Steven wiped the sweat from his brow and took a seat at the desk. It was another summer scorcher and the school board didn't see it in their budget to use the air conditioning for such a small group of students.
40-year-old Steven wondered why he even volunteered for this assignment every year. Was it really for the noble purpose of helping a few wayward students get their diploma without having to return for a fifth year of high school.... or was it because he didn't have anything else in his life? He realized his life left a lot to be desired. Bachelorhood in your 20's is one thing. By middle age it can be a depressing, lonely existance.
A few students straggled in. It was this way every year. Some tardiness was probably to be expected by a group of teenagers who'd rather be almost anywhere but school. Especially on a hot and sunny summer day. A few were appreciative of this opportunity but others only endured it because their parents made them. Some blew it off entirely. Steven did his best to educate the few who made it to class but as long as they at least showed up they could count on passing. And passing was good enough to allow their diploma to be released by the school corporation.
He looked over his glasses as they rolled in. One by one they came. Every year they looked a little younger. When he first started teaching he felt he could relate to them. Now, they looked like babies! Sometimes the girls would flirt with him in hopes of a better grade or to gain some leeway for their tardiness.
Dress codes were pretty much non-existent in the summer session. Steven looked forward to seeing the girls in their skimpy summer clothing even though he knew he shouldn't think that way.... not in his position. Maybe that's why he did this, he wondered? Not for the noble purpose of helping some young people graduate high school. Not even because he had nothing else to do. Instead, maybe it was because he was growing into a dirty old man wanting to get his jollies by looking at some teenage hotties all day?
He shook the thought out of his head and was able to give roll call. Just as he started to read the first name the classroom door opened and a girl came hurrying in. She was wearing cut-offs, a short T-shirt and struggling to hold some books and a folder that threatened to fall to the ground.
Steven looked up and it was as if he'd spied a ghost.
"Mr. Harper?" she said still trying to wrestle control of her books.
"Lara?" he said as he looked very confused.
"Yes... how'd you know?" she replied.
"Uhhh... Lara Keller?" he said looking as if he was about to go into shock.
"No.... Lara Smith," she replied, "I'm sorry I'm... like... kinda late. Is that OK? Do I need a pass or something?"
He shook his head and took a breath. "Oh... no. That's quite all right.... We're rather informal here during summer session. Sorry about mistaking you for someone else. It's just.... Well... you reminded me of someone," he said, still looking over the teen. "Someone I used to know."
"Oooooooohhhhhh," the class chorused in a mocking fashion.
"Settle down everyone!" he said, a bit embarrassed. "Everyone find a seat. Let's see who has decided they want a diploma," he said and he began the roll call.
He went about the rest of morning explaining what was expected of the students and hoping to earn their respect yet not appear to be some out of touch old man. It was the same routine he used every year. And every year it grew harder. Each year his jokes seemed to fall flatter and flatter as he tried to break the ice. Young Lara laughed though.
"I see someone appreciates my humor!" Steven said proudly.
"I'm just laughing ‘cuz your jokes are so.... ummmmm.... lame... that they're kinda...like... funny!" she said and the class burst out laughing.
"OK...OK... Settle down!" he said, feigning disgust.
Try as he might he couldn't keep his eyes off of Lara. He thought she caught him staring a couple of times. He tried to pretend to be looking over her shoulder but he was sure that he was caught. He had to fight to keep his eyes from dropping down and staring at her smooth tan legs. But there was something else. It wasn't only that she was an attractive girl sitting in his class. It was how much she reminded him of a girl from his past. So much so that he had even mistaken this girl for her. But he realized that was impossible. Lara Keller had moved away years ago. He hadn't seen her since she'd turned 30. And she had turned 30 and looked it... not frozen as a teenage beauty.
Still, this girl looked so much like her. She even sounded like her. But then he wondered if his mind was playing tricks. The hair was different, after all. Longer and straighter. Maybe even lighter. And did her voice really sound the same as the girl he'd known when they were teenagers? He hadn't heard Lara Keller's voice in 10 years... let alone hearing her teenaged voice in over 20 years! Sure, this girl sounded similar to what he remembered, but then so did half the teenage girls in the class! It was all just another symptom of growing older he figured.
He did his best to put it out of his mind but was very grateful when the bell sounded. Even then he couldn't hep but stare as this girl walked away. Her faded cut-offs and tanned legs were tearing him up. The steamy classroom wasn't helping! He knew a cold shower was the first order of business as soon as he got home.
Steven arrived home and did just that. The shower helped. He then sat on the couch and watched the news. He still couldn't get that girl out of his mind. He'd not had anything hit him like this since he'd started teaching. Sure, there'd been stares and dirty thoughts... but this was something more.
Lara Keller had been a friend. A friend he'd had a major crush on but never acted upon. Sometimes he wondered if she'd felt the same way about him. Unfortunately, he was too worried about saying or doing anything for fear of ruining what they had. In retrospect, that would've been better than what happened in real life. She found a lover, got married and finally moved away. Steven, on the other hand, withdrew and became mostly a social recluse. For the first few years he didn't really want another girl in his life. And later he worried he'd only get close to someone and then have his heart broken just like Lara had done to him.
His memories and the day's events got the best of him and he went upstairs to dig out his old yearbooks from the attic. Soon, he was sitting back on the couch staring at old pictures. Old pictures of Lara. He still saw the similarities. The hair was different though. Darker in the pictures. Not as long. More hairspray too. But the face.... the face looked very similar. He found some more pictures that he'd stored in the yearbook. There was one of Lara wearing a bathing suit at the lake. He took it out and stared at it. There were those legs. He loved her body but he especially loved her legs! He'd done his best in all these years to forget her and how much he used to daydream about those legs. But now it was all flooding back!
He sat the photo down and poured himself a stiff drink... and then another... and then another. Mercifully, he finally fell asleep on the couch before his memories could torture him any longer. He awoke to the sunlight on his face streaming in from the window. "Oh my head," he grumbled as a mean hangover brought him back to reality. "Damn... I'm going to be late!" he said as he glimpsed the clock on the VCR. He quickly readied himself and headed to the school. He considered calling in sick but he didn't want another chance to see Lara Smith slip by. Reliving the old memories felt both good and bad. Besides, he wasn't really fantasizing about Lara Smith the student... he was fantasizing about Lara Keller when they were both teens. At least that is what he told himself.
He sat at his desk and watched intently each time the door opened. With each opening the anticipation built. Finally, it opened and Lara Smith walked in. She was wearing a short dress and white sandals. Steven couldn't help himself but to stare as she walked to her seat.
"Good morning, Lara," he said and then realized he hadn't greeted anyone else upon their arrival, "and the rest of you" he said as he tried to cover his tracks.
Class was again difficult. He kept stealing glances at Lara as she sat at her desk... as she brushed her hair back with her hand... as she dangled her sandal off her foot. Every thing she did sent chills down his spine. He couldn't let himself fall for a schoolgirl! Was she even 18 yet? He wondered if he called the real Lara Keller if that would somehow shake him back to reality. But then he had no idea how to even find her these days. Even if he did, did he really want to ruin this fantasy? Was this girl even more beautiful than Lara Keller ever had been? Steven was lost in thought as he stared at her dainty hands and painted nails as she wrote in her notepad. He imagined her soft hands stroking him.... and more! He was lost in a daydream.
The bell sounded and mercifully brought Steven back to earth. If minds could be read he was sure he would have already been arrested.
He hurried home to another cold shower. Then more time with the pictures. He found himself unable to fight the urge to masturbate. Was he fantasizing about Lara Keller or Lara Smith now he wondered? He couldn't even separate the two in his mind anymore. They were one and the same. The only issue was that he was old enough to be Lara Smith's father. That thought quickly led him to pour himself a stiff drink. This was getting to be too much. He again drank himself to sleep.
The next day was more of the same. He again watched with growing anticipation as the door opened for each student. Suddenly it opened and there was Lara. She was wearing shorts again, a cropped shirt and flip flops... and she was giving some boy a peck on the cheek before he turned to walk away! Steven's heart sank. He knew then that he was really in trouble. Not only was he fantasizing about this girl but he was now jealous of a teenage boy! That boy had ripped into Steven's fantasy world and shattered it in only seconds.
Steven knew he was being short with his students that day but he couldn't help it. All he could think of was that boy and that peck on the cheek... from his Lara! He knew he shouldn't think of her in that way but she was like a second chance. He didn't want to lose her... not again!
The bell sounded and Steven's head turned to Lara's desk so that he could stare as she walked away. He loved to watch her walk. He loved everything about her! His eyes scanned up from her flip flops to her shapely ankles....to her tanned calves... to her smooth thighs... to her shapely rear in her tight shorts.... her lovely back... her soft shoulders... all the way to her lovely blonde hair.
And then she turned. Steven was caught staring... again!
"Mr Harper.. sir.... I'm, like, having trouble understanding some of the assignment. Could you help me for a little bit? Pleeease?"
Steven could hardly answer. He stared at her lips. He was flustered like a schoolboy. "Uh... umm... well... of course," he stammered as he looked into her blue eyes.
Steven watched her delicate hands as her fingers pointed to various lines in her book. He did his best to answer her questions although he wasn't sure he even heard half of them. He was again lost in fantasy.
"I got it now! I really appreciate the extra attention!" she said softly "You're like... the best teacher I've ever had!"
Steven only smiled. He couldn't speak.
"Well... Thanks again... bye now Steverrrr.... Mr. Harper..." she said and giggled.
Had she just flirted with him? "Bye.... Ummm.. Uhhhhh Was that your boyfriend... This morning?" Steven asked before she left, feeling a little more empowered.
"Oh..." she blushed. "I don't, like, have a boyfriend here. I'm new in town. That was Pete. I just, like, met him this morning and he helped me change a tire on my car. He was really sweet to do that."
"Great... Ummm I mean great you didn't have to change a tire yourself... A pretty girl like you shouldn't have to do that kinda stuff!" Steven replied, excited that Lara was unattached.
"You're sweet too... Bye now", she said and left.
This girl was perfect! She was everything his Lara had been and maybe more. Could he really be getting a second chance? He decided his job didn't matter anymore. What people said didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was Lara Smith! He had to have her. There was still one problem... she was less than half his age! Would she really go for an older man or was she just teasing? He remembered all the times girls had done just that for a better grade. A tactic that always worked but he never really fell for them like he had this girl. Steven knew another cold shower was in his immediate future.
By the end of the week Steven was a shell of his former self. All he could think about was Lara. She was so beautiful. Every day he rationalized things more and more. She was so much more mature than other girls her age he told himself as he watched her blowing bubblegum bubbles. If she wasn't already 18 she certainly would be soon. He wished he could be with her over the weekend. He didn't know how he could be without her for two whole days!
The bell rang and Steven followed Lara to the door. He wanted to say something but he couldn't. He couldn't let her go on much longer without knowing how much he cared for her. These next two days without seeing her were going to be painful.
He went home and scattered the old photos out on the floor. It had become a regular routine. Each photo triggered a memory or new fantasy. It was the only way he could pass the time. Just as night fell he heard a knock at the door. Frustrated to be interrupted he went to answer it hoping to send the intruder away quickly. He had no time for reality. He needed his fantasy world this weekend.
Standing on the sidewalk was Lara Smith!.
Steven's knees grew weak. "Lara..." he said, "What brings you out?"
"I hope you don't, like, mind... but can I come in?" she asked
Steven couldn't say anything but, "Sure!"
Lara was wearing a short flowered dress with strappy sandals and carrying a large bag. She looked so beautiful. Better than in his fantasy!
"Please... make yourself comfortable" he told her "Uhhhh, what can I do for you?" he asked as his mind raced with answers he hoped to hear.
She sat on the couch and glanced around the floor quizzically at the pictures.
"Oh... I was just sorting some old pictures out... Don't mind the mess!" he lied semi-convincingly and then looked down at his pants to make sure they were zipped.
"Oh... I see" she said. "Anyway... I have a confession to make... You better sit down"
Curious, Steven sat down opposite of his fantasy girl.
"You're not going to believe this... But.... Well... I am Lara Keller!" she told him.
"What? No games! This isn't funny!" he said.
"It's no game! Remember how we used to talk and I used to tell you my family was different?"
Steven didn't answer but listened intently for more.
"Well... my gramma was like a witch.... and she made me a potion that could make me younger...."
"This is a joke... right?"
"No... You know it's me! You knew it when I first walked in your class!"
"No... your hair is different... and... um, well...."
"I'm, like, 17 in 2003! It's not like I am gonna wear my hair like I did 23 years ago! Like, the Britney thing is really popular, ya know? C'mon!"
Steven was growing convinced. Maybe it was the fantasy taking over. Maybe he was losing his mind. He really wanted to believe this. "Go on..." he said.
"I remembered how things used to be... And after my husband died I was so lonely so I drank some of the potion. Then I thought of you. You were always so smart and well-behaved. A perfect gentleman! I wanted to see if you were still that way... first... Sorry I hadda kinda like trick you and not tell you who I really was. You might'a grown up to be different or gotten married or something"
"OK. And so????" he asked.
"And so.... Anyway.... I brought some potion for you too!" she said as she removed a bottle from the large bag that she had brought with her.
"So I can be younger too?" he asked, wanting to believe every word of the story. His heart was racing. "We can be together!? But what about work? They'll miss the 40-year-old Steven at school - won't they?"
"Probably... But I already thought about that. Why don't you just type up a resignation letter real quick and sign it? I'll drop it under the door tomorrow at the school. That way it'll be there for them Monday morning. They can, like, get a substitute or something," she said.
"Actually, I already typed one up the other night. I didn't see how I could stay on the way things were going anyway. It's in the printer tray. Signed and all. Ready to go," Steven told her.
"Wow...cool!" she said. "So you'll do it?"
"Sure... How much do I drink?" he asked.
"Drink it all. It's, like, the perfect amount" she explained "This is soooooo cool!" she said as she reached down inside the large bag she had brought.
Steven grabbed the vial and quickly downed the potion. "I'm so excited. This is like a dream come true! We're going to be together! You're finally going to be my girlfriend!!!"
Lara looked up "Girlfriend? Um, not exactly!" she said as she grabbed a box of Pampers from her large bag.
The End.... or is it the Beginning?