Chapter no 44

The Teacher


I HAVE NEVER BEEN QUITE this panicked in my entire life. I even removed my stilettos so that I can properly pace across the bedroom. This must be my twentieth lap, and I don’t feel any better.

“Are you sure it was her?” Nate asks me.

As soon as I got back into the house, I scurried up to the bedroom and told Nate what I saw outside. He is not upset enough to pace. He is not even concerned enough to climb out of bed. He is not the least bit perturbed that my student was crouched in the bushes outside our house. He thinks it was all in my head.

“I know what I saw, Nate.” I stop pacing to turn and glare at him. “Addie was in the bushes. She was watching me. Stalking me.”

“Why would she do that?”

I clench my fists. I recognize that Nate does not have the same sort of contentious relationship that I have with that girl, but I’m getting awfully sick of him defending her. I should’ve followed my instinct and dragged her to the principal when I found out she cheated on the midterm. I should have nipped the whole thing in the bud.

“She hates me,” I say.

He laughs. “Come on. Why would she hate you?”

“I can see it in her eyes.” I saw the flash of anger earlier today when I made Addie put away that sandwich. She was upset, but what am I supposed to do? Allow students to turn my classroom into the cafeteria? I can’t compete with the sound of crunching potato chips. “She’s a teenage girl and she’s got raging hormones. I already caught her cheating, and she’s never prepared for my class. Every time I call on her, she scowls at me.”

“She scowls?” Nate arches one eyebrow. “That’s your evidence?”

I plop down on the edge of the bed. “Listen to me, Nate. We already know that girl was skulking around Art Tuttle’s house. This is not exactly a far reach. I don’t care if you believe me or not—I know what I saw.”

The conviction in my voice this time is somehow enough to wipe the teasing smile off his face. He sits up straighter in the bed. “Okay, so say it was her. What are you going to do?”

“I have to go to the principal.”

“The principal? That seems extreme.”

“Nate,” I say through my teeth. “The girl was in the bushes outside our house. Art already lost his job because of her. I’m not messing around here.”

He’s quiet for a moment, mulling this over. I don’t understand what he is thinking about though. This is an exceedingly delicate situation, and it has to be handled correctly. Getting the principal involved is the right thing to do.

“I just don’t want to cause more trouble for Addie,” he says. “You know the other kids have ostracized her because of the situation last year.”

“Maybe she needs counseling,” I say. It’s the kindest thing I can say. I’d hate to say that Addie is simply a bad seed who can never be redeemed.

“Counseling?” He twists his face like he just ate something sour. “Now you’re going to get the girl sent to a shrink?”

I don’t understand why Nate is fighting me on this. If Addie is troubled, counseling will help her. If he is her advocate, why wouldn’t he want her to get the help she needs? There isn’t any stigma anymore in receiving counseling.

“I’m going to Higgins,” I say. “End of story.”

Nate climbs out of bed and settles down beside me at the edge of the bed. I’m not entirely sure what he’s going to say, but it turns out he doesn’t say anything at all. He just reaches out, places his hands on either of my shoulders, and starts massaging.

“What are you doing?” I say.

“It’s been a long night,” he says. “You’ve seemed so tense lately, Eve, and I feel bad. I feel like it’s my fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” I say, and it’s only partially a lie.

Nate kneads his fingers deeper into my flesh. “Does this help at all?”

I want to tell him that I have no interest in a massage right now, but actually, it does feel quite nice. I hadn’t realized how much tension was in my shoulders until he started rubbing them. I forgot how good Nate is at massages.

“Lie down,” he instructs me.

Obligingly, I lie down on the bed, on my stomach with my head in the pillow. Nate crawls into the bed next to me, and his fingers work at the

muscles in my shoulders and back. All the tension I’ve been holding on to drains out of me. Against my will, I let out a little happy sigh.

“Also,” Nate adds, “hearing all that baby talk tonight, I was thinking that we need to do a little better job trying.” He leans closer to me so that I can feel his hot breath on my neck. “You know?”

Nate has seemed so completely disinterested in sex recently, it shocks me to hear that from him. But as he undoes the zipper on the back of my dress, I have no doubt about his intentions.

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