"I guess we should get going. What if someone sees us? I don't wanna get caught!" I say apprehensively, sitting on Jackson's lap, under a secluded tree which is in our school courtyard.
"Oh Rosie, is this your first time bunking a class?" He asks me while shifting me slightly in his lap. I turn around to straddle him and place my hands on his shoulders.
"Well, yeah. What if daddy finds out? He's going to be so upset." I say, gasping. Jack shakes his head with a smile and pulls me closer by my waist to kiss my forehead.
"You aren't smuggling drugs to school, Rosie. You're just bunking, calm down. I'm there for you." He says, laughing.
"But-" he interrupts me by kissing my lips gently, his hands sneak around my waist and pulls me flush against his chest. I pull away panting softly for breath. He looks at me with a sly smirk.
"Not that guilty about bunking now, are we?" He asks. I can feel the heat in my face, creeping up its way to my neck. I place my head on his shoulder shyly. He breaks into a fit of laughter before taking me into a tight bear hug.
"My Rosie." He whispers to himself after kissing my head.
"Ms Harper, Ben just pulled my pigtail." Betty, one of my students, says with a pout. I chuckle at her cuteness and make my way towards Ben whilst holding Betty's hand.
"Ben? I heard that you pulled this pretty girl's pigtail. Is that true now?" I ask mockingly. Ben looks at me through his lashes and then looks down, shaking his head. I internally coo at his cuteness. This was one of the reasons why I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. No matter how horrible my day is, once I'm around these kids, they naturally make me forget about my problems. They seem to have this power and innocence which does wonders to your stress. I crouch down to his height and place my finger under his chin, to get a better look at the little liar's face.
"Ben, don't you know it's bad to lie?" I ask him whilst rubbing Betty's back who is looking at him with a cute frown. Ben slowly nods his head and looks at me.
"Sorry, Ms Harper." He says lowly.
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to, Ben." He looks at Betty and then looks down.
"Sorry, Betty." He mumbles. Betty's face lights up like a bulb as soon as she gets an apology.
"It's okay Ben." She giggles, scooting closer to him which makes him blush. Oh my God, I'm gonna die from diabetes if I stay here any longer with these sweet children. I get up from my crouched down position and head towards my table, stacking up the papers that have to be graded.
"Alright kids, have you all packed your things? Your parents will be here any minute." I ask my second grade munchkins.
"Yes Ms Harper." They all say in unison, which brings a smile to my face. Gosh, children are so innocent and pure, it aches my heart since I don't have one of my own. It's not that I don't want to, it's just that, I still haven't found 'the one'.........not after Jack.
I'm sitting on the floor whilst drinking my coffee and grading the papers I have stacked up on the coffee table, which are due tomorrow. It's past 11 PM and my eyelids are growing heavier with every second. I don't normally stay up this late, but today I had a butt load of errands to run because of which I reached home late. My phone goes off and I answer it without looking.
"Hello?" I say, not taking my eyes off of the papers.
"Rose?" My mother asks sniffling.
"Mom? What happened? Is everything okay? Why are you crying?" I get off the floor and move over to the couch.
"Oh honey, it's your father. He.........had a heart attack." She says sobbing.
"What? Oh my God! How- when did this happen?" I ask. My hands were shaking and I was finding it difficult to stay still.
"He was completely fine this morning before leaving for work. But then I got a call from his workplace later, this afternoon." She said breaking down. I try my best to hold the tears back in.
"Well, w-what are the doctors saying about it? Will he be okay?" I asked pacing back and forth in my living room.
"The doctors said that he's fine now, but it was a close call and he might not have made it if we were late in bringing him."
"Don't worry mom. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Alright baby. We'll be waiting. I love you."
"Love you too mom." I immediately hang up and call my friend, who is also my colleague.
"Rose? Why are you calling this late? All okay?" She asks groggily.
"I'm so sorry for calling you this late, Jessy. But I need a huge favour. My mom just called, and she said that daddy had a heart attack. So I gotta be there as soon as possible. But I have a few papers that have to be graded and are due tomorrow-"
"Don't worry about all that. I'll grade them and hand them over to the parents myself. You should get going." She interrupts me.
"Thank you so much, Jess. It means so much, you've got no idea." I sigh.
"Don't worry about this, girl. I'll be there in 10 minutes to collect the papers."
I wipe another tear sliding down my cheek as I drive towards the highway. I keep calling my mom every hour to update myself. The drive to my parents' place is awfully silent. So to distract myself I turn the radio on, I fiddle with the buttons till I switch to my desired channel. I lean back against the headrest and let out a loud sigh whilst driving. My hands begin to sweat as I view the hospital from a distance. I pull over to the parking lot and head towards the receptionist.
"Rose?" I look behind to see my mom approaching me with open arms. She takes me into a tight hug and breaks down.
"I was so scared, Rose. I thought I lost him." She says lowly. I rub her back and kiss her head.
"Nothing is going to happen to him, mom. Take me to his room, please." I say, wiping her tears off. She nods her head and makes her way towards his room while holding my hand. As soon as we enter his room, I see several tubes attached to him, and an oxygen mask put over his nose and mouth. I let out a quiet sob before sitting on the chair beside his bed and taking his hand. As soon as I do that, he slowly opens his eyes and looks at me.
"Hey honey." He says, his voice sore and hoarse. I smile at him and kiss his hand, gently stroking the back of it.
"You scared me there, old man." I say with a teasing smile.
"Aye, you are old. I haven't aged since 30." He says with a proud smile which breaks my heart into a thousand pieces.
"I'll get us a cup of coffee. We might have to stay the night over." My mother says with a soft smile, placing her hand on my shoulder. I nod my head and divert my attention to my dad who has closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
I peck his forehead before heading towards the door. As soon as I reach the door, it opens from the outside and a doctor enters the room.
"Hello, Ms Harper, I am Dr Mark," He says bringing his hand forward. I shake his hand with a polite smile.
"Hello doctor, I'm Rose Harper. How is his condition?" I ask him jumping straight to the point. The doctor glances at daddy's report before looking at me.
"Well, Ms Harper, I'll have to say that it's for the best we keep him here for the next few days. He needs to be under our observation for a while. He had a close shave today, I don't think he would've made it if he was brought in here any later than a few minutes. Now if you'll excuse me, Ms Harper." He says looking at me sympathetically before leaving the room. In the meantime, mom comes in with two cups of steaming hot coffee.
"Here." She says handing me one of the cups.
"Thanks mom." I say kissing her cheek. I sit by daddy's bed as I take a sip of my coffee. Mom pulls another chair to my side and sits on it.
"Mom, I was thinking of moving back here, with you guys." I say. She looks at me, promptly and pats my arm.
"Are you sure about that honey?" She asks.
"Yeah mom, I mean, I can't leave you and dad."
"What about your school baby? It's just been 3 months since you've joined."
"I can leave school mom. I'll work in a school here, in Fairfield."
"But Rose, the school you're working in now, pays you so well. It's a very secure job. I don't think you'll get such good schools to work in here."
"No honey. I can let you stay here for a couple of weeks on emergency leave, but you have to get back to your job later on. This is a golden opportunity that you've got. I can't let you ruin it. And regarding your father, I'm here for him, Mrs. Keller is there for us. We're not alone, Rose." She says holding my hand.
"Oh and speaking of Mrs Keller, she said that there was a letter delivered to her address today. It was from the Armed Forces." She says the last part lowly, which immediately catches my attention. I looked at her incredulously. Mrs Keller and her family had bought the house that they live in, from Walden Black, that is, Jackson's father. His alcoholic father. Walden was hardly home when Jackson left to join the military. Within a few months, he sold his house and left the place, without telling anyone a word where he went. I guess Walden was exhausted since he was not receiving any news from his son. Jackson never wrote any letters to anyone when he was recruited to the military.
"What about it?" I ask, my voice wavering. I don't think I am ready to hear what my mother is about to say next.
"Jackson is coming back."
Oh dear lord.
"J-Jackson.....is?" I ask. I feel lightheaded. I think I might just collapse any minute from now. My mother nods her head at me, with a soft smile.
"He is coming back, honey." She says with assurance.
Jackson is coming back. Jack is coming back! I'm finally going to see him...........after 8 years.