Always Alone

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Chapter Four

"EVERYTHING WENT PERFECT!" I say to Mom on Monday after school as I drive home.

I tell her about Mrs. Ruiz who's been teaching for fifteen years and how helpful she was. As soon as I walked into the classroom, she went over the roster and past test scores with me, letting me know the students who are in need of major help while those who like to act out and need to be kept busy.

For the thirty minutes, she showed me the class schedule and explained how parent pickup works.

"Oh, I'm so glad," Mom says happily. I can hear muffled sounds coming from the background and can only assume it's Dad waiting for a chance to get a word in. "You'll get your five minutes, Frank. Relax."

I laugh at her mandating voice. "Mom, let me talk to Dad for a little."

While my parents aggravate me at times, I can't deny that they're the first people I want to talk to when I have good news. The first ones I call when I'm in trouble, too. They just know the answer to everything and for the most part, are very supportive of my dreams. I might not see them every day as I used to, but I know they'll always be there for me when I need advice, guidance, or a simple chat.

"Fine, Genevieve, but don't you ever forget, I gave birth to you," she reminds me. How can I forget when she reminds me every chance she gets?

"Hey, I helped, too!" Dad says as he reaches the line, making me burst into giggles. "Hi, sweetie, tell me all about your first day."

Retelling the story once more, I mention how the students treated me and their curiosity as to where I was all this time. I explained I lived in Pennsylvania, which prompted questions as to where that country was, in which I answered it was a state, making the meet-and-greet into a social studies lesson.

"They asked me so many questions, Dad. How old I was, why did I take so long to be their teacher, what I was doing this whole time; they're precious," I say, remembering Daniel, one of my second graders, who was inquisitive towards me. He'll make a great investigator.

It really wasn't as bad as I had thought and it felt like I was finally in my element. The eight hours passed by like a cloud, not feeling like I was working, rather me doing what I was born to do.

Dad says proudly, "I knew it, Genna. I knew you'd make a fine teacher." He clears his throat, that's when I know the conversation is going to turn serious. "Next week is Thanksgiving, have you bought your ticket yet?"

I knew I was forgetting something. I palm myself on the forehead. "No, not yet. I get Wednesday off, so I was thinking of going then. I still have to fill out some paperwork for Angie to be able to take her on the plane and then I'll be all set."

Turns out she doesn't need a passport, rather a certificate to travel from state-to-state.

"Well, don't forget to get those tickets already. If you need any money let me know."

"I will," I say, ending the conversation.

However, I won't ask them for money. They've already bought me furniture and I still have money left from my scholarships, not to mention the money I saved up while living with them when I was substituting and going to school.

My mind drifts to the tattooed man at the gym. I found the paper with the code to access the fitness center but I haven't gotten the guts to go in, thinking maybe he'll be there.

I started running along the walking trail on Saturday, though, after five minutes of a full sprint, I lost my breath and had to walk the rest of the way home. Sunday, I gave it another shot and was able to run half the trail without losing my breath.

I've never been into physical activity but over these past two days, I've developed a liking for it. Running gave me the space my mind needed—after going over the lesson plans and reports—to get back on track and recharge.

The rush of endorphins gave me a natural high as I focused on something other than myself. And the best part was that after each run, I rewarded myself with a slice of pecan pie for doing such a fine job. What's the point of exercising if you can't eat what you want, right?

As soon as I get home, I take Angie out to potty. Taking her a quarter of the walking trail, I inhale the balmy weather and walk a little more, passing by the pool.

I just want to see if he's there, that's all.

From the other side of the lake, I can see the lights in the gym are on. A few people are running on the treadmills. I stand up on my toes to get a better a view. I've officially gone from being a teacher to a creepy stalker.

My heart starts to thump faster when I see him on the far treadmill. He's wearing the same gray shorts and white shirt as last time.

A bead of sweat rolls down his forehead as he surges forward with adrenaline. I could stay here all night, watching this specimen of a man work out. But I have to get home and take a shower.

I watch a quick episode of Jeopardy before calling it a night. As my lids begin to shut, I hear it again. The shouting and yelling from a few nights ago always seems to happen at night.

This time the voices seem closer than before like they're next to my apartment. I want to stand up and peek through the blinds, but what if they see me? I stay put and listen closely for the sole reason that maybe things could get out of hand and I might have to call the police.

"You're being too fucking loud, Alexa," the male voice hushes.

"I don't give a fuck! I'll be as loud as I want," she screams. "How can you do this to me?"

"I'm not speaking to you when you are being unreasonable. I didn't do anything. I would never cheat on you. I'm not that type of guy," he says, sounding exasperated.

"Then why don't you want me? A few months ago you were dying to have me and now you can't even get it up!"

"Stop! Stop speaking so loud. I can't take it anymore. Shut the fuck up! I don't know why this is happening to me. Maybe I'm not attracted to you anymore. I'm bored and my body has had enough of you."

Then, I hear a loud smack, like someone getting slapped and the screech of tires. Well deserved, the asshole had it coming. Why would Alexa go back to the man after she promised she wouldn't?

I'm dying to see what these people look like.

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