“Ms. Simms, Ms. Simms,” a student yelled from the other side of the room. “I can’t do it. Nooooo, I don’t wanna touch it!” The girl shook her head vehemently and put her hands behind her back.
“Kayla, I think you can do it. Remember when we painted the boxes last week?”
“Yeah,” she answered timidly.
“You did such a good job, and I know you can do it again. We’re only going to paint using one finger. Last week, you painted four spaces, and today we have seven. That’s only three more. I know you can do it. Ms. Russell will give you a wipe as soon as you’re finished. Okay?”
“Okay,” Kayla said quietly. “Miss Russell, you gonna give me a wipe?”
“Yes, Kayla. I have them right here.”
“We’ll hang them up to dry when everyone finishes,” Janae said.
After her group finished, Janae walked around the class to see the progress. As everyone finished up, the fire alarm sounded.
“No, no, no. Too loud. Too loud!” A student ran around the room screaming and covering his ears.
Janae stepped into his path. “Roberto, stop.”
When the boy raised his hand as if he was going to hit her, Terrence was almost on his feet, but remembered she did this every day. He glanced over to see the two assistants gathering the other students and lining them up.
“I know it’s loud, Roberto,” Janae continued in a calm, even voice. “What do you need to do when it’s loud?”
Roberto jumped up and down in front of her with his hands over his ears. “Get the headphones.”
“Right. Do we scream?”
“Go get the earphones, and then you can help me carry the signs.”
Roberto rushed over, put on the headphones and came back to her. He reached for her hand. Janae handed him one of the signs.
She looked over at Terrence. “Sorry, but you have to come, too. It’s a fire drill.”
He got to his feet and followed the class out to the yard, waiting with them until the all clear was given, marveling at the way she handled the students. Terrence found that every facet of her personality—from her soft voice and compassionate heart to her sweet and tender touch—enticed him, and he fell a little harder.
Terrence waited while Janae walked her students out to the front when the bell sounded. His back was to her, looking at something on the wall when she returned.
“So, are you in town on business?” she asked.
He turned, a slow grin curving his mouth. “I most certainly am, Ms. Simms.” He sauntered over to where she stood. Cupping her face, he lowered his head. “Very personal business.” He captured her mouth in a heated kiss. Her mouth was as lush as he remembered. He’d dreamed about this mouth for days. When the kiss ended, she slumped against his chest.
He held her in the circle of his arms, wondering how she fit so perfectly. All talk about keeping her at a distance didn’t seem to work, no matter how hard he tried. Terrence leaned back. “What are you doing this evening?”
“Karen and I are supposed to be going to dinner.”
“Do you think she’ll mind taking a rain check? I have to leave tomorrow instead of next Wednesday. I’ll be gone for the next two weeks, and I want to spend a little time with you.”
Janae backed out of his embrace. “I’ll call her and ask.” She went to the phone on the wall near her desk and dialed. Hanging up the phone, she said, “There’s no answer. She’s probably on her way here.”
Terrence sat on the corner of a desk. “You’re amazing with these students. You’re compassionate and inspiring. I’ve never seen anything like it. Their families are fortunate to have you.”
“I don’t know about amazing.”
“You are—gifted and amazing. By the way, the painting looks great in my office, although I was only there long enough to hang it.”
“Well, hopefully when you get back, you’ll have some time to enjoy it.”
“Maybe you’ll have some time to come and enjoy it with me.”
She regarded him intently. “Terrence, what’s going on here?”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“This, this...I don’t know.”
Terrence let out a deep breath. “Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that I enjoy being with you. And the more I’m with you, the more I want to be with you.”
“This is not some kind of game, is it?”
“I promise you, it’s not.”
Before she could respond, Karen entered.
“Hey, guys. I’m guessing we’ll be doing dinner another time, Janae?”