Tish and Tyler, sitting in a tree… and one wrong step can mean a cruel plummet to the ground below.

On Monday, Tish wrote his name on lined notebook paper with a green felt marker. She wrote her name underneath in red, her first name with his last. She squiggled hearts and flowers, vines of love growing this way and that over and around the letters.

She folded the paper and stuffed it into her binder. She knew it was childish. Something overly hormonal sixth-grade girls did, but she couldn’t help herself. And seeing her name there next to his may be as close as she could get to a relationship with him.

He’d caught her eye in fifth period at the beginning of the school year. He walked in with an air of confidence that most boys his age didn’t have—unless they were jocks. But Tish had discovered long ago that the jock types were really scared little boys trying to prove something. Even grown men like her father…

Tyler was different. Tish and Tyler.

It just sounded right.

She showed her mom a photo of him on Facebook over dinner one evening, testing the waters to see what it would feel like to discuss her feelings openly for once instead of hiding it from everyone at school. She knew her mom wouldn’t say a word. Tyler didn’t even know how she felt, but she was about to change that.

If she got up the courage.

“Well, he’s a fine looking young man. Is he in your class?”

“Yeah, Mom. He’s in my class.” Tish took a bite of chicken. She didn’t know if it was tasteless because it was tasteless or if it was tasteless because she was lovesick—something she hadn’t felt in quite some time. “I think I really like him.”

“Well, he’s a fine-looking young man.” She smiled and handed the phone back to Tish.

That wasn’t so scary.

The broccoli had no flavor, either.

What she’d wanted to tell her mother, tell the world, was that she thought of Tyler often. And endlessly.

He was as permanent a fixture in her mind as air was to her lungs. She’d pass him in the hallway and breathe in deeply, catching a hint of his sweet cologne. She tried to position herself to see him step off the bus in the mornings and board in the afternoons.

She wanted to set up a study date with him. She knew he struggled with algebra, and she could help. Her mom needed her help most evenings, though, and Tyler gave her a wonderful distraction to fixate on while she toted laundry and tended to the details of living.

Two days after she wrote the note, she dropped her binder in the hallway outside the school office. Right in front of Principal McCain.

He bent to help her pick up the scattered papers. She rushed to scoop them up. It was incredibly stupid to keep the notebook paper. Incredibly stupid of her to write it down in the first place.

She wasn’t fast enough, and as the principal handed her the lined paper, it unfolded and he saw it. He stared at the page. Then at her. He squared his shoulders, folded the paper into quarters and placed it inside his suit jacket pocket. The hall filled with slamming lockers and squeaking shoes. The first period bell rang.

“In my office tomorrow morning, Miss Hampton.”

Not again. This couldn’t be happening again. She went about the school day, surviving each agonizing class until fifth period when she hoped to gaze at Tyler one last time. But Tyler didn’t show up for class.

That night, she showed her mom the photo from Facebook again. “I’m losing him before I ever get a chance to know him.” She laid her head in her mother’s lap and cried.

“Well, he’s a fine-looking young man. Is he in your class?”

“Yeah, Mom. He’s in my class.” She rose and wiped her tears.

An orderly came into the room. “It’s time for her meds. Will you be helping her this evening?” She nodded, and he handed Tish her mom’s dementia medication in a tiny plastic cup.

She emptied the pills into her hand and handed them to her mom in exchange for the cell phone. “He’s a fine looking young man. Is he in your class?”

“Yes, Mom. He’s in my class.” She put her mom’s clean laundry away, kissed her on the head and left the facility.

On the drive home she decided she wouldn’t attend the meeting with the principal in the morning. She’d attended such meetings in the past, and the phrases echoed in her mind. …conduct unbecoming of a teacher.

…relieved of duty immediately.

No. She didn’t need to hear it again. She’d spend her time tomorrow researching Alzheimer’s units two states over.

And look for yet another job.

Often and endlessly.

Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on the first Friday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.

Copyright © 2019 by B.A. Paul
This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed herein are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This work, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.