a Sole Mate
I flung my arm from under the covers
on the first beep, opened one eye, groaned, and glared at the
clock radio. Six ten. I yawned, and flipped the alarm off. "Good
morning Lord, and thank you for another day".
Tossing aside the down comforter,
I rolled from the bed. Oh, for thirty more minutes of sleep.
I trudged to the bathroom and freshened
up, and then put on new navy linen pants and a bright yellow sweater.
I slid on my one extravagance, the LynnTri black pumps. They hadn't
even been on sale, but the comfort they'd provide while
standing in front of a classroom would make up for the price.
Car lights crossed the bedroom window,
and I hurried. My friend Sandra hated to wait. I grabbed my purse
and started out the front door. Yikes, my lunch. I returned to
yank it from the refrigerator.
Sandra grumbled when I climbed into
the front seat. "We're not early, Betsy."
I sighed. Sandra would need to vent,
and I'd finish my makeup. I flipped down the visor mirror,
tickled to see it lit up, powdered my freckles and pushed stray
auburn locks behind my ears. Capistrano pink lipstick in place,
I finally acknowledged my friend's complaints.
"You're right, Sandra. When
my car gets out of the shop, you won't have to pick me up."
"Your money pit will be in
the shop until second semester. Isn't there a lemon law
"They promised it would be
fixed this time." My dark blue Camry had been a purchase
a little out of my budget, but I needed reliable transportation.
Only, right now it wasn't very reliable.
Sandra pulled into the parking lot
of Johnson High School. We got out and walked to the trunk. Using
a luggage dolly, we loaded three small crates filled with papers
and folders for the writing workshop. Pulling the dolly, I headed
to the end entrance of the building. The door was exactly ninety-eight
steps away from my classroom. I'd walked the same distance
every morning for three years, since I began teaching in the small
town of Johnson, south of Houston.
The silent halls had dark shadows
leaning over with only a crust of illumination at the edges from
emergency lights. Jose, our janitor, peered around the corner
at the sound of my footsteps.
"Hey, Miss Williams, need
help?" I shook my head, and he returned to his small closet.
He stuck his head out again. "Miss Williams?"
"You met the new cop who will
work the football games?"
"Nope, didn't know about one."
I continued dragging the load behind me.
"He's your kind of man. Charming."
With that remark, Jose returned to his closet.
I stopped and watched Sandra try
to balance coffee, purse, keys, and lunch, mulling over Jose's
remark. He'd cleaned my dry erase boards one day slicing through
the words Prince Charming with an eraser.
"You got a Prince, Miss Williams?"
Jose, can't say that I do."
"What kind you want, Miss?"
I grinned, leaned back in my chair,
and stared into space. "Well, Jose, he'd have to be kind,
thoughtful, and honest. Good-looking wouldn't hurt. A noble person."
Jose's grin showed yellowed teeth.
"Then I pray for you a Prince Charming, Miss Williams. You
been nice to me, so I pray."
And, today Jose is telling me my
Prince is a police officer. Great. I would have to wait until
football season to meet him, or get a ticket.
The fluorescent beams in Sandra's
classroom stung my eyes. Rows of empty student desks sat like
sentinels waiting for a command.
At eight, teachers began filing
in, greeting one another and bemoaning their fate. Summer had
ended, and school had started. Sandra and I worked well as a team
and gave an informative presentation. By noon, everyone trekked
out for lunch.
Sandra sighed in relief. "Let's
head to the lounge and eat. I'm tired of standing."
She fumbled under the table for her green thermal lunch bag. "Where's
your lunch, Betsy? Did you put it under the table with mine?"
"Oh, good grief, it's
in your car. It's not fit to eat now. Guess I'll just
get some crackers from the vending machine."
Jose walked by. "No, you won't,
it isn't filled,"
Frustrated and hungry, I ran towards
the exit. "I'm going to catch a ride with someone
and grab a bite. I'll be back soon." I dashed to the
door and caught Caro Weese, the home economics teacher.
"We're all going to
Marcus's, okay?" asked Caro.
"Sure, anywhere's fine.
I'm starving." I jumped in the front seat.
The drive was short, and the crowds
thin, so the four of us were soon seated and nibbling tortilla
chips. The salsa opened my sinuses and caused my eyes to run,
but it was so good. We ordered and chatted about summer.
The waitress appeared balancing
a tray laden with plates. She passed out our meals, and I lowered
my head for a quick blessing. Munching and laughing, we enjoyed
lunch. Soon comparisons about the summer began.
Jennifer grinned. "I met a
cute guy at the beach."
All the ladies chimed in with questions.
Belinda eyed me. "Betsy, did you latch on to anyone this
"Just one blue-eyed doll."
"Really? Spill the beans, girl."
"Well, it was short-lived.
His mom came and picked him up from church camp." Everyone
began to laugh.
Belinda shook her head. "Betsy,
when are you going to start looking for a fellow?"
"Looking? Belinda, I'm
looking, just not finding." I shifted in my chair. I've
looked for Prince Charming since college. At twenty-eight, I'm
getting ready for Prince Pleasant. Of course, plain looking girls
didn't always get him.
"You and your church stuff.
Why won't you try the Coyote with me one night? We'll
meet some great cowboys." Jennifer winked.
"I'm not comfortable
there, Jen. I appreciate your invitation. Come with me to Bible
study, and see what you think. Maybe you'd enjoy it."
"Nope, not for me, girlfriend.
I've got to have a livelier scene."
"Miss Williams." A voice
came from the back of the restaurant, catching my attention. Three
high school boys headed towards the table. Aprons tossed over
their shoulders, they were leaving jobs in the kitchen.
"Hey, Miss Williams, how've
you been?" The tallest boy bent over and gave me a hug.
"James, it's good to
see you. Hey, guys."
The boys turned and looked at the
other three teachers. "Hello," they chimed in a monotone.
It was clear I was the favorite.
"Are you guys ready for football
The boys shifted from foot to foot
shaking their heads.
James turned his back towards the
other teachers as they stood to leave. He knelt beside my chair
to whisper, "Sure wish I had your class again, Miss Williams.
I'll miss you this year."
I smiled. "I'll see
you at the games." I grabbed his hand and gave a thumbs-up
to his friends. "I'll be on the front row, cheering
you on. Get a touchdown for me, okay?"
All three boys laughed. James stood
and said, "You've got it, Miss Williams. We'll
name a play after you. See you soon."
Jennifer polished off her glass
of tea. "I rode with Belinda, and she's in the parking
lot. Meet you back at school."
"Okay, see you there."
Fumbling through my wallet, I hoped I had enough cash to pay the
bill. I shook my purse really hard twice and groped in the bottom
for change. Counting out nickels and pennies, I found just enough
to include a tip.
I stuck my foot out to reach for
my shoe I had slipped off. My toes grazed the concrete floor.
I extended my leg a little farther, and still felt concrete. I
lifted the tablecloth. My shoe was nowhere to be seen. Turning
in place, I looked behind my chair. What in the world? A heat
burned my face. How could I've possibly misplaced my shoe?
James! More of his pranks. He'd
obviously swiped the shoe during his hug and disappeared quickly.
Limping towards the cash register,
I passed the small gift shop. A display of tennis shoes sat in
the corner. Not one to pass up a gift horse, I took a look. I
found one pair a half size too small, but in the current situation,
it would work. I dug out my American Express card. Paying for
the dinner and shoes wasn't exactly how I wanted to use
my credit, but it seemed to be an emergency at the moment.
I slid on my new pair of shoes and
handed the empty box to the cashier.
Caro and Marcus, the restaurant
owner, talked in the parking lot. "Hey, Marcus, I've
got an unusual complaint." I waved my one shoe at him. "I
lost my shoe in your restaurant."
I explained. "If you see James
or one of the other boys, would you check out their stories? If
this is one of their pranks, I'll laugh, but I want my shoe
Marcus couldn't contain his
laughter. "Okay, Betsy, I'll ask. But only you-"
"Yeah, well, I did."
My toes were cramped and complained in the new shoes.
My part of the workshop started
after lunch. The audience yawned and squirmed. I hated to teach
afternoon sessions when everyone's full and sleepy.
Around two, I announced, "Let's
take a fifteen minute break. I think we all need a stretch."
Everyone groaned in approval.
I walked gingerly down the hall
to the ladies' room, my toes rubbing the edge of the canvas
shoes. When the restroom cleared, I pulled off my shoes and rubbed
"Oh, that's good."
I stepped into the stall.
A tap at the outside door surprised
me. "Be out in a sec." The lavatory facilities at
this school were definitely in need of an upgrade, but there was
a second stall.
My feet cooled off on the tile floor
while I stood at the sink. The air dryer roared to life, and I
rubbed my fingers to dry. Only an hour left. I can do one more
I turned to slide my feet back into
the tennis shoes. They weren't there. "This is crazy.
Where are my shoes?" I peered under the doors of the stalls.
I had to pad down the hall barefooted.
I couldn't believe my luck.
"Okay, class, we need to start.
Before we do, I want to address the shoe fairy." I stuck
out my bare foot, and everyone tittered. "Some clever being
has made off with my tennis shoes. If you happen to see someone
carrying an extra pair, would you let me know?" Making light
of the situation, I continued class.
Caro's cell phone rang. She
hurriedly grabbed it, answered, and nodded, and then blurted out,
"Hey Betsy, shoe number one just appeared. Marcus found
it. James left it at the cash register, but it fell behind the
Caro's remark brought a roar
of laughter. I grinned good-naturedly. "Well, I'm
in the market for a pair of shoes. Guess I'll run by there
"Here, take my car,"
said Caro. She pitched the keys to the front of the room. "I
have to stay late today. Go get your shoe, then come back and
get me. I can take you home."
"I appreciate it, Caro. And,
class dismissed. We can allow an early break today." The
room cleared in a hurry.
"Miss Williams?" Jose
walked into the classroom. "I heard you had troubles. I
found these flip flops in the gym. You need them to go outside.
It's hot. The cheerleader girl, she took your tennis shoes.
Able cleaned that hall and saw her leave with them. She said she'd
left them in the bathroom."
"Jose, you're an angel.
Thank you so much for your help. I'll find Clarissa tomorrow and
get my tennis shoes back." I tucked the uncomfortable rubber
center between my toes and flapped out of the room.
The drive to the restaurant was
quick. I parked close and flip flopped in. Marcus snickered when
he saw my feet.
"Don't ask, Marcus,
okay? Don't ask. Just give me my shoe, and I'll be
Marcus pulled the pump from behind
the counter and handed it to me. He shook his head, laughing,
and I left.
"Thank you, Lord, for returning
my expensive shoe." The matched pair looked wonderful on
the seat beside me.
I pulled into traffic, headed back
to school. I glanced at the dashboard clock, and then heard a
screech of tires. The jolt when the truck and my car collided
caused my head to flip forward. Numbed by fright and covered with
the air bag, I sat still.
I pushed the air bag away from my
face to assess physical damage. I flexed my ankles, bent my knees,
and moved my arms. All seemed to be in working order. I swiveled
my head and a pain shot through my neck. I quickly faced forward.
A man approached. "Lady, are
you okay? I just called the police."
"Yeah, I'm okay."
I didn't mention the pain. I could hear a siren and decided
to be still until the police came. I leaned my head against the
Caro! The sudden thought bolted
through my mind. Oh no, I need to get word to Caro. I motioned
to the man standing by the car. "Sir, do you have a cell
phone I might use?"
The kind man handed me his phone.
I dialed Caro's number. The signal for cell phones wasn't
always clear in the school building, so all I got was voicemail.
I left a quick message telling Caro I'd be late. How did
I explain I'd just wrecked her car?
"Ma'am?" A deep
voice sliced into the silence.
I looked through the spider-webbed
windshield. A tall, uniformed officer stood in the sunlight. Rays
of light refracted on the shattered glass, and shot out around
his head like a halo. His mirrored glasses hid his eyes. "Are
you able to get out of the car?"
I closed my eyes against the glare,
reached over, and opened the car door. I swung my legs out, and
my flip-flops touched the sticky asphalt. As soon as I stood,
I knew the shoes were stuck to the pavement.
"I'm Officer Graham.
Do you need an ambulance? Are you injured at all?"
"I'm a little stiff
at the moment, but I don't need an ambulance," I placed
my hands on the top of the opened car door.
"I'm relieved, Ma'am.
Would you mind stepping over to my patrol car so I can speak with
I lowered my head and rested it
on my hands. "Can't, Sir. I'm stuck."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm stuck. Look at
my shoes. I'm stuck to the pavement." The ludicrous
situation would make a fine story one day. "I have other
shoes in the car. Would you mind getting them for me?"
Officer Graham peered at my feet,
and then walked around to the passenger side, found the pumps,
and handed them to me. I changed and followed him to his patrol
car, purse in hand. I sat in the front seat. When prompted, I
handed over a driver's license, and explained the ownership
of the car. The officer tapped my license on his clipboard. "Williams?
Are you a teacher?"
And call me Betsy."
"Interesting." He mumbled another word.
"Oh, Cinderella. You lost your
shoes like Cinderella."
I blushed. "Well, there's an
explanation, and not about a ball and a pumpkin."
"Too bad. You'd look good in
a ball gown." He grinned in my direction. "I'm Noble
Graham. I'll be working the football games at your school this
year. I've heard a good deal about you from a friend."
I turned my head to face him. "Ouch!" I grabbed my neck.
"You're hurt. Be still, I might need to call an ambulance. We
can't let you leave the accident if you're injured." He removed
his sunglasses and turned to examine my neck.
I opened my mouth to protest, but
no sound came out. I looked into Officer Noble Graham's
eyes for the first time and drowned in the liquid molasses pools.
He said something about whiplash, but music played in my mind.
This gorgeous hunk of a man with
no gold band on his finger fit every requirement I'd ever listed
for Prince Charming.
His strong fingers prodded the side
of my neck, but his eyes never left mine. I thought I could swim
in them forever.
After his examination of my vertebrae,
he suggested I see a doctor. I agreed I'd go later. We finished
our paperwork, and he readied to drive me to the station.
"Jose was right."
I looked heavenward and thanked
God for listening to a janitor's prayers.
Key, a freelance author in San Antonio, is a romantic at heart.
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