Excerpt: If You Were Mine
Book 5: Bayview Heights Series
September, the first day of school for teachers
Joe sat in his classroom at Bayview Heights high school and smiled over at John Battaglia. He’d spent a lot of time with his friend in the two weeks before the beginning of the school year. “This place bring back memories?” he asked.
Because he was making some changes in his lifestyle, John was relaxed as he slouched in a student desk. “Yeah. I’m getting a panic attack just being here.” He gestured to the room. “This suits you, though.”
“Yeah. And the desk. Mr. Taylor, English Prof.”
“I can’t believe how much I like the job. A lot more than journalism.”
“I think it’s in your genes. Cassie’s here, right?”
“We all are. We have a meeting in about twenty minutes then our principal is giving the departments the whole day to work together.”
John slid out of the desk. “I’m going to try to catch her before then.”
“Thanks for driving out here for breakfast.”
After Johnny left, Joe studied the room. Like Cassie, he’d made the space his. Like Cassie, motivating posters lined the top of each wall. Below were blank bulletin boards. Soon they’d be filled with student work. Joe knew kids rarely looked at the fancy teacher-generated displays up there so he didn’t bother with them anymore. The desks, now in rows, would be in a circle. Bright light shone through windows which sparkled in the September sun. Once again, Joe realized he was happy here.
“Hello.” A woman had come to the door. She pushed back the deep auburn hair which skimmed her shoulders. “I’m Juliet Mason. I’m looking for where the English teachers are meeting. I left the email I received at home.”
Joe stood and crossed to her. “Joe Taylor. I’m headed over there and now so I can take you.”
Pretty hazel eyes narrowed on him. “Do you hate that’s the first thing people ask you?”
“Nah. My dad’s my hero. I’m proud to be his kid.”
“Three years, now. I got tenure last year.”
“Hmm. I gave up mine when I quit to raise my baby.”
“Well worth it, I’d guess. I have a son. Five.”
Her lips curled at the edges. “Mine’s a girl. Be careful or I’ll be dragging out the pictures.”
“Only if I can show you mine.”
Joe closed and locked the door. Standing next to her, he gauged her height to be about five eight. Her eyes had lots of green in them, accented by the subtle makeup she wore.
Her stride was quick and they arrived at the conference room where the English Department would meet. “Steel yourself,” he whispered.
“I already have. I’ve taught with many these people before, remember? Besides, Cassie will watch out for me.”
“You like Cassie?”
“I idolize her. And her friend Zoe.”
“Then you gotta be okay.” He surveyed the room from the doorway. Ten teachers sat around an oval oak table with padded chairs. “There’s only one seat next to her. Take it. And nice meeting you, Juliet.”
“You, too, Joe.”
Cassie rose and flung herself at Juliet. “Oh, my God, it’s so good to see you.” Her hug was long and Joe noticed Juliet held on tight.
“Me, too, Cass.”
Stepping back, Cassie gave Joe a smile. “I just saw you yesterday. Hi, kid.”
“Please, not here. I’m Mr. Taylor.”
Joe took a seat on the other side of the room next to Lila Parker. They’d dated a few times. She gave him a big grin. “Hey Joe.”
He hadn’t called her all summer. Had he said he would? “Hey Lila.”
The department chair looked up from his notes. “Good morning everyone.”
Joe liked Don Walton. He’d been at Bayview for twenty years and was fair. Joe added his greeting to the others.
“I’d like to start out by introducing Juliet Mason. She’s familiar to about two-thirds of you. Juliet, welcome.”
“Thanks, Don. Good to be back.”
“In deference to you I want to go around, have you introduce yourselves, give a bit of your background, and a few lines about your philosophy on teaching.”
Marcus Thomas grumbled, “Seriously? That’s a waste of time. I’d rather be working in my classroom.”
“You’ll be able to do that this morning and afternoon.” Don took a bead on him. “Why don’t you start Marcus?”
He gave his name. “I’ve been here for almost three decades. I believe English teachers should deliver material to students, and it should be memorized. By the end of the year, my seniors—which I only teach—will have memorized ten Shakespearean soliloquies.”
Joe saw Juliet scribble on the agenda.
Other teachers gave their names and their beliefs on teaching. Lila, next to him, said, “I’m still forming my philosophy on education. This year I’m concentrating on teaching skills like grammar, spelling and vocabulary in a creative way.”
Good natured murmurs.
“Good luck with that.”
“Tell us when you find out.”
His turn. “Hey, everybody. I’m Joe Taylor. I’ve only been here as a teacher for three years, but I went to school here, too. I was a journalist for seven years, then went back to get my degree in education. I teach Journalism and eleventh and twelfth grades.”
When it was Juliet’s turn, she smiled easily at the group. “It’s good to be back. If you don’t know, I left to have a baby. She’s in kindergarten so here I am. I’ll be teaching Humanities to seniors and also tenth grade. I like working with both ends of the spectrum.” She gave Don a great smile. “Is it okay if I make a few comments?”
“I’m interested in sharing curriculum. Cassie and I have co-taught a unit on war in the past. Lila, I’d like to work with you on creative ways to teach skills, if that’s okay.” She smiled at Marcus. “Marcus, perhaps we can talk about why you feel memorizing soliloquies is important. And Joe, why did you leave journalism?”
The room went silent. These people knew why and Joe felt sorry for Juliet. “It’s okay everybody. I can talk about this sanely now. My wife Sara was a journalist for CNCN news. She was embedded with a battalion fighting Al Qaeda when she was killed. I was on the home front tending to our son and working at MSNBC. When she died, I wanted out of the profession. I came home and teach.”
The poor woman’s face paled. And was that tears in her eyes? “Oh, Joe, I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, it was a tragedy.” He nodded. “Let’s go back to the school talk.”
Juliet nodded. She was a nice person and he’d be glad to work with her.
Except for one thing. She wore a wedding band and he had trouble keeping his eyes off the pretty bare legs revealed by the skirt she wore.