Dawn hid a yawn behind her hand, watching the mass of children clustered in the cafeteria. It was the last day of school before Christmas break. The kids were going nuts.
Connie, Dawn’s fellow fourth-grade teacher, slid next to her. “You don’t look like you’re in the Christmas spirit,” she said.
“Barb had trouble sleeping,” Dawn said.
“Married life. If one of you can’t sleep, neither can,” Connie nodded.
“For better or worse, and all that,” Dawn replied. No need to go into any more detail than that.
Barb had spent the night at the kitchen table, pouring over notes and newspaper clippings. “Those red gloves they found in the lifeguard station,” she’d muttered. “Why would someone have winter gloves at the pool?”
The first bell rang, and the kids spilled out into the halls. Dawn and Connie followed.
“Better not let these little monsters see you yawn,” Connie said. “If they sense weakness it’s all over.”
“Ugh. The only thing getting me through today is knowing there’s a two-week vacation and a bottle of wine on the other side.”
Connie laughed. She opened her classroom door. Sitting on her desk was a brightly wrapped gift.
“Who’s that from?” Dawn asked.
“Dunno,” Connie said.
Dawn’s students were grouping at her door. She left Connie to open her gift.
“Let’s put our things away and find our seats,” Dawn called.
If she was honest she was glad to be at school, with bright faces and paper snowmen. Anything to get her mind off Barb sitting at the kitchen table, scribbling like she was trying to solve the damned case by herself. But what else could she do? The bomb had taken Barb’s kid brother. It wasn’t something easily gotten over.
Something in the hallway caught Dawn’s eye. It was Connie, leaving her classroom. Some of her students were standing at the doorway, whispering.
Dawn went to the door. “What’s up?” she asked.
The girl shrugged. “Ms. Holland just walked out of the room.”
“There she is!” a student cried.
Dawn’s classroom windows looked out over the front of the school. Busses were still arriving. She spotted Connie walking out the front door, right into the road. She stepped off the curb in front of a bus.
The bus hit her. Dawn clapped a hand over her mouth. The students screamed. The bus squealed to a halt. Connie was laying in the middle of the road, not moving.
Dawn closed the windows before any more of the kids could see. “We’re going to go across the hall and sit with the other class,” she said. “Come on, right now. Stay away from the windows.”
“What happened?” a student asked.
“No questions right now,” Dawn said. Her hands were shaking. She saw the red package on the desk. It was laying on its side, contents spilling out. Inside was a note that said, thinking of you, in handwriting that Dawn recognized. The note was resting on top of a pair of red gloves.
Thinking of you, with the same loopy scrawls that usually made out Grab milk on your way home, love you.
Dawn grabbed the note and crumpled it in her hand.