Ask Sam

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Chapter 23

Joanna felt a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude as she watched the last of her students spill out of the classroom. The week had move along without a hitch. The students behavior had been explementary, there had been no threatening texts or emails from Chip, and she had reached the weekend with energy to spare. There had been times during the past six weeks when she was not sure she would survive the day intact much less the week. A knock drew her attention to the door.

She was expecting her dad. He sent a text to let her know he was in the parking lot. Alex had a way of randomly popping up, but he too sent a text. She experienced a moment of panic when she saw Alex. “Oh no, please don’t tell me something has happened to Dad.”

“Don’t panic. I am not here because of an emergency. I had to be in the neighborhood, so I volunteered to act as your chauffer.”

She breathed a sigh of relief.

“I have an ulterior motive for showing up at your classroom door. Your Aunt Polly showed me photos of your classroom. Since then, I’ve been eager to see the actual boards.”

Bemused, she watched as his eyes perused the room. He turned and said, “I’m impressed. Are your jungle scenes part of a unit study or just for atmosphere?”

“I usually design boards for fall, but this year I’m behind because of my injuries. Madison Hall, my assistant teacher pulled out the jungle mural because it was popular with our students last year.”aH

She remembered seeing the photos of her room in her aunt’s photo album, but she could not remember whether the Ask Sam board was in one of the photos. Was that his reason for wanting to see the boards? She hoped not. Even though the illustration was a stylized depiction of Sam, there was no denying a resemblance between the two men.

She remained silent, and he continued, “I had a great teacher in seventh grade, but I never had the luxury of learning in such an exciting environment. Your illustrations are extraordinary. Joanna.”

“Your inner child is showing, Alex.”

“I appreciate talent in any form. Glynnis Johns, the feature writer at Fairview Review, is always on the lookout for people and events that are newsworthy. An article about your dual career would be excellent publicity for Judy’s books and for Wiley School.”

“My illustrations are appropriate for fairy tales and bulletin boards. Fairy tales are no longer politically correct and bulletin boards don’t interest adults.”

“I disagree. As long as there are children fairy tales and bulletin boards will survive. Give the idea some serious thought. On a positive note, Chip might shy away from attacking a local celebrity.”

Joanna picked up her purse and a folder. “I’m ready when you are.”

“I have a suggestion.”

“Another one? Are you going to suggest that I continue to have a companion when I go out of my house? If so, you should be aware that Dad has already made that request.”

“Where you go and who you go with is your decision to make. It is your safety at stake.

“You have a book of illustrations that is newly published. You will be cast free next week. You have not had a threatening email or text in ten days, and today is a gorgeous autumn day. We can celebrate by flying to Paris for a candlelit dinner. If a trip out of the country is too extravagant, we can stop by Silver Diner for coffee and pie.”

Joanna laughed.

“As tempted as I am to accept your invitation for a trip to Paris, I’ll settle for a piece of Silver Diner’s pie.”

When they entered the diner, a middle age woman hustled over to greet them. “Alex and Ms. Avery, welcome. Have a seat anywhere you like. Do you need a menu or are you just having coffee or tea?”

Alex greeted the server warmly, “Reba, you are more beautiful every time I see you.”

She blushed. “And you are full of blarney.”

“We don’t need a menu, Reba. We are here for coffee and pie.”

By the time he and Joanna were settled in a booth, Reba was there with two mugs and a pot of coffee.

Joanna wore a puzzled expression. “Reba you look familiar. Have we met before?”

“My nephew, Rob Cunningham, was in your class two years ago. I attended several of Wiley’s functions, but we were never formally introduced.”

“Now I remember. Rob’s mom work works night shift sometimes, so you came to some of the PTA meetings and took notes.”

Reba nodded. “Rob’s mom didn’t want to miss a thing that was going on at the school.”

“Did his dad find job?”

“He did, and fortunately the family will be able to remain in Fairview.”

“Excellent. What about Rob? Is he behaving himself?”

“He is still pushing his teachers’ buttons. Teachers who aren’t artistic have difficulty understanding his passion for drawing.”

Joanna turned to Alex. “When Rod finished a test paper—99% of the time he finished before his classmates—he drew a cartoon on the paper. His characters nitpicked about the school system and curriculum. Some of his early teachers were offended.”

Reba picked up the conversation. “Ms. Avery responded by drawing one of her cute little animals who passed on words of wisdom in speech balloons. He actually listened to some of the advice. By the way, Ms. Avery, he saved your drawings.”

“I’m flattered. Tell Rob, I said hi.”

She nodded. “Our pies today are chocolate, lemon meringue, blueberry and cherry. What’s your pleasure.”

Joanna said, “I’ll have cherry.”

Alex ordered the same.

After Joanna savored the last bite of pie, she placed her fork on the plate and groaned, “I do love a piece of pie, but my sweet tooth is one of the reasons I need to get back to my jogging routine.”

“The Y has treadmills and exercise bikes.”

“I’m not a member. I guess I could purchase a membership, but when I no longer have to worry about Chip's erratic behavior, I want to return to jogging, and I prefer exercising outside.”

“Since you have agreed to avoid Miller Park for now, you should consider another option. I work out at the Y every Tuesday and Thursday evening. You are welcome to go with me as a guest.”

“Thank you for the offer. I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

Reba appeared with a coffee pot. “More coffee?”

Alex nodded. “A half cup Reba.”

As soon as she moved to another table, Joanna said, “Hm-m. Why do I suddenly feel an icy finger of fear inching up my back?”

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