leg warmers.’ That was all she knew.

‘Oh good I’ve got plenty more where they came from. Do you want some? Oh no of course you don’t, look at you! Kat said you had an amazing dress sense and she wasn’t wrong. I said you looked twenty five!’

Freya held the thick padded arm rests. ‘Did you?’

‘Yes, when the mountain blew as they say! I said you looked at least twenty five.’ She paused, rolled her eyes and put on her best ghetto impression. ‘Look at you, girlfriend! You ain’t no schoolgirl!’

Freya laughed, was that meant to be Welsh? ‘So Kat talks about me?’

‘When doesn’t she!’ Lucy was getting carried away, just thrilled at the sight of Kat’s dangerous liaison sitting in all her beauty in their communal lobby. ‘Look, you can always count on me to cut to the chase.’ She pulled her chair in as close as was possible. ‘Our Katherine is absolutely … oh shit hang on.’ She reached up in the dark and slammed the lobby light. ‘She is absolutely crazy for you. Don’t tell her I’ve said this, but this will probably save months of to-ing and fro-ing. She fancies the pants off you, Freya. She wants you with a passion that I haven’t seen in her for such a long time.’ Lucy put on another strange voice. ‘She wants to strum your fiddle and play a sweet tune!’

Freya couldn’t help but laugh. ‘Has she said this?’

‘Not in so many words, but it’s obvious. She is a delicate one our Kat. I know she doesn’t seem it what with her power dressing and teacher voice and all that, but she is. She’s been hurt before and it’s changed her. She has no self-confidence.’

‘I can’t believe that.’

‘No, I mean with women, with relationships. She really finds it hard to believe people like her. Nice people I mean.’

‘Well she’s made it quite clear that we’re not even allowed to broach the subject.’

Lucy wrinkled her nose. ‘What does that mean?’

Freya liked Lucy more and more as the crazy conversation continued. ‘She doesn’t want to talk about it.’

‘So you really haven’t got it on in her store cupboard then? That one needs to get a grip. Look at you! Someone like you doesn’t … hang on …’ she slammed the button, ‘you only get one minute’s worth of light. Have you seen these plants? Bloody cheapskates. We have to pay a fee for this area!’

‘I like the apartment.’

‘Please tell me she took you in her room?’ Lucy wiggled her firm bottom in the brown tub chair.

‘No, I just needed some advice and she didn’t want to talk anywhere else, so we sat in your lounge.’

Lucy fanned her face and blew up her fringe. ‘She can’t control herself that’s why! Look, Kat just needs a bit of gentle persuading. She says you’re the smartest student she’s ever taught. It’s plain as night is day that you’re beautiful and I know Kat, and I know you, and you two belong together.’

Freya was wondering if they’d met on another occasion, one that she’d since forgotten. ‘To be honest I don’t think she’s going to go there.’

‘Oh My God! I’ve just realised that I’ve been rabbiting on and I’ve not once asked you if you actually like her! You are Freya Elton aren’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh phew, imagine that! Listen, I’m not one to pry or offer my opinions, but is it going to happen? Because if it isn’t then I think you should just switch subjects, do Latin or something just as boring instead.’

Freya laughed. Lucy was as crazy as her dreadful Beyoncé dancing. ‘No, it’s not going to happen. She won’t let it happen and I respect that. She’s an amazing teacher and I like her so much. I don’t want to jeopardise her career. It does mean a lot though hearing what you’ve said.’ Freya was, however, not sure how much of it she actually believed.

‘Bloody hell, you’re a match made in heaven! Fine, both of you play the martyr, but remember that old saying – opportunity is a bird that never perches.’ She slammed the light.

Freya had been moving her thumb, drawing patterns in the brown brushed fabric. ‘Okay thanks, I will.’

‘Oh come here, loves young dream.’ Lucy lifted Freya out of the seat and squashed her with a full bodied hug. ‘It’s been lovely talking to you again. Please come and visit us soon, or just visit me. I think you’re great!’

Freya laughed. ‘Wish me luck.’