Here is chapter two of what-Mia-has-been-up to! Chapter One is too…uh, I just can’t share it right now, that’s all. It will spill too much of the flavor… (And by the way, my MC “Bradley” looks like Bradley Cooper- it makes Random Acts lots of fun to write!!)
Meeting an angel
My truck is running like shit, I thought, while trying like hell to pretend it wasn’t sputtering so violently. After one particularly un-ignorable shake, I admitted to myself, I’ll be lucky if I get this baby home so Billy can take a look at it out back in the garage.
As I pondered whether or not I should go straight to the auto repair shop instead of home to our garage, my truck made the decision for me. It gave up a last urgent shudder and died, right there on Main Street in Maddy’s charming North Shore town of Oceanside, Massachusetts.
Oceanside is a great place to visit, but I sure as shit don’t want to get my ass stuck here.
It looked, however, like I didn’t have much say in the matter.
And knowing I’d rather pull the back plates and abandon my truck in the middle of the damned road than return to Maddy’s house to get help, I did take a minute to stop and curse myself up and down for being such a half-assed loser. Last night, in my frenzied rush to arrive at the booty call, I’d managed to forget my cell phone; it was probably buried beneath a pile of dirty boxer shorts in my cluttered bedroom.
Still cursing, I hopped out of my old black Ford F-150. I’d bought it used a couple of months ago at an auction, and had been crossing my fingers ever since that it wouldn’t pull any major shit (like this) until I’d saved up enough extra cash to get it overhauled. I stretched once and I stretched big, out of a combination of shot nerves and habit, and then moved off to the side of the road so I could survey its location on the street. My dumb truck had died smack, dab in the middle of the road, but thankfully it was still early on a Saturday and the yuppies in this part of town apparently were sleeping in this morning. Give it an hour, though, and the road would be overrun with well-rested preppies on their way to the stables, or to golf courses, or to wherever the fuck it was that rich people went after they counted their money over Nespresso lattes on Saturday mornings.
It was gonna be tough, but I was pretty sure I could push this baby off to the side of the road by myself, since I wasn’t gonna have to push it uphill. I went back over to the driver’s side, leaned in and threw the truck in neutral, took a deep breath, and then put my shoulder into pushing. Karma is a fucking bitch, I thought ruefully, fairly sure I was already catching payback for the Houdini Act I was planning to pull on Maddy next week.
And I’ll be the first to admit that pushing my truck bit the big one totally; I could practically feel the back strain setting in. That was gonna suck when I hit the gym with Billy later on today. And probably at work all of next week. On the bright side, the truck was rolling, albeit slowly and painfully. I was managing to inch it over to the road’s shoulder.
“Hey, buddy, need a hand?” I hadn’t noticed a car pulling up, or even heard the guy approach. I turned my neck sharply, mid-shove, to check out the preppy do-gooder who was lowering himself enough to offer to perform this random act of kindness, for me, a now-sweaty, out-of-place, redneck-looking stranger, who was struggling to relocate his piece of shit truck to the side of the road. But who I saw standing beside me was much more than a preppy saint. I was looking at a fucking angel.
The guy who stood there gawking back at me, his thumbs hooked casually in the front pockets of slim cut khaki pants, a snug white polo hugging a perfect torso, both of which were visible beneath a tailored tweed blazer, and with the finishing touch of a dark blue plaid scarf draped loosely around his neck (not that I was checking him out or anything); he was nothing short of the Tommy Hilfiger of the heavens.
I’m talking about blue-eyed boy-angel meets Ralph Lauren.
I allowed myself to smirk at my blunt analysis of the dude. This was exactly the kind of guy I’d stayed as far away from as humanly possible in high school. I hadn’t had to worry too much about running into this type of guy at the various colleges I’d attended in my various less-than-pretty attempts to achieve that elusive bachelor’s degree, because the schools I’d frequented were not listed in the preppy handbook as acceptable institutions of higher education. Just looking at him brought out my deepest insecurities. After all, I knew this from experience: a guy couldn’t appear that put-together, if he didn’t actually have his act together.
“Nah, thanks. I’m all set.” I turned away from him. Mr. Perfect wasn’t gonna want to get his well-pressed khakis wrinkled, anyways.
“I beg to differ; you are not all set. Get in and steer, I’ll push.”
I was about to argue, but he edged up against my side with force, like he meant business. The guy was slim, but he was a lot stronger than he looked. I slid into the driver’s seat like an obedient child, mumbling something like, “Pushy, aren’t we?”
With angel-boy’s help it only took a couple more minutes to get the truck completely off the road.
Jumping out of the truck, I took a couple of seconds to further size up my able, but unwanted, assistant. His face and skin were smooth and he had a leftover summer tan, like he’d spent most of June, July, and August on a sailboat. Which he most likely had, seeing as he lived here in Oceanside where an overwhelming percentage of the oceanfront homes had their own private docks in the backyard, with big boats bobbing in the surf, just waiting to be used. His wavy light brown hair was shaped into a Jack Kennedy-ish cut, which brought to mind the image of an ocean breeze blowing patterns in it. I couldn’t miss the gray that was sprinkled into the light brown, and although his face was young, I knew he was older than me, maybe by even as much as a decade. But the features that stopped me short and frigging held me there were his bright blue eyes. I’d never seen eyes as intelligent on a face so pretty. And since as of late, I’d made a practice of being honest, if not with others, at least with myself, I admitted I was more than slightly attracted to him.
He reached out to shake my hand. “I’m Caleb. Caleb Jorde.”
I wiped off my right hand on my jeans, despite the fact that he’d been clinging to the very same dirty metal I had, and we shook. (He just seemed cleaner than me.) “I’m Bradley Zelder. And, uh, thanks for the help.” I always got tongue-tied in front of people who looked like they should be members of the Harvard Club. “You really didn’t have to.”
“Not a problem, Bradley. So where are you headed? I’ll give you a lift.”
This dude’s random acts of kindness knew no bounds. But I shook my head sharply. “Nah. You don’t have to do that. Can I just use your cell to make a call?” I figured he was wondering why the fuck I didn’t use my own phone. “I…uh…left mine at home. Last night.”
“An overnight visit, hmm?” He winked.
I just shrugged, not wanting to think about Maddy in the presence of this guy I was basically lusting for. “Whatever.” Non-committal responses usually shut people up and did it fast.
My obvious evasion didn’t deter him. “Come on, I’ll take you wherever you need to go.” He turned abruptly and headed over to his black Volvo wagon…a recent model, too. But what else would I expect of the perfect example of a preppy man, than to drive the ultimate preppy vehicle? I followed him to his car thinking that he was soon gonna be treated to the sight of how the other half lived.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been attracted to a man, so I wasn’t freaking out over my interest in this gorgeous Good Samaritan. And I knew it wouldn’t be the last hard on I’d get for a male, either. I just had this “thing” for people who had their acts together…self-assured people who wore their carefree confidence on their faces, as well in their very posture. Male, female…didn’t matter. I’d always been drawn to those who I knew very well would have absolutely no interest in furthering their acquaintance with a bitter punk-ass like me.
I guess that is the elusive “thing” missing from my recent attempts at relationships; the fact that I only want hookups with those who are way the fuck outta reach. As of late, I’d strictly limited my dates to individuals who were less enlightened and definitely less intelligent than someone like Caleb Jorde. And no, I hadn’t been feeling it with any of them…but I was feeling it now, all right. So much so, if fact, that I had to turn toward the passenger window for a quick moment so I could reach into the front of my pants to adjust my dick, as it had stiffened into an awkward and uncomfortable position.
“I was on my way to pick up a cup of coffee. My Nespresso machine decided to cease and desist, and I haven’t yet had a chance to replace it.” I stole a glance at Caleb’s perfect profile as he drove, congratulating myself on my accuracy in terms of his machine choice for coffee-brewing. “Mind if we swing by Starbuck’s drive thru on our way to Landsbury?”
A few moments ago when I’d filled him in on the lowly town I’d long called home, where he’d offered so generously to return me, Caleb hadn’t flinched even slightly. He’d simply said, “I’m quite familiar with Landsbury. I know exactly where Dennison Street is.”
In response to my open-mouthed gaping (which was in response to his relaxed familiarity with the other side of the track), he’d simply smirked, and said, “I teach school there.”
After a bit more gaping, he’d winked and added, “Middle school social studies.”
“No shit,” had been my genius addition to the conversation.
Studying the road, Caleb had just shaken his head. “Absolutely zero shit.”
After a brief period of silence, and just to keep the conversation going, I asked him, “So you teach at Deering Junior High?”
“It’s called Deering Middle School now.”
“No shit.” Shit, I’d said it again. Shit. “Social studies, you said?”
He nodded. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee, Bradley?”
There I was, sitting comfortably in this guy’s shiny Volvo wagon, on his heated leather seats, after him having just pushed my truck off the road. I knew what to say this time when I opened my mouth. “No way, man. The Joe’s on me.”
He didn’t glance over again, but he smiled and shook his head; those full lips opening just enough to expose straight white teeth. I had to readjust my dick again.
Turns out he bought the coffee. He was fucking insistent on it.
“You teach in Landsbury but you live over in Oceanside?” Small talk wasn’t my strength, but then, I wasn’t sure what my strength actually was. But we were getting along smashingly well, if I didn’t say so myself… Wonders never cease.
Caleb had pulled into a spot in the Starbuck’s parking lot so he could add some kind of a special natural sweetener to his coffee. The guy actually carried it in his glove compartment. Like I said, he had his shit together. (He had thin wooden stirring sticks and plenty of napkins, too.)
“I have an unbeatable deal on an apartment.” He laughed and his startlingly white teeth made a second appearance. How do you get teeth that white, I wondered as I basically feasted my eyes on his mouth. “I live in the guest house on my parents’ estate.”
“Estate? Holy shit!” was what I thought. “No shit,” was what I said. Yeah, there it was again: that very same brilliant input to the conversation I’d been offering so consistently all morning.
“I have to literally force my parents to accept monthly rent payments, but I know that they are stashing the money away to give back to me for summers when I’m in grad school and am not working. They’ll say to me, ‘Here, Cale, take this money. It’s yours—you earned it—we just held onto it for you.’”
I fought against spouting a rude retort, like “it must be nice.” And then I stifled a subsequent wise-assed remark about how painful it must have been for his dearest Mummy to give birth to him with a freaking humongous silver spoon sticking out of his pretty mouth. So I stole a page from Caleb’s playbook, one that I used quite often on the babes, myself; I winked at him and nodded, wisely keeping my mouth tightly shut.
It was just that life wasn’t fair. A single mother, Mom had struggled as a nurse’s aide, for as long as I could remember, just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. She had no cash to provide my sister, Darcy, and me with fancy college educations, and God knew, she had no guesthouse for us to reside in. She’d fed, clothed, sheltered, and loved us. And after we’d graduated from high school, all she did for us was provide love. At that point, it was the only thing she was responsible for, and it was all we expected. We were on our own.
“I’ve actually only lived in my parents’ guest house for a few years.” Caleb’s voice shocked the shit out of me; I’d been so involved in my own thoughts. He then spoke more quietly. “I moved back home after my husband died.”
Yeah. He dropped that bomb on me and then he shut the fuck up to let me stew.
“Uh…sorry.” I literally started twiddling my thumbs. “That sucks.”
Caleb, it seemed, was back in nodding mode. He slumped a bit and then sipped his coffee with those fantastically full lips, which served to distract me again. But I was not distracted enough to have failed to pick up on the fact that he’d basically just told me he was gay. And very likely single, leading to the passing notion that Mr. Boatshoes and I could definitely have some fun between the sheets, if he liked the prospect of slumming it with the likes of yours truly.
Shit, I’m a slut.
Once we got to Landsbury, Caleb perked up a bit. He searched the sidewalks with those smart blue eyes, and every once in a while his expression lit up and then he smiled and waved at a pedestrian he seemed to know. It appeared that it was Caleb’s turn to be lost in thought until an unexpected question burst forth from his toothpaste- commercial-quality lips. (And they really were.) “So, Bradley, do you work in Landsbury, as well as live here?”
It was a fair enough question, despite the fact that I wasn’t crazy about the answer I had to give. “Nah. I work in Danson…at the elementary school.”
With his next question, he didn’t disappoint. I had basically predicted his very words. “You’re a teacher too?” His eyes lit up in the way of kindred souls.
“Nah, not a teacher…a custodian. I work days.” I watched his blue eyes closely for any sign of the expected disappointed shadowing or the eye roll of disgust. And I couldn’t explain it but I just didn’t see that you’re-such-a-loser-wince that I expected. So I pushed just a little harder. I knew that the disgust couldn’t be too far beneath the surface. “Sad fact is that I had to put in plenty of years to even get the daytime shift… A lofty position in life, huh?”
“It is very important that all school employees work together to make a school the best it can be, Bradley.” His tranquil eyes never wavered from the road. “Your role is mandatory, as is mine.”
That was an unexpected response from Mr. Harvard Club. Still, I didn’t waste time in delivering my standard explanation for my lowly job. I got right to it. “Now that I’m on days it has good hours…because, see, I’m taking college classes after work. You know, I’m studying to, uh…” Well, I should leave it right there. I’d had as many different majors as I’d had failed attempts to get through college. This time, though, I’d stuck through it long enough to be almost halfway through my two-year LNA in nursing. Which I fervently hoped would eventually morph into a four-year BS degree in nursing.
Maybe we are kindred souls, seeing as we both like to help people.
Well, shit. I scrapped that thought just about as quickly as I had it. It wasn’t about helping people for me; I just wanted to get myself a job where I’d get a little bit of respect.
And no, I can’t say anyone at Danson Elementary treats me disrespectfully. Not the staff, and not even the kids…
The plain truth was that I just wanted a job where I’d give myself a little bit of respect.
“Nursing is commendable work, as well,” he offered evenly. “I, too, considered medicine when I was an undergrad, but the calling to teach our youth was just too compelling. I had to acquiesce.” He chuckled.
I’ll just bet you did “consider medicine”, I thought snidely. Dr. Jorde fit his persona far better than Mr. Jorde did. “You mentioned grad school. Won’t whatever it is you end up doing with your graduate degree end up taking you away from the youth in the classroom?” I acted innocent, but let’s face it, I was trying to stick it in his face. We both knew that Mr. Jorde was gonna ultimately find himself as Dr. Jorde, teaching at some topnotch university. A guy like Caleb Jorde certainly couldn’t be planning to spend his entire career teaching social studies at lowly Landsbury Middle School.
“It will take me out of the classroom to some degree, that I admit. But a school like Landsbury needs a forward-thinking principal, and I have my eye on that position. But I’ll be sure to make classroom visits a daily part of my routine.”
Shit, is he for real? He’s going to stick it out in working-class Landsbury?
That was when he really shocked me. “I’m enjoying our conversation, Bradley. Maybe we could meet for a beer some night after work to continue it?”
Hell, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I felt my neck jolt in Caleb’s direction, as I blurted, “What?”
Most people would think I was shocked to shit because Caleb was a guy and he’d just asked out me, another guy, on a date. And he’d done it without blinking. But they’d all be wrong. I was simply stunned that Mr. Harvard-soon-to-be-principal would want anything to do with the likes of Mr. Janitor-and-if-he’s-lucky-nurse’s-aid.
Cool as always, Caleb didn’t utter so much as a sound in regards to my shocked exclamation—not an excuse or a further explanation or any hint of a plea. Nope…no sign of agitation whatsoever. He just waited quietly for my response.
“Uh, that’s my house up there…” A total cop-out—I was fully aware of that fact. “The three-story gray one on the left. I live on the third floor…it’s not much, but it’s home and…” Somehow, I ended up being the one nervously rambling.
Caleb pulled over in front of my building, turned to me, and smiled serenely in the face of my rude lack of response to his invitation.
“Thanks for the lift, dude.” I was such a fucking loser.
He just kept right on smiling; the man was unflappable.
I so badly wanted to reply in a stilted babbling stutter, “Y-yes, I’d l-love to have a b-beer with you! Where? When? I’ll be there! And maybe if you let me fuck you after we drink a beer, some of your togetherness will rub off on me.” But I didn’t say anything else. I just got out of the car, turned, but didn’t look at him, and slammed the door, probably with a bit too much force, ran up the walkway, and escaped into my building.