Oriole – Chapter 2

Dreams Can Come True

“Did you come to see me teacher?”

Tom smiled warily thinking of what Oriole’s mother had told him in the interview.

“No Oriole but I’m glad to see you. I must give something to your mother.”

“Please don’t tell her what I did to Doug Cullinane teacher.”

“Of course, I won’t Oriole, that’s between you and me. Would you tell your mother I have something for her?”

Oriole sped inside while Tom waited at the open door listening to the sounds of piano and violin being played and soon the music stopped, then Annette Geldard appeared followed by a boy, and girl carrying her violin case.

“Perfectly timed Mr. Clooney as the lesson was ending as you arrived. Oriole should have invited you into the sitting room rather than leaving you at the door, so I apologize for that lack of courtesy. I sent her to the kitchen to prepare drinks and snacks and want to thank you for taking the trouble to return the kindle to me. Must have slipped out of my purse when I was retrieving the notepad to give my address. Where did you find it?”

Tom laughed. “It was under my desk. I don’t know what prompted me to get down and look under the desk but there it was.”

Annette indicated he should come inside, and he followed her into the sitting room where Oriole had bought drinks and a tray of snacks. Tom nodded in appreciation.

“Thank you, Oriole that looks very nice.”

The conversation was guarded until the subject of Annette’s education at university came up and she became animated learning they both went to the same university to complete their work. A lively discussion took place about various university teachers they knew and some of the students they knew in common.

Tom remembered seeing a substantial library on the way to the sitting room and inquired about it. As it was Annette’s pride and joy, she eagerly invited him to check it out with her and they retreated to the library where Tom took one book after another examining it closely while Annette watched with appreciation. There was a tug on Tom’s shirt, and he looked down in surprise to see it was Oriole.

“Teacher, I want you to see my paintings can you come to the art room now?”

Annette protested. “Your teacher may have to go Oriole as I’m sure he has a busy night ahead.”

Oriole looked devastated. She wanted to show her work, but no one seemed to be interested. Tom quickly took in the situation and felt compassion for the girl.

“Annette I’d really like to see these paintings if that’s OK with you.”

Annette had also noted her daughter’s disappointment so nodded her head in agreement. They headed for the art room at the back of the home and Tom was surprised to see how spacious and well-kept the home was. He wondered how she could afford all this by herself. Annette read his thoughts and smiled. She liked this man, and he treated her daughter with compassion and respect.

“After we’ve kept you so long here, I insist you stay for supper Tom. We are having Italian food this evening, so I hope you have a taste for that cuisine.”

Tom was about to excuse himself pleading a lot of homework to do in the evening, but the thought of a home cooked meal of that caliber soon caused him to change his mind.

“Thank you, Annette, I don’t want to be a burden on you knowing you hadn’t prepared for one extra this evening.”

 They entered a room full of painting gear and finished pictures stacked around the room. Oriole rushed over and began to sort her pictures out of the stack and struggled back with an armload quickly pointing to each in turn and then to a stand where one stood half finished. Tom stood with his mouth open in surprise. These were quite advanced and professional for children’s work, and he turned in amazement to Annette who was watching his reaction with satisfaction.

“These are excellent Annette; they should be displayed in a gallery.”

“Well, they are Tom it’s another form of income for the both of us and you’ll find our work displayed downtown in the Phoenix Gallery. Oriole has quite a bank account of her own and that will certainly help us with her university studies later. Our paintings sell for around the thousand-dollar mark, sometimes more. You may as well look at my work while you’re here. Annette carefully selected what she felt was the best of her work and displayed each one proudly.”

Tom felt quite inadequate as they showed him the dining room. Final preparations were done in the kitchen and dishes moved to the table while Tom returned to the library to examine the collection. His apartment was one big library as he consumed books with a passion and was presently engaged in writing a book on a new approach to quantum physics. Someday he wanted to move beyond his present high school teaching where he marked time while finishing his book to college teaching at a level preparing students for university. Eventually he aimed to teach in a university. He’d accepted high school teaching temporarily while working on his book and it had been a long time in making. All his evenings had been dedicated to that goal up to now but this evening he’d been introduced to a more balanced life which included other interests and he now felt that was a better quality of life to aim for.

Annette appeared wiping her hands on her apron to invite him to eat. Afterward they swapped messaging details before he departed for home. Annette had suggested this would be the easiest way to communicate as she wanted him to give her regular reports on Oriole’s progress in making friends at school an issue that was continuing to trouble her as she’d made numerous attempts to have her daughter invite some of her classmates’ home to establish a healthier lifestyle for Oriole.

It was several days later at school as the semester wound down to a finish Oriole lingered behind in class as the room emptied. She approached her teacher’s desk.

“Mr. Clooney we’re going to the beach on Sunday, and I wondered if you’d come with us because afterward, I want to show you the painting I’ve just completed, you saw it half-finished when you came to our house. Will you come?”

Tom smiled. “How nice of you to ask Oriole but you see that wouldn’t be possible because that kind of request must come from your mother. She’d be very embarrassed to know you asked me without her permission. Perhaps some of your school friends would like to go to the beach with you. Have you asked any of them?”

“They don’t like me so why should I ask them, but I want you to come because you’ve always been kind to me even when I pushed Doug’s desk back when I shouldn’t have.”

“Well, I like respectful young people Oriole so it’s not hard to be nice to you. I think your mother should be the one to ask though as she’d be embarrassed to know you’ve asked me yourself when that may not fit in with her plan for the day. Perhaps you shouldn’t tell her you asked me.” He patted her on the head and motioned she should leave.

That evening Tom got a message on his phone apologizing for Oriole embarrassing him by asking him to join them on Sunday. On impulse he responded with a message apologizing for upsetting her. This was followed by another message from Annette indicating she’d be happy to have him join them as her daughter was looking forward to showing him her completed painting afterward. Tom quickly messaged back saying he’d be delighted to join them. There were further messages giving details on where they’d be going and what to bring. Annette suggested he come to her place, and they could take the minivan if he’d be willing to drive them and not to forget to bring beach clothes and swimmers. They’d load beach umbrellas and towels chairs and a table to enjoy lunch on the beach. Annette had a portable refrigerator that plugged into an electrical outlet in the van so they were all set up for the day and he could see Oriole’s precious painting in the evening.

Tom enjoyed driving Annette and her daughter to the beach. He’d not gone to a beach since his family made an annual pilgrimage from inland farming communities to enjoy uncles’ aunts and cousins’ company in their extended family celebrating Christmas break together in their RVs by the seaside.

After his university graduation he’d not attended those family gatherings and rarely made it back home inland to his family for a visit though he did keep in touch by telephone. His whole life was tied up in teaching and research. He’d imagined there could be no greater fulfillment, but today had shown him something was missing in his lifestyle.

On returning to Annette’s place in the evening tired but happy he had to fend off an excited teenager while he helped unpack the van and put everything in its storage place. Oriole was ready for her show and tell and he was taking too long about the unpacking. Annette smiled happily as she watched the show. She’d not seen Oriole this happy since her husband had left for an overseas appointment and asked for a divorce. She watched as Tom inspected the finished painting and gushed his appreciation at her skill while the girl jumped with joy at his positive reinforcement.

She turned to Oriole. “Put your things away and go get yourself ready for bed as it’s getting late, and Uncle Tom must go home now. I’ll come to your room and spend time with you before lights out.”

She turned and motioned Tom to the front door and he turned to wish her a good evening and thank her for inviting him to share a beach day with them.

Annette reached up and kissed him on the cheek and Tom recoiled in surprise.

She spoke. “You have no idea how your presence today has lifted my daughter’s spirits. I’ve not seen her so excited since my ex-husband would take her out for walks when she was quite young. You said all the right things to encourage her in her painting too. She has many talents. She has missed that male presence in her life so thank you Tom.”

Tom stammered his thanks. The feeling of her being so close gave him an inner peace he’d not experienced before. He’d never have expected such a beautiful talented woman would have kind thoughts toward him and he’d enjoyed her kissing him. He really didn’t know what to say as he wanted to continue this relationship and had no experience with women, so he blurted out without thinking.

“I had such a happy day can I kiss you in thanks too”

Annette began to giggle as it sounded so innocent and silly, but he was obviously sincere, so she nodded her head.

Tom reached forward and kissed her on the cheek then stood there looking confused not knowing what to do next.

Annette looked at him intensely for a minute and patted him on the shoulder.

‘You need to go home now Tom Clooney. Keep in touch. When Oriole finishes in your class at the end of this semester coming soon and moves up a grade, you’ll not be her teacher. Perhaps when that happens you may want to visit with us as you’ll not be compromised but it’s up to you.”

Tom thought about this then spoke. “Do I have to wait that long?”

“Yes, now get along with you as I need to coax Oriole into sleep mode after an exciting day.” She closed he front door and turned to head for her daughter’s room.

Oriole was smiling broadly when she entered the room. “Mom you like teacher Clooney because you kissed him. I’m glad you like him, and I saw him kiss you too.”

Annette pretended to be angry. “You should have been getting ready for bed not spying on your mom. Yes, I like Tom Clooney because he’s been kind to my daughter.” Annette sat with her daughter holding her hand as she slipped into a peaceful sleep. Then returned to review events of the day and her surprise attraction to Oriole’s teacher. She hoped a relationship would develop but would have to train him to widen his area of interest as it was not good for a person to be so single focused to the extent, they became introverted. She felt he was easily salvageable after the fun they’d enjoyed together today.

The relationship did blossom over time with Tom taking an active interest in many pleasures outside his work which he shared with the Geldard family now. He found to his surprise this new relationship helped him focus even more on his project and the book that had taken so long suddenly received a new lease of life and was completed within months then given the green light for publishing with rave reviews.

He applied for a college teaching job and was eagerly accepted into that academic fraternity. His ambitions were finally being realized but he knew none of this success matched his happiness in the blossoming relationship with Annette under the not-so-subtle prodding of Oriole.

He was sitting in Annette’s home library scanning books one evening when Annette entered the room. She was a picture of beauty to him, and he put the book aside to study her. He wanted this woman to be his life partner. He’d had an engagement ring he carried around with him for months now trying to work up courage to propose but had always thought himself inadequate so drew back at the last minute. But he detected love in the eyes of his Annette this evening as she entered the room and he reached into his pocket and fell on his knees in front of her. He held the decorative black box up to her view and she gasped as she realized what was happening. His lips were moving but the words didn’t come out, but she said yes anyway and called for Oriole to come into the library. She turned to her daughter as she entered the room and Oriole’s eyes opened wide when she saw her uncle Tom on his knees.

“Oriole Tom has asked me to be his wife and that means he would then become your father. Would you accept him as your father?”

“Oh yes mom, please say yes to him.”

“I already did Oriole as I knew you’d want that just as much as I do.”

She then turned to Tom still kneeling holding out the box and pulled him to his feet. “Let’s see if this ring you’ve been carrying around with you for months fits now.” She chuckled at her joke.

Tom put it on, and it fitted perfectly. “How did you know I was carrying this ring around with me for months Annette?”

“You are about to realize a woman knows everything about a man Tom so it’s my secret as to why I knew. I also guess you didn’t buy the wedding ring because you wanted to know this one fitted properly but you’ve paid for the wedding ring and the jeweller is waiting for your OK as to the size am I right?”

Tom nodded in amazement. At that time, he didn’t know the jeweller was a cousin who was aware of the long courtship between his cousin and Tom Clooney. It all became clear when the jeweller attended their wedding later.

Annette laughed at her man’s confusion. “Time for you to go home Tom and we’ll have to start settling on a wedding date and who is to be invited. We need to do it this coming week as I don’t want any further delay having you in the home permanently.”

Tom motored home that evening walking on air. He’d found someone to love who wanted to love him in return and could hardly wait for the day when he could move in with his beloved. Annette Clooney, it had a nice ring about it, and he repeated it over and over in his mind as he prepared for bed that night.

Conclusion

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2022 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

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