Always Alone

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Chapter Fourteen

MY EXCITEMENT FOR the new system in class wakes me up earlier than usual on Monday. When I get to school, I head to Mr. James' class. I knock softly on the door before trying the handle and opening it.

"Miss Peterson, good morning," Mr. James says, turning around in his chair and putting his coffee mug on the wooden desk.

I smile and walk over to the chair opposite him. "Good morning, Mr. James. Happy New Year."

He adjusts his round quirky glasses.

"Happy New Year."

"I wanted to show you the schedule for today before class starts." I reach down into my purse and take out a folder. "I hope you don't mind."

Mr. James lean back in his chair and interlocks his fingers together, placing them on his knee. "Not at all."

"I was thinking of pairing Jackson with Liam since Jackson's at a higher reading level than Liam. I also looked at Jackson's past reading scores and noticed he was having difficulty finding the main idea, the same issue Liam is having now. But Jack's test scores show that he's improved tremendously."

"You spent winter break looking through data? I'm glad Garcia hired you. I haven't seen a teacher like you in a very long time—driven and passionate; not willing to give up."

His coffee eyes laser into mine as he leans forward, placing his clad elbows on the table. "I'll do whatever you say. Guide me and I'll follow."

"You don't want to look at the schedule or pairings?"

"I trust you, Peterson." He gives me a sly smile and stands up when the bell announces it's time to pick up the kids from the courtyard.

We walk down the stairs together and part ways when I spot my screaming second graders jumping with excitement this early in the morning. Oh, God, today is going to be hectic. If only they'd stay as eager as they are right now when we start working.


I turn when I hear my name being shouted. "10:00 am, right?"

Giving him a thumbs up, I pick up my students, making sure they are in a line with their fingers on their mouth before walking to class. Once the kids have settled down and every lunch box is in its corresponding cubicle, I stand in the middle of the room and start explaining the new system.

"Boys and girls, today we have very special visitors coming to our class," I say, adding mystery to my voice. "Do you know who Mr. James is?"

Aiden raises his hand almost falling off his desk at his enthusiasm. I can't help the smile that paints my face. "Yes, Aiden?"

"He's the only boy teacher in the whole school."

I move my head side-to-side. "Hmm, he's one of the male teachers. Yes, but not the only male teacher. Remember Coach Rivera and Mr. Greyson?"

"Yeah, but Coach Rivera is really old," Carrie says from my desk.

I turn to her and tell her with my gaze that she knows better than to blurt answers in class without raising her hand. There's a reason why she sits next to me.

She scrunches up in her tiny chair and mumbles, "Sorry."

I love my kids, but I've learned that if you don't follow the rules to a tee, they won't follow them either and if you're too nice, they'll take advantage of you. Seeing Maria's hand up in the air, I call on her.

Her thick accent comes out when she says, "Mr. James is my brother's fifth-grade teacher."

"That's right. Now, Mr. James and I came up with a simple plan that we think you all will enjoy. Twice a month, his student's will come to our class and read to us."

"Woah! Fifth graders are coming to our class?"

"We are so cool!"

I agree with them, "Yeah, that's pretty awesome, right? But there's a problem."

"What is it, Miss Peterson?" Laura asks, trying her best to console me with her eyes.

I make a show of looking around the room and sag my shoulders dramatically. "I don't think our class looks very welcoming and I forgot some of the rules on how to behave and treat visitors entering our classroom."

"How about we draw pictures for them?"

"We can clean our desks and make room for them to sit with us."


My face brightens like a sunny day in Miami. "Really, you'd do that?"

"Yes!" the whole class shouts and for the first hour of class, we tidy up the room, bring more chairs from other classes, and draw banners welcoming Mr. James' class.

During lunch, I decide to give Mom a call since she still hasn't given me a call herself. I was giving her time—space to gather her thoughts, but it's been a week and nothing.

In all honesty, through his call I hope for an apology. I'm not reckless like Jess, and Devin, he's nothing like Hansel.

The phone rings for what seems like ages and on the fifth ring, I give up. The thought of her ignoring me, distancing herself from me because of a silly thought, fervents my heart like pouring magma.

Scrolling through my contacts, I see Devin's name. My finger lingers there, itching to tab on the screen, but I can't. He's been working on a new deployment for the past few days and hasn't come out of his apartment.

I haven't seen him since last Sunday when he took me to the beach. I don't want to bother him, but I need him. I need to feel him close, to show me the affection only he can.

Before I get a chance to call him, an unknown number flickers on the screen. From the area code, I can tell the caller is from Miami. I hit the red button; if it's important, they'll leave a voicemail. A second later, my phone vibrates with a new message.

Genny! Pick up the phone, it's Isa!

"Hey," I say after the second time she calls.

"Genny!" Isa chirps excitedly into the phone. "How are you?"

"I'm good and you?"

"Good, good. I wanted to invite you and Devin to a Renaissance festival next week. Lucas and Bryan are very into that whole era and Bryan wants to take the kids. I think Vale's going, too, and so is Mom. Hell, the whole family's going."

I try my hardest to picture Lucas and Bryan in my head, but can't manage to do so. I know they were at the New Year's party and Lucas is Isabel's husband, but I can't remember if Bryan is with Camila or Valentina.

"Sure, I'd love to. Have you mentioned it to Devin?"

She sighs. "No. I've been calling for a few days and he hasn't answered. I thought maybe he was with you..."

"He's been very busy with work this past week. We haven't hung out since last Sunday."

I hear shifting in the background and a voice similar to Ms. Elena's whispering, "I knew it, Isa. We should go."

"Mom, relax," Isa says into the phone. "You haven't seen him at all, you said?"

"Yeah..." What's going on?

"Shit. Umm, okay. Thanks, Genny. I'll see you next week."

She hangs up without giving me a chance to say goodbye or ask what is going on.

Later that day, when I get home and have showered, I decide to run upstairs and knock on Devin's door like he's done to me so many times before. His deployment must have ended by now and he's usually around at this time.

To be totally honest, I have an uncontrollable need to kiss him and hug him, and just be close to him. I skip the steps like Little Red Riding Hood on her way to Grandma's house—naïve and unaware of any danger lurking in the trees.

After knocking a few times and not hearing life from inside the apartment, I exhale a disappointing breath and walk down the stairs, noticing his BMW parked on the lot. My heart jackhammers into my chest and my palms begin to sweat at the thought of Devin hearing my calls and knocks and not caring enough to open the door.

I rush down the steps and into my bedroom with Angie following behind me. She knows something's wrong with Mommy. I can see it in her downcast eyes and the way she curls up close to my face and licks the tears I didn't know were flowing from my eyes.

"Oh, Angie." I snuggle close to her, seeking the comfort and love I desperately need.

I've never felt so alone in my life. Mom and Dad haven't bothered to call me. I expected more from them than to treat me like this. I expected so much more. I haven't seen or heard from my boyfriend in a few days and it's not like he lives miles away from me—he lives upstairs.

"Is this normal? I don't know how to feel. I don't know if this is how I'm supposed to feel because right now, I feel like my heart has cracked a little."

Why insist on being his girlfriend if he's going to ignore me afterward? Why show me bits of himself if he's going to throw me away like a pigsty dishcloth?

I let my thoughts rest in my brain for a while before deciding to send him a message. I tell myself that if he doesn't reply by tomorrow, I'll let my premature feeling for him go.

Hey, Dev. I hope the deployment went well. I miss you xo

The rest of the week passes by spontaneously fast. The only good thing about it is that Mom has finally called and apologized for the way she handled the situation when I told her about Devin. She tells me she was afraid of history repeating itself and because she lives so far away, she feels incompetent in offering any guidance.

Mom wanted to talk about Devin, but I told her that things were a little rocky now. He didn't bother to answer my text and his car is still parked in the same spot. I know he's home and for some reason unknown to me, he's ignoring me.

She tries not to sound relieved but fails with her chirpy voice. Anger rises in my tailbone and grows through my spine until it conquers my thoughts with insolent questions.

What is she expecting of me? To become a nun? To never fall in love or experience the touch of a man? To preserve myself like a mummy until I die and then, then I can finally live my God-given life?

The more I think about it, the angrier I become—at Dad for not telling Mom to stop, at her for anticipating my future, but most of all at Devin because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in this tussled mess. I would've been oblivious to my parent's true feelings and my own wouldn't hurt as much as they do.

And this is how I find myself knocking on his door Saturday afternoon. I'm going to give him a piece of my mind. I don't care if he thinks I'm crazy, frankly, I have nothing to lose.

When I see the door handle begin to turn, my heart skyrockets to my throat. I really didn't think this through. What in the world am I going to say to him? What if he treats me horribly?



What was I thinking?

I quickly turn around before the door opens and walk down the stairs, but I'm stopped by a familiar pitched voice excitedly screaming my name.


Plastering a smile on my face, I turn around. "Isabel, how are you?"

"I'm good. Do you like it?" she twirls in place, showing me her outfit. "It's wench day."

She's wearing a burgundy skirt with a high slit that shows off her brown boots. The green bodice with yellow ruffles, accentuates her hourglass figure, drawing the eye to her raised breasts. Her hair is made up of chocolate tendrils with a crown of flowers atop her head.


She comes closer to me and whispers in my ear, her cheeks flushing, "A Renaissance prostitute." Scanning my shorts and t-shirt, her eyes switch from joyful to narrow slits when she rests both hands on her hips. "You're not ready."

"Ready for what?"

I try to disentangle myself from her deadly grip as she guided me inside the apartment, fail terribly. She shut the door behind me, making it impossible for me to leave and drawing all eyes in the living room to me.

Devin's eyes connect with mine. His brows knit as he walks to me. I offer an apologetic smile and fiddle with my feet, looking everywhere but at him.

"Hey," he breathes out and kisses my temple, sounding relieved to see me. I close my eyes, dwelling his soft lips on my mine. It's only when he's gone and comes back, that I realize how much I've truly missed them.

"She's not ready. You're just like Devin. Even the kids are dressed. Even Mom!" Isa pouts, pointing at her nephews.

Devin and I aren't paying any attention to her complaints. Our eyes have locked, filled with so many unanswered questions.

Why did you ignore me?

Are we still together?

Were you with Alexa?

I told myself I'd let my rising feeling for him fall to the ground, to be taken by the wind far, far away from me. But being so close to him, I can feel our bodies charging with an overpowering flow of electricity. All I yearn to do is kiss him—to conduct our lips together and let the electric charge shock our senses silly.

"Uncle Devin," a little boy tugs on his jeans and breaks our current. Devin gets down as the little boy whispers loud enough for me to hear, "She's the pretty lady looking for the bathroom."

I smile at him and squat down. He hides his face in Devin's neck. "You must be Gabriel. I'm Genevieve."

"Say hi, Gabe," Devin encourages him.

There's nothing sexier than a man with a child. Now my brain is filled with images of Devin surrounded by blonde children with green eyes. I quickly shake the thought out. No way, Genevieve. Get your head in the game.

"Hi," Gabe whispers and kisses me on the cheek, his face turning red as he rushes back to the couch to cover his flaming cheeks under a decorative pillow.

"He likes you."

"I can always tell with little kids. Never quite with adults, though."

"Genny..." he pleads and reaches for my hand just as I pull away.

"I should go."

"What?" Isa stands from her place and walks to me. "You can't leave. The whole family's going."

"I'm sorry, Isa. You're very nice, but I don't form part of this family."

"You're my girlfriend," Devin interjects. "Of course you're part of my family."

"Am I? because you haven't seen me in a week. You didn't answer my phone calls, my texts, even when I knocked on your door, you still didn't answer."

Isa looks up at Devin and gives him a look that says he messed up—he messed up big time. But then their gaze changes from a big sister reprimanding her little brother to compassion and...pity.

They talk to each other through their eyes. It's a bond only siblings have the privilege to hold. I know this because I had it with Jess; whenever I looked at her, I knew exactly what she was thinking, feeling, and what she was about to do next.

"Devin..." she begs. He shakes his head, preventing her from saying more.

He turns to the couch and walks over to Lucas while Isabel tries to convince me to go to a festival I have no desire of going.

"Genny, please, it'll be fun. You don't even have to talk to him. He can be an asshole at times, but I promise he has his reasons." I shake my head, halting her from proceeding.

It's only fair for her to defend him, but I won't fall for that. I can't go to that festival; I won't go. Whatever those reasons are he needs to speak with me instead of disappearing for days. What kind of boyfriend does that, anyway? I mean, I've never been in a relationship before, but I know people don't just leave and show up expecting their partner to be all lovey-dovey now they're back.

"Genny?" I turn to the small voice, seeing Gabriel looking up at me with puppy eyes similar to Angie's.

"Hi, Gabe."

"Can you go, please?" My eyes instantly land on Devin who's whispering something to the other boy sitting next to Lucas.

I let out a breath and squat to his height. "I don't think so, sweetie."

The other little boy comes to my side and says, "My cousin Gabe is very sad because you're not going. He came here with Aunt Isa just to see you and now you won't go?"

I look at Devin incredulously, his smug smile is the Devil himself.

Oh, great. This is just great.

He really doesn't play fair.

First, he makes me choose between drowning or being his girlfriend and now I have the option of spending the day with him or making kids cry.

"Okay, I'll go but keep him away from me." I point to Devin who gives me a seductive wink. He wants to play? Fine, let's see how long he's willing to play for.

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