In this chapter we revert back to Jayson's POV, starting from the conversation he was having with Mr. Barstol in the parking lot. Enjoy and let me know what you think about continuing these two stories in one. Ciao.
"I can't believe I'm even considering the possibility…"
"Like I said, sometimes you have to follow your gut." Jayson replied earnestly.
His friend Rome took off while Jayson stayed behind. He was about to call Nadia for the 3rd time but still no answer. Jayson was growing worried with his girlfriend being away at college; he couldn't help sense something strange was going on. That same feeling he got with his ex-girlfriend. The girl he spent 5 years of his life with, to then come to find out she had been cheating on him for the last year. He refused to make the same mistake; he would find out for himself before wasting any more of his time.
But before he could do anything he needed to consult with one more person; for conscience sake. After school, Trey stopped by his classroom to talk privately. Jayson hated drawing to conclusions, yet due to past experience he couldn't help himself. He revealed to Trey every bit of speculation in hopes that his friend would miraculously tell him what to do.
"So she's been acting shady for the past few weeks... and when you asked her about it, she said she's 'just busy with classes'… I have to be honest, I'm your friend and all but I warned you. Not only because she was your student, but because I had a bad feeling with her to begin with." Trey declared.
"You never told me you DIDN'T like her!" Jayson was puzzled.
"I could have said whatever I wanted to and you still wouldn't have listened! "
"So why didn't you like her?"
"She seemed rather prudish and full of herself. I never buy into traps like that…but you sure did eh buddy?" Trey teased.
"I'm serious bro. What should I do?"
The only sensible thing you CAN do…go talk to her in person."
Jayson already knew and foresaw himself on the road, going out of town to her university. It wasn't long before he got there and guessed what class she'd be in. As he walked inside the building he looked at his watch and read 6:45pm. Meaning, her Spanish class should've been over by now. Students were passing to and fro in the hall until they slowly vanished.
Jayson was having a hard time finding the classroom and overheard laughter coming from a room nearby; he approached the doorway in hopes to ask them for directions but found just what he was looking for. Before he could say anything he stood quietly and observed the Spanish Professor visibly flirting with Nadia while tugging at her hand.
Never one to cause a scene, Jayson stood there feeling completely betrayed. He humbly cleared his throat and paused. Nadia turned around and saw the fate of a terminated relationship. It's a good thing she studied out of town otherwise this could have been messy. The fact that she saw him there was sufficient for him; he then left without saying a word…he was done with that.
Forcing himself to heal quickly, this time seemed a little easier than the last. However to say that it didn't faze him would be a lie. He coped through the rest of the school year, awaiting winter break. From time to time, he'd catch Rome chatting in his classroom alone with a particular girl he assumed was Reese. Reminiscing of those first months with Nadia; he tried to keep it together, but he was in definite need of a break…a heart break.
After spending Christmas and New Years with Trey in Hawaii for winter break, it was now time to return to Worthington and prepare for the spring semester. Both refreshed and tanned, Trey and Jayson were ready to get back into the swing of things. Jayson felt like a better version of himself, laid back and worry free. He even let his hair grow out; bringing back that surf culture and mindset.
Jayson was collecting his mail and class programs when he saw a man in military uniform exit Principal Rowley's office. A sight to behold, he couldn't help wonder what that was about. In the pile of memos, was a notice written to all teachers by the Principal himself. The notice explained that while there was a policy to be followed when it came to late acceptances, he urged the faculty to make an exception with this particular case. Starting tomorrow, Taio Aragon, son of Pilot and friend John Aragon, would be joining the remainder of his senior year here at Worthington.
Mr. Taylor shrugged his shoulders and threw this along with every other insignificant paper into the waste basket. Wanting to slightly alter his classroom, he rearranged the seats so that his desk was now in the back. Content, he finished organizing his file drawer when he heard a knock at the door.
"Principal Rowley, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I heard you came back from Hawaii, how was that?"
"Wonderful, I didn't want to come back." He grimaced.
"Understandable. Listen, I've asked everyone on the faculty board and they all came up with the same suggestion…"
"To what?" Jayson sat back in his chair with arms crossed.
"I suspect that you've already read my announcement on the transfer student?"
"Sure, son of a friend of yours right?"
"Yes well, what I failed to mention was that he's moving here from the Philippines and I'm uncertain how well he dominates the English language…and I was hoping for you to come alongside him and to get him adapted to the whole school system." Mr. Rowley explained.
"If he needs to speak better English, then why not ask Mrs. Dotson…the English teacher?" Jayson remarked.
Sensing a bit of unwillingness he further communicated, "Yes well, she's unavailable."
"Unavailable…and don't we have a student group that takes care of these details?"
"Yes well…no not really."
"And everyone happened to suggest me, even Trey?" Jayson settled.
"Especially Trey." Mr. Rowley affirmed.
Jayson snickered; he clearly wasn't getting out of this one. He threw his hands up in the air as a sign of resignation.
"Okay so what would you like me to do?"
"I was only hoping that perhaps during the lunch hour, you could get him acquainted with some of our organizations, classrooms and perhaps point him in the right direction. Any students that you know of that will be kind to him and help you along would be ideal."
"The man in your office earlier, was that his father?" Jayson wondered.
"No that was his Staff Sergeant delivering his paperwork. First Lieutenant Aragon remains in the Philippines."
Jayson widened his eyes clearly impressed. He had a stream of questions mounting but preferred to finish the conversation as quickly as possible. Nodding to the rest of Principal Rowley's requests they soon concluded their informal meeting.
On his way out, Trey met up with Jayson, receiving a punch at his side.
"What the…man!" Trey cried out.
"Thanks for your high recommendation…friend!"
"Oh, you heard about that huh? It was a scam man. He asked me all these questions, looking for a 'trustworthy person' and of course I ranted about you and your whole new outlook on life and what not. Then he told me about his plan…and it was too late." He smiled.
"Well I appreciated you thinking so highly of me; apparently everyone else thought I was gullible enough to fall for it too." Jayson
"Heed my words of wisdom my friend. The best medicine for healing is helping others." He said with a smug smile on his face. "And if you punch me again, I'll run you over with my car hah…just kidding!"
Jayson began to reason with his friend, it made sense. Besides it would only be for a few days. No big deal right?
Next day in 12th grade Calculus, Mr. Taylor began writing out basic equations from last month's final, to refresh their minds. Before proceeding to the attendance sheet, he announced that he would be doing something new this year. On the corner of the black board, an advanced Calculus problem that if solved would excuse the student from the final exam. And while everyone liked that idea the problem in itself looked like foreign codes.
Jayson walked back to his desk and began to check off each student, now familiar with all their faces. Everyone was soon marked off except his transfer student. He scanned the room in search of a small dark skinned boy, at least that's what he'd pictured. He walked upfront of the classroom to get a better look. And to be sure he called out his name.
Jayson thought he was in the clear until he saw a student raise their face timidly, in response to his calling. He looked at the student and at the name and couldn't make sense of it.
"Tai-o? Am I saying it right?" Jayson asked perplexed.
"It's actually Tai, O is for my middle name Olivia." She said in perfect English.
"So you're a girl? I'm sorry there was some miscommunication." He muffled.
Jayson scowled and went to correct some papers at his desk, not realizing he made her feel quite estranged. Well she was a petite little thing, dark skin with black eyes and long straight black hair.
"She dominates the English language quite well Principal Rowley." He mumbled to himself.
Even if she had a little accent, she seemed fine. A bit shy, but so are all new students. Jayson questioned whether it was still necessary for him to help her, especially after learning he was really a she. He knelt in between two of his students in the back, and in low voices he began to interrogate them. He asked them if she seemed to be adjusting well. But they shook their heads saying she won't talk to anyone yet and that she seemed almost frightened.
Lunch was only a bell ring away meanwhile the class was about done with their exercises. Jayson walked by her chair and paused.
"Will you please stay after class?" He whispered in forced pronunciation.
She nodded and returned to her paper. Almost instantly the bell rang and Tai remained seated while her classmates marched off. She sat in perfect posture, sleek hair and folded hands. Her attire consisting of a brown skirt and cream blouse both handmade with fine threads, along with her authentic sandals. She clearly did not look from around here.
Jayson rubbed his face and decided to first sit by her and build some friendly grounds.
"So Tai, have you been to America before?" He said sitting across from her.
"No, this is my first time in America Sir." She answered politely.
"When did you arrive here?"
"I arrived two days ago Sir."
"Right, I forgot your father is military. Please call me Jay, everyone else here does. Sir is too intimidating." He half smiled. "I'm sorry about the awkwardness earlier, it's just I'm sure Principal Rowley was given the impression that you were a guy due to the misspelling of your name, but we'll fix that."
"Thank you Si..." She caught herself and smiled robotically.
"Man, I have so many questions but I think we should get started with the grand tour. Are you hungry right now or can you wait a few?"
"I'm fine Sir, I can wait."
Jayson cringed while standing to his feet and escorted Miss Aragon out thru the halls. She seemed so bright-eyed and overwhelmed even.
"Did you not go to school in the Philippines?" Jayson asked a little fascinated.
"No my mother schooled me."
"And your mother, she's a native from the Philippines?"
"Yes Sir, I'm sorry, Jay."
"Thank you. I was about to grind my teeth again."
She looked at him worried and alarmed.
"No not really. That was a joke." He waved his hands around.
They stopped by the office and several classrooms. Then they walked over to the inside gymnasium and outdoor sports field. After passing by the Auditorium and second floor classrooms they continued to the lunchroom to finally eat in a lesser crowded cafeteria.
"What food do you normally eat over there?" Jayson continued while they sat at a table.
"We eat rice, plenty of fish, chicken, pork and beef."
"I guess that doesn't sound so different. I was expecting you to say something bizarre." He said in relief.
"We'll also have goat and oxtail in our stews." She smiled cleverly.
"Yep, that's more along the lines of what I was expecting." Jayson laughed. "So how do you like America so far?"
"I like it… although it's a very loud culture, quite different. Some people are friendly while other's not so much. But I must tell you, it was my wish to come here before I entered my collegiate years of study."
"I see, but why Worthington of all places?"
"Worthington is my father's hometown; we are staying with my grandmother. He graduated from this school" She clarified.
"Ah, that would explain how he knows Principal Rowley, they're both ex alumni." He said to himself. "And hobbies? Things you enjoyed doing over there?"
"Even though my mother disapproves it, I really enjoy kickboxing. That was something my father taught me and we'd practice every day or whenever he could; it's his favorite sport."
"Wow, a kick boxer huh? That was by far the last thing I was expecting you to say." Jayson said in shock.
"You were expecting a lot of things Mr. Taylor and I've apparently surprised you each time." Tai retorted amusingly.
"Touché. I will shut up now." He laughed.
Jayson had surprised himself. Heck Tai surprised him over and over again. He had never prejudged then misjudged a person so many times before. She was alien alright, but in the most unexpected way. Educated, mannerly and reserved. Definite foreign behavior compared to many girls at this school. He hoped she would be a good example for most of them and not be affected by their cultural tendencies or vanities.
Early one morning, Jayson did his regular coffee run and drove straight to school to meet with his friends in the teacher's lounge.
"Hey Rome, how are things going." Jayson shot out cautiously holding his cup.
"I'm good Jay. In all departments…you know." Rome winked.
"Right on. Trey?"
"Nah man I'm solid. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say though." He grinned skeptically.
"It's gone well. A pleasant surprise I should say. I was stressing for no reason." Jayson admitted.
"Yeah, I could've told you that, but like I said…you don't listen." Trey threw his hand.
In his classroom, Jayson was sipping the last of his coffee when he looked at the board and his jaw about dropped. He stepped closer and could not believe his eyes. At first he thought it was a prank but as he did the math, it gave the same answer.
"Who solved it?" He whispered.
He found no name to take the credit for this work. The only solution he could think of was writing out another exercise, perhaps one even a little more difficult. Surely no one would be able to solve it now and whoever previously did it would complain asking where their answer had went. Perfect!
Classes flowed in their normal pace; students were already slacking and paying attention to lesser important things. Not Tai, she sat quietly almost too afraid to talk but deep in her assignment. Jayson saw a noticeable difference in students with military parents and wished there were more like these. He'd catch her staring straight ahead at the corner board for the remaining period each day; almost suspecting her. But a couple of days turned into a few weeks, and it remained unsolved.
Jayson's door usually remained open, even during lunch hours, as he normally ate there or in the lounge. Afterschool one afternoon, he stayed searching for an old stack of assignment papers. Digging in the bottom of the closet floor boxes, he heard another presence in the room. Slowly he stood up, not wanting to make a sound, and saw a small fragile frame standing before the black board with chalk at hand; thoughtfully writing down equation after equation, without a calculator or notebook.
He tipped toed around his desk and studied the answer. How was it possible for a homeschooled foreign student to be so skilled in math? Jayson was simply amazed. Tai stood back and went through it again.
"It's correct." Jayson acknowledged.
Startled Tai shook. "I didn't know you were there Si…Mr. Taylor." She lowered her head.
"Oh don't worry, my classroom is always open to my students, but this is remarkable." He walked on over to touch the board as though it were an illusion. "How are you so good in math?"
"'It's a universal language'. That is what my father always says. He wanted to be an engineer; mathematics is one of his many strengths." She replied reverently.
"I have much respect for your father but I'm almost terrified of him." He chuckled. "Hey have you met Reese by any chance?"
"No I don't believe so."
"I think we should introduce you two."
"I would love that." She beamed.
And for the first time Jayson saw just how bright of a smile this little body could shine forth. It caught his attention and he found it hard to pull away. So brilliant and naïve or untainted if you will. He made it appoint to introduce the two girls the next day after school, with Rome's help of course. Both gentlemen stood at a distance watching as the girls engaged in heavy conversation and smiles.
"Things are going well with you and Reese huh?"
"They are and I'm sorry about Nadia. Trey told me, I hope that's ok?"
"Oh yeah, I'm over it. Doesn't help to dwell on things like that; I've learned the hard way." Jayson spoke sternly.
"It seems like they're hitting it off. Good call." Rome observed while also catching a smile sprawled over his friend's face.
"You know, she's naturally very pretty. You don't normally see that. I mean I like when girls glamour themselves up and all, but she's so …natural and."
"Pretty?" Rome finished.
"Yeah." Jayson rambled on while rubbing his jaw, deep in thought.
"I know that's why she's my girlfriend." Rome teased.
"No not Reese…Tai." Jayson corrected, catching the raised eyebrow darting back at him. "No no. I was just stating an observation nothing more."
"Right…because this exotic, dark haired girl who happens to be a whiz in math isn't appealing to you at all, by any means."
"I can't do that again Rome. It was risky yeah, but I'm not that guy who goes out with all his students."
"First of all, you're not going out with ALL of your students. Secondly, Nadia did YOU wrong. Thirdly, what happened to 'following your gut'? Love is risky business; if it weren't then there'd be no thrill or excitement. And that's what makes each experience so different and special." Rome encouraged.
"Man you really should think about counseling instead."
"But as much as I enjoyed that inspiring speech. I never said anything about being attracted to her and much less about love here. Besides, I just can't get tangled in THAT. Just the thought of any involvement and me coming close to meeting her father would have me on edge...Nope...No!" Jayson kept convincing himself.
"Okay buddy, I believe you." Rome responded sarcastically.
After that day, Jayson was more aware of his possible interest in Tai. He was unsure why the attraction, perhaps because she was from another country or her math knowledge challenged him; no matter the reason he shut down. He felt ashamed in himself and couldn't believe he was dealing with feelings for a student yet again. Many days she tried making small talk, but not even that he offered. Refusing to make eye contact not only with her but with all female students, he became more standoffish; and no one understood why except his friends.
Graduation couldn't come sooner. In fact, Jayson was struggling whether to continue teaching in Worthington or run away again to some other school. Truth was he lacked faith in himself, doubting if he was a good teacher or not. What Jayson didn't realize was although he thought no one suspected it, his students caught on. They heard of his possible move and decided to dedicate their graduation to Mr. Taylor himself. Words could not express how much that moved him, causing him to reconsider.
It's hard to separate your personal life from the work place, they collide whether you want it to or not. In this case, Jayson having a steady relationship, to being wronged again, to then having confused feelings; who's to say many teachers didn't have similar stories…even with a student. One thing was for sure, that was the last time Jayson Taylor would ever be so much as inclined to look at a female student that way again.
Months passed, and Jay was beginning to feel like his old self again, before the girl drama. He had even moved down to teaching junior high math instead and found it hilarious when these 13 and 14 year old girls would stare at him endlessly. But one thing was certain, he was single and enjoying this solitude for a while. He was still at a reasonably good age; on the verge of turning 31. Besides, he always had his good ol' buddy Trey to keep him miserable.
As a means of bettering his own education, and not to mention a pleasant distraction, Jayson decided to take two night courses, Computational Science and Engineering, along with Methods of Mathematical Physics II. As a part of a Master's Program that he was a few credits shy from. It was less than an hour's drive to the college and of course there was the possibility of running in to his ex. But because it was in the evening, he hoped for lesser chances…and he really didn't care.
Jayson would have to travel twice a week for his second class; he had the option of taking the other online, and arrive in time by 5:30pm. He knew the load would be a bit much, but with teaching being a little easier and lighter, it kept him busy and that's all that mattered; too busy to be lonely. Plus, he requested a male TA this year.
Arriving a bit early to his Computational Science and Engineering class, he sat by the stairs and started to review the first chapter of his text book. He enjoyed the rush of being a college student again, especially being around people of his age and intellect with the same passion for learning. It was a completely different world from high school.
The door swung open and people eventually made their way inside. The classroom looked like a small amphitheater, with long tables that curved along with the floor. Each table sat around 5 students and still plenty of room. Ready and committed, Jayson sat in the second row close to the center. There were easily around 30 in this class and a few looked even older he was.
After the professor gave his 20 minute introduction he explained the first few examples of their text and then provided some practice ones. In the midst of solving his second problem, Jayson looked up for a moment and began to watch the students in the front row. To his right sat an older white haired woman, could be well in her 60's. He assumed she was a teacher as well. To her left was definitely a younger man, possibly even younger than he. Right in front of him, a blonde woman, and to his far left another woman although brunette. After his momentary distraction he focused back on his exercises, unsure why that was at all necessary.
Unfortunately the professor had to excuse himself a little earlier that evening and assigned the pages for the next class. His classmates didn't mind as they began to make conversation with whoever sat closest. Jayson, uninterested in chatting, collected his things and put them away neatly in his messenger bag. As he stood up he couldn't help but shoot a glance at the pretty brunette again. She was putting away her things as well, when all of a sudden looked up …and their eyes met.
Neither one blinking at first, in a matter of seconds Jayson broke out a smile. She was evidently happy to see him as well.
"Hey Olivia, we'll wait for you outside" shouted another student from the exit.
She nodded back but kept eye contact with Jayson once after. He was making his way over, somewhat blown away with how different she already looked. She wore simple makeup, her long black hair now cut in many layers and bouncing everywhere. She was now wearing a short white skirt with a delicate peach top; she always wore skirts or dresses. She seemed…older.
"Olivia now?" He said a bit surprised.
"I almost thought about calling you Mr. Taylor. But now we're on the same side. How are you Jay?" Tai responded.
"I'm doing much better then when you last saw me that's for sure. So what's it been…almost 5 months?"
"It has already. So wow, what are you doing here?" She asked intrigued.
"I'm almost done with my Master's so…I'm here. What about you?" They began to walk towards the door.
"I'm want to be an Engineer, and with a few exams, I qualified to take more advanced classes…And I'm here. " She chuckled.
Jayson couldn't brush off this coincidence, a wonderful one at that. If he thought she looked just 'pretty' before, you could imagine what he was thinking now with her minor improvements.
"You cut your hair." She added.
" I did." He rubbed his hand over his short dark brown hair. "This is more me I suppose. But you, I like your new look." He complimented her.
"Yes, Reese helped me out a bit."
"Reese, really? You gals are still close?"
"Yes, she lives in my same dorm building."
"The dorms huh. I'm sorry for being a little nosy here but I guess I pictured your parents being very strict…" He poked.
"To some degree, but we came to an agreement. I would study here close to Worthington and still get my space. And I'm enjoying every minute of it."
"And your accent is getting better too."
She smiled over his comments but he could tell that she had to go, even if she hadn't said anything yet.
"Well, I'll see you next class …Olivia, right?"
"Yes, I like Olivia. Good bye Jay."
He watched her walk away and still couldn't believe the odds. While almost reaching the outdoor exit she glanced back one more time, Jayson was taking his time walking. Both smiling, both nervous and both anxious for the next class.