Did I just run that stop sign? Olivia thought as she coasted over the hill.
Darkness blanketed the sky and the dew lingered on the grass. Olivia had no time to enjoy this new morning. It was 6:18, and she was on a mission to make it to school in 12 minutes. Arriving at this time would allow her a full hour and 15 minutes to prepare the substitute lesson plan for her 4th grade class before the first bell rang and kids spilled into the building. Today was an all day planning meeting for 4th grade teachers at Ambrose Elementary School. Olivia hadn't had time to prepare her lesson plan the day before. She had rushed out directly after dismissal to make a 4 o'clock dental appointment.
She continued to drive at a respectable rate of speed.
"Nooooo!" Flashing lights came into view through her rearview mirror. Another vehicle separated her from its source, a police car. She silently prayed that the police car was in pursuit of the automobile at her rear. When the vehicle trailing her made a turn, the police cruiser continued after her, its lights looking like a flame of fire in the darkness of the early morning. Olivia pulled over into the entrance of a subdivision and fished out her license and insurance card.
"Good morning, ma'am. I'm Agent Ralston. Do you know that you ran the stop sign back there?" he said, eyebrows crinkling.
"I did? I am so sorry officer. I must be on autopilot this morning. I am a teacher at Ambrose Elementary school just up the street. I think I was preoccupied with all I have to do when I get to my classroom," she explained, hoping for grace.
Her face fell when he asked for her license. Immediately repentant and in an abundance of caution, she handed it over along with her insurance card and registration.
"You're a teacher, eh? What grade do you teach at Ambrose?" he said, shining a small black flashlight at her license, "You can keep the insurance and registration card."
"Fourth grade. I teach fourth grade."
"Okay, Ma'am. You sit tight. I'll be right back." Olivia watched his retreating form in her side view mirror.
A cascade of emotions filled her and she let the tears fall. Why didn't I do these stupid plans last night? I should have used some old plans. Why wasn't I paying attention? She took several deep breaths and reached into the glove compartment for a tissue to dab the tears from her eyes as these thoughts invaded her mind.
The officer returned, and she let the window down, ready for the news.
"Ms. Pope, I am going to give you a warning this time. I understand you are busy with a million things on your mind, but please be safe," he lectured.
Olivia took the white warning slip and license he handed back to her.
"Thank you, officer. I will." Olivia flashed him a grateful smile and put everything back in her purse. When the road was clear, she pulled onto the street. She left her radio volume low and drove the remaining half-mile to school in silence. By the time she entered the front doors at 6:40, she was calm and ready to face the day.
The school was like a sleeping giant at this time. Olivia loved the calm, and that was why she routinely arrived between 6:30 and 6:45. Most of the other teachers rolled in between 7:15 and 7:30, just before the first bell at 7:45. She didn't blame them because as a single woman with only a dog she didn't have to bother with getting children ready or sharing a bathroom with a husband. Her black lab, Rolfo, went to The Wagsnifflick Room for day play four days a week so he wouldn't have to spend long stretches alone.
Olivia was free to get to school as early or leave school as late as she desired. Abby, Harrison, and Huck were always nagging her about the long hours she logged. All three of them worked at Ambrose too. Abby and Harrison taught 5th grade and Huck taught a Science & Social Studies enrichment class.
Abby would always say, "Liv, you'll never get it all done. It'll be here when you return tomorrow. Go home." Olivia would smile and agree when they made such comments. She continued logging in long hours. She labored for the love of it all.
At 7:20, she pressed the print button on her classroom printer. Her lesson plans rolled out, another task completed. When she lifted the pages off the tray, they were warm. The sound of the stapler gave her comfort. Everything was as it should be again.
"Good Morning, Liv. Are you looking forward to your day of freedom, kid free?" Abby said as she sauntered into Olivia's classroom. Olivia considered her friend with a smile. She didn't mention running the stop sign or getting the traffic warning. Abby's nagging about her being in a perpetual rush would spoil her present equilibrium.
"Morning, Abby. It is not a day of freedom. I would rather be with my kiddos. These planning days are a colossal waste of time and money," Olivia raised her fingers in air quotes when she said, 'planning,' "There is no real instructional planning going on. There are icebreakers, reviewing of test score data, and presentations by the instructional coaches. If I were queen for a day, I would make some changes."
"How many times have I told you to get on the principal track? You would make a great administrator. You have 10 years of teaching experience which is more than most principals these days who teach for barely three years and then try to lead a school." Abby pulled open Olivia's filing cabinet and began rifling through her files.
"I am satisfied to stay in my own classroom, Abby…my own little queendom. I am not interested in budgets, managing staff, and all the politics that comes with being an administrator. I love the classroom and helping other teachers. Besides, I think I am going to accept Heinemann's offer to publish my book on oral assessment," she said, packing up her laptop and materials for the meeting.
"That's great, Liv. I am glad you are doing that. It's about time you make people pay for what you have to offer. You are always giving everything away. Well…except for me of course…I, your best friend, shouldn't have to pay." Abby continued to pull papers from Olivia's folders.
"So what should I expect from the new principal in our meeting today? Did you talk to him at the after school meet and greet yesterday?" Olivia asked.
That was another thing she had missed yesterday because of her dental appointment, meeting the new principal. Mrs. Vega, the former principal, had retired in December. The school system's decision to appoint one of the Area Superintendents to the position had been a surprise to everyone. From a career standpoint, it was a step down. Mr. Fitzgerald T. Grant, III had been an Area Superintendent in the exclusive Evermore district where the demographics were mostly white, the resources were limitless, and the test scores were always high.
"Liv, I meant to call you last night, but Paul was particularly amorous after the kids went to bed. You missed it! Mr. Grant is a total hottie. He had all the female teachers, married and single, swooning over him. He is so sexy…that voice…his hair…he smells heavenly too. He told us to call him, "Fitz." Harrison gave me the dish on him. Mr. Grant is recently divorced from Melody Grant... or is it Millicent...well, she is one of the school board members. Harrison said he heard that Mr. Grant asked for this job to get away from working so closely with his ex-wife. Apparently she didn't want the divorce. He has two teenagers, and they live with him, which is very interesting. He pulled them out of Evermore High School and enrolled them in Ambrose High." Abby's eyes danced with excitement. She loved good gossip.
"Wow that is surprising that he would move his children from Evermore to Ambrose. Both are IB schools, but Evermore has more money and resources. He must be serious about investing in this community. Let's hope he is serious about leading Ambrose Elementary," Olivia said as she placed all her belongings on the front table by the door in preparation to go downstairs to the conference room.
"You are so boring. You would overlook all the gossip and focus on where he enrolled his kids in school," Abby said, "Just be prepared for all that hotness when he comes to your meeting today."
Olivia gave her room a quick glance to make sure everything was in place.
"Okay, Abby. Thanks for the warning, but "hotness" will be the last thing on my mind. I hope he asks for our opinion on the changes needed around here. I have a list of suggestions ready." Olivia and Abby walked towards the door as a handsome young man met them at the door.
He extended his hand. "Good morning, I'm David…the substitute teacher for Mrs. Pope?"
Abby answered with a sly smile. "It is Ms. Pope."
Olivia spoke before Abby could continue. "Hi David, I'm Olivia Pope. The lesson plans are on the desk with all the materials. I have a great group of kids. Leave me a note to let me know how the day goes, and--"
"Leave your phone number too. In case she needs to contact you to sub for her again," Abby interjected.
Olivia pushed Abby out of the door. "Have a great day, David…Mr.?"
"Jordan…David Jordan. I'll leave a note and my phone number." Did he just wink at me? Olivia thought.
Olivia followed behind Abby. "Mrs. Whelan-Sanchez, I am reporting you to your husband with all this talk of hotness and sexy principals. Stop trying to set me up...and with my substitute, Abby?" Olivia lowered her voice so only Abby could hear as she walked her down the hall to her classroom. Abby stopped at her door.
"Liv, he is cute. He has to be fresh out of college. Looks like fun."
"You, Harrison, and Huck need to stay out of my sex life. No more set ups, please? I don't want any dating drama right now. For the first time since my break up with Edison, I am content to be single. My life is full as it is," she argued.
Abby shrugged, unconvinced.
Olivia glanced at her watch. It was three hours into the planning meeting. The literacy instructional coach had just finished her presentation. The assistant principal rose to speak next.
"Thank you, Lisa, for that excellent presentation. We feel more confident about the new curriculum standards in English Language Arts. I am excited to announce that our new principal, Mr. Grant, will be coming to speak to us in about five minutes. We were all excited to meet him informally yesterday. He will be sitting in on all the instructional planning meetings this week to see…" Ms. Kingston stopped speaking when the door opened and Mr. Grant walked in. "…Oh, Mr. Grant, I was just talking about you."
Olivia watched Ms. Kingston's demeanor change when he walked into the room. She softened and became all giggly like a school girl in the presence of the captain of the football team. Olivia could see Mr. Grant's profile as he smiled at Ms. Kingston. The other 4th grade teachers sat up straighter in their seats when he entered.
Olivia rolled her eyes as she recalled Abby's description of him. Okay, so he looks good in a suit, and his hair is thick and wavy. Big deal! Olivia thought as she viewed his profile. Olivia's breath caught in her throat when he turned around and she saw him face to face.
"Good morning, ladies," he said.
"Good morning, Mr. Grant." All the 4th grade teachers but Olivia responded in chorus.
Olivia felt her breath catch in her throat when their eyes met. She was drawn to him in a way that was uncharacteristic for her. It was difficult to look away. Her heart beat faster and she felt a brief ache in her abdomen. It was akin to instant physical attraction. She'd read about it in romance novels, accepting it as fantasy. In that moment, the invisible cord of attraction pulled her to him. She didn't realize she was frowning. Olivia couldn't avert her eyes from his. She didn't know how long they held the gaze, but she was able to blink when she heard his voice.
"It is nice to see you all again. Except…I…don't think I met you…Ms. Olivia Pope, right?" He stepped to Olivia, his eyes still locked with hers. Olivia averted her eyes this time, but looked back at him quickly.
"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Grant. I had an, um..a dental appointment yesterday. I couldn't reschedule it in a reasonable time," she explained in a rush of words. She extended her hand to meet his.
"The pleasure is all mine. You can call me, Fitz…like I've told everyone else." When he took her hand, she felt his warmth envelope her cold fingers. He covered their enclosed hands with his other hand. Olivia didn't want him to let go. She inhaled as she caught a faint whiff of a woodsy and spicy scent. He finally released her hands. They were no longer cold.
He walked to the front of the room and launched into his presentation, "Your former principal, Mrs. Vega did exemplary things here at Ambrose. I want to continue her standard of excellence while…"
Olivia didn't hear much of what he was said. She was still trying to get her bearings from that reaction to him. Abby had been right. He was very handsome and sexy, but she had never had such a visceral reaction to a man on first sight. Olivia looked around at the other teachers who were hanging on to his every word.
Her cell phone vibrated when a text came in from Abby.
Abby: Hey. Seen the hottie yet?
Olivia smiled and texted back, shaking her head.
Olivia: He's okay. Seen better. ;-)
Abby: Liar! We will talk after school.
Olivia smiled again. She pushed her phone aside and looked up. Her eyes collided with Fitz's again. Had he been watching her preoccupied with her phone? she thought, embarrassed to be caught off guard again. Her eyes darted to the chart of test data on the screen, self-conscious she had been caught on her phone during a meeting.
"…I'll be meeting with each of you individually for about fifteen minutes beginning immediately after you break for lunch. Please bring me any questions you may have about my presentation or anything else." All the teachers clapped. Fitz smiled. His eyes met Olivia's in one more intense gaze before he left the room.
Olivia had been caught unawares for a second time today. She hadn't heard a word of his presentation. How am I going to be in a room alone with him? She pushed her thoughts aside and accepted that she was attracted to her new principal.