Abe Cooper is starting over. For fifteen years he's lived the life that was expected of him, but not anymore. He's packed up his things, bought himself a cabin in Northfield, and managed to secure a job at the local high school teaching gym and coaching the football team. But his new beginning didn't include running into Crazy Joe on his first trip to the grocery store.
Jonas Raghnall has everything he needs -- good friends and a job he loves. He's worked hard to get over what happened sixteen years ago, but one run-in with his past and all the memories come flooding back. Seeing Abe Cooper, The Abe Cooper, sets everything out of balance.
Abe had pictured a fresh start with no ties to his past, but now that Jonas is there, he wants nothing more than to be close to the man who had butterflies filling his belly when he was in high school. Jonas doesn't want to come face to face with his past, but if he sees Abe every day, it's not really meeting up with your past, is it? It's more like a date with your future.
"Yeah ... See you later, Mr. Jonas." Dylan jogged ahead to meet up with a group of guys dressed in similar school jackets. They were all on the football team. Jonas tried really hard not to hold it against them. Most of them were good guys, teenage boys as a group, though ... Sighing, he shook his head. One run-in with his past shouldn't upset his calm this way. He was a grownup, a teacher ... a role model.
Walking in through the main entrance, he waved at the school caretaker as he changed a light bulb, and slipped into the office he shared with three other teachers -- two now since Ms. Sanders had moved.
The room smelled of coffee and paper. Jonas took a deep breath and allowed his shoulders to drop. This was what he did, this was where he belonged.
"Did you hear?" Sara Nelson, a fellow language teacher, stormed into the room, dumped her bag on her desk, and sat on her chair.
"The hot guy." She wiggled her eyebrows and laughed.
Jonas rolled his eyes but smiled at her. "Who did whom and did you guys go out without me? Since when am I not invited?" There wasn't anywhere to go in Northfield, but the cafe served alcohol, so pizza and a beer was a possibility. They usually met up once every other week or so -- Sara, Gabriel Gonzalez, and him -- to share a glass and talk some shit. Sometimes other teachers tagged along, but mostly it was just the three of them.
"Oh, no." She leaned in closer and lowered her voice. "Apparently some guy called Wright, practically begging for a job --"
"Ah, Jonas, Sara." Principal Wright filled the doorway, his thinning gray hair neatly combed, and his suit immaculate. Robert Wright had been the principal at the school for as long as Jonas had worked there. He was a quiet man who kept to himself and seldom needed to assert his authority. "I want you to meet our new coworker, Abe Cooper." Wright stepped aside and gestured for Abe to enter.
The room spun around Jonas, but no matter how much he prayed he'd wake up at home in his bed and realize this was just a dream, he remained seated by his desk. Sara's mouth was moving, and Abe was smiling and shaking her hand, but Jonas couldn't hear what they were saying.
Abruptly, he stood. Everyone turned to look at him. Wright frowned, Sara had her eyebrows raised, and Abe took a small step in his direction, preparing to offer his hand.
"I have to go." Jonas squeezed himself past Abe without looking at him and stumbled out into the corridor.
This was not happening.
Nausea curled in his stomach, and he hurried into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. How long he stood there he didn't know, but for some unknown reason, he couldn't let go of the sink.
* * * *
Abe watched Jonas all but dive out of the room. This wasn't good. He couldn't share an office with Jonas. A new start was the reason he'd come here, and Jonas had no room in his new life. Except, the poor soul seemed to take the news worse than Abe did.
"That was Jonas Raghnall." The woman, Sara Nelson, gave him a shocked look. "He's normally quite social ... and friendly."