Stacy stared at the enrollment form and frowned at the first line. She hated her name. No imagination at all. Her parents might just as well have named her munchkin or kiddo.
Perched on the edge of an icy blue cafeteria chair, she sipped from a steaming cup of mud-colored cocoa. She had taken the entire afternoon off from work just so she could sign up for a night class that would inch her one step closer to getting her teaching degree. Not that she wasn’t already teaching. But only as an assistant. If she wanted the title and pay of a “real” teacher, she needed the certificate with her name on it.
Youngsters looking very much like loping trees bustled down the corridor, talking, shoving, laughing in the way that carefree youth usually do. Conflicts with the landlord, insurance issues, and a steamy romance gone haywire probably didn’t disturb their optimistic lives. Her mom, a couple of good friends, and a decent job didn’t a thrilling life make. She wished she were someone else with a better name. She tapped her purple pen, inscribed with a goofy cartoon character down one side, against her mini-notepad. Nothing new to write today.
She took another sip of cocoa, closed her eyes, and sighed.
Two chairs scraped on her right and an on-going conversation dominated the swirling sounds around her. Two trays plunked down on the table, plastic smacking plastic. A woman’s voice—excited, eager, and determined clawed at Stacy’s insides.
Don’t listen! Keep your mind on the cocoa! She popped her eyes open, clutched the cup like a drowning victim gripping a lifeline and swallowed a burning gulp.
The woman rattled on mercilessly. “And so—I told my husband, ‘You’re so ignorant, and then I slammed the door in his face.’”
Stacy wondered if it would look odd if she pressed her hands against her ears and started rocking in place.
The other woman’s voice piped up, practically breathless. “And then?”
Stacy stared at her pen, focusing on the inane figure. A student had presented this gift as a token of her appreciation for Stacy’s effort to teach her long division using pictures and creative stories. She knew the child would probably be haunted by math for the rest of her life, but apparently, the kid appreciated sincere efforts. Stacy glanced aside, hoping the two women had evaporated.
The first woman clearly liked bright flowers for she wore an eye-catching blouse that would have put a landscape artist to shame. But unfortunately, her language was as loud as her clothes. “So, the idiot slept on the couch!”
A psychic warrior battling for peace of mind—jabbing at judgments, parrying insinuations, knocking off observations, and blasting conclusions could not have fought any harder. But never the less, a picture of a man’s sad, pathetic face as the door closed on him…and then his drooping figure trudging to a sagging couch and flopping down in a bundle of husbandry despair filler Stacy with red-eyed rage.
A little voice tried to reason with her. You don’t know these people, woman!
She whirled her gaze around the food court. Uncaring neon signs glared back: Asian Delights, Mexican Combos, All American Platters, and a Salad Bar.
Inhale. Exhale. Mind your own business!
Stacy slurped her cold cocoa and then mopped up the dribbles dotting the table.
The lively chatting continued though the voices dropped an octave.
New pictures formed in Stacy’s mind. A shoe sale, something about church services, and a trip to the airport with a secret admirer?
Enough! Stacy jumped to her feet, wondering if it was possible to have her imagination disconnected from her brain. She dumped her Styrofoam cup into the trashcan and headed for the door.
Once out in the late afternoon sunshine, she prompted her feet toward the football-field-sized parking lot. Her car was out there…somewhere.
A child’s scream turned her attention. With a hand blocking the slanting rays of the sun, she scanned the area. There, next to a table and bench on a grassy field, stood a lanky man wearing jeans and a black hoodie, gripping the arm of a young girl in a pink skirt and an oversized sweater. The child struggled to pull away.
Stacy’s heart constricted. She fumbled for her phone, but as her panic increased, she hustled toward the child faster than her fingers could unzip her purse. She halted before the pair, staring or glaring, she wasn’t sure.
The child glanced at Stacy, cut the scream dead, and slammed herself against the man, wrapping her arms around his middle and pressing her face into his stomach.
A burning blush tingled from Stacy’s face to the roots of her hair. She scratched her head and wavered.
The man waved as if conducting an orchestra. “She’s being dramatic. Like always, eh, honey bun?” He peered down at the child, and a grin played on his lips. “Not too happy that mama is taking a class, and you can’t be in on the action?”
“Oh.” Stacy hadn’t a clue what else to say.
The girl pulled away, propped her hands on her hips, tilted her head, and accused Stacy. “You’re a teacher here!”
Stacy lifted her hands in surrender. “Oh, no ma’am. I do help out a school, and I want to be a teacher someday. But right now, I’m just taking classes, like your mom.”
The child nodded in defeat. She leaned comfortably against the man. “Daddy? Can’t I at least draw something? It’s so boring out here.”
Now it was the man’s turn to flush. “Sorry, baby. I left your pencils at home.”
Stacy plunged her hand into her purse and pulled out her notepad and purple pen. “Here, kiddo, take these. You can draw pictures for your mama and give them to her when she comes out. I bet she’ll like that.”
The man tried to wave off the gifts, but the child took them with eager hands and a surprisingly charming grin.
Once she found her car and started the long drive home, Stacy glanced in the mirror and laughed. “Who’s the kiddo, eh?”
Books by A. K. Frailey
Historical Fiction & Science Fiction Blend Novels
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter https://amzn.to/3iGqGlQ
OldEarth Georgios Encounter https://amzn.to/3v7w8oI
OldEarth Melchior Encounter (In Production)
Science Fiction Novels
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
It Might Have Been—And Other Short Stories https://amzn.to/2XXdDDz
Encounter Science Fiction Short Stories & Novella https://amzn.to/3dq6q5l
My Road Goes Ever On—Spiritual Being, Human Journey https://amzn.to/2KvF3Ll
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings https://amzn.to/3rtAy6S
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
Hope’s Embrace & Other Poems https://amzn.to/3cn22X8