How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Geonn Cannon
Jill stood and smoothed her skirt against her thighs. "I want to thank you for coming in today, Mr. and Mrs. Warren. Leigh is doing wonderfully. I've really enjoyed having her in class."
"She absolutely raves about you, Miss Colby. I'm glad we finally got to meet," Mrs. Warren said.
"Well, thank her for me," Jill said. She smiled and shook their hands. She escorted them to the door and said, "If you have any questions about her final grade, don't hesitate to call the number on the syllabus."
She held the door for them and then glanced at the time. She had four minutes before the next parents were scheduled to arrive. It was the annual end-of-the-year parent-teacher conference. The school board had let the kids out of school all day and left their teachers behind to discuss grades with the parents. Jill didn't mind it terribly much. Most kids were a treat, but it was hard to tell some parents that their little angel was a holy terror. Still, it had to be done and she was grateful for the brief decompression period between meetings.
She left the door open and walked to the blackboard. She erased "Leigh Warren" and wrote "Ruth McCoy." She picked up her lesson plan from the desk and laid it across her left arm as she wrote out the grades for the girl's last ten assignments on the board.
She had almost finished when there was a knock on the door. "Am I interrupting?"
Jill turned at the sound of her lover's voice and smiled. "Trisha. I... thought you were scheduled for 3:15...?"
"I am. But I was out running errands and I thought I'd stop by and see you." She put down the shopping bag she was carrying and said, "I saw Mr. and Mrs. Warren leaving, so I figured you were free. How long do you have?"
"About two minutes," Jill said.
"Enough time to ask you if you'd like to have dinner with me tonight."
"With you and Michael?"
"Michael is leaving for his father's place tonight. I'm putting him on the six o'clock ferry and I'll be all by myself for three whole days."
Jill smiled. "Ooh. All by yourself, unless you'd like some company."
Patricia shrugged. "I didn't want to seem presumptuous."
"Presume away," Jill said. "I'll be tied up with school stuff until about eight."
"Want me to pick you up?"
"Meet me at Gail's," Jill said, naming a seafood restaurant near the dock. "We'll have dinner and decide how to spend the rest of the weekend."
"And I promise," Patricia said. "This time, Michael won't walk in on us. He'll be eighty miles away on the mainland the entire time."
Jill laughed. Their first night together, almost three months ago, had ended in a mortifying moment in the kitchen. Jill, half-naked, had run into Michael. As if running into a lover's son wasn't bad enough, they had recognized one another. Jill had last seen Michael only a few hours earlier, in class.
Patricia had come in a few seconds into the silent standoff and saved everything. She explained to Michael how Miss Colby's car had broken down and she'd been standing on the side of the road in the rain. She claimed she'd picked Jill up, taken her home so her clothes could dry out and she could warm up. Jill had quickly ducked back into the mud room and finished dressing, sending apologies to both Michael and Patricia through the closed door.
Since then, they had been extremely careful not to be seen by him. Other than the occasional dinner date, they scheduled their rendezvous for time when Michael was on the mainland with his father or on overnights with friends. So far, so good, but they both knew the relationship was getting too serious to hide much longer.
"So say eight-thirty?" Patricia said, interrupting Jill's reverie.
"Yes," Jill said. "Eight-thirty would be perfect."
"Excuse me," a man said from the doorway. Patricia turned and saw a brick of a black man standing behind her. He was wearing a buttoned trenchcoat, but the white square on his collar was enough to tell them who he was. "Am I in the wrong room? I'm looking for..."
"Jill Colby," Jill said. "I assume you're Reverend McCoy. Ruth's Dad?"
He smiled. "I am. Should I wait in the hallway or...?"
"No," Patricia said. "I was just leaving." To Jill, she said, "I'll see you at 3:15, Miss Colby."
"I penalize for tardiness," Jill said.
Patricia tapped her watch and slipped past the reverend. Jill gestured at the chair in front of her desk and said, "Reverend McCoy. I want to start out right away by saying Ruth was one of the best students in my class this year..."
Jill didn't stop by her place to change clothes. She'd worn a tan skirt and blue blouse for the parent-teacher conferences, and she figured it was nice enough for whatever evening Patricia had planned. She finished grading her final paper just after eight. She locked up her classroom and drove to Gail's.
She arrived twenty minutes early and told the hostess she was waiting for someone. The tuxedoed girl took two menus from the slot next to her podium and escorted Jill to the far side of the restaurant. She ordered iced tea, checked her watch and then scanned the other patrons. The restaurant wasn't bustling; the day's tourists were either on their way back to the mainland or finding lodging for the night. Most of the people were locals, familiar to her, and she waved at a couple parents she had spoken to that afternoon.
A few minutes later, the hostess escorted Patricia over to the table. Jill smiled and thanked the hostess, who also delivered her iced tea. Patricia ordered a margarita and Jill raised an eyebrow. When the hostess was gone, Jill said, "You planning to get drunk on me, Ms. Hood?"
"It's not often I don't have to worry about Michael seeing me drunk. Plus, tonight I have a designated driver," Patricia said.
"You gave me leave."
"I did," Jill admitted. She sipped her iced tea and said, "Well, in that case, I'll be happy to give you a ride home."
Patricia smiled and tapped her menu. "We should figure out what we want."
"Oh, I already know. I always get the pretzel-crusted pork chops."
Patricia found that in the menu and nodded. "Looks good. But you know, seafood restaurant... I kind of feel like fish. Maybe... prawns..."
"Mm-mm," Jill said.
"It has garlic."
Patricia shrugged. "I like garlic."
Jill raised an eyebrow.
It took her a moment, but Patricia laughed. "Okay, fine. Nothing with garlic tonight."
"Just in case."
"Right," Patricia said. She scanned the menu and said, "Is the salmon safe?"
"The salmon would be fine," Jill said.
"Glad we have that settled. I assume your pork chop thing is safe?"
"Good to know."
Their waitress arrived with Patricia's margarita and introduced herself. They gave their orders and sat back to wait for their food to arrive. Patricia ran her thumb over the rim of her glass, collecting the salt there. She sucked the pad of her thumb and said, "So you weren't sugar-coating anything, were you?"
Jill tilted her head. "When?"
"In the conference. About Michael?"
"No," Jill said. "He's a great student. He's getting a low B, which could easily drop in the couple of weeks of class we have yet... but I told you about that. What did you expect me to say?"
Patricia shook her head. "I don't know. Last year the parent-teacher conference was hell. Michael was acting out because of the divorce, so I got to have quite a few fun trips down to the school to talk to the teacher."
"Who did he have?"
Jill rolled her eyes. "Millicent Tuttle, the Turtle. Whatever she told you about Michael, take it with a grain of salt. I'm sure he <i>was</i> acting up... he's a class clown. But Mrs. Tuttle is really sensitive about stuff like talking during class. She exaggerates everything."
"That's a relief. I may have to apologize to him for some of the groundings."
"No," Jill said playfully. "Never back down, never surrender and never apologize. Shows weakness."
"And what makes you such the expert?"
Jill nodded. "Four years teaching, plus two as a student teacher. Thirty kids per year... you're talking to a seasoned veteran."
Patricia put her hand against her forehead and faked a bow. "I concede to your superior knowledge."
Jill laughed. "In all honesty, Michael is a great kid, if just a little hyperactive. If he buckles down and focuses on his work a little more, I think next year he could be an A student."
"Be nice to have something to hang on my fridge."
"Do parents still do that?" Jill asked.
Patricia shrugged. "I would. If he brought home anything worthy of it."
Jill snickered and glanced up. The waitress was approaching with their salads. Jill nodded to Patricia and they both sat up straighter. The waitress stopped next to their table and deftly distributed the plates. "There you go," she said. "Your main course will be out in just a minute. Can I get you anything else?"
"We're good," Patricia said.
"Thank you," Jill said.
The waitress disappeared back into the kitchen and the ladies lapsed into silence as they enjoyed their salads.
An hour later, overfull from their dinners and the banana pudding they had shared for dessert. Patricia paid - despite protest from Jill - and they walked out of the restaurant with their arms linked. "I'm right over there," Jill said, gesturing towards her blue Beetle.
Patricia patted Jill's arm and gestured at the waterfront. "Okay, but let's walk for a while first."
"Okay," Jill said. She changed direction and led Patricia down off the boardwalk. A narrow one-lane street ran between the businesses and the dock, currently lined with bicyclists and joggers. A man on the other side of the chain-linked harbor fence was wrestling with a fishing pole and he offered them a wave as they passed.
"I'm glad Michael's with his father," Jill said.
"Me too," Patricia said. "I usually hate it. The house gets so damn quiet."
"I'll do my part."
Patricia laughed and cupped Jill's cheek. They stopped and faced each other. Jill's hands went to Patricia's hips as they kissed. They were just outside of the light from a streetlamp, but the moonlight was enough for any passers-by to see what they were doing. They parted reluctantly and Jill nodded back the way they'd come. "Want to head back now?"
They held hands as they walked back to the car. Jill eyed the fisherman as they passed, but he didn't look up again. She sighed and whispered, "I wish this was a different kind of town."
"Why?" Patricia said. "It's been getting more open-minded the past couple of years. I can kiss you on the boardwalk in broad daylight if I wanted to and no one would bat an eye."
"Unless they happened to work for the school," Jill said. "Or have a kid in my class, or know someone who does... The town is a lot more open about this kind of thing, but not when it comes to their kids."
Patricia sighed. "That really sucks, Jill. I'm sorry."
Jill squeezed Patricia's hand and said, "Don't worry about it. Just don't be offended if I'm not quite this lovey-dovey in the light of day."
"I'll keep that in mind." She paused and then said, "But dark is all right?"
Jill pressed against Patricia's side and kissed her neck. "Yes, Trisha. Dark is all right."
Later, in Jill's queen-sized bed, Patricia stared at the dark ceiling and played with the strands of Jill's ponytail. "What do you do during the summer?" she asked suddenly.
"Mm?" Jill asked. She had already been half asleep, lulled by Patricia's steady breathing.
"Summer," Patricia repeated. "You have three months off, right? What do you do?"
"Lots of stuff," she said. She pushed her bangs out of her eyes and said, "Last summer I worked for the theater in town as a stage manager."
"Michael and I usually rent a cabin for a week in July. Maybe you'd like to come with us this year."
Jill chuckled. "How would we explain that?"
"Tell him we're together."
Jill's hand paused in the middle of Patricia's back. "You sure that's a good idea?"
"Well, we'll have to tell him eventually. And as soon as you're not his teacher anymore... I mean, if this is going to go anywhere, he should be brought up to speed."
"So we're going somewhere?" Jill asked.
Patricia smiled. "I'd like to think so." She scraped her fingernails lightly across Jill's stomach and kissed the curve of her breast. "You have a while to think about it," she said. "I just thought I'd give you the option."
"I appreciate it. I'll definitely consider the offer." She bent her head and kissed the top of Patricia's head. "Now get to sleep. I have to be up early in the morning."
"No, you don't."
"No," Jill said with a satisfied smile. "I actually don't." She tightened her arm around Patricia's shoulder and they slid back under the covers.
A month later, the school bell rang on the final day of class. Jill stood at the door of her classroom and handed a reading list to each student as they passed her. "Just because you're not going to be quizzed on these doesn't mean you don't have to read them. You're going to have a lot of free time this summer; I suggest you spend some of it at the library. Have a good summer, Leigh."
"You too, Miss Colby."
The line was moving quickly, all the kids eager to get out of their shackles and start soaking up those magic first five minutes of summer. She smiled at Michael Hood and handed him a reading list. "You know I'll check with your mom to see if you read any of these."
"Yeah, yeah," he said. He folded the paper in half and stuffed it into his bag. Have a good summer, Miss Colby."
"You too, Michael." To the next boy in line, she said, "David! Making it to the sixth grade by the skin of his teeth!"
On nights when Michael was home, Jill and Patricia resigned themselves to brief, whispered phone calls after he had gone to bed. Only once or twice had these conversations turned to phone sex, but each time the phone rang Jill felt a tingle of possibility.
The night school let out, she was reading in her armchair when the phone rang. She was dressed for bed, her knees drawn up to her chest and hair in a ponytail. She checked the Caller ID and smiled as she answered. "Hi, Trisha."
"Hey. Can't talk long, since Michael is staying up late."
"First night of the summer," Jill said.
"Last night of my freedom," Patricia joked. "We went to the library today. He picked out a couple of those books from the reading list."
"That's great! Where is he now?"
"He's out front shooting hoops with the kid next door. I figure we have ten minutes if you want to take advantage of it."
Jill smiled. "I appreciate the offer, but we better not. I'm no good with a ticking clock."
"All right," Patricia said. "Have you given any thought to the cabin idea?"
"I have. If you think Michael would be all right with it... we'd have to tell him before we left, of course..."
"I think it could be great. Depending on how he reacts."
"I've already been testing the waters. His father and I already sat him down to explain the reason behind the divorce, so he knows I'm attracted to women. And I've hinted to him that maybe I met someone. It's just the fact of which woman that will cause the problems."
Jill shrugged. "He's a bright kid. He may already know after the Valentine's Day fiasco."
"Fiasco," Patricia chuckled.
"He walked in on me in my underwear," Jill said. "How do you define fiasco?"
"He could've come home early, when we were still on the couch."
Jill groaned. "Don't even joke about that. God."
"Oop, hon, I have to go. I hear the garage door. I'll talk to you tomorrow about the cabin trip. All right?"
"Sounds good. Bye, Trisha."
Jill hung up and checked her watch. She marked her place with a receipt, put the book on the table next to her chair and turned off the lamp.
Michael came in the front door, bouncing his basketball and trailing the untied laces of his shoes. "Michael!" his mother called from the living room.
"Sorry, Mom," he said. He stopped bouncing the basketball and tucked it under his arm as he headed for his room.
"No, Michael, wait. Come in here, please."
He sighed and dropped the ball. He went into the living room and said, "What?"
Patricia was on the couch, leaning forward with her hands clasped between her knees. "Sit down. I want to talk to you about something." He walked into the living room and dropped into an armchair. "You know that I've been talking about dating again, right?"
"Well... I've met someone. Truth is we've been seeing each other for about five months now. It's getting pretty serious, so we thought it was time you knew about it."
"You've been dating someone for five months?" he said. He shrugged and said, "Well, who is he?"
Patricia said, "Well..."
"Oh, sorry," he shook his head. "She. He. Whichever."
She laughed. "For the record, it's a she. It's someone you know which, to be honest, is why we waited so long."
"Someone I know?"
Patricia twisted her lips and leaned back. "It's, uh... it's Miss Colby."
Michael's eyes widened. "You're dating Miss Colby? Aw, that's gross!"
He shuddered dramatically and wiped his hands over his face. "I'll get used to it though, I guess," he said. He stood up and started for his bedroom. "Still. Give me time before you start, like, kissing her in front of me, okay?"
Patricia smiled and said, "Okay. Hey, hold on. There's more. I invited her to join us at the cabin this weekend."
He grunted. "You're that serious about her?"
He sighed heavily. "I guess it'll be okay."
"Glad you're okay with it, kid."
"Hey, I've been setting myself up for this since you and Dad told me why you were breaking up. I guess you could've done worse than Miss Colby."
He picked up his basketball as he went back to his bedroom. Patricia smiled and pulled the phone from the pocket of her jeans. She leaned back and dialed Jill's number, eager to share the good news of Michael's reaction.
Jill was invited to dinner a week before they were scheduled to leave for the cabin. Michael met her at the front door and she offered him a smile. "Hi, Michael."
"Hi, Miss Colby."
She smiled and leaned forward. "A little awkward, huh?" she said, sotto voce.
He shrugged and said, "Yeah, a little."
"Invite her in," Patricia said from somewhere inside.
"Sorry," Michael said. He stepped to one side and said, "Come on in."
Jill said, "Thank you," and went inside. Michael followed her into the dining room, where Patricia was setting up three plates. Jill smiled at Patricia's white blouse and blue jeans and said, "Aren't you the total mom?"
Patricia blushed and said, "Hush, you." She gestured at the pizza box from Joe Lack's sitting in the center of the table. "Hope you like Canadian bacon."
"Ah, I take it you let Michael pick the dinner?"
"Compromise," Patricia said. She came around the table and, when Michael went to get the sodas from the fridge, pecked Jill on the lips. "You look great," she whispered.
"I spent two hours this afternoon trying to decide what was appropriate."
Patricia nodded. "You did well."
Michael returned. "I thought I said I didn't want to see any of that."
The women stepped apart and took their seats at the table. Patricia dished out slices of pizza and Michael poured soda from a two-liter bottle. While Michael was focused on destroying his pizza, Jill and Patricia smiled at each other across the table. At one point, Michael looked at them and rolled his eyes.
"No, it's good," Jill assured her. She tossed her backpack into the trunk of Patricia's car and slammed the lid down. "It's good you're finding this out early. I'm not a 'five-am-load-out' kind of girl."
"Hard to believe from a teacher," Patricia said.
"That's September to May. Summer, I sleep in." She had pulled on sweats and a ball cap, her eyes hidden behind a pair of eyeglasses Buddy Holly would have mocked. It was a chilly morning, the breeze off the harbor having swept up the streets and apparently finding her just as she stepped off the porch. She hugged herself and tucked her hands under her arms as Patricia loaded up the cooler.
"Are you going to pout like this the entire weekend?" Patricia asked playfully.
"Yes," Jill and Michael said simultaneously. Michael was just coming out of the house and thought the question had been directed at him. Jill took off her cap, revealing her unwashed mop of strawberry-blonde hair, and covered Michael's eyes with it. "Come on," she said to him. "We can join forces and make your Mom's life miserable for forcing us to do this."
He pulled off the cap and climbed sullenly into the backseat of the car. Jill replaced the cap on her head and shrugged at Patricia. "We got time for a bathroom break?"
Patricia consulted her watch. "If you hurry. We've got a schedule to keep."
Jill waved over her shoulder and headed back into the house. Patricia knocked on the window next to her son's head and waited for him to roll down the window. "Hey," she said quietly. "You okay with her coming down to the cabin with us?"
He shrugged. "Sure. She's cool. Cabin will still be there at noon, though."
"Twerp," Patricia said. She went back to the back of the car and finished loading their supplies. As she tossed in the last bag, Jill exited the house and headed for the passenger door. "Did you lock the front door?"
"Yep," Jill said.
Patricia patted her pockets. Cell phone, wallet, keys. She walked around to the driver's door and climbed behind the wheel. "You want to stop for coffee before we hit the airport?"
"Yeah," Jill said. She had her head against the window, eyelids fluttering behind her glasses.
Patricia glanced at Michael in the backseat and saw him in almost the exact same position. She scoffed and said, "To think I was worried about you guys not getting along."
Jill opened her eyes. "Huh?"
"Nothing. Go back to sleep."
Duckworth Airport was on the far edge of town, just before civilization gave way to wilderness. Patricia drove onto the gravel parking lot and directed her car to the far end of the building. Jill helped her unload the back of the car and Michael took some of the heavier bags. They walked to the main entrance of the airport and checked in for their flight. The plane was equipped to carry three people and a pilot, but the clerk wanted to weigh their luggage.
They made it in under the limit - just barely - and were told the plane would be leaving on time. They left their luggage to be loaded and went to wait in the hideously uncomfortable orange chairs next to the exit. The building was claustrophobic; the only window being behind the ticket-taker's podium. They could see their plane sitting about a hundred yards away, facing away from them, and the pilot was moving back and forth underneath the wings.
"That's Daffy," Patricia said, indicating the squat, gray-haired woman currently staring up at the plane wing.
"Daffy?" Jill said. Michael was slumped between them, chin on his chest, dozing quietly. Jill idly reached over and brushed his hair out of his face.
Patricia smiled as she watched Jill with her son. "Her real name is Tammy something. But the owner of Duckworth Air gives all his pilots duck-related nicknames. There's Daffy and McDuck, and Duckworth himself is the Duckling."
Jill shook her head. "At least they have a sense of humor." She looked back out the window. "What the heck is she doing anyway?"
"Last minute check," Patricia said.
"I'd feel better if they did it way before hand," Jill said.
"You don't like to fly?"
Jill shook her head. "I can handle it. But if there's an option between driving and flying..."
"There's no ferry dock on this island. It's pretty much an undisturbed wilderness out there. Really, really lovely."
"I saw about a hundred rabbits once," Michael said sleepily.
Patricia laughed. "Well, maybe a half dozen. It really is beautiful out there."
"Can't wait to see it."
"Will you go fishing with me?" Michael asked. "Mom always says no. She hates it."
Jill said, "I happen to love fishing. I'd be happy to go with you. Mom can stay at home and darn socks."
"Darn? What darn socks?"
Jill laughed and shook her head. "I've failed you as an English teacher."
Michael looked from his mother to his former teacher, wondering what was so funny about some darn socks.
The flight was just under twenty minutes. Jill peered down as the plane approached and Daffy obligingly tilted the plane in that direction. Hand Island was, as its name suggested, shaped like a three-fingered hand. Three stubby peninsulas stretched out from the main body of the island, and a smaller 'thumb' curved against the eastern side. The thumb had been cleared of trees and smoothed down as a landing strip.
"No boats?" Jill asked.
"There's one boat slip, between the index and middle finger. But we hardly ever use it. It's easier to just use Daffy here."
Daffy looked over her shoulder and said, "Much obliged!"
Michael was in the front seat with the pilot. He'd apparently gotten his fill of the view during past trips and was playing with the plane's radio. Daffy had spent most of the flight giving him a crash course in how she received and made calls. Jill and Patricia were hunkered in the back seats, bent down to keep from bumping their heads. The plane banked down and Patricia said, "Hold on. Landings can get a little rough."
Jill braced herself and Patricia reached over and squeezed her hand. Jill smiled. The plane came down with a thud and Jill's head banged into the wall. "Ow!" she hissed. Patricia reached around her and held her tight as the plane taxied forward.
Daffy managed to get the plane stopped well before it rolled into the water. "All right, ladies and gentleman. That's your flight for today. Makes sure all your parts are still connected to your body; Duckworth Air does not have a lost and found. Any ears left behind are mine."
This got the expected laugh from Michael and Jill just smiled nervously. Daffy leapt from the plane and helped Jill climb out. Michael got out on the other side of the plane and ran to the shore. "Michael," Patricia called after him.
"Just looking, Mom!"
They unloaded their luggage and thanked Daffy. Patricia called Michael back and they headed for the tree line. Daffy turned the plane around and waved to them as she taxied and took off once more. Jill looked at the trees and said, "Well, which way to the cabin?"
"This way," Patricia said. "There's a trail. Pace yourself, Jill. We have three whole days full of nothing. Think you can handle it?"
"Please," Jill laughed. "I've been looking forward to nothing for weeks."
"It's just up this path," Patricia said. She led the way into the woods, Michael at her side and Jill hesitantly following with her eyes on the forest for any lions or tigers or bears that might have been lurking.
The Hood cabin was one of three on the island. It was about three hundred yards from the shore, but so hidden behind trees and bushes that Jill didn't see it until they were almost on the porch. Patricia led the way up the front steps and put down her suitcase to dig through her keys. "When was the last time you were up here?" Jill asked.
Patricia watched Michael dart down the path and crouch down. "Last year," she said absently. "Michael!"
He twisted on the balls of his feet and looked over his shoulder at her.
"You be careful. Be respectful of animals and..."
"Don't feed them. I know, Mom!"
Patricia watched as he hurried away and then went back to working the lock. Jill kept her eyes on Michael until he disappeared through the trees. "Will he be all right?"
"Yeah," Patricia said. She pushed the door open and smiled at Jill. "The only danger is getting him inside in time for bed. Come on. We can get rid of some of these clothes."
Jill smirked and said, "You mean unpack?"
"Eh, one or the other..."
"As long as you're sure Michael..."
"Please," Patricia laughed. "He could run from one end of this island to the other and the most dangerous thing he'd run into is a spider and maybe a non-poisonous snake. He's safe. It's a safe island. Now get in here and ravish me before our chaperone gets back."
"You're getting worked up over nothing."
Martin leaned against the tree, still staring at the spot of sky visible through the trees. The tiny white plane had crossed by just as Jimmy was pretending to track a bald eagle with his rifle. Now, all three of them were standing around wondering if they should high-tail it back home or stay put.
"How many bucks we got? Two?"
"Yep," Lou said. "Maybe three, if we can find the one Jimmy winged. It might have died by now. We got four rabbits and a falcon. Nothing to write home about."
Martin rubbed his cheek and checked his watch. "We can check it out. See who it was. It wasn't a Fish & Wildlife asshole, 'cause it wasn't a government plane. If we leave now, two bucks and a handful of little critters, I'd be kicking myself the whole rest of the summer." He hoisted his rifle and slung it across his shoulders. "Let's go see who's dropped in."
To Be Concluded in Part Two...
Return to the Academy