Homecoming Chapter 1


          “Gail, you’re not going to believe this!”
          Gail looked up from the table in the teacher’s lounge where she was eating lunch and smiled at Sherry, but she didn’t react.   Everything was drama to Sherry, and whatever news she was so urgently delivering would likely not change Gail’s life—or even her afternoon.
          “What won’t I believe?”
          Sherry dropped into a chair across from her and leaned eagerly across the table.
          “They hired a new gym teacher!” she hissed.
          Gail nodded slowly.  As she’d suspected, the news wasn’t earth shattering thus far.  When Greg Vales, the 60-something physical education teacher who had been at the school for nearly forty years, had retired unexpectedly after a stroke, she’d assumed that he’d be replaced.
          “And?” Gail asked.
          “He’s going to coach soccer, too.”  Sherry tried to drag out the suspense, but Gail wasn’t on the edge of her seat.  She wasn’t a big follower of school sports.
          “I like soccer players,” she conceded.
          “Yes, I know.”  Sherry giggled wickedly.  “I think you’ll especially like this one.”
          Mildly curious, Gail asked, “Have you seen him?”
          Sherry’s giggle turned to a cackle, and the handful of other teachers in the room looked in her direction.
          “Not in a long time,” Sherry whispered.
          “So you know him?” Gail prompted gently.
          “Not as well as you do!” Sherry crowed.
          Gail’s eyes widened slightly, but she reminded herself of Sherry’s tendency to blow things out of proportion. 
          Her friend noticed the subtle change in her expression, though, and pounced triumphantly.  “Yeah, you know, don’t you?”
          “No,” Gail said shortly.  “How could I know?”  But she did know, or thought she did.  Once upon a time, Gail had liked a particular soccer player quite a lot.  More, perhaps, than she’d liked any other boy in high school. She didn’t dare think further, simply forced her mind to be still until Sherry spoke again.
          “Scott Sanders.”  She giggled again.  “And I hope you can maintain some decorum.”
          Finally, Sherry’s schoolgirl giddiness infected Gail—or at least, that’s what she told herself it was—and she leaned forward and whispered, “So then you don’t think I should make out with him in the locker room?”
          “Honey,” Sherry said in a low voice, “I think you should nail him in the locker room.  But not while there are kids here, please.  You might set a bad example.”
          Despite herself, Gail enjoyed a quick vision of “nailing” Scott Sanders in the locker room.  It wasn’t much of a stretch, since she’d spent some time in there with him as a teenager.  Of course, it hadn’t gone as far as Sherry was suggesting now.  She’d been a nice girl.  Most of the time. Scott Sanders had led her places she wouldn’t have expected to go, in more ways than one.
          “Gail,” Sherry said rather loudly. 
          Gail looked at her questioningly. 
          “You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” her friend asked.
          Gail bit her lip and looked away, not quite laughing.  “I didn’t even know you were talking,” she admitted.
          Sherry laughed out loud.  “I knew you’d be like this,” she said.  “I can’t wait until he comes walking into the room.”
          “I can wait,” Gail said honestly.  Her nerves were jangled merely at the memory of Scott, at her own reaction to the mention of his arrival.  She hadn’t been able to maintain her decorum alone at the lunch table with Sherry.  How would she react when he suddenly appeared in front of her?
          “This is dumb, right?” she asked her friend.
          “Dumb?”  Sherry smiled.  “Do you mean it’s dumb that they’re hiring Scott Sanders, or dumb that at almost thirty you can’t handle the idea of seeing him again, or dumb that you almost passed out when I suggested nailing him in the locker room?”
          “Um, yeah.  I mean, not that they hired him.”
          “So let’s see,” Sherry said, clearly enjoying herself.  “Do I think it’s dumb that you’re nervous about seeing the man who drove you so insane in high school that you were willing to break the rules for possibly the only time in your life?”
          She appeared to consider.
          “Do I think it’s dumb that you’re already fantasizing about a guy you haven’t seen in a decade, just because you were more attracted to him than you’ve ever been to another man, so much so that you were consistently willing to throw caution—and your better judgment—to the wind?”
          The blush Gail felt creeping up her cheeks was as reminiscent of high school as the memories playing through her mind.  As much as she would have liked to object, Sherry’s summary was pretty much right on target.
          “Hell, no,” Sherry said.  “I’ll bet you’re terrified.  And you have good reason to be.”
          Gail shook her head.  “I’m sure I don’t, Sherry.  I’m sure that things have changed a lot in ten years.  I’m sure Scott has changed a lot in ten years.”
          Sherry grinned.  “You’re thinking he’ll be less attractive?”
          “I’m thinking he’ll be less provocative,” Gail said firmly.  And, of course, she was far less likely to be provoked.  She was an adult now, not an innocent schoolgirl dazzled by her first exposure to real sex appeal.  Even if he were exactly as he’d been in high school, her reactions would certainly be different.  Her tolerance, for instance, for his passing relationships with multiple women would be much reduced.  Surely his lighthearted charm would seem more superficial and far less compelling at this age. And his ability to override her reason with suggestions about dark hallways and unlocked closets would have vanished.  She giggled.
          “I wouldn’t cut class for him anymore,” she said to Sherry.
          She’d said it lightly, intended it to be a joke, but Sherry said, “That remains to be seen, doesn’t it?”
          And Gail told herself no, that it did not remain to be seen.  She got up and started cleaning up the table, assuring herself that those days were long gone and that her common sense and sense of responsibility were stronger than her libido today, even if they hadn’t been in her high school days.  She told herself, too, that Scott Sanders would be subdued, somehow faded.  That he would no longer radiate such sexual energy that it touched her from across the room.  It seemed impossible that he could have continued to do so for so many years, seemed as if it must be a finite supply that would be long gone by now.  Almost certainly, she would be disappointed when she saw him and recognized that the magical spark he’d carried as a boy had long since departed.
          But even as she told herself those things, even as she promised herself that Sherry was wrong, that Scott’s sway over her sensibilities was long since past, she remembered the intoxicating thrill of his presence—something she hadn’t felt since high school.  Even as she reassured herself that such a thing could not happen today, she longed for that swept-away passion she was suddenly remembering so clearly.

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