Blitzed by the BillionaireBy: Alice Ward
I pinned a final cardboard rainbow to my “Welcome to Kindergarten” bulletin board and stepped back to admire my work. I pictured my tiny students filing into the classroom the following day. Their little smiles. The chatter. Even the ones with tears trying so hard to be brave. I hoped the cheerful board welcomed those little ones most of all.
A loud knock drew my attention from the welcoming rainbow to my classroom door. My boyfriend, Ben, strode into the room with a broad smile. As our elementary school’s physical education teacher, he was in his standard gym clothes attire — sweatpants and t-shirt. He looked sexy as hell, like he’d just rolled out of bed, and I silently cursed the fact that our relationship was “hands off” while we were working.
“Hey, Emily,” he greeted me with a kiss on the forehead. “The board looks great. Are you about to wrap things up in here? I’m running to the club before the staff meeting. Want to join me?”
In addition to teaching PE, Ben oversaw the boy’s club’s pee-wee football program. Between after school practices with the school’s sports teams and his time at the club, he didn’t have a lot of free time. But I was always happy to tag along and watch him with the kids.
“I wish I could,” I replied with a sigh, pulling my long brunette hair into a sloppy bun. “Linda and I have a meeting with the Hollis family. We each have one of their twins this year, and they both have severe food allergies.”
Ben raised an eyebrow and perched on one of the miniature desks. “Didn’t you two meet with them last week?”
I nodded and sank into my cushioned desk chair. It was the first time I’d been off my feet all day.
“They just need one last bit of reassurance that we understand what Alfie and Alana are and aren’t allowed to eat. I think they’ll ease up after school starts and they adjust to not having the kids at home all the time. I’m happy to reassure them as often as necessary, but I do wish I could go to the club with you.”
Ben glanced down at his watch and rose to his feet. “Speaking of which, I should get going if I want to get back in time for the meeting. Want to order Thai and stay at my place tonight?” he asked, a grin lifting one corner of his mouth.
The grin was contagious and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling back. “Yeah, I think that’s a tradition we should keep.”
“Perfect. See you soon, baby.” He blew me a kiss and left the room. I stared at the closed classroom door and thought back to the night we’d become a couple.
Ben and I met the previous summer when we were both hired to teach at The Day School, Portland’s state-of-the-art charter school in the working class King neighborhood. We were both fresh out of college and anxious about starting our careers. We bonded over our newbie status at all of the staff development sessions, but our relationship was strictly platonic until the night before classes started.
Ben found me in my classroom that night quizzing myself with flashcards of my students’ names and faces. I remembered being terrified on my first day of kindergarten and I was determined to make the day as easy as possible for my students. Ben suggested that we have dinner, one thing led to another, and we’d been together ever since.
Ben was a walking cliché in the best possible ways. He’d been the star quarterback at his high school and went to Iowa State on a football scholarship. A torn ACL ended his senior season early, destroying his dreams to play in the NFL. After graduation, he returned to Portland to follow his next best dream of one day coaching his old high school team to a state championship.
Physically, Ben was exactly what you’d envision if someone uttered the words “prom king.” He was tall and broad, with sandy blond hair, clear blue eyes, and dimples that made it impossible to stay mad at him for more than a few minutes. The most irresistible thing about him was he had no idea just how cute he really was. Ben was modest, reliable, and, in my friend Melissa’s opinion, predictable to a fault. But after the life I’d lived, predictable was just what I needed.
My parents, Emma and Lee Kinkaid, were killed by a drunk driver on their way home from a Christmas party when I was just three months old. According to my Uncle Walt, it was the first time my mother left me. She hadn’t planned on joining my father at his office’s annual party, but Uncle Walt was in town for the holidays and he offered to watch me so they could enjoy some time together.
A few hours later, a police officer arrived at the house and broke the news. Uncle Walt was my only surviving relative, save my mother’s parents who were already in a retirement home and in no condition to raise an infant. Uncle Walt adopted me and added my parents’ combined names to the moniker they’d given me, making my full name Emily Catherine Grace Kinkaid. It was a mouthful, but I was proud to carry my parents’ names.