“Again!” Anne’s order resonated throughout the room. “Your jeté should be fluid, you are a ribbon catching the wind.”
Anne ran her fingers along her cheek and glanced around her classroom. The girls began their routine, they reached the moment for the triple pirouette. As she spun, Anne gazed into the mirror, her long platinum hair pulled into a bun, her leotard stretched nicely along her frame, giving an air of modesty, but never restricted her movements.
The lunch bell chimed, Anne threw on her blue dress over her leotard and left her classroom, quickly reaching Holly as she opened her door. Anne gave Jane Williams, Holly’s substitute, a smile, but she stormed out of the room and brushed past her.
“How was chemistry?”
“Fine. I can now look forward to this Billy goat-” Holly rubbed her belly as she spoke, “-being in my arms.” Holly’s words came out in a breathy huff.
“Why is Jane upset?”
“Doesn't feel ready for Monday and she got rejected by one of the new teachers.”
“I'm not ready either. Clare’s left and now you. Who will I have lunch with?”
“She only tolerates me because of you.”
“Do you want my opinion or to apologize for being preggers?” Anne went quiet and shrugged. “Maybe stop being so… High strung?” Holly held onto the doorknob as she looked towards the breakroom. “I think I’ll have lunch in my room today.” Anne frowned at the change. “Sorry Anne, I just get so tired, that’s what I get for putting on an extra fifty pounds.”
“That’s… Fine. I’ll go get my lunch and eat with you.” Holly tilted her head. “See? I’m not high strung.” Holly laughed and hobbled back to her desk.
Anne darted for the breakroom and opened the door; she would’ve headed straight for the refrigerator, but she froze in her tracks. Her eye twitched as she stared at one of the new teachers sitting in her chair with his dusty shoes propped on the table. He was decent looking, dark hair, ruggedly handsome build, and he clearly wasn’t a first year. Anne shook her head; she imagined storming up to him and demanding he remove himself. She would’ve done just that, but then she remembered she was expected elsewhere, and she doesn’t want Holly to be alone. Anne snorted a breath and headed back to Holly’s room.
Anne only half-smiled at the countdown message saying little Billy will arrive tomorrow as she headed for the breakroom, her new schedule was now eating alone until Holly returns in four months.
Anne froze as she entered the breakroom, that new teacher was again sitting in her chair. Anne grabbed her lunchbag and checked her hair before approaching the table. Anne reached out a hand and gave his shoulder three taps.
“You’re in my seat.” Anne whispered. His cornflower eyes laughed with him, making Anne’s face warm up that his laughing drew attention from some teachers.
“My name’s Jonathan.” Jonathan’s voice had a slight honey-like drawl. Jonathan returned his attention back to his book, so she tapped his shoulder again.
“You’re in my seat, I want you to move.” Jonathan glanced at the last empty chair.
“You’re welcome to pull up that chair and sit with me.”
“No.” Anne set her lunchbag on the table and crossed her arms. “I claimed that chair two years ago. Remove yourself.” Jonathan seemed to be studying her, his smile still laughing at her request.
“No.” Jonathan returned his attention once more to his book.
Anne looked around the now full room, she grabbed her lunchbag and left the breakroom; walking down the hall towards her classroom her mind was reeling at his nerve. How dare he refuse her request; she was nice about it. Anne froze when she was about to pass the doors to the courtyard, noticing that one of her students was alone and staring at a nearly empty lunchbox. Anne opened the door.
“Emma, come here.” Emma’s eyes lit up and bolted to Anne's side. “Why are you not sitting with Lilly and Jess?”
“Ma forgot my lunch again.” Anne looked over Emma’s lunchbox, she only had a banana and a small bag of broken crackers.
“I’ll trade you my PB&J and chips for your crackers.”
“That don’t seem fair.”
“Doesn’t.” Anne corrected. “And it is because I say so. Now go have lunch.” Emma smiled wide and skipped across the courtyard to her friends as Anne reached her classroom and decided she’d read a chapter of the dumb romance book Clare wanted to discuss next week.
Anne's mind was rattled at letting her students out five minutes early, but it was the only way she could figure to beat Jonathan to her chair. She sat down and unzipped her bag as other teachers entered the breakroom, she placed her plastic container over a pink napkin and opened it. Today's lunch was a sandwich cut into triangles, and the divided compartment held grapes and carrots; she pulled out her water and placed it at two o’clock, then her chips at ten, and apple at nine. Anne was barely able to take a bite before Jonathan tapped her shoulder.
“You’re in my seat.” Jonathan laughed as he sat in the chair beside Anne. Anne took a mental step back. That chair wasn’t there yesterday, and now the awful teacher was sitting beside her. Jonathan let his lunchbox clatter on the table, he clearly needed a new one.
“Where are your manners?”
“Sorry, left them in my other suit.” Jonathan glanced around Anne’s lunch. “Are you always so… immaculate?”
“Poise, rhythm, discipline. You don’t become the best dancer with sloppy technique and-” Anne looked at his shoes, “-dirt.” Jonathan smiled again as he ate.
“I’m sure I could dance circles around you, my mother taught me some ballroom dancing.”
“I teach ballroom dancing, so I doubt a few lessons with your mother could surpass my skill.”
“Perhaps. My skills do lie with woodworking.”
“If I wanted to know about you, I’d ask.”
“I don’t know many girls who'd walk up to a stranger and demand they change seats.”
“I didn’t demand, I asked politely.”
“If a siege machine is polite, I’d love to see how you are when you’re not.” Jonathan laughed. “Have a good day Miss…” Anne smirked that she had neglected to introduce herself.
“You may call me Miss Baker.”
“No, I don’t think I will.” Anne’s eye twitched at the defiance, he has no manners. “I’ll call you Starburst.” With a wink Jonathan walked away.
Anne glanced in the mirror as her students were leaving, instead of a high rolled bun, she chose to wear her hair in a pencil twist; she rushed to the breakroom, grabbed her lunch bag, and sat down. She had made sure to move the other chair back to its original spot early that morning, so Jonathan now had no choice but to sit elsewhere. She tried to read a page of the dumb romance, but she couldn’t focus because Jonathan entered and walked to the empty chair. Anne smiled at winning the game, but a strange feeling came over her; she didn’t mind speaking with him, he was somewhat pleasant, but he lacked manners so she wouldn’t invite him over.
The loud screeching sound of metal against concrete filled the room, making Anne drop her book. Anne looked up to see Jonathan dragging the chair behind him and slowly making his way to her table. Anne’s face warmed when some teachers started whispering. Jonathan sat down beside her and put his dusty shoes on her table.
“If I didn’t know any better, I'd say you didn’t like me, Starburst.”
“I didn’t invite you to sit with me.”
“Would you like me to leave?” Anne almost blurted out no but said nothing. Anne’s feelings were… out of balance. “Your hair is nice.”
“I don’t want a compliment from you.”
“Then don’t take it-” Jonathan with his mouth full of chicken and rice, “-just noting that it doesn’t look like it's being ripped out.”
“Wha-” Anne stopped and took a bite of her avocado salad, making Jonathan smile. “What kind of woodworking do you do?”
“I like making puzzle boxes. Last one I made was about half the size of my lunchbox.” Anne glanced at the old lunchbox. “It was in the shape of a compass; I even engraved the face of a compass on it.”
“Surely you could make yourself a new lunchbox then.” Jonathan took another bite and smiled.
“May I learn your name?”
“I haven’t given you permission to use my name, so you don’t require that information.”
“Sounds like you don’t mind Starburst then.” Anne heard her cellphone beep in her pocket. She pulled it out and frowned at the message. It’s official, we’re moving! Anne packed up her lunch and headed out the door.
“Henry, you lead with your left, not your right.”
The teens in Anne’s last class all found their partners again as Anne resumed Chopin’s Waltz. Joshua’s movements were still choppy, and Paul didn’t have a firm hold on Tiana, so she fell to the floor.
“Miss Baker, what did I do wrong?”
“Your hand slipped because you’re holding her side.” Jonathan called out from the doorframe of the classroom.
“What are you doing here?” Jonathan chuckled and strolled up to Anne.
“Here for my lesson in manners.” A few of Anne's students giggled at Jonathan’s teasing. “May I assist you?” Jonathan offered his hand to Anne, she sighed with annoyance mingled with a stupid stomach fluttering.
“I suppose that will be to the student’s benefit.” Anne slid her right palm to rest along his left as his right hand took a gentle hold on her waist; his eyes had smile lines and without thinking about her actions she slid her left hand along his forearm until finding a good resting place for it. Anne tried to shake herself from the nervousness he’s somehow trapped her in. “Students. Pay attention.” Jonathan’s chuckle made her take a step back and cross her arms. “If you are going to assist, I expect professionalism.”
“My apologies.” Anne resumed her hold and glanced at the class.
“Boys, you have to find balance between firmness and gentleness, your lady needs to trust you won’t step on her toes.” Jonathan stepped forward and Anne stepped backwards, before long they were gliding along the dancefloor.
“Boys,” Jonathan began, “Caress the small of her back-” as he spoke, Jonathan’s hand slid to Anne’s back, “-and lean her back. Dropping her means you’ve leaned too far.” Jonathan led Anne into a low dip, it was graceful and elegant, something in his eyes captivated her, leaving her frozen when he picked her back up. The final bell rang out, making Anne step away.
“We will resume tomorrow.” Anne rushed to her desk and sat down to begin writing the day's grades, she glanced up when Jonathan restarted Chopin’s waltz.
“Will you dance with me?”
“I… Have work to do.”
Anne dropped her gaze; her hands were shaking. Why is she nervous? He's just a coworker. Jonathan nearly startled her when his fingers grazed her hand, sending goosebumps across her arm. He led her to the dancefloor, their hands pressed together, her dress spun elegantly, and she hoped her hair was alright.
“Will you stop stealing my chair?”
“I make no promises.” Jonathan chuckled at Anne's twitching eye, but she chose to not dignify his rudeness with a response. “You left early yesterday and didn’t show up today to battle over the chair. Everything alright?” Anne's gaze fell to his tie, surely he could have worn a better color.
“My friend is moving.” Anne felt a sniffle grow in her nostril. “Holly and I knew this would be coming, her new husband is an army man.” Chopin’s waltz ended, but they did not stop dancing especially when Tchaikovsky began playing. As much as her mind protested, her soul wanted to keep dancing. “This is all Holly's fault-” Anne huffed, Jonathan spun her round, one, two, three times. “-She had the idea to get married and pregnant-” Jonathan led Anne into a wide fan, “-and now I’ll only see Clare monthly. They're always talking about love and marriage now and I'm just left out of the conversation.”
“I'm sure they don't mean to.” Jonathan smiled. “Why do you fear people growing?”
“I don't fear anything, I just would like some notice.” Jonathan chuckled at that. “What's so funny? It's common courtesy. I keep a tight schedule and need time to adjust.”
“So, if your parents call up and say I'm sick, you wouldn't drop everything to go see them?”
“My mother abandoned my father a month before he died of cancer when I was twelve.”
“I'm sorry.” Jonathan's somber condolence made Anne’s annoyance soften. “Do you ever speak to your mother?”
“It’s easier to think that I lost both parents that day, balance.”
“I understand the need for easier. I lost my parents when I was five.” Anne frowned at the information.
“You said your mother taught you dancing.”
“My adopted mother. When you don't have a family, you can make one.” Anne shrugged off the idea. “Some change is good for the soul. Had I not taken this job, I wouldn't have met the lady with a heart of gold.” Anne's body oddly filled with jealousy when Jonathan’s pocket started ringing and her gaze dropped to the caller’s name. She turned off the music, gathered her belongings and left.
Anne was not ready for today, she only had thirty minutes to drink coffee and write down what was forgotten yesterday. Reaching for a pen, she nearly knocked over a vase that wasn't supposed to be on her desk. Anne blinked twice before focusing on a red rose staring at her, she rigidly set the vase aside, surely it was delivered to the wrong classroom.
At lunchtime, Anne walked into the breakroom to see her chair empty, deciding that Jonathan shouldn't be spending his lunch with another woman, she moved the second chair to a spot hidden from view and sat in her chair. She opened her lunch and Jonathan startled her by tapping her shoulder, her lungs jumping at his smile.
“You're in my seat.” Jonathan then did the most horrendous thing, he sat on the table, and helped himself to her chips.
“You need to learn manners.”
“I'm open to lessons if you'll join me for dinner tonight.”
“I’m getting the feeling you don’t like me.” Anne snatched her chips back but only crumbs were left.
“I will not be part of-” Anne glanced around before whispering, “-infidelity.” Jonathan burst out laughing, Anne’s face warmed with anger as the school intercom sounded with Maria’s usual monotone.
“Miss Baker, Mister Clarkson. Principal Saline would like to speak with you.”
Anne gathered her lunch; this is the third time this year she's been called to the principal's office. Interestingly, Jonathan was keeping up with her on the way down the hall and even overtook just enough to open the door for her. Maria gestured for them both to sit in the chairs outside the office door. Anne crossed her arms and played through every last thing she's done; she hasn't angered anyone this semester.
“So-” Jonathan began.
“Do not speak to me.”
“The first rule of any relationship is communication.” Anne glared at him, wishing he'd shut up.
“Saline will see you now.” Maria said, making Anne bolt to her feet and walk inside, sitting quickly in the chair close to the door. Saline was sitting upright, currently fixated on writing in one of the two files open before her, it was probably Anne's. Jonathan quietly walked behind Anne to the second chair but leaned close and whispered into her ear.
“You're in my seat.” For the first time, Anne chuckled at the quip.
“I've called you in here because I've received a complaint.” Saline began. “Apparently there's a dispute over a chair?” Anne glanced at the clock on the wall when the bell rang. “Miss Williams said you both were arguing on Wednesday.” Anne took an anxious breath when Saline looked at her. “We've had this discussion before, and you said you’d do better relating to people.”
“I… I'm sorry.”
“My apologies Saline.” Jonathan smiled. “The argument was warranted. I'm sure anyone would be upset over a stolen lunch.” Anne's eyes widened at the blame shift. “Surely your assessment of relating well includes how much her students love her?” Saline was taken aback, no one had ever come to Anne’s defense before since she does tend to pick fights. “I witnessed Anne give her lunch to one of them on Monday and Lloyd can attest that it’s a common occurrence.” Saline drummed her nails along the file.
“Do speak with me if there are more issues. Anne, do not forget our last discussion.” Anne nodded and left with Jonathan following down the quiet hall.
“So, Anne's a troublemaker?” Jonathan laughed, making Anne glare at him. “Since I got you out of trouble, will you tell me what I did wrong?”
“You've asked me to dinner-” Anne huffed; “-I'm sure Peggy would be upset with you.” Jonathan started laughing as he stopped her just a few feet from Anne's classroom.
“Peggy's my sister.” Anne covered her face in embarrassment. Jonathan's smile and strange sparkle in his eye made Annes lungs dance. In an instant, she was backed against a locker as Jonathan tenderly kissed her lips. Only letting up when giggles came from behind the door.
“I'll meet you at five o'clock at Varsovia Parke.” Anne’s jaw twitched but then a smile broke through.
“If you don't show up with clean shoes, I'll leave.” Anne disallowed another lovely kiss and walked the four steps into her classroom. “First position! Just because I'm late, doesn't mean you can be sluggards.”