When the bell rang, her students put away their history books and started gathering schoolbags and pushing chairs away and then back in, as she’d always asked them to do, so they wouldn’t leave a mess of a room.
History was their last class of the day, and so was hers. And after her very bizarre weekend, she was eager for both the end of day, and the end of the school term.
This week was their last before finals, and that meant a lot of reading final essays, grading and getting ready for long sleepless nights grading tests.
For some reason she was eager for it to start and for it to end fast, so she could focus on Terry’s wedding and maybe finally, get out of here. This could be the perfect opportunity to travel, as her shrink had suggested a year after the mess with Owen. Back then she’d been such a wreck that leaving her parents’ place had been a journey in itself. Besides, back when she had still been with Owen, one of their dreams had been to travel to Italy for their honeymoon, and to other places before getting ready to have kids. For a heartbroken Rpry, going anywhere on her own back then represented yet another part of her life he had tainted with his lies.
Could it be she was ready now? Even after Owen had resurfaced from wherever and whatever he had been doing. Both which she was certain hadn’t been any good at all.
Ironically, Rpry was hurting as much now as she had been back then, but she was also confused. If the man had left her at the altar to join a band of kidnappers, then why was he reaching out to her now, after her almost kidnapping? Had he somehow grown a conscience and wanted to keep her safe? Or was he simply making sure she didn’t tell anyone about him?
I never stopped loving you……….I won’t let anything happen to you…
What had he meant by that? Did he still love her? And what if he did? Did he expect her to tell him that even after the pain, the despair, she still did, too? That their first kiss after two years had opened a flood of memories she still carried with her everyday?
She nearly jumped out of her skin, as Terry stood outside her classroom. Algebra books held in her arms, her school bag hanging loosely on her shoulder.
“Oh, hey. I’m almost done.”
Rory erased her white board, and picked up the class activities her students had worked on during the last half hour, filing them in her Hello Kitty folder, which always made her new students laugh, and gathered the rest of her stuff.
“And to think we’re two weeks away from total bliss!” Terry pressed her shoulder to open the door of the teacher’s lounge, letting Rory walk in first, then dropping everything on the nearest empty table.
The room was crowded, most teachers picking up their stuff to head out, a few others using the computers in the room. The Physical Education teacher, a new hire, Arthur Parks, walked their way, dressed in black sweats and a black cap.
“Hey, Terry, Rory. How was your weekend?”
Terry gave her friend a slight nudge which made her roll her eyes, mentally at least, before she replied.
“Nothing much. Went to Terry’s final dress fitting, getting ready for the big day.”
“Thanks for the invite, by the way.” Arthur winked at Terry and Rory wanted to groan. The only reason he was invited to the wedding was because her friend had pointed out he was into Rory and that she should have fun with him on the wedding. No matter how much she’d begged her not to invite him for that particular reason, Terry had been Terry and had invited him anyway.
“No problem. I’m sure Rory could use a partner on the dance floor.”
“I don’t think……”
“As long as it is a slow dance.” He winked now at Rory who forced a smile and mumbled something about needing coffee, leaving both teachers to plan Rory’s life without her opinion.
She barely waved at Arthur as he left the lounge ten minutes later, along with a couple other teachers.
“I think he’s cute.” Terry said, making a cup of coffee for herself.
“Then you go out with him.” Rory replied, innocently.
“Can’t.” She wiggled her engagement ring in her face.
“He likes you, Ror. You should give him a chance.”
Because she was not going to have the inevitable ‘you should start dating’ talk again, she just had a sip of her coffee and went to their shared locker at the far end of the room, to get her things and head home.
“It’s been two years, sweetie.”
“I can keep count, Terry. You think I’ve forgotten?” Rory winced at the sharp edge of her words. Immediately, she sighed and pulled out a stack of papers that she needed to have ready for tomorrow.
“Sorry, I didn’t meant to……”
“I know, and I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass. I just want you to be happy.”
Rory took Terry’s hand and squeezed.
“I am. I’m happy for you.”
Her friend started gathering her stuff as well, and asked, as they left the room, waving goodbye to another math teacher currently photocopying some fractions’ exercises from the copier in the room.
“How are you?”
“Fine. A bit jumpy, still. I guess it’s normal.”
“Figures. I’m just glad you are okay.”
“Me, too. Wouldn’t want to miss the wedding, right?”
At Terry’s shrug, she stopped her before she reached her car.
“Nothing. Kyle and I just got into this huge fight last night.”
Alarm washed over Rory. Terry shook her head, touched at her friend’s reaction.
“Don’t worry, I’m still crazy about him, and after our make-up sex this morning, he’s too about me. We just disagree on some things.” Terry bit her lip, then added. “About you mostly.”
“Me?” She frowned.
“Kyle thinks you should tell your folks about the other day, and that you should move in with them until they catch this guy.”
The second person to ask her to change her living arrangements for her safety. And the third concerned about her, regarding her incident.
“I think you don’t want to worry them. But I do agree with him on one thing. Come with me to your parents’ for the week I’m moving in with them. We could have slumber parties every night. That way they’d think it’s because we’re sentimental about the whole wedding deal.”
Rory laughed and took out her car keys from her school bag. She opened the trunk and put everything inside. Shutting it down, she said.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”
When Terry said nothing, Rory asked.
She bit her lip, but gave in.
“Well, Kyle’s also pissed that you failed to mention that you thought that second guy was….you know, when you gave your statement to the cops.”
“Why didn’t you?” Terry asked.
The memory of Owen, of seeing him again after all these years, his dangerous appearance, and the fact she could still feel him on her lips, made her shudder visibly.
Before she could spill it all out to her best friend, she recovered and waved a hand in front of her.
“I didn’t mention it because it was not Owen. Who knows where he is? I told you seeing you in your dress, it brought back all those memories about him. I imagined him, you know.”
Unconvinced, but not willing to put her friend through a grueling Owen related conversation, she let it go.
“Fine. So, I’ll see you tonight, right? I really need to finish those seating charts.”
“Sure, I’ll stop by your place. See you at eight.”
Terry walked over to her own car. Rory waved in her direction before getting into her car and driving away.
Rory loved having dinner with her parents. Ever since moving out after Owen, she had made it a tradition to come down every Sunday for dinner. After dessert, she and Kyle were ready to leave, not before Terry showed her fiancé just how much she was going to miss him, and Kyle whispered he’d see her Saturday for the big day.
She held back the tears as Owen had said the same thing to her when he’d dropped her off at her parents’ place before their wedding. She hugged her friend tight, certain her future wouldn’t include her fiancé’s betrayal.
“You were a bit quiet tonight.” Kyle spoke after parking outside her front steps, leaning against the wall next to the front entrance.
“I’m sorry. I was distracted.”
She dropped her keys, in panic, before he could retrieve them and she could ask, warily.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I was there two years ago. I doubt you can keep the memories away.”
She almost sighed in relief.
“I…..I try to take it one day at a time. Terry’s happy, you’re happy, that makes the bad memories go away, sometimes.”
“Rory, I’m worried about you.”
Did he know about Owen? Maybe he’d noticed she hadn’t said a thing because he was worried she still felt something for him and was protecting him, despite the fact he could be part of a very dangerous gang.
“You don’t have to be.”
“You declined protection. My protection.”
“I don’t need it.”
“Look.” She put a hand on his mouth to stop his lecture. “This was one of those freaky incidents. It’s over. The more I obsess about it, the more it’s going to affect me. So, let’s not.”
Kyle kissed her palm and put an arm around her.
“You’ll call me if you need me, right?”
Rory nodded. He kissed the top of her head, and handed her keys back to her.
“I will. Really, I rather have you coming to my rescue than use that thing you gave me. ‘Night.”
As she got to her apartment, she opened the door and noticed something lying on the floor. A piece of paper someone had pushed under the door. She leaned down to pick it up, and turned around quickly, wondering if he was still here. Because her heart told her who had left it there.
However, there was no sign of Owen. The only evidence he’d been here again was written on a hurried handwriting. The piece of paper said.
Call me if anything happens. I’ll keep you safe, Ror. O.
There was a cell-phone number scribbled under his words.
Keep her safe?
Because right now, the only person dangerous to her, was the man who’d written the note.