Lou glanced up from the papers she was grading to her students. They were all scribbling furiously on paper, enjoying the assignment for once that she’d given: write a story about their favorite celebrity. She was desperate for them to do something and it had been the first thing to come to mind. Lou glanced at the clock. She still had another class after this one. She sighed softly.
“ Time’s up. Who’d like to share their masterpiece with the class?” she stood.
Hands went up. So many people thought teaching at an all girl school to a bunch of 9th graders was mad, but Lou found it challenging and fun.
“ Go ahead, Jenna,” Lou nodded.
“ Mine’s about Justin Timberlake,” the girl said happily.
The class half sat up to listen.
“ Very nice, Jenna. Good use of adjectives,” Lou went on, “ Susan.”
“ Oh my god, Miss Randall, my Daddy took me to a movie screening this weekend,” Susan, the rich girl at the private school began, “ I saw the first Lord of the Rings movie and oh my god, there’s this really hot guy. I don’t know a name yet, but he plays the blonde Elf.”
Lou tried to keep her face solemn, but she couldn’t. She chuckled, leaning against her desk. Orlando would get a kick out of this.
“ Is something funny, Miss Randall?” Susan asked worriedly.
“ No,” Lou waved her hand, “ Go ahead and read it.”
Orlando stood outside the classroom, listening to the girl. He silently slipped in, catching Lou’s big smile before she looked away. He was suddenly happy she’d worn a hat and sunglasses when 20 pairs of eyes slid to him.
“ Class, you may talk quietly, key word there is quietly, or you may get a head start on your book report due next Monday.”
Orlando grinned at her, his dimple showing. She was a natural with kids and it was obvious all these girls adored her. Lou walked towards him briskly; yet slow enough so her students didn’t get any ideas.
“ You have a new fan,” Lou whispered, noticing the dead silence of the girls.
All the girls were nocthanly watching them. Orlando’s brown eyes glinted mischievously.
“ I could get teacher in lots of trouble,” Orlando gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, “ And I heard the girl. What if I told you, I was cooking your favorite tonight?”
“ I’d be home right after my next class,” Lou let him slide his arms around her waist.
“ Get those keys out, Luv. Tonight, on the table will be your favorite, chicken and broccoli Alfredo; and I’m gonna throw in a little something extra.”
Lou giggled at his bad imitation of a New Yorker.
“ I’m gonna throw in some of my world famous garlic bread for free,” he looked down at her.
“ At least I won’t have to worry about you trying to steal any kisses if I have garlic breath,” Lou grinned.
“ I may decide to brave the flames tonight, Shorty,” Orlando’s lips twisted into a half-smile.
“ I’ll be home as soon as I can. Wanna wait for me and I’ll drive you home?” Lou asked hopefully.
“ I can’t. I have to make an appearance at some TV place thing,” Orlando answered with a grim look.
“ Oh,” Lou tried to shrug it off as nothing.
“ I’m running late,” Orlando spied a bodyguard coming up the hallway, “ Till we meet again, milady?”
“ Get outta here, Bloom.” Lou pushed him out the door, “ Hey, T-man, keep this Emril wanna be in line.”
“ You bet, Miss Louise,” the big black bodyguard grinned at her.
“ Emril wanna be?” Orlando whispered in her ear.
“ I couldn’t resist a crack at your awful accent,” Lou replied.
Orlando pouted as he was pulled off down the hallway with T-man muttering to him.
Lou shook her head with a smile, walking back up to her desk. She noticed there was a rose in her hand.
“ What a nut,” Lou muttered, sitting at her desk to read the note attached.
Hey Shorty, just a note to cheer up your boring day in the life of a teacher. Hope your day’s better than mine. I’ll tell you all about it at dinner tonight. Be there!
She laid the rose across her desk before picking back up her pen to grade papers again.
“ Is he your boyfriend, Miss Randall?” Susan asked.
Lou’s head shot up, one of the layered pieces of her waist long hair falling out of its loose ponytail.
“ No way, Honey. He’s my best friend. We’ve always been best friends since, well, I could remember,” Lou answered.
“ How romantic, knowing each other your whole life,” one girl spoke up.
“ Whoa, wait just a second, He’s not my boyfriend,” Lou said almost sternly.
“ What’s his name?” Jenna asked.
Lou bit her lip. How was she supposed to get out of this one? Luckily the bell saved her. Lou let out a sigh of relief, beginning to tidy things up for her next class. She glanced at the clock on the wall and willed it to go faster.
Orlando checked his watch again.
“ Where are you, Louise?” he muttered.
She still hadn’t shown up and it was past eight. She should have been home hours ago. A knock came at the door.
“ Well, it’s about…” Orlando trailed off.
Two policemen stood in the doorway.
“ Are you a relative of a Miss Louise Randall?” one asked.
“ I live here with her,” Orlando answered, “ What’s up?”
“ Miss Randall was found in her room after hours. She’s at the hospital right now,” the other replied.
Orlando grabbed his jacket and followed them out.
“ Whoever heard of a school without a phone?”
Orlando took the steps two at a time. He entered the school, noticing the ogling eyes.
“ You’re Miss Randall’s man,” a girl fell in step beside him, “ Where is she? She wasn’t here today.”
“ In the hospital,” Orlando answered.
“ What happened?” the dark haired girl’s brown eyes widened.
“ They don’t know yet. I need to find the head mistress since this place doesn’t have a phone,” Orlando looked down at her.
“ That’d be me,” an older woman who had been behind them the whole way spoke up, “ I’m Ms Leon, you are…”
“ A friend of Louise Randall’s. She’s in the hospital right now,” Orlando easily skipped his name.
The stern woman’s face softened.
“ They don’t know what’s wrong yet, but the doctor said at least a week or two. I, myself would like her to quit so she wouldn’t have to work, but she doesn’t listen to me,” Orlando answered the coming questions.
“ Tell Louise to take off as much time as she needs. We’ll hopefully survive without these girls burning the school down,” Ms Leon lowered her voice, “ All these girls love Louise. Louise usually comes here and rooms with some of the girls. She says her flat is lonely when her roommate is gone.”
Orlando grinned, catching the woman’s arched eyebrow.
“ My job requires me to travel a lot and it was mad to have two flats that we’d probably spend time at only one, so…” his cell phone went off, “ Lo? Yeah, I know.”
He winced at the loud string of curses his agent, Lawrence Black, let out. Orlando smiled as he pressed the power button on his phone.
“ Jolly fellow,” Ms Leon looked at him with a frown.
“ My agent,” Orlando’s eyes widened at what he’d just said, “ I need to go. Lou wants me back ASAP.”
Ms Leon nodded. Orlando checked his watch and jogged out to the waiting taxi.
“ He’s rich because not any ordinary person has a taxi waiting for him with a big bodyguard in it,” Jenna said, “ And he has an agent, plus he travels a lot.”
Jenna looked at Susan.
“ He does look a lot like that guy you like,” she added.
“ Miss Randall dating a movie star. This is so cool,” Susan giggled.
Orlando entered the room. Lou was so pale even though she was fully dressed and smiling.
“ Doc says I’m free to go,” she said.
He sent a questioning look at the doctor.
“ Louise Randall has a clean bill of health from me,” an unseen look passed between the doctor and Louise.
“ Ok,” Orlando sighed, “ I didn’t mean to question you, but when it comes to Lou, I make sure of everything.”
“ Isn’t he just so sweet?” Lou gave Orlando a hug before settling in the wheelchair, “ I’m ready to go home.”
Lou giggled as Orlando struggled to open the door.
“ If you’d set me down,” she began.
“ Nope,” Orlando began.
A bright flash of light caught them both off guard.
“ Hey,” Orlando yelled.
The photographers were already long gone. Orlando shrugged, finally getting the door open. He deposited Lou on the couch before falling beside her.
“ I’m going to go upstairs and sleep. I need to be back tomorrow,” Lou slowly rose.
Orlando watched her go. Something wasn’t right. He hadn’t known her for almost twenty years to know be able to read her like a book. A knock came and he reluctantly rose to answer it.
“ I’m sorry, I thought-” the blonde began.
“ Louise Randall lived here? She does. I’m just a friend,” he finished.
“ Does her friend have a name?” she asked.
Orlando glanced upstairs hopefully, praying that Louise would come downstairs.
“ Not for you,” he answered.
The blonde pursed her cherry red lips, throwing her hair back almost angrily.
“ I’m Etta,” she extended her hand as if expecting him to kiss it.
“ That’s nice,” Orlando ignored her hand. “ Now, I have a very impatient friend upstairs I don’t want to keep waiting if you’re catching my drift?”
“ Here’s a card the girl’s made. If they did their sciences as well as they did her class, they’d pass. Why they like her… Anyways as I said, tell her to get well and all the girls miss her,” Etta stuffed a card into his hand.
Orlando shut the door in her face. He smoothed the crinkled paper, setting it up on the TV. He didn’t care that he’s been rude. She’d deserved it.
He took the stairs three at a time. Lou was already asleep. He gazed at the tearstains with misty eyes.
“ I don’t know why you’re crying, Lou, but I’ll be here,” he laid in front of her, “ I’ll always be here. I-”
Orlando stopped himself in surprise. He’d almost said the three little words he prided himself on never telling any of his dumb model conquests. He’d said them once to a girl and he’d always regretted it. Orlando rested his chin on Lou’s head.
“ I’m so afraid I’ll lose you, Louise. I can’t imagine me without you. You’re the only one other than family that sees to me. You always did,” Orlando whispered fiercely, wrapping his arms around her.
Orlando gently kissed her forehead.
“ Everything’s changing, Lou. Since I’ve been gone, everything’s changed. I don’t feel like you’re just my best friend anymore. You’re more now. More like…well, I dunno…but something more,” Orlando mumbled, becoming sleepy, “ It’s just changing, changing…”
He drifted off to sleep slowly. Lou’s eyes popped open once he started snoring. She lifted a hand to his cheek.
“ I love you, Orli. Too bad that something more can never be,” she whispered.
He unknowingly pulled her closer. Lou clutched his shirt, wetting it with her tears.