Later that night, Shannon tied her black apron over her white button up shirt and black slacks, as she entered the back door of The Rift; a sports bar/fine dining restaurant.
Punching in, she came upon the familiar sight of pots and pans and the smell of something grilling in the kitchen. Shannon twisted around a pile of flour bags and picked up a tray of water glasses. "Hey Matt."
The chef, who appeared to be at least six foot six, bent his painfully tall back in order to catch a glance at the much smaller waitress. "Hey Shannon girl."
Matt was a complicated man, who had done so many drugs in his life, Shannon wondered how he was still functioning?
By the stench of pot and an empty shot glass resting on the line, she marveled at his ability to keep up with the demands of a racing kitchen. Though, she figured the combo of substances were what he needed not to feel overwhelmed by it all.
Taking a moment to scan him over, as she placed the glasses on their shelves, Shannon tried to picture what the skeleton-like man must have looked like when he was her age. Sporting a goatee and dark, cloudy eyes, she imagined he must have quite handsome at one time, but the excess of drugs and the stress of maintaining a kitchen formed dark circles around his eyes and lines that didn't belong on a thirty-year-old's face.
"Shannon, could you help me a moment, please?" The voice of Holly, her bartender, summoned the young girl. Nearly dropping a glass, she quickly replied. "Coming!" and ran out to the sport-flag decorated bar.
Holly was squatting down behind a cabinet and smiled brightly when Shannon came behind her. "Could you hold this flashlight for me, sweetie? I dropped a roll of quarters behind this."
Shannon quietly accepted the flashlight and shone the beam behind the dust-ridden cabinet.
For the spikey-haired woman to call her anything that wasn't derogatory was dangerous. Unless she was in a very good mood, or wanted something from her, the air didn't feel right. For whatever reason, Holly never seemed to have much patience for anyone under the age of forty.
She fished her wildly painted nails behind the cabinet and announced. "Ah ha! I got it!"
As soon as she rose from her crouch, Shannon handed back the flashlight and attempted to scuttle away, before Holly cooed. "Oh, you're going to be working the Johnson bus this weekend."
That made Shannon freeze mid-step. "The Johnson bus?" She nearly squeaked as Holly brushed a hand through her dyed blonde hair. "I didn't stutter."
"But the Johnson bus is huge and with Victoria on maternity leave, that will leave me to deal with them all on my own and they aren't the most patient of people."
Holly rolled her eyes. "Well neither am I and you're annoying me. If you feel like you can't handle it, I'm sure I could call in Alexia and have her take your job. Is that what you want?"
Feeling cornered and defeated, Shannon let out a sigh. "No ma'am."
As she left to set up the tables, Shannon ground her teeth at Alexia's expression, should she be called in to help. The only thing that she didn't enjoy about her job, was working with the one person who sought to make her life a living Hell. As if she didn't get enough of her at school, already.
It didn't help that Holly happened to be her aunt and a constant supporter of her niece's attitude towards her.
Sighing once more, Shannon finished the final touch on the tables and waited for the regular crowd to shuffle in.
When her shift finished, Shannon felt more restless than she had in a long time. The clock ticked by too slowly and without many customers, she found very few things to distract her from her thoughts about Mr. Thompson and the conversation they were about to have.
She was off her game all night and it showed in the breaking of two glasses, one misplaced order and at least four failed table assignments.
When it was finally time to lock the doors and leave, Shannon nearly sprinted through cleaning and stretched on her toes to punch out. Matt stepped out of her way when she nearly dove head first into his chest. "You flying away, Shannon girl?"
Shannon turned her eyes way up into his stormy pupils, which were now red from a substance that still lingered on his clothes. "Yes, I have to meet with someone."
He scratched his goatee. "You want me to walk you to your car? There's some weirdos out lately."
She smiled. "I'm all right, thanks. See you tomorrow."
She threw her car into reverse and drove over the bridge, her fingers tapping out a nervous beat. She thought about playing some music to calm herself, but what would be appropriate for this kind of trip? Carrie Underwood, probably.
Shannon made sure to park her car to the side of the road, where no busy-body would be tempted to investigate and made her way down one of the many paths to the sea.
The cool sand piled between her toes, tickling them in a way that was both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. She inhaled the night air, which was filled with the scent of salt and mystery, as careful footsteps approach her.
"Right on time." The man said and Shannon felt her heart flutter at his presence.
When she turned her head to look up, she bit back the moan in her throat at the beauty of the sight awaiting her. Mr. Thompson stood beside her like a shadow, his dark hair spilling out of a loose pony tail, his normally clean-shaven face showing a hint of a desperate shadow and his glorious, hypnotic eyes, which appeared steely in the moonlight, focused solely on her.
He looked like an angel out of a storybook.
They stood there, the sea breeze gently caressing them like a watching visitor.
"You wanted to talk, so let's talk. I can't stay out all night." Shannon said, trying her best to sound mature, even though her fingers shook at her side.
Mr. Thompson nodded. "Directly to the point, I like that. I have a question for you, Shannon. What do you dream about?"
She searched his face, not wanting to tell him that his eyes where all she saw when she closed her own.
For the past month, all she could think about, all she could dream about, was the shape of his artistic hands, of his musky, spiced scent and of the many different ways his voice could stir her to new heights.
"I don't really dream." She lied, thankful for the darkness, so the red blotches on her neck wouldn't give her away.
Mr. Thompson tilted his head. "That's odd."
Shannon looked back up at him. "What is?"
He turned his electric eyes back to her and held her in their intensity. "I'd have figured the world in your head to be an amazing place."
Trying her best to keep her composure, Shannon pressed. "And do you often think about what it's like in my head?"
Mr. Thompson smirked. "No, I think about what it would be like to be in your arms."
She twisted around to face him. "What?"
Mr. Thompson smiled and gazed out to the ocean. "Do you want to know what I dream about, Shannon? I dream about a world where I am in love with someone who understands me. Someone who sees the world the same way I do and challenges me every time I don't. I dream about someone who can make me... feel."
At that, he raised his hand and Shannon jumped back from it.
To her surprise he simply brought it to his eye level and stared at the intricate lines that twisted in his palms.
Shannon's eyes narrowed and her reply came out cold. "You have someone like that. I saw your wife, she's young and she's beautiful."
Looking down at herself, Shannon felt a surge of jealousy at the woman's supple curves and calm composure.
Mr. Thompson chuckled, but there was no real humor behind it. "Beauty isn't everything you need in a marriage, Shannon. Yes, my wife is by man's standard's beautiful, but that is all we are. There is so much more I need in my life."
He reached down and picked up a white shell that shone in the moonlight. "We were married too young. I was just finishing up college and she was in my political science class. We'd been dating for a few months, nothing serious beyond fooling around, until she came up to me one day and told me she was pregnant and I was the father."
Shannon felt her heart lurch. "So not only are you married, but you have a child as well?!"
He sighed and tossed the shell away. "We were married within two months, she lost the baby in four. My son was a miscarriage."
Seeing the long-etched sadness on his face made Shannon lose some of her nerve. She looked down at the dark sand between her toes. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right, it's in the past. The present meant that I've married out of responsibility, instead of love. Julie is a wonderful woman; she is beautiful, intelligent, business-minded and completely unsatisfied with our lives. She has a very difficult time living with a music teacher's salary. When we moved down here, it forced her to give up her job as a business consultant and I don't think she'll forgive me for it. I'm numb Shannon, I'm suffocated and I was beginning to feel as if I would never know passion again, until I met you."
Shannon's heart fluttered with the words she'd imagined him saying for so long. There was nothing she wanted more than to hear him say that he wanted her, but now that fantasy was twisted with sadness and guilt.
Mr. Thompson turned to face her and extended his hand. "The night of the concert, I nearly lost control of myself. I wanted to feel the softness of your skin, that glows when you smile. I wanted to smell your hair and feel it fall through my fingers. But more than anything, I wanted to kiss your perfect lips. Those gorgeous lips that released the most beautiful music I've heard outside of the Teatro Alla Scala in Italy."
Tears came to Shannon's eyes at the beauty of the woman he described her to be. This was everything she wanted. The spell of the moonlight, the scent of the ocean and the perfection of the man of her dreams, all of it was textbook perfect. "But you're married. No matter how much I want you, you're married and, lest we forget, you're my teacher as well."
He rested his hand on her shoulder and sighed. "I know and for that reason, I can't be with you the way that I want to, Shannon. I can't do this, even though you are everything I want. You are beautiful, bright and immensely talented. I adore the way your smile lights up when you play piano, or how you'll drop everything to help the choir girls. I love your laugh, I love your eyes and I love how you live your life with such passion. That is what I need in my world and yet, my responsibilities to my job, my students and ultimately my wife, will always come first. So, I'm sorry."
Mr. Thompson started to walk away, his footprints remaining in the sand.
Shannon bit her lip, but try as she might, she couldn't fight the words that bubbled out. "What are we going to do, then? How can you drop this on me and then walk away? What kind of man are you?!"
With that, Mr. Thompson stopped and turned, his ice blue eyes locking on her, as he smiled softly. "A tormented one."
As she drove home that night, Shannon found herself growing numb with the realization of the conversation she just had with Mr. Thompson. Her teacher showed her a depth she hadn't expected from him.
He always seemed so capable in his work, so in control of himself and his actions. How could she have known he was so unhappy with the wife he'd married out of obligation, instead of love? How could that woman not love him? He was everything the young girl wanted in her life; excitement, good looks, intellect and an equal love of the music. How could any woman not be pleased with that?
"Maybe she should be taught a lesson in being grateful for what she has?" The horrible, ugly thought pulsated through Shannon's mind and she cringed at the venom of her inner voice.
This wasn't her and she didn't like what she was becoming.
When she pulled into her home, and quietly snuck in through her sliding back door, Shannon nearly made it to her room, before her father's voice startled her in the darkness. "How was work, honey?"
"Oh Daddy, you scared me!"
"You're home awfully late. I was getting worried."
Shannon felt her cheeks flushing, an unfortunate habit whenever she lied. "Work was really busy tonight. Some people are still there, cleaning up. I have to host a giant bus this weekend and that's never fun."
He scratched his salt and peppered goatee. "No, I suppose it's not. Oh well, you only have to deal with this for a little longer and then you are off to college. Good night, angel girl."
He kissed her on the head, as Shannon slipped into her waiting bedroom groaning to herself. "Yeah right, some angel."
She un-tied her work shoes and slipped out of her button up shirt, and into PJ bottoms.
Shannon picked up her notebook and wrote out. "What do I do?" over and over.
"What can I do? He's made it clear how he feels. He has a wife and his obligation is to her. Case closed."
Shannon sighed and closed her eyes, as her troublesome inner voice reared its ugly face and whispered to her heart. "But he admitted his feelings for me. He thinks about me in a romantic way. He sees me as a beautiful woman, not some sniveling little girl. I want him to tell me things like that again."
The churning in Shannon's stomach continued to twist and she wondered what tomorrow would be like. How could she sit in a classroom with the teacher who just admitted that he wanted her?