Disclaimer: I dont really need one, since this story and the characters are mine. So, if you ever want to borrow them, just ask, ok?
This is about two women, who fall in love. And they act upon it as well, so, if that is illegal in your neck of the woods, you are warned. I am sorry, I still find it hard to imagine that love can be illegal, but whatever .
This story is situated in The Netherlands, the place where I grew up. If you come across certain places or laws or rules that seem weird to you, or just unfamiliar; they are Dutch <g>.
"Simon! Would you please hurry? You will be late for school!!"
A little boy, with dark curly hair came running down the stairs, coming to a full stop, just in front of a woman with the same curly dark hair, only hers was long and cascaded down her shoulders and back. The woman smirked and rolled her green eyes, making the boy laugh.
"What kept you?"
"I couldnt tie my laces, mom," the boy explained, pointing at his shoes.
His big gray eyes looked at her with such innocence, it made Kyra smile.
"Do you mind if I redo them?" she asked, pointing at the shoelaces that were dangling in a very dangerous way.
The little boy shook his head and rested his hands on is mothers shoulders, while she carefully tied his shoelaces again, this time with a double knot.
"Okay, big guy. All done. Do you have your backpack? Lunch?"
"Yes, mom," he obediently answered.
"Great," Kyra Hartman sighed, grabbing his jacket from a chair and handing it to her son. "Lets go then. I dont want your new teacher to think we are always late."
Simon slipped on his jacket and fumbled with the zipper, sticking out the tip of his tongue in pure concentration, which made his mother smile. He was such a gorgeous little boy. No matter how young he was, he always tried to look out for his mother and sometimes Kyra worried about Simon being too wise for his age.
"Done, mom," Simon interrupted her thoughts with a look of pride on his face. Again he had been able to zip up his jacket all by himself.
"Great job, honey," Kyra praised him, ruffling his curly hair. "Lets hit the road, toad."
"Lets hit the track, Mack," Simon chuckled, always enjoying the same joke every day.
Kyra laughed and slung her laptop case and purse over her shoulder, before opening the front door, letting Simon run past her towards the car that was parked alongside the curb. He impatiently waited for her at the car, jumping from one foot to the other.
"Whats with the nerves?" Kyra inquired, buckling her son up in his seat in the back and closing the door.
"Mom!! The new teacher!!"
"Oh, right, the new teacher," Kyra chuckled, pushing back her long hair and starting the engine. "We dont want to miss that, now do we?"
Kyra cast a look in the rear view mirror and smiled when she saw the look of excitement on Simons face. He was only five and liked going to school very much. Kyra inwardly smirked and secretly hoped he would always have that same attitude about school. That could make her job as a parent a lot easier.
"So, does this new teacher have a name?"
"Emma," Simon answered. "She came to say hello yesterday. I told you mom!!"
"Yes, you sure did, son," Kyra sighed. "But your mother is getting old and her brain sometimes takes a vacation without her permission."
Simon laughed and his gray eyes sparkled, which made Kyra smile in return.
"Grandmother is old," he said. "Her hair is all white. Johnny says that if people are old they have no more colors in their head, thats why they have white hair. Is that true, mom? Do I have colors in my head? Where are they then? Will their eyes go white as well then, mom?"
"Oh, boy," Kyra mumbled, bracing herself to come up with an explanation of the aging process that could be understood by a five year old.
"I am afraid Johnny is wrong, honey," she answered. "Nobody has colors in their head, it is complicated."
My goodness, aging, pigmentation and genetics. How in the world will I be able to explain that? Sesame Street, where are you when I need you!! How will I get myself out of this one gracefully?
"Look, mom, theres Ibrahim," Simon suddenly shouted enthusiastically. "Its his birthday today."
"Thats nice, sweetie," Kyra answered, relieved about the change of subject.
She pulled over at the parking area opposite the school and quickly stepped out to open the door for Simon, who was bouncing up and down, while his eyes never left his friend, whose mother was carrying a big bag of, hopefully healthy treats.
"Ibra said he would bring Turkish cookies. They are really nice, mom, they have fruit in them," Simon said, knowing the word fruit was always a good one to use when it came to treats.
Kyra unbuckled the seatbelt and laughed while lifting her son from the car.
"And when there's fruit in a cookie, it's a healthy one, isn't it?" she teased, seeing the mischief in her son's eyes.
"Give me your hand, buddy, we need to cross the street."
Simon looked up at his mother and showed an adorable little pout.
"Mom! I am big already. Five!!," he held up the five fingers of his left hand for emphasis. "Jesse is allowed to cross all by himself, and ."
"Simon," Kyra interrupted her son with a stern glance. "I don't care what Jesse is and is not allowed to do. I am telling you not to cross this street alone, you understand me? There's far too much traffic here. Now, if you feel you are too big to hold my hand, fine! But you will not cross this street without me."
Simon looked at his shoes and fidgeted with one of the straps of his backpack. He adored his mother and whenever she was angry with him, which did not happen often, he got this queasy feeling in his stomach, which made him want to cry. He didn't like it.
Without looking up, the little boy reached out his hand and grabbed his mother's larger one, immediately feeling the encouraging squeeze.
"Thank you, honey," Kyra softly spoke.
Simon finally looked up into a pair of warm, green eyes. Immediately he felt better.
"Sorry, mom," he mumbled.
"Its all right, love. I just don't want anything to happen to you, okay?"
Simon nodded and happily skipped alongside his mother when she crossed the street, holding his hand tightly.
When they had reached the gate, Kyra knelt in front of her son, noticing most kids had already disappeared inside the building. She put her hands on Simon's slender shoulders and looked at him closely.
"I will be back to pick you up after school. I have a meeting at two o' clock, but I should be able to be here in time. If not, I "
"I will wait inside, mom," Simon interrupted her, knowing the drill.
He glanced towards the big building and Kyra noticed a faint blush on his cheeks. She followed his glance and saw a young woman standing inside the doorway, apparently welcoming the children. She seemed a little taller than Kyra and her short hair was a beautiful auburn color. She was wearing a pair of comfortable looking jeans and a dark green sweater.
"Is that your new teacher?" Kyra asked, finding Simon's apparent first crush endearing.
The little boy nodded and cast his mother a shy look through impossibly long, dark eyelashes.
Kyra smiled and quickly kissed his cheek.
"Go ahead, "she encouraged him. "Have a good day and I will see you later. Bye, sweetie."
"Bye, mom," Simon answered, kissing her back, before running towards the door. He was the last child to enter the building and Kyra let out a sigh of relief, pleased they had made it in time.
She waited until Simon disappeared out of sight and slowly walked back to her car, knowing she had a busy day ahead of her and not looking forward to it at all.
Kyra's day turned out to be a hectic one, with two unscheduled, but important conference calls, a scheduled meeting, numerous phone calls and her regular work, that only seemed to pile up, which made her decide to take some of it home with her. If Simon was asleep, she could try and catch up a little.
Normally Kyra liked her job, working at Hearts Choice, a company that was founded by her father, but there were days she despised it and wished she had chosen a different profession. This had turned out to be one of those days.
As President and Chief Operating Officer of one division of the company, she had to make a few difficult decisions about some investments, without much time to consider alternatives and consequences. Hopefully things would not backfire, because that could cost the company a lot of money. Usually she had time to talk things through with her brother Jasper, who was overseeing a different division that made up the other half of Hearts Choice, but not this time, because her brother had been out of town, having some important meetings with potential clients.
A quick glance on her watch made her groan, when she realized she would be late to pick up Simon. She could only hope his teacher was smart enough to keep an eye on the boy. She knew Simon would be obedient and wait for her inside the gate of the playground, but still, she did not like the idea of her son being out there all by himself. Not even if it was only for five or ten minutes.
"I am out of here," Kyra called out to Sandra, her secretary. "If there are things that can not wait, just send me an email, okay? I will deal with it from home."
"Sure thing, boss," Sandra answered, grinning when she saw Kyra roll her eyes. "I will see you tomorrow."
"Have a good evening, Sandy. Keep out of trouble"
"Yeah, right," Sandra snorted, waving at her boss. "Give Simon a hug from me."
"I will," Kyra promised, disappearing around the corner. "Bye."
Of course traffic was hell and Kyra tried not to lose her patience when she was stuck behind a truck that seemed to crawl instead of drive at the allowed speed limit. Finally she arrived at the school building, twenty minutes late. There was no sign of Simon and Kyra knew his teacher must have kept him inside, which meant she had to go in and get him.
"Oh, my, "she mumbled, pushing open the door and stepping inside. "What will that new teacher think of me? I bet she thinks I neglect my kid."
Quickly Kyra walked towards Simon's classroom, very aware of the clicking of her heels in the silent hallway.
When she opened the door to the classroom, her eyes immediately fell on her son, who was sitting at a table, coloring in a picture he had drawn.
"Hi, sweetie," Kyra breathed. "I am so sorry I am late!!"
Simon looked up and sent his mother a sunny smile, holding up the picture he had been drawing.
"Look, mom. This is where granddad lives."
"It's very pretty, honey," Kyra answered, putting down her purse and stroking his cheek affectionately. "Oh, I can see the ocean and the beach!"
"Yes and see this? It's the shop," Simon happily explained, pointing towards a small, brown colored square in the middle of the picture.
"It's very good, Simon. Are you going to send it to granddad?"
"With the pictures you took last week," Simon answered, concentrating on his art work.
Kyra smiled and turned around when she heard a soft sound. Immediately her eyes fell on the woman she had seen that morning. She had been right, the auburn haired woman was Simon's new teacher.
Kyra smiled and extended her hand, stepping closer. Her hand was caught in a strong, warm grip and her smile brightened. She hated those weak handshakes that felt like holding a bunch of bones and sweaty skin.
"Hi, I am Kyra Hartman, Simon's mom," she introduced herself. "You must be the new teacher."
"Emma Altena," the teacher smiled. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Hartman, I "
"Please, call me Kyra."
Their eyes met and Emma Altena almost sucked in her breath when she took in the vision in front of her. Kyra Hartman was a beautiful woman and she had to try really hard not to stare.
The curly dark hair that playfully bounced around a face that was a classical beauty, a fine, straight nose, full lips, tanned skin and the most beautiful green eyes she had ever seen. Eyes that looked at her with a mixture of genuine kindness, shyness and curiosity.
"Um .only if you call me Emma," she answered, hoping she had not made a fool of herself.
"That will be my pleasure," Kyra smiled, mesmerized by the blue eyes of the woman in front of her. They were dark, almost indigo and reminded Kyra of a warm summers day. The short hair was thick and healthy and up close Kyra could see the color was a natural one. The little freckles on Emma's nose seemed to testify to that as well.
Caught staring, Kyra blushed and turned around to cast a look at Simon, who was still engrossed in the drawing of his picture.
"I am sorry I am late," she excused herself, feeling guilty. "I had a few unexpected meetings and of course they took longer than anticipated."
"No problem," Emma's soft, rich voice answered. "Simon is pleasant company and I had not planned on going home early anyway. There are too many things I need to do first."
"As long as you don't think I make a habit of it," Kyra smiled. "Usually I am a good mom."
"No doubt," Emma laughed, appreciating Kyra's sense of humor.
"Mom, Emma is from all the way up North," Simon's voice suddenly sounded. "From the .the .Wa Whalesea, or something. That's why she talks so funny."
"Wadden Sea, Simon," Emma calmly corrected him, with a laugh in her voice, while Kyra hid her face behind her hand and wished for the ground to open and swallow her up.
He did not say that. He did not say that.
A hand briefly touched her shoulder and embarrassed Kyra looked up into a pair of twinkling blue eyes.
"It's all right," Emma chuckled. "I guess I do have an accent that's not common for this part of the country. But at least we are able to communicate, so I guess it's not that bad."
"At least you have a positive outlook on things," Kyra appreciated. "Well, I'd better take my little boy home and make sure he will get something to eat tonight."
After she had already spoken the words, Kyra realized what she had said and she quickly turned around towards Emma to clarify her remark.
"I mean, it's not like I never feed him, I ." Kyra sighed, wondering why the opinion of Simon's new teacher meant so much to her. "I am making a habit of embarrassing myself today, just ignore me, okay?"
Emma cast a look at the woman in front of her, who looked like she was ready to bolt.
"Simon looks healthy and well fed so .," Emma reassured her, with a twinkle in her eyes. "I am not worried."
Emma sensed Kyra's insecurity and gave her a friendly pat on the shoulder.
"Ready to go home with your mom, Simon?" she asked the small boy.
He nodded and carefully put away his pencils, which caused his mother to chuckle. At home she always had to remind him to clean up after himself. But maybe his good behavior had something to do with the new teacher. And Kyra could not blame her son. Emma Altena was a very charming woman.
Where the heck did that come from?
Kyra frowned and shook her head to clear away the unusual thoughts and handed Simon his jacket.
"Come on, buddy. We need to stop by the grocery store on the way home."
"Bye, Simon," Emma smiled. "I will see you tomorrow."
"Bye Miss Emma," Simon beamed.
Kyra took her son's hand and shot a glance at the teacher, who was casually leaning against her desk, her hands stuffed in the pockets of her jeans. A ray of sunlight highlighted the red in her hair and again Kyra's noticed how beautiful the color was.
"It was nice to meet you, Emma," she spoke, walking towards the door.
"Likewise," Emma smiled, waving at Simon who shyly wove back.
"I'll try to drop Simon off on time tomorrow," Kyra joked, opening the door to the hallway.
Emma grinned and briefly their eyes met.
"See you in the morning."
"Bye," Kyra answered, feeling an awkward sense of loss when the door closed and Emma disappeared out of sight.
Inside the classroom Emma Altena stared at the door for long moments, trying to analyze why one look from Kyra Hartman had made her feel like a schoolgirl again. She breathed in deeply, smelling Kyra's perfume that still lingered in the air and involuntarily closed her eyes to savor the scent. When she opened them again and turned around to slowly head back towards the bookcase, her eyes fell on Simon's desk. Next to his chair, on the floor, was Kyra's purse.
"I bet she'll need that," Emma mumbled, picking up the soft leather material and quickly walking towards the door. When she entered the hallway and looked out of the window that overlooked the schoolyard and parking area, she could see a car pull up and drive away.
"Now what?" she sighed, uncomfortably looking at the leather purse in her hands. "I will not go in there and look for an address, "she told herself, while turning around and slowly walking back towards the classroom.
With a heavy sigh Emma sank down in one of the childrens chairs and looked around the colorful decorated room with tired eyes. The first day was always a difficult one, she knew. Her class was pretty large, it actually had twelve more children in it than the last class she taught, back home.
Emma sighed again and rested her elbows on the small table in front of her, while her hands supported her head. Her sad eyes stared at the drawings that were decorating the wall, without really seeing them. In her mind she visited her parents huge farmhouse kitchen, with the enormous oak table that could easily seat ten adults.
If that table could talk, it would tell a lot of stories. Happy ones. Funny ones. And unfortunately also sad ones.
Emma rubbed her tired eyes and took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders and slowly getting up from the tiny chair.
"Stop pitying yourself, Emma," she scolded. "It was your decision to leave your family and get a job here in the South. No turning back now, so, youd better make the best of it. Now, get that list with all the kids name and see if you can find Simons moms phone number."
With deliberate strides Emma walked to her desk and slid open one of the drawers. She pulled out a thick folder and was pleased to see she had chosen the right one. Her eyes scanned the rows of names, addresses and phone numbers, until she reached Hartman. It listed two numbers. A regular one and a cell phone number.
Remembering hearing Kyra say they had to go to the grocery store, Emma thought it would be best to call her on her cell phone. Especially if Kyra Hartman carried her money around in her purse. Checking out could prove to be an embarrassing situation then.
Taking the list with her, Emma walked to the phone that was mounted on the wall, out of reach from adventurous five year olds and with more confidence than she was feeling, she punched in the number.
"Kyra Hartman," a melodious voice sounded after a few seconds and Emma took a deep breath.
"Mrs. Hart I mean, Kyra, hi, its me, Emma Altena. I am sorry to interrupt your shopping," the background noises told Emma Simons mother definitely was walking down a shopping aisle.
"Oh, hi Emma" Kyra hesitantly greeted, obviously still not aware she had forgotten her purse.
"Um you left your purse in the classroom," Emma told her, smiling when she heard Kyra muttering under her breath. "I am sorry," she added, feeling bad for the woman, who had to be tired as well after a long day of work.
"Well," Kyra answered with a defeated sigh. "This morning I did tell Simon my brains were on a vacation and it seems like they have not returned yet."
"I..um if you tell me where you are shopping, I could come over and bring you the purse," Emma timidly suggested.
"Oh, no, Emma. I couldnt ask you to do that," Kyra replied. "Luckily I have a debit card here with me, so at least I can pay for the groceries. That will save me from some embarrassment," she chuckled. "But thanks for the offer," she added with warmth. "I guess I will finish up here and come by to pick it up. It could have waited until tomorrow, but I have some documentation in there I will need tonight. I guess I will just have to backtrack."
"I couldnt help notice your address," Emma said, while an idea was forming in her head. Somehow she wanted to help the woman, not willing to give much thought as to why. "On my way home I can drop off your purse, since I pass your neighborhood anyway."
"Oh, Emma, I cant "
"Its no trouble, really," Emma interrupted Kyras objections, twirling the telephone cord with her fingers. "I will be leaving here in an hour or so, I hope that is no problem."
"No, no, of course not," Kyra quickly answered. "Its so nice of you to do that, Emma, dont worry about the time. I need to cook and bathe Simon first anyway. Besides, whenever I work at home, I always wait until Simon is asleep."
"I guess that is settled then," Emma smiled. "I will see you later."
"Yes, thanks. Thank you, Emma," Kyra replied gratefully.
After Emma had finished preparing her classes for the next day, she had left the building and when she crossed the school yard she studied a map of the city. It had been a love gift from her eldest sister, Hester, who had a habit of getting lost and thought her sister suffered from the same lack of orientation. Emma could usually find her way around a new place though, but at the moment she was grateful for Hesters thoughtfulness.
Looking at the map she noticed that Kyra and Simon lived across from a park and she decided it would probably not be hard to find the address.
Tucking the map away in her leather school bag, she opened the door of the car and stepped inside. For some reason her heart fluttered when she thought about Simons mother and annoyed at that physical reaction she furrowed her brows.
"Get a grip, Emma," she told herself while steering her car away from the parking lot across the school. "You are too old and too seasoned to have crushes like this. Besides, the woman has a child and is most likely married. I am sure Mr. Hartman would not appreciate you ogling his beautiful wife."
And beautiful she is, a little voice in the back of her mind sounded.
With a tired sigh Kyra put the grocery bags in the boot of the car and just as she was about to unlock and open the door to let Simon crawl into the backseat, her sons enthusiastic voice startled her.
Kyra looked up to see a tall, slender woman strolling towards her and she suppressed another sigh.
"Just what I need," she mumbled.
In spite of her age, Vivian LeJeune still was a strikingly beautiful woman. Her gray hair was always styled according to the latest fashion and at all times her clothes were immaculate and basically screaming haute couture.
Her face only showed some wrinkles around her eyes, something she was very proud of and she worked hard to keep it like that, using all the appropriate creams and ointments.
She should have been absolutely attractive, except for the expression on her face, which often was cool and distant. Kyra could not remember a time when her mothers smile had reached her eyes.
"Mother," she greeted in a tired voice, already trying to come up with an excuse to leave as soon as she could.
"Hello, Kyra," Vivian addressed her daughter in a cool way. "Isnt it a little late in the day to go shopping?"
Kyra bit back a snide remark, not wanting to set a bad example for her son, who was looking at his grandmother with a beaming smile. But her mother was forever testing her patience with subtle remarks about the way she raised Simon and the way she looked and dressed.
"No, I dont think it is," she quietly answered.
"Grandma, I have a new teacher. Her name is Emma and she is really nice," Simon chimed in, looking up at the elegant lady with a happy face.
"Thats nice, dear," his grandmother answered absent-mindedly, glancing down with a cool smile before she turned her attention back to Kyra again.
"Dont forget to pick up Simon on time Wednesday afternoon. I have an appointment that evening and I need to prepare for that."
I always pick him up in time, Kyra thought. Dont worry.
Because Simon had Wednesday afternoons off from school, he usually went to his grandmother once a month. Not because that was more convenient for his mother, but because Vivian LeJeune insisted on spending some time with her grandson. Kyra had decided that even though she could not get along with her mother, it would be wrong for her to keep her son away from the only grandmother he had. Even though lately she had seen subtle changes in her son after he had spent the afternoon with her. He seemed more subdued and less bubbly after a visit to his grandmother. Still, it did not prevent the little boy from trying his hardest to please the older woman. And Kyra loved that about her son.
"Dont forget to tell Simons new teacher I will pick him up from school. I dont want any hysterical scenes, because she doesnt know who I am."
"I will tell her, mother," Kyra patiently answered. "But if you will excuse us now, we need to go home. I still have a lot to do."
"Are you working again from home?" Vivian LeJeune said with evident disgust. "How can you be a good mother when you are always working, while your son is at home? You are so much like your father."
You have no idea.
Kyra did not bother explaining she only worked from home after Simon had been fed, bathed and they had spent some quality time together, sometimes watching television, sometimes playing games or reading stories. She had already explained that numerous times already and could not be bothered anymore.
Opening the door she motioned Simon to climb into the car and take a seat. The little boy gave his grandmother a hug that was not answered and quickly hopped into the car, Kyra made sure her son was securely strapped into his seat belt.
"I will see you Wednesday, mother," she said, but her mother had already turned around to head back to her own parked car, a pair of tired and sad eyes stared after her.
It only took Emma about ten minutes to reach the neighborhood where Kyra and Simon lived and slowly driving through one of the main streets, she noticed it was a nice looking, typical Dutch, middle class area. Houses built with yellow bricks and large windows that would let in a lot of light. The little front yards all neatly raked and mowed and Emma could see the tell tale signs of the upcoming spring season.
Here and there children were playing on the grassy playgrounds and with appreciative eyes she noticed the neighborhood had a nice selection of basketball and soccer fields that were obviously well used.
Rounding another corner, Emma spotted the park she had seen on the map and her eyes scanned the numbers on the houses, looking for number twenty-seven. It was a nice looking house on the corner, with the same large windows as the other buildings had. On the windowsill a variety of potted plants gave the house a cozy appearance. The small front yard was tidy, with a few neatly trimmed rosebushes and a colorful border of tulips.
"Nice," Emma mumbled.
Emma grew up on a dairy farm and while the land and the cattle were mainly her fathers responsibility, the garden that surrounded the house had been her mothers pride and joy. Ann Altena had created a beautiful garden and ever since she had been a little girl, Emma had loved helping her mother out.
With a wistful smile Emma looked at Kyras front yard, suddenly feeling an enormous sense of loss when she realized she would not be around anymore to help her mother plant bulbs and flowers. Or even do some simple weeding.
Slowly Emma walked up to the narrow path that lead to the front door.
Next to the doorbell, an old roof tile was mounted on the wall with the names of the occupants of the house neatly painted on it in bright colors.
Kyra and Simon Hartman
Emma, who was about to press the doorbell, hesitated for a second, giving herself a moment to ponder over the implications of that little sign.
"Does that mean its just Kyra and Simon? Or is Simon named after his father and not added on the sign yet?" Emma mused. "Ah, well, theres only one way to find out, I guess."
With determination she rang the bell and almost immediately she heard the sound of little, bare feet running over a wooden floor.
"Ill get it, Ill get it," an excited voice called out and Emma grinned. Simon was a cute kid and very smart, she had already noticed that on her first day at school. And he had a crush on her, that too she had noticed and she found it completely endearing.
The door was opened and Emma looked down in the sparkling gray eyes of Simon. He was clad in his pajamas and his curly hair was still damp from his bath.
"Hi, Miss Emma," he shyly greeted, stepping aside and opening the door wider. "Wont you please come in?"
"Well raised and polite," Emma mused, smiling at the little boy.
"Thank you, Simon," she greeted him while gently ruffling his hair. "You are a real gentleman."
"Grandpa always says that good manners are are ," his face scrunched up and Emma could almost see the wheels churning.
"Half the profit," Kyras amused voice suddenly sounded. "My father is a businessman," she explained with a little smile, wrapping her arms around Simons body when he pressed himself against his mothers side.
"Come in, Emma. That is, if I am not keeping you," Kyra said. "Your first day must have left you drained, so if youd rather go home ?"
Home is about two hundred kilometers north of here, Emma thought, feeling an unexpected stab of pain.
"I um I dont want to interrupt anything," Emma half heartedly objected. "You must be busy yourself and "
"Mom made spicy chicken and rice," Simon helpfully provided. "Do you like that? Its my favorite."
Innocent gray eyes peered up at her and Emmas eyes softened when she looked at the little boy, who was still standing in his mothers embrace.
"It sounds great," she smiled.
"Would you like to stay for dinner? Its the least I can do," Kyra rushed to say, wondering why in the name of everything that was holy it seemed so important that the schoolteacher would stay a little longer. "I have made enough for three," she added.
Oooh, does that mean there are usually only two people in this house?
"Well, if its not inconvenient or anything "
"No, absolutely not," Kyra smiled in relief. "You will have to eat anyway and we have enough to share. So, when you go home later, you dont have to worry about dinner. You can just relax for the evening. Its the least I can do, since you saved me a trip back to the school."
"Well, in that case Id like to accept the invitation" Emma replied.
"Do you want to see my goldfish?" Simon asked with barely contained excitement. "Mom gave him to me and his name is Fred."
Emma laughed and looked at the animated little boy, who reminded her of her nieces and nephews back home.
"I would like that," she answered, seeing Kyras amused smile.
Without hesitance Simon grabbed his teachers hand and pulled her towards an open door that lead to a large living room, still chattering about his beloved pet.
Entering the living room Emma immediately liked what she saw. The entire wall across from the door had a floor to ceiling bookcase and was literally stuffed with hundreds of books. Colorful pillows littered a big, dark blue couch in the corner that was an invitation to slouch on the couch and dont forget your book.
Two big recliners and a light wood coffee table complimented the sitting area, together with a few huge potted plants that gave the place a sense of serenity.
At the other side of the room a sturdy, wooden dining table and four chairs, made out of the same wood as the coffee table, stood near the entrance to the kitchen.
In the corner was a little table with a tiny chair in front of it, a fish bowl was placed next to neatly stacked plastic boxes that were used to store Simons toys.
"Look, Miss Emma, this is Fred," Simon introduced her to the goggle eyed goldfish.
She knelt next to him on the ground and grinned when the fish immediately rose to the surface, obviously hoping to be fed.
"Hi, Fred. Nice to meet you," she smiled.
"He is hungry Mom," Simon decided, looking over his shoulder to see his mother standing right behind them.
"He has been fed, honey. I think he just wants to say hello."
Simon chuckled and softly tapped the glass bowl, cooing at the little fish.
"Maybe he wants dessert," he spoke wistfully.
"I doubt it, Simon. Besides, you know what that girl at the shop told us. If we give him too much food, he will get sick."
I dont want him to get sick," Simon sighed. "No more, Fred!" he added in a stern voice, making both Kyra and Emma smile.
"Its a nice fish, Simon," Emma complimented the little boy who sent her a beaming smile.
"Do you have pets?" he curiously asked, liking the way Emmas blue eyes looked at him.
"Not anymore," Emma answered and Kyra could hear the regret in her voice. "I have a dog, but he lives with my parents."
"Why?" Simon asked, picking up the faint hint of sadness in Emmas voice and putting his little hand on her knee.
"Because I moved here and I live in an apartment and Ruckus is used to being able to run around, so I thought he would be sad if I would take him."
"Ruckus?" Kyra chuckled.
"And it suits him well," Emma answered with sparkling eyes. "I never saw a dog that could get into so much trouble as he does."
"What did he do?" Simon eagerly asked, always willing to learn about the mischief of others, even if it was a dog.
"Well, when he was just a puppy he managed to get into the barn and chase all the chickens. There were feathers everywhere," Emma grinned remembering the havoc. "But then the rooster chased Ruckus around and my dad had to separate the two. There were chickens hiding everywhere and we didnt find eggs for weeks. Of course Ruckus thought it was all great fun. And that is just one example of his mischief."
"Tell more," Simon begged, but Kyra gently interrupted her son.
"I think Emma would like a more comfortable seat, honey. And maybe something to drink?" Kyra raised her eyebrows and looked at the schoolteacher who slowly rose to her feet.
"Thanks," she smiled in answer.
"I had just made some tea," Kyra explained. "But I also have "
"A cup of tea would be nice, thanks," she interrupted. "That is what I usually drink after I get home anyway."
"Tea it is then," Kyra said, heading to the kitchen. "You want some as well, Simon?"
"Can I have chocolate milk?" he answered hopefully.
"Not before dinner. You will ruin your appetite," Kyra replied. "You may have some apple juice."
"Okay," the little boy pouted, taking a seat on the couch next to his teacher.
Emma looked around and decided that she really liked the decoration of the room. The combination of light wood furniture and the colorful accessories made the place look cozy and warm.
On one of the shelves of the bookcase she noticed a few framed photos and she looked at them with interest. One picture showed a tanned Kyra in a bathing suit, holding an equally tanned Simon on a white beach, with palm trees in the background. They were both laughing and the resemblance between them was striking.
Another picture showed Simon sitting in the sand, building a castle with two elderly men. One of them was dark skinned and sported a huge grin, while the other one was pulling faces at the camera. His dark, curly hair was graying at the sides and Emma noticed his eyes were the same color as Kyras. They were obviously related.
"Probably her father," Emma mused, studying the mans handsome features.
"Thats my dad," a soft voice suddenly sounded, startling Emma out of her reveries.
Feeling caught staring she slightly blushed and when she looked up she saw the gentle amusement in Kyras eyes.
"He lives in Aruba," Kyra explained, ignoring Emmas discomfort. "That picture was taken two years ago, when Simon and I were visiting."
Her voice was soft and held a trace of sadness and Emma looked at her with sympathy.
"It sounds like you miss him," she gently stated, picking up her cup of tea and sending the other woman a grateful smile.
"I do," Kyra answered, while her eyes traveled back to the picture. "But he is happy there and has been for a long time now. I dont think he could stand having to live here again. And who could blame him?" she added with a chuckle. "Its a beautiful island."
The mesmerizing green eyes traveled back to Emma and looked at her with mild curiosity. Surprisingly enough Emma did not feel awkward or insecure under Kyras pensive stare. Her eyes stared back calmly and shone with friendly amusement.
"How was your first day at school?" Kyra finally asked, genuinely interested. "Is it lot different here than you are used to?"
The simple question warmed Emma inside and she realized how nice it was to have somebody inquiring about her first day at a new school.
"Kids are kids, she smiled, taking a sip from her tea. "But still, I have to admit there are a lot of differences. The size of the class for instance, I used to teach about twelve to fifteen children, but now I have twenty five. That takes some getting used to," she grinned. "Another difference is the many ethnic backgrounds here. But I like that, it makes it very interesting."
"You didnt have that at your old school?" Kyra curiously asked.
"No not really. That was probably due to the fact that I was teaching in this little village. Its a farming community and almost everybody there is just plain Dutch."
They both laughed and appreciated the fact that they were feeling so at ease with each other. Leaning back in the big chair, Kyra curled up her legs underneath her body and contentedly sipped her tea.
"Must be hard, moving to a place you dont know and leaving your friends and family behind," she casually remarked, shooting Emma a glance over the rim of her tea cup.
Emma slowly nodded and her eyes looked pensive while she stared at the surface of the coffee table.
"In way it is," she admitted. "But in life you sometimes arrive at a crossroad and then you have to make a decision. I know I will miss my family, because we are all pretty close knit, but I am sure I will visit them a lot and of course I can always use the phone and I do have an email address," she smiled.
"Do you have any brothers and sisters?" Kyra asked, sensing Emma was reluctant to say more about the subject, but wanting to get to know the friendly schoolteacher better.
Emma laughed and nodded her head, while her dark blue eyes were sparkling.
"I have a big family! I am the sixth child of a total of eight," she grinned when she saw Kyras eyes widen. "I have four sisters and three brothers. The eldest is thirty seven and the youngest is twenty two."
"Wow," Kyra breathed. "That is a big family. I have one brother and that is it."
"And then we have the additional nieces and nephews," Emma smiled fondly. "Let me see, the latest count would be fourteen. Eveline is the latest member of our clan, she is three months old now."
"Good grief," Kyra exclaimed, trying to imagine a family get together at the Altena family. "Christmas at your place must be a real event."
"Oh, it is," Emma grinned. "Its a good thing my parents have a huge farm house. If everybody is present there are thirty one of us."
Kyra quickly did the math and concluded that one of the Altena children would be single.
"And they are all married?" she innocently asked.
"Except me," Emma calmly answered.
Her blue eyes turned inward and pensive and Kyra just knew there was a sad story to be told. But she hardly knew Emma Altena and did not want to pry. Still, the idea of somebody hurting the kind hearted teacher was making her angry, for reasons she could not understand.
I just met her today, how weird is that? Somehow she kick starts my protective streak. Up until now that has only been Simons privilege.
"I hope you are hungry," she spoke, breaking the silence. "I always make too much when I cook Indonesian."
"Ooh, I love Indonesian food," Emma grinned.
"Good," Kyra smiled, unfolding her frame and getting to her feet. "Ill be puttering in the kitchen for a little while, but it wont be long."
"Can I help?"
"If you dont mind cutting veggies?" Kyra laughed.
"Are you kidding? With a family like mine, I have cut more veggies than
you will see in a lifetime."
Dinner was a comfortable affair. Both women felt so at ease with each other, like they had been friends for years. Their conversation was relaxed and varied and after a little while both Kyra and Emma felt like they were rapidly getting to know each other better, while Simon chattered away and entertained the adults with the logic of a five year old mind.
Halfway through dessert Simon became quieter and when Kyra glanced at the clock she immediately shot upright.
"Goodness! Its almost seven already. Its time for you to go to bed, buddy," she told her son, lovingly raking her fingers through his curly hair.
"I am not tired, Mom," Simon answered with a sleepy voice.
"I hope you dont mind me not believing you, honey," Kyra grinned. "But you sure look tired to me. And there is school tomorrow."
Her sons gray eyes traveled to Emma who was looking at him with sparkling blue eyes that shone with obvious affection. He shot her a shy smile and obediently slid off his chair. He walked to his own little corner in the room, where the fish bowl was and softly tapped the glass.
"Goodnight, Fred," he mumbled.
At that moment the phone rang and immediately sleep was forgotten. Simon trotted over to the cordless phone that was lying on the coffee table and picked it up.
"Simon Hartman," he said politely, like his mother had taught him.
"Hey! How is my buddy doing?" a cheerful voice sounded and Simons face lit up in a huge smile.
"How are you, Simon? Everything all right?"
"Yes, Mom got me a fish. You have to come over and see it. His name is Fred."
The voice on the other side laughed heartily and Simon grinned.
"Fred, huh? Well, I cant wait to meet this Fred, Simon."
"I have a new teacher," Simon announced, glancing at Emma through his thick, dark eyelashes.
"Is she nice?"
"Yes, she is really nice and pretty," Simon answered.
Kyra chuckled when Emma rolled her eyes and her cheeks colored lightly.
"Embarrassed by a five year old," she sighed, but she was grinning.
"Out of the mouths of babes " Kyra responded, hearing the words leave her mouth and immediately wondering what made her say a thing like that.
"Its my brother, Jasper on the phone. Simon adores him," she told Emma, stacking the plates and playfully swatting away Emmas hand when she wanted to help.
"You are our guest," she smiled. "Just relax."
"No, uncle Jazz," they heard Simons voice again. "No, Emma is here. She stayed for dinner because Mom forgot her purse and Emma brought it back."
There was a brief silent and then Jasper Hartmans smug voice sounded in Simons ear again.
"Is she? Well, thats real nice, buddy. Can I talk to Mom for a bit? I will see you Sunday, okay? I will come over and we can play soccer."
"Yeah! We have new goals on the field, uncle Jazz, with real nets."
"Hey, that is excellent," Jasper grinned. "That means I dont have to go and get the ball all the time after you score a goal, huh?"
"I can kick the ball real hard," Simon said with a lot of pride in his voice.
"Yes, I have noticed," Jasper laughed. "See you, Sunday, Simon."
"Bye uncle Jazz."
Simon had walked back to the dining room table and handed his smiling mother the cordless phone.
"Uncle Jazz is coming Sunday," he beamed.
Kyra took the phone from her son and brought it to her ear, hearing her brothers infectious laugh.
"So, you will be gracing us with your presence this weekend? I am honored," she teased him, chuckling when she saw Emma taking the plates over to the kitchen with a smug look on her face.
"Well, I am not that bad, am I? I saw you last week, twice."
"Yeah, one time at a meeting and the other time you came running past my office because you were late for an appointment," Kyra snorted.
"All right, I am guilty," her brother chuckled. "I will make it up to you Sunday. Say, what is happening in your neck of the woods, sis? You got company?"
"Yes, you heard that right," Kyra answered.
"That is kind of unusual, having your sons schoolteacher over for dinner on her first day," he grinned.
"She is new in town and she did me a huge favor by dropping off the purse I left in the classroom when I picked up Simon," Kyra explained with a glance at the kitchen, where Emma and Simon were cleaning up the dishes. "It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. She is a very nice person."
"Good. I am glad. You could need a friend, sis. Life is more than working and raising your son."
"I know, Jazz," Kyra sighed. "But you know how things have been."
"I know you have been working real hard, Kyra, but maybe now its time to relax a little. When is the last time you went to the movies? And I am not talking about a kids show. I bet you cant even remember."
"Must have been before Simon was born," Kyra admitted with a sigh. "All right, brother, I get the point. I will try and work on it."
"Thats a good start, sis," Jaspers warm voice sounded. "Thank you. Um of course I did not just call you to give you a hard time. I um I when I come over Sunday, I will bring somebody I want you to meet."
Kyra suppressed a chuckle when she heard the insecurity in her brothers normally confident voice. She could picture him sitting on couch, his long legs stretched out in front of him and resting on the coffee table, while his fingers nervously tapped his leg.
"You will?" she asked. "Must be serious."
"It is," Jasper sighed. "Very serious. But I need some advice."
"From me?" Kyra chuckled. "Are you sure?"
"I...mother doesnt know yet and when she finds out, shell have a cow."
"Why is that?" Kyra frowned. "You fell in love with a serial killer?"
"Not really," Jasper nervously chuckled. "But she is from Surinam."
"And the problem with that is, what exactly?"
Jasper let out a deep sigh and Kyra knew he would be sporting a deep frown.
"You know how mother feels about interracial relationships," he answered in a bitter voice.
"Jazz, honey, she will get over it," Kyra answered, with more conviction than she really felt. Their mother had some very old fashioned and prejudiced beliefs about a huge variety of subjects. Equality among the different races happened to be one of them.
"Cross that bridge when you get to it. I know you have always been Mommys little boy," Kyra continues, without a trace of menace. "But I want you happy, Jasper and so does dad. I know he will be absolutely thrilled. Mothers beliefs are archaic, we all know that. By the way, doesnt your honey have a name?"
"Elvira," Jasper answered with a happy sigh and Kyra chuckled.
"I am looking forward to meeting her, Jazz. And dont worry about mother, all right? Just follow your heart."
"As always, you are absolutely right, sister. Well, I guess I will see you Sunday then. Have a nice evening, Kyra. Give Simon a hug for me."
"I will," Kyra smiled, noticing her son and Emma return from the kitchen. "See you Sunday. Bye."
With a small frown Kyra put down the phone and breathed in deeply. She fully understood Jaspers fear about bringing his girlfriend home. Their mother had always been very outspoken about the people her children were allowed to associate with. It had sadly cost both Jasper and Kyra numerous friends. Their mother always seemed to know who they were hanging out with and if she disapproved, she had made life so difficult for either her children, or their friends, that the outcome was in her favor. And when her children were persistent, she had not hesitated to use drastic methods.
Kyra had seriously stood up against her mother once, thinking that if she was persistent enough, she would be able to win the battle. Her mother had turned on her friend, who ended up paying dearly and after that Kyra had decided, that for the sake of her friends, she better keep her distance.
"Mom?" a small voice sounded and a little hand tugged her arm. "Are you sad?"
Kyras eyes locked with a pair of concerned gray ones and reached out her arms to pull her son in a warm, heartfelt hug.
"It was just a bad memory, honey," she honestly said. "But that is in the past now." Kyra kissed her sons forehead and playfully squeezed him. "You need to go to bed, son," she expertly changed the subject. "Say goodbye to Emma and go up to brush your teeth. Ill be there in a minute."
Without protest Simon climbed down from his mothers lap and walked over towards the kitchen door where Emma had been looking at the scene in front of her. She had not meant to eavesdrop, but could not help to have overheard some of the conversation Kyra had with her brother. It sounded to her that their mother would not be a person she would like.
With a smile she looked down at Simon who stood before her and glanced up with a sleepy smile.
"Goodnight, Miss Emma," he said.
"Goodnight, Simon," she answered with a warm smile, gently ruffling his hair. "Sweet dreams. I will see you tomorrow."
"Bye," he waved, disappearing in the hallway where they could hear him climb the stairs to the second floor.
"Would you like a cup of coffee or tea, Emma?" Kyra asked, looking at the woman in the doorway, aware of the blue eyes that seemed to look straight through her.
"I should be going," Emma answered. "I dont want to keep you from your work."
"Work can wait a little while longer," Kyra waved the objection away. "I usually dont start before eight anyway. And since you have cleaned up the kitchen for me, I have some time to spare," she added with a grin. "So, coffee or tea?"
"In that case, I would like some tea," Emma smiled.
For the next hour the two women enjoyed their hot beverage, their quiet conversation and each others company. Both were secretly thrilled by the fact they were so at ease with each other.
The occasional silence was comfortable and while sipping their tea, they shared a smile, both realizing they had started a tentative friendship.
"Oh, before I forget. Wednesday my mother will pick up Simon from school," Kyra suddenly broke the silence in a voice that almost sounded apologetic.
Emmas blue eyes studied Kyras hooded eyes and wondered what it was about the relationship between her new friend and her mother that was so unsettling to the dark haired woman.
Being the sixth child of a large family Emma was used to confrontations, but she had a feeling that an approach like that could be difficult for Kyra. For a few moments she debated with herself, but then she decided to try and help Simons mother to talk about it. It was not just because she wanted to see the shadow of hurt disappear from those expressive green eyes, she told herself. It was meant as a gesture of friendship. Right?
"I hope you dont think I am prying or anything, Kyra," she spoke, carefully choosing her words. "But I cant help noticing that every time your mother is the subject of conversation, you definitely look sad."
Kyras eyes looked at Emma with a startled expression and for a moment she looked like a little girl that had been caught doing something naughty. But then her face relaxed and while she cast down her eyes, she let out a deep sigh.
"You see a lot," she replied, but there was no accusation in her voice, just a trace of surprise.
"I am sorry if I make you feel uncomfortable," Emma gently spoke. "I did not mean to do that."
"I am not," Kyra hastened to say, while her eyes traveled back up and locked with Emmas. "I am not feeling uncomfortable, I am just not really used to talking about my feelings."
I am not even used to admitting that, she wryly mused, deliberately pushing away the question why Emma Altena seemed to have that effect on her.
"My parents got a divorce when Jasper was ten years old and I was eight. It was a difficult time and sad. Since it was my dad who wanted the divorce, my mother was the victim. To make a real long story short, she always stayed in that role. Jazz and I did our best to be good kids and please her, but somehow it was never good enough, because we always had to listen to her complain about our dad."
Kyra fell silent for a moment and her slender fingers twirled around the silver ring she was wearing.
"That must have been very difficult for you and your brother," Emma softly spoke, feeling a hurt deep down inside when she thought about a little Kyra and Jasper, trying their best not to disappoint their mother.
"It was," Kyra sighed. "We adored our dad, we still do. He tried to help us as much as he could, but we lived with mother. The hardest times were when we had to go back home again after spending our vacations with dad." Kyras eyes avoided the empathic blue ones and stared at her fidgeting fingers. "I cried myself to sleep a lot of times," she shyly admitted.
Emma had to take a sip of tea to swallow away the lump in her throat. As a schoolteacher she often dealt with the nasty fall out of divorces. No matter how legitimate the breaking up of a marriage could seem, the children were always the innocent victims, often suffering in silence because of their loyalty to both parents. Those little heartbreaks that could have huge impacts on the lives of children, often went unnoticed by the usually emotionally drained adults.
"I am sorry you had to go through that," Emma finally spoke, her voice a little husky because of the emotions she felt.
"So am I," Kyra answered, mustering up a smile. "But that is all in the past now. Fact is, my relationship with mother is pretty .strained. And I am putting it nicely," she softly chuckled. "According to her I look wrong, I act wrong, I am not a good mother, its a long list. The worst thing of course is me being a single Mom. I dont think she ever forgave me for that."
Although, for some reason, Emma was dying to know what happened to Simons father, she did not dare to ask such a personal question. If Kyra wanted her to know, she would tell her.
"I have only met you today, but I see how you and Simon interact together. For what its worth, I think you are a great Mom," Emma smiled.
And about the way you look, wow, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
"Thank you," Kyra returned the smile that was sent her way and Emma was pleased to see the twinkling lights had made their return. "Coming from a professional, I take that as a compliment."
"You may," Emma quipped and they both started laughing.
"So, when mother comes to pick up Simon, just be prepared she will inspect you from head to toe. Her grandson can only be taught by the best. I know Simons former teacher, the one you are replacing, always dreaded those Wednesdays when mother came to school."
"Thanks for the warning," Emma dryly replied. "Ill make sure to wear my very best clothes that day," she added jokingly.
You cold wear rags and still look good, Kyra mused. Now, where the heck did that come from? I must be losing my mind.
Getting up from the comfortable couch Emma shot Kyra an apologetic look.
"I need to get going, Kyra," she announced, seeing her new friend nod and slowly get up from the recliner.
"Bummer," Kyra grinned. "Now I have no more excuses left to not wade my way through some thick folders of dry material. But I guess I should be doing something, I have a meeting to prepare for tomorrow."
"And I need to make a few phone calls," Emma stated, walking towards the hallway. "I promised one of my sisters and my mother to give them a call and tell them about my first day of school."
"They must care about you a lot," Kyra smiled, stepping inside the hallway behind Emma.
The slightly taller, auburn haired woman cast a look over her shoulder and nodded.
"They do," she admitted with evident warmth in her voice, reaching out for the doorknob of the front door.
Kyra was doing the same thing, wanting to open the door to see her guest out and their hands touched. For a moment they stood frozen, but then Emma slowly withdrew her fingers from underneath her friends. She swallowed hard and sent Kyra a shy smile, wondering if the curly haired woman would be able to hear the thundering of her heart.
Kyra could not have heard the pounding in Emmas chest, because her own pulse had quickened to such an extent that her ears were almost buzzing. She took a deep breath, hoping that her friend would not have noticed her state of confusion and answered the smile that was sent her way.
"Thank you for everything," she spoke, grateful that her voice was not shaking. "I had a real good time."
"So did I," Emma answered. "Dinner was great and I enjoyed the company. It made my first day at school a lot better."
"We will have to do it again," Kyra boldly suggested, briefly wondering where the words had come from.
She liked Emma a lot and hoped that she had found a new friend. It certainly seemed that way. She could only hope Emma would feel the same way about her as well.
"I would love to," Emma replied, much to Kyras relief.
"Great," Kyra smiled, reluctantly opening the door to let Emma step outside. "I will see you tomorrow, when I drop off Simon. Have a good evening, Emma and thanks."
"Thank you," Emma replied. "Good luck with the work, Kyra."
Kyra pulled a face, making Emma laugh. She looked so much like Simon whenever he did not like something, it was absolutely endearing.
Emma crossed the narrow street to get to her car and when she opened the door she cast one more look at the house. Kyra was still standing in the doorway, her arms crossed in front of her chest, while she was leaning against the door sill. The soft light in the hall way illuminated her slender form and Emma wondered if Kyra had any idea how beautiful she was.
With a friendly wave she stepped into her car and slowly drove off.
"Goodness me, what a day," she whispered to herself, but there was a happy smile on her face.
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