Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chapter Three, Part Two

Disclaimer:  This blog is not advocating student/teacher romances. There will be some romance.  But don't assume too much. ;)


Part Two 

We've only just begun…to live. White lace and promises...

The garbage disposal briefly interrupted the song streaming from Dan’s laptop in the living room.

A kiss for luck and we're on our way

Karen Carpenter. Why had Allie chosen Carpenter songs for her first album? 

So many roads to choose. We start out walking and learn to run

Peas and lettuce continued to float on murky water in the sink basin, while dinner sizzled next to him on the stove.

And yes, we've just begun!

"Were you trying to tell us something, Allison Marie Shields?" He mumbled and flipped on the disposal again. 


He recalled plucking away on the piano keys and wondering about his sister’s scrawny appearance as she belted the lyrics to those songs.


Watching the signs along the way.

Still peas and lettuce.

"Ryan! What did you do to the sink?"

Talkin' it over, just the two of us.

"What?" Ryan strode through the entryway, looking like he'd just swallowed a banana whole, which was an improvement to the straight face and dark eyes that had been his signature for the past few weeks- not that Dan could blame him.

"What's going on?" he asked with his hand on his ever-hungry stomach. If Dan could just transfer that kid's appetite to Allie, the problem would be partially solved.

No it wouldn't. Anorexia is psychological, not physical.

Dan tossed a rag onto the counter, spraying dirty water against his nice, clean wall.

"When it rains it pours," he grumbled.

"Kitchen sink malfunction, huh?" Ryan asked. "Why are you blaming that on me?"

"I wasn't really…Just some ticked off humor."

"There's a new one....Ticked off humor. Use that one in class, do you?"

"Not yet, but there’s still plenty of time for it."

Sharing horizons that are new to us...

"Ryan, could you please turn off Allie’s-"

"Can you fix the sink?" He frowned into the mess.

"Hell, no, can you?"

Ryan’s chestnut eyes bulged.  “Cussing now, are we?”

Dan pursed his lips.  He’d been doing so well up until now. “Sorry,” he said, but sorry was an understatement. 

Not only could he not teach (so far), but he was a failure in the Christian Example department.  True, this had been a frustrating past two days and he was extra edgy, but how many times could he use that excuse before it became obvious that he simply had no control over his tongue?

He cleared his throat.  "What's Allie doing?"  The heaviness in his voice seemed enough to sway Ryan off of that subject, because he looked a little sheepish.

"She's resting…and don’t worry, I lectured her today since you weren’t here to do it.”

Dan's smile felt good after an entire day of mentally beating himself, and he was glad that his computer playlist had reached the end of Allie’s album.

“Anyway…” His brother turned toward the refrigerator. “I’m going to see what I can find to go with the meal…since you never fix anything with all of the food groups included.”

Tossing his tie toward the dining room, where it landed on the floor just short of one of the chairs, Dan leaned against the counter with a large glass of iced green tea and watched as Ryan dug through the refrigerator. 

Dan snorted. “You’ll just wind up bloated and sick.”  It was perfect science.  Starches digest in an alkaline environment, while proteins require more acid.  Mix them together and the body signals both, resulting in stagnation and bloating.  But explanations such as this always fell on deaf ears or caused eyeballs to roll. Like Ryan’s did as he peeked over the fridge door and then returned to his hunting.

A few seconds later, the kid produced some store-bought potato salad in a plastic container.  It was Dan’s turn to roll his eyes.

“I bet I can get Allie to chow down on some of this,” Ryan said. “She used to scarf on this stuff.”  He straightened to his full height, his mussed waves adding an extra few centimeters to his five feet eleven inches.  

Glancing at the food cooking on the stove, Ryan asked, “Is chicken all you can cook these days?”

“It’s fast. I’ve got work to do.”

“Work, work, slave, slave.  Hopefully you just mean paperwork, because I’ve already scrubbed the bathrooms and sh-“
Dan raised his hand. “Don’t say it.”

Ryan feigned offense with his palm against his chest.  “You can curse but I can’t?”

“What you were about to say is far worse.”

“Man.” His lanky brother shook his head.  “Ever since you became a Christian…You’re such a nerd.”

Nerd.  Boy Scout.  If only Rebekah knew the irony of being called a ‘boy scout.’  If she only knew. She’d made him look like an angel by referring to him that way, though she’d meant it as negatively as possible.

At least he could count on Allie to keep negative comments out of their conversations.

His stomach rolled as he thought of her, alone in the upstairs bedroom.  Hungry, he hoped.

The potato salad might not have been the best choice, but if Ryan felt like keeping her company and feeding her, then, “Go for it.”

His brother frowned. “Huh?”

“Go feed Allie.  I’ll be up in a little while.” Releasing his breath, he turned to mix the veggies and meat with a spatula.  Allie’s illness may have sprung an ulcer in Dan, but at least Ryan had begun thinking of someone other than himself- and at least he hadn’t been sneaking into bars lately.

“You know, you look almost as bad as Allie,” Ryan whispered, then shaking Dan’s shoulder so that some of the carrots in the pan streaked across the stove top. 
Dan frowned up at the kid, who mouthed, “Oops,” and then asked, “Whatsa matter?  Are the kids at school picking on you too much, or what?”
“Knock it off, Little Brother, it’s just been a rough two days.”

“How rough could it be to deal with a room full of jerks like me?”

Dan flashed a grin.  “Pretty bad, especially when I’d rather be here with my sister.”

“So, quit. It’s not like you need the money.”

"I need…?” He set down the spatula. “It’s not a question of what I need, exactly.” He thought of his students, so many with hardened expressions on their faces, so many who slumped in their seats, barely paying attention to anything he said.  He thought again of Rebekah Rose and wondered what was behind her tough act.  The similarities between her and Allie stopped with the hair and eye color, and he half wished Rebekah could have transferred her boldness to his sister. Annoying as Rose could be, at least she stood up for herself.  Stood up against him and anyone else who challenged her.

But her harassers were equally as lost as she was.

“Those kids need someone,” Dan said finally.

“So you’re going to play big brother to them?”

Detecting the sarcasm in Ryan’s tone, he squared his shoulders. “I’m going to do what I think needs done, within reason.”  And no true ‘bribing’ involved.
“You’re not going to go preaching to them, are you?  Because you know you’ll lose your job if you do.  Not to mention that it’s annoying.”

“Don’t start on me, Bro, I haven’t preached at you recently.”

“But you’ve given me my fair share.”

“So?  Gave you something to think about, didn’t I?”

“Maybe, but who says I needed it?”

“We all do.”  In reality, Dan would have liked to strap Ryan to a chair and preach at him all night for his wild, partying ways.  But little good that would do.  In the long run, Ryan’s choice to straighten up needed to come from the heart- not because his big brother had threatened him with a good throttling and a month’s worth of tofu casserole. 

“We all…?” Ryan shook his head. “Never mind. You gonna call a plumber for that, or what?” He pointed at the sink and Dan nodded.  No way in Heaven or Hell would he be able to fix a sink or anything else that required more than a hammer and nails or a wrench.

His family: packed with intellectuals who knew how to swing tennis rackets, play the piano, and jog a few miles a day.  But handy work?  That remained in the hands of hired servants, which seemed extremely screwy and ironic to Dan.  An intellectual should be able to figure out how to repair day to day items, but none of them had tried.

Just like most of us avoid fixing ourselves until we’re nailed to the wall.

After a few beats, Ryan withdrew his gaze and announced his intention to shove some food down Allie’s throat.  Dan watched him go and prayed once again that he hadn’t turned Ryan off of Christianity for good. 

He turned the heat down on the food, his fingers resting on the stove knob longer than they should.

Allie was in mortal danger and he’d been sulking over how terrible the past couple of days had gone.  He’d envisioned himself conveying his lessons with passion, executing perfect order over his classes. Instead he’d not only been slow, forgetful and semi-panicked, but he’d been mocked by several students. Rebekah Rose, Gary McGarvey, and Brian Cruise, to name a few.

As he snatched his glass of green tea, he splashed some over the counter and then cursed under his breath for making another mess.  Then he cursed himself for cursing and marched into the dining room.

He stopped.  A flood of little, rainbow dots danced across the walls, the carpet, and his white t-shirt.

The table in front of Dan still bore the gifts Allie had brought home a few months ago. 

“Since you’ve been too busy to decorate, I bought you these,” Allie said as she huffed into the room with a box. Folding his arms, Dan watched as she produced a pale blue table runner decked with white shells. On top of that, she set some candles- coconut scented he realized when she lit them. Between the two candles, she placed a bowl full of seashells and crinkled her nose. “See? Fit for male or female!”

It was then that Dan had hung the octagonal crystals in the window.  Any time the sunlight reflected off of the various facets, the rainbows appeared.

He swayed slightly, his palm pressed against the wall as he tasted salt on his upper lip.  After a few moments of staring at the small splashes of the color spectrum, red standing out the most and the indigo nearly indecipherable, he pushed away from the wall and crossed into the living room.  Rounding the stairway at the front door, he paused as he gazed upwards and then fastened his eyes once again on the rainbows spread across the area diagonal from where he stood. 

His legs felt heavy as he took the steps one by one, but at the same time, the trip to Allie’s room seemed to go so quickly that he may as well have dreamt it. 

He found his sister sitting in the white rocking chair next to her window, watching the street below.  Ryan had left the potato salad with her and had disappeared to Lord only knew where.  Typical.  He usually helped out as much as his attention span would allow and then took off.

Setting his glass down on the waist-high dresser top almost completely covered with Victorian-style, porcelain dolls, Dan felt a shiver as Allie’s dull eyes found him.  Her hair had been neatly combed, but her pale face mingled with the sheer nightgown and robe reminded him of the ghostly Lady in White

He eyed the potato salad sitting on the nightstand with a fork stuck in it.  How could he have allowed Ryan to feed her that junk?  All they were doing was feeding the blasted superbug, because bacteria feed off of sugar and simple carbohydrates. With two big steps, he snatched the salad container, his breath loud in his ears.  Allie’s brows curled as she watched him.

“Stop worrying, Dan,” she said hoarsely.

“Stop worrying?  I can’t, when this is the only type of junk you’ll eat.  Give me a few minutes and I’ll bring you something decent.”

“I didn’t touch it.”

“Like that helps.” He took a breath, his head rolling back and the textured ceiling coming into view. “You’ve got to eat.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Her protest would normally have been blurted with irritation, but it came out so softly and feebly that he felt like a jerk for speaking roughly to her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. 


He lowered his head and peeked at her pale face, which impressed upon him that horrible, horrible sense that he was about to lose the little girl he’d always protected.  If she hadn’t been in the room, he probably would have raised the window and thrown the potato salad onto the front lawn. He’d punch the wall.  He’d kick the large, pink teddy bear Ryan had given Allie the other day.  He’d turn the chairs over and shout at God for allowing these diseases to wrack his sister’s life.

God obviously hadn’t been listening to his prayers.  But rainbows declared that He should have been.

“Could you stop huffing?” Allie asked and Dan stilled his breathing before inhaling deeply to calm his rising blood pressure.

“I’ve been praying for you like crazy,” he muttered.

“Well, your prayers must be working.”

His frown seemed to make her flinch but she held his gaze as he asked, “What do you mean?”

She shrugged. “You can’t come as close to death as I did and not think about…God…and what’s going to happen if you don’t make it.”

Dan straightened, hearing the ticking and tocking of the hall clock and the distant sound of piano music.  Next door, the dog that seemed to bark night and day had taken a break from his incessant grouching, which seemed odd.  In most of the novels Dan had read, the dog probably would have been going off right about now.

Allie’s words reticulated through his mind and he was almost afraid to ask the question that surfaced inside of him.  “Do you mean you’re thinking things over?”

A smile tugged at her lips.  “I am…but I don’t know what to do about it right now.”

“I’m more than willing to answer any questions-”

“I know, but…” She crinkled the nose that had always reminded him of a button sewn onto a Teddy Bear’s face.  “I think I need to sort through this alone.”

He didn’t realize he was still frowning or that his frown had deepened until she waved her hand and added recklessly, “Not that I won’t ask you anything if I need to.”

She’d better ask.  From what Dan had encountered in his twenty-four years, people often can’t grasp what God wants them to grasp without someone interceding. Be it a preacher, a teacher, or a friend.  True, Dan had discovered God through his own Bible reading, but he’d heard a bit of preaching on the salvation subject beforehand.  And so the puzzle pieces had begun to come together once he’d gotten serious about understanding God’s Word.

With the shake of his head, he said, “I wish I could make you understand it all with just one word,” and wondered why his voice hadn’t awakened him from this dream.

“You’re good at helping people see things, but no one can do that.” She snickered.


“Help people fully understand something with one word.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”  Folding his arms, he smirked despite the sick feeling that still gripped him. What should he say now?  He was the older brother; he should have been guiding this whole conversation.  Guiding everything, in fact.

After a few moments of feeling brain dead, the compliment she’d paid recycled in his mind.  He almost managed to smile. “Careful, Allie, you just admitted that I’m good at something.”

Allie laughed quietly.  The way she tossed her head back reminded him of how she’d often positioned herself while belting high notes to any given song. If she’d get her strength back, she’d stop reminding him of the anorexic Karen Carpenter.

“You just have a way with people,” she said. “I remember that paper you showed me…you know, the one about the planets…I mean, that one you wrote to Dad but never gave him?”

Dan squinted.  He was surprised she remembered a paper that he’d shown her nearly ten years ago, one that he’d packed into his personal files, waiting for the perfect moment to hand deliver it to Oliver Shields.

“When I read that, I started to see how selfish I am.  Great comparisons in there, you know?  I wanted to do better after that…but I didn’t.”

He sank onto the bed with his hands folded in front of him.

“I’m going to do better now, Dan.” Her voice became choked as a tear rolled down her cheek and he reached across the space to pull her into his arms.  He held her as she wept against his shoulder and promised, “I’ll do better this time.  I’ll pray, I’ll read the Bible, I’ll eat…I can’t live like this anymore.”

Dan swallowed a sob and began stroking her hair.  Only God knew if Allie would make it this time, but he’d do his best to help her any way he could.  He’d conquer his doubts and he’d pull her out of this hell.  He’d do better this time, too.

Chapter Four can be found here:

Chapter Three, Part One


Part One

The hours had dragged on.  She’d missed second and third periods and then had felt like a rebellious Freshman for doing it.  Taking control of her own life?  Part of growing up.  But if she ditched responsibilities, most of the teachers would see her as just another loser.  Not that it mattered what other people thought.
Heck, who was she kidding?  She did care, at least a little, what others thought. Everybody did.  If she didn’t care, then people like Brian Cruise and "Princess" Kelly McBride wouldn’t annoy her so much.  But she’d thought that by the time she reached eighteen, her self-confidence would have risen higher on the charts.

So much for hoping and dreaming.

She kicked rocks and shuffled her feet while crossing beneath a shroud of gray clouds along Lanning Avenue.  Next to her, Alice babbled about the hot guys she’d flirted with today.  Wearing a leather skirt just barely long enough to be legal at their school, it was no wonder her petite friend had attracted so much attention.

Why bother with it?  Why bother attracting guys, when they only brought more baggage and heartache with them?

“None of these guys, however,” Alice went on, “match the sheer sexiness of Mr. Shields.”  She winked but Bekah’s stomach rolled.

“Did you not totally enjoy English Lit?” her friend asked.
Not exactly. “He’s not hot.  He’s a nerd.  And a briber.”

“A briber?” Alice scrunched up her nose and slowed as they neared the end of their street. 

Behind them, just across Lanning, stood their wonderfully crazy, two story high school. Looking at the litter strewn about the grounds, Bekah always wondered how a neighborhood and a school surrounded by the upscale community known as Bexley, Ohio, could possibly have been so run down.

But her 'hood was packed with thugs, druggies and gangs, making a walk home with or without a friend as risky as wandering weaponless through Zombieland.  

Her mother often scolded her for running to school without a ride, but she was used to the comebacks: "I was with Alice! The real jerks don't come out until after sundown!"

Alice shoved her blowing, streaked-blond, brown hair behind her ear and then cocked her head at Bekah. “If you’re talking about the tickets you told me about…I’d hardly call that bribing.  That’s just a new teacher offering rewards for good behavior.”

“Same thing, worded different.  He’s got something better in mind for the goody-goodies who do his bidding.” Bekah stepped over the guard rail and waited for Alice to do the same before resuming her walk.

“Just forget about Shields, OK?” Bekah asked, cringing at the sinking feeling that accompanied her next words. “I really don’t feel like discussing another hot, young teacher.”

When Alice failed to protest, Bekah glanced over to find her friend ashen-faced.  Flashing her bright blue eyes at Bekah, she said, “Sorry.  I know it’s kind of a sore spot, but you do need to start thinking of guys again, Beckless.  You need a date.”

“No, I don’t. I just need some vodka, please.”

“Girl, you’ve seriously got to stop asking to party without me.” Alice laughed.

Bekah smirked. “Well, Mom’s probably working late at the bowling alley, so join me.”

Sometimes Bekah wound up driving her mother to work and keeping the car until eleven, when she’d be forced to drag her tired butt off of the couch and go pick her up.  Tonight, however, Mommy Dear would be driving herself home, which may not have been a good thing if she and Alice decided to drink away their blues.

Yeah, Alice often spoke like an excited ten-year-old, but her home was so wrecked by her mother’s dipstick boyfriends that no teenage girl in her right mind could be genuinely happy.  Bekah often wondered if her friend of nine years had been molested by any of the psychos Diane McAlister had dragged home.  But Alice had denied it vehemently. “Trust me, Bekah, that’s one thing I would totally not hide from you,” she’d said.

Once Bekah entered her house, Alice ran home to collect the goods and Bekah made her way down a short hallway.  She turned left to discard her black bookbag atop the dining room counter and eyed the living room.  Like a storm cloud over a valley, the dark blue couch stood out against the plain, beige carpet. The whole room felt like an empty valley, especially with the TV silent and the creamy walls void of family photos that had once displayed the goody-goody state of the Rose household. 

Maybe it was best they were gone.

Her sigh felt as heavy as her legs as she entered the kitchen and mulled over what to eat for dinner.  Because of the wonderful absence of any parents this evening, she decided not to pop the thawed pork roast into the oven or whip up any mashed potatoes.  Since Kaye Rose was probably dining at the bowling alley- talk about delish- Bekah opted for a bag of potato chips and a bologna sandwich, and then clicked on the TV.

Happy, happy, joy, joy, time to make fun of Dr. Phil.  Better than sitting here, listening to the empty walls while waiting for Alice. 


The next day, someone- most likely the green-eyed Jerkly Jockly himself- had stuck a ‘love letter’ to her locker.  Her head still a bit swimmy from the drunkenness of the night before, she ripped off the paper, forced a grin to her right, where stood the in-crowd who’d harassed her for the past year.  All beaming at her like the brainless twits they were, clueless of the meaning of true humor.

“Wow,” Bekah said, “looks like you people can’t stop thinking about me.  Normally I’d be flattered, but considering what idiots you are, I guess it doesn’t say much.”

Kelly McBride’s smile dropped and Bekah imagined her red spirals straightening- not that her comment had been scathing enough for such a dramatic reaction.

Brian, who leaned lazily against a locker, simply flipped his ball cap backwards, allowing him to view Bekah better over his girlfriend Gina’s head.  Walking past the dipsticks, she threw the rumpled piece of paper that had asked the hottest question of the century:  Will Cheap Rose shine the Shields this year?

Just as the paper bounced off Brian’s chest, she asked, “When will you ever grow up?” 

Brian held her gaze darkly. He didn’t always retaliate right away. He seemed to stew things over a bit, consider his options.  Heck, maybe in time this whole thing would become nothing but a game to them. No more animosity, just trading jabs for the freaking fun of it.

Yeah, right.

Alice, who’d been staring at the whole scene, hurried up next to her. “Bekah, those guys will never grow up, you know that!”  Her short friend straightened her tight-fitting, red blouse with one hand as they squeezed between some Freshmen nerds.  “If you keep retaliating, they’ll most likely kick the living snot out of you.”

“Did you just say ‘snot?’”

Alice glared at her, but Bekah wasn’t too worried.  About Alice’s irritation or about getting her butt kicked.  According to rumors, Brian had punched a girl or two on the arm, but he’d never gone absolutely ape on anyone of the opposite sex. No, the harder fights in this haven of madness normally erupted between two or more members of the same sex. 

Lord knew that Kelly would never risk breaking a nail in a fight, but Gina- she just might have let her fake, blond curls go wild in an all out free-for-all. After all, she and Brian were drawn together by something. It must have been their ‘can’t eat, can’t sleep till I’ve harassed someone to death’ attitudes.

Brian’s lackeys probably didn’t beat anyone up without his approval, and most of the fights at this school were gang-related, anyway.  Brian and his clique were innocent, little buggies compared to the chain-wearing tough guys who’d blow someone’s brains out for crack money.

She paused just as one of the gang members, wearing a black “Killer Clown” T-shirt strode down the opposite side of the hall.  Bekah pointed and sighed at Alice, who seemed to read her mind because she nodded.

“Yeah, I get it,” she said.  “But still be careful because I don’t want to be scraping you off of the pavement.”

Bekah slowed again as she neared Shields’ room. “I’ve so got to take self-defense classes.”

“So do it already.  I’ll crack into my piggy bank and see if we’ve got enough to make it!”

Bekah almost laughed. Alice, the girl who stole liquor from her mommy’s closet in the middle of the night, still owned around three “piggy banks,” where she’d been stashing coins since she was ten years old. Rarely did she break into them. Instead, she hit up her mom and her brother, Todd, for extra money.  With the dirty habits that drove Todd on a daily basis, Bekah was surprised the nut hadn’t discovered Alice’s stash.

After Alice scurried down the hall, her right ankle twisting slightly in her spikey boots, Bekah slipped into Shields’ room and found Kevin had arrived early.  Having chosen the same desk as yesterday, he looked up expectantly, the curl of his poor, wittle brow a dead give-away that he knew she’d sit far from him once again. 

And so she did.

This time, front seat, third row from the door- right where Kelly had been sitting yesterday. Bekah mentally laughed while Shields, the big briber, opened his laptop computer.  Kevin’s sigh was enough to snap Teacher out of his world, his round eyes now reminding her of chocolates from a Whitman’s Sampler box.

He’d placed a globe with a golden, ornate stand at the corner of his desk, along with desktop calendar- the kind that usually bore some sort of neat, little words of wisdom on their pages.

Someone clip-clopped into the room, a heel squealing against the hard floor.  Kelly had entered and come to a screeching halt with her mouth agape.  “That’s pretty much my seat, Rebekah.”

Oh, my gosh. Could we act any more like kindergarteners than we already have?

“So, come take it, Kelly.”

“Miss Rose.” Shields sounded stern.

“What?” She screwed up her brows at her approaching teacher. “We haven’t had assigned seats since we were in Junior High.”

“But it’s a matter of respect,” he said with a nod. “If Kelly selected this seat yesterday, you should assume she’ll want it again today.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I’ll tell you what it means to me. 

“Geez, the way you talk, I’ll bet Aretha Franklin is your hero.”

His tight frown appeared just as he stopped. “Excuse me?”

“You’re the teacher, think about it.” But he wouldn’t unless he’d been forced to listen to oldies music like Bekah had.  Whatever.

“This is stupid.” With that, she snatched her books and took a breath.  Now she was acting like a kindergartener and she’d rather stick her finger down her throat and spew an entire month’s worth of breakfasts than draw any more negative attention.  Even though Kelly and her gang were the worst when it came to immaturity, if Bekah kept fighting over a stupid seat, she’d have another label stuck to her.   
Something not-so-witty, like…Not-so-sweet as a Rose…Rose.

She rolled her eyes at her speculations and marched over to the window seat behind Kevin, because it was a heck of a lot better than sitting near Brian’s crowd.  Kevin may have been a nerd, but at least he was kind.

Unlike you, ya big brat.  Bekah groaned under her breath.

Kevin turned a faint smile on her, apparently feeling quite victorious.

Don’t get the wrong idea, you tie-wearing-

“Miss Rose.”

She peeked at Shields without turning her head.  He’d reached the end of the teacher desk and now nodded toward the door. “May we speak outside the room for a moment?”

Great, in trouble with the new teacher.  Or did he intend to bribe her?  She’d be sure to ask once they reached the hallway.

Ignoring her instinct to slam her hands on her new desk, she took a deep breath and forced a smile not unlike the one she’d plastered on The Brian Clan before class.

As she strode behind Shields, she did not miss Kelly’s sad gaze- a hint of jealousy, perhaps.  No doubt she’d love a few minutes in the hall with the supposedly hot, new teacher.  Every other girl could get away with it, but not Bekah. No.  She’d suffer to the utmost if Shields kept this up and she’d have to let him know that- somehow.

In the hall, with kids still filing into their first period rooms, Shields turned to her while rolling the plain, brown tie that matched his eyes around his right hand. “I realize there’s a lot going on here,” he said. “But this is the second day of school and both days have presented some sort of commotion involving…you.”

“Wow.  Takes a degree in teaching to get that, does it?”

He briefly grimaced but he went on, “I sense you’ve been treated unfairly for some time and I understand you’re angry, but could you please do me a favor?”

“I get it. Shut up?  Sit tight.  Don’t let the idiots bite, am I right?”

“Something like that.” He shrugged. “But I wouldn’t put it that way.  Just let me deal with these guys, OK?”

“Yeah and have them pick on me all the more, because now Teacher Dear is sticking up for me?” Having heard the rise in her voice, she bit her lip and glanced around to ensure that none of her nemeses were snooping about.

Shields seemed to be chewing on what she’d said.  Bekah, however, didn’t feel quite as calm as he appeared and forced her words to come out steadily.  “Don’t make a habit of calling me out to the hall in front of everyone.  It’s bad enough I stayed after class yesterday to harass you.”

He squinted. “Come again?”

“Just trust me. I’ll try to avoid the jerks and we’ll make sure not to spend time alone- in the hall or in the class room.”

“That’s a good idea.”  He nodded and rolled back on his heels. 

Bekah nearly sighed her relief, until he added, “However, I’m sure there are times you’ll need extra attention and-“

“Oh, please, knock it off with the boy scout stuff.”

“Rebekah…” He sounded stern again.  “Don’t forget I’m not a peer and I don’t appreciate-”

“First off, you’re only about five or six years older than me, right?  And given that your fall-back is to bribe us, it doesn’t look like you’ve prepared yourself to handle tough students.”

Folding her arms, she half expected him to blink and turn red in the face like he’d done yesterday. Instead, his jaws set as firmly as his broad shoulders, his darkening eyes sending a shudder down her spine.

Bekah fidgeted with her black shirt sleeve, noting somehow that the hall had mostly cleared.

Man, what was this?  No way in heck would she allow Mr. GQ to intimidate her.  She spun on her heel and marched back into the room before he could say another word, although she knew he’d find some way to chastise her for her behavior. Or maybe not if she acted like a sweet, little lamb during the remainder of his class time.

For some reason, she felt unsettled.  Just as she had when her father disappeared.

Chapter Three, Part Two:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chapter Two, Part Two

Hey, all.  In case you haven't noticed- whether you've read the other versions of this story or not- it sorts of includes certain elements of fantasy.  I think it's sort of a mix.  So if something seems a little like that to you, don't be surprised.

Please do let me know what you think of what transpires here, but rest assured that if it ripples you in anyway, that will probably be smoothed out next chapter.

Thanks for reading!


Bekah’s notebook thunked atop her desk and she snarled over her shoulder when Brian chimed his two cents.

“Mr. Shields, don’t mind Rebekah. She’s a bit of a dunce.”

With hoots, whistles and laughter lighting up the atmosphere, Bekah squared her shoulders, locked her gaze on Shields and waited for him to peel his own glare from the behemoth butthead in the back of the room.

“Mr. Shields,” she said through gritted teeth.  “Forgive the jocks and most of the dimwits in this room.  They’ve been mentally locked in the first grade for almost as long as I’ve known them.”

The few tsks and gasps that followed only made her grin. 

Oh, yes, bring it on, you pack of know-it-all sheeple. "I prefer a straight fight to all this sneaking around."

The new teacher, with his hand stuck on the back of his head, must have been maddeningly searching for a fair and balanced reply to this madness.  The pink that deepened his sun-kissed complexion stole a bit of Gee-Q-ee-ness from his demeanor, deepening her suspicion that this guy had always been a boy scout.  

Yes, she just knew it.  Boy Scout Extraordinaire, and she doubted there were many skeletons in this nerd’s closet. He’d no clue how to handle out of control jocks and bullies, so he might as well have packed up his little puter bag and headed on home.

Surprisingly, he seemed to regain his ground as he dropped his hand and the color left his complexion.

“I want everyone quiet,” he said sternly with his arms folded.  “The next person to provoke this quarrel will be sent to the principal.”

The principal?  Mr. Hack? Was he serious?  If so, then Shields’ uselessness matched Hack’s!  Not only that, but threatening to send these jerks to the principal would only make Shields more of a target.

Not even trying to hide her smirk, Bekah shook her head in disbelief…until Shields’ scowl in her direction seemed to spout a silent threat.

Don’t look at me like that, she almost said.  She hadn’t done anything to deserve any threats and if he thought she felt intimidated enough to run home to Mommy, then he was delusional.

When the snickering returned, she rolled her eyes and considered ‘provoking the quarrel’ so she could blow this insane asylum.  These people were all stupid beyond belief- except for a few who rarely laughed along with the rest of the evil-doers.

Evil-doers who deserved to be fed to a pack of zombies. 

She glanced back at Shields, who now stood with his hands resting low on his hips.

Dan resisted the urge to wipe the sweat off of his forehead. To do so would draw attention to the fact that he was nervous and unsure.  Should he resort to bribery for the second time on the first day of school?  The chocolate hadn’t exactly been bribery, but just a semi-healthy treat to wake the kids up and keep them attentive.  He hadn’t expected what he was seeing now- about half the class sending snide remarks and chuckles in the direction of one, lone girl, the boys in the back leaning over their desks with huge grins plastered on their faces as they appeared eager to receive Rebekah Rose’s next retort.

However, she’d resigned herself, picking her nails and chewing her lower lip, her foot tapping against the floor.  If she wanted to say something, she was either waiting for the right moment or…he doubted already that she was afraid to say it.  She’d already exhibited a fair amount of boldness.

What the he-heck had she done to deserve this kind of treatment?

Probably not much, if he knew anything about kids in general. They rarely needed much of an excuse to harass a peer.

His stomach in a knot and his inner self cautioning him, he reached into his pants pocket.  Rules and advice for dealing with an out-of-control class began swirling in his head- all great guidelines but were they always realistic?  Maybe –sometimes- he needed to pull from his father’s trunk of tricks. 

How often had Oliver Shields given gifts with strings attached?  The puppy, the motorized scooter, the tennis lessons, the motorcycle...

For years, Dan had despised his father for the games he’d played, but with time he’d realized that pulling those strings wasn’t always a bad idea.

Licking his upper lip, he whipped the tickets he’d stashed in his pocket over his head and waved them from side to side. 

Seemingly one-by-one, Rose’s mockers began to shut up, squinting to make out the writing on the ‘gold.’  All except Rebekah herself.  She was still busy picking her nails.

“What’s that?” some of the kids began to ask, but Dan simply pretended to zip his lips.  If they wanted to know what treasure awaited a few, lucky winners, they’d have to earn the right to know.

Aslan’s roar shot a chill up his spine.  He’d read through every Narnia story, impressed by the Biblical allegory and influenced to imagine Christ’s chastisement in the form of the great lion’s bellow. 

However, the real Christ understood what Dan was doing and why.  The school faculty might not have understood, but hadn’t other teachers resorted to rewards such as this for good behavior?

He’d sort it out later and he’d find better ways of dealing with these kids.  Individually.  He’d the feeling that Brian Cruise especially needed some individual instruction.

He suppressed a grin as the harassers fell silent.

Bekah peeked around the room.

It was quiet. 

Astonishingly quiet.  Not a peep, not a whisper, not a snicker to be heard. 

Shields had resumed his position behind his desk, casting weary glances here and there as he pressed buttons on his laptop keyboard.

What the…what the heck had she missed?  Look away for a minute and one would think the entire class had dropped dead.

But no…Miss Priss Kelly McBride was busy filing her long, red nails. Chelsea Prennis sat behind Murphy, picking at the paper of her uneaten candy bar.  To Bekah’s right, the cheerleaders gazed with open mouths at 
Mr. GQ, and the guys in the back of the room…?

Bekah spun around.  Brian, as usual, sat slouching with his legs practically blocking the aisle way.  Although his ball cap shadowed his expression, she caught him peeking at her before plastering his attention back on Shields.

What the…?

Had she been transported to the Twilight’s Zone?  Shields must have waved a magic wand to silence this pack of wolves.

Though she rarely spoke to her harrassers, she nearly grabbed Eric Payton’s arm and begged him to tell her what Shields had done to shut up the heathen. 

Had he done anything or had she blacked out for a few minutes?

Dang it, at least the gods could have arranged for Alice to share this class with her. At least then she’d have someone trustworthy to ask, but hey…what about Kevin Murphy?

Her head throbbed as she sought to distract the big nerd from sorting through his stack of multi-colored folders, and then Shields cleared his throat.

“So, I apologize for my silence this morning, but I’ve had quite a bit going on at home, hence the reason I was late.” He rounded his desk and leaned against it with one hand in his pocket and the other pressed against a dark blue tie.  “I’m not mentally all here, but I’m sure I’ll improve as the day goes on.  Right now, I’d like to go over the plans for this year and lay out some simple rules.”

He snatched some papers from beside his laptop and began passing those out as he’d done the chocolate, row-by-row.  When at last he came to Bekah’s desk, he produced a smirk, giving her the impression that he not only knew the depth of her confusion but also savored it.


She screwed up her brows as much as possible, the questions teetering dangerously on the tip of her tongue, but he simply moved on.

The rest of class time rolled by in a big ball of kiddiegarten rules and outlines of lesson plans.  All done in such a monotone that she doubted Shields would rise high on the popularity charts.  Somehow he’d struck gold on the first day, managing to silence all the jerks.  But it wouldn’t last. 

Still…what had he done to shut them up so quickly and so permanently (at least for today)?

When the bell rang and a flock of students quickly marched to Shields’ desk, Bekah slowly grabbed her books and stood.  And as though he couldn’t see what was right in front of him, Brian bumped into her left side.  Of course, he made sure to smirk down at her, his green eyes aglow like that dude’s from the movie Wolf. 

Bekah forced a flat grin, surprised to see him mosey up to Shields’ desk with the rest of the schmucks. About half of the other kids simply left the room, including Murphy, who kept his eyes fastened on Bekah the entire way.

Shuffling toward Shields, she paused behind Kelly McBride and cringed when she heard the redhead’s obnoxious gum chewing.

“What are those, Mr. Shields?” someone asked and Brian added, “More importantly, who gets them?  Doesn’t look like you’ve got enough to go around.”

“Shhh,” Shields pressed his index finger to his lips and Bekah stood a bit on her tiptoes to see between shoulders and heads.

Shields caught her eye and raised his brow as he’d done earlier.

Oh no.  Bekah lowered back to her heels. Please, God, if you’re there, don’t let him hold out one of his goodies to me.

“Here you go, Chelsea,” she heard him say.  “This will make up for the chocolate you didn’t like, right?”

What a dork.

“A ticket to the homecoming dance?” Chelsea sputtered and the other kids let out tsks and sighs, much like they’d done when Bekah had referred to them as mental first graders.

Smirking, Bekah thought she’d found her queue to march happily out of the room.  Maybe Shields wasn’t such a big dope, after all.  He’d tricked them into being quiet just for some homecoming tickets?  She nearly tossed her head back in laughter…until she heard him shushing them and bursting through their protests.

“Look, guys, behave yourselves and I’ll have something better to give you later.  This is…let’s call it a token.   Whoever gets these and continues to act like a mature, young adult while in this class room will get something better down the road.”

Oh, brother.  So, he was bribing them?  And  for a split second, she’d thought he was more resourceful than that, after all. 

Bekah rolled her eyes, debating whether to hang around and harass him or simply walk to her next class.   
Heck, she was used to walking in late, so why not have a little fun with this guy?  He deserved it, maybe as much as Towers had.

The anticipation of mocking him allowed her to endure the snotty looks she received after the mob of popular bullies turned to find her standing there.

“You’re not getting one these,” someone whispered, but Brian simply resumed smirking at her while rubbing his grand ole prize between his giant fingers.

“See ya, Rose,” he drawled, winked teasingly, and then chuckled before marching with his wittle fwiends into the hallway. How ever would they handle the mass of big kids swarming in their path?

Shields, his arms folding across his broad chest, cocked his head and studied her. “Would you like one, too?”

“What?” she pursed her lips.

“Interested in homecoming dance tickets?”

“Not quite.”

“Didn’t think so.” He shrugged one shoulder.  “Interested in the ‘grand prize?’”

“Even less.”  Teachers who offer too many prizes should always be held in suspicious light.

“Then why are you here?”

She twisted her right ankle lightly, trying to decide which snotty comeback to pull from her mental arsenal.   
“Just wondering what you’re going to do when your bribery fails.  Run home to mommy?”

His frown produced lines above the bridge of his nose and he briefly bit his lip as though holding back and equally snotty retort. Oh, how fun that would be!  Verbal sparring with the nerdy, new teacher who hadn’t a clue how to deal with real bad boys. Just wait until he was forced to break up a physical fight!  She wished she owned a phone just so she could snap a picture of his reaction.

“It’s not exactly ‘bribery.’” He peeked at his watch, allowing a few arm hairs to slip past the cuff of his shirt sleeve. “You’re going to be late for your next class, Miss Rose.”

“Then what would you call it?”

He leaned forward with his hands pressed against the edge of the desk and studied her, both brows perked and a small smile playing on his lips. This imparted the distinct impression that he was enjoying an inner joke or knew something she didn’t. 

Maybe his little ticket-pulling trick wasn’t what it had appeared to be?

She felt her books slacking in her arms as she narrowed her eyes. 

“Get going, Rebekah,” he said firmly.  “…or you’ll be late.”