Chapter 19 - Goosebumps

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Joe felt like he hit pay dirt when he discovered that he and Ella had the same free block. They were never so lucky before.

He walked into her classroom and found her busy on her laptop.

"Can I help you Mr. Walch?" she asked.

"Only you can, Ms. Burke." His innuendo didn't get past her as she frowned at him.

"Did you talk to Caleb?" she asked.

"No, I think I'll take him out to dinner. Food is the only thing he comes out of his room for."

"He'll make friends and settle in," she assured him.

"Yeah, I hope so... You didn't ask me any questions yesterday?"

"Yes, I did, but they were about you and Caleb."

He walked up to her desk and leaned across and took her hand. He always loved the way her small hand fit in his large one. It was as soft as he remembered. She didn't resist and looked down at their joined hands. Ever so lightly he brushed his fingers up the smooth underside of her forearm.

He exclaimed, "Goosebumps!"

Just that slight movement gave her goosebumps as he predicted.

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat and said, "Fine you proved your point, but since you were gone so long, I'd forgotten."

Joe felt slighted and said, "I remember everything about you. I did have trouble remembering your sober voice..."

"Stop! I'm not proud. Hey, I have a question if you loved me..."

Joe interrupted, "Present tense... love."

"Whatever... Why did you tell me to stop calling?"

He looked her in the eye and said, "That's easy. There were two reasons, the first because she would get pissed and go crazy. The second was because it was so hard to hear your voice. That night you called about your grandfather nearly killed me."

"What about after you left her?" Ella's eyes were full of hurt.

"This answer is a lot harder. I wanted to call you the night that baby was born, but I was too angry and afraid. I couldn't face losing you for good knowing you'd reject me. After I finally got her out of the house, I wanted to, but then Owen told me you were always with a guy. At the same time, I was dealing with Caleb. He's been a full-time job. I really thought I'd see you at the wedding, but then I found out you hated me..."

"Why did you come back and show up that night?"

"To apologize... to live without any more regret. I regret the whole damn time I was away from the moment I left and didn't bring you with me. I didn't want to live with the regret of not trying to win you back. If I try and fail, then at least I tried..."

"Do you think you're failing?" she asked deadly serious.

"Some moments I do, others I don't. The things that give me hope are that you talk to me, you sighed, you care about Caleb and just now the goosebumps."

He wanted to add and you're blushing, but thought it was best not to call attention to it. Ella's eyes traveled to the clock and said, "The block is almost over."

Joe nodded. "Will you go to the beach with me tomorrow after work? It's supposed to be another hot day..."

She replied, "I don't know. I need to think about it. Let me know what happens with Caleb."

He wanted to kiss her, but instead, he waved and left. His classroom wasn't that far away and unlike before he was also on the first floor. As he walked by Karen's room he heard her voice. Remembering that it was Caleb's class he peeked in the window on the door. Caleb was sitting writing something to Joe it looked like he might be doodling. Joe knew plenty of kids use doodling as a way to maintain focus. He really needed to take a trip to guidance himself to learn more about his own brother, but now he had a class to teach. He reached his room just before the bell rang and bodies spilled into the hallway.

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