Craft:The Gibson Boys Series, Book #2(8)

By: Adriana Locke

There’s a hesitation in his voice that causes me to hesitate too. If I push, he’ll close up. It’s the code of teenagers.

“I have a younger sister and two younger brothers. It’s a thing when you’re the oldest kid in a big family—you notice things. And I’ve noticed you sleeping a lot in class lately.” Ignoring the rest of what I’ve observed, I tread a little deeper. “Things okay at home?”

“Yeah. It’s all good.” He shuffles his feet, his t-shirt hanging loose around his middle. “I appreciate you checking on me, Mr. Gibson, but I’m just tired. I can’t miss the bus.”

“Sure. Yes, go ahead.” There’s something that gnaws at me as I watch him leave. The sensation grows with each step he takes towards the door. He’s almost passed me before I speak again. “Hey, Ollie?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Just going to toss this out there—if you ever need help with something, don’t hesitate to reach out, okay?”

Shuffling his sneaker against the linoleum, he nods his head. “Sure. Thanks, Mr. Gibson.”

With a little wave, I watch him join the masses in the hallway and disappear from sight. Then, just as quickly as the hallway filled with students, it empties.

Taking my time, I grade a few papers on the history of Latin America. Placing Brandon’s essay on top, I make a few remarks that the laziness used to put together this project won’t cut it. This kid is capable of so much more. His parents don’t push him. His other teachers let him get away with half-assed work. Everyone seems to walk on eggshells around this kid just because he can play football and a few big schools are rumored to be looking at him.

Fuck that.

I’m all for following your dreams, but I’m also for following logic. Logic says you aren’t going to make it in professional ball, so you better have something to fall back on. Like a work ethic. A useful mind. Good habits.

While I’m straightening the stack of papers, movement in the hallway catches my eye. I’d know that ass anywhere.

My briefcase is on the floor and I grab it on the way out. After switching off the light, I head down the corridor littered with gum wrappers and wadded up paper. My steps increase so I can jet by the teacher’s lounge as Principal Kelly’s voice rings through the partially opened door. By the time I hit the double doors leading to the parking lot, I’m nearly jogging.

Then I stop.

I don’t time this perfectly every day. Not that I don’t try, it’s just Mariah is erratic. Sometimes she leaves at the bell, sometimes she’s here well past dark.

“Well, imagine seeing you out here,” I say, closing the distance between us. She stutter-steps, not looking back, as I approach. “How was your day?”

The wind ripples through the empty parking lot. Her long, dark hair that I’m one-hundred percent sure would look perfect wrapped around my hand as I pull her head back and plant kisses down the side of her neck before burying myself in her sweet little body, billows in the air.

“It was a good day,” she says, stepping up on the curb. “How was yours?”

“After the sugar high from the cupcakes?” I grin. “Those were great, by the way.”

“Those weren’t for you.”

“Eh. I think maybe they were.”

“Oh, really?” she laughs. “How do you figure?”

Our steps stop at the same time. We stand at the front of our cars, parked side-by-side by no accident. Her cheekbones are high, framing the pink-hued cheeks that have been kissed by the cool breeze.

“You know I use your office as my personal phone booth. When you leave little treats laying around, it certainly feels like you’re training me. Like Pavlov’s dog. I use your office—I get a treat.” Holding my hands to the side, I shrug. “I can’t help it you’ve trained me to come see you every day.”

Her eyes roll as she uses her key chain to unlock her car with the press of a button. “I’m going to get a lock installed.”

“You are not or you would’ve done it way before now.”

Her lips part, as if she’s about to argue, but nothing comes out. She opens the back door and tosses her bag into the seat.