Lauren drove into the crowded faculty lot and parked under the bare limbs of a large tree. She grabbed her jacket and exited into the cool weather. It was a typical March day in Denver. Billowy gray clouds lined the sky while traces of snow from last week’s storm lingered around the school grounds. She made her way to her classroom, trying to hide the smile that tickled her lips. A new life is growing inside me. She wanted to sing it out and tell everyone she saw, but she needed to wait to tell Paul first, even if it felt like she’d burst.
Lauren sat at her desk, drumming her fingers while eighth graders filed in and took their seats.
"Hey, Mrs. Wilson, you look happy today," Briana said, tucking her long black hair behind her ears.
"Definitely." Katie grinned, exposing her braces.
"It’s a beautiful day, how could I not be happy?" she said, hoping to avert any more comments. The last thing she wanted to do was blurt out that she was pregnant. She needed to keep her excitement under control until she told Paul. Then she’d shout it to the world.
"Looks like it might snow," Katie said, watching her.
"Yes, yes it does. I love a big snow storm, though, don’t you?"
"Seems like you’re extra happy. Even your eyes are happy." Lexi smiled.
Not liking the direction of the conversation, Lauren stood and walked to the front of the class. The bell rang, and Charlie rushed inside, his strawberry blond hair windswept.
"You’re late again, Mr. Newton."
"I know. I’m sorry, Mrs. Wilson. But—"
"I don’t want to hear any excuses." Lauren suppressed her smirk. Charlie was the best excuse maker she’d had since she started teaching. "Like how Ellie was so hot this morning, and you had no other choice but to talk to her, because she was practicing mind control over you. Or that your mom’s car broke down on the other side of town after you made breakfast at the homeless shelter, so you had to jog to school. Or how your locker combination didn’t work, so you had to find the janitor, who was where? Oh, yes, he was out helping get a small kitten down from a very tall tree." She arched an eyebrow, anticipating his response.
"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie." Lauren shook her head. She had to give him credit for his creativity.
He broke out into a crooked grin. "May I just say how stunning you look this morning, Mrs. Wilson?"
"No, you may not."
He tried again. "May I say you look radiant, Mrs. Wilson?"
Lauren felt the warmth reach her cheeks. Could her students tell she had a glorious secret—a secret that would change her life? "Uh, no. Please take your seat so we can get started."
Charlie sauntered to the back row and slid into his desk. He gave Lauren a slight nod.
She glanced around the classroom, trying to keep her focus on the students and the new unit she was about to introduce. "Good morning. Our next unit of study for this year will be on memoir."
"So, like, we’ll be reading people’s diaries?" Charlie laughed. "I wonder if they’ll be as lame as my sister’s."
Other students started laughing. Lauren shot Charlie a look to let him know he shouldn’t say anything else. "Memoirs are written accounts of people’s memories of events or people or situations. It’s their personal recollections and their perspective on what happened. Group one will be reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and group two will be reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Group three will read Because of Romek by David Faber. All of these memoirs are accounts of the Holocaust."
"Hitler was a maniac," Jeff said under a mass of bushy, dark hair.
Lauren nodded. "He did some terrible things. But we need a deeper understanding of what happened. We’ll study the events as well as the use of persuasive speech and propaganda. You will be required to do a project related to the Holocaust that you can present to the class."
Sara raised her hand.
"Why did he hate Jews so much?" Her deep brown eyes searched Lauren’s. "Why did people in my family have to die?"
Taken aback by the sudden lump in her throat, Lauren drew in a breath. She’d only been teaching a few years, and she’d never had a student directly affected by the Holocaust. "He wanted to create a super race and he blamed Jews for Germany’s problems. He decided to exterminate them along with others that he decided weren’t fit to live, including the handicapped."
"He was crazy," Charlie said, tipping back on his chair.
"Maybe," Lauren said. "For some reason, he believed he had the right to decide who should live and who should die. And people allowed him to gain that power."
"I went to the Holocaust museum with my family last summer. It was really hard to see some of the things in there," Sara said. "Why did he think it was okay to kill millions of people like my family?"
Lauren pursed her lips while images of children being executed danced across her mind. How could anyone kill innocent kids? She touched her stomach, and an urgency to protect her baby coursed through her.
"Mrs. Wilson?" Briana said.
Lauren looked up, suddenly aware that she’d slipped into her own thoughts. "Oh." She tried to recall the last thing someone had said.
Seeming to sense her confusion, Sara said, "Why did Hitler think he could kill so many people?"
Forcing herself to concentrate on Sara, Lauren answered, "Why does anyone think he or she can kill someone else? What gives anyone that right?"
"My father said that Hitler didn’t even see the Jews as real people," Sara said, tugging on the long brown braid that fell over her shoulder.
"Perhaps that’s how he justified his actions to himself. But"—Lauren raised up her hands—"we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll be spending the next few weeks on the Holocaust. Today, I’m going to hand out the books and I want you to start thinking about what kind of a project you’d like to present."
After the bell rang, Lauren sat in her chair, pondering the Holocaust and her emotional reaction. While it was impossible to grasp how someone could be so cruel and could so easily kill other human beings, she’d taught this unit before without being so disturbed. Did the knowledge that she’d finally be a mother amplify her senses and make her hypersensitive?
Stay tuned for the next installment.
You can purchase Imperfect Love here.