This is my second attempt at some instant gratification through writing. I'm basically too chicken shit to write for anyone else, so I figured I'd give it a go for you guys. This story might suck. I might not finish it. But writing is a good outlet for my raging anxiety, so what the hell, let's go.
Obviously, I own nothing of the Twilight series.
I heaved my large bag onto the floor by my swivel desk chair, blowing my bangs out of my face with a heavy breath and reaching behind me to pull by long dark hair over to the side, letting the cool air conditioning hit my sweaty neck. Starting school in August, in the sweltering heat of the south, was perhaps the only real thing I dreaded each year.
I looked around, taking in the smells of whiteboard markers, old books, and the ghosts of students past (FYI, that's mostly Katy Pery perfume and Axe Body Spray). I hadn't turned on the classroom lights yet, but the blinds on the windows that lined the right wall were open, so beams of dusty light glittered through the room. I smiled, grateful to begin my fifth official year at Midlands High.
I flopped into my chair and used my ballet flat to nudge the power button on my computer tower, reaching forward to flip on the monitor. Nothing about my room had changed. The laminated posters that lined the walls were still hanging, faded a bit over the years but still dutifully displaying the cheesy quotes of encouragement that I secretly loved. The back wall had all of the text books that would be issued out, and the smart board that I still didn't really know how to use was sitting cold and quiet to the left.
My computer came to life finally and I logged in to get started on the first of several days of preparation. The teachers came back a week before the students would return, to get our shit together. A week seemed both too long and not long enough. The pretense was that we'd get our lesson planning done, organize our classes and student rosters, put together our syllabi, and get ourselves ready for the 180 days of school ahead. The reality is that we'd spend a lot of our time in the library with the other teachers, listening to the principal, vice principal, guidance counselors, and school distract superintendents drone on about the South Carolina state school standards we were teaching this year, the tests our students would be expected to pass at the end of the year, and generally making us all question what made us want to teach in the first place. It would be a long week, but by next Monday, when my group of juniors and seniors flooded my classroom, I'd remember what I was in this for. The great pay, obviously.
As the first meeting of the week wrapped up, I folded my notepad closed and stood to stretch my stiff legs. My butt was numb from the wooden chair of the library table, and my stomach rumbled. I'd been eyeing the food since I saw the delivery guy walk in with all of the bags, laying out sub sandwiches, chips and cookies. Hunger and boredom forced tastebuds to accept mediocrity, and I was ready to go ham on a stale turkey and cheese right about now.
I loaded my plate and walked back to one of the tables to sit with Tanya and Angela, two of the weirdos who thought teaching math was fun.
"Hungry there, Bella?" Tanya asked, laughing because she knew how I loved my food.
"Shush, you. Eat your salad and be sad," I grinned, squeezing a mustard packet across my sandwich half and smooshing the bread back down. I had just taken a much too large bite out of it when Vice Principle Newton walked up. His pale blue short-sleeved button down was tucked neatly into his dress slacks, his silver elastic watch glittering on his wrist. I swear, this man was 32 going on 60.
"Ladies," he nodded at Angela and Tanya, cringing a little when he saw the little strip of lettuce dangling gracefully from the corner of my mouth. I held my napkin up to chew, smiling around my bite.
"Mike, how's it hanging?" Tanya asked, and Angela coughed around her water.
"How's what hanging, Ms. Denali?" Mike answered, ever obtuse to anything even slightly less than appropriate.
"Your plants—did they have a good season?" She covered, alluding to Mike's obsession with all things potting soil and floral. He had plants all over his office, hanging in corners, sitting by bright windows, perched on his desk. Every Christmas, whoever he had for Secret Santa was sure to get a hanging basket. One year, someone gave him a very fake desk plant, and watching him struggle out his thanks was comically uncomfortable.
"Oh, they're great! My ferns are really coming in nicely. I should have them ready to sell at the farmer's market in a few weeks!" He grinned excitedly, as Tanya just smiled and shoved a bite of her sad salad in her mouth.
"That's great, Mike," she said after swallowing, already realizing that her crude joke wasn't worth getting into this conversation.
"Yeah, I'm really pleased with my crop this year. Oh, but that's not why I stopped by! Ms. Swan," he said, turning to me and catching me, again, mid-bite. I chewed fast as he stared, feeling a hunk of bread catch in my throat. I reached fast for my bottle of water and chugged until I felt the painful lump free itself from my throat and end its death threat.
"Yes, Mike?" I asked, reminding myself to stop packing my food in to my mouth when in the presence of others.
"For a small woman, you can sure put away some food," he laughed. And this man wondered why he was a perpetual bachelor, what with that kind of charm. I couldn't say much though. Ya girl here had been ole Swan Party of One for entirely too long. I chuckled humorlessly at Mike's backhanded compliment, hoping he'd get to the point so I could get to the cookies.
"I wanted to ask you how you'd feel taking on a student teacher this year. I know it's sudden, but Ms. Hallmen is going to be going on maternity leave earlier than planned. She will only be here for the first two weeks before a long term sub will take over. You are the only other teacher in the English department who doesn't also have a language class or an AP class. We need to place him with your English IV students, so he would only be teaching the second half of the day, and only for this semester," Mike explained, as if I wasn't aware of how student teaching worked.
I wasn't entirely thrilled with having a college student come into my classroom and take over, but the rational side of me remembered my own student teaching experience. It wasn't even that long ago, because with only four years of teaching under my belt, I was still considered a newbie around here. The coordinating teacher made a big difference in many education majors' outcomes, and I was still grateful for the experience I had. I guess it was time that I tried to do the same for someone else. And really, I should feel honored that they were letting such a young teacher take in a student. And, I mean, I didn't have too much pride to be offended at being the last resort.
"Well, I will have to rework some of my plans, but if I'm the only other option, then what choice have I got?" I asked, not meaning for it to sound as bratty as I'm sure it did.
"Well, he can always be placed in another school, but this was his alma mater and the closest one to his college campus, so he really had his heart set on South Carolina's finest high school," Mike beamed. I snorted, because Midlands High was many things, but calling us South Carolina's finest was laughable.
"Sure, Mike. I would be delighted to take on a student teacher," I sighed.
"Great! He will be in tomorrow first thing, so I will send him your way when he arrives."
I just smiled and went back to my lunch as Mike turned to walk away.
"From the looks of things, it was a little to the left," Tanya mumbled with a winl, and she, Angela and I fell into a quiet laughter.
The next morning, I got to my classroom a little earlier than the other teachers were arriving. I wanted a few minutes to get myself organized before our morning department meeting, and in just another hour, my peaceful room would be shared with another. I was surprised to see that smaller desk had already been moved to the right corner of my classroom near my own desk, a significantly less comfortable looking chair rolled up to it. I wanted to feel bad for the kid and his cramped working space, but he'd be on his feet most days anyway.
I was pulling open the tabs on my computer to get my rosters in order, printing out copies for my attendance book. I was a little old school and liked to use my own book along with the school's system to record attendance. I also used it to keep notes about each student in the beginning, so that I could more easily and quickly learn about them. I learned early on that the faster you learned your students and began treating them like someone you could identify with, the more likely you'd be to have a good year with them.
Just as I flipped to my final class roster to begin recording, I heard a light tap at my door and looked up.
A tall young man stood there with a shy grin. He was long and lean, with a green and white checkered button down tucked into his neatly pressed khakis. His dockers looked clean and new, and the dark leather of them matched his belt. He had his shirt sleeves buttoned tight at his wrists, and his hair was cut short on the sides and combed and gelled over. The gingery brownish color went well with his ivory skin and pale green eyes.
"Miss Swan?" he asked politely.
"That's me," I smiled, his shyness reminding me a lot of myself a few years ago. I stood up and walked over to him, holding out my hand. "When the students aren't around, you can call me Bella," I smiled, letting his large hand shake mine carefully.
"I'm Edward. When the students are around, I guess you can call me Mr. Cullen," he laughed lightly. I caught myself staring a little too long at his white teeth and cleared my throat.
"Well, Edward, welcome to my classroom. Your desk is over here," I said, leading him to his little corner. "We can hit the supply room later and gather you whatever you will need. We have a department meeting at nine, but after that we can get started on lesson planning for the first week."
"Okay, sounds good," he smiled, setting his canvas messenger bag down in his desk chair.
"I'm just working on my classroom rosters at the moment. Feel free to roll on over and take a look," I said, sitting back down in my own desk chair and looking down to survey myself. I was wearing a dark, shear navy top that flowed down to just above my knees with sleeves down to my forearms over a matching camisole. My black leggings were paired with a comfy pair of flats. I never cared too much about impressing anyone with my appearance, but I also hadn't banked on having a hunky frat boy staring over my shoulders today.
"So, Edward, tell me about yourself," I said as I went back to typing into my computer.
"Uh," he said as he wheeled the squeaky chair over to my desk and sat down beside me. He was close enough that I could smell his cologne. It was a refreshing change from the usual scent of Vice Principal Newton, who usually smelled strongly of fertilizer. "Well, I'm 22. I'm in my final semester at the University of South Carolina. I'm originally from a small town called Graniteville, but I've lived here for the last four years," he said and it sounded like he'd said it a million times.
"So what do you do for fun?" I asked, trying to get a better feel for him.
"Well, I spend a lot of time playing disc golf with my brother and my sister's husband on the weekends, or just hanging out with my family. And most of my weekdays are spent studying or working in the writing lab on campus."
"No frat brothers to take up your time?" I asked, and he wrinkled his nose.
"Please, if you think anything of me as a person, do not let it be that I am in a fraternity," he said with conviction. I felt a slight relief knowing that I wouldn't be dealing with the very type of guy I abhorred during my own college days. I laughed at his serious face and let him know that I was glad to hear that he was more level headed than that.
"Do you like to write?" I asked, wondering if he shared my passion for creative prose.
"I mostly prefer short stories, but last year I gave my first go at NaNoWriMo," he said, and I jumped.
"Me too!" I said excitedly. I was still proud of writing my first full novel last November for National Novel Writing Month. I was glad to finally find someone who understood the pain, aggravation, torture, wonderment, and elation that it brought.
"Ugh, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. So many times I thought I'd never make it. I have yet to even look at my novel since. It's utter garbage, but it's my garbage, and I'm proud that I at least tried, ya know?" he asked.
"I totally get it," I smiled. "Mine is probably unreadable, but it's the most love I've ever put into anything. Well, aside from teaching," I laughed jokingly, though that was actually very true. Teaching was my passion, and even on my worst days in the classroom, there was never a day that I wished to do something else.
I looked at the clock on my computer and realized it was time to head to our meeting.
"You ready for your first big swim with the sharks?" I asked with a wink, turning to my newest protege.
"Can you tell how nervous I am?" he asked, and the way his mouth lifted higher on one side was perhaps the sweetest thing I'd ever seen.
"Meh, just loosen up on that 'I just peed a little' look and you'll be fine. I'll protect you," I said with a whisper and wink, and he leaned toward me with a laugh.
"Thank you, Miss Swan. I trust you," he said in a quiet chuckle. I hoped to goodness that he did trust me, because I was suddenly very nervous of the task I'd undertaken. This was definitely going to be an interesting semester.
It may not be worth continuing, but I thought I'd give it a try. I'm not a teacher myself, so go easy on any inaccuracies. I gave up on being an English Ed major after a truly horrible clinical experience made me realize how bad I was at it. I do, however, have several friends who are teachers, and I firmly believe that they are the unsung heroes of the world.
Also, if you've never heard of NaNoWriMo, and you're an aspiring writer, give it a try. It's the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am still so glad I did it.
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