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White Oak/Black Mahogany (Box Set)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Emily Carrington
Excerpt from White Oak
Mike gulped at his third cup of coffee. He fidgeted with the folder that held his résumé. “They’re paying nineteen thousand for the entire school year.”
His mother, over at the sink, asked, “Are you going to tell us what this interview’s for finally, Mr. I Don’t Want To Jinx It?”
“An aide position at Marisburg High.” He grabbed his cup again as another yawn threatened. God, but he needed to get more sleep.
His mother stalked to the table and grabbed both his cup and the nearly empty carafe from its place in the middle of the table. “Your hands are already shaking. You don’t need any more of this.”
Mike scratched at the narrow space between his neck and the collar of his dress shirt. He adjusted his tie. “I’m fine.”
She rolled her eyes. “If you go in there looking like a tweaker, no one will take you seriously.”
“A what?” Mike laughed. “Where’d you hear that word? They’re not called tweakers anymore. That must be a word you used back in the sixties.” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Were you a tweaker, Mom?”
“Getting back to this teaching position…”
“What?” his father grunted from the depths of the mudroom. “You’re not qualified for that, are you, Mike? You’ve only been at the community college for the summer, and you’re taking different language classes, not how-to-teach classes.”
“Foreign language classes, John,” Mike’s mother murmured.
The older Delaney laughed. “Listen to the woman, would you? She takes one college course herself, and now she’s the professor.” He clomped two steps into the kitchen, took off his hat, and bowed to his wife. “Thank you, Molly. I appreciate the correction.” Then he turned his attention back to Mike. “Well?”
“I’d be assisting a blind student with his class work.” His jittery fingers danced on the table, and he worked to pass it off as impatient tapping on the cover of a second copy of his résumé. “My interview’s in half an hour.”
“So get going,” his father said. “You planned to take night classes this semester anyway. Make the most of this opportunity.”
Mike got up, clutching the folder. Maybe I can take a nap when I get home. He rushed out the door. Assuming I can sleep.
* * *
Ninety minutes later Mr. Callahan, superintendent of schools, Mr. Connolly, the principal, and Ms. O’Carolyn, the guidance counselor, took turns shaking his hand. Their grips were a bit awkward, Mike being left-handed, but he’d given up trying to shake the normal way. Even if that would have further dispelled the stereotypes.
“Congratulations,” Mr. Callahan said. “We don’t usually make a decision this fast, but with teacher in-services starting next week, it’s important. You’ll be expected to participate in those, of course. I’ll e-mail you a schedule.”
Mike swallowed. “Yes, sir. I’ll be there.” He almost asked when he would meet Aidan Kelly, the blind student, but that would probably be on the schedule. For now he needed to worry about teacher in-services. Whatever those were.
“If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact any of us. We’re at your disposal. But be patient. This is a busy time of year.” The superintendent ushered Mike toward the office door. “Good luck. I hear Mr. Kelly is intelligence personified, but a little… quirky.” He chuckled. “Have a great day, Mike, and again, congratulations.”
The carpet scraped the bottoms of Mike’s shoes as he made good his escape. Other administrative offices surrounded the superintendent’s enclosed haven like deficient, two-walled boxes. Mike headed back the way he’d come, unable to take a straight path because of the random assignment of desks and file cabinets.
His heart jackhammered in his throat. He slowed his feet and flexed his hands to keep his fingers relaxed. I got the job? Really? He felt a five year old’s irrepressible grin starting and forced himself to hold his bland, polite expression.
I’ll be reporting to Marisburg High every day. Just like when I was in high school.
That thought squashed any and all urges to grin, and he rushed past the final desk, anxious to be alone in his car.
He saw the wavering shadow of a person on the other side of the outer door. He had barely enough time to get out of the way as the door flew open.
“They promised to wait.” The man, resplendent in a black suit and dark, subdued tie, shoved his way past Mike as if he didn’t see him. Despite the overcast skies, he wore dark sunglasses. “They promised to get our input,” he went on muttering, his words barely audible. He swung a long stick out in front of him like a pendulum, tapping the floor rhythmically. “Now I hear they’re holding interviews for my aide without consulting me?”
Mike escaped out the door before it closed. And before too many people could catch him staring. Not that any of the office staff seemed to be watching him. Through the door’s window, Mike watched a woman intercepting the blind man, taking his arm.
The red-haired man tore his wrist out of her grasp.
That’s a white cane, Mike thought as his logic caught up with his shock. And that must be Aidan Kelly. He’s a high school senior, which means he’s probably sixteen or seventeen, but he looks like an Irish god.
Quirky wasn’t exactly the word for him. Arrogant, maybe, or rude.
A woman brushed by Mike, opening the office door and rushing in, but he scarcely noticed.
Or hot. His gaze lingered on the man’s mildly curly locks. And if he’s got an ounce of fat along with all that muscle, I’m a — He froze. A what? What was he exactly, staring at another man?
I’m straight. End of discussion.
“At least I got the job,” he told the empty foyer.