tagRomanceHistory Repeating Itself Ch. 01

History Repeating Itself Ch. 01

byZuzusPetals©

The black SUV had been following me for almost a mile. Just lurking a few hundred feet behind me, driving slowly in the misty light of dusk. I looked around the empty park I was running by, realizing no one was out. I'd left my cell phone in my car, and panic was beginning to set in. Suddenly the car began gaining speed, and I pushed myself harder, trying my best to get to a main street.

Suddenly I heard someone yelling my name. I looked over, only to see a familiar thinning head of hair.

"You creepy bastard," I said, catching my breath, "You would follow me for five minutes before pulling over," I said laughing.

"Glad, to see you're still running James," he smiled, "I heard you came pretty damn close to the 1500 record last spring."

I smiled. I'd been four hundredths of a second off. Women in the eighties were just too fucking fast to catch.

"Yeah, pretty close," I said.

"I saw your dad the other day, said you're filling in for Linda Esposito next month up at the school," he said nodding.

"Yeah, as appealing as sitting around my house has been, I need to do something with my time."

"Well, we could always use the help on the team, if you're interested," he added.

"I'll think about it coach," I said.

"You know you don't have to call me coach anymore, James."

"I know," I smiled. "And you could start calling me by my first name," he laughed, as he pulled the car back into drive. After a few moments watching his SUV fade into the distance, I started running, my mind circling his proposition at the same pace as my feet.

I didn't want to help the team. I was tired of track. Tired of measuring my life in hundredths of a second. But it was like a drug, I knew I'd get pulled right back into it.

****

As I turned into the parking lot of my old school, I felt like I was fourteen years old again, nervous to the point of nausea over my first day at the big high school. It was so dark out, and I was now wishing I'd gone for that second cup of coffee my mother had offered that morning. It felt strange parking in teachers parking. The lot we'd all once envied for its location.

My heels clicked on the shiny floors as I navigated my way through the familiar halls, finally finding my room on the third floor. This was all too weird. I'd gone to college to get away from this all. And look where I'd ended up. Right back at the beginning.

****

"So, I know you're all pretty disappointed to have a new teacher half way through the year," I said to the packed class in front of me, "but I've met with Ms. Esposito and talked about what you guys have covered so far, and I think we're going to have a good semester. She also wanted me to tell you all that she'll be reading and responding to all her emails, so if you guys feel the need, definitely write to her. Ask her about her baby. Talk about the Russian Revolution. Complain, about your new teacher, what every you want."

I was met with blank stares. Yes, this was going to be a good semester.

A blonde girl in the third row raised her demure hand after my little speech.

"Yes," I said, hesitating to look at the name chart, "Chelsea?"

"Yes," she said in agreement. "Is it true that you and Joe Palmer's older brother were prom king and prom queen?" The class erupted into laughter.

Did I mention this was going to be a good semester?

****

I went through the rest of the day, barely making it through my classes. I felt embarrassed in the teacher's lounge at lunch, sitting there by myself like the transfer student with no friends. Half the teachers had once had me as a student, and I still felt like one myself. Later during my open period I wandered over to the front office, to talk to the secretaries. They'd let me get out of almost every detention I'd gotten in high school for being late. We chatted about new teachers and gossip around town, while kids wandered in and out, dismissing themselves for various reasons.

"And he just divorced his wife, and now he's dating some dental hygienist he works with," Mrs. Cirino went on.

"How old is she?" another woman prodded, as I smiled listening to their cackling gossip.

"She's straight out of school, or whatever you have to do to get whatever the hell certificate you need to be a dental hygienist. She can't be anymore than 23," she said scornfully. I smiled to myself, thinking we were the same age.

"And they're dating now?" Mrs. Cirino continued, "That's disgusting. He's a year older than my husband. If Tom divorced me and started dating some 23 year-old tart, I'd back over him with my car," I laughed conjuring up the image.

"Hello Charlotte," a deep timbre said from behind me. I spun around like I was on a string, and my smile immediately disappeared.

"Or, I guess Ms. James, now" he said smiling. Mr. Patterson was the head of the social studies department, and also the coach of the football and lacrosse teams. He's played football with my brother, putting him at around 31. I'd been a senior the first year he'd started teaching and remembered the inordinate amount of girls that had signed up for US Government that year, just to get to look at him everyday. Standing face to face to him for the first time in years, I suddenly remembered why he was so popular.

"Uh, hi, Mr. Patterson," I said, stumbling over my words.

He laughed, and I continued to blush, "Luke is fine, when it's just us, Charlotte. I know you talked with the Linda Esposito and the principal about everything, but I just wanted to let you know that if you have any questions about your classes or anything, my office is right near the social studies department."

"Oh-okay, yes, thanks," I said shying away from him and grabbing a stack of papers, to look busy.

"Alright, well I'll see you later," he grinned, leaving all the women in the room staring at him.

"He's single," Joanne Cirino said from behind me in a teasing voice.

"But he's got baggage," Diane, another secretary, added.

"That's okay," I said, turning around. They were grinning from ear to ear. "No, no," I quickly corrected, "Not like it's okay, because I want anything, I just mean it's okay because I'm not interested. He's my boss," I said, trying to sound resolute.

"Uh huh," they all echoed.

"And he's too old for me," I added.

"Uh huh."

"And, he's my boss," I said again.

Why did I take this job?

****

"Well girls, we've had a good season so far, and I plan on keeping up with our speed workouts and getting used to the new track. I wanted to introduce you all to one of our new assistant coaches, Charlotte James," Coach Connelly said at the first practice after winter break.

"Hi everyone," I said lamely.

"I especially want you all your mid distance girls to get a good look at Charlotte here," he added, looking over at me playfully. I felt embarrassed already.

"Get a good look at her, because this is the one whose name is all over that wall," he said motioning to the wall of track records above us.

"She's the one you want to beat." He would make this into some melodramatic inspirational Lifetime Movie.

"Alright, I'm going to go work with the throwers, Captains," he said turning to four pretty girls off to his side, "lead stretches, then Charlotte take it from there," he said to me.

I watched as the group of girls stretched, their eyes casting suspicious glances at me. I don't know why I seemed like such a foreign entity, I knew most of their families, but they looked at me like I was pond scum.

"So, are you gonna be tough on us," one of the sprinters asked from the middle.

"Me?" I asked caustically, "No believe, me. I know what's it's like having Generalissimo Franco over there as a coach, and it's the first day back from winter break. I'm sure some of you still have alcohol in your systems from New Year's, and if we did what he had scheduled for today, you'd all probably puke it up. So I'm going to go easy."

They all let out a collected sigh of relief.

Another girl spoke up out of the din,

"So, were you really prom queen?"

I sighed, shaking my head. "I have this condition where I lost all memory of high school. Completely blocked it out. So you'll have to ask Brian Palmer about that one," I smiled.

He'd been my first boyfriend. One of only three men I'd slept with. We did it for the first time on the ground of his basement laundry room while his mother made us lunch upstairs.

"But listen, if we make a deal to not talk about my senior prom or my high school social life, I'll help you guys to try to beat that prissy bitch's records. They've been up there far too long," I said motioning to the wall behind me.

I won them over much quicker than my students.

****

"So finish reading chapter 18 in your textbooks, and tomorrow we're going to finish talking about the Franco-Prussian War and the Unification of Germany and Italy." I said as the class waited anxiously for the bell, and upon its sounding jumped from their desks.

I let out a long sigh, looking down at my empty coffee cup. Only half way through my second day of classes, and I was already doubting my abilities to do this. I headed over to the social studies department downstairs to refill my coffee and check my mail.

I found the room empty and poured a cup of stale coffee, stretching my arms to the ceiling, letting out a long sigh.

"That bad, huh?" Luke - Mr. Patterson - I didn't know what to call him, said from the doorway.

I spun around quickly, nearly spilling the hot contents of the mug all over myself.

"No, not really, I'm just forgetting what it was like to be a sophomore in high school, who doesn't care to learn any of this stuff," I said smiling vaguely, as I sat down at the large table in the middle of the conference room.

"Don't worry about it," he said sitting down across from me, "it's tough teaching kids stuff they've never covered before. For kids born in the 20th century, a lot of them are pretty ignorant of its history. Last year I had to explain to one girl that Mark David Chapman did not shoot V.I Lenin outside his apartment," he laughed.

"No," I said, not believing him.

"Believe me, it was one really confusing essay."

"So, what led you back to good ole WHS?" he asked smirking over the edge of his coffee mug.

"No idea. If you'd have told me five years ago I'd be teaching here I'd have told you to," I stopped, before saying something inappropriate. We were relatively close in age, but he was my boss.

"To what?" he asked, playing dumb.

"Nothing," I said, feeling foolish in front of him. He laughed and took another sip of coffee.

"You know I saw your brother a while back and asked about you," my heart momentarily palpitated, "and he said you were getting ready for law school. Are you taking a year off or did you nix that idea?" he asked.

I let out a sigh of hot air and he chuckled.

"Touchy question?" he smiled.

"No, not at all. It's just been a hot topic around my house lately, especially with my dad. I was all set and registered to take the LSAT last June, and I got there and freaked out. I barely got through it and I cancelled my scores right away. Then my dad agreed to let me take the next semester off and take them in November..." I said pausing.

"And?" he said, waiting.

"And I didn't show up. I don't know what it is. It's not the freaking bar exam or anything, I just had a metaphysical breakdown in the parking lot, and didn't even know if I wanted to go to law school," I said, not quite believing I was having this conversation with Luke Patterson my second day at work.

"So do you want to go to law school?" he asked, his lip curled into a half smile.

"I don't know. I promised my dad I'd take them this June after school got out. I just never pictured myself becoming a lawyer. It's stupid but when I was in high school I always had these dreams of traveling and writing novels. I guess it's kind of stupid to still have these Kerouacian dreams after five years of college, it's just not realistic," I said, looking down.

"It doesn't sound stupid to me," he said seriously. "Believe me, I never thought I'd be teaching either, but I found that I really love it. That's the most important thing. I mean yes, with the degrees I have I could probably make a lot more money doing something different, but what's the point if you're miserable?"

"I agree completely," I said smiling, "I'll pay you if you say that exact speech to my dad."

He laughed a laugh I hadn't heard before, "Now that's a whole different story. You're dad always scared the shit out of me, so I think you're alone on this one Ms. James."

His laugh and smile made me feel like I'd been run over by a steam engine then punched in the gut for good measure. I was immediately regretting taking the job. And at the same time so happy I had.

****

"So today we're talking about 19th century imperialism, and how fucked up some European countries, like Belgium, were in the African colonies such as the Congo Free State." I said getting out a piece of chalk.

I saw a boy in the back row raising his hand,

"Yes, Brandon?" He was good at making the class laugh, but he couldn't find Belgium on a map if there was a gun to his head.

"Well, this really has nothing to do with the Congo or Belgians," he said smiling.

"I had a feeling it wouldn't," I laughed, "but go on, anyway."

"Well, as the vice president of the student council it's my job to find chaperones for the dances, and we're a little short for the dance tonight. Do you wanna do it?"

I couldn't help but laugh out loud at his suggestion. I remembered how raunchy our high school dances had been and how unbearably awkward it was for the staff to watch students grinding all over each other.

"I'd actually rather sit through multiple root canals then chaperone one of those dances, because believe me I know what they're like," I said as the class giggled.

"But, if I don't even want to do it, I know you guys probably will have trouble finding anyone else who wants to, so sure, whatever, what time is it at?" I asked, shaking my head.

"Alright, sweet," he said smiling, "it's at eight, but you'll need to get there early to help with all the pizza and drinks."

"Sounds good, I'm sure I'll see you all out in the parking lot drinking beforehand, so just don't make eye contact, and I'll mind my own business," I said.

*****

"So I heard they talked you into chaperoning the dance too," Luke said over lunch. Our schedules worked out that we were always eating together in his office. We both packed our lunches too. I always had a salad with tuna while he had turkey and cheese.

"Mmhm," I said, hoping he hadn't noticed a stray piece of lettuce fall out of my mouth. By the smirk on his face I guessed he had.

"I guess word travels fast," I said, thinking how I'd only agreed to chaperone a mere two hours before.

"Well, a few other boys in my World War II class we're talking about it," he said, as I raised my eyebrow. He chuckled,

"I think you've become a topic of great interest for seventeen year old boys," he smiled. I blushed a deep crimson, not daring to tell him what was written about him in a stall of one of the girls' bathrooms.

"In any case," he continued," I recommend counting the tiles of the ceiling with me," he said as I gave him a quizzical look.

"It's far too awkward to look anywhere else," he said smiling.

"Oh, yeah, I remember high school dances. It's pretty much just simulated sex to music," I said.

He laughed loudly into his bread, and I blushed a bit. I don't know why he made me feel so shy. I had three brothers and was use to hanging out with guys. We was nothing like a brother-type though.

Later, when the final bell rang and the halls emptied out for the weekend, I sat at my computer, nearly dozing off, when I heard a rap at my door.

"Yeah," I said, not even bothering to look over.

"Hey," his voice sent a chill down my back.

"Hi," I said quickly. "What's up?" I said, quickly taking Solitaire down from my screen.

"I, um, just wanted to know if you had all those permission slips for the MFA trip next week," he said, shifting back and forth.

"Oh, yeah, they're right here," I said sliding the stacks of paper around my desk, looking for the pink sheets of paper.

"Here," I said handing them over.

"Ah, thanks, great. I'll take these by Wright's office before I leave," he said gathering them under his free arm. He appeared to be holding something behind his back with his left, but I couldn't see it.

He just simply stood there, and I smiled, not knowing what he wanted.

"So, um, well," I said, "I guess I'll see you tonight."

"Yeah, definitely," I felt like I was fifteen again and Brian Palmer was nervously asking me to Homecoming. He still wasn't leaving.

"What's that?" I asked finally, motioning to whatever it was he was hiding behind his back.

"Oh this?" he laughed nervously, like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, "I had this at home, and thought you might want it," he said moving towards me, his hand outstretched with a weathered paperback book in his hand.

I took the yellowing text in my hand, grazing over the title. My copy of On The Road was a lot less beat up, but the fact that'd he thought about me made it the nicest gift I'd ever received. I opened the first pages and a scrawl of ink on the inside cover caught my eye. The message was addressed to a man named Robert, who sounded like a dear friend. It was signed Jean-Louis.

"Jesus Luke, Jack Kerouac signed this," I said running my fingers over the words.

"I know, my grandfather was an acquaintance of his at Columbia," he smiled.

"I can't accept this. You need to keep it. It's probably worth a lot. Sell it at Sotheby's or something, I heard Johnny Depp paid like three grand for a check Kerouac signed."

"I can't sell it, and it'll just collect dust at my house. But it really means something to you. I want you to have it," he said, touching my arm. I looked down at his hand and back up at his warm brown eyes.

"Thank you, I can't explain how much I appreciate this," I said squeezing his hand.

"I'm happy you like it. Just remember to mention me when you publish that great American novel," he said backing away.

I stood there, still speechless, as he left, telling me he was happy I'd be going to the dance. I was happier to be going than I had ever been in high school.

****

"So I guess it's a Mardi Gras theme," I said smiling amongst a sea of purple, green, and yellow. Girls danced with sparkly beads whipping around their heads, their shirts pulled up to reveal pubescent midriffs.

"What gives it away?" he laughed.

"I guess just a general skankiness," I sighed, looking away from the dance floor. He handed me a cup of punch, and it all felt too oddly familiar. Standing over the spastic lights and constant thump of the speakers with Luke by my side I felt like I was back at prom, looking over the school with the Prom King next to me.

"You know I went to New Orleans at Mardi Gras one year," he said.

"Really?" I laughed, picturing him there amongst the parades of barely clothed patrons.

"Yeah, way before Katrina, I think I was a sophomore. We had this friend at Tulane. Mark Hutchins, I don't know if you remember him," he said, and I nodded yes. "Well, anyway, my roommate and I are there, and it really is just like they say it is; girls flashing, people hooking up on balconies, and people going nuts on Bourbon Street. Well, we go to this kid's apartment that my friend from Tulane knows, and we get there and I realize my roommate isn't with us anymore -," he said.

"What happened to him?" I asked smiling.

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