She Takes More Than Attendance
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Robbie Meister had walked into the Creek Falls High School attendance office so many times he knew he could sleepwalk his way there. He was more than a creature of habit. He often carried himself like a zombie. The routine of each day exhausted him to the point where everything at school after 2 p.m. seemed to run together. The students’ questions grew as tiresome as the long walk from his classroom to his car.
He stopped by the same area each afternoon to hand in the attendance sheet for the one period in which he could not input absences on the computer. The school’s IT experts promised long ago to fix the issue. “We’ll get around to it,” the principal once said. Yeah, right. He would believe that empty commitment the day the mayor forced construction crews to complete a roadway project after starting one. Get around to it, to him, meant it was not going to happen.
Robbie was tall enough at 6’0″, but he was not a towering presence in the physical sense. His belly protruded just a bit, and his figure suggested the kind of imperfection that plagued the so-called Average Joes. His blue eyes accented his thick, oddly shaped chin in just the right way. His short brown hair was trimmed well and remained straight without the aid of gels or other sticky salon products.
He had decided to teach Economics, U.S. Government, and U.S. History after realizing that his state department gig was a bureaucratic dead end. As an educator, he could impact young lives and get more kiddos interested in the political system. He was the only teacher in the district licensed to tackle all three subjects. No one else on campus dared attempt the civics triple threat.
His routine was as mundane as it was enthralling—daily tutoring sessions in the morning, tense conference periods with parents, and two problematic classes. This day was different, and the experience about to unfold erased all prospects of future boredom.
As he entered the attendance office, he heard a woman on the phone. Yes, that woman. The attendance clerk, Elisa Ramirez, was asking a caller in Spanish about some child’s unexcused absence. It might as well have been a troublemaker or hooky expert from one of his rowdy periods. Sometimes, routine blinds even the most open-eyed observers. His next Eureka moment arrived when Ms. Ramirez hung up the phone and delivered a half-hearted hello.
“Turning in attendance, Mr. Heister?”
“Thanks. Have a great day.”
For weeks and weeks this had been the customary exchange between the two school employees. Even a chimpanzee could have engaged in more meaningful discourse. The two spoke Spanish, but they didn’t know that each had visited several Latin American countries. That revelation would come soon enough. For now, he settled for eureka. As if a light suddenly came on upstairs, he remembered why he enjoyed his trips to this room so much. How could any man need a reminder?
Ms. Ramirez was gorgeous. Her outfit accentuated her stunning features, and her smile, infrequent as she allowed it, was divine. Her warm and comforting but somewhat distressed voice reminded of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz in their sexiest cinematic moments. The difference: Ms. Ramirez was authentic and a much more relatable figure. Her figure was nothing to scoff at, either. On the occasions she wore skirts, her slender but curvy legs were a delightful sight for eyes that couldn’t be sorer if they were smacked in a boxing match.
On this particular Thursday, she dressed up as much as she ever had. Her pink, long-sleeve silk blouse fit her body proportions to perfection. She wore black dress pants and dark black heels that seemed to make her stand taller than a goddess. He realized that all this time, he had been fantasizing about this woman. He was too engrossed in that damn routine to notice before now. Why else would he trek to this location each day? He could have asked a substitute or a neighboring teacher to deliver his sixth period roll sheet.
No, he wanted to see her again. Maybe Robbie’s thing for elegance made the difference. Maybe fortune decided to smile on him at just the right moment. He babbled something just as he exited the office that he was sure he would regret for many months.
“Would you, uh, uh, uh, like to, sometime…uh, sorry, have a great day.”
Robbie used his rough experience with a 10th grader earlier that day as a lame excuse. Nah. Another stab threat did not count as reason for such ineloquent gab. Yikes, he thought. What the hell did he just say? How could a trained educator sputter so when it mattered?
He knew he needed a wild experience with a woman to spice up his life. At this juncture, he would have settled for lunch at a Cajun restaurant—and he hated Cajun food because it was too damn spicy. Robbie shook off the awkward encounter—was it just awkward to him, or did she also notice—and headed for his car.
Just then, a student from his second period stopped him.
“Mr. Meister, can I talk to you for a sec?” the 11th-grade, ataşehir escort straight F student asked. He was determined to transform this high schooler from potential dropout to college graduate.
“Did you miss your bus bud? How are you getting home?”
“Oh, my mom is coming to pick me up in a few minutes.”
“Alright, shoot. Ask.” Robbie smiled, as he forgot for a moment about embarrassing himself in front of Ms. Ramirez.
His wayward pupil then launched into a line of questioning fit for a police interrogation room. The student wanted to know about grades and whether he could retake a test. “Sure, Robbie,” said. “Do you have time now?”
The last thing he could do was blow off this underachiever. So, they ventured back up to his room. Robbie unlocked his door and handed him a quiz. “Here, try this first. If you pass, I’ll add a letter grade to your previous test. You know, you did earn a ‘C’ on that one, right?”
About 20 minutes passed before the student turned in his paper and said “adios.” As Robbie glanced at the paper, he thought aloud. “Yes, this kid CAN ace a test when he studies.” He decided since he was back in his room to tinker with the placement of a few posters on the wall. Variety suited him on the days when the routine became too much to bear. The rush to help a student in need helped him forget about her.
“Oh shit,” he muttered. He recalled his bumbling attempt at a response in the attendance office and remembered how gorgeous Ms. Ramirez looked minutes earlier. As his thoughts returned to the beyond attractive female clerk, he realized in embarrassment that his penis was growing like Pinocchio’s nose in his pants. He knew then that he needed to vacate the premises before he did something else stupid. Teachers are not paid to exude stupidity. Economics 101, he thought.
On Thursdays, administrators left just after the dismissal bell and most of the other teachers dispersed, too. He expected to encounter noble gases in the hallways and an empty parking lot. He was anxious to get in his car and make the 20-minute journey home. As Robbie traipsed through that familiar hallway again, he heard footsteps behind him. The sound of click-clacking feet startled him. He jumped a bit, and the reaction seemed to confirm his zombie-like walking habits.
He felt a hand gently slap his back and that seductive voice let out a laugh. Ms. Ramirez. Oh God. Had his temporary erection subsided? Could he compose himself enough for conversational redemption? He managed something that seemed better than idiotic.
“Hello again Ms. Ramirez. Sorry if I babbled earlier. Long day. I was surprised someone else besides a janitor was still here. The campus becomes a ghost town on Thursday afternoons.”
Yes, Robbie thought, wanting to add an imaginary exclamation point there. He had delivered four complete sentences and a fragment that made some sense. It was a start.
“I agree about those Thursdays. I can see why everyone leaves so early,” she said. “Oh, and by the way,’ she said, pausing for what seemed like an entire class period—she was about to diss him or at least, he thought so. “Call me… Elisa.”
Oh God again. She made the pronunciation of her name sexier than anyone else ever could. “Why are you still here, Robbie?”
He knew for sure his erection would make a loud, rude return at any moment. He could not handle the succession of names. For weeks and weeks, they had referred to each other with formal titles. He was Mr. Meister. She was Ms. Ramirez. Not anymore. They were now, at least, on a first-name basis. Robbie stifled his excitement as much as he could. He placed his lunch bag in front of his pants hoping to hide any signs of arousal. He told himself the tactic would work.
Robbie had always been wary of hitting on or harassing co-workers, especially as an educator. It was nowhere near the level of sexual relations with a student, but it was still a taboo exercise. He yearned to tell his lustful feelings to take a hike. “Go away,” he muttered without thinking first.
“Are you OK?” she asked. “Is something wrong?”
He turned apologetic in an instant. “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean, uh, uh, I was talking to…” Goddamnit, he thought. He was mumbling and babbling again. This was no way to impress the woman of his current dreams. More of this would cause her to scram. She would speed away faster than a truant student or one of those so-called drop out candidates.
“Where do you live?” she asked. That lightened his spirits again.
“10913 Hollow Ridger Dr. in Atlantis Acres,” he replied.
“Nice neighborhood, I hear,” Elisa said. From now on, he would think of her as Elisa, not Ms. Ramirez. Forget all that formality bullshit. He tolerated enough of that in his classroom. For once, he was going to live on the edge. Whatever that meant.
“I moved there two years ago and love the neighbors. I did not know the people surrounding me could be so kind. How about you?”
“I still live in the kadıköy escort bayan Baker Pointe complex, but I’m hoping to move elsewhere soon,” she said.
“Wow,” he exclaimed. “Isn’t that the apartments where the fatal shooting occurred last week?”
“Yes,” she said with a sigh, “but I feel safe enough there for now. I just make sure not to go out at night.”
Then, the compliment slipped right off his tongue and into her wonderfully shaped ears. “A woman as beautiful as you should not have to fear for her safety every night.”
She laughed again while he blushed. Christ, he thought. He had done it again. Maybe he needed to revisit formality. He often pondered writing a book called “She’s Not That Into You” to mirror his experiences and tell his life story. He was terrible in the presence of such attractive ladies.
“Thank you, Robbie. What a sweet thing to say.” Sweet? Uh-oh. Sweet, to him, meant the kiss of death. It signaled that a female harbored no non-friendship feelings for him. Then again, what was she supposed to say to that outburst? “Take me to the nearest bathroom and fuck me in the ass?” Of course not, he told himself.
“So you speak Spanish, right, Robbie?” she asked. This question excited him. He knew this was something they could share. It represented his one chance to catch her attention.
“Indeed, Elisa.” He made sure to pause before uttering her name. Who cares about that damn boner anyway? “I studied for a half-year in several South American countries, and I traveled to Spain for two weeks. I have also trekked to Mexico on numerous occasions. I became a fluent speaker thanks to all of those trips, and my bilingual capabilities helped me land this gig.”
The two then engaged in a brief Spanish conversation. “Impressive,” Elisa said. “You sound better than me.”
“I can assure you I do not,” he responded with a laugh. “You sound breathtaking with your accent and that warm tone. It lights up the attendance office.” Now, she blushed.
“Geez, Robbie, I have never been complimented so by a man before.” You gotta be kidding, Robbie thought. This had to be a ploy. How could any male teacher on campus—maybe even some of the younger female ones—resist admiring her beauty?
“Great looking gals don’t work in the attendance office at a high school,” she protested. “I do not feel sexy in the least. You, on the other hand, are quite handsome.”
“It’s nice of a probably married woman to say that about me. Few women ever have.” He wondered at that moment why he had never seen a ring on her finger. “I’m not married,” she said coolly. “Never have been.”
He almost dropped his bags in shock and struggled to stay upright. This gorgeous, perfect-bodied woman was not married, was modest, and thought he was handsome? Had a student slipped a narcotic in his orange juice that morning? Was this an unexpected LSD trip for a non-drug user? There was no way she could have said those things.
They had been standing outside the doors for a minute and decided to head home. She offered another gentler slap on the back.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Robbie.”
“Have a great afternoon, Elisa.”
With that, they went in separate directions. As Robbie opened his front door with his key, he heard a frustrated sound across the lot. That voice was unmistakable. Something was wrong in Ms. Ramirez’s, no Elisa’s, world. He looked over and saw her kicking her car, a 2005 Toyota Solara. It was a chic vehicle, but on this day, it decided to sputter. “No. No. No. Don’t do this to me.”
Robbie raced over to see what was the matter. “Elisa, why are you kicking your car?”
“Damn thing won’t start,” she said. “This is not how I wanted this rough day to end. I spend all of my time handling parents and students, and I was screamed at three times today. I forgot my lunch, so I didn’t eat. My mother is sick and about to die. Now, it looks like my transmission is busted, or something. I’m not a fucking mechanic.”
Her eyes began to well up like one of the water fountains. “I promised to stop crying long ago.”
“Hey, hey,” Robbie said with assurance. “You can cry all you want around me. I know the feeling of a horrific day. I have shed a few tears myself. I dealt with several family member deaths in the last three years, and I forget my lunch all the time, or worse, I forget the silverware.”
He reached out and offered a tissue from his jacket pocket. He patted her on the back. He hated to admit to himself that even this was sexy. A crying woman should not elicit a boner. Elisa, though, was not just any crying woman. Robbie wanted to badly to taste her tears. He wanted to make them scram.
“Do you have a number for a mechanic or someone that can come and evaluate the situation,” he asked.
“No. I don’t know what to do.”
“Hang on,” he said, “I have AAA. Can you wait a minute while I dig around in my glove compartment to find the phone number?”
“Sure,” Elisa said. “You would do that for me? You need to escort maltepe get home, right?”
“No way. I refuse to leave you here like this. Any man who would leave you alone in a high school parking lot with a broken down car should be fired or maybe imprisoned.”
She laughed again and wiped the tears from her eyes. The outside light accented her features even more than her outfit. He ran to his car, hoping his boner would not grow long enough to trip him. He rummaged around in his car until he found the AAA card. “Here,” he yelled. “I found it.”
He called the two-away service for her, and the two explained the car issue as best they could. “I’m not a fucking mechanic, either,” he said with a chuckle. She laughed again. The fall breeze and low-70s temperature made the wait outside easier to survive. About 25 minutes later, a truck arrived to tow her car to the nearest auto repair shop.
“Would you mind if I bummed a ride with you back to my apartment?” Elisa asked.
“Would I mind? Yes, I was going to split just after the tow job and make you walk home alone.”
“Oh, stop Robbie. I don’t need sarcasm right now.”
“Sorry, Elisa. I would be delighted to offer you transportation.” This prompted her biggest smile of the afternoon.
With that, they hopped in his car, a black 2008 Toyota Rav 4, and followed the driver to the shop. They shared the same car brand and two languages. Robbie felt like a home-run champion now. Something had to come of this, he thought. He did not intend the word “come” as a pun, either.
The manager at the auto establishment told Elisa he would need at least a day to replace some parts and check the transmission. “OK,” she said with a nervous sigh. “Whatever. Can you complete the job by Saturday?”
“Sure,” the burly car guy said. Robbie and Elisa exited retreated to his vehicle. He was so thankful he had cleaned out and washed his Rav 4 the previous weekend. It was, indeed, a mode of travel fit for such a pristine lady. She pointed the way to her apartment. They winded down some streets until they arrived at the infamous Baker Pointe complex. “We’re here,” Robbie said with a disappointed sigh. It was obvious by now that he could not stomach walking away from her without professing his feelings.
“Chau, Robbie,” she said, as she climbed out and onto the sidewalk. She waved. He was ready drive away, when she stepped in front of his car.
“Geez, do you want to get run over also? Talk about the worst day ever…”
“Sorry, I did not mean to startle you, Robbie. It just seemed so rude to let you drive home without at least inviting you up to my place. I remembered just now that I have this unopened bottle of wine that someone gifted me a few months ago. Do you like wine?”
Her place, he thought. Did he like wine? Shit, he liked wine, all of the world’s gardens, babies, farm and zoo animals, and the whole fucking lot. Anything for her. He might have chugged a glass of septic water just to extend their encounter. No, a glass of aged pinot grigiot sounded much better than sewer fluids.
“I love wine. Thanks for the invite.”
“Well, seeing as you wasted more than an hour and a half of your day to help me get home, offering you a glass of red liquid is the least I can do,” Elisa said.
Robbie made sure to interject with conviction. “I did not waste any time, Elisa. I live to assist others. What else could a good man do?”
Her apartment was well put together with just enough space for two people. Designer curtains covered her front window blinds. No one could see inside her unit. He was glad for this safeguard.
Her walls were barren, except for three paintings and a few posters. Her kitchen was petite and cramped. She poured each of them a glass of this cheap but aromatic wine and they sat at her miniature breakfast table.
“Let it breathe,” he said to her. “Wine like this is better when you wait a bit to sip it.”
“Ah, a wine expert, I presume,” Elisa said.
“I know enough to fake being a connoisseur,” Robbie said. He tried taking a sip but ended up gulping instead. He spilled some of the pinot on his white dress shirt. The routine—that damn thing again—had caused him to forget what he was wearing. He felt the brief sting of warm water on his chin. Elisa had already fetched a wet paper towel. The water temperature reminded of those sweltering summer days.
“Ouch,” he said with a jerk. It didn’t hurt at all, but he needed to say something. It was, in fact, a pleasant sensation.
“Sorry, wine was dripping down your face.”
“Oh Goodness,” Robbie said. “How embarrassing. You must know by now that I’m a klutz from all of those papers I tend to drop.”
“I think it’s cute,” Elisa responded, “and I am not that graceful myself.” Just then, she took a sip and did the same thing.
That caused the two to laugh. The kitchen became a stand-up comedy club with the lone occupants in stitches. He snatched the damp paper towel from her left hand and dabbed at her chin. She smiled in that erection-inducing way. The way her lips parted made him melt like candle wax.
“You are so beautiful,” Robbie said, as he reached for her right hand. She did not resist his touch, but she cleared her throat after the elongated comment. She blushed.
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