Read part one first!
Veronica was shocked to see Tim standing there. Yeah, she knew it was possible when she saw Charlie’s teacher’s name on the letter she got from the school, but she didn’t know he’d moved back. Wishful thinking was what made her give her usually dull, lifeless hair a little fluff in the hallway, made her dab on an extra coat of lipgloss, and made her five minutes later to the classroom than her son.
And there in front of her was the first man who made her feel like a woman. The last too, if she were truly honest with herself. Tim had been her every teenaged fantasy come true. Until he announced he was moving away and had no intention of ever returning.
Yeah, he asked Veronica to go with him, but she knew it was only out of some twisted sense of obligation, not because he loved her the way she loved him.
As in past tense, she reminded herself.
A quick twist of her wedding and engagement rings brought her back to reality. She was there for Charlie, not Tim.
“Do you want to introduce me to your teacher?” Veronica asked in a voice she prayed didn’t sound as shaky as it felt.
“Mom, Mr. James is so cool. Look at all the tricks. He even got to ride on that big monster truck. Isn’t that awesome!” Charlie rambled on and on about the trucks, but Veronica didn’t really hear him. All she could hear were the unasked questions in Tim’s eyes. The ones she didn’t have answers to, or didn’t want to answer.
“Mom, are you listening to me?” Charlie’s impatient whine broke through.
“Yes, of course, honey. This looks like a great classroom. And I’m sure Mr. James is a wonderful teacher.”
Tim nodded once as though agreeing with her. The divide between them seemed insurmountable and Veronica knew why. What she didn’t know was how to speak to the man who’d once been her whole world.
“You look amazing,” Tim finally said, breaking the silence between them. “It’s been a long time.”
“Eleven years,” Veronica said, silently adding three months, two weeks, and five days to the running tally in her head of how long it’d been since she’d seen him.
“It looks like you’ve been busy,” Tim stated.
Veronica tried to hear something in his voice, but she wasn’t sure if it was anger, jealousy, or just her imagination. Surely he hadn’t thought about her much. He never tried to keep in touch, and she never thought she’d see him again. What could there be for him to be upset over.
“Yes, busy has been good for me. And you’re teaching third grade, like you always wanted,” Veronica stated, leaving the question of ‘why there?’ open for him to answer.
“Yes, I am. I’m a good teacher, V. He’s in good hands.”
Veronica wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself, but she only nodded. “We should probably get out of your way. We’ve pushed past the limit and I’m sure you’re anxious to get home.”
Tim looked around the classroom as though seeing it for the first time. He focused on Veronica, those teal blue eyes that always made her feel like the most important person in the room, and walked toward her. She froze, unable to do anything but watch him approach and wonder what was going through his mind. Years ago she could read him, like he was her favorite book, but now… Veronica had no idea what was going on behind those eyes.
“Let me walk you out,” he said when he was standing next to her. “It’s late.”
Veronica could have smacked her forehead for how stupid she felt. Her son was standing two feet away and she was fantasizing about his teacher kissing her. She needed to get a grip.
“Thank you. That would be nice.”
Veronica and Charlie waited while Tim gathered his things and locked the classroom door. They walked the silent halls in matching silence, Veronica wondering with each step how she would say goodbye to him again. It was different this time. He didn’t belong to her, and he wasn’t leaving him forever. But that almost made it harder. She would have to see him, talk to him, act like he didn’t still effect her the way he did. The clean break they had before was shattered as badly as her heart was that day. And Veronica wasn’t sure how to handle it.
In the darkness outside two lone cars sat side by side. The three of them approached the vehicles with Charlie once again filling the silence. “Mr. James, why don’t you drive a truck?”
“I always wanted to be a teacher, Charlie. Ever since I was about your age. Just like you want to be a truck driver.”
Veronica’s heart caught in her throat. She squeaked out something indistinguishable as a word. Her sweet boy? A truck driver? She couldn’t let it happen. It wasn’t possible. She would not lose him.
Suddenly being around Tim was too much. She had to get Charlie away. From Tim. From trucks. From danger.
“Say goodnight Charlie,” Veronica said in what she knew was too rough a voice.
“Good night, Mr. James,” Charlie said happily before climbing in to his seat and buckling up.
Veronica dared one last look at the past she’d never forgotten and said what she was never strong enough to say before, “Goodbye Tim.”