The low heels on Jesslyn Heaton’s
practical navy pumps clicked briskly against the sidewalk as
she left the administrative office.
It was the last day of school and mercifully the students
had finally been sent home stuffed full of cupcakes and gallons
of shocking red punch. All she had to do now was close her
room for the summer.
“Going anywhere fun for holiday, Miss Heaton?” a
student asked, his thin reedy voice breaking on her name.
Jesslyn glanced up from the paperwork she’d pulled from
her faculty mailbox. “Aaron, you haven’t left yet?
School ended hours ago.”
The freckle faced teen blushed. “Forgot something,” he
mumbled, his flush deepening as he reached into his backpack
to retrieve a small package wrapped in white paper and tied
with a purple silk ribbon. “For you. My mom picked it
out. But it was my idea.”
“A present.” Jesslyn smiled and adjusted the pile
of paperwork in her arms to take the gift. “That’s
so thoughtful, but Aaron, it’s not necessary. I’ll
see you next school term--”
“I won’t be back.” His shoulders rose and
he hunched miserably into the backpack he’d slung again
onto his thin back. “We’re moving this summer.
Dad’s been transferred back to the States. Anchorage,
Having taught Middle School at the small American School in
the United Arab Emirates for the past six years, Jesslyn had
witnessed how abruptly students came and went.
“I’m sorry,” she said knowing that this
was a fact of life for the family of a petroleum engineer.
He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets. “Maybe
you could tell the other kids? Tell them to email me, write,
“I will. I promise.”
“Goodbye, Miss Heaton.”
His voice cracked again and it was the crack in his voice
along with the way he hung his head that nearly undid her.
These children, children of ex-pats, went through so much.
Foreign homes, foreign lives, change the only constant. “Goodbye,
Then like that he’d turned around and was gone, rushing
down the empty corridors of the school.
Jesslyn watched his hasty departure for a moment before unlocking
the door to her deserted classroom.
Hard to believe that another school year had ended. It
seemed like only yesterday she was handing out the mountain
of textbooks and carefully printing children’s names
in her class register. Now they were gone and for the next
two months she was free.
Well, she’d be free as soon as she closed up her classroom
and she couldn’t do that until she tackled her last,
and least favorite task, washing the chalkboards.
Twenty minutes later her once crisp navy dress stuck to the
small of her back and perspiration matted the heavy dark hair
at her nape.
What a job, she thought, wrinkling her nose as she rinsed
out the filthy sponge in the sink.
A knocked sounded on her door and then Dr. Maddox her principal
appeared in the doorway. “Miss Heaton, you’ve a
Jesslyn turned eagerly towards the door, thinking her boyfriend,
Robert, a teacher at the American School in Dubai, had arrived
early, but it wasn’t Robert. It was Sharif Fehr. Prince Sharif
Stunned, Jesslyn squeezed the wet sponge, water streaming
through her trembling fingers.
Sharif stood in her doorway, tall, imposing, so much bigger
than she’d remembered.
Dr. Maddox cleared her throat. “Miss
Heaton, it is my pleasure to introduce you our most generous
school benefactor, His Royal Highness—“
“Sharif,” Jesslyn whispered, unable to stop herself.
“Jesslyn,” Sharif answered with a slight nod.
And just like that, her name spoken in his rich, deep voice
made the years disappear.
The last time she’d seen him they’d been younger,
so much younger. She’d been a young woman in her first
year of teaching at the American School in London. And he’d
been a gorgeous, rebel Arab prince that wore jeans and flip
flops and baggy cashmere sweatshirts.
Seeing him now, he looked like someone altogether different.
His baggy sweatshirts were gone, and the faded, torn jeans
were replaced by an elegant dark suit, a fitted dress shirt
and a perfectly knotted Italian silk tie.
His hair was shorter, too, but the color was still that glossy
black that had always made her want to touch it, feel the thick
strands for herself.
Confused, Dr. Maddox glanced from one to the other. “You
know each other?”
Sharif didn’t answer forcing Jesslyn to answer for both
of them. “We…we went to school together,” she
stammered, cheeks heating.
Sharif’s eyes met hers and held, the corner of his mouth
They didn’t go to school together. They weren’t
even enrolled in school at the same time. He was six years
older than she was and although he didn’t dress like
it, he was a very successful financial analyst in London when
They’d dated for several years, too, and when it ended,
she was certain she’d never see him again.
hadn’t wanted to ever see him again.
Yet now he was here.
End of Excerpt.
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