They say hindsight is 20/20. I wish they could say the same for the present. When you’re caught up in the moment nothing you’re doing seems wrong or even like it has any consequences. And then the consequences slam down on you making you regret every decision you’ve ever made. That was this moment for me. I was sitting in a courtroom about to end something that never should have started, and the knowledge of that killed me. But maybe I should start from the beginning.
It was the first Monday in August. Around this area in North Georgia, that meant the first day of school. I applied my makeup carefully, obsessively redoing my eye makeup. How is it even possible to do that wing with eyeliner? I hadn’t figured it out yet. Today wouldn’t be my day, though. My best friend, Becca, shouted up to me. I hurriedly put the last of my makeup on and grabbed my backpack. Today we were juniors. That meant finally being up towards the top of the high school pecking order. We would start today out right.
I shut my bedroom door behind me and ran down the stairs. I flung the front door open and greeted Becca with a smile. She had stepped up her game a little today. Makeup on point, and her flowing red hair cascaded down her shoulders, which complemented the Tinker Bell green dress she had on. Those green eyes stared up at me in annoyance. She had her hands on her hips, her lips pursed. I laughed. She was always so serious. I had tried for years to get her to loosen up a bit, but this was a part of her I had come to love.
“Lana I don’t know what you think is funny, but we’re definitely going to be late.” She tapped her foot against the pavement.
“Calm down, Becca. We’re not gonna be late. We just won’t be able to get breakfast.”
We got into her car. She looked over at me as if something was wrong. I looked at her quizzically, but she didn’t say anything. I reached down and fastened the strap to my heels. Normally I wouldn’t wear heals, but they looked phenomenal with skinny jeans. And, as I said, on the first day of school I wanted to look my best. I had paired the black jeans with a loose fitting black and white sleeveless top. As I finished adjusting my outfit, I looked back over at Becca and wondered what was going on.
“What’s up Becks?” I prodded. She shrugged her shoulders.
“I’m just nervous. What happens if we get bad teachers?”
“Then we deal with it. It’s not the end of the world.” I said. It was weird hearing her talk like this. Usually she wasn’t quite this nervous. “There are worse things that could happen, you know.”
My voice dropped down to barely a whisper. I was trying to push the past back now. There was no way I was going to let it ruin today. It could come up when I couldn’t sleep, or when my thoughts kept racing back to the worst parts of my life. But today I was positive. I was positive that I could overcome it. I shook my head.
“I know, Lana. I’m sorry, it’s just this year defines everything. What colleges we get into, it’s just rough and I want teachers who will push me.”
“And I’m sure we’ll both get a kick ass bunch of teachers, Becks. Just try not to worry about it too much.”
I grabbed her hand as we pulled in to the school. She parked somewhat close. As we got out the sweltering Georgia heat hit me. The humidity did a number on my hair. I don’t know why I even bothered to style it in the summer months, it was useless. The school was relatively unassuming. It was just a brick structure full of hormonal teenagers. Inside it was separated into hallways; each hallway represented a different subject. Becks and I always had the same homeroom, so we headed to the classroom to get our schedules.
It was an intense couple minutes. We compared schedules and found that we had lunch and fifth period together. It was kind of a drag. Usually our schedules matched almost perfectly. I tried to stay awake as our homeroom teacher walked us through the handbook and rules. I had only heard this speech a million times since I started school. We wouldn’t get a locker until the blue book was signed by our parents and handed in. I waited impatiently for the bell to ring. And it went like that almost all day.
I met up with Becca outside of my third period class. We walked to the lunchroom and got in line. It was kind of disappointing. There was never anything good to eat in the lunchroom. As the lunch lady handed me a tray of overcooked pizza, I made the decision to bring my lunch from now on.
“Gross.” I said as I picked up the pizza. Could they not have salads or anything? Disgusting.
“I know, right?” Becca said.
“It’s like they want us to have heart problems in the future. Look at all the grease!” I tilted the pizza down and grease ran into the tray. I swear take out isn’t even this bad. Besides, what happened to the healthy options in this school? Hadn’t Michelle Obama championed for healthy lunches? I dropped the pizza on the tray and decided not to eat. The chocolate in the vending machines was healthier than this.
“It’s gross!” Becca said. “So, I heard that our chemistry teacher is attractive.”
“Oh yeah? Who’d you hear that from?”
“Brianna. She has him third period.” Becca smirked at me.
“Guess we’ll see, huh? So do you think he’ll be one of those pushy teachers since he’s new?”
“Bri said he was tough. But science is my worst subject so he better know how to teach.”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine.” I laughed.
The bell rang and we moved through the mess of lost freshmen to get to our class. The room itself was decorated scantly. There was a chart of the periodic table hanging over the whiteboard. I was the science nerd out of Becca and me. I looked up at it ready to know what was coming this year. I wish I had been able to take AP chemistry, but the class had been full by the time I registered. Becca and I took a seat in the middle of the room, and we waited for the rest of the class to file in. The teacher- mr. coach. Doctor?- Williamson hadn’t arrived yet. Probably just now getting back from lunch or something.
Beside me Becca was getting all of her things ready. Notebook, pen, agenda. I laughed lightly. She was an overachiever. I loved her for it. I nudged her softly and she returned my nudge with a sneer. When I looked up from Becca, my heart dropped. The man standing in front of me, he was no joke. Jet black hair, gorgeous amber colored eyes. His lips were parted with amusement, and the button down shirt he was wearing clung to his athletic body with perfection. He wore a loose tie, and his pants clung to a very robust ass. I swallowed.
“Good afternoon, class.” He said with a laugh. “I’m Coach Williamson.”
I could do little more than stand there with my mouth ajar. This was my chemistry teacher? How was this year going to go? He locked eyes with me and smiled. Oh, God. I bet he could see how much I was admiring him. I turned red, and smiled meekly. Hold up, Lana. Smile with confidence. That was a hard thing for me to do, but I did muster up enough to fix a submissive smile. Coach Williamson shook his head and continued.
“All we’re going to do today is go over the syllabus and then play a get to know you game. Sound good?”
“Would it matter if it didn’t?” Ryan Murphy, the shy little red head behind me, asked.
“Not really, but let’s go ahead and start. I think the most important thing I can tell you is this- your final is worth fifty percent of your grade. Don’t let that scare you. You will have an abundance of preparation for that. The remaining fifty percent will be split between homework and unit testing. There will be opportunities for extra credit projects throughout the year. Any questions?”
“So, you’re saying that the highest grade you can get if you fail the final is a fifty?” Becca asked.
“Theoretically. But to get the fifty you would have to score perfectly on all the tests and homework. Which, by the way, is graded on accuracy not completion. I want you guys to leave this classroom at the end of the year with knowledge. I want you to understand the basic concepts of chemistry. I will not hand out awards just because you did what I asked. I want you to truly understand and apply the concepts I teach you. I will offer afterschool tutoring randomly throughout the week. You can sign up with me during class.”
“I like that.” I spoke up. “No other teacher here does that. Holds us accountable. It challenges me.”
“I like to be different! So why don’t we play the game now? I just want you to tell me your name, your favorite subject, a hobby, and what you think you want to do in the future. Why don’t we start with you..” He pointed at me. I stood up.
“My name is Lana Taylor. I’m definitely a science nerd, so anything related to science is my favorite. When I’m not trapped in here, I like running or just working out in general. I haven’t really decided what I want to do yet. I think it’s somewhere in the medical field, but I don’t know.”
Now it was Becca’s turn. “My name is Becca. My best subject is English. I write in my spare time. I want to be a novelist.”
It went this way until we made it around the classroom. I couldn’t quite decide what it was about this man that made my heart skip. It wasn’t his looks. I mean, they were great, but they didn’t define him. It was almost like I knew him.
“So, Coach, what about you?” I asked.
“Fair enough. I just moved here from upstate New York to teach here. I’m a baseball coach here as well as football. I’m a proud father to my overgrown dog. I’m already at where I want to be, but I do a lot of research projects on the side. I have been published twice. So for all the science nerds, you have a truly overconfident teacher who wants to enrich your education.” He ended it with a smile. This was killer. I smiled back at him, as brilliantly as I could manage. The possibilities of this year were swimming around in my head. The connection I felt with him wasn’t physical. It was intellectual. And I was eager to figure out how it would pan out.