Chapter 4 - First Friday

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A/N There is mention of a restaurant called Friendly's. This a popular New England chain restaurant. The kid's meals always come with ice cream. See pictures at the bottom of this chapter.

Owen strolled into Joe's classroom between second and third periods and exclaimed, "It's Friday! We need to get the gang together to celebrate our first week."

As students started filing in, Joe replied, "You work on that, but I have a class to teach." He held up his copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Before leaving the classroom, Owen asked, "Is there anyone new we should invite?"

Joe wondered if his friend was teasing or stupid. Wiping his brow, because it felt like a furnace, he announced, "It's time."

Students scurried into their seats and after a few evil eyes from him and some huffs, all the phones disappeared. He began, "Who can tell me what happened in the chapter you were assigned last night?"

By the end of class, he saw an email with the subject 'First Friday'. Joe suspected that there may be a second or third Friday event before the month was up.

Joe stopped home to change his sweaty shirt before going to their favorite bar which was just over the town line. They liked it because they rarely saw any of their students' parents. It wasn't cool to be enjoying a draft with the helicopter mom who thought he had graded too hard having martinis with her friends at the next table. It was hard enough for some parents to take him seriously given the fact that he was the same age as their old babysitter. His mind instantly thought of Ella because she would have to face all those challenges that he had lived through.

As if he conjured her up she appeared in the doorway and looked around. Next to her was the tall brunette that he recognized to be her single sister. He really hoped that their father's comment wasn't why she was here. Perhaps he should give the sister a chance, but he would have to figure out how to get his heart to stop racing every time he looked at Ella.

He watched her face change as she saw their small group at a table in the corner. She nodded her head in their direction and her sister fell in step behind her. Before they reached the table, Owen jumped up to greet them.

"Welcome! Come have a seat," Owen said as he pointed to the empty chair next to Joe.

He held his breath to see which sister chose that seat and was secretly pleased when Ella did. He turned to her and asked, "Do you know everyone?" When she shook her head, the group went around and made introductions.

Only after it had circled back to Ella did she speak. "I hope you don't mind I brought my sister Ava along?" A chorus of 'no' filled the air, sure enough, she turned to Ava and said, "This is Joe."

Ava smiled as if she had already heard about him. She commented, "I heard you've been showing her the ropes and that you met our father."

Joe nodded affirmatively and asked, "What are you drinking? I can go up to the bar for you."

Ella smiled and said, "I'll go with you." Ava was already deep in conversation with Denise who taught biology. Joe calculated that Denise would have been teaching when Ava was a student.

Ella said, "I should buy you a drink as a thank you for helping me."

Joe shook his head and said, "I wanted to buy yours as a welcome to the staff gift."

They both laughed. He turned serious and said, "Let me, please."

She nodded and although the lighting was bad he thought he saw some pink climbing into her cheeks. He tried to get the bartender's attention to no avail and Ella sighed, "Let me."

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