Late Nights and Suspicions

I balanced the picture on my desk in the classroom and just stared.  I couldn’t believe I was with this guy.

We’d exchanged photos.  The photo I was looking at was of him on a boat in the Florida keys, his skin tanned, his hair blond and tousled, his eyes that striking blue that still took my breath away weeks later.

“Is that him?” Kathy asked.    She was in and out of the room all of the time now, with me pretty much doing all of the teaching.   She and I talked about simply everything during our free periods together, like two girlfriends who’d known each other much longer than the two months we’d shared.  The whole second grade knew about Tom and our blind date success story, because Michelle taught right across the hall and had a very, very big mouth.

“Yes, that’s him,” I smiled.

“Wow.  You weren’t kidding.  He is really good looking,” she answered.  “How late last night?”

We had a running tally, Kathy and I, of how late I’d been up the night before.  Because Tom and I both worked, the only time of day we had to see each other was the evening.  If I wanted to go out with him, we waited until Zach went to sleep and my mother was curled up on the sofa.  Sometimes he came over my house and we watched TV with her, or sat in the kitchen while I checked papers and he did paperwork.   But once we were together, sleeping seemed secondary; we wanted to spend as much time together as we could.

“Uh…I think 2:30 last night.”

“I don’t know how you’re functioning with so many days of so little sleep.”

“I’m good,” I answered.  “Running on adrenalin, here.”

“Well you better be.  We’ve got to get that book buddy thing finalized with your friend over at the high school.  You know, the one who will be crushed when he learns that you’ve got a new boyfriend?”

I blushed.  Kathy had made several comments about Mr. H (“Dennis, please,” he’d kept insisting now that we were colleagues) after our meeting regarding our cross age paired reading lessons that I had suggested.  She thought he was far too familiar with me than a former teacher should be.

“That’s just crazy,” I’d told her at the time.  “He just always took a special interest in me because I had some crappy things happen in my family during high school.  I had another teacher who did the same thing for me.  It’s no big thing.  We’re just friends now, that’s all.”

“Really?  How can you be so sure?” she’d asked in all seriousness, while I laughed at her comments.  “Have you noticed how long he hugs you for?  It’s not normal.”

“Come on, that’s just crazy talk.  He’s old enough to be my father, for heaven’s sake.”  I snapped back to the present, looking again at the photo propped up on a stack of books on my desk.

“He’s an adult, you’re an adult.  Are you telling me you’ve never thought of it?”

I couldn’t lie, I’d had a crush on the guy from the day I stepped in his classroom.  But that was the stuff of teenage nonsense.  I was certain he’d never felt anything but a mixture of admiration and pity for me, the girl who came from the school of hard knocks and came out swinging.  “I’ve never seen anything from him that I could interpret as anything but friendly,” I answered evenly.

I tucked away Kathy’s suspicions in the back corners of my head and got ready for the students to return from gym class.

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