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Authors: Debbie Macomber

Touched By Angels (6 page)

BOOK: Touched By Angels
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It had taken the better part of another week for his sullen mood in class to disappear. She wasn’t sure even now what she’d done to get back into his good graces. Whatever it was, she was grateful. Emilio was a natural leader, so his attitude was quickly picked up by the others in class.

Ever since the incident with Emilio she’d been subjected to an attitude of mistrust. It was as if she’d fallen from grace in the eyes of her students.

“First off, don’t put your name on the top of the page.”

“You don’t want our names?” This clearly came as a surprise since she’d so often instructed them to remember just that.

“No names,” she reiterated. “Now I’d like each of you to write one hundred and fifty words.”

“We gotta count them?”

“That’s about a page and a half,” Brynn explained. “The subject of your paper is this: If I could kiss anyone in this classroom, who would it be, and why.”

For a moment the entire class looked at her as if they couldn’t believe what she’d said. Someone smothered a giggle and catcalls echoed across the room.

It didn’t take anyone long to get involved in the project. Soon heads were bowed over the paper, and her students wrote feverishly. Brynn liked to involve her students in some type of writing assignment, often on a daily basis. She did this for a number of reasons, but first and foremost was an effort to require them to clarify their thoughts on certain subjects. She attempted to balance a serious topic one day, followed by a lighter one the next.

Although she’d been teaching the class for a number of weeks now, whenever they were asked to write, her students put up a royal stink. Often they bombarded her with silly questions or employed other delay tactics in an effort to forestall the assignment.

Not this time. Looking at them now, writing as fast as their hands would allow, one would think the first student finished would be excused for what remained of the quarter.

“When you’re done writing, please bring the papers to my desk.” The class was both cooperative and silent. The cooperation part was a welcome relief. Brynn was beginning to feel like a salmon swimming upstream. Every inch was a struggle, every day a challenge.

One by one, her class delivered their papers to her desk. Before long Brynn had accumulated a tidy stack.

Curious whispers followed.

“Aren’t you going to read them?” someone asked.

“I will later,” she promised, as if this were a normal assignment.

“Wait a minute,” Emilio said, slouching down on his seat. “I gotta right to know how many women want me.”

Several of the girls booed, suggesting he wasn’t the one on their list.

Emilio planted his hand over his heart and looked deeply grieved by their lack of appreciation for his obvious charms.

“Did anyone put me down?” Modesto demanded. “Emilio’s got a point, you know.”

“One thing’s for sure, no one picked Mike,” taunted a boy in the back of class.

Mike was a loner and rarely contributed to class discussions. He suffered from a bad case of acne and kept his distance from the others. Brynn had never seen him talk to any of the other students. In many ways her heart went out to Mike, and she struggled to reach him. To have someone taunt him now was cruel and unnecessary. For the first time Brynn wondered about the wisdom of her assignment. It had sounded like such fun when she’d planned it.

“Don’t be so sure,” Brynn said, and reached for the stack of papers. Her relief was great when she saw that one of the first papers mentioned Mike’s name. “Here’s a paper for Mike.”

“You gotta be kidding.” This came from Modesto. The youth sat up and turned around to stare at Mike.

Brynn walked down the aisle and handed Mike the paper.

“How come he gets to read his and I can’t have mine?” This came from Emilio.

The corners of Mike’s mouth turned up and revealed a brief smile when she laid the sheet down on his desk.

“I’ll get to you soon enough,” Brynn promised.

“If anyone chose him,” Yolanda joked.

“Do bears shit in the woods?”

“Emilio,” Brynn admonished. “I won’t have that language in my class.”

“Sorry, Miss Cassidy.”

“Careful,” Brynn heard someone say under their breath. “She might get you suspended again.”

The next paper listed Emilio’s name. She handed it to him and he let out a triumphant cry and punctured the air with his fist. “What did I tell you?” he shouted. “Women are crazy about me.” Excited and pleased, he was halfway out of his desk. “I got charisma, you know. Real charisma.”

Brynn walked up and down the aisles, delivering the papers. It flustered her a bit when she found her own name toward the top of the page. Emilio’s handwriting was immediately recognizable, and she flushed. She’d never intended for anyone to put down her name.

“You aren’t going to want these back, are you?” Yolanda pleaded.

“No. Keep them.”

“Ms. Cassidy.” Denzil’s hand waved frantically. “There must be some mistake. I didn’t get any papers.”

“That’s because you’re greedy,” Yolanda took delight in informing him. “Besides, why would anyone want to kiss you?”

“Hey, you didn’t have any problem the other night.”

“I’d had too much to drink and you know it.”

“That’s not what you said earlier.”

The bell rang just then, and Brynn was saved from having to break off a spat between the two for the second time that day. Whatever was taking place between Yolanda and Denzil was best settled outside the classroom.

“For your assignment,” Brynn said, raising her hand to capture their attention before the room emptied, “read the next chapter of The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Her words were followed by a loud moan.

“I’ll see everyone tomorrow afternoon. Have a good evening.”

It never ceased to amaze Brynn how fast her classroom emptied. It was as though her students stampeded toward the door in an effort to escape a nuclear holocaust.

As was her habit at the end of the day, Brynn sat at her desk and graded assignments, but today she didn’t have much time because of a dental appointment in New Jersey. After a half hour, she tucked what she hadn’t finished into her briefcase and headed toward the staff parking lot.

“Yo, Ms. Cassidy!” Emilio raced toward her.

“Hello, Emilio.”

His steps soon matched hers. “You probably guessed it was me who wrote down your name, right?”

Brynn could feel her face growing warm.

“Listen, I thought I should explain,” he said quickly, looking slightly embarrassed himself. “I gotta be careful paying too much attention to any one chick. You see, there are three or four in the class who’ve got the hots for me. I was trying to be diplomic about it.”

“Diplomatic.”

“Yeah, that.”

“I understand, Emilio, and applaud your efforts.”

“Good, ’cause I don’t need chick trouble.”

“I figured it was something like that,” she assured him.

“Great.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, doing her best to disguise her amusement. One thing was certain: she didn’t want to be the cause of “chick problems” for Emilio Alcantara.

Emilio turned and hurried across the parking lot toward the basketball hoop where his friends were busy playing two on two.

Brynn climbed inside her car and turned the key. It flickered to life, sputtered, and then quickly died. Surprised, she tried again, with the same results. She hadn’t left her lights on that morning, she was sure of that. Her vehicle had recently been serviced. She tried once more, and this time the engine did nothing more than cough and choke.

“No, please, no,” Brynn murmured, and pressed her forehead against the steering wheel. Trouble with her car was the last thing she needed.

Hannah shouldn’t be this eager to see Joshua again, but she was. Again and again her gaze drifted toward the deli’s front door as she waited impatiently for the man she’d met at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Her heart pounded like a race car piston every time she thought about Joshua. He’d been so gentle and caring. So considerate.

Although they’d only just met, they hadn’t lacked for conversation. Joshua was the kind of man she could talk to for hours on end. Generally Hannah found herself tongue-tied and uneasy around men, but not with Joshua. It was as if they’d been friends for a long time.

Friends.

The word comforted her and eased her conscience.

Carl had joined her family for Thanksgiving dinner, and afterward he’d sat in the living room with her father. The two men had talked far into the evening, debating political issues and other matters. Before he’d left, Hannah’s parents had discreetly left the room, affording her time alone with her beau. At first Carl and Hannah had seemed awkward with each other, Carl as much as she.

In an effort to ease the discomfort, she apologized for having lost him while at the parade. Carl reminded her that he felt responsible for her safety and suggested that in the years to come they’d watch the parade on television.

Hannah had lowered her head to hide her disappointment. Then, almost as if it were expected of him, Carl had leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to hers.

It was a sweet kiss, undemanding and totally lacking in passion.

Standing in the deli, Hannah closed her eyes and tried to dredge up some emotion, some deep feelings for Carl. But try as she might, she felt nothing. Surely not desire. Definitely no compelling yearning for his company. He was Carl, the rabbi’s son. The man her parents felt would make her the perfect husband.

“Hannah,” her mother admonished, coming out of the kitchen. Her arms were loaded with a tray of sliced bread. “Are you ill?”

“No, Mama.”

“Then why do you stand there with your eyes closed? We have customers.”

“I’m sorry.” And Hannah was. She didn’t know what was wrong with her to dawdle when there was work to be done.

Her mother peeled off a list of lunch orders from the fax machine, smoothed them out on the counter, and went about assembling sandwiches with a skill and dexterity that spoke of many years’ experience.

Hannah lent a hand, packing the orders into plain brown bags and marking each one. The scent of freshly baked bread spilled out of the kitchen and into the front of the deli, mingling with those of sliced pastrami and knishes, her father’s specialties.

After a few minutes, Hannah tried again. “Mama, tell me how you met Dad.”

Ruth Morganstern slowly lifted her eyes to Hannah. She appeared surprised by the question. “I don’t have time for such foolishness now.”

Disappointed, Hannah said nothing.

“We have orders and you’re asking me about your father and me?” She laughed lightly. “It was so many years ago now. For over forty years I’ve loved this man. I don’t remember when we met.”

“You don’t remember?” David shouted from the far side of the deli. “Forty-three years and you don’t remember? What kind of wife forgets the day she met the man who would be her husband?”

Ruth laughed and dismissed him with a wave. “I remember some things.”

“I should hope to God you do.”

“He was handsome,” Hannah’s mother said out of the corner of her mouth.

“I’m still handsome.”

“More so then,” Ruth added, her eyes crinkling with amusement.

“Your mother was even more beautiful than she is now,” Hannah’s father called back. “I’d look at her and forget all about slicing meat. The time I courted her I nearly lost two fingers.”

Hannah laughed, delighted at the exchange between her parents. It seemed the lunch crowd, pressed against the glass display case, lost their impatience, and there were shared smiles all around.

Her father handed a thick pastrami sandwich on a paper plate to a young businessman. “You’ll have to excuse my daughter,” he said under his breath, but loudly enough for Hannah to hear. “She’s in love.”

In love? This was news to Hannah. But then, if she were to marry Carl, it was implied that they cared deeply for each other. Hannah liked Carl, respected him. He was a good, honorable man and, according to her parents, a fine catch.

Her mother couldn’t have been more pleased when Hannah first started dating Carl. A rabbi’s son. In Ruth’s eyes, Carl was a better catch than a doctor or even an attorney.

An attorney. Automatically Hannah’s thoughts drifted back to Joshua, although he’d never been far from her mind since they’d met.

“Here,” Ruth said, handing Hannah the bag loaded with faxed orders. “With your head full of romance, can I trust you not to confuse these orders?” she teased affectionately.

“Of course,” Hannah answered, and blushed.

“Your head’s some place else these days.” Her mother leveled her gaze on Hannah. “Your head and your heart.” Hannah reached for her hand-knit scarf and wool coat. The deli employed a number of runners, but she was often needed to fill in during the lunch-hour rush.

“I won’t be long,” she promised before heading out into the cold.

Both her parents stared after her, and Hannah had the distinct impression that they would soon be bragging to their customers about her imminent engagement to Carl.

The wind nipped at her face as she hurried along Front Street in the bustling financial district. Taxis honked with impatience and a bus roared past, leaving her to choke on its exhaust.

Hannah’s steps were filled with purpose as she wove her way in and around the foot traffic. She hadn’t gone more than a block when she heard someone call her name. After a moment’s hesitation, she looked over her shoulder. She didn’t see anyone she knew.

“Hannah, wait.”

The voice was recognizable now. Joshua.

She scanned the crowd but couldn’t see him. Then she found him, standing on the other side of the street. He raised his arm high above his head and waved to attract her attention.

Standing on her tiptoes, Hannah smiled and waved back.

Joshua gestured for her to wait, and as soon as the traffic passed, he jogged across the street.

“Hello again,” he said, smiling down at her.

“Hello.”

There didn’t seem to be anything more to say, but her pulse quickened and she felt as if her heart were trying to escape from inside her chest.

BOOK: Touched By Angels
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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