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I sat at a desk, ignoring most of the class, and trying to focus on my work. They were silly, foolish even, but their behavior was expected. We were only high school students, after all. Our sub today was very young. He has black hair that slightly hung in his face, and since our class was so small he really didn’t rein them in. His desk was beside mine, so I sometimes spoke with him. When I finished my work, I handed it to him and sighed.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, looking away from hi laptop.
“Nothing, they just irritate me,” I smiled, “but I’m working on blocking them out.”
He nodded, “I did that in school. Actually, I still do it.”
“So, are you going to be here everyday. I mean, our teacher took leave, so he won’t be back for two weeks.’ I said, pushing my hair behind my ear.
“I’m not sure, but maybe.” He half-smiled at me. We continued conversing throughout class, and I caught myself laughing much more than I was used to. I left the class grinning.
The next day, I sat back down in my normal desk, and took out my notes. The class was in chaos, and finally the same substitute as before came in. I smiled internally. For the rest of the week, he came back, and I would finish my work after ten minutes. I used the rest of the time to talk to him. I figured out he was funny, kind, and laid back, but not at all a push over.
On Friday, I asked him, “How did you become a sub? I mean, why would you?”
“I needed the cash, and my school had already let out. I figured I could baby sit some kids, and earn some money.” He laughed, and I frowned.
“Kids? How old are you?” I asked, crossing my arms.
“Well, don’t tell, but I’m really only twenty.” He whispered, jokingly.
“I’m barely three years younger than you; you can’t call me a kid.” I said, and half-nudged him.
“True,” He replied, “it’s hard to call you that.” His voice got quiet, and he spent the rest of the day in silence. When class was over, I said good-bye quickly; because I was worried I had angered him.
I spent the rest of the weekend fretting about his class, and on Monday, I was so nervous, I took the whole three minutes allotted between classes to get there. Finally, I got to the door, and immediately my eyes found him. He was behind his desk as usual, but today, he sat watching for me. He smiled when our eyes met, and I sat down. Later on, when most of the students were talking, I said, “I’m sorry if I made you mad.”
“You didn’t.” He said, quickly, “I made myself upset.” Then he smiled, and rolled his chair over to me. “So, how was your weekend?”
The rest of the week went by as the one before, and I couldn’t help but wish my last class would come faster. On Friday, I was morose. I knew my teacher was returning on Monday, and the sub would leave. However, if he was sad, he didn’t show it. We laughed and talked, probably louder than usual, since there were only half a dozen students in class. A guy in the back yelled for me to help him. I rolled my eyes, but got up anyway. It took five minutes to explain the question, and about ten years off my life. When I sat back down, I was exasperated. I turned to the twenty year old, who was just making me laugh, and was shocked; he looked livid. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Who is that guy?” He responded, not looking away from him.
“He’s no body. I don’t even think I know his name. He plays basketball, I think, though. Why?” I replied.
“I should write him up!” He said, angrily.
I tried to refrain from laughing, but couldn’t stop myself all the way, and said, “Why?”
“He spent the entire time you were helping him, staring down your shirt!” the sub answered. “It’s wrong!”
“It’s okay. I’m kind of used to it by now.” I smiled.
“You’re okay with it?”
“Well, it’s something that isn’t going to change. It comes with the territory.” I giggled, but stopped when I saw the look on his face. “Why are you so upset?” The bell rang, but I stayed put, as all the other students left. “What are you thinking?”
He was quiet, and for a few moments he just stared out the window. Then, he swiveled his chair around to face me. “You can take a picture of any guy here, and just by looking at them, you can tell you shouldn’t be with them. No one here is good enough for you. They never will be. I know I’ve only known you for two weeks, but I can certainly see that. You should be with somebody like me.” He said, staring straight into my eyes. My heart was fluttering, and my emotions were so mixed that I couldn’t tell what I was feeling. “I’m a good man, I am, and I know there are lines, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’ve tried. I tried to push it away, and tell myself that these are lines that can’t be crossed, not shouldn’t, but can’t. But I can’t make myself stop thinking about you. I can’t stop wanting to protect you from guys in the back row, or make you laugh, just to see the smile on your face.”
I knew I should speak, but it felt like my throat had closed up, and I had literally forgotten English. He didn’t look away. He didn’t blink. I took a deep breath. “I’m not going to lie, I have thought about it, but you and I can’t ever be anything. I’m your student, and you’re my teacher. I’m not even eighteen yet.”
“But that’s the thing, I won’t be your teacher after today; I will only be a guy you know; a guy who hated high school with everything in him, but would trade anything to be that age again.” He said, and took my hands in his. His voice was so sincere, I could barely breathe. I had dreamed someone would say these words to me, but having it become a reality was so shocking, I couldn’t help but feel flattered.
“Well,” I said, slowly, “that would be no good, because if you were my age, you wouldn’t like me, and I wouldn’t like you.” I smiled slightly, and his eyes lit up.
“You like me?” He asked, and suddenly his voice was so timid, he sounded like a small child.
“More than I should.” I replied, “More than I intended.” My voice was shaking, and I’m sure my eyes were huge. I paused, and then pushed a piece of his hair behind his ear. He was directly beside me now, as he had rolled his chair as we spoke. I left my hand on his face, and he put one of his on my waist.
We kissed slowly, as if waiting for the other to say ‘stop’. It was a soft touch, but you couldn’t describe it as sweet. There was an unexpected urgency behind it that neither of us could explain. Both of our grips tightened, and soon we were out of breath. We kept a hold of each other as our lips parted, staring into each others eyes.
“Wow,” I whispered, and he nodded, just as we heard footsteps in the hallway. We had put just enough space us when a teacher came in. As the woman talked to him, I collected my thoughts. I pretended to pack my bag, but really my mind was racing. Of all the things I felt when we kissed; it being wrong wasn’t one of them. Shame, happiness, need, and even worry were all there, but wrong was a missing feeling.
Finally, the teacher left, and as soon as I stood up, he was beside me, wrapping his arms around my waist. He hugged me, and I couldn’t help, but hug him back. I felt him inhale my hair, and pull me tight against him. I sighed, and then was sad.
As if he could tell, he pulled away from me to see my face. “What’s wrong?”
“This.” I said, simply. The feeling I was so worried about finally showed up. He looked confused, but mostly hurt. “I think that we could become something great, but not yet. Because right now, we are always going to have to jump apart or hide what we feel. Right now, even if you aren’t my teacher, you’re still twenty, and until I’m eighteen, none of that will go away.”
“My head says you’re right, but my heart says I don’t care.” He replied, leaning against the wall.
I smiled sadly, and said, “Listen to your head.” I picked up my bag, and headed to the door. “And, hey, if you’re still interested, my birthday is in a month and a half. I’m sure I still will be.” He half smiled, and I left quickly.
My life had settled down, and even though I felt like it was such a big change in my life, no one noticed anything different. The sub never came back to our school, and many students missed him, but none in the way I did. On the morning of my eighteenth birthday, I had in no way forgotten what I had told him, but my hopes had faltered to a near stop. My day went by as normal as ever, and by the end of my last class, I had resigned myself to never seeing him again. I walked to my car by myself, calling ‘Thank you’ to anyone who said ‘Happy Birthday’, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was staring at the ground when I reached my car.
“Happy birthday.” He said, and my eyes flew up. M chest swelled, and a smile burst across my face. I flung my arms around him, and he pulled me against him. I let myself take in his scent, and could feel him doing the same. We embraced for what seemed like hours, but neither of us was willing to let go.
“I’m so glad you remembered me.” I whispered to his chest.
He kissed my hair, and said, “How could I forget?”