The rest of her day was pretty much shot. Even her students noticed that her mind was not there, yet all were patient with her. The principal paid her a visit to ask how things were going with her students and her project at the end of her day. He had even brought the schedule book for the auditorium. She was touched that he had thought about her.
Austin Trent was a good principal and although he was young at thirty-two, many thought he was well qualified to become a principal.
“How’s everything going with your classes?” he questioned.
“It’s fine. The students have been really great. They’ve been very receptive to the idea about the dramatic performance. Almost borderline excited,” she answered with enthusiasm.
Austin chuckled. “I wasn’t referring to your classes here, Rachel. I was speaking about your courses.” He took the seat next to her behind her desk.
Crinkling her nose, not use to being asked about her own well being, she said, “I’m almost done.”
“I know that. I also know that the last part is very difficult. How are you holding up?”
“Good as far as I can tell considering the stress. I think if I just stay focused, I can make it.”
Austin wished her well. He was a good looking man and for whatever reason he wasn’t married. He had not only been the youngest principal at Davenport High School, but he was first black principal. Since his administration, test scores in the school had risen and senseless crime was down inside the school due to his new security measures to ensure the safety of the teachers and students.
“Dwayne came to me the other day and spoke to me about you,” Austin mentioned.
She stiffened. “What did he say?” This was one thing she wasn’t sure about – if Austin was part of a good ole boy network with Davish and she wasn’t sure if she could trust Austin like that.
“He was rather evasive, but he said that he felt you’ve been siding with students about critical issues such as grades, citizenship and attendance.”
“I haven’t done that!” she exclaimed.
Austin stayed calm. This was his nature and she had never seen him get excited about anything even though she had known him for a short time. “I’m not here to find out who did what. My bottom line is my students, Rachel. Coming in second place is the well being of my teachers. Is there something I should know before I start looking through things?”
Rachel knew she could tell him about Laura and Dwayne, but that would be just evil to even mention something like that. Instead she said, “He and I differ on Derrick James.”
“Is that why I have a school board member calling me up?” He frowned perturbed. “That
boy is more trouble than it was worth agreeing with the parole board to take him.”
“Well, I think that people have made assumptions about Derrick that aren’t true,” she said. “In no way am I siding with him, but as his teacher I should be the one to protest the loudest if what was said is true. Have you seen his grades? Have you seen his test scores? He isn’t the trouble Davish thinks he is. Matter of fact, I have started the process of trying to get him to get his diploma early. He’s not challenged enough and I think even college courses instead of just vocational training should be instated in his learning. The assignments he turned in are worthy of college material. He’s way ahead of the class and I’ve had to come up with extra assignments just to keep him busy.” She pulled the file out Davish had gave back to her and
handed this to Austin. “Davish is wrong about Derrick.”
“Is this why he says you side with the students?”
Angry Davish had gone to Austin before she had even thought about getting to the principal to tell the truth, Rachel had to tamp down her urge for revenge against that salacious bastard. Still, she decided to speak her mind, but she didn’t want it to seem as if she were trying to downgrade Dwayne. “To be honest and not to speak bad about Davish, he’s never liked me since I’ve been here. I’ve heard him often say to others that I’m too young to do my job. I don’t teach my class like traditional teachers, but I get the job done. Just because I refuse to be stuck behind my desk and that I like to walk around doesn’t mean I don’t do my job well.”
He chuckled in agreement. “I used to hear the same thing from my peers, Rachel.” Placing a hand on her thigh, he said with comfort, “I want you to know if at any time you feel you can’t do your job well, please let me know. I’ll objectively look over the books, but I will understand everything that comes across my desk about you.”
Placing her hand over his, she said, “Thank you, Austin.”
Her classroom door opened and Laura came in looking very suspicious.
“Yes Laura?” Austin asked standing up.
“The counselor’s wanted to know was the staff meeting still set for tomorrow?”
He frowned. “Was it important enough for you to come track me down? That’s something I could have addressed when I came back down to the office.”
“I didn’t know it was so important for you to be alone with Mrs. Herlong,” Laura said, raising an inquisitive brow.
Austin stood up and adjusted his coat. “Laura, you’ll do well to mind your business and not others all the time. It might actually help you keep your job.” Looking back at Rachel, he gave her a friendly wink. “I’ll speak with you again at a later time, Rachel.”
She watched Austin leave out and Laura stayed in the room.
“Yes, Laura?” Rachel questioned.
“I just wanted to know what was going on with the Derrick James situation? I know you couldn’t talk all the way earlier because he was in the room. Did you really get something positive?”
Rachel gathered her things to get ready to leave. “I’ve gotten something done, but I figured I won’t get an answer for everything until February. With all the holidays and breaks the school is scheduled for in the upcoming months, it’s going to be hard to accomplish anything, but it looks favorable.”
“Have you mentioned anything to him, yet?”
“I wanted to say something to him today, but things got in the way.” Like his lips, his body… Flustered, she caught her breath, stopping her thoughts before she got out of hand and started daydreaming again.
“Maybe you should just wait until you are proof positive that I can work. Like you said, you wouldn’t want to raise his hopes up, right?”
In a way, Rachel felt Laura was right, but she was still leery about the gossiping slut’s concern about this whole thing. Derrick needed a chance, but if Rachel failed in her task, she didn’t want to disappoint him. “Yeah, Laura. I guess you’re right.” Putting on her coat, she added, “Are you going to tell me the real reason why you’re helping me out on this?”
“I told you the truth last time.” Laura practically skipped out the room.
Rachel made note to find out more about Laura and why Austin had a certain animosity for her. Leaving the school, she made her way to her car and saw that there was an envelope on her windshield. Getting inside of the car, opening the envelope, she saw there was just a small charm wit ha car attached.
“Remember this day as a special occasion.”
Immediately, she recognized Derrick’s writing and rolled her eyes exasperated. What mess had she started and how could she turn away from it when it was something she wanted? Every time she decided to get herself out of it, she ended up getting deeper involved.
Christmas break was coming up very soon and she would try to reevaluate everything over the long holiday at home. She would be able to come up with something that could alleviate the stress at school. There had to be or she would drive herself crazy and end up losing her job in the process. Being involved with a student – her student – was a major thing.
Her professor kept her after her class that night to confirm that she would be graduating in July, but she would be finished with her classes right after the Christmas Holiday top in the class. He promised to notify the school board of her completion and asked if she could attend a graduation teacher’s brunch to deliver a speech. She was honored by the invitation and, of course, accepted.
The news had brightened her day immensely, but once she got home and wasn’t able to share that news with anyone, it put a damper on that. When she was at home, she spoke to the twins as if they could understand her. Jessica was the patient one while of course Justin could care less and gurgled constantly while Mommy talked.
Despite everything, she did love her children and she wanted the best for them. Derrick James wouldn’t understand that. He was too young to understand that. He had his whole life ahead of him and getting involved with an older woman may be every man’s dreams, but she wasn’t going to be the woman derrick would become involved with. From now on, she would make sure she wasn’t alone with Derrick James. This would ease the tension and ensure that nothing else happened between them.
Once the twins were asleep, she went over to her jewelry box and picked up the pendant. It would probably make sense if she gave the pendant back. Lovingly, she ran her hand over the beautiful design. She had never had an opportunity to pay attention to the little details of the design, but as she stared at the Italicize design in greater detail, she realized that the lines weren’t lines. They were words.
Going into the utility drawer in the kitchen, she pulled out a magnifying glass. Tightening her eyes she saw that the lines in the complex infinite design read, “Love so deep all the black holes in the universe can’t hold what I feel or you.” On the outer crust of the pendant that she thought was just the border really was in inscription of Derrick’s name in Calligraphy and at the bottom was her name with the words, “And” above it.
Sitting back in her chair from the strain she had just put her eyes through, she couldn’t believe how detailed he had managed to get this piece in so short of time. It was worth more than what she thought.
Giving it back wouldn’t be a good idea and she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. A knock on her front door surprised her. Putting the pendant in the pocket of her robe, she looked out the peephole to see Tonya standing there looking a bit nervous.
Opening the door, she asked, “How did you know where I lived?”
“It’s a long story, Mrs. Herlong, but we need to talk.” Tonya pushed passed Rachel to come in.
Joining her in the front room, she offered the girl something to drink, but Tonya briskly refused.
“So what is it we need to speak about, Tonya?”