By the end of the first week, the whole kiddie inquisition happened. The preschool interrogation included questions like “What is your favorite color?”, “Do you have any dogs/cats/pets?” and of course, the hard-hitting,“Ms. Llaves, do you have any kids?”, “Are you married?” with the usual follow up of “Why aren’t you married?”
During the course of this pint-sized Spanish Inquisition, Mari was able to tease out a few answers to questions she had about a certain Uncle Locke. Result? Yes, Uncle Locke was very much single. Good news, and well worth going through the Q&A of circle time. Additionally, through some additional observation and some good old google sleuthing, Marisol was able to piece together a few bits of information that she found useful.
Hmmm… mental notes… thought Mari, as she leaned back from her laptop. One, Locke is very much single. Thank you, Finn, for helping me with that one! She waggled an eyebrow as she recounted that first point. Two, that ABR bumper sticker meant one thing, Mr. Locke was a member of the Amputee Blade Runners Association. She tapped her finger on the screen of her laptop. Thank you Google for that one! Marisol looked up to see an ad for The Walking Dead playing on the TV. Ah yes, thank you TV for reminding me of point three, Mr. Locke seems to be a fan of “The Walking Dead” , given that, in addition to the ABR logo sticker, he has a sticker of a silhouetted Daryl Dixon. Surely this will be a fantastic conversation starter at some point!
As she ruminated on these three points, she wasn’t quite sure how things would pan out, because after all, a preschool, is just that, a preschool. It wasn’t a coffee shop where hanging around and chatting is a thing. A preschool wasn’t exactly a hot spot for meeting people, the main reason why she was 32 and still very much single. She would have to dig deep into herself, and not set her expectations too high, being disappointed was a very distinct possibility. If things did not go well, she was going to have to deal with the possibility that she was going to see this guy every Wednesday for the duration of the school year! If this didn’t work out, she would have to be prepared to deal with things in a way that didn’t involve simply wishing to melt into the scuffed tiles every time he appeared.
Another week was well under way and before she knew it, her It’s almost Wednesday! attitude pulled her right into Wednesday afternoon. 2:30 rolled around and everyone was picked up promptly. Well, everyone except Finn. Give him a minute. Marisol thought, I’m sure he’ll be in the door any second now. Next thing she knew, it was 2:45 and it seemed that Uncle Locke was definitely late again. Very late.
For a moment, Marisol considered sending Finn to after-school, after all, it was what she should do. However, she thought, “Hey, everyone is late from time to time, it hasn’t been every week that Locke has been late.” Her subconscious gave her a kick in the skull to remind her that it had been every week so far, except for last week, and that she wouldn’t normally be quite so lenient if it was Bailey’s rude, haughty father. She quickly shoved that annoying subconscious bit of her brain back into the dusty corners of her mind for a good time out!
Marisol glanced at her watch, 2:47. She let out a sigh, it was a bit of a defeated sigh, because she had to go soon and she was kind of disappointed that she wasn’t going to get to see Locke before she left. A week seemed like it would be way too long, but a week it would have to be. Another glance at the clock, 2:48, Mari turned her head as she heard the beeping of the keypad at the door. Please let it be him! The door opened and before Mari knew it, she heard him hollering from the hallway, “Ms. Llaves, I am sooo sorry!! Is he in after-school? His mother is going to K-I-L-L me!!”
“Mr. Glasgow, Finn is with me, not to worry,” Mari sweetly called down the hallway.
Locke hurried down the hallway and said, “Oh, Ms. Llaves, it’s Locke, not Mr. Glasgow…”
“If I recall,” teased Marisol, “Mr. Glasgow is your name when you are in trouble.”
“Oh, come on! I said I was sorry! What can I do to make it up to you?” teased Locke right back at Mari.
“Well, for starters, can you get a clock?” she playfully replied to him and then continued, “I’m sorry Locke, but the office really frowns upon us keeping this kids this long after they are supposed to be picked up.” Locke sighed. “Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were kind of sticking your neck out for me that much. I’ll talk to my boss and see if I can go in a little earlier so that I can make it here on time. I’d hate for you to get in trouble on account of me.”
Marisol noticed that he was wearing a ball cap that had the Sheriff logo from The Walking Dead. “Nice hat, you a fan?” she commented to him. “Hat?” he responded and then playfully smacked himself on the head. “Oh, duh, yeah, the hat!” He continued, “Yeah, I’m a big fan, loved the most recent season can’t wait for the next!”
“Me too!’ Mari excitedly replied. As she contemplated her next words, Finn popped back in the room from the hallway after getting his backpack and lunchbox. Finn then tugged at Locke’s hand.
“Oh, sorry, bud, you are probably ready to go, aren’t you?” Finn nodded. “Okay mister, let’s wrap up and hit the road!” He turned towards Mari and added, “I really do owe you, and we need to discuss this last season sometime! I’ll see you next week.” He cheerfully waved as he walked out towards the door.
“See you next week, Locke!’ Marisol replied as she waved.
“Oh, ‘Locke’, now is it?” said Locke, somewhat quizzically.
“Yeah, ‘Locke’ it is, you’re out of trouble,” Mari said with a little tease to her voice.
“Am I?” volleyed back Locke.
“For now,” teased Mari. “But, you still owe me.”
“Okay.” said Locke, with a wink.
Mari watched Locke walk out the door with a genuinely dopey grin on her face. She was smitten, no doubt about it. She could not wait until next week, but before that she had to get through the next six days once more!
Later that evening, after she took time to have some dinner and change into some comfy clothes. She hopped onto her laptop to play catch up with some of her favorite podcasts. She put on an episode of Night Vale and began listening, but very soon, she realized that her mind was wandering to the day’s events.
I wonder if Locke is starting to like me? I hope it isn’t just my imagination here, I mean he did play into the whole “Mr. Glasgow vs. Locke” thing. He also seemed to be even more friendly than in previous weeks.
The weather report came on Night Vale and its catchy beat pulled her back into the podcast for a moment, but then she drifted off again. Marisol decided to turn the podcast off as she clearly was not in the state of mind to focus on it. She just wasn’t able to focus on anything, as she sat there overthinking his every micro facial expression, his every word and every movement.
She shook her head and turned to her cat, Truly and said, “Oh Truly, I am a hot mess! I seriously cannot focus on diddly squat because Locke’s handsome face keeps popping up in my head like a game of whack-a-mole that I am desperately losing!” She sighed and thought, Get it together Mari, you are 32 not 16! She went to bed that night, and unsurprisingly, had dreams that featured someone’s certain uncle.
Amazingly enough, it was now nearly October and things were definitely in a groove. Marisol was doing a lesson on families and of course, the kids had to draw the obligatory pictures of their families to go with the lesson. Anika drew her extended family, featuring Grandma and Grandpa who lived with her. Bailey drew her family with her sisters and her dog. Finn drew his family and included his uncle who he drew looking like Iron Man. Mari asked him to tell her about his picture, a picture very similar to one that Finn had drawn before to give to his Uncle weeks earlier.
“Uncle Locke is like Iron Man, he’s got, like, a super cool robot leg that makes him run super-fast! You should ask him to show you it, it is soooo cool!”
“Wow Finn, that really does sound super cool! I don’t know if he would want me to ask him about it. Maybe you’ll have to ask him to tell me about it next time he sees me.” Marisol kind of hoped that Finn would do just that for her, but at the same time, she worried that it might throw him for a loop. Having a child reveal your secrets when you least expect it, whether or not they are big secrets, can be disconcerting.
“Yeah!” Finn shouted excitedly. “He is going to be here tomorrow to pick me up, so I’ll tell him to show you his super cool robot leg, I mean, the one he wears every day isn’t quite as robot-y cool as the one he wears when he runs, but it is pretty awesome!”
Marisol felt a certain tingling in places where, well, one doesn’t usually find tingling during a school day, as she contemplated just exactly what that particular description meant. She gathered herself together in the space of a microsecond and continued the conversation with Finn.
“Oh, wow, Finn. It sounds like I am going to have to see his super cool robot leg one of these days!”
Today was Tuesday, which meant that the kids went to Art, which provided a nice chunk of time to check folders for any communications, put a stamp on the behavior page and place finished work in them. As Mari went through the folders, there were the usual communications, notes about schedule changes, returned school paperwork, yada, yada yada.
When she got to Finn’s folder, she found a sealed envelope, addressed to her. Hmm, I wonder what this is about? She opened the envelope and found it had a cute hand drawn picture of a cat with what appeared to be a dead rat (with Xs for eyes) presented as a gift for the reader. It had the caption “Thanks!” Marisol opened the card and read it.
Dear Ms. Llaves,
Thank you so much for saving my tail week after week! You are so right, I do owe you, BIG TIME! I hope it isn’t too forward of me to ask, but I was wondering if maybe you’d like to go grab a coffee after-school with me on Friday, my treat. We have yet to have that discussion about The Walking Dead you know. I will pick up Finn tomorrow, and I hope you can have an answer for me by then. If your answer is yes, how about you have Finn give me one of those smelly stickers he is always going on about. Thanks again for being so awesome and taking care of me and my tardy ways!
Locke Glasgow (AKA “Mr. Glasgow”, AKA “Uncle Locke”, AKA “Locke”)
Marisol sucked in a deep breath that she didn’t even realize she’d been holding in! She wasn’t crazy, her gut instinct was spot on! This whole crush thing, may in fact be mutual! Now, she suddenly found herself trying to figure out what to wear on Friday. She had to wear the school spirit shirt to school, of course, but she needed to pick a nice blouse she could quickly change into for this afterschool coffee meet, or (dare she think it) date maybe? Marisol, also had to plan which smelly sticker that Finn was going to give his uncle tomorrow. Should she let Finn pick it out or should she choose?
At the moment, all she could think of was the cute little skunk sticker that said “little stinker”, but it smelled like skunk, so she thought that might send a mixed signal. Mari giggled to herself at that thought and then went on checking folders. As she walked to pick up the kids from Art she, began to formulate a game plan for Wednesday and Friday.
The next day, as she checked folders, it dawned on her that she had just the sticker! Locke had closed his letter with the charmingly cheesy, “Later Gator”. She went into her smelly sticker collection and pulled out the Green Apple scented Crocodile and Alligator stickers. She then cut out the sticker that said, “After a While Crocodile!” and tucked that sticker in the folder box, so that she was ready to go come pick up time. Pick up time? Huh, that has a whole new meaning today doesn’t it? She chuckled as she had that little thought.
Before she knew it, the afternoon zipped on by and it was time for dismissal. The vast majority of the class was picked up right at 2:30 as usual and the after-school kiddos walked on to after-school which left Mari with Finn, as usual. Marisol wondered just how long Locke would take this week to arrive. Just as she was glancing at her phone to check the time (2:31) she looked up and saw Locke Glasgow standing in the doorway.
“Well, well, Locke, pleasure to see you.” she chirped. “I see you found a clock this week,” Mari said with a wink.
“Well, yes, I did, didn’t I?” said Locke with a smile on his face. “I’m afraid that it may be a minute slow, but still an improvement upon prior weeks, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Oh, yes!” Mari responded. “I’m so glad you were able to work things out with your boss.”
“Me too. Side benefit of leaving a bit earlier, less traffic too!” said Locke.
Finn ran up to Locke and gave him a big, squeezy hug. “Uncle Locke! I’m so glad you’re here. I missed you so much. We have been doing so much stuff with Ms. Llaves that I wanted to tell you about! OH! OH! OH! I almost forgot to tell you, Uncle Finn! I was telling Ms. Llaves all about your super cool robot leg and how awesome it is; can you show her it? I bet she will love it; she says she likes Iron Man like I do!”
“Um, Finn, why don’t you go get your backpack for a sec.” Locke somewhat nervously told Finn as he seemed to turn a bright scarlet. He anxiously ruffled his hair as he turned to talk to Marisol. “Umm… Yeah… About that. I don’t keep it a big secret or anything, but yeah, I do have a ‘cool robot leg’ as my nephew said.” Locke sort of glanced sideways, nervous to make eye contact with Marisol.
Marisol put her hand on his shoulder and smiled. She then said, “Well, I happen to think robot legs are *very* cool.” She turned towards Finn as he reentered the room and in a very sweet, yet somehow sly voice, reminded Finn, “Oh Finn, we almost forgot, didn’t we? Let’s give Your Uncle that super cool smelly sticker we said we were going to give him.”
Locke turned and met eyes with Mari. In his eyes, Mari saw something that looked like a mix of embarrassment and relief. As Finn carefully put the sticker on his Uncle’s shirt, that embarrassment faded and a smile crept into his eyes as he read the sticker. He held Finn’s hand and began to walk to the door as he turned to Mari and said, “Later Gator…”
To which Mari replied with a suggestive smile, “After a while, crocodile…”