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The Journey Continues, Continuation of "Continuum"
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 19 March 2020 - 05:19 AM                                    
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QUOTE (Dragondog @ 19 March 2020 - 12:59 AM)
So for the time being, my laptop is broken. So unless it fixes itself soon, my detailed reviews won't be what they were. This tablet I'm using doesn't let me run more than one tab at a time, and copying and pasting into quotes are a pain with this thing. I'll do what I can, though sad.gif

Saving Jack again. Joanna was right XD

Jack doesn't want to go to Alaska. I feel the same way about cold weather laugh.gif

Mac's not wrong about Minnesota winters.

Oh, still hanging on that cliffhanger, I see wink.gif I wonder if Joanna will feel reassured that MacGyver was mature enough to back out since he was overpowered here.

Sorry about your laptop. My computer here at work is running annoyingly slow...I think it's due to so many people working from home via the internet...or it's just our crummy computer system!! LOL!!

Thanks for the review. Per suggestions from other readers, things will get more, um, interesting??? hmm.bmp



Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 19 March 2020 - 11:45 PM                                    
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It had it coming. It's been working on and off, and the screen broke, too.

Looking forward to it biggrin.gif



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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uniquelyjas
Posted: 25 March 2020 - 10:14 AM                                    
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Chapter 42: On Her Own


March 24, 1998

“How could you break up with MacGyver?!” Judy Fairfax scolded as her daughter packed a suitcase.

“I didn’t break up with him, Ma,” Joanna clarified, quickly losing her patience. “I just suggested we take some time away from each other to make sure we can trust our feelings.”

“And then you’re planning on staying at his place while he’s gone?”

“That’s right, Mother,” Jo huffed.

“That doesn’t make any sense!”

“Look, I just need some time alone so I can think. Wherever I go, I’m with people. At school, at Challengers, even here at home.”

“When is Mac coming back?”

“I don’t know. Maybe never. We didn’t talk about it,” Joanna snapped.

“Seems to me you didn’t talk about a lot of things,” Judy observed.

Joanna stopped packing and took a deep breath. After leaving MacGyver’s the night before, she had pulled her car to a stop a block away and cried her eyes out before heading home where she held it together long enough to inform her parents that she and Mac needed some space and he was going to L.A. to check on Jack. Of course, her mother knew there was more to the story so Jo recounted the dinner with Craig and Nikki.

“They were telling all these stories about Mac’s assignments and I felt like they were talking about a stranger,” Joanna had tried to explain. After a long, sleepless night of alternately staring at the ceiling and sobbing into her pillow, she went to work as if nothing had happened, stopping at Challengers afterwards to pick up Frog where she learned MacGyver had told everyone he would be gone for a few days while he visited a friend. Of course, Mac’s total absence and her brief appearance garnered curious stares from Cynthia, Geena, and Rosie, but she refused to provide further clarification.

“I agree it wasn’t exactly my finest hour,” Joanna confessed to her mother. “But it’s done now.” She closed and latched her suitcase before heading downstairs, collecting Frog, and driving to MacGyver’s. When she pulled in the driveway his landlord, Charlie, was on the front stoop shaking hands with a man in a suit.

“Have you sold the townhouse yet?” she called to Charlie as she gathered Frog and her belongings.

“No,” the older man sighed. “My real estate agent just suggested I drop the asking price.”

“I’m sorry,” Jo replied sympathetically. “I’m sure it’ll all work out.”

“Mac didn’t mention you’d be staying here,” the landlord said, clearly eager to change the subject.

“That’s because he doesn’t know. Things happened kinda fast.”

Charlie studied Joanna who nervously shifted her weight from one foot to another while Frog tugged on his lead, anxious to head into the house.

“What’s goin’ on with you two anyway?” he asked.

“Mac went to visit--”

“A friend. I know,” Charlie replied, cutting her off. “He told me when I drove him to the airport. At least you got your stories straight. If you ever want to talk about what’s really goin’ on, I’m just next door. Remember that.”

Joanna summoned a small smile. “Thanks. I will.”

Once inside, Jo unclipped Frog’s leash and the pudgy bulldog headed directly to his usual napping spot under the coffee table. He had been spending a lot of time at Challengers and was probably glad for the solitude. Jo inhaled deeply and looked around. Everything was the same as it always was but somehow the space felt incredibly empty without MacGyver there. But that was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Annoyed at her melancholy and vowing not to shed another tear over the man, she picked up the TV remote and turned it on to a national news station.

“Our top news story this evening takes us to Prince William Sound, Alaska, where an American oil tanker struck the Bligh Reef early this morning causing a massive spill. Coast Guard officials report that the spill has been contained and is considerably smaller than the Exxon Valdez disaster that occurred in approximately the same location nine years ago today. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and several smaller agencies including the Phoenix Foundation in Los Angeles are in the process of mobilizing clean-up crews to send to the area. We will update this story as soon as more information becomes available.”

Her heart rate sped up at the mention of Mac’s former employer. Would Phoenix recruit him to go help with the spill? No, knowing MacGyver, if he heard this report, he would willingly volunteer for the job. Was he on his way to Alaska even now? Jo shook her head. That was none of her concern at the moment. She was here to see if there was a place for her in Mac’s life...assuming he even wanted her in it once he returned. If he returned.

After a late supper of leftover tofu casserole and a promise to go to the supermarket the next day, Jo changed into her pajamas and crawled into Mac’s bed. The sheets felt stiff and smelled clean. How many nights did he spend on the couch anyway? Or did he change the linens before he left? He had no way of knowing she would come here. Or did he know her that well? Joanna tossed and turned for an hour before glaring ruefully at the clothes hamper, cursing her traitorous heart.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” she muttered as she climbed out of bed and rooted through the dirty laundry to find one of MacGyver’s t-shirts. Quest complete, she grabbed the extra pillow laying next to her on the bed and pulled the stretchy material over it. Snuggling back under the covers, she held the pillow close, breathing in Mac’s scent as she drifted off into peaceful slumber.

XXXXX

Wednesday morning, Joanna arrived at the high school early as usual and quickly checked her mailbox as was her routine. She was surprised to find a note from Vice Principal Varga asking to see her before classes started.

“I see you got one, too,” a rich, deep voice with a hint of amusement said from behind her. She turned toward its source only to find an attractive man looking down at her. About six feet tall, his short yet neatly styled dark brown hair sported natural auburn highlights while his clear, hazel eyes caught and held her gaze. “I guess we were never properly introduced,” he said, holding out his hand. “I’m Tim O’Brien, one of the social studies teachers.”

Placing her hand gently in his, she knew she should offer a firm, professional handshake, but this way just felt..right.

“I’m Joanna Fairfax. You can call me ‘Jo’. I teach English.” Though by the very simple sentences that had just come out of her mouth one would never know it.

“Oh, so you’re in the foreign language department,” he teased, his eyes dancing in the fluorescent light.

“I’m afraid my students would agree with you,” she laughed lightly while reclaiming her hand. “We should go see what Mrs. Varga wants.”

Before either of them could knock on her office door, the vice principal invited them in.

“The bell is going to ring in a few minutes so I’ll keep this short. There’s a statewide teacher’s convention in Madison this weekend focusing on at-risk students. I want the two of you to go.”

With this she handed Joanna and Tim each a large brochure.

“It runs all day Saturday and Sunday morning. I’ve booked you each a room in the hotel where it’s being held for Friday and Saturday nights. I figure it best if you drive up Friday after school and I’ll give you both Monday off to compensate for your time. I do ask that you try to attend as many separate seminars as possible. I’d like you to report what you learned at our next staff meeting. And Joanna, I’ll need your answer regarding your contract when you return. Do either of you have any questions?”

Jo stood speechless. Her head spinning.

“Nope. Everything sounds good,” she heard Tim respond confidently.

With a smile and a nod she turned and headed out of the office with the social studies teacher behind her.

“How about we get together during lunch and pick out which presentations each of us should sign up for?” Tim suggested.

“Sure, that sounds fine,” Jo responded absently, still trying to process all the information that had been thrown at her.

Joanna had just dismissed her last class of the morning when Tim entered her classroom carrying a bag lunch. They spent the next thirty minutes poring over the brochures Mrs. Varga had given them trying to decide who would attend which seminars. Joanna was surprised at how smooth the process went. Tim was organized, flexible, and easy to work with.

“I was thinking,” he ventured, just before the afternoon classes were scheduled to begin. “It doesn’t make sense for us to each take our own car. How about we drive up together. I’m always game for a road trip.”

“That sounds great! I really don’t know my way around Madison and have a penchant for getting lost,” Jo confessed.

“Then it’s settled,” Tim replied, smiling broadly.

Before Joanna could answer, the bell rang and students began to enter the classroom.

That evening Jo curled up on Mac’s couch, Frog snoring beside her. She turned on the television, but nothing managed to hold her attention. Her stomach roiled every time she thought of the upcoming weekend. Last minute assignments were a way of life for MacGyver, but she sorely lacked the confidence and spontaneity to deal well with such situations. Feeling restless, she gently rose from the couch so as not to wake the sleeping dog and began to look around Mac’s apartment. For all the time she had spent here, she realized she had actually paid little attention to many of his possessions. For instance, the yellow rubber ducky on the kitchen counter. She picked it up and gave it a squeeze. It had been there for as long as she could remember, but why? There had to be a story connected to it.

As she continued to stroll about, she noticed framed snapshots of Mac with Pete or Jack or even Nikki scattered about on shelves and the fireplace mantel. There was even one of him with an elderly gentleman she assumed was Grandpa Harry if the fishing hat was any indication. He also had books. Lots of books. Upon further inspection she noticed his preferred subjects were history, biographies, and just about any type of science you could think of. However, these were juxtaposed with a huge collection of video-taped Westerns and a rather impressive amount of records and a few CD’s and, oddly enough, high school yearbooks. Her fingers ached to turn through the pages, but she wasn’t ready to read what would undoubtedly be inscriptions of undying love from his former girlfriends. Having made a circuit of the room, she found herself back in the kitchen. She and MacGyver had spent a lot of time here together and she couldn’t think of a place that suited him better. And therein lie one of the reasons she had been avoiding marrying him. She loved this apartment as much, if not more, than he did. Never had another place felt more like home to her. But it was small. She glanced up toward the bedroom. Save for a small closet and dresser, there wasn’t much storage space. It was fine for a bachelor, but where would her things fit? The apartment didn’t even have room for a guest or even a child should they decide to adopt. Yet the idea of living somewhere else seemed unthinkable. Of course, she had never mentioned this to MacGyver. He had traveled and lived all over the world. Surely to him an apartment was simply a place to stow his hockey gear until he decided to move on. Perhaps that was the reason he couldn’t commit to buying a house when he had moved to Milwaukee. He couldn’t let go of the residue from his earlier transient lifestyle. Was he truly ready to finally put down some roots? But then again, people say home is where the heart is, so if her heart was truly with Mac, shouldn’t she feel at home anywhere as long as they were together?

XXXXX

Thursday at noon Joanna looked up from the essay she was grading to find Tim leaning casually against her door jamb, a brown paper lunch bag in his hand.

“I figured since we’re spending the weekend together we should get to know each other a little better,” he said with a gentle smile.

When she quirked an eyebrow he grimaced. “Sorry, that sounded better in my head.”

Jo laughed lightly. “Don’t worry, I know what you meant. Pull up a seat.”

Over the next half hour, Joanna learned that Tim O’Brien had been born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and now owned a home in the city. He had a sister and brother-in-law who had graced him with two nephews he clearly loved. Like her, he had grown up Catholic, attending parochial school until college. He was an avid Green Bay Packer fan and confessed to having only one serious relationship from which, he stressed, he learned a lot and was not about to make the same mistakes twice. If someone had asked Jo to create the perfect guy, before meeting MacGyver, Tim would have very much fit the bill. She had always rued the fact that she was an only child with no nieces or nephews to dote on, especially as time passed and it became clear she would have no children of her own. And, of course, having someone who actively shared her faith was a quality she highly regarded.

“So what about you?” he asked as they tossed the remains of their lunch in the trash. “Rumor in the teachers’ lounge says you’re engaged.”

“Do you always believe everything you hear in the teachers’ lounge?” she countered playfully.

“Only the stuff that’s true,” he replied, then let his gaze land on her modest diamond ring. “So, does that come with a guy or do you just wear it to scare off the weirdos?” He pulled a face causing her to laugh.

“It comes with a guy, for now,” she answered softly.

Tim’s demeanor turned serious. “Sounds like there’s a story in there somewhere.”

“It’s complicated,” Joanna said with a shrug. “He’s in Los Angeles right now. We needed some time apart.”

The bell signaling the end of the lunch period rang, saving Joanna from Tim’s questioning eyes. “Tomorrow? Same time? Same place?”

“It’s a date,” Jo answered, summoning a smile. Her heart was beating double time as students began to drift into the room. What had she been thinking? First, she flirts with the guy and then she leads him to believe that her relationship is in trouble. Of course, there was a very strong possibility her relationship with MacGyver was in trouble.

Friday morning Joanna left for work earlier than usual so she could drop Frog off at Challengers since she’d be gone for the weekend. She also felt she owed Cynthia an honest explanation. After all, both her and MacGyver had practically abandoned the club leaving the older woman to run it single-handedly. After Jo had settled Frog into his preferred corner and set out fresh food and water for him, she crossed the room and tapped softly on Cynthia’s office door.

“Mind if I come in for a minute?” she asked.

Cynthia looked up from her work, surprise registering on her face. “Of course not! Please, have a seat. We’ve missed you around here.”

“I know and I’m sorry,” Jo responded as she sat on the edge of the offered chair. “I wanted to let you know I brought Frog over for the weekend. I need to go to a convention in Madison.”

“That’s no problem. The kids will love having him around again. They missed him these past couple of days,” Cynthia assured her with a smile.

“I’ll also be making it a point to spend more time here.”

Cynthia waved off the comment. “You’re busy with school. We’ll be fine until MacGyver comes back.”

Joanna looked down at the floor. “That’s something else we need to talk about.”

“Well, it’s about time!” Cynthia leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest. “There’s more to Mac’s trip, isn’t there?”

“How did you know?”

“When he stopped in to say he was leaving, he looked like he had just lost his best friend...or maybe someone even more important.”

Joanna reluctantly met Cynthia’s gaze, dreading the censure she assumed she would find, but instead, the woman’s eyes were filled with compassion.

“Mac didn’t totally lie to you,” Jo began. “He was worried about not hearing from Jack so I told him to check things out. But I sent him away because some things happened on his birthday that caused me to start rethinking our relationship.”

“Honey, you have to know that MacGyver is head-over-heels in love with you. I’ve known him a long time and have never seen him this happy. This content.”

“I want to believe you. I really do. But I need to be sure we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

“And how will you know you are?” Cynthia challenged.

Ashamed that she didn’t have an answer, Joanna glanced down at her watch and quickly excused herself saying she was late for work which would be true if she continued with this conversation.

The lunch bell had just rung when Tim poked his head into Joanna’s classroom. She greeted him with a bright smile he did not return.

“Listen, I’m sorry, but I’m gonna have to break our lunch date,” he informed her. “I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork that I need to get done before we leave.”

Jo sighed in relief. “No problem. I’m actually glad because I still have to get lesson plans together for the sub on Monday. I’m beginning to think it would be easier just to come in myself.”

“No way!” Tim objected. “Mrs. V. gave us the day off. Take advantage of it! By the way, could you give me your address so I know where to pick you up later?”

“Oh, sure,” Joanna mumbled as she scribbled the address to Mac’s apartment on a sticky note. “I’m all packed, I just want to change into something more comfortable for the trip.”

“Sounds great. I’ll see you about four?”

“See you then,” she agreed as both anxiety and excitement about the upcoming weekend did battle in her stomach.

Joanna had just finished taking one last look in the mirror when there was a knock on the front door. Knowing it was Tim, she hurried down the spiral staircase and let him in as she went to retrieve her luggage.

“Play much hockey, do you?” Tim inquired as he examined Mac’s gear.

Jo laughed. “No. This isn’t actually my place. I’m house sitting for a friend.”

“This ‘friend’ wouldn’t happen to be the same guy who gave you that ring?”

Joanna felt herself flush. “Yeah,” she admitted softly. “But I’m not sure how long he’ll be here, especially after his landlord sells the place.”

Not caring for the direction this conversation had taken, she picked up her large suitcase and changed the subject.

“Sorry, I tried to pack light,” she smiled ruefully as Tim quickly took the piece of luggage from her.

“No problem. A girl’s gotta be prepared for everything, right?” he said with a wink as he headed out the door.

Jo felt her heart flip at the refreshing reply. She had gotten so used to MacGyver complaining about how much she packed she never expected some other guy might actually understand.

“I hope you don’t mind, but I thought we’d take Highway 16,” Tim said as they headed west, out of the city. “I figure Friday night rush hour on the interstate will be a nightmare. This way may take a little longer, but it should be a lot less stressful. Besides, it’ll give us more time to get to know each other.”

Over the next two hours, they exchanged anecdotes about attending Catholic grade school, their families, and the paths they had each taken that had landed them both at Lincoln High School. Joanna was surprised and pleased at how easy their conversation flowed. Even the silence was comfortable. They had just reached the outskirts of Madison when they saw a billboard advertising a well-known, casual chain restaurant.

“Wanna stop and get some supper before we check into the hotel?” Tim asked.

“You read my mind,” Jo grinned.

When the server appeared beside their table at the crowded restaurant, Joanna ordered the fish fry, a Friday night staple on any Wisconsin menu. Tim ordered a steak with all the trimmings, causing Jo to frown.

“What?” he asked defensively.

“Nothing,” she murmured.

“C’mon, what is it? You a vegetarian or something?”

“No, it’s just a Friday. In Lent.”

Tim relaxed as understanding dawned. “And you thought I’d abstain from meat like a good Catholic boy.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed,” Jo stammered feeling suddenly awkward.

“Trust me, I’m sure God, Himself, would break that rule for a good old-fashioned piece of beef!” he laughed while Joanna summoned a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

After having secured and searched out their rooms in the hotel, Tim deposited Joanna’s luggage next to her door.

“Looks like we’re neighbors,” he remarked.

“Looks like it,” she agreed, as she fiddled with her keycard to unlock her door.

“Well, if you need anything during the night, just knock on the wall,” Tim teased with a friendly wink.

“I’m sure everything will be fine, but I’ll keep that in mind,” she replied with a smirk before tugging her suitcase into her room and closing the door behind her as a tingling heat crept up her neck. Later, as she crawled into bed, she stared at the dividing wall, a frisson of awareness passing through her before she drifted off to sleep.

Saturday morning Joanna awoke with a dull ache in her temple and groaned. Her slumber the night before had been riddled with odd dreams. Faceless figures had floated past her mind’s eye. Some warmed her with hope and love while others chilled her with anxiety and fear leaving her feeling restless and out-of-sorts. Thirty minutes later, Tim knocked on her door and together they joined hundreds of educators from around the state in a huge conference room where everyone was taking advantage of a free breakfast buffet. She and Tim compared their schedules one last time to make sure that none of their chosen seminars overlapped as Mrs. Varga had asked. Soon, the large group split into several smaller ones as a number of presentations began in separate, smaller gathering rooms.

By lunch time, Joanna remembered why she hated going to these types of events and would do cartwheels to get out of them. Eventually, all the presenters basically said the same thing which, when boiled down, was basic common sense to any teacher worth his or her salt. Granted, she had picked up some interesting information as well as tips and tricks for teaching and disciplining at-risk youth, but her stiff back and aching shoulders outweighed them all...and there was still a whole afternoon and half day tomorrow to go.

Tim was waiting for her while everyone was herded back into the large conference room for the midday meal. Both needing a break from their colleagues’ incessant chatter, they ate quickly and silently before taking a stroll among the hotel’s common areas which ended with Tim kneading Jo’s taught neck and shoulder muscles. She wanted to moan with delight as the tension quickly melted under his gentle yet firm ministrations, but instead she moaned with disappointment when an announcement beckoned them back to their seminars.

“Tell ya what,” Tim proposed before they parted, “Let’s have dinner in the hotel restaurant tonight.”

“Are you sure?” Jo asked. “It’s pretty high end.”

“Yep! Consider it a reward for surviving a day’s worth of seminars.”

Hours later, Joanna was comfortably seated at a cozy table for two in a candlelit corner of the fancy restaurant. The afternoon had dragged, but the thought of spending the evening with Tim provided a much needed shot of adrenaline. She chalked it up to the excitement of getting to know a new friend. At least, that’s what she convinced herself to believe. As had become customary, conversation flowed easily. After debriefing each other on the information each had gleaned from the day, they proceeded to talk about both everything and nothing at all. Jo was once again pleasantly surprised at how relaxed she felt in Tim’s company. Maybe it was because they’re backgrounds were so similar she didn’t feel like she had to defend herself and her choices. Or perhaps it was because Tim was open and straightforward and she didn’t have to worry about saying something that would bring back an old fear or open up a painful memory. Or maybe it was because a kind, handsome, intelligent man appeared to take a genuine interest in her.

After dinner, they slowly strolled to their rooms. Somewhere along the way Joanna’s hand had slipped into Tim’s, but she made no effort to remove it. Arriving at her door she sighed.

“Thanks for dinner. It was wonderful. I hate to see this evening end,” she confessed.

“It doesn’t have to, ya know,” he replied softly.

Warning bells went off in her head, but she ignored them. “Wanna come in for awhile? We could start getting our notes together for the faculty meeting,” she suggested.

“Sure,” Tim murmured, giving her a lazy smile as she again fumbled with her key card.

Once inside, Jo headed toward the desk to retrieve her legal pad, but Tim grasped her hand tighter and turned her towards him.

“I’m really enjoying getting to know you,” he said, his voice husky. “I can’t believe we’ve been teaching in the same school for seven months and I never noticed you. I hope you know what a very special woman you are.”

She watched breathlessly as his clear hazel eyes darkened and he leaned closer. Every nerve ending in her body tingled in anticipation. She stood stock still as his warm lips ever so lightly grazed her own.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” she said, pulling away.

“Is it because of him?” he asked, looking pointedly at the ring on her left hand. “I thought you were breaking up with him.”

“I said that it’s complicated,” she answered, preparing herself for angry words from Tim accusing her of leading him on.

When he next spoke, his voice was calm and smooth. “It’s not that complicated, Joanna. If that was my ring you were wearing, I wouldn’t have let you push me away in the first place.”

Her feet frozen to the floor, Jo felt him place a chaste kiss on her forehead before leaving the room. She mechanically performed her bedtime routine and it was only once she was snuggled under the covers that she allowed herself to replay Tim’s kiss in her mind. Her eyes welled with tears as she relived the emotions it had awakened. The loneliness, emptiness, coldness she had felt...because he wasn’t Mac.

At some point during the pre-dawn hours, Joanna’s heart firmly decided she truly and deeply loved MacGyver and would for the rest of her life, but it was her head that convinced her guys like MacGyver didn’t date, much less marry, girls like her and she would be much better off with a nice, safe, family-oriented man instead. Decision made, she knocked on Tim’s hotel door early the next morning.

“Can I buy you breakfast as an apology for last night?” she asked when he let her in.

“You have no need to apologize and breakfast is free,” he pointed out.

“But it’s the thought that counts. Right?” she asked with a sassy grin.

“Touche!” he laughed as he grabbed his notebook and draped his arm casually across her shoulders as they headed down to the conference room.

The final seminars of the convention were much more easy-going and laid back than the previous ones. It seemed as if Saturday had drained everyone’s energy, including the presenters’, and Joanna breathed a huge sigh of relief when the final session ended promptly at noon as scheduled. An hour later, she was sitting in the passenger seat of Tim’s car as they headed east on Interstate 94 towards Milwaukee.

“Since I missed my usual Mass this weekend, I was planning on going to a church near the high school that offers an evening service tonight. Would you like to come along?” Jo ventured.

Tim glanced over in surprise. “Naw, I’m good. I was planning on spending the evening with a basketball game on TV and a cold beer.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.” Again.

“Don’t worry about it. I figure all the Masses I was forced to attend as a kid have me set for awhile,” he smirked.

“I’m not sure it works that way,” Joanna observed.

Tim shrugged. “I doubt God keeps an attendance log. Unless he works for Mrs. Varga!” Jo smiled but remained silent.

A little while later, Tim spoke again. “So, what are your plans for the summer?”

She couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s only March!”

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for plans...and summer vacation!”

“Mrs. Varga asked if I wanted to teach summer school, but I was planning on working full-time at Challengers.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Nothing yet. But I need to let her know this week.”

“If you want my opinion, just take the summer off. Do some traveling or something.”

“Is that what you’re gonna do?”

“Yep! I’m going to Japan for a month and then maybe take a couple smaller trips stateside if I can fit them in.”

“Wow. Guess you won’t be spending much time at home,” Jo observed.

“Staying home is overrated. I never traveled as a kid and couldn’t afford to when I was in college and starting my career. Now I have the time and the means and nothing holding me back for three months!”

“So you’re making up for what you missed out on?”

He shrugged, “I guess you could say that.”

“I see,” Jo replied before turning to look out the side window and watch the familiar landscape pass by.

When they reached the city, Jo asked Tim to stop at Challengers so she could pick up Frog.

“What kinda place is this?” her colleague asked as they walked through the parking lot.

“It’s a community boys and girls club. Everyone is welcome, though. But most of our members are at-risk or low-income kids. We actually have quite a few from Lincoln High.”

“And you volunteer here?”

“Yeah. Well, actually I’m one of the directors. I feel bad that I haven’t been able to spend much time here since I started teaching full time, though.”

“You seriously want to spend time with your students outside of the classroom?” he asked with a tinge of sarcasm.

Jo stopped and turned to look him in the eye. “Yeah, I do. It’s a great way to get to know them and their background. I feel it helps me be a better teacher when I know what my students are going through after they leave my class. You might want to consider volunteering yourself. We’re looking to get the kids involved in community projects and will take all the help we can get.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I think I’ll pass. A guy needs his down-time, ya know?”

“Sure,” she replied flatly.

They entered the building to find Cynthia and Rosie chatting at the reception desk. They both looked up when they heard the door open.

“Back from the convention?” Cynthia asked.

“Yeah, thank goodness,” Jo answered before briefly introducing Tim as her colleague. She grabbed Frog’s leash from its hook and headed to the corner where several younger members were petting the dog.

“Sorry to break up the fun, but it’s time for Frog to go home,” she announced.

“You named him ‘Frog’?” Tim whispered in her ear causing her to laugh.

“No. Someone else named him that long before I ever met him.”

As the kids moved on to other activities, Joanna bent down to give Frog a hearty ear rub before clipping the lead on his collar. When he caught sight of Tim standing behind her, he growled low in his throat.

“Hey, what’s that all about?” Jo asked the dog as she smoothed her hand down his back, feeling his chubby body quivering. “C’mon, I want you to meet a new friend.” She tugged on his leash but he remained firmly planted on his bed, his eyes never leaving Tim, his body trembling.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into him,” she apologized.

“He can probably sense I’m not much of a dog person,” Tim remarked.

“Then I take it you prefer cats?”

“Why would you say that?”

Jo hesitated. “Well, one is usually either a dog person or a cat person.”

“To be honest, I’m not really into pets. Too much responsibility.”

Joanna stared at him, speechless. A few days ago she thought he was her perfect match. Now in the span of a couple hours he basically said he doesn’t go to church or like animals and apparently had a low opinion of her involvement with Challengers. She mentally shook her head. She was tired and probably giving his words too much weight.

“You got a kennel or something to put him in for the ride home?” Tim asked, breaking into her thoughts. “My car does have leather seats, ya know.” From the look on his face he wasn’t kidding and Jo felt her blood pressure soar.

“Why don’t you let Frog stay here,” Cynthia suggested with a knowing smile obviously having overheard Tim’s comment.

“But you’ve had him all weekend,” Jo protested.

“And both he and the kids have loved it,” the older woman insisted.

“Alright,” Joanna capitulated. “I’m gonna spend some time here tomorrow since I have the day off so I guess it only makes sense.”

“Good. Now you go home and get some rest. And don’t worry about what time you come in. I can hold down the fort,” Cynthia promised.

The air in Tim’s car was fraught with tension as he drove Joanna back to the townhouse.

“Are you upset because I don’t like dogs?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

What could Jo say? Yes, she was upset. She had always pictured a dog in her life. And, to be honest, her gut told her not to trust people who didn’t love animals.

“No, I’m just tired,” she finally told him. And it wasn’t a complete lie.

After arriving at the apartment, Tim carried in her luggage and waited until she was settled.

“How about we get together tomorrow and get our notes in order for the faculty meeting. We never did get around to that,” he reminded her with a grin.

“Sure,” she agreed, less enthusiastically than she would have liked. “I wanna spend the morning at Challengers, but you can come by my place say about one in the afternoon?”

“Sounds good,” he confirmed, taking the piece of paper on which she had scribbled her home address. At some point over the weekend she had also decided she needed to move out of MacGyver’s house since she had already moved herself out of his life.

XXXXX

Monday afternoon Joanna watched from the bay window as Tim parked his car in front of the house. She greeted him at the front door.

“Hi, c’mon in,” she invited. “I thought we’d work at the kitchen table,” she said over her shoulder as she led him down the hall.

“This is a pretty big place for just you,” he observed, taking a seat.

“Oh! I guess I never told you that I live with my parents.”

“What?!”

A bit taken aback by his reaction, Joanna went on to give him a brief history of the house and the rationale behind her decision to remain there.

“I don’t know how you do it,” he said, shaking his head. “There’s no way I could live under the same roof as Ed and Irma everyday.”

“Ed and Irma?”

“Yeah, my parents.”

“Do you always call your parents by their first names?” Jo couldn’t help but ask.

“Only when they’re not around,” he grinned. “I mean, there comes a time when you outgrow calling them ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. Know what I mean?”

Apparently that was a rhetorical question as he continued, “So where are your parents now?”

“Monday is their day to run errands. They’ll be gone for awhile yet.”

Joanna had been looking forward to introducing her family to Tim. Now she just wanted to get him out of her house, and her life, as quickly as possible. Her first impressions of him had certainly been way off the mark. He was in no way the type of man she had imagined him to be, but she was thankful she discovered it so quickly. She should have been this decisive with MacGyver a couple years ago but she was too busy believing they were falling in love.

“Then we better get crackin’,” Tim suggested, obviously eager to part ways as well.

With a minimum of discussion, the two teachers quickly outlined the presentation Mrs. Varga expected from them and as soon as it was done, Tim expressed his need to leave and attend to his own errands. He hurried out the door with a tight smile and a light-hearted, “See ya around!”

Joanna stood in the middle of the living room and watched as his car pulled away from the curb just as her parent’s car turned the corner. Huffing out a sigh and refusing to shed even one tear, she painfully noted that she was once again all alone.

















Jody~

"I've found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable" ~ MacGyver (The Heist)

 
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Dragondog
Posted: 26 March 2020 - 01:15 AM                                    
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"Seems to me you didn't talk about a lot of things" Boy, Judy is smart biggrin.gif

I thought she might hear about the spill on the news wink.gif it'll be fun to see where this goes...

Tim O'Brien just made a love triangle. Great, XD

The rubber duck. I see what you did there wink.gif

That whole "home is where the heart is" tangent that I can't quote because I'm still stuck on mobile is simply poetic. Well done thumbsup.gif

Yeesh, their chemistry actually makes ME question her and mac's relationship...

Massages? Candlelit tables? I'm suspicious. He knows she's technically taken right now...

Grrr, now I don't like him mad.gif

Frog's vote sells it. Tim is bad news.

I'm glad she's rid of him. But I really want to slap some sense into her XD



"If at first you don't succeed, get a bigger hammer" - Hank The Cowdog

"You have the heart of a chief, and the soul of a dragon"- How to Train Your Dragon 2

"[T]he more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each one of us will be" - Zootopia

"Love makes you do strange things." - Charlie Brown

"When something looks too perfect, it probably sucks" - Dreamworks Dragons Race to the Edge

 
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bluegirl
Posted: 26 March 2020 - 05:57 AM                                    
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Wow, you had me going there for almost the whole chapter - I really thought you might be bringing up another love interest for Jo, making her even more unsure and confused and giving Mac something to fight against, if he doesn´t want to loose her... But then Frog spoiled it wink.gif

But this whole situation makes me think of an old song I happened to hear today while driving to work: "The Last Unbroken Heart" by Patti LaBelle and Bill Champlin. It´s part of the Miami Vice soundtrack. You can find it easily on youtube. It´s about two people shying away from commitment, because their hearts might be hurt in it - the lyrics fit so well to the story your putting them through blush.gif sad.gif



The stuff is already there, I just find a different way to use it!

 
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