Continue reading for my story …
Shellie studied the woman across the room. She was older, maybe in her mid-30’s, looked to be about average height and weight and had brown, mousey hair. In other words, average. She wasn’t sure what she had expected but the fact that she appeared average and boring disappointed her. She had always pictured her a bit more on the glamorous side, though she didn’t know why. Was she fun? Did she laugh a lot? Was she kind? Loving? Or was she more reserved, cold, disconnected? She squirmed in her seat at the thought of her treating HIM less than he deserved.
“What are you doing?” Chelle said as she dropped her bookbag on the desk next to Shellie.
Shellie jerked in surprise and sat up straighter, clearing her throat. “Nothing. Just zoning out a bit. I didn’t sleep very well last night.”
“Did you get the assignment done?” Chelle unzipped her bag and dipped a hand into the messy interior.
“I did. But I finished it late last night so honestly, I’m not really sure it makes sense.”
Chelle lowered her head and practically crawled inside her bag.
“If you would clean that out once in a while…”
“Don’t start with me with, Shell. This is my organized mess, I can’t find anything otherwise.”
“You can’t find anything, ever,” Shellie chuckled and settled into her chair. Her eyes shifted back over to the woman. She was checking her phone and swiping through what looked like pictures. She leaned forward unconsciously trying to get a look. Was she looking at pictures of HIM? She suddenly wished she had sat closer to the woman.
“Ah ha!” Chelle held up her paper triumphantly. “I knew it was in here.” She smoothed the paper out on her desk.
Shellie released a sigh and sat back in her chair. She had to come up with a way to introduce herself to the woman.
“Are we presenting today?”
Shellie stiffened when she heard the woman chuckle. She leaned over holding her phone out so the person sitting next to her could see it. What were they looking at? A meme? A funny post? Or was it a picture of HIM? She narrowed her eyes and wondered how weird it would appear if she decided to change seats and look over their shoulders.
Chelle snapped her fingers in front of her face. “Where are you? Did you hear what I said?”
Shellie sat back in her seat and forced herself to relax. “Sorry, no.”
“I said I wrote my brief, but I don’t think my argument is strong enough.”
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Shellie muttered and forced herself to pull her homework out as Mr. Wilson entered the room and made his way to his desk.
“Yeah. That’s easy for you to say. You’re a natural at this sort of thing. You’re going to make a great lawyer.”
Shellie smiled at Chelle and shrugged her shoulders. “I hope so.”
“I still can’t believe you’ve decided on family law. Seems so boring, not to mention, you don’t make as much money in that field.”
“True,” she dug out her book and turned her phone to vibrate. If their phones went off during class, Mr. Wilson stated he would confiscate them and automatically deduct 10 points from the entire class. Though she had a solid A in the class, she didn’t want to take that cushion away.
“Pretty sure I’m going for immigration,” Chelle mumbled under her breath as Mr. Wilson started addressing the class.
Shellie nodded. That made sense since Chelle’s family was originally from Mexico and were having trouble entering the US.
She tried to concentrate on the class but her attention kept derailing and like a magnet, her gaze kept shifting to the woman. Was she happy with HIM? Was she good to HIM? A sudden stab of jealously sliced through her gut at the thought of her being with HIM at night. What she wouldn’t give to trade places with her.
She would be so good for HIM. She fantasized about going out to the lake, having picnics, watching movies, just being silly together. She smiled at the thought. What a life they would have together.
“Okay. So prepare to present your case next class. I expect solid arguments and a strong presence,” Mr. Wilson said as students started gathering their things to leave.
“Want to head over to the campus cafe for a coffee?” Chelle asked.
“Uh,” Shellie looked at her watch. “No. I need to head out. I have plans tonight.”
Chelle arched a brow. “Oh?”
Shellie laughed and shook her head. “Not those kinds of plans. I need to work on my capstone class project tonight.”
“You’re so boring,” Chelle said with a smile.
“So I’ve been told.”
“But we’re still on for Saturday night, right?”
“Yep. And you’re the designated driver, right?”
“Well,” Chelle hedged as they walked out of the classroom. “I may have someone else in mind for that job. I feel the need to get rip-roaring drunk this weekend.”
Shellie’s chuckle died in her throat as the woman passed them. “Excuse me,” she muttered while tossing her bookbag over her shoulder.
“Okay, I’ll call you later!” Chelle said over her shoulder as she waved to another friend and hurried to catch up with her.
“Yeah, see ya,” Shellie muttered under her breath and slowed her pace, watching the other woman in the distance. She didn’t know why she was so obsessed with her. She was beginning to regret digging into HIS records. Actually, she wasn’t supposed to have seen them but her friend, Gary, had asked her to meet him at the courthouse late one night and she might have accidentally, on purpose, typed his name into the database while Gary was busy making copies. She had only been curious. She hadn’t expected HIS name to come up so when it did, it took her a moment to fully process what she was seeing.
His address. She knew where HE lived. And she knew who HE lived with.
The woman in her class.
She had never paid the woman any attention before stumbling on to HIS records and now, she was all she could think about. She thought if she were to get a little information, just enough to quell her curiosity, she would get HIM out of her mind but her strategy actually backfired and now she wanted to know more. She needed to know more.
She sighed and raised her arms to lift her reddish/brown hair off the nape of her neck and twist it into a messy bun as she stepped out into the afternoon sunshine. It was a warm spring day. She inhaled deeply and moved off to the side to get out of the way of the sea of people exiting the building. She should go home. That would be the responsible thing to do. She hadn’t been lying to Chelle when she told her she needed to work on her capstone project. But she knew she wouldn’t head home right away. The urge to go to the café was simply too strong.
She ran a hand over eyes and groaned. This was not healthy. Nothing could come from this obsession she couldn’t shake. She needed to move on. To put HIM out of her mind. She wasn’t allowed to have a relationship with HIM, HE wouldn’t even know who she was if she introduced herself, and yet, she couldn’t talk herself into listening to reason. She was addicted.
She began running when she saw that her shuttle had pulled up to the stop. She glanced at her watch. It was 3:15. Right on time. She would make it to the café by 3:45, plenty of time to order a coffee, find a window booth and settle in so she could get a glimpse of HIM. She was only looking, what was the harm in that?
She grabbed a seat near the front of the shuttle and settled in. She placed her bookbag next to her on the seat to discourage some random stranger from sitting next to her. She crossed her arms protectively across her chest and leaned her forehead against the glass.
What would it be like to have a relationship with HIM? What was he like? What was his favorite food? Color? Sleeping position? She sighed. She knew she had made the right decision, for everyone involved, but still … she couldn’t help the feeling of longing that welled up inside her.
She really wished she hadn’t looked him up the other night. It was like picking off the scab of a well-healed wound. Only it somehow felt more painful because the wound was old, forgotten.
What was she like? Was she kind to him? Did she make him laugh? Did she comfort him when he was sad? She grit her teeth and fought the wave of jealously that washed over her. It wasn’t fair. SHE should be the one to be in HIS life, not her. If only she …
She sat up. Maybe there was a way to work herself into his life. After all, the woman was in her class. That gave her an opening to introduce herself. Maybe if she got to know the woman, she would have an opportunity to get to know HIM.
The shuttle lurched to a stop and she grabbed her bookbag. Her heart felt lighter and she bit her lip to stop an excited grin. What would it hurt to just say hi? It wasn’t like she was asking to be part of his life, but a simple “hi” wouldn’t hurt anything, right? Maybe HE would speak to her. Perhaps lady luck would be on her side and she could hear his voice!
She jumped off the bus and practically ran to the café. She stopped just inside the door, her breathing ragged and quickly scanned the side booths. Perfect. There was one available. She scooted into the bench and plopped her bookbag next to her.
“Well hello,” the waitress materialized by her side. “The usual?”
“I have a usual?” she laughed.
“Honey. You’ve been coming here every week day for the past three weeks. I’ve noticed. And yes, you have a usual. Coffee and a bagel?”
“Yes please,” Shellie offered a friendly smile.
“Coming right up!” She winked and walked away.
Shellie turned her attention to the small group of people gathered around the bus stop outside the window. She recognized the woman from her class standing by herself just outside the group. She seemed like a loner. Was she shy? Was she socially awkward? If so, how did that affect HIM? Exactly what was her relationship to HIM? Were they close? The woman was busy scrolling through her phone when the bus pulled up.
Her eyes shifted to the doors and she found herself holding her breath as the people filed out.
“Here you go,” the waitress placed a steaming cup of coffee and a small plate with an oat bagel and a packet of cream cheese on the side in front of her.
Shellie felt a fleeting moment of irritation at the waitress for distracting her from HIM. She forced a smile. “Thanks.”
“I put an extra dollop of cream in your coffee, I figured you would enjoy that,” she offered with a friendly smile. “You’re a student?” She nodded to the bookbag.
“Uh, yes.” Shellie’s eyes darted to the bus. The group of people were beginning to disperse and she frantically looked around for HIM. Did she miss him?
“What are you studying?”
She clamped down on her temper and resisted the urge to snap at the woman. She was only being nice, probably looking for a tip. It wasn’t her fault that she picked the absolute worse time to strike up a conversation. “Law.”
“Oooh, a lawyer! How exciting! I bet it’s hard. You must be terribly smart. What area of law are you interested in?”
She tore her eyes from the bus stop outside and released a long-suffering sigh. She must have missed him. She was really looking forward to … what, exactly? What had she hoped to accomplish? Inserting herself into HIS life wouldn’t have been a good idea, anyway. In fact, what exactly was she doing? She needed to let this go. She was obsessing and it wasn’t healthy to wish for something that was never going to happen.
“Family law,” she answered in a distracted tone. She reached out to pull her bagel in half.
“Really? Me too,” a woman’s voice said.
Shellie blinked down at her bagel. That voice. She knew that voice! She looked up. The woman from her class was standing next to the waitress and HE was with her. Her chest tightened and she suddenly couldn’t breathe. Oh God. HE was looking right at her!
“Mind if we share your booth? There is no place else to sit and I’m waiting for my husband to come pick us up.”
“What?” Shellie blinked and felt like she had stepped into an alternate universe. Was this really happening? No place else to sit? She glanced around the café, careful not to look directly at HIM, and realized that she was right, all of the other tables were occupied. “Oh .. sure,” she stammered. She could feel heat flooding her cheeks. She purposefully kept her eyes on the woman as they slipped into the booth opposite her.
“Thanks. You’re in Wilson’s class, right?”
“Yes,” she squeaked. She cleared her throat and steadied her voice. “Yes. He’s my last class of the day.”
“Yeah, same,” the woman glanced at her phone before dropping it into her purse. “My name is Nina, by the way. And this is my son, Zack.”
Shellie stared at the woman for a few seconds before forcing herself to look at the small boy by her side. He had the same reddish/brown hair and he had Shawn’s eyes – the color of warm milk chocolate.
“Hello Zack,” she whispered.
He grinned at her. He was missing one of his front teeth. “Hi,” he chirped.
She continued to stare at the boy as Nina gave the waitress her order.
Zack stared back at her with a serious expression. He regarded her for long seconds and then grinned at her again. She must have passed whatever internal test he was gauging within himself.
Shellie’s mouth went dry and her stomach rolled with nerves. HE was here. Right in front of her. HE was everything she dreamed him to be. And he was perfect.
She was finally face-to-face with her son.