Chapter 3 - My father hates him

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When Joe followed Owen and Natalie from the house to the lake on Sunday afternoon he scanned the crowd over by Ella's grandparents. The day before the group was smaller and Ella was not a part of it. He saw the young girl and boy, he'd seen the day before and the older boys that Ella had been with during the week.

He turned toward the house at the sound of her sweet voice. Standing on the porch, she called, "Uncle Nick, Sara needs you..."

Joe was so fixated on Ella he barely took in a snide remark from one of the men. "I'll bet she needs you!"

The sun was shining on her golden hair and she was smiling as she walked down the beach. She stopped halfway and looked in his direction.

Busted, he thought, as he gave her a pathetic wave.

Owen had been shocked when Joe announced that the beauty from the lake was their new music teacher.

"She's a hell of an upgrade from old Marsha," Owen joked about the woman who retired in many people's opinion about five years too late.

Joe listened when Owen asked Natalie about Ella.

Natalie's smile assured Joe that she thought highly of her. "That girl is extremely talented. She had the lead in the musical as a freshman! Plus she's a Burke... everyone loves the Burkes."

Being new to town, the two men looked at each other and shrugged.

Natalie sighed as if forgetting that they were from away. "Dr. Burke, who lives next door was the only doctor in town for years. Now his sons and daughter are doctors. Ella's father has been my doctor for forever."

Joe's eye had wandered over to the couple with the little ones. He recognized the woman and said, "I saw her when I had strep last winter."

Natalie nodded and added, "Ella's sister is studying medicine. She was valedictorian of her class in high school."

Joe cringed as Owen said, "Hey Joey, you've got something in common."

Despite or perhaps because of the despair in his life, Joe was a dedicated student and was number one in his class. He earned free tuition to the state university, for his high score on the state standardized exam. Still, his achievements embarrassed him. He never felt comfortable getting attention. In his house attention was the catalyst for being yelled at.

Thankfully she just returned his waved and gave him a smile. She sat down next to another young woman who after a moment looked in his direction. He knew then that they were talking about him.

He felt like he was showing off when he dove into the lake. Owen followed him and Joe managed to migrate in the water a little closer to the Burke's beach. Owen had been teasing him for days about his crush and the teasing didn't stop as Ella began swimming in their direction.

"She's hot for you," Owen whispered.

Joe retorted, "She has a boyfriend."

"Right the gym teacher..."

Owen was cut off, by a sweet, "Hi!"

Joe replied, "Hey! You ready for tomorrow?"

"I think so." She looked uncertain.

"This is Owen by the way. Now you'll know two of us. We only knew each other when we started," Joe explained.

There was a pregnant pause, that was interrupted, but Natalie calling, "Hey Ella come on up."

Ella waved and began heading towards shore with both Owen and Joe following her.

Natalie exclaimed, "Hey congrats on going back to high school."

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