Two days before school started, I sat in my classroom reading about native plant life when I heard a knock on my open door. A petite woman standing in my doorway gave me a small, tentative smile, revealing a space between her top front teeth that I found endearing. “Are you busy?”
“No, not at all,” I said, standing and moving toward her. “I was just reading about eleocharis tortilis.”
She bit her lip as she thought. “Wright’s Spikerush?”
“Twisted Spikerush,” I corrected, “if these notes are right.”
“I’m Pat Green,” she said, and extended her hand. “The long-term sub for Mr. Clark.”
I squinted at her. “Clark? Lawn-mower-accident teacher?”
“No, nervous-breakdown teacher.”
“I’m David,” I said, shaking her hand. “Maternity leave replacement teacher.”
She was a petite with flashing dark eyes, and high, delicate cheekbones. A yellow short-sleeved blouse clung to her, and I guessed she was 10 years older than me, maybe more. I glanced at her tanned left hand and saw the pale line where she had recently worn a wedding ring. It was difficult not to stare.
She walked in and glanced around my bare science lab. The only things that hung on the walls were a clock that ran 12 minutes fast and, strangely, a portrait of John F. Kennedy, as if he was still the sitting president.
“I love what you’ve done with the place,” she said.
“I haven’t had a chance to work on my bulletin board or hang posters. I’m trying to figure out how to teach science.”
She flashed her gapped smile. “Me, too.”
“Have you been teaching long?”
“I’m trying to get back into it,” she answered, looking out on the student lab tables, as if picturing the seats filled with seventh graders. “I’m hoping this will turn into something full time.”
“That would be great.”
She turned to me, her dark eyes looking nervous and shifting, their gaze moving around my bare room until they settled on me. “I wanted to talk to you about Cole.”
“My son. He’ll be in your first period class. He should be on your roster.”
I glanced at the rosters sitting untouched on my desk. “Yes, of course.”
She nodded. “I wanted to ask you for a favor. Well, two favors, actually.”
She bit her lip again before she spoke, this time harder, so the color drained. “Cole is a good kid. A smart kid, really. But he has a hard time focusing and is easily distracted.”
“A lot of boys have that problem in middle school,” I said, trying to remember if this was true or not. It sounded right.
“He was in trouble a lot last year because of being disruptive or just not engaging at all.”
“I see,” I said, nodding and furrowing my brows, attempting to look like a teacher.
“I’m worried how he’ll be this year. My husband and I separated over the summer, and Cole is going through a hard time. I’m afraid he’ll be even more of a problem this semester.”
So she was available.
“Which brings me to the first favor,” she said, taking a deep breath. “I don’t want you to treat him differently than any other student. I’m not looking for special treatment.”
“Of course not,” I said, and could see her pulse fluttering in the soft, kissable hollow of her throat.
“But if his behavior gets out of hand, if things have to be elevated, could you just let me know before you report him?”
“Absolutely,” I said, forcing my eyes to stay locked on hers and not drift downward. “That’s not a problem at all.”
“Maybe if I know beforehand I can talk to him, try to get him to straighten up before the administrators are involved.”
“Sure,” I said. “I just want what’s best for Cole.”
Her whole body relaxed then, and her smile was wide. “Thank you.”