Chapter Three Installment 4/1/2020

Coach didn’t know Chopin from Mozart, but oh how he tried when they first started seeing each other. The memory made her smile until she glanced in her rearview mirror and thought the Caravan creeping up behind her could very well be her sister.

Emily turned up the car stereo to drown out the rattling of what she thought might be a loose pipe or something. She couldn’t be sure what. Apparently, the ramming big ass car did some damage, after all. She’d put in Debussy once the Three Dog Night CD ended. What a contrast. Most of her life she always favored the soothing sounds of classical music and enjoyed teaching it. If people had known about her and Coach, they never would’ve believed it. They, too, were contrasts. When she’d been in school, she practiced the violin, even made it to level six when tested by the New York State School Music Association, an association in which she was now a well-respected member. What Emily had found to be discouraging at the time was that her parents had little idea how impressive it was to reach level six. Not many did.  But while Emily was practicing her violin daily, her mother was focused on Allen, the celebrity in the family. Emily learned not to care and savored being part of a rare few who could actually understand and appreciate classical music.

            Coach didn’t know Chopin from Mozart, but oh how he tried when they first started seeing each other. The memory made her smile until she glanced in her rearview mirror and thought the Caravan creeping up behind her could very well be her sister.

            “Damn!” she muttered, pressing on the gas pedal a little harder. Avoiding Natalie for the last few years had been a constant pastime for Emily. Another glimpse and Emily gasped to see the Caravan was about a car’s length behind her. It would be like her sister to keep a haunting distance from Emily, all the way to Connecticut. Just up ahead was an exit and, without giving any indication with her signal or even slowing down, she veered from the highway and took it. That’s when she saw that it wasn’t Natalie after all, but a vehicle filled with the all-American family: a gaggle of children in the back and a mom and dad in the front.

            Even though the gauge was just above the halfway mark, she decided to take advantage of the detour by filling up with some gas. To her relief, when she pulled into the station, they provided a full-service pump. While the attendant was filling it up, Emily noticed that right across the street was a Burger King. She liked their vanilla shakes, so once she handed the attendant the money, she started up the engine and drove across the two-lane highway.

            After she placed her order, remarking how she needed something refreshing for the drive, as if it mattered to whoever was taking her order, the intercom voice said, “Will that be all?”

            It was as though she were being nudged and decided to tack on a whopper and fries. Large. Chances were, she figured, Denise wouldn’t have anything ready when she got there, and this would hold her over.

            Once she got back on the road, her taste buds delighted in the poor man’s feast while she recalled the dinners she used to make for Coach; leg of lamb, roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, mixed greens and a nice bottle of wine was his favorite meal. Eventually, the dirty dishes would be left on the table, the wine almost finished, as he led her to the bedroom. He refused to let her shy away from him and he made her feel beautiful. No one had ever really succeeded in doing that before.

            Their only fight was Emily wanting to keep their relationship private. Coach didn’t understand, but she felt the students would rag on them while the other teachers would constantly pry for information. What she didn’t say was that she didn’t want Natalie to know and that is when she started to regret having gotten her sister a job in the same school. For some reason, she just felt Natalie would find a way, intentionally or not, to ruin things for her. However, she almost revealed the truth one day when she and Natalie were grabbing a quick lunch at a diner down the street from the school.

            “Have you seen the new gym teacher?” Natalie had said before biting into her roast beef sandwich.

            “I have,” Emily said. It had been just after Coach had come into her classroom to deal with Sean.

            “I think he’s a little full of himself,” Natalie said.

            “Why do you say that?” Emily stabbed at a radish in her salad.

            Natalie shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s not very chatty.”

            Emily was quite sure that Natalie probably tried to get Coach’s attention, something she tried with every guy she thought attractive. What Emily figured out, thanks to taking some psychology classes in college, was that Natalie was trying to fill a void their father had created in their lives. By then, Emily had long given up caring what her father thought of her. As far as she was concerned, he only showed up when he had no better place to be. Not so with Natalie; she never seemed to give up. It had broken Emily’s heart then to see how desperate her sister behaved around men. Now, though, the pity was long gone.

            She licked the salt from her fingers and crumpled the paper that had been wrapped around the burger and shoved it in her overflowing garbage. It wasn’t leg of lamb, to be sure, but without Coach, even leg of lamb wouldn’t be leg of lamb.

            You got that right.