It really was a shame. No, not a shame … a disappointment, Beth Prudhomme mused, as she sat at the intersection, waiting for the green light. She glanced out the car window at the man her friend had invited her to meet over dinner. Sam Carney was stopped in the lane next to her, also waiting for the light. Again she felt a twinge of regret, knowing nothing would ever come of their evening together.
It’d been silly to put any hope into this blind date. One look at Sam and it was clear they weren’t a good match. Beth could just imagine what her parents would say if they were ever to meet Sam. The thought was enough to make her smile. Her mother would have a fit of hysterics. In her mother’s eyes, she would view Sam as uncouth, vulgar, and a bane to society. All this because his hair was long and he had a beard. His tattoos would likely send her over the edge. But then her mother had high expectations when it came to the man Beth would one day marry.
It didn’t take her long to realize Sam felt the same way about her. His eyes had widened briefly before he could disguise his reaction when they were first introduced. He probably saw her as prim and pristine and oh-so-proper, which she was, thanks to her mother. Beth suspected Sam hadn’t been psyched about this dinner date either, and briefly wondered what had led him into agreeing to meet her. She knew she’d been a big disappointment. The truth was, she’d liked Sam. Although they hadn’t spoken much, she felt drawn to his unconventional attitude, which was so unlike her own structured life. It’d been hard to get a read on him, other than when they were first introduced. Beth couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking; he gave away little of his thoughts other than the fact that he seemed more than anxious for the evening to be over. Beth didn’t blame him.
She had to admit Sam was handsome, definitely rough around the edges, but Nichole had warned her about that. His shoulder-length hair was tied into a ponytail at the base of his neck. He had nice dark eyes, she’d say that. The color reminded her of warm cocoa. He was tall; she estimated he must be six-two, which was a foot taller than her own petite frame. And he must outweigh her by a good seventy or more pounds. Her friend’s description of Sam had given her pause, but her aunt Sunshine had persuaded her to give it a shot.
“Why not? What’s it going to hurt?”
True enough, it hadn’t hurt, but still the taste of disappointment settled over her.
Sitting in the tall cab of his truck, Sam must have noticed her scrutiny, because he turned his head, looking down at her as they waited for the light to change. Goodness, the truck was so high up she’d need a step stool just to climb onto the seat.
The traffic signal turned green. Offering Sam a brief smile, she stepped on the accelerator and moved forward into the intersection, preparing to make the turn. That was when she noticed the car coming directly toward her, racing through a red light.
In that split second her eyes caught those of the teenage driver in the other car. She had her cell phone in her hand; her face twisted in a look of surprised horror. From that moment forward, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The girl’s mouth opened in a scream. She braced her hands against the steering wheel and slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.
Much too late to avoid a collision.
Knowing what was coming, Beth braced herself too, but nothing could have prepared her for the impact of the other vehicle slamming into the driver’s-side door. The explosive noise of steel crashing against steel was loud enough to burst Beth’s eardrums. Despite her death grip on the steering wheel, her arms were jerked free, tossed above her head as if on a puppet’s string as the other car plowed directly into her, spinning Beth and her car around and around.
She opened her mouth to scream, but all that escaped was a gasp of sheer terror and pain, horrific pain.
And then … then there was nothing until she heard someone calling her name.
When she managed to force her eyes open, all she could see was Sam.
“Give Mozart a chance,” Beth pleaded with the teenage boy who stared doggedly down at the classroom floor. “Once you listen to his music you’ll feel differently, I promise.”
The youth continued to avoid eye contact and then chanced a look in the direction of Bailey Madison. Beth had noticed the teenage girl sneaking glances in his direction through most of the class. Before class, both students had asked for transfers, which disappointed her. Beth didn’t want to lose either one.
“I like music, but I’m not into that classical stuff,” Noah told her.
“But you might be if you gave it a chance,” Beth said in what she hoped was an encouraging voice. Noah Folgate sat through the entire class period with his arms folded and his eyes closed, except when he took peeks at Bailey.
“Besides, the only reason I signed up for the class was because my girlfriend, I mean my ex-girlfriend, did.”
“You can stay in the class,” Bailey said. “I’m dropping out.”
Beth motioned for Bailey to join them. Noah’s gaze narrowed and he crossed his arms and refused to look in the girl’s direction.
“Bailey, why did you register for the class?” Beth asked.
Clenching her books to her chest, Bailey shrugged. “I’m in a band. I like anything to do with music.”
“Are you and Noah friends?”
“We … used to be.”
“Would you like to be again?” Beth asked.
Noah stared at the teenage girl. Bailey nodded and her voice trembled when she said, “More than anything.”
Noah blinked as though her words had shocked him.
Beth knew better than to get caught in the middle of teenage angst. She really did, but she’d watched these two closely through class and suspected that whatever had happened between them was what prompted them to ask for a transfer.
“Noah, would you be willing to give the class another week?”
The high school junior shrugged.
“Bailey, what about you?”
“I suppose that would be all right.”
“Great.” Beth rubbed her palms together. “We’ll talk again next Friday, and if you both feel the same way, I’ll do what I can to help you find another class.”
“Can I go now?” Noah asked.
The boy shot out of the class, but Bailey lingered behind. “I know what you’re doing, Miss Prudhomme. I don’t think it’ll help. Noah thinks I cheated on him. I didn’t, but I can’t make him believe me. I don’t know that I can be with someone who doubts me and has trust issues. I’ll give it another week, but don’t expect Noah to change his mind. If he doesn’t, it will be far too painful to be in class with him and see him every day.”
“Of course,” Beth said sympathetically. She hoped they could work it out. She’d done what she could; the rest was up to them. She really hated to see them drop out of the class for personal reasons, especially when by their own admission they were both musically inclined. Unfortunately, they had little understanding or appreciation of the depth and beauty of classical music. Given the chance, she believed they would come to love it as much as she did. Noah and Bailey were exactly the kind of students she enjoyed most. The challenge, of course, was to keep the two of them from dropping out of class.
This was Beth’s first teaching experience, but she’d had some success convincing her private piano students to give Schubert, Bach, and Beethoven a try. Once they’d learned about the great composers and played their music, her private students had been hooked. Beth hoped to hook these high school students as well.
Feeling like she’d made headway, Beth straightened her desk. It was Friday at the end of a long week of classes and she was more than ready for the weekend, not that she had any big plans. As a recent transplant from Chicago, the only person Beth knew, other than a few teachers, was her aunt Sunshine. She was making friends, though, at church, where she volunteered for the choir, and in her apartment building.
Sunshine was the best. Just thinking about her eccentric, fun-loving aunt produced a smile. Beth didn’t know what she would do without her. Her aunt had given her the courage and the encouragement to break away from the dictates of her family. Beth loved her parents, but they, especially her mother, had definite ideas about who she should marry, her career, her friends, and just about everything else. Until she moved, her mother even accompanied her when she bought clothes, not trusting Beth to choose her own wardrobe. Without realizing what she was doing, her mother was strangling her. She had to break away or suffocate.