Mondays with You (Sunday Love Book 2)By: kj lewis
To Amber, because you asked.
And to Frankie and Shawn, a beautiful example that love is love.
I can’t help the stupid grin on my face as I stack the last of my papers to take home and grade. And, honestly, I could care less.
All thirty-two of our students showed up today. All thirty-two students passed the exam. I cannot wait to tell Bree, my teaching partner and best friend, who’s out sick today.
I turn from packing my papers to see Julius, a student I taught last year, fly into my room on a rush.
“Here.” He proudly places a rough rock in my palm.
I fucking love teaching these kids. Especially this kid. He’s the reason I started teaching. Kids like this: smart, funny, broken, necessary.
“We went to the Bronx Zoo for biology class today. I know it’s not the same as some of the ones in your collection,” he shrugs, trying to lower himself in some way. Lower his expectations of what he thinks I’m going to think, how he’s going to compare, measure up.
“Cool man.” My stupid grin smiles back, reassuring him. “I love it. Incidentally, this is volcanic rock.” I hold it up and show him the coloration and the way the holes were formed.
“They use this in some of the animal exhibits.”
“I got it from the tiger exhibit. They had some on the ground. I thought it looked cool.”
“Thanks, man.” I give him a bro’s handshake and add the rock to my growing collection on the windowsill. Julius is looking over my shoulder to see what spot it’s going to be given. Julius has a home life like my best friend growing up. I couldn’t save my friend, but I can do my best to save some of these kids. To save Julius.
Rocks from my students have been a tradition passed down year to year since I started teaching five years ago. One student was planning a trip to visit his aunt in Boston, and he was determined to bring me something back. I tried to think of something that was cheap and easy, and a rock was the first thing that came to mind. I mean, anyone can pick up a rock from the road. Most of these kids have never been out of the city, but like Julius today, they find ways to be creative. It might seem crazy but this small gesture has come to mean something to them. And me. They are so proud to be able to give something to someone. To contribute to the collection.
I don’t get many days like this. Usually when my kids take a geography exam of this magnitude, less than half my kids pass. Today no one made less than a 70.
Still proudly wearing my silly grin, I am definitely feelin’ myself as I take the steps up from the 14th Street subway stop to wind my way to my apartment. The man working the stand on the corner doesn’t appear to appreciate my giddiness when I stop for warm nuts. In fact, he appears to find me odd, but I don’t mind. Because my kids rocked it. And not just today, but every day for the last week that they stayed after school to study, working their asses off to learn the material.
It helps they had an incentive. Without a passing score on this exam, they couldn’t play sports, and sports is all some of these kids have going for them. Most won’t make it past high school basketball, but if half of them make it to a junior college or better, I would be thrilled.
I shake my head as I enter my apartment building, trying not to focus on the difficult road ahead but to celebrate in what happened today. My kids fucking passed!
“West,” Ari winks at me as she enters the elevator as I exit. “You’re happy today.”
“My kids all passed their exam,” I explain, my arm snaking out to keep the elevator doors open.
“That’s fantastic! I’ll be back in a couple of hours. If you want to celebrate, swing by my place?”
“Sorry, can’t. I have a dinner at Bar 9 tonight.”
“Fancy. Did you come into some money I should know about?”
“No,” I laugh. I wish. “It’s a work deal.”
“Have fun,” Ari says as my hand falls to my side to let the elevator doors shut. “Wear the navy blue,” I hear just before they close.
Right, my navy suit. It’s either that or the gray. I only have two. Not much of a need for suits in my line of work.
I unlock the three deadbolts and pull open the industrial door to my apartment. The panic bar automatically latches behind me. Home.
My apartment is in the meatpacking district. It’s become a trendy place to live in New York, especially since the High Line was added several years ago. I was lucky. My cousin lived here before she was married, and since it is one of the few rent controlled apartments left in the city, I am subletting it for a steal. Something I am grateful for on my teacher’s salary.