After debate practice I caught a sandwich at Doctor Gyros, but got trapped in a back booth by Mrs. ("You can call me Brittany") Shilling who wanted to explore ways to raise Bobbie's grade in Advanced Composition. Our conversation ended abruptly when her divorce attorney slid into the booth beside her and suggested that giving a hand-job to her son's teacher in a popular local eating establishment would not help her in the upcoming custody battle.
After supper I supervised Homecoming float building, fending off Wendy Steinberg's mother who had learned I was "on the market again" (her words, not mine). It's not like I'm some stallion. I'm a thirty-five-year-old recently widowed male with a steady job and no STDs. In a community the size of Wapsipinicon, Iowa, that makes me a hot property.
By the time I got home, I had nothing left. No reserves. No defenses. That's probably why I went to the door when the bell rang. If I had been in my senses, I would not have opened it.
My student teacher, Renae Lambe, was standing on my doorstep in tears. Shit. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I'm glad to see you, too," she said sarcastically. She wiped tears away with her right hand. She was still wearing her school clothes: sensible heels, dark patterned hose, and a pink sweater. Her skirt was black, tight, and cut well above her knees with a three-inch slit. "Yes, I'd love to come in," she said, walking toward the living room.
Renae stumbled over a debate file box on the floor, but caught herself before she fell. "This place is a pit."
I agreed. The living room was littered with a half dozen pizza boxes, piles of pop cans, books from inter-library loan, three reams of paper, a half-empty box of file folders, and the small debate copier from school. My varsity team had been over the night before until almost midnight. Two laundry baskets of dirty clothes were stacked next to the washer/dryer closet. A bag of empty beer bottles sat ready to go out to recycling. "It's the maid's year off."
"You should hire someone."
I fidgeted because I needed to pee. Renae kept wiping tears from her eyes. I motioned for her to go into the living room. She looked for a place to sit. A stack of Contemporary Literature tests was piled on each of the straight-backed chairs. Debate files filled the futon. "Excuse me a minute." I rushed to the bathroom.
After I relieved myself, I took a moment to wash my face and comb my hair. The Listerine bottle was empty. By the time I returned Renae occupied the futon, her feet firmly on the floor, her eyes dry, her knees locked. Both sets of tests were stacked on one chair and while the other chair faced the futon. I sat down in it.
Renae was what my mother called large-boned woman. I preferred the term Rubenesque. She curves and wore the weight well. Her short black skirt rode up when she sat down. "It's impolite to stare," she told me.
"You've been crying," I answered.
"True, but you weren't looking at my eyes." As if to make her point, she crossed her legs causing the slit on its right side to reveal a long expanse of thigh.
"That's all right. I'm the one who dropped in unannounced."
Renae folded her arms across her chest. I stared at her breasts, but she said nothing. "I was in the neighborhood, having a miserable evening, and I thought I'd stop by."
I nodded stupidly. "I understand." Of course I didn't. I'd known her for three weeks. I'd been busy coaching the debate team. She was working her way through a set of lesson plans for her contemporary playwrights unit. She was twenty-two. I was approaching my thirty-sixth birthday and the first anniversary of my wife's death in a snowmobile crash.
"I was dining at Pronto with Dr. Prince," she said cautiously. "So I was in the neighborhood."
"Dr. Prince?" Harold Prince was principal of Barry Goldwater High School. He was approaching sixty and still a world-class womanizer.
"I'd rather not go into it," she said curtly.
I shifted uncomfortably on the straight chair. My eyes returned to Renae's bare thigh. "How did you know where I live?"
"It's a small town." She pointed to the pile of my underwear that had spilled onto the floor next to the laundry basket. "That's disgusting."
I stood up. "You interrupted laundry night. I meant to put in a load after float building." I gathered up my underwear, stained from weeks of self-abuse.
"I'm sorry," Renae said. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." She started to get up.
"No, that's all right. Stay," I told her. She sat back on the futon. I shoved the load of underwear into the washer, added a capful of Tide, and started the wash cycle. "Tell me why you're crying."
I came back to the living room sat down on the floor in front of her. I thought this would keep my eyes off her breasts. In one way it did. I was staring right up her skirt. She followed my eyes and quickly put her knees together.
"Dr. Prince is an asshole." The tears formed again. I found an unused napkin resting by an empty Pizza Haven box and handed it to her. "Thank you," she said.
"Maybe I should go back to the chair," I told her as she carefully placed the damp napkin on the floor beside the futon. "I'm sitting in an awkward spot." Her knees quickly closed again.
"I don't know why I wore this ridiculous outfit today."
"Because you look terrific in it."
"You think so?"
Renae lowered her eyes modestly. "My mother and the other teachers in the lounge talk about hot Isbel is." Renae's mother was Linda Lambe, the chair of Goldwater High's English Department. Linda hired me three years ago for the debate coach job. Isbel was the newest member of our staff, Marie Isbel Ortiz Herandez, the busty new Spanish teacher. "I wanted to look sexy, too."
I took a deep breath and exhaled. "You have succeeded."
"Thank you." That calmed her for a moment. "Not that it does me any good."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm still fat."
I took another look at her body, admiring the shape of it. "No, you are definitely not fat."
"When I moved home to student teach, Mom's friend, Susan Hollings, told me that if I wanted men to swarm all over me I'd need to lose thirty pounds."
"That isn't true."
"They wouldn't swarm all over me?" she asked coyly.
"You, Miss Lambe, are very swarmable, without losing an ounce."
There was an awkward silence. "Mom thinks you're a psychopathic loser."
"That's the first time your mother has been right since she hired me."
Renae sat up as straight as anyone can sit up in a futon. "So you find me attractive?" She leaned towards me, thrusting out her breasts.
"Mark that true on your Scantron answer sheet."
Renae leaned back smiled. She crossed her legs again. When my eyes locked on her thigh, she pretended not to notice. "Susan told me I needed to get out more. She mentioned her nephew who was on leave from the Marines. I agreed to meet him after school for coffee at the Hilltop."
"So that's why you wore that outfit?"
"Yes." Renae blushed. "Could I get a drink of water?" She looked around. "Do you have a clean glass?"
"Sure." I went to the bathroom. I knew I had a couple Dixie cups left in the dispenser. As I was running the water to chill it, I grabbed my toothbrush and brushed. This struck me as a profound act of optimism.
When I returned, Renae sipped from the cup. "Most of my college dates were pity dates. Last spring even those dried up."
"I find that hard to believe. You have a wonderful figure."
"I inherited my mother's large breasts." I smiled a reassuring smile. "Unfortunately she also passed on her sharp tongue and her insistence on impeccable grammar."
"Well, yes, there is that." Her mother had other deficits, but I thought it best not to list them.
Renae sighed deeply and closed her eyes. I'd just confirmed her worst suspicions. "So when Susan offered up Devin, the Marine, I didn't see any other options. I don't count the advances made by the Goldwater High School Fighting Warhawks offensive line as legitimate offers." She opened her eyes when I laughed. She saw nothing funny in that.
"When I got out of class today, there were two messages waiting for me. One was Devin canceling our coffee date. His allergies were acting up. The other said that Dr. Prince would like to see me."
I suddenly understood why she was upset. "The Prince liked your outfit."
"The Prince? Oh, yes, I see. That's what you call Dr. Prince."
"What do you call him?"
"He asked me to call him David."
"Of course he did, especially after he saw you in that sweater."
"He invited me into his office and asked me how my classes were going. He told me that he'd heard good things about my student teaching."
"In other words, his usual bullshit."
"Well, yes, I suppose, it was." Renae thought about that for a moment. "And he kept staring at my chest, much like you're doing right now."
"Sorry again. I don't get out much." She took a moment to consider that statement.
"Eventually Dr. Prince asked if I could be persuaded to stay at Goldwater High after student teaching. He knew I was graduating at the semester. He said there might be an opening. I told him I would consider it."
"And before you knew it, you'd been talking for a couple hours and he was getting hungry."
"How did you know?" She looked at me. "Oh! This isn't the first time this has happened."
I nodded. "The Prince is quite the conversationalist."
"Is there anything else I should know?"
"Dr. Prince is Satan."
"I thought you liked him."
"I do. He is a very good principal. But where attractive women are concerned, he can be a nasty little man."
Renae gave me a disgusted look. "Oh, so I'm the sweet innocent young woman who needs to be protected from the big evil man? Is that what you're suggesting?" I didn't say a word. "You are my supervising teacher. Why didn't you warn me?" She watched the expression on my face change. "Go ahead. Tell me."
"I thought you knew."
"How would I know?"
"Because your mother knows, and I thought she'd warn you."
"Why would she know?" It took her a moment, but Renae was very good at reading body language. "Oh! Because Mother has first hand knowledge of The Prince's evil ways? Is that what you're suggesting?"
"That is between you and your mother." I hesitated. "Finish your story."
"He asked if I had dinner plans. I gave him the short version of the Devin story. He told me his wife was visiting her family. He suggested Pronto."
"Very romantic," I sneered.
"I believe he used the word, 'intimate.' But I really wasn't thinking about it like that."
"So when did the date go south?"
"I beg your pardon?" Renae sat up straight and crossed her arms defensively. "It wasn't a date. I mean, he's married and he's really old."
"But you knew he found you attractive."
"Well, yes. He told me that he liked women who weren't twigs. He insisted I call him David. Then as he drove to the restaurant, he casually rested his hand on my leg. The next thing I knew he was stroking my thigh as he talked."
"And you let him?"
"Yes." Renae looked over to me. "I'm not saying I'm proud of it. I'm only telling you what happened."
"I'm not sure you do." When she uncrossed her arms, I noticed she was still clutching the paper cup I had given her. "You know, Dr. Prince is a handsome man. He takes much better care of his body than you do. He runs three miles every morning before he comes to school. And he has excellent taste in suits. Ralph Lauren. His office was spotless." I looked around my living room. I got her point. He was everything I wasn't.
"So, everything went swimmingly."
She crushed the paper cup in her hand. "Until I felt his foot under the table at the restaurant."
"He accidentally bumped you?" I smirked.
"Doubtful. He'd taken his shoe off during the salad course. He started rubbing his foot up and down my leg."
"The Prince is noted for both his subtlety and his romantic nature."