An 800-Word Short Romance Submitted to Woman’s World Mag – Rejected

“Hope During the Quarantine”

“Students, have a great afternoon!  I miss you!” Clare sighed as she exited her live classroom for the day.  The school year had been even more challenging than predicted. When she had relocated for a new job, she had known it would be an adjustment to be away from her family and friends. But now with the COVID-19 isolation, it put a whole new level to loneliness.  

Clare was grateful that she had been able to continue teaching her fourth graders, but teaching online was bittersweet.  It was great that she was able to see her students’ faces, but somehow that made her miss them even more.  Then there was little Lexie, who had pulled at her heartstrings, having lost her mother a couple years prior.  

Lexie was completing her assignments, but hadn’t attended any live sessions since the first day of online classes.  Her father’s emailed replies had been polite but brief, just like all of her interactions with Lexie’s handsome father throughout the school year.  His smiles had never matched his sad eyes.  His recent responses hadn’t lessoned her concern about Lexie.  Maybe Clare could do something to encourage her.

Clare went into her school account to access Lexie’s home address.  Then she put on her gloves and mask, and grabbed one of the packages that she had made up for all of her students.  Though she had planned on delivering these the last week of school, she would start her deliveries early.  

It turned out that Lexie’s house was in her neighborhood.  As she pulled into the driveway, she saw that Lexie and her father were playing wiffle ball in their fenced yard.  It looked like her father was bantering with Lexie, but Lexie’s shoulders were droopy as she shuffled toward the ball.  Clare grabbed the package and went over to stand a few feet from the fence.  She hoped Lexie would recognize her masked teacher.  

For a few seconds, it looked like Lexie had no idea who she was.  Then, “Miss Michel!  Miss Michel”, was hollered as Lexie sprinted toward the fence, a giant smile on her face.  

Clare backed up a couple feet and called, “Hi, Lexie!  I have missed you!  I brought you a little present to let you know I was thinking about you!  I will put it on your porch!”  

Unsure about how Lexie’s father was taking her impromptu visit, she glanced up at him as he came to stand beside Lexie.  Clare felt joy when she saw the grin that matched his daughter’s.  

“Thank you!  Thank you, Miss Michel!” Lexie was jumping up and down.  It was the happiest Clare had ever seen her.  

“Thank you for all of the hard work you have been doing online, Lexie!  But, I really missed not seeing you in the live classes.  Your friends have been asking about you, too!”

Lexie’s grin faded and she looked toward the ground.  “I’m sorry, Miss Michel.  It’s just… It’s just that…”

“Lexie felt sad seeing everyone online and missing school so much, Miss Michel,” Lexie’s father interjected.  

“I felt embarrassed that everyone might see me cry,” Lexie whispered.  

“It’s okay, Lexie,” Clare soothed.  “If you don’t feel comfortable, you don’t have to join in.  You can even change your settings so that you can still hear everyone and have just a photo or emoji up on the screen.  I can help get that set up?”

Lexie nodded vigorously and her grin came back.  The three of them spoke for several minutes, during which Lexie’s father asked Clare to call him “Griff”; Clare let it be known that she lived nearby and that she would stop by again if Lexie liked; Lexie talked about how she liked some of the videos and slideshows Clare had posted; and Lexie raved about her new puppy.

“Why don’t you get Sweetpea to show Miss Michel?” Griff prompted Lexie.  As Lexie headed into the house, Griff turned to Clare, “I can’t say enough about how grateful I am that you stopped by today.  Lexie had been doing so much better prior to all of these “coronavirus changes”, especially as she really took to you as her teacher.  Being isolated has caused a setback.  I think she felt that she would never see you again.  I can see hope back on her face!”

It seemed that Clare could see another type of hope as she looked into Griff’s eyes. 

“I know you are new to the area.  If you aren’t seeing anybody…  Maybe we could go out for coffee or something? After the quarantine and when you are no longer Lexie’s teacher?” Griff asked hesitantly.

Clare felt her dopey grin under her facemask, “I would love that!”  As Lexie carried an adorable puppy toward them, Clare thought, Good things are happening despite COVID-19!

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