“Bye, Miss. M,” Jace, one of the last students of the day, says. When you teach kindergarten, it’s kind of hard for them to say Miss. Morrero. For the six years I’ve been teaching, I’ve been Miss. M, and I’m okay with it.
“Have a great weekend, Jace.” He’s by far the tallest boy in class for his age. The dark mop of hair on his head is almost to the point of too long and sneaking into his eyes at times. He’s also the social butterfly of the classroom. Thankfully, it’s the start of a long holiday weekend, and boy, is it much-needed—no grading papers or getting the schedule taken care of, just me, my apartment, a bottle of wine, and whatever I can scrounge up for food.
“You, too.” He waves, then excitedly spots his aunt appear in the doorway to my classroom, a big toothless grin plastered on his face. This is the age where most kids are missing a tooth or two, and it’s the absolute best when they show off their smile.
“Hey, Miss. Morrero.” This comes from Leena, Jace’s aunt. Throughout the entire time he’s been in my classroom this year, if Keller, his father, can’t pick him up, one of the other family members do. A large family with three uncles, two aunts, and grandparents. They all take the time to say a few words, sometimes bringing an afternoon pick-me-up in the form of caffeine or a gift card, which basically goes right back into my classroom. Some kids don’t have as much as others, which is when I step in, not allowing them to feel like they’re an outsider in any way, shape, or form.
“Hey, Leena. I see you’re on pickup duty today,” I joke.
“Yep, Keller is busy on a job.” That seems to be the common occurrence these days, or at least that’s the story I’m being told. “Though, since you’re single and Keller’s single, you two should totally go on a date.”
I’m pretty sure if I were standing in front of the mirror, I’d see a look of mortification along with the color drain from my face. God, what I wouldn’t give for that. She has no idea how amazing that would be. That’s why what we had was a secret. Somehow managing to keep it that way for a few months wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Until the day came when it wasn’t anymore. Three amazing, blissful, seductive months, then the rug was pulled out from underneath me with just a sentence, “I’ll never bring Jace around another woman, never bring someone into his life, only for them to walk right out.” I couldn’t do it anymore. There was no way I could continue. It’s why the night after that night was our last one together. I sent Keller a text the next day. His response was, “Okay.” My heart pounded in my chest watching the bubbles dance across the screen, praying he would send something more. He didn’t, and clearly, he was content with the friends-with-benefits routine. My heart, damn, this ridiculous old-soul-believing-in-fairy-tales heart wants the happily ever after, secretly thinking about what it would be like to share more than just whispered words between the sheets. It sucked, royally. There are still times I pull up his name in my phone, start to text him, then delete the words and put my phone down. Sometimes I need to walk away from it completely, leaving it at home while I go take a walk on the beach just to keep me from begging for more.
“Thanks, but no thanks. A student’s parent, it’s just not a good mix.” I somehow get the words out, though judging by Leena’s facial expression, she’s reading something into them that I can’t allow to happen.
“Oh my gosh, that would be so cool. Miss. M. would be around all the time then!” Jace lifts his arms over his head, pumping them while doing so, along with jumping.
“As much fun as it would be, Jace, I don’t think that’s a good idea. Though I do enjoy spending time with you, I think this is a conversation suited for the adults.” Since becoming a teacher, I’ve learned a lot. For instance, crouching down on the floor so we’re at eye level is one of the things children thrive on when it comes to talking, which is where I’m now.
“Alright, I guess.” It’s as if his hopes and dreams deteriorate before my eyes, and it hits me in the solar plexus.
“Sorry, Alana, I shouldn’t have put you on the spot like that.” Leena shrugs her shoulders, her hand reaching out for Jace’s. It’s something I’ve watched all his family members do, so effortless yet so loving.
“It’s okay. I appreciate the suggestion, but it’s just not a good idea right now.” I stand up, managing to keep my composure when honestly, all I want to do is either daydream about the sleepless nights or cry for something that will never be.