I Pick You, page 5
I wondered what I was right about, but didn’t dare ask. I was pretty sure the comment was for the hitting part. Not about to elaborate on that, I apologized some more, “I’m so sorry, Mrs. Pierce.”
Her eyes did a quick dart to the door and she assured me that it was fine, again…laughing the whole time. “Don’t worry about it. Just be lucky I came back for it and not Paxton, and my name is Gabby. You don’t have to call me Mrs. Pierce.”
“I’m sorry, really, I am,” I apologized profusely, once again sounding like a broken record.
“I’ll see you next week,” she nodded, still wearing the stupid smirk.
First, I closed the door and then shot a daggered glance to Rydell.
She sputtered a laugh from her glossy lips. “That was epic.”
“It wasn’t epic. Why didn’t you tell me she was there? Jesus, Ry. You could have given me some sort of hint.”
Her lighthearted face instantly turned to a cold plate of steel, and she spun on her heels. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I stared after her, dropping to my desk chair with a heavy sigh. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with a politically correct life. “Fuck,” I said aloud, feeling beaten and drained. What a freaking day…
What a first day - long and exhausting, alcohol worthy. I did a quick search on my phone while I watched Rydell jump into a pickup truck, smiling as my thumb swiped over my screen. My eyes shifted to my phone in search of a nearby mattress store, realizing how much she reminded me of the girls back home. A pickup truck with a lift-kit, Friday night football, and a fishing pole. That’s about all you needed to keep a girl happy in Payette County, Michigan. I didn’t think I would ever miss that, yet here she was. A tight skirt, climbing into a pickup truck.
Nashville was the best place on earth for avoiding commitment. Sexy hot chicks dressed to kill, smelled like heaven, and fucked like rabbits, and then…they went home, never to be heard from again. Until the day one hunts you down for child support, that is. I blinked it away with a deep breath, thumb dialing the number.
“Mattress in the Middle, are you calling to hear about our back to sleep sale?”
Rydell passed me without a glance, her own phone held to her ear. I wondered who she was on the phone with, and then wondered why I wondered. I shook the notion from my mind and replied when the guy said hello. “Hello, yes how late are you open?”
“Oh, we live here.”
“We’re here until eight-thirty,” the guy said, sidestepping his own sarcastic remark.
“Where are you from Garland Street?”
“A few blocks north. Can’t miss it. We’re in the middle of Center Plaza.”
I didn’t really care about his sales pitch, and luckily the guy knew pretty quick that I wasn’t there to drop a few grand on a bed. I wanted a quick fix to get me off the floor, something cheap and firm, but not hard, and it only needed to last a year. A six-hundred dollar bed would suffice for what I needed, for the short time that I needed it. I decided to wait until closer to the weekend before worrying about a sofa, and I doubted that I would even bother with a table and chairs. I never ate at the table anyway, and I had cold beer on my mind. That took precedence over my furniture shopping. Unfortunately, my bed couldn't be delivered until the next day, but after the day I had I was sure I wouldn't care. I planned to be good and drunk before I crashed.
I searched for a bar closer to my house, finding two within a mile - one country, one not. Following my GPS, I pulled into the first one and got all the way to the door before I refrained and left, seeing Rydell Brinkley with a draft and a pool stick. I left, not because I didn’t want to stay. I did, in a bad way, but I also knew I had to work with her the next morning. I continued on my way, choosing the little bar about the same distance from my house. The safer one. My plan to get good and drunk lasted for one, warm beer. The place wasn’t just a cozy little bar, it was dirty and too dark, the beer was piss warm, and the only chick that hit on me had something up with her eyes. They freaked me out the way they just moved to the left all on their own. I had one beer and left, deciding my new home had to be better. At least the beer was cold.
I spoke to Kit and Bay for a little while on my laptop, avoiding every prying question Kit threw at me. She didn’t care to leave her kid with me when I made a living as a busker, and I didn’t think she had a right to ask, let alone have a say in what I did. We ended up arguing because I wouldn’t tell her about my first day at work. I hung up without one word to Bay when my doorbell rang.
“Hey, I know you. You’re Rowan’s mom,” I exclaimed, with a finger pointed right at Mrs. Pierce.
Mrs. Pierce smiled and nodded toward their house, the one with the best lot. “Yes, we live right over there. We own the development. Paxton asked me to drop this off to you. It’s nothing really. We just want to make sure you don’t paint the house purple or grow weed in your back yard.”
“Hi, Mr. J,” Rowan yelled from the backseat of a nice as hell Lexus.
“Hi, Rowan. I’ll see you in a few days,” I waved with a fake smile.
“One of us will stop and pick it up later. I’ve got to go. Dance class,” Mrs. Pierce backed away, leaving me with a nod and a smile.
“See you Monday, and I really am sorry about what I said.”
“Don’t mention it again. See ya around.”
I watched a horror movie while I slammed a half dozen beers.
Rydell spent most of her time in her own classroom the next day, avoiding me like I had some sort of disease. I mean, the girl wouldn't even look at me, and it baffled me. I wasn’t used to being brushed off. Even the couple times that I went to her for help, she explained it to me without a glance, and got back to her own work. I myself thought it made more sense to just copy her plans, but she didn't see it that way. She kept the door closed between us and did her own thing. I did mine, breaking the rules before school ever started. I didn’t get it. Why did I need a lesson plan anyway? They were a bunch of seven year olds’. I was sure I could handle it without typing it into some dumb hub. Second grade math, a little history, some spelling words. No problem.
After a quick copy and paste from an online search, I had a full month of lesson plans, planning to read them later. I chose to rearrange my classroom, making it a little more fun and interactive for the kids, instead. Within the hour the rows were gone, replaced with a U shaped square with my desk, front and center.
“What are you doing? You can’t do that.”
I turned to see Rydell in the door between our rooms, arms crossed, wearing a snarl. I swear the chick had a contemptuous contortion of her facial muscles at all times. Her constant gibes and high class stick up her ass made me wish the door between us didn’t exist sometimes. One minute, she joked and would smile, while saying something funny, and then this. This pissed off witch who hated me.
“What does it look like? And why not? This is much better.”
“Yeah, well if I were you, I’d put it back before Miss Day sees it. She doesn’t fare well with change.”
“She doesn’t, or you don’t?”
“Whatever, do what you want. I’m going to lunch.”
“What is your problem with me?”
“I don’t have a problem. I have a job. I am supposed to be training you on what to do. I never said to redecorate anything. I said do your plans. That’s what you’re supposed to be working on today.”
I smiled as my eyes wandered down her body all on their own. I couldn't help it. The girl was cute as shit. “All done. I would offer to take you to lunch, but I have to meet a guy about a bed.”
Rydell rolled her eyes, unamused. “I would have said no.”
“Are you single?”
Another eye roll mixed with a frustrated groan and she was gone, the door between us slamming behind her. I laughed, unscathed by her pompous ass and haughty ways. Screw her and the broom she rode in on.
I knew as
“Oh, you rearranged,” she uttered, in a tone that sounded pleased, yet hid a hint of dissatisfaction.
“Yes, I thought it would make the kids feel more equal. You know, not singling anyone out in the back row. We’re all a group this way, and you did say make it mine.” I articulated, as my hand waved around the new, better design I made mine, just as she told me to do.
Two little crow’s feet appeared at the corner of each of her eyes, revealing her forty plus years. “We don’t normally do things like this, Mr. Jandt. I like to keep a tight ship, and it’s worked well for me for the past seven years. I’d like to keep it that way. You have to remember, this is a Catholic school. Parents pay a lot of money to send their kids here. When we all follow the same rules, the boat seems to float better. We all need a plan in life, which is the message we’re trying to teach our kids here. You wouldn't send a ship into the ocean without a compass. It would get lost. You understand, right?”
I thought about my answer carefully before replying, knowing I had an entire year at St Augustine’s’. How much did I want to rock that floating boat was the question lingering between us. With my hand on the small of her back, I guided her out, a fat roll in the palm of my hand. “You know, Miss Day, I agree with you one-hundred percent, but I also think you need to get lost sometimes in order to find your way. You understand, right?”
Her cheeks turned a rosy red as I smiled a charmingly sexy grin and took the control right out of her writhing hands. She wasn't someone I would have taken to bed, but a little hope never hurt anyone. If she was really that easy to persuade then it wasn’t my fault she drank the poison. She didn’t tell me to change it back and I wasn’t about to do it on my own. Mostly to stick it to Rydell, but I wouldn't have admitted that out loud.
That was the next few days. Rydell was as professional as she could be around me, but she did make fun of my lesson plans, the fun way I planned to teach, and once I heard her talking about me to Wendi and Jonas. She gave me a week with the kids, sure I’d run back to Nashville with my guitar between my legs.
I stepped around Jonas, needing the coffeepot, with a sneer right to Rydell and her big mouth. “I’m surprised you gave me a whole week.”
“I’ll see you later. I have to meet with Father Don,” Wendi announced with wide eyes.
Jonas followed suit, wanting to avoid a confrontation. “Me, too.”
Rydell left, too, but not before giving me a dirty look. The chick hated me and I hadn’t done a damn thing to her.
I read the newspaper with my feet propped on an adjacent chair, coffee in hand while I listened to Lauren and Levi ditch the Cleveland Browns on the radio. This was my first encounter with Miss Cantral. Wow.
“Oh, hey. You must be Mr. Jandt. I’m Crystal Cantral.”
I wiped doughnut crumbs from my hand with my jeans and stood to shake her hand. “Hello, you can call me Brantley. Finally made it back from Cancún, huh?”
Her smile was contagious, bright white teeth and ruby red lips. I was in lust. I always was a sucker for gorgeous blondes. “Ugh, not by choice. I’m not ready for this. I need another summer.”
I watched her tight ass, picturing it in Cancún, wearing a g-string bikini while she poured coffee. “Yeah, I hear you.”
Crystal sat across from me with a steaming cup, a blueberry muffin, and boobs. Whoa. Miss Cantral had the most beautiful rack I had ever seen in my entire life. Perfectly round, perky and firm. I desperately wanted to sink my face into them. “So, you moved here from Nashville I hear. Did you teach there, too, or are you fresh out of school?”
“I took a year off. This is my first teaching job.”
“And you chose St. Augustine because?”
Jesus. Those blue eyes, the blonde hair, the boobs. I decided at that very moment that I needed to get laid, as I spoke the truth. “They were the first ones to call me.”
“You should have held out,” she teased, lips blowing on hot liquid, leaving a red stain on her brand-new Cancún coffee mug.
I flirted right back, laying on thick charm with a smile to match, “Now you tell me.”
“So, how are you getting along with Miss Brinkley?”
I could tell by the expression on her face she wasn’t a Rydell fan, but I wasn’t about to cross any lines. Not until I knew what was in it for me. If I didn’t have a chance at getting either one of them naked, I didn’t need to get in the middle of a pissing match. “So far, so good. There’s a lot to learn. This hub thing we all share confuses me more than anything. I mean, who wrote that program? I can teach my second graders to do better than that. That’s the cheapest, laziest way to create a landing page I’ve ever seen in my life.”
And that, my friend, is how it’s done. I boasted my professional women playing skills while dancing around the touchy subject. No lines crossed.
“Eh, I’m used to it now. I learned a long time ago not to butt heads with Miss Day. She doesn’t bend on anything, and you’re only wasting your time if you try. You won’t win. It’s her way. Don’t worry, you’ll see soon enough.”
“Nice, thanks for the tip. How long have you been here?”
“Three years. I didn’t plan on staying this long, but I’m settled. I don’t want to waste the time and energy it would take to pursue anything else, ya know?”
I nodded, agreeing with her poor excuse to change without a comment. We didn’t need to get into views about life. I didn’t have those conversations with chicks. Once you got into talking about beliefs, the feelings were next. Never failed. Women have their own language and no man is going to change that. You tell them you don’t believe in something controversial, the next thing you know, they’re telling you how they feel. We talked about her instead, professional words blending with a few flirty smiles and a couple eye locks, just enough to let her know that I was interested.
My hand purposely wiped down my leg, bringing her attention to the jeans I had chosen to wear for Rydell. They weren’t working for her, but with a little luck they would work for my new favorite fifth grade teacher. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Cantral. I’m sure I’ll see you around. I better get back over there and spend a few more hundred hours in this nineteen-eighty-two DOS system.”
Crystal laughed, a cute as hell giggle, flipping her blonde hair to the front of her shoulder. She played with her golden locks with both hands while her batting eyelashes told me I had planted my seed. She knew I wanted her. “Have fun with that.”
Unlike Nashville, I spent my evenings out of the bars, enjoying my cold beer at home, floating in my pool, or watching the sunset. I was tempted a few times, seeing Rydell’s truck parked outside the bar near my house, but knowing she pretty much hated me, I never stopped. Not until the night before I would spend the weekend with Kit and then have my child for an entire year. I had already gone home with my six pack, pizza, and a gallon of milk, ready to watch some television on my new TV and write down some words I had going through my mind.
Words mixed with a twangy tune in my head all afternoon. All because of Rydell. No matter how nice I tried to be to her, she wouldn't crack. Not even a little chip. She talked at me, not to me, and that was only if she had something to say, usually when I pissed her off. When I asked anything personal, she derailed it, and I didn’t understand it. Women always spilled their guts to me because I knew how to talk to them, I knew how to shut up and listen, and I knew they just wanted to feel special. I was an expert at assuring that happened. Except for Rydell. She could give a shit less about feeling important, and I didn’t get it. She was such a mystery, yet for some odd reason, I cared, I wanted to know her, and I wanted to know why she was off limits.
I sat out by my pool with my guitar, watching the bright azure lights dance around the clear blue water. Mystery Woman come blow my mind. The chorus to the most provocative song I had ever written, and Rydell’s face helped form the words into lyrics. L
A couple beers later, and a deep feeling of dread fell upon me when Kit’s call popped up on the right of my screen, and then I needed more than a six pack. For a second I debated on not answering, pretending that I wasn’t there. I answered, feeling irritated before the conversation even started. “Why can’t you just call me on the phone like normal people?”
“Because, idiot. I want her to see you so she can at least know what you look like and know your voice before we get there. Say hi to your grouchy dad,” she muttered as Bay giggled, bouncing into the air from her knee.
“Hi, Bay. How are you?”
“Does she speak any other English words?”
“Stop it. She’s not even two yet.”
“Sorry, it’s been a long week.”
“Tell me about it. I think I’ve cried more this week than I have in my whole life. How’s the new job going?”
“It’s not so bad, and Bay will be at the Catholic church two blocks from where I work. I can take you there Saturday so you can check it out. It’s really nice.”
“So you got yourself a nine-to-five. Imagine that. Banker Jandt.”
I watched Bay slide down from Kit’s lap, observing the photo of her sitting in front of her first birthday cake in a white diaper, a messy baby, a portrait of a climber at the top of a mountain hung above her bed, along with a movie poster of the movie, Steel Magnolias. I blinked away the thought of my mother loving that movie, focusing my eyes back to Kit.
“Yeah, that’s pretty darn close. You’re really going to do this, Kit?”
Kit’s smile slowly vanished and her eyes glossed over with wet tears. “Don’t, Brantley. It wouldn't take much to talk me out of it at this point.”
JETTIE WOODRUFF SERIES:
Other author's books:
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