Geoff smoothed calamine lotion over his red, swollen face and drew a line through ‘mushrooms’ on his notepad. Another no-go.
So far Geoff had established that he wasn’t intolerant to sheep’s cheese. Unfortunately he had also uncovered a load of new intolerances he hadn’t known about, now including mushrooms. For Geoff the world was a maze of itchy rashes, beige food and, occasionally, vomit. He sighed.
Time for work. Geoff checked his rash in the mirror - it wasn’t too bad this time. Not like the time with the eggs and all the pus, he shuddered. Bit of luck and the kids wouldn’t spot it and he’d get through the session with no questions or horrified squeals. He slung his guitar resolutely across his back and set off on his bike for the school.
Geoff taught guitar at a few schools, all within cycling distance of his clean, scrupulously dust-free apartment. He didn’t share it with anyone. He’d tried dating, but dating involved food and food inevitably meant some kind of humiliating disaster for Geoff, so he stopped, happy in his world of music, bicycling and a growing collection of ‘world’s best teacher’ mugs.
At the gates Geoff spotted one of his pupils scurrying up the road with her mum.
“Hello Rosie” he called cheerfully, locking his bike to a post. Rosie’s mum looked up surprised, but smiled when she saw who it was.
“Hello Mr Roberts. Rosie’s not been well, but she didn’t want to miss your lesson, so we agreed she’d come in for the afternoon. I think she’ll be fine now that the rash has gone down a bit.”
Rosie tried to smile, but it didn’t come out right. Geoff bent down.
“Did you eat something that made you poorly?” Rosie nodded.
“So did I” he told her leaning closer, so she could see his red face. She beamed, then, and her mum smiled gratefully too.
“That’s the first time she’s smiled today. I think she’s allergic to everything - I can’t keep up.”
The three of them walked into the empty classroom together.
“Tell me about it.” Geoff said as three of them walked into the empty classroom together “I’m working my way through this list from my GP. Good news is I can now eat sheep’s cheese if I want.”
He pumped the air in mock celebration.
“Actually, you know sheep’s cheese isn’t that bad - if you eat it with tomato chutney. It’s the only dairy Rosie can have too.”
“ I’ll definitely try that. I’m ok with tomatoes.”
“I’ve made a batch for Rosie. Would you like a jar? To try?”
“Really? That’s kind.”
“I only live round the corner, I can grab it now. Perhaps we can get a coffee and I’ll go through some of the other recipes I’ve discovered - can you drink coffee?”
She laughed too loudly at this and Geoff didn’t tell her that he couldn’t. They agreed to meet at a cafe after the lesson. Rosie’s mum hurried out smiling to herself.
Geoff smiled, lost for a moment in thought then realised something, suddenly.
“Rosie - what’s your mum’s name?”