The Force of Gravity(6)

By: Kelly Stevenson

Oh, man. What am I doing?

My mom enters the doorway and sets down a fresh steaming cup of coffee.

“Thank you,” I say, grateful, bringing it to my lips.

“I still think you’re too young to be drinking this.”

“I’m eighteen,” I say. “And you’re just an enabler.”

She laughs and then examines me. “You look really beautiful this morning.”

My heart skips a beat. “I do?”

“Yes. I mean you’re always beautiful, Kay, but I don’t know.” She smiles, her eyes glistening. “My baby’s growing up.”

“Mom,” I grumble.

She laughs at her own weepiness. “Sorry, I’m just having a moment here.” She admires me as I put the finishing touches on my makeup. “Will you be home tonight?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Your dad and I want to have a family meeting.”

I turn to her. “What’s going on?”

She glances at her watch. “You better get going, or you’ll be late. We’ll talk tonight.” She gives me a kiss on the cheek before turning away.

Apparently, I took an extra twenty minutes getting ready this morning. Underneath my denial, I know the reason, but I plead ignorance to my conscience.

THE NORMAL BUZZ and chaos swarms the hallways as I enter the building. I slowly make my way to first period and take a deep breath before entering. Mr. Slate is vigorously cleaning the whiteboard as I stride up the center aisle. Butterflies tickle my stomach while I quietly slip into my seat.

Stupid butterflies.

He wears expensive-looking gray slacks with a white button-down shirt, neatly tucked in. The thin material suggests a muscular back as his arms move back and forth across the whiteboard. I cross my legs as I take in his full body and realize this guy is packing quite the physique underneath his designer clothes. When he turns around, I snap back to reality and flip open my math book. With my gaze fixed on a random page, I hold my breath as he walks over to his desk. I can’t handle any possible eye contact right now. After the last of the students trickle in, he takes attendance.

When he calls my name, our eyes lock, and electric shock rushes through me. My throat tightens, stifling my reply, so the best I can manage is a slight nod. His penetrating eyes release mine, and I exhale, sinking into my chair. So much for things being back to normal today. I’ve had nine hours of sleep and a cup of coffee—I’m out of excuses.

After he’s through taking roll, he writes on the upper right-hand corner of the whiteboard:



“Okay, you guys,” he says, unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt. “I’m offering study sessions to anyone who wants extra help. I know they’re on Fridays, but after going through the grade book, many of you could really benefit.” He sets his cufflinks down on his desk and slowly rolls up his sleeves, revealing nicely sculpted forearms. “I will stay as late as needed, so I don’t want to hear any excuses. It’s right here,” he says, tapping the board with his knuckle, “so don’t make me say it over and over. It’s your responsibility to get some help if you need it. Okay?”

Sorry, can you repeat that? I couldn’t hear over your forearms.

My palm sweats around my pencil as I scribble down notes throughout his lecture. He’s pretty good at explaining things, but if I don’t start focusing on precalculus instead of his broad shoulders, my grade is going to plummet fast. This is absurd. So his body is cut like an equilateral triangle, big deal. I’ve never been distracted by muscles like this. I’m a sensible girl—an honor student for goodness sake!

At the end of the hour, Mr. Slate hands back our tests we took the Friday before spring break.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t get these to you sooner, but I just got them yesterday and graded them last night.”

The thought of someone retrieving our ungraded tests from our deceased math teacher is not only morbid, but disturbing. The class falls silent, and I’m sure everyone is picturing the same scene. Since Mr. Slate is still learning everyone’s names, he has to call each student up to get their tests. But when he calls my name, he looks directly at me. My legs are weak as I stand up to approach his desk.

“Nice work,” he says, his warm brown eyes burning through me.

I peer down at my test and frown—a low B. As I walk back to my desk, I examine each page, analyzing every mistake. After a few minutes, I collect my things and wander toward the door, still scanning the last page of my test. By the time I look up, I realize everyone else is already gone.

With my books cradled against my chest, I stand at the back of the classroom and observe as he diligently erases the whiteboard, his tantalizing back muscles rooting me to the floor. Feeling my gaze, he turns his head and does a double-take. He stops erasing the board and slowly turns around.

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