Warning Signs

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When I was nine I had a crush on my fourth grade teacher Ms. Weever. She was the best teacher in the whole school. She would always wear these pretty dresses that flowed around her knees, and her hair was always up in this pretty bun with silver pins.

I was always excited to go to school in the mornings just to see her. On my tenth birthday Ms. Weever made a huge fuss over me the entire day. She let me wear a big button she made that said Happy Birthday. I got to be first in line for every recess, and lead the class to the cafeteria during lunch. Near the end of the day she gave me a super cool eraser in the shape of a race car. I was over the moon that day and couldn't wait to show Joe when I got home.

"Look what Ms. Weever gave me!" I burst through my front door and tore through the house running around the back of the sofa over to Joseph. He was sitting on the floor in front of the TV playing video games with two of his buddies. They were all Sophomores in high school and part of the basketball team, girls were always calling them or coming over, I didn't know why Joe liked to hang out with them, they thought they were so cool.

Both Joseph's friends rolled their eyes at me, but Joseph put down his game control and smiled up at me, "What did you get Matt?"

"This!" I held out my hand to Joseph, the race car eraser lay proudly in the palm of my hand.

Joe picked up the eraser carefully, turning it over and inspecting it with a twinkle in his eye. "Whoa, this is pretty nice Matt. Ms. Weever must really like you."

I beamed at him, ignoring his buddies' snickers in the background. Joseph turned his head slightly and gave a warning frown to his friends; he turned back to me and placed the eraser back in my hand, "Do you want to play a couple of rounds with us?"

I shook my head at him, wrinkling my nose. "Nah, I have to go get ready for my piano lesson."

"But Ms. Young isn't coming over for another two hours yet." Joseph glanced over at the clock and back to me in disbelief.

"I have to finish my homework first." I was already turning away from him, my eraser clasped tightly in my closed fist. Ms. Weever said we have to finish our math facts before Friday."

Joseph gave out a small chuckle, "Well I guess you can't keep Ms. Weever waiting then."

By the time Ms. Young arrived I had finished my math facts and the extra credit paper Ms. Weever had given us. I used my new pack of markers to create this detailed, pretty, thank you card for her. I was really looking forward to going to school the next day.

I had no idea that would be the day my boyish fantasy would be crushed. Ms. Weever looked especially lovely that day. She had these glitter, sparkly bangles on her wrist that made tiny clinking sounds whenever she wrote on the whiteboard. Right before the final bell rang I took out my homemade card, clutching it in my hands nervously, trying to keep it hidden from the other kids so that they wouldn't tease me.

My eyes were on the clock, watching the second hand jump from dot to dot, willing it to go a little faster. I didn't notice the figure that suddenly appeared in the doorway, or the quiet giggles from the class as Ms. Weever jumped up from her desk, her cheeks looking just a little pinker than usual.

"Oh class! We have a guest. There is someone I would like you to meet." Ms. Weever was walking towards our door, and I twisted my head around to see who everyone was looking at.

She gave the guest this great big smile and held out her hand to him, pulling him over to the front of the classroom. My reading partner and neighbor, Laura, put her hand over her mouth and giggled loudly. I had this incredible urge to reach over and yank her hair.

"Everyone, I would like you to meet my friend Mr. Laney. Can you all say hi to Mr. Laney?"

I glared at the front of the room as the rest of the class chanted, "Hi Mr. Laney!" Mr. Laney didn't look like he was just Ms. Weever's friend, he was too tall, and too good looking, plus he was holding her hand.

"Mr. Laney and I are getting married in June." Ms. Weever lifted up her left hand to show us this dainty diamond ring that I had never noticed before today. Everyone started cheering and clapping. I felt my heart do this funny flip flop and droop to my knees.

As quick as I could, I shoved my card back into my desk; not caring that it was getting all bent and torn as I forced it past my books and folders.

The walk home felt endless, the longest trek ever, I kept my head down the entire way, kicking at all the rocks and leaves in my path. Joseph was outside playing basketball in our driveway when I reached our house. He was huffing and puffing, trying to do all these fancy moves with the ball before he sunk it into the basket. I didn't even say hi, just kept walking past him up the steps to our front door.

"Hey Matt! Want to shoot some hoops?" Joseph kept dribbling the ball all while staring at me. The whack whack whack of the ball hitting the cement annoyed me, and I frowned at him shaking my head.

"What's wrong Matt?" He took a couple of steps towards me, tilting his head to the side.

"Nothing. I have to go do my homework." I tried not to pout, but I don't think I was doing a very good job of it.

"Did the beautiful Ms. Weever give you a lot of homework today?" Joesph winked at me. I wanted to throw my backpack at him.

"No. And don't call her beautiful, she's not beautiful, she's...she's..." I frowned again at him trying to think of what word to say, "She's ugly!" and I immediately regretted it. Ms. Weever was not ugly, she was beautiful, and it just added to my frustration.

Joseph raised his eyebrows at me, the basketball forgotten and rolling away from him down the driveway, stopping at the edge of our grass. "What's wrong? What happened? Come on, tell me." Joseph was walking towards me, a look of concern written all over his face.

I sunk down onto the steps, flinging my backpack down by my feet. "Ms. Weever," I began as Joseph settled down next to me, "She brought some guy to class today. They're getting married."

"Oh." Joseph's voice was strangely low and quiet.

"He's really tall Joseph, and old! He was holding her hand, his name is Chris." I wrinkled my nose sarcastically.

Joseph gave me this half smile before shaking his head. "Sorry little brother, but you know," he paused, picking up a tiny rock in his hands and looking over at me, "Ms. Weever, she's not the girl for you."

I just stared at him, still mad, not really wanting to argue with him that Ms. Weever was the perfect woman for me.

"You see Matt, you're still a little young for girls like Ms. Weever. You need to give yourself some time. To grow up a little more, pretty soon you'll be old enough to date anyone you want, even girls prettier than Ms. Weever."

I kept staring at the rock in his hand, trying to process his words. What did Joseph mean I could date anyone I want? Was there some kind of wondrous age that once you reached it, girls would magically be yours? Besides, there was no one prettier than Ms. Weever, I mean sometimes Laura would come to school with her hair all curly and pink ribbons flowing all through it, and I thought it was pretty, but she was no Ms. Weever.

"Hu?" I shrugged at him.

Joseph threw his big old arm around my shoulders and gave me a little shake. "Come on Matt, let's go over to the Dairy Queen and get some ice cream before dinner. My treat."

I could feel my mouth turning up a little bit and I nodded my head.

"And then after your piano lesson we'll play some hoops, I'll show you how to sink a shot that'll impress any girl. Who cares about Ms. Weever, you'll have tons of girls falling all over you." He winked at me.

I just grinned at him, "Like Ms. Weever?" I asked.

Joseph chuckled loudly, "Yeah, like Ms. Weever."

"Mr. Steele, your sponsor said you missed the last two meetings at the center. Is this correct?"

I sat dejectedly in Dr. Whitewater's small office staring out past him to the window, watching all the cars whiz by. They all seemed to be in suck a rush, not realizing that time was just passing them by, and in their hurry, they were missing out on all that was truly important.
The second hand on his big, round clock moved languidly, slowing down on purpose, trying to spite me whenever I was in his office.
I didn't want to answer Dr. Whitewater. I knew I missed those two meetings, I knew I would suffer the consequences. I just didn't want to do it today.
"Mr. Steele?" Dr. Whitewater set down his clipboard and stared at me, waiting for me to answer. He had figured me out weeks ago, that as long as he was patient and didn't piss me off, I would eventually answer him.
"I just didn't feel like going." I ran my hand through my hair, still staring out the window. I didn't tell him why I didn't feel like going.
"I see. And did you give Louis notice that you would be absent?" Dr. Whitewater didn't shift his gaze off my face, it was making me uncomfortable.
"Is there any particular reason why you didn't attend?" he began tapping his foot against the wooden leg of his desk. The noise felt so loud in my ears.
"No." I was getting annoyed now, the tapping, the cars whizzing by, the damn clock moving so slowly and ticking so loudly.
"Are you sure Mr. Steele? No reason? Nothing at all?"
"I already said it was nothing!" I leaned forward in my seat, my fingers closing around the arms of the chair in a steadfast grip. I could feel the slow burn that always started in my stomach, begin to rise throughout my body.
Dr. Whitewater didn't even flinch, "And how are you sleeping now?" He grabbed his clipboard again and began jotting down some comments with his silver pen.
"No more nightmares?" He gave me a quick glance, pausing from his writing.
"None." I lied.
He wrote a couple more things down and then finally giving out a small sigh, he lifted his head, his eyes locking to mine. "Mr. Steele, we've already talked about this. I can't help you, if you won't let me."
I said nothing, remaining silent. I knew he was right, my brain told me he was right, but my heart wouldn't give away all it's secrets, not just yet.
"Jason tells me he is willing to reschedule your two missed meetings." Dr. Whitewater's voice grew firmer and louder as he spoke. "But you have to make both of them up before the week is over. You also have to come back here on Friday and be willing to talk about why you feel you don't have to attend your meetings."
I gave him a quick nod, rising from my chair. Maybe on Friday I would tell him what I had seen at the park, what made me so angry and wild that I holed myself up in my apartment for four days straight.
"Mr. Steele, you haven't been drinking have you?"
I whipped my head around towards Dr. Whitewater in alarm. Just hearing him say those words out loud made my heart stop. It felt like the world slowed down as I opened my mouth to say something, to deny his accusation, but I couldn't move.
"Because if you are," Dr. Whitewater shifted in his seat, not taking his eyes off of me. "You need to tell me, I can always up the dose of Serax for you. It takes the edge off."
I lowered my gaze to the floor and slowly shook my head no. I didn't need any more fucking medicine. The serax did nothing for me except make me nauseated and lazy. Besides no medicine in the world could help heal the hole I carried in my heart.
Before Dr. Whitewater could utter another word I bolted out of his office, half walking, half jogging down the wide sidewalk, trying to put as much distance between us in the least amount of time. The buildings were just a blur as I made my way through the people loitering along the path.
I cringed when I passed by the park, avoiding looking at the wooden benches by the playground. I didn't want my mind to conjure up the image I had seen last week. Shoving my hands in my pockets, I briskly walked by, keeping my eyes down.
It was the sound of kids laughing and singing that made me look up again. I could see small group of them holding hands, forming this circle on the grass. They were singing, their sweet childish voices bobbing through the air around me. My feet froze when I saw a pretty girl holding a guitar in her hands, strumming in tune to the music being sung.
I had to look twice before I realized that it wasn't Sarah singing to the kids, but another young girl, probably their babysitter or something.
I watched them for a second, until I could feel the ache in my heart reminding me of what I had lost, and I turned away from them and kept walking.

It took me two weeks of following Sarah around campus after our first meeting in the Coffee House before I got the courage to talk to her again. In fact the first time we actually talked wasn't in the Coffee House at all, but near the music building. After seeing her play the guitar, I figured a girl that talented would hang around the music department during her free time.
I was right.
I found Sarah sitting by herself in one of the sound proof rooms holding that same Roger McGuinn guitar in her hands. Her hair flowing down her back, her eyes closed as she sang to herself. I could see her perfectly since one of the entire walls facing the hallway was made of soundproof glass.
It took me all but two minutes to frantically search the band room for an instrument to play and I grabbed the first guitar I saw, my fingers closing over the wooden neck tightly. I thanked my lucky starts that no one was using the soundproof room across from hers, and I settled myself onto the small leather bench facing the glass wall, all while keeping my eye on her.
My fingers strummed the strings lightly, trying to get acquainted with the feel of another guitar besides my own. A few frail notes drifted around the room, the longer I stared at Sarah, the stronger those notes became, until eventually a bright bold melody danced all around me. The notes rose and swirled high throughout the room, falling gracefully upon my ears like a waterfall.
Just when the song reached its peak Sarah opened her eyes and looked right at me, her eyes were bright and admiring; almost as if she could hear the music I was playing. She sat completely still for a few seconds, her finger frozen on her own guitar just watching me, and then, just when my song was fading away, she smiled, picking up her hand and giving me a little wave.
I'm pretty sure I grinned back at her and nearly dropped the guitar in my haste to wave back. Her mouth opened and I could tell she was laughing at me, but I didn't care, because then, she picked up her hand and gestured me over to her.
It felt like forever as I stood up, grabbing the guitar in one hand and my backpack in the other. I pulled open my door and walked those three steps hers. When I opened her door she looked up at me and said,
"Hi! You're Matthew right?"
When my name fell from her lips I knew I was hooked. I don't think anyone had ever said my name so beautifully before.
I just grinned at her.
"You've been to the Coffee House right? Your friend is dating my friend Cassie. I didn't know you play guitar." Her voice was so light and alluring; it guided me to her, pulling me closer as each second ticked by.
"Hey," I finally found my voice. "Yeah, I'm Matthew. It's nice to see you again Sarah."
She smiled at me all cute and shy, nodding her head. It struck me that perhaps she was just as nervous as me.
"Is that yours?" She pointed to the guitar in my hands, my gaze lingered on her long slender finger, her smooth creamy skin. I wondered what it would feel like to hold her hand in mine.
"Um no. This belongs to the band room. I just borrowed it to practice. My guitar is back at my apartment." I looked down at the guitar I held in my hands, not wanting to look her in the eyes just yet or else I knew I would start fumbling with my words like a fucking idiot.
"This is my baby." She patted her guitar affectionately, "His name is Clocks."
"Clocks?" I tilted my head to the side. She giggled.
"It's a silly story really, when I turned ten I told my dad I wanted a coo coo clock for my birthday, but he gave me this guitar instead. So I named it Clocks, I was a weird kid."
I chuckled softly, "I don't think that's weird."
"Ah well, you don't know me very well yet, just give yourself some time." She laughed.
And I laughed with her, hoping beyond hope that we would have all the time in the world.

"She's gorgeous Joseph. I mean you have to see her. You need to come down to the campus and have lunch with me or something so I can show her to you."
Joe just laughed at me and kept dribbling the basketball. I hated playing basketball, but still did it every Friday afternoon, just to hang out with him.
Joseph lived with his girlfriend Roxanna in this small condo near the edge of town. They been together ever since they met when they were kids. Even though everyone, namely my parents, were pressuring them to get married; they were content to live together for the time being.
"What's her name?" Joseph spun around me smiling, and jumped up slamming the ball into the hoop and hanging there for a second before landing on the ground next to me.
"Sarah." I grinned.
"Sarah, that's a pretty name." Joseph shot his arms out and passed me the basketball; it slammed past my grip and into my chest, nearly taking my breath away. "When are you going to see her again?" He asked.
"She asked me if I wanted to practice with her Monday after class." My words were coming out in little pants as I tried to catch my breath.
"Practice? Practice what?" Joseph gave me a sly smile raising one eyebrow at me.
"The guitar," I stressed, "That's the best part, she plays the guitar, she knows how to sing too."
"Whoa. The guitar. So she's gorgeous and knows how to play." Joseph winked at me, "Maybe little brother, after all this time, you've finally found the girl for you."

The nights are always the worst for me. I am usually frantic once the clock reaches midnight. By then I know I won't be able to fight off sleep much longer, fight off the nightmares.
I've tried everything, reading, watching mindless TV, playing an imaginary piano or guitar. I didn't have an instrument here in this run down place. It would most likely get stolen anyways. My own guitar was back at our house, probably still propped up in its rack next to Clocks. It has been years since I seen Sarah play. After we got married and bought our first house I made sure all our instruments had a place to sit. We had an entire room dedicated to our music. I always thought Sarah would go on to become a music teacher or a singer but she never did. She always told me her music was just for fun.
I wondered briefly if she was ever going to teach Henry to play. A new flash of pain filled my heart making me shut my eyes and sigh. I thought I was going to be the one to teach him. I should be the one to teach him, but I wasn't there. And until I could slay these demons that lived inside me, I would never be there. Time was just passing me by...

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