Ted Wilder walked down the corridor of his high school, taking in all the changes that had been made in the last ten years. The building was nearly empty now, a few stragglers remained near the lockers lining the walls. Some walked by him, talking and laughing, not really paying any attention to him.
A part of him was relieved. He had craved attention once. Been obsessed with it.
But the last two years had helped rid him of his fondness for the spotlight.
Almost. He had to admit he was a little offended at not being recognized. Then again, he’d met the team he was going to coach yesterday and they had certainly known who he was.
He exhaled in a huff and laughed softly to himself. Arrogant bastard.
The principal’s office was around the corner and he sped up knowing that he was late for his appointment.
He knocked on the door and waited for Principal Rain to ask him to come in. A few minutes ticked by. He tried the knob and found the door open.
He entered to find an empty office. He looked around for the new principal. The office looked exactly as it had ten years ago- small and crowded. Filing cabinets and trophy showcases lined the walls. The large desk was piled with papers, though arranged in neat rows. He looked over the tower of papers, wondering if the new Principal might be small enough to hide behind them. Nope, the chair was empty.
Ted whirled around to find himself facing Shirley Keller, his tenth grade chemistry lab partner.
“Shirley!” he exclaimed, surprised.
“Ted!” she cried, mocking him as her eyes widened in exaggerated astonishment. Then they twinkled and she grinned.
He laughed. It had always been impossible not to smile back at her. “What are you doing here?”
“Here?” she said, her eyes quizzical. “You mean in the principal’s office?”
“Yes.” He answered hesitantly, recalling her odd sense of humour.
“Well,” she said moving around him towards the desk, “I have an appointment here.”
“Ah.” He said intelligently, then pulled back a chair and sat down. His eyes did a quick review of her and found that she had retained all her curves from high school. The only difference that he could see was that maturity had given her more confidence and her hair had grown out. Taking a chair opposite him, she quirked another smile at him.
Ted remembered then that the only reason Shirley Keller had never dated in high school, was because Shirley had chosen not to. Brainy and diligent, she’d been a class topper and very well liked by her class mates.
“So how have you been?” he asked politely.
“Not as hounded as you,” she said. Her head tilted slightly, as if to assess him. “So what business do you have with Rain?”
Ted’s smile had slipped a little at her casual reference to the chase the media had subjected him to last year.
He answered a little gruffly, “I’m coaching the minor leagues and principal Rain is on the board that hired me. We have certain things to discuss and I agreed to meet her here, since I wanted to come by the school anyway.” His fingers beat a tattoo on a small paper-free surface on the desk. “And you?”
Shirley let out a short laugh. He frowned, again remembering how she had a way of making him feel like a clown performing for her amusement. Well, at least he was no longer feeling like an attention-seeking ex-Pro baseball player. He was just feeling like an idiot.
Shirley shook her head slightly and said “I’m sorry, it’s mean of me, but you always made it so hard to laugh at you, I can’t help enjoying myself a little now.”
Ted raised a brow in question, wondering how his sixteen year old had tolerated this smug know-it-all.
Then she sat up straight and wiped the smile off her face. Looking solemn and dignified she cleared her throat and said, “Mister Wilder, welcome to my school. I am Principal Rain and may I say what an honour it is to have you coach our students this year.”
Ted blinked at her in surprise, and then blinked again. A sudden feeling of disappointment speared through him.
“Oh,” he said, slowly. “You got married.”
Her gravity took a plunge as she burst out laughing. “Lord, no! As if I would change my name for a guy. Rain used to be my middle name –a gift from my mother’s side. I dropped the Keller after my parents’ divorce. Don’t you remember what you used to call me in school?”
Oh, Ted thought. What a fool. Of course I remember.
He used to call her Rainy. He began calling her that after a soaked afternoon, when he had walked her home.
Ted felt a slight smile begin to tug at the corners of his lips, but he held them steady. “Nope,” he finally said, blandly. “Can’t think what it was. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll come to me in a while. So… about the team…”
He watched her face from under hooded eyes and caught the slightly disappointed expression as she shifted gears to professionalism.
And suddenly, he didn’t feel quite so bad about leaving his glory days behind anymore. Suddenly, coming back home didn’t seem like the worst idea he’d ever had. Suddenly – all was right with the world.
Now, he just had to find out if he still had it in him to take on Ms Shirley Rain Keller.
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