French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte hug as he addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris , Sunday April 23, 2017. Image Credit: AP

MADRID: When French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was 15 and attending a private Jesuit college in Amiens, northern France, he was smitten by a girl in some of his classes: the way she looked, the way she made sense of French literature; her understanding of drama.

Back then, the man who has turned politics on its head in the first round of presidential voting was little more than a boy, wanted to be a novelist and likely never thought then he’d be the front-runner on May 7 to enter the Elysee Palace as President of the French Republic.

He just had the teenage hots for the girl at school.

The Jesuit college was one of the top schools in the city 120 kilometres from the French capital, and his parents, both respected doctors, knew a lot of families. Naturally, when young Emmanuel brought the subject up of his infatuation with the Auziere girl, they just assumed it was the pretty blonde teenager Laurence, who was in their son’s class. She was, after all, the middle of the three Auziere sisters. It had to be her? Or one of the other two, right?

Wrong. Emmanuel was in love with Laurence’s mother, Brigitte. And by the time the Macron’s figured it out, their son was 16 and in love with the 40-year-old woman.

Sure, it’s not unusual for adolescent teens to fall head over heels with a teacher. But this was more than a classroom infatuation, Macron told his parents.

“They were thinking that it would stop and did everything to make that happen,” Macron told Le Figaro journalist Anne Fulda, who has written a recently published book on Macron and the woman, 25 years his senior, who is likely to become the First Lady of France.

“In class she always used him as an example,” recalled a former pupil. “He wrote poems all the time and she read them out.”

“Writing brought us together,” Brigitte later said. “It unleashed an incredible closeness. We wrote and little by little I was totally charmed by his intelligence. He wasn’t like the others. “Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret.”

So what did the Macron’s do? First they told Brigitte to back off and leave their son alone. That didn’t work. Instead, they packed Emmanuel off to finish school in Paris.

Before Emmanuel left, he made a pillow promise to Brigitte: “You won’t get rid of me. Whatever you do, I will marry you.”

Distance couldn’t keep the lovers apart. They spoke on the phone every day. She left her husband and moved to the capital too, taking a teaching job so she could be with the 18-year old.

That was 21 years ago, and they’ve been together ever since.

At their wedding in 2007, Macron thanked the three Auziere sisters for accepting the unusual relationship between him and their mother, who reverted to her maiden name of Brigitte Trogneux.

Now, in the final stretches of the French president election, Trogneux has been likened to a predatory Barbie doll. For her, however, Emmanuel forever remains her “chouchou” — the teacher’s pet.