Authors: Mia Carson
“Quit staring. It’s rude,” I admonished quietly.
“Why didn’t you come home last night?” she asked, her eyes unfaltering. I could literally feel the blood climbing up my neck and coloring my face. Cara laughed loudly and punched my shoulder. “Oh, my God, Dad! Kind of gross, but also kind of awesome!”
“Gross? There is nothing gross about the human body and its needs,” I teased her, trying to embarrass her as she’d embarrassed me.
Cara rolled her eyes at me and slapped my shoulder again. “Dad, seriously. You’re so weird. And I don’t need to hear about you and Ms. Ulrich. At all.”
“Speaking of Ms. Ulrich…” I said, letting it trail off as I looked at her.
She waved a hand at me. “Come on, Dad. She’s a great teacher. She’s really nice, and you should be dating someone nice. Actually, I’m just glad you’re finally dating because I was beginning to think something was wrong with you.”
“Really?” I asked, deadpan. I spread my arms wide and gestured at myself with my hands. “What could possibly be wrong with me?”
“Whatever, Dad. If you’re going to ask me if it’s okay if you date her, I’m fine with it.” She returned to her computer as if the conversation was over.
“Thank you for your permission,” I said blandly. “I know you don’t remember your mother, but I loved her very much. Me dating doesn’t change that.”
“Dad, I know that,” she replied, looking at me as if I weren’t the smartest of fellows. “If Mom loved you as much as you say, she would want you to find happiness. Right?”
I shook my head in amazement. My daughter was so bright. “That’s the way I see it.”
Cara shrugged. “Then have fun. But not too much fun.” Again, she returned to her computer and sighed. “Too bad you aren’t dating my algebra teacher.”
“Why’s that?” I asked as I glanced at the screen where incomprehensible combinations of numbers and letters frightened me into returning my eyes to my plate.
“Because I might actually fail that class,” she grumbled as she continued her homework.
I chuckled. “I’ve seen your algebra teacher. She’s not really my type.”
“She’s married, anyway,” Cara said, “which is a shocker, considering she looks like a troll.”
“Don’t be rude. And if it doesn’t work out with Mel, I’ll flirt with her a little. Maybe that will at least score you a B.”
“Whatever, Dad,” she replied with yet another teenage eye-roll.
“I’m going upstairs for a shower.” I deposited my plate in the sink. “Leave the dishes, baby. I’ll clean up when I cook dinner tonight. Fajitas sound good?”
“Perfect. Maybe by then I’ll have finished this damn algebra,” she growled.
“Language,” I reminded her.
“Sorry,” she said offhandedly, her concentration completely on her math again.
I kissed the top of her head as I walked by. “Love you, sweetie.”
“Love you,” she murmured distractedly.
I rolled my eyes this time. Unfortunately, my daughter had my math prowess, which was about as fierce as a brand new puppy with unopened eyes. Poor thing, she’d struggle with that through college as well, though I would get her tutors if necessary. I’d mulled my way through with extensive help from her mother.
Upstairs, while I took off my clothes, my back twinged just a bit, and I thought of Mel. Damn, that woman was hot in bed. And so goddamn gorgeous, she looked like a model. The best thing about her, though, was the fact that she had no idea how beautiful she was.
When I had ordered the bed and had it delivered, I was scared she wouldn’t accept. I had broken it, with her help, so I felt like I owed her a bed. The funny note I sent pushed her to accept, I think, and her cute text messages had been so charming.
I finished up in the shower so I could call her. I wanted to plan my date with her this week before her schedule filled up. This time of year, the dance team was busy with band competitions as well as dance competitions.
With nothing but a towel wrapped around my waist, I grabbed my phone and flopped down on my bed. My bedroom was decorated in the rustic style that was, in my mind, manly. The hardwood floors were dark, but all the furniture was light oak. The headboard and footboard had huge Texas stars in the center, and each of the four posts had smaller versions etched into them. Two matching nightstands and a matching chest of drawers with a mirror completed the set.
I propped myself up on the pillows and dialed her number. After three rings, she answered. “Hey, gorgeous.”
“You’re crazy, you know that?” she began without a greeting. “You bought me a bed?”
“We broke it because of my sexual prowess,” I replied using my best creeper voice. “You like it, right?”
“I do like it. A lot,” she answered with a giggle. “It just wasn’t necessary.”
“We can’t have sex on the carpet, now, can we?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t being too forward.
“You’re right,” she agreed. “I can’t imagine carpet burns on my ass would feel too good.”
“Oh no, and I prefer to be on top, just so you know.”
“I noticed,” she laughed. “So that’s the only reason you bought it for me? So you could fuck me on it?”
A laugh shot out of my mouth. I hadn’t expected her vulgarity, but I liked it. “My, my, Ms. Ulrich, is that any way for a teacher to talk?”
“Honey, you ain’t heard nothing yet! I don’t know if you’ve heard, but teachers and nurses are the dirtiest people on Earth.”
“So you’ll keep me on my toes, I guess,” I said, chuckling still.
“You got that right.” She turned serious. “Thank you for the bed. I really, really like it. I went and bought new bedding this afternoon.”
“I’m glad you like it, and I hope you like it enough to let me take you out again,” I asked.
“Of course. When?”
“Are you available Thursday?”
“Yes. But I have to be home early,” she reminded me. “School night and all.”
“You’ll be home by your curfew; I promise,” I told her. “I can’t wait to see you again.”
“Me, too. I wish it was sooner,” she murmured.
“Ah, but the wait will make it even better. Good night, sweet lady.”
“Good night, handsome man.”
I woke up with Will on the brain. I had slept better on my new bed than I had in longer than I could remember. The bed felt like lying on clouds that adjusted when I moved to maximize comfort. When my alarm went off for school, I hit snooze so I could lay there longer. After another ten minutes of luxuriating in my cloud bed, I finally forced myself to get up and get ready to go to work. I wished for summer so I could lounge in luxury. Alas, it was only late September, so I would have to wait until Thanksgiving break for lounging.
I meandered through my morning routine. I woke up much earlier than necessary so I didn’t have to rush, though the ten-minute snooze added a quicker step than I would have liked. As I walked to the kitchen to make my morning coffee and bagel, I glanced back into my room longingly, sighing with happiness.
On Thursday night, Will was getting a sweet treat, though I’d have to put some thought into it. What could I buy a man who bought me a bed and had it delivered the same day? It must have cost a fortune. Madison had freaked when I’d sent her a selfie while lying back against my pillows. My phone rang almost immediately after I sent the picture.
“What is that?” Madison had shrieked by way of greeting.
“So you know how Will and I broke my bed last night? He bought me a new one!” I hadn’t been able to keep the elation out of my voice.
“Holy shit! That’s outrageous!” she’d replied, laughing uproariously.
“I know! I feel a little guilty accepting it, though.”
“I wouldn’t. He broke it,” Madison reminded me.
“While fucking me! It’s not like he threw himself on it and it broke,” I told her. “Obviously, I got over my reluctance. I bought new bedding for it.”
“It’s great! Are you seeing him again?”
“Yep, on Thursday. I just hope school isn’t awkward this week,” I murmured, my happiness a little dampened by the thought of Cara and her friends—or worse, her enemies.
“It will be fine,” Madison assured me. “Even if there is an issue, it will blow over when some new scandal happens.”
“And a new scandal will probably happen by tomorrow afternoon. It’s high school.” I laughed. “Okay, well, be jealous while I sink into my new mattress. Good night!”
“Good night, bitch,” Madison said through a laugh.
“We can have a sleepover soon,” I offered.
“Can we have a pillow fight? In our bras and panties?”
“I thought that was the definition of sleepover,” I said. We ended the call, and I slept like a baby.
As I drove to school, I sent Will a good morning text.
Good morning. I hope you slept as well as I did last night. My new bed is magnificent. Thank you again.
I had no idea what time he got up in the morning. I assumed he brought Cara to school, as she wasn’t old enough to drive yet. When I pulled into the school parking lot, I still hadn’t received a reply and tried not to let it bother me, reminding myself that I was a grown-ass woman, not a teenage girl. Sighing, I grabbed my bag and my lunch and hurried into the building to prepare for first period with my dance team class.
We rehearsed with the band two days a week and worked on competition dances, pep rallies, and Friday night performances, which were sometimes either exactly the same or similar, three days a week. Second, third, and fourth periods were dance classes for kids who wanted a PE credit but didn’t want to play kickball or dodgeball like elementary school kids. Lunch was fifth, and my sixth and seventh periods were tech classes, where I taught students how to edit music, create mashups, and produce new works all together. Luckily, I had experience with not only dance, but computers and choir as well. I sang as much as we worked on the music. And because I often had to leave early for competitions, the schedule coordinator had been kind enough to give me last period off.
At five minutes to eight, the bell rang for first period. The speakers in the gym were playing the music we used to stretch for the first eight minutes of class. The girls knew they were to walk in ready to practice. Stretching first, then announcements from me, and after that, whatever dance we needed to work on.
They walked in, chattering, and deposited their books, bags, and other paraphernalia near the score table where I sat and ran the music once I’d taught them the moves. Cara walked in with her best friend, Jill. When she reached the table, she made sure to catch my eye and winked broadly. Jill giggled and hurried past when I narrowed my eyes at her.
I returned my gaze to Cara, and she winked again. I rolled my eyes and put my finger against my lips in a shushing gesture. She smiled, nodded, and joined the other girls in the center of the gym to stretch.
The story Madison had told me pushed into my mind, and I glanced at Denise’s daughter, Brittani, who sat with her two friends. The three were separated from the others—only slightly, but the separation was there. These three were seniors and leaders on my team. I liked all of them, and again, hoped no ugliness would disrupt the closeness of our team.
The stretching music ended, and I let the next track play as the girls gathered around me for announcements. “All right, ladies, we’ve got a pep rally this Friday, and the cheerleaders asked that we dance after them.”
Brittani piped up. “Of course they want us to dance after them. They don’t want to look bad.” She smirked, and the girls tittered.
“Brittani, our egos need to step about five paces back. Thanks.” I deadpanned. Another tittering of laughter. “I’ve got the music ready for Friday, and we’ll do the same dance Friday night at the game. So, four days to get this learned. Ready?”
A chorus of yeses answered me. I quickly put them into the formation I had planned for this dance and showed them the dance twice before breaking it down into eight counts. The class passed quickly, but by the end, they had the moves. The rest of the week would be spent cleaning the dance until they were perfect. God, I loved my job!
Having last period off sounded amazing, but it was a long time to wait for a break. My thirty-minute lunch sometimes wasn’t enough. Today, though, I was filled with energy as I bounded into the teacher’s workroom where I ate with a group of teachers, including Nikki.