...I’d been a nervous wreck before my first two classes, but now I was calm and cool. My other four classes had gone smoothly, so I was confident about this one. Algebra 101. Easy subject, easy curriculum. Plus it was a night class; several of my colleagues around the community college had told me the evening crowd was a hell of a lot easier to deal with. Instead of fresh out of high school kids, it was adults who had to cram a class into their work schedule and family life. They tended to take things more seriously.
I pushed open the classroom door and offered a quick glance and smile at the eight or nine students who’d already arrived. As I arranged copies of the syllabus and all the other crap I needed to hand out on the table at the front of the room, more students arrived.
One woman who was probably in her mid-forties came up to me with a late enrollment form. I jotted her name down, took the carbon copy of the form, and slid it into my notebook under the roll sheet.
I scanned the room, counting heads. Twenty-one. A quick look at my roll sheet showed twenty-eight, plus there’d probably be more showing up with late enrollments. Not my largest class, but quite a crowd.
I looked up at the clock at the back of the room.
Five minutes till go-time.
The door opened again, and I glanced up as three more students filed in. Two of them were Navy, probably from the base down the road. They must have come straight from work, because they were still in uniform, and… Oh. My. God.
The Navy had recently changed their everyday uniforms, shifting the utilities—which were a lot like prison blues—to blue camouflage. I wasn’t sure how effective blue camouflage really was unless they wanted a man overboard to be harder to find, but from an ogling standpoint? Oh yes, they did just fine. Cammies always looked good, and the deep blue had a tendency to bring out eyes in a way that would probably have this math teacher tripping over his words for the entire quarter.
Good thing I wasn’t enlisted anymore. Being in the closet had been bad enough when we were all dressed like prison inmates. This? This would have been torture.
The boys in blue took seats in the back row. Backpacks rustled, papers shuffled, pens rattled. More students arrived. Seats were filling quickly, so I did one last check to make sure I had everything I needed in the order I needed it.
I resisted the urge to drum my fingers. With the late enrollments, I had a class of thirty-two now, but only twenty-six in front of me. Much as I didn’t like starting late, I figured I could give the stragglers until ten after, just in case anyone had difficulty finding the room. The campus layout wasn’t terribly intuitive, so students could be forgiven for being a few minutes late.
The door opened again, and when I looked up, my heart stopped.
So much for calm, cool, or collected.
There was no mistaking his identity. Even if I could have convinced myself to hide behind a veil of denial for a moment or two, the uniform—oh, Navy, why couldn’t you have stuck with prison blues?—had his name right there on his chest.
My former shipmate. My ex-boyfriend...