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Our dinner arrivesand we eat it on the couch in front of the television. He puts on a James Bond movie and provides me with all the details about the characters and backstory. I’ve never been a fan, but I like learning about the things that he likes. He’s starting to feel more like a real person and less like a cardboard authority figure. I have my legs propped up on the couch, and he pulls my feet into his lap and begins massaging them. I try to relax but his touch sends waves of electricity up my spine, and I imagine his hands moving up my legs and into more forbidden territory.

“How do you like the movie?” he asks, patting me on the knee.

“It’s alright, I’m just a little tired,” I tell him, but in truth, all I can concentrate on are his hands on my body.

“Spin around and you can rest your head on my lap.” He raises his arm inviting me to slip under it. I place my head on his thigh and he strokes my hair. “You have beautiful hair,” he whispers.

He caresses the side of my face and the tip of my ear with his fingertips, causing me to lose my breath. Aware that his touch is having an impact on me, he glides his fingers along the sensitive flesh of my neck. I close my eyes and immerse myself in the warmth of his touch as tiny fireworks pop off inside my head.

“Do you like it when I touch you, Rose?” he asks, jolting me back to reality.

“It feels good,” I say, incapable of much more than a whisper. I contemplate what he might do if I sit up and kiss him. Why wouldn’t he accept this expression of affection considering the way he’s touching me? It takes a minute for me to summon the courage, but I lift myself off his lap and look deeply into his eyes, then down at his lips. He grabs the back of my head and slowly pulls me toward him. I part my lips slightly in hopeful anticipation of a visit from his tongue. We’re so close, just millimeters from contact when the neighbor’s dogs begin barking wildly, and he nearly bowls me over. He leaps off the couch and rushes through the kitchen to the backdoor.

There’s a loud commotion outside the open door when I reach it. Clamoring, banging, Mr. Rogers shouting. My instincts tell me to call the police so I grab my phone and dial 911. The operator has already dispatched a patrol car when Mr. Rogers stumbles back inside. He’s breathless and red faced and asks me what I’m doing.

“I called the police, Mr. Rogers. I didn’t know what was happening.” His tone makes me feel like I should be apologizing.

“Ryan, Rose. Stop calling me Mr. Rogers. I wish you hadn’t done that.” He sits down at my kitchen table to wait for the police.

“What happened out there?” I’m still shaking when I ask.

His body language tells me that he’s angry, and I hope that it isn’t directed toward me for calling the police. His fists are clenched, and his face is red.

“Someone was in your yard. This time, they came in over the fence. I guess they thought they could sneak past the dogs that way or something. I almost had him, damn it, but he got back over the fence before I could get my hands on him. I was gonna chase him, but the son of bitch jumped in a car and took off before I could do anything. I’m so pissed! I should have had him.”

“Do you think it was that shit head from school?” I’m sure that he’s going to confirm it for me but he shakes his head and says, “I don’t think so. I think Jared Thomas would have shit his pants if he saw me coming at him. If it was him, I’ll get it out of him tomorrow, I promise you that.”




My office is standing room only as the police officers, the entire Thomas family, Rose and I crowd in together. After hearing Rose’s complaint last night, the officers thought that confronting Jared would be the best way to end this before things got out of hand.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t go to her house last night or any other night. I don’t even know where she lives,” Jared protests.

“What about the anonymous message? Did you send it?” the first officer asks.

Jared looks at his father who nods and says, “Yeah, that was me. I was pissed that she got me suspended. That’s all. I wasn’t really gonna do anything.”

“So, it’s just a coincidence that someone starts staking out her house right after you get suspended?” the officer continues.

“Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe she made it up to get my son in more trouble,” Mr. Thomas breaks in.

“Well, the principal here is an eye witness, Sir,” the officer tells him.

“Have you asked him what he was doing at a female student's house in the middle of the night? At best, that’s inappropriate. At worst, it poses a conflict of interest where my son is concerned. How can we expect that he’ll be treated fairly if the principal has some sort of personal relationship with his accuser?”

“Because the police don’t have a personal relationship with his accuser, Sir,” the officer answers him, “but we also have no proof that he was there so you’re free to go with one piece of advice. If you were sneaking around her backyard, stop it now. You will get caught, son.”

“Mr. Rogers, expect a call from the school board of directors. I believe they’ll have some questions for you regarding your behavior in this matter,” Mr. Thomas barks.

“It won’t be the first time, Sir,” I reply. “And Jared, I’ll see you tomorrow when your suspension is lifted.”

The kid pushes out his chest and smirks at me like the presence of his father is some sort of umbrella of protection for him. He’s a walking example of the result of defunct parenting, and it takes all of my willpower to not tell them so.

The Thomas family exits the office and the officer tells Rose, “If it was him, he probably won’t be back. If you have any reason to feel unsafe, give me a call directly.”

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