Cases of glue, stacks of colored paper and litters of assorted paints were placed in the shopping cart. Avery scratched off each item as she passed through the aisles, mentally planning out her lessons for the upcoming weeks. Certain she had all the supplies needed, she continued to the checkout counter.
Avery Hayes taught kinder through third grade art at Worthington Elementary School. Finally adjusted to her new career after graduating from college and leaving her parent's house; she had begun the life of complete independence. 23 years old and loving her job, not many of her friends could say the same.
Once she arrived back to her empty apartment, she grabbed one of the many cardboard boxes to store her art supplies. She was proud of her little place, but still budgeting for a living room set among other furniture. Moving away from family and friends was a drastic change; it had to be done in order to live closer to the school. But she didn't expect it to feel so lonely, thank goodness for her wonderful students.
Next day at school, Avery was setting out the rest of the materials for her last class. At the sound of the bell, the students came running in with excited smiles. She was always excited to receive them as well. Being an only child, this was the closest thing to having a room full of siblings.
One of her many favorite students was Annabelle. Very sweet and spunky, always saying the silliest of things to make her teacher laugh. Every day she would give Avery a sticker as a present, and every time she'd place it on the side of her wooden desk. It was turning into quite the colorful mosaic. Most importantly it made Annabelle feel special.
"Missy Hayes, what are we going to do today?" Annabelle asked eagerly.
"We are going to do something fun and messy! We are going to make animal masks out of Paper Mache!" She answered enthusiastically.
"Can I put paste on my face?" Annabelle giggled.
"No silly, because what would happen if it didn't come off?" Avery asked smiling.
"Then I would paint a big smiley face. Or maybe paint an eye patch" answered another classmate.
"That sounds very creative, but we'll leave the face painting for another day. And we'll actually get to use stuff that will wash off; because mommy and daddy will be happy with that." She concluded.
The students got to paste their strips of paper onto their balloons and spent the rest of the hour creating several layers. This was a very messy process but the kids enjoyed every minute of it. After placing their projects with the rest of the groups they washed up and helped Avery clean off the tables.
Once the dismissal bell rang, Avery brought the class out to the play yard as usual. More than half the children took the bus, while the rest waited for their parents in the yard. Annabelle was sitting on a bench holding her bag, when Avery decided to accompany her.
"Guess what Missy Hayes?"
"My birfday is next week; I'm going to be 8. My mom and dad are going to throw me a big princess party. I want you to come. Will you come Missy Hayes?" Annabelle pleaded.
"I would love to!"
"He's here!" Annabelle exclaimed while grabbing her teacher's finger to follow her.
Avery hadn't met Annabelle's father yet and she was delighted to see what he was like. The black car pulled up to the curb and a man wearing Ray Ban sunglasses stepped out of the car.
"Hey squirt" He said with a huge smile on his face as he grabbed her back pack.
"Austin come, you have to meet my teacher!" Annabelle demanded.
Avery found it odd the way she directed him but thought every family was different.
"Missy Hayes this is my big brother."
"OH, for one moment I thought you were her father." Avery laughed nervously.
The young man rested his glasses on the top of his head and shook Avery's hand.
"Hah no, but I have been asked that a few times. I'm Austin."
"I'm Avery, otherwise known as Missy Hayes."
"Just so you know I'll be picking Annabelle up for a couple of days. Our father is out of town on business." He clarified.
"Again? Ugh." Annabelle complained.
"Alright thank you for telling me. I'll see you tomorrow Annabee."
"Bye Missy Hayes." She replied still a little saddened.
Austin gave a shy wave good bye and walked his sister over to the back seat. Avery nonchalantly looked back and found him returning to the driver's seat looking straight at her while lowering his shades.
That evening, Avery slouched in her plastic patio chair in the living room, dressed in worn in PJ's and eating her Chinese leftovers from yesterday. She was watching a movie streaming on her laptop and for no apparent reason she recalled her encounter with Annabelle's brother; then remembered him saying that he would pick her up tomorrow and the rest of the week.
In hesitance, as though she were embarrassed of being caught, Avery skipped on over to her drawers and closet. Why on earth do I have so many hideous skirts? She began to separate her more decent outfits for the rest of the week. It never hurts to look your best for work. Only, she could never prevent from getting painted on; those little red and blue hands always found a way to imprint on her shirts.
And as predicted, the next day for the second part of her class project, rainbow finger prints decorated the hem of her blouse. Good thing she decided not to follow through with 'dressing her best'. The paint blended in her clothes well, with her hippie/gypsy-like style, adding more to the patterns and originality of the garments. Avery laughed to herself while she washed off. How silly am I, trying to impress some guy…
The 3rd graders came stumbling in, throwing their back packs in the corner and running to their seats; impatiently waiting to start. Avery handed out their now dry masks along with more cups of paint. Her students began right away but before Annabelle could start she went up to Miss Hayes desk. She held out her index finger which had a little sticker stuck to the tip.
"Thanks Annabee. What a pretty little frog. And it's a girl frog, with lashes and pretty lipstick." Avery giggled.
"That's you!" Annabelle stated convincingly.
"Ohhh, well thank you."
"Guess what Missy Hayes?" Annabelle said while taking her seat; it was the closest to the teacher's desk.
"My brother thinks your beetiful." Annabelle couldn't help but display the cheesiest sly grin her little face could manage.
"Really? Well…" Slightly embarrassed, Avery didn't know how to respond to that.
"Yup, when he came in the car he said 'Your teacher sure is beetiful'."
"It's beau-ti-ful." Another student corrected.
"That's what I said Michael! Beetiful!" Annabelle rolled her eyes and dipped her brush back in a cup.
Avery walked by each student and observed their art work, complimenting and encouraging each one. She sat next to one that needed a little help but in the process she got distracted by Annabelle's comment, revealing a tiny devious smile.
It was 3:10 and the children were outside, however Miss Hayes remained tidying up the classroom. Truth was she was a little nervous about seeing Annabelle's brother again, so her best bet was to hide inside; even though she'd sneak a peek from her window every few minutes. She was now placing back the bottles of paint in the cupboards when…
"Hi Miss Hayes…"
Avery turned around and almost dropped one of the bottles she was placing overhead.
"Yeah umm, Annabelle said she left her lunchbox inside." He continued rather timidly.
She noticed Annabelle outside poking her head through the doorway. Avery shook her head as she knew this was a little setup and began wandering around the classroom for this 'lost' lunchbox.
"I'm not sure what it looked like. Can you remember?" She added.
"All I know is that it's pink." Austin raised his hands in helplessness.
Avery spotted something pink under one of the tables and went over to pick it up. It was a My Little Pony lunch box with Annabelle's name written on the side in black.
"Here it is." She raised it in the air for him to see.
Austin walked over and waited for Avery to hand it over. He stood there contemplating, not making much eye contact since they were pretty close. Avery thought she was shy but seeing someone struggle as she did was kind of endearing. This gave her plenty of time to study him up close. She was about 5'5" which made her guess he was around 5'10". He had gelled spikey black hair, olive skin and vibrant cat-like green eyes. Out of nowhere, as though a switched had turned on, he looked her straight in the eyes with loads of confidence.
"I don't know how to phrase this so I'm just going to come out and say it. Are you seeing…anyone?" His confidence slowly faded towards the end of the question.
Grinning she nodded and said a faint "No."
"Ok." He exhaled. "Would you be willing to go out with me…sometime?"
"Sure, I'd like that." She answered quickly to keep him from suspense.
"Ok great." He exhaled again. And stepping back from the ledge he seemed more at ease. "When are you available?"
"Today is Tuesday, so…Thursday evening or I'm off on Friday?"
"Friday works, I'm off too." He agreed.
What a coincidence, both off on Friday. She smiled, not like she had not been smiling this whole time.
"Okay, so…do you want my number?" She asked in wonder.
"Yes, duh of course. I'm going to need that." He said a little foolishly while taking out his phone.
Annabelle was now standing next to them looking back and forth with her sly grin again. All of a sudden both Avery and Austin looked down and saw Annabelle holding each by the hand. Almost embarrassed by this awkward moment Austin thanked Avery for her number and said he would call her soon.
Avery waited till they were both out of the room and spun around carefully; not wanting to bump into anything. On her drive home and simple dinner preparation all she could think about was how this wonderful date would unfold. She tried to picture the scenery, their outfits… Outfits? Gosh, what am I going to wear? Holding her bowl of mac and cheese in one hand sherummaged through her closet again. Knowing full well all the articles on those hangers, nothing seemed too appealing. Still without any money to spare, she made the best of what she had.
She found a tribal peasant skirt she had bought at an antique thrift store not too long ago, and paired it with a black sequined top and wooden platform sandals. This is as good as it gets. She set it aside on one of the chairs in her room and ate the remains of her dinner.
Wednesday and Thursday went by like a blur, not any faster just not as important. Both days consisted of her regular art assignments, nothing out of the ordinary and yet quite rewarding. She still managed to see Austin and waved hello from inside the play yard. As promised, that Thursday night, Austin finally called. They both had a difficult time deciding where to go eat, since he usually went by what he was craving and she went by what she could afford.
Since they were completely free that day they agreed on playing it by ear and would make the choice on the spot once he'd pick her up. Pick me up…does that mean he has to come inside? I have nothing to offer him, not even a decent chair. I'll have to make a quick exit. She deliberated.
The call was short and to the point. Avery would have liked the company even if it was by means of a phone call, but he didn't seem like much of a talker. He was respectful and sweet at least, which she appreciated. Tomorrow was the day…finally a date!
Austin was punctual for their brunch date, arriving at 10 am sharp. Avery was already dressed and ready to race out the door to prevent him from cozying up to the idea of coming inside. With a knock at the door, she stood by with her purse over her shoulders and counted to 20 before opening.
"Good morning, shall we go." She insisted.
Austin stood there baffled "Um I forgot to mention you may want to bring a bathing suit."
Avery was already about to go down a step when he spoke; now turning around to go back inside.
"I'll be right back." She said closing the door behind her.
Moments later she returned and greeted her confused date.
"Okay then." He ushered her to his white Volkswagen Jetta; opening and closing her door.
The first thing she noticed was how clean it smelled, not to mention spotless. If he only saw my car, she thought ashamed. He hopped in and put the car in first gear.
"I take it you've made a decision?" Avery assumed.
"I did, I hope that's okay. I think you'll like my idea." His eyes sparkled.
Avery scanned everything: the streets, the people and the driver. It had been more than a year since she had sat in the passenger's side. But she had to admit, this was by far the best looking date she'd had since the beginning of college. His hair fixed tastefully, wearing a sky blue Polo and white cut off shorts. They definitely had different styles. Exhilarated and now incredibly curious to where they were headed, she forced herself to relax and observe the water from a distance.
"So Avery, are you from here?"
"No, I'm originally from South Dakota." She said shaking her head to the music that played faintly.
"Nice, is your family still there?" He asked genuinely.
"My immediate family is. I moved here almost a year ago."
"How do you like it so far? Have you been to Lake Okabena?"
"No, I didn't even know we had one." She smiled. "Is that what my bathing suit is for?"
"Something like that." He grinned mischievously.
"Hmmm…I don't know about that smile. I see it a lot on my students before they do something crazy."
Austin laughed at her comment and she couldn't help but join him. Avery thought he was unbelievably cute; he had a boyish charm and was so amiable. This date felt more like she had won a contest, and the prize was a date with Mr. Right. What was even more astonishing, his interest in her as well.
He pulled into a parking by the pier, immediately going out and around the car to open her door once again.
"I didn't think guys still did that." Avery teased.
"Some guys still do." Austin winked before opening his trunk and taking out an elegant weaved basket.
"What is…" she chuckled.
"Okay so don't laugh but my mother helped me out a bit." He admitted bashfully.
"Really? I think that's so sweet actually." Avery tamed her laughter. "So where is the beach?"
"We're not going to the beach...come this way." He motioned his head.
He stood there, so strikingly, holding the basket in one hand. The perfect combination of manly and romantic; all that was missing…his hand held out. Avery blushed and reached with her shaking hand. His grip was strong yet delicate, fitting like a leather glove. He walked confidently on the wooden strip, although she had lost feeling in her toes. She would stare at him every moment she could; discreetly.
They approached a sailboat that had the name Lady Susan engraved on it.
"Susan is my mother's name." He clarified.
"Oh this is your dad's boat? Your parents must be pretty wealthy." She presumed.
"Don't judge." Smiling, Austin pointed his finger at her.
"Not judging…not at all." Avery raised her hands in surrender.
Austin helped her board and began to untie a few ropes. He went back and forth unraveling cords and cables; raising the mainsail and attaching it along with the jib to the shackles. Then finally, he started the engine and they slowly began to move.
"I've never been on a boat before." Avery confessed.
"I'm glad I was your first then." He swung back.
Avery gave him a suspicious eye but how could she not be flattered. Look at him. He doesn't know how amazingly HOT he looks controlling that steer.
"Do you want to give it a try?" He offered.
"I don't want to crash the boat."
"Hah, no you won't crash the boat. Believe me I wouldn't allow it; for my sake not yours." He added lightheartedly.
"Thanks a lot!" Avery nodded smiling. "Okay so what do I do?" She grabbed hold of the wheel.
Austin began to explain to her the importance of knowing the direction the wind was going and how to benefit from it. He showed her how many times she needed to rotate the steering wheel to make sharp or long turns and so forth. He was delighted to see her face brighten up and how she didn't mind the closeness as he stood directly beside her. The boat would rock every so often, causing Avery to bump into him and redden each time.
"See there, you're a natural!" He said stepping back. "Are you getting hungry?"
"I am…but I'm getting hot too, even with all this wind. I think I'm going to change now."
Austin came beside her to turn the autopilot and radio on. Then he took her below to the cabin.
"My mother might have some things of hers here. Feel free to use whatever you'd like." He suggested kindly.
Avery couldn't help look around and pry. She saw pictures of his parents with him and Annabelle. They had many memories on this boat it seemed. She noticed how similar he looked to his mother, but he had his father's strong jawline. She found his mother's floppy hat and changed into her black two-piece. Feeling a little too naked, she kept her skirt on; it was light and breezy enough.
Back on the main deck, Austin laid out all the contents of the picnic basket for the next part of their date. He had croissants filled with chicken salad; small bowls of fruits, nuts, and vegetable cuts. As for drinks he brought a bottle of sparkling apple cider. Needless to say Avery was awestruck.
"I hope you like this."
"Are you kidding, it looks wonderful! Plus I'm starving, so anything at this point…" Avery smirked.
Austin merely nodded in playful disappointment.
"Now you BETTER eat it even if you don't LIKE it." He instructed unable to keep a serious face.
They both sat and indulged themselves. The scenery was perfect along with the weather. Avery definitely won.
"So when did your dad teach you how to sail?"
"When I was eight or so; we've done many trips since then but not this year or the last." He said sternly.
"Do you ever sail out on your own?"
"Not really…but I will now if you'll come with?"
"Are you kidding, don't tempt me." She giggled.
He seemed to get a kick out of trifling with Avery.
"Why, would that temptation be a bad thing?" He instigated.
"It's not a bad thing at all. I would just wish to do it more often than possible."
"Well you be sure to let me know when that desire happens to come along."
"So how come you're not dating anyone?" Avery inquired.
"Hmmm…let's just look at it this way. If I were dating someone, then I would have missed the chance to be here with you today." He said convincingly.
"Nicely put, but you snuck your way out of that one."
"I was dating someone a couple of months ago and it simply didn't work out. But you…you're so different than the last girls I've seen."
"I trust that's a compliment?" She hoped.
"Oh please, do take it as a compliment."
Between the chatting and munching on their snacks, Austin finally reached an area he liked and turned the engine off. He threw an anchor over and lowered the sails.
"Is this where you throw me overboard, never to be seen again?"
"How did you guess?" Austin nodded while taking off his shirt. "Or we can just take a dip instead…it's up to you"
"But we just ate. Isn't there a rule against swimming right after eating?" Avery reasoned.
"No one listens to that rule."
And just like that Austin dove in the dark blue water. It looked refreshing enough to convince Avery to slip out of her skirt, toss her hat aside and jump in with him. They both swam a reasonable distance at a fair pace where they could continue talking. Avery shrieked every time she felt little fish nibbling on her skin. After about 45 minutes of treading water they swam back to the boat where Austin fetched some towels.
Tired and drowsy, they laid out in the sun as the boat gently rocked them to sleep. Satisfied full stomachs and all worn out, they napped for an hour or so. By chance some clouds had begun to crowd the sky and provided the perfect coolness and shade from the potent sun.
Avery woke up before Austin. She lay on her stomach still wearing her shades, as did he. She watched him, sleeping soundly and lying so still and beautiful. She soaked it all in; the lake, the boat and Austin. Never would she have pictured a better date as this. She got up quietly and roamed around. By the steering wheel on the floor lay Austin's shirt. She intended to pick it up and fold it but saw that it nestled his keys, wallet and watch.
Out of curiosity she opened his wallet to see his license picture; knowing he was already so photogenic. It took a moment but she then glanced over his information and startled herself. She looked up and saw he was still sleeping then looked back down as if she couldn't believe her eyes. 1994? That makes him what…17…18? I knew this was too good to be true!
Avery carefully placed everything back where it was. She hated that now she saw him as a little boy and she couldn't help it. It's not as though he had lied about his age but she just assumed he was at least in college. It's not like he even acted immaturely but that would explain the 'boyish charm'. She reflected on what to do, she didn't want to seem indifferent or cold. How could this work…it can't…would this be too weird? Ugh why did I have to look?
She smacked her face with the palm of her hand, turned around and leaned against the rail facing the water. I'll swim back…don't be retarded Avery.
"Are you ok? You're not sea sick are you?" Austin said after witnessing her queasiness.
He walked over to better observe her, still shirtless; still 6 years younger. Recovering from her mental struggle, Avery thought she could brush this aside and enjoy the rest of her date. She looked back and acted as though she were better. Unexpectedly Austin came and stood directly behind her, at a respectable distance, still close enough to where his arms caressed hers. She knew that his bare chest was only an inch away, so she pushed back a little to feel him.
His face hung over the right side of her shoulder, barely touching her ear. She surely wasn't expecting him to make any moves yet, certainly not without a warning. This happen to appear out of nowhere, as though he woke up determined to touch her. She giggled softly as he tickled her arms. His hands then rested on her waist while he dug his forehead in her damp hair. Is this the same guy?
All this swooning caused Avery to forget what she was struggling with in the first place. She needed this. She needed to be touched. A year spent without family, friends, and all but students to regard a certain amount of affection. But this was utterly different. It was tender, delicate and pleasurable. And this was all by pure touch.
Alas, it only took Austin's hand reaching up to massage the nape of her neck for Avery to fully twirl around. She was ready for him to kiss her now but that wasn't on his mind just yet. He had one hand sustained on the rail behind her and the other still on her neck, slowly slipping but only a few centimeters. He lifted her chin with his thumb only to begin kissing her neck not her lips. Her hands meanwhile rested on his arms for stability. Yup, this is happening, robbing this cradle.
The wind was still blowing, the boat still swaying and the sun starting to go down little by little. They continued with this innocent foreplay, now sitting on the main deck, playing with each other's skin and reactions to touch. There was something about Austin wanting to be nestled up in her neck; something submissive and almost childlike, reminding Avery that she was the older and possibly dominant of the two. As much as she enjoyed and hoped for this to continue, she was beginning to dread him not kissing to her expectations.
"Are you a good kisser?" Avery blurted aloud, not on purpose.
Austin backed away, "Am I going to slow?" He half smiled, a little discouraged.
She nodded and knew she should have kept her thoughts to herself.
"I was just warming you up." He assured her with a transformed grin ready to launch.
He used his body to push her down on the floor gently and sustained his torso on one arm. With his free hand he held on to her jaw. In this moment of truth he shifted from sweet to vigorous and kissed her eagerly. His fingers pressed firmly upon her face; he held nothing back to proving his answer to her question. He kissed with sureness and even switched roles; teasing her and resuming control.
With a swift jolt, he rested his knees at the sides of her waist and as though coming up for air he dove back down. Avery on the other hand was not only entertained and relieved but gratified with each seducing performance. Her fears had sunk along with every other care; sheer recklessness. He continued to press in to her whilst kissing her sensually.
Austin sat back pulling Avery up with him. There they remained seated at arm's length, without a murmur of any sort. Just there with a fire-like glaze in their eyes and puffy chests. Austin's stare fiercely penetrating hers however waiting for her response. Gutsy Avery crawled on over and sat in between his sprawled legs. Holding his neck and having his full attention she became serious for a moment.
"I stumbled upon your wallet and saw your license…" She came clean.
Austin rubbed his eyes with his hand and sighed. "I was going to tell you eventually. But I hoped it wouldn't have mattered after you spent this day with me." He admitted.
"I think you are wonderful, and I would have never known hadn't I not seen your ID."
"So why didn't you say anything? Does this mean it doesn't bother you?"
"I thought it would but…I don't care too much about it now. However, is there anything else I need to know? She asked skeptically.
"Only that, I would like to see you again tomorrow, if you are still interested?"
"Yes very." Avery smiled holding on to his neck.