The second Opal climbed into the car she was already speaking at a mile a minute. Ronan turned, making sure she had buckled herself in properly before he pulled away from the curb and started down the road. His shirt was still caked in dirt from working the farm, the apples of his cheeks a brazen red from the chilling wind; it was a slow transition towards winter and Ronan wanted to take advantage of all he could before the dreary blanket of snowfall.
Vaguely, Ronan registered that Opal had kept blabbering incessantly.
“Slow down, Jesus, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”
“I finger painted today.” Opal kicked her feet against the seat as she swung them jovially. There was resolute pride in her voice as she spoke, a certain giddiness she exuded as she traipsed through a detailed retelling of her day. “And Mr. Parrish hung my picture on the wall.”
The infamous Mr. Parrish.
Ronan had never met this man but from the way Opal described him, Ronan wanted to. Mr. Parrish was her favourite teacher and she always came home prattling on about weird stories of her day. Ronan knew that Opal was not a regular child; her learning habits were strange and she had difficulty focussing on a subject for long and she was abysmal when it came to multiplication, but she never came home discouraged since she started grade 4 and for that, Ronan was grateful. Opal had told him how Mr. Parrish stayed with her during the lunch period to help her with math using jelly beans, about how Mr. Parrish had taken them to a greenhouse during their photosynthesis unit and let them plant their own flowers into individually painted pots. Opal always taught Ronan something new she learned; one of her favourite subjects was science because of the hands-on approach Mr. Parrish had instilled, so Ronan was often at the listening end of some sort of educational spiel on circuits or Opal randomly reciting parts of the flower. She had also struggled with reading and writing but Mr. Parrish had brought her up from a grade 2 to a grade 4 level, what she should’ve been at, in only a handful of months. Ronan noticed it when they read stories before bed, how she was better at pronouncing words she wasn’t sure of and understanding their meaning based on context.
She talked about how kind he was with the students, making sure that there were always juice boxes and granola bars available in his classroom and that if he noticed a student without a lunch, he would bring them extra sandwiches and snacks he packed with his own.
Ronan imagined that he looked like an endearing old man with a wrinkled face who smiled kindly at each tiny student that passed him.
There were only a selection of individuals who had the capacity to work with younger children and this Mr. Parrish seemed more than capable.
When they returned home, Opal bolted out, skipping up the steps while her backpack bobbed unceremoniously on her back. She dropped it off near the kitchen while Ronan quickly checked the mail. Opal stuffed her hand in her bag, pulling out a crumbled piece of paper and handed - shoved - it to Ronan.
“What’s this?” Ronan dropped his keys on the counter.
Opal shrugged before racing up the stairs, kicking off her shoes.
“Hey! Put your crap near the door. Little monster.” Ronan grumbled. He perused the contents of the sheet of paper.
To Whom It May Concern,
It is time for our first Parent-Teacher Conference! Your meeting is to be scheduled for Tuesday at 6:00PM. Please bring your child along with you! If there are any conflicts regarding your scheduled time…
Ronan used a stray magnet to attach the letter to his fridge mentally checking if he was free next Tuesday evening.
“Hey, Brat,” Ronan hollered. “Hope you’re free Tuesday night because we’re meeting your lame teacher.”
Opal screeched in protest at Ronan’s disuse of ‘lame.’ He snickered at her response. Opal would always make a fuss when Ronan even slightly suggested that this Mr. Parrish was not perfect and he thoroughly enjoyed riling her up. He could hear her stomping down the stairs, making more racket than necessary before she slid into the room, decked out in brightly coloured fuzzy socks and her skull cap: two items she had not had on previously.
Opal frowned. “Don’t call Mr. Parrish lame. You’re lame. You eat blue cheese. That’s stupid.”
Ronan rolled his eyes, gesturing towards the sheet on the fridge. “Well, we’re meeting your beloved Mr. Parrish next Tuesday at 6.”
Opal tilted her face towards the paper as if she wanted to confirm that Ronan wasn’t fibbing. Her eyebrows scrunched together as she concentrated on reading the words printed together. She read it aloud, repeating what Ronan had already casually mentioned. He looked to her, arrogantly prideful of her hard earned reading comprehension and reached over to fondly muss up her hair from underneath her skullcap.
When she finished, she looked to Ronan, glowing in jittery excitement under the incandescent light of their modest kitchen. “You’re going to meet my teacher!” Opal said this like it was a new development.
“No fucking way?” Ronan gasped. “You’re kidding."
Opal rolled her eyes at Ronan’s blatant sarcasm. “You better be nice. And no ugly shirts.
“This coming from the kid in overalls, fuzzy socks and fingerless gloves. Like, are you hot or cold?”
Opal opened her mouth, probably to say something as offensive as a ten year old could muster, before Ronan turned to the fridge. “No attitude or else we’re having blue cheese for dinner.”
Ronan couldn’t see Opal’s expression but he could imagine her screwing her eyes shut, tongue sticking out in plaintive disgust. She had a flair for the dramatics.
Ronan began pulling out various fruits and vegetables that he had grown himself, a bag of frozen chicken strips from the counter and curly fries, before setting off to work.
Before long the week had come and gone and it was the very Tuesday of the Parent Teacher meeting. In all honestly, Ronan had completely forgotten of it until he had picked an excited Opal up from school who had carried the conversation the entire ride back.
They had gone through the typical regime of arriving home and after a lazy dinner of delivered pizza and a movie that Opal insisted they watch, they were back in the car again, making their way to school.
Ronan felt a hint of dread at the prospect of having to socialize with other parents but having been to countless Parent Teacher meetings beforehand, he was used to the time consuming bore of useless discussion with teachers who had angled a judgemental brow at Ronan, most likely due to his age and general appearance, while Opal was colouring with the other children at the other corner of the room, surrounded by a plethora of overbearing parents. He figured it might be different because Opal actually looked delighted to be attending; she had hardly even protested Ronan cutting off her movie early as a means of leaving in time. He spared her a glance in the rearview mirror, watching as her eyes travelled past the window and ran with the blur of trees or the dark asphalt on the roads. Her hands were clasped tightly in her hand, legs kicking every few moments and while her eyes looked distracted, her mouth was quirked in a familiar smile. Ronan pulled the car to a stop at a red light and immediately Opal’s expression loosened as she started making ridiculous faces at the near rabbits loitering in the field. Ronan’s chest swelled with poorly concealed adoration. What a strange, ridiculous, loud, wonderful daughter he had the opportunity to love and teach and nudge towards the right direction, despite his past of less-than-adequate decision making. Opal was, without a doubt, the best decision he had ever made.
When they arrived at the school, there were already handfuls of cars parked in the lot and several children with their parents making their way into the school.
The hallways were littered in paintings and drawings the students had created, the walls obnoxiously bright, with children rambunctiously running around. The entire school was in the midst of Parent Teacher meetings, so children of all ages were crowding around lockers. Opal walked through the halls with authority, sidestepping smaller children, towards an open door near the end of the hall where Ronan could already hear voices falling out of. He sighed, taking a deep, measureable breath, before entering. He knew many of the parents considering he’d been to meetings every year since Opal’s kindergarten class and most curious people tended to flock his way. He acknowledged familiar faces with a slight nod of his head, scanning the room for Opal’s teacher.
Ronan’s eyes travelled to the figure who was currently standing behind a desk, very clearly the teachers, and his entire body faltered mid step.
Jesus Motherfucking Shit Christ.
Because Mr. Parrish, the man who was supposed to be layered in old wrinkles and smelling of caramel candy had neither of these qualities, instead appearing to be no older than Ronan himself. Parrish, currently crouched down in front of a student who was enthusiastically showing him whatever she had drawn, was the halcyon image of just Ronan’s type. Fucking of course. Though Parrish’s eyes were downcast, Ronan could see the most brilliant shade of blue peek in between thick eyelashes that cast long shadows against sculpture worthy cheekbones. Lips, that Ronan found impossible to ignore, were thin and pink and were currently separated, revealing a heart-stopping smile. Ronan felt his face burn at how he was blatantly ogling Opal’s fourth grade teacher, he was being fucking creepy and quickly, with sure subtly, flicked his line of vision firmly onto his shoes.
Opal grabbed Ronan’s hand, anchoring him to the present. “Let’s go, he’s right there.”
Ronan’s feet were stuck in the irritatingly orange carpet. “You didn’t tell me that your teacher was - why is he like that? He’s supposed to be old.”
“He is old.”
“He’s my age.”
Opal shrugged in a passive aggressive attempt that indicated she believed Ronan was ancient. If he wasn’t so flustered, Ronan would’ve started an indignant tirade. He was fucking 23.
Opal tugged him forward. Belatedly, Ronan realized they were moving staggeringly close to Opal’s admittedly attractive teacher, who looked to be in deep conversation with a parent. Ronan’s eyes, graced with Mr. Parrish’s distraction, ran the length of his figure, briefly resting on his hands. They were rough, calloused, and Ronan was fixated on scarred slender fingers and the strange juts of Parrish’s knuckles. His thumb was currently rubbing up the length of his forefinger and Ronan, ever the graceful parent he was, awkwardly skidded behind Opal who was occasionally waving at familiar classmates.
As the random parent was nodding her head in thanks, leaving to join her child near the stations at the other side of the room that displayed the students’ projects, Opal catapulted forward. “Mr. Parrish!”
Ronan cringed behind her. Parrish, instinctively looked up at the call of his name, startled. He noticed Ronan first, his eyes widening in surprise and a hint of something else that Ronan was too flustered to decipher and dropped his gaze to Opal.
“Opal,” Mr. Parrish greeted, smiling warmly. Opal offered a fist and Parrish bumped it with his own, in a gesture that could’ve only been familiar between the pair. Ronan took the moment to regard the man who had taken up residence in the depths of Opal’s heart, who had been the star of all her after school stories, who had the patience and kindness to help her even though he could’ve let her achieve the bare minimum and nothing more. He saw the same potential in her as Ronan did. Parrish then directed his gaze to Ronan, his lips pulled into a charming, polite smile and offered Ronan a hand. “And you must be Mr. Lynch, I’m Mr. Parrish. Opal loves to talk about you.”
Ronan slid his hand into Parrish’s, relishing in the rough drag of Parrish’s skin. His handshake was firm and confident and Ronan could feel the heat of Parrish’s palm against his own. Ronan held on for a second too long, a second he couldn’t afford, and when he pulled his hand away to stuff in his pocket, his face felt inordinately warm. Parrish seemed unperturbed - of course he was, Ronan was the one acting psycho - and gestured towards the empty chair.
Ronan sat down, angled towards the side of the desk where Parrish’s chair was situated, not entirely behind the desk to refrain from barricading himself from his students but enough so that Parrish was able to lean his elbows against the wooden surface, his freckled forearms bare as his dress shirt was currently rolled up to the elbow. Ronan vaguely noticed how organized the desk was, stacks of worn literature cleanly piled together or books that were clearly written for younger children stacked. There were strange trinkets scattered along the desk and propped up on the table behind the desk as well as children’s drawings and homemade magnets. Ronan felt surprise worm it’s way into his throat when he recognized latin texts braced against the back wall. Fuck.
Opal climbed into the chair next to Ronan’s, smiling angelically, in some sort of avid discussion with her teacher. After a few moments, Parrish grinned and returned behind his desk while Opal reshuffled in her seat. Behind him, Ronan could hear the cacophony of children running around and parents milling around each of their children’s accomplishments.
“Well, I suppose since you’re both here we can start our own little discussion.” Parrish sat in his chair, opening a desk drawer and pulling out a large folder. He had a sheet of paper that showcased scrawled handwriting that Ronan found irritatingly endearing. “As you probably know, Opal has been improving spectacularly throughout these first couple months,” Parrish reshuffled his papers, handing Ronan one of her most recent written projects, a paragraph she wrote as a response to the prompt ‘What is Home?’. Ronan felt his throat dry at the messy scrawl of Opal’s writing, the strangely profound words she had knitted together in a heartwarming description of the Barns and himself. “You’ve really improved in your writing, Opal. Look just how much better you’ve gotten at spelling and sentences,” Parrish handed her one of her earlier assignments, which was undoubtedly more mistake prone than what Ronan had currently clutched in his grasp.
Opal looked bashful at her teacher’s praise. She preened slightly under his attention. “Do you like it, Kerah?”
Her teacher hardly looked confused at the name which meant that he mustn't have been lying when he mentioned that Opal loved to talk about Ronan. He wasn’t sure how to feel at the implications of that admission.
Ronan fondly tugged Opal’s skullcap over her eyes. She quickly pulled it back, glaring at Ronan as he stifled a laugh. “Of course, I like it. Can I keep this?” Ronan stubbornly met Parrish’s eyes who looked amused. “This is fridge worthy material.”
Ronan already begun folding the sheet and sticking it in his back pocket.
“Of course, Mr. Lynch. You should be proud of your daughters work. I’ve never had a student who’s been more driven to improve and has worked as hard as she has. Opal, do you feel like you’ve improved?”
She nodded frantically. “Are you kidding? I could write a book now.”
Ronan grinned sharply. Parrish’s expression was more welcoming but he also looked pleased. This was hard won confidence.
“The year isn’t over yet,” Parrish dipped his chin against his hand, “how do you think you could further improve?”
Opal tapped her lip. “Practice. Write and read, at least a little bit, everyday.”
“That’s a great idea.” Parrish shifted his attention to Ronan. “I also hear that you frequently read to her, I think that’s been very helpful in her reading comprehension and how quickly she’s able to recognize a compound word.”
Ronan nodded. His voice sounded scratchy as he spoke. He felt intimidated having Parrish’s attention all to himself, for the brief periods they conversed, especially because it felt as if Parrish was able to strip Ronan of his walls until he stood divested. “Is there anything else I can do?”
“Well,” Parrish hummed. “Opal, where do you think you’re having the most trouble?”
“Math.” Opal spat in exaggerated disgust.
Parrish smiled gently. “Math is an extremely difficult subject, even I have trouble with it sometimes.” He pulled out some of her previous worksheets and tests, most of her marks ranging from below 50% to her most recent grade which was a whooping 78%. “But you’ve been doing better.”
“I don’t like long division. Kerah says that math is a lie created by the government.”
Parrish’s lips quirked upwards wryly. “Really.”
Ronan thought he might combust and backtracked. “I didn’t say that… exactly.”
“He used ‘fuck’ a lot too but I’m not allowed to swear at school.”
“Opal.” Ronan reprimanded. He tried to convey 'stop throwing me under the bus in front of your weirdly hot teacher’ through the disbelieving gaze he threw in her direction.
“Well, I happen to think that math is important. It’s how we count things or figure out how much to pay at a grocery store.” Parrish sounded sincere and cheerful.
Opal nodded in acquiescence.
“If you continue to have trouble, I would definitely be willing to stay after school and help you on your work sheets, if you had the time.” Parrish looked to Ronan, as if asking permission as he knew the commitment of Ronan having to wait. Ronan, on the other hand, couldn’t think of anything he’d prioritize over Opal, especially her education despite his own disdain with the public school system.
“Sure,” Ronan shrugged.
Discussion continued for another ten minutes, the three of them discussing Opal’s achievements and her areas of struggle, until half an hour had passed and Parrish realized that he still had a roomful of parents and students he needed to see. Parrish stood up, once the conversation had died to a satisfied hum, offering his hand once more to which Ronan accepted. It, again, lasted normal than what a socially acceptable time frame for a handshake was, but this time Ronan allowed himself to read Parrish’s expression. Parrish didn’t seem to mind the extended handshake, withdrawing his hand in such a way that his fingertips drew against Ronan’s palm as it slid away.
“It was nice to meet you Mr. Lynch, I hope this won’t be the last. Opal, have you told him about the bake sale fundraiser coming up?”
She shook her head. “His cupcakes taste like rocks.”
Ronan huffed in offense. “You didn’t say that last time when you ate 4.”
Opal shrugged. “I was hungry. They were there.”
Parrish chuckled. “Well, the students are fundraising money for homeless shelters, particularly for impoverished children. All proceeds go towards the charity and parents and their children are supposed to bring homemade food to sell to the rest of the school during a little festival we like to host every year. If you’re interested, you can give me your email so I can send you the details.”
Ronan had never attended a bake sale in his life. Still, he reached for the pen Parrish’s slender, sepia coloured fingers handed him and quickly wrote his email down.
“Opal,” Parrish said, last minute, “make sure you take your father to all the stations and show him your wonderful work.”
Opal chirped out an affirmation, reaching for Ronan’s hand.
As soon as they started away, Opal pulling Ronan towards her desk, Parrish was already speaking to another parent. Ronan looked over his shoulder, catching Parrish’s straying gaze. The moment their eyes caught each others, Ronan quickly turned back, looking resolutely forward.
Ronan wasn’t sure how long he’d been there, listening attentively as Opal showed him her desk and her projects before she disappeared to socialize with her friends. Unsure of what to do with himself, he stood near the other side of the room, looking over at the corner where Opal was colouring, every couple minutes. He’d already interacted with enough parents but the thought of interrupting Opal, who was clearly having a good time, wasn’t triumphing Ronan’s urge to burrow himself in his bedroom and think about her teacher who had disappeared from his classroom a few moments earlier.
Many of the occupants had left, leaving only a handful of stragglers left, but Ronan felt his eyes fidgeting to look over to where Parrish had been in the midst of conversation with others. He spoke with local ease, his words coated in a faded accent that Ronan wished to grip and showcase in all its glory. Throughout the night, Parrish’s hair had gotten slightly more tumultuous, from him running his hands through it, most likely a subconscious gesture, which made Ronan inexplicably annoyed at the way his soft curls fell over his forehead.
He leaned against the student’s cubbies near the back of the room, biting his lip in thought.
“You know, she’s a great kid.”
Ronan jumped. He swiveled towards Mr. Parrish, who was smiling softly, attention elsewhere. Ronan followed his gaze and found it focussed on where Opal was chatting with her friends. Apparently when Ronan had zoned out, crafting poetry of Parrish’s otherworldly looks, the very man had decided to join him. Though there were a few people milling around the room, Ronan felt secluded, like he was alone with Parrish instead of being a couple of feet away from the nearest body.
Ronan belatedly grunted in agreement.
“Are you always this great with words or am I just a special case?” Parrish mused.
Ronan felt frozen to the spot. That sounded distinctly flirty. Except he knew that it would be inappropriate and Mr. Parrish, if not to a partner, was married to his job. Still, Ronan couldn’t say that he wasn’t flustered by the sliver of possibility, a resulting jump in his chest when he noticed that Parrish wasn’t wearing a ring.
He shrugged, all casual, “already used up my quota for the day.
“I didn’t realize there was a limit.” Parrish looked at Ronan carefully before murmuring. “She looks nothing like you.”
“Adopted.” Ronan said, saving Parrish from the awkward question. “It’s a long story.”
Parrish hummed, shifting slightly so that he was beside Ronan instead of in front of him. He leaned back, against the shelf, and Ronan was all to aware of how Parrish’s bare forearms brushed his arm as he rearranged himself.
“It must be difficult being a single parent.”
Ronan furrowed his eyebrows. He had never mentioned that he was single. He wondered if Parrish had just put two and two together or if Ronan really looked that pathetically alone.
“Opal talks about you a lot.” Adam answered the unspoken question.
“Christ,” Ronan ran a ragged hand down the his face. “I can’t imagine what the little monster has told you, Mr. Parrish.”
“Adam.” Parrish - or Adam - offered.
“Uh, Ronan.” He responded, his voice creaky. Adam. He tested the name against his tongue, dragging out the syllable. It suited him; Adam was a name proper for his fair ethereal beauty. Christ, Ronan was being stupid.
“Ronan, then. She may have mentioned the time you built her a wagon and subsequently rode it down a hill, barreling into stacks of hay.” Adam stifled an indulgent laugh. Ronan helplessly wished that he hadn’t despite the heat of his cheeks. He remembered accepting his fate of crashing, cupping his nose while Opal wailed on top of the hill. Nothing had been injured except his dignity as Opal raced down the hill, collapsing in a fit of shrieking laughter halfway down.
Ronan turned his head slightly to look at Adam. He felt the trepidation of the action but did so anyways, if not to see Adam’s eyes crinkled in amusement and his lips loosely parted in an elastic smile.
“Stop looking so fucking smug,” Ronan huffed. “Opal talks about you too.”
“Haven’t done anything nearly as memorable as toppling into hay, I’m afraid.” Adam said though he looked surprisingly pleased at the idea of Opal talking about him, as if he wasn’t aware that she adored him. “What does she even say?” Adam ventured after a moment's breath, naked curiosity in his tone.
“What doesn’t she say,” Ronan responded exasperated, “she’s fucking obsessed with you. All the way home, it’s Mr. Parrish said this and Mr. Parrish did that, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a shrine of you in her bedroom.”
Adam looked bashfully charmed at the admission. Ronan thought it was stupid that Adam didn’t know, wasn’t aware of the positive effect he had on these students. Opal was one of many yet he made her feel special and took the time to help her in whichever way he could. One of the many reasons Ronan didn’t date was because potential prospects had never taken the time or care when it came to Opal. The fact that Adam had, the fact that Opal admired him and Adam reciprocated with sincere sentiment, made Ronan’s chest yearn and ache.
“She has a good heart.” Adam admitted after a drag of silence. “And she’s a hard worker.”
“Damn straight.” Ronan said proudly. He jutted his chin out pridefully, ravishing grin seared across his face.
Ronan could hear Adam huff out a rough laugh beside him.
“I was wondering something though,” Ronan said. “Why the decision to have the children also join in on the Parent Teacher meeting? I’ve been to a shitload of them and usually the kid’s off doing God knows what.”
“Studies show that parent-teacher conferences are actually more productive when the student is involved.”
“Blah blah blah, I’m a fucking nerd, blah blah.” Ronan mimicked in a horrible high pitched version of Adam’s accent.
“You know with your maturity level I think you’d fit right in with my grade 3 class.
“I’d be the top student.”
“I don’t know,” Adam mused teasingly. “How much do you remember about Earth patterns, cycle and change?”
“That’s what kids are learning nowadays? When the fuck will they actually need to know that?”
“Whining about the public school system? Right in front of me, a teacher, in my place of practice? Blasphemous.”
Ronan barked out a sharp laugh. Adam pushed himself off from where he was leaning on the shelf and nodded his head towards the last straying horde of people that were currently leaving. Opal, now alone, sat cross legged and was flipping through one of the books that Adam kept at the back of the room for student use.
“I should probably,” Adam nudged his chin towards the surveyors, “go deal with that. Pleasantries and all that. You wouldn’t understand.”
Adam turned around and before Ronan’s brain was able to process his proceeding actions, Ronan quickly grabbed onto Adam’s bicep. Adam jumped at the contact, turning slightly to flash Ronan a confused glare.
“Uh, fuck, just. I know you need to,” Ronan gestured vaguely at the blur of people, “with all that, but I just wanted to thank you. For being a good teacher for Opal. She’s not like other kids. I know she struggles and she has her difficulties with her studies but ever since she started grade 4, she’s never been more motivated to learn. Or so confident about it. It’s - you’re - good for her. So, thank you.” Ronan ended lamely, slightly embarrassed but moreso relieved at getting this off his chest. Adam deserved to be thanked.
During Ronan’s spiel, he had noticed that Adam’s face that gotten explicitly redder, despite the warm impenetrable brown of his skin. He looked speechless, his lips parting to speak before closing and then opening once more.
“Knock it off.” Ronan said, after another moment of Adam’s awkwardness seeping into the moment. “You look like an idiot.”
“Way to ruin the moment, Lynch.”
“Ronan.” He corrected, though he kind’ve enjoyed the way Adam spoke his last name, in the teasing lilt of his accent.
“Ronan.” Adam nodded. “You don’t need to thank me for anything. I feel honoured being able to help Opal in any way I can. She’s a brilliant young mind and I know she’s going to do big things.”
“Sure,” Ronan coughed, trying to diffuse the oncoming tension. He morphed back into his awkward teenage self from high school. “Whatever. I guess Opal and I should probably get going.” His voice was gruff.
Adam’s eyes were sparkling. He flashed Ronan a genuine amiable smile. Ronan felt that smile everywhere. “Goodbye, Ronan.”
Ronan awkwardly waved, rolling his eyes when Adam huffed out another breath of laughter.
Adam started walking away but as he walked, he turned around so that he was facing Ronan was he retreated.
“Oh, by the way,” Adam grinned. “Be a good samaritan-”
“Never.” Ronan interrupted wickedly.
“-and come down to the bake sale, Lynch.”
Ronan said nothing but smiled viciously. This was definitely flirting. His stomach lurched, fire rushing through his veins, a surefire way to destruction yet he felt nothing but that familiar fluttering warmth.
“I’ll email you the details anyways.” Adam said and finally turned back around, leaving no room for refusal.
Ronan watched Adam’s departing figure, as back muscles shifted underneath of the material of the dress shirt. He never agreed to attend the bake sale, it was most likely a waste of time despite the good intentions, but as he made his way towards Opal, he was running through a mental list of possible baked goods.
It had been three long weeks without hearing from Ronan.
Adam had emailed him the bake sale details, sending a vaguely flirty message disguised as a monotonous email. He had signed off with his personal number, in case Ronan had any ‘questions’ regarding the bake sale, even though email was just as viable.
Now it had been three weeks, not a single acknowledgement from Ronan, from email or otherwise and Adam reprimanded himself from acting so recklessly impulsive, with one of his favourite student’s parents no less. He still had weekly after school sessions with Opal and had managed to sneak in faint questions regarding her caregiver, but he felt stupid for believing that Ronan reciprocated whatever spark Adam believed they had.
Except Ronan had flirted. Had flirted back . Maybe Adam had read the signs wrong. Maybe he had acted so woefully hopeful at the possibility of having a chance with the attractive man.
Attractive didn't even begin to describe Ronan, the way his artfully ripped jeans hugged his thighs and the dark shirt that meshed well with his biting humour. Though there was no dress code for Parent Teacher meetings, Adam had never witnessed another parent arrive dressed in that and he found that he didn’t mind as much as he should. Ronan’s hair looked as if it was buzzed a couple months prior, short strands of chaotic curls beginning to grow, dark hair paired with darker eyelashes and piercing blue eyes to match. Adam pressed a palm against the corner of his mouth, sighing, as he leaned back in his desk chair.
It was probably for the better, if things had gone horribly, he wouldn’t have wanted to sacrifice his relationship with Opal.
Still, Ronan’s silent rejection stung.
His classroom was empty, as it was saturday but Adam enjoyed the atmosphere of his classroom for the tedious task of marking assignments hoping to take his mind off of Ronan. It was ridiculous to be so disappointed when he had hardly known the man. Adam knew he was being irrational, was letting his emotions get the better of him, the same way his best friend Blue had often called him out for, but he let himself, the stubborn masochistic he was, simmer in his feelings of self deprecation.
The bake sale was later today and the available parents and respective students were expected to arrive around 10:30, in preparation for setting up their stand.
Adam exhaled sharply, refusing to left Ronan’s obvious absence affect his mood. This was a good cause and he was going to enjoy the extra time with his students.
He swiftly finished marking, collecting the container of cookies he had baked the night before, before making his way towards the gymnasium where the festivities were going to be held. Teachers and students and parents were already milling around the area, helping set up decorum and Adam reached his table where a handful of students and parents had already arrived.
Adam had been so focussed on the task at hand that he hardly noticed newcomers, the plethora of parents that had whisked away their saturday afternoon for this bake sale, when a familiar squawk reverberated past the doors. Opal tumbled forwards to where Adam was crouched near the leg of the table, taping streamers along the edges, and gaped at where Ronan was strolling in from behind her, grimacing at her eager shrieks and carrying a large container.
Adam stumbled back from where he was kneeled down, rising in disbelief. Ronan still looked as attractive as before except now he was wearing a dark leather jacket that matched his savagely handsome features well. Adam pasted on a polite smile at their arrival, a more genuine one when Opal crashed into his legs.
“You made it.” Adam managed to say.
Opal nodded, perplexed, like she wanted to say something along the lines of ‘duh.’
“And you brought… cupcakes?” Adam said, bewildered. Ronan’s container was still firmly sealed but Adam could vaguely see the semblance of cupcakes through the translucent plastic.
“Well, shit Parrish, I thought this was a bake sale. What would it say about me if I came empty handed?”
“You would look as ill-prepared as I expected you to be.”
“Harsh, Parrish. Hitting me where it hurts: my punctuality.”
“Kerah,” Opal ordered. She pointed to the table where other baked goods were currently spaced out. “Cupcakes."
“Yeah, yeah.” Ronan rolled his eyes before placing the container down and peeling off the lid. Adam’s eyes widened in surprise. The cupcakes weren’t by all means perfect, some were slouched over, but the frosting was decorated with little candied figures on top that likely took hours to perfect.
Adam was helplessly impressed.
“Do you want one, Mr. Parrish?”
Adam hesitated. Opal grabbed a napkin, carefully picking out a cupcake and handing it to Adam anyways. The frosting was a bright violet colour with a polar bear made of oreos sitting up top. He nibbled at the cookied figure, Opal picking off a piece and eating it herself, before he bit into the soft fluffy material of the cake. Adam could feel the icing caked over his upper lip but he was too busy fixated on the heavenly taste.
“Jesus, this is amazing,” Adam mumbled. “Did you make this?”
Ronan looked pleased at Adam’s response. “Of course.”
“I helped.” Opal chirped.
“Take a napkin, you look ridiculous.” Ronan handed Adam a napkin, appearing needlessly nonchalant even though his gaze flickered all over Adam’s face.
Opal disappeared, seemingly content at Adam having tasted the cupcakes, joining her friends in racing around the gymnasium. The festivities were supposed to begin in no less than half an hour. The parents were all occupied and Adam, for the first time in weeks, found himself under the scrutinizing gaze of Ronan Lynch.
“Weren’t your cupcakes supposed to taste like rocks?” Adam asked, after a moment of wiping down his face. He opted for a more casual approach, the onset of tension quickly dissuading.
“To some more abrasive opinions.”
“You calling someone else abrasive? Hypocritical don’t you think?"
“Don’t worry, I’m self aware.”
“Mr. Parrish,” a random parent called from behind. Adam turned around. “We’re going to start opening up shop,” she gestured to the table of baked goods.
“Sure,” Adam nodded, smiling kindly. “I’ll be right over.”
Adam noticed that their table had already attracted a few passerby’s, who had already reached for one of Ronan and Opal’s enticing cupcakes. Adam felt his chest swell in satisfaction, charmed at Ronan’s over-the-top cupcakes and turned back to face him.
Ronan looked distracted when Adam turned back but before he could utter a syllable, Ronan quickly blurted out. “Do you want to go out or something?”
Adam felt the air escape from his lungs. He struggled to find the right footing, flabbergasted. “What?”
“I know it’s weird and you’re Opal’s teacher but we wouldn’t make it weird. I talked to her about it. We’re both adults, it’s whatever, but if you don’t want to risk it, it’s fine.”
Ronan breathed noisily, flustered. “Can you say something? You’re creeping me out.”
“You talked to Opal about this?” Adam said, instead of the million better responses he could’ve answered with instead.
“Yeah. She’s very supportive of it by the way.”
“You like me?”
“You’re alright.” At Adam’s glare, Ronan continued, mildly irritated. “I don’t go asking out everyone I meet, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Then what was with the cold shoulder?”
Ronan looked confused. Adam sighed. “I gave you my number?” Adam spoke sarcastically as if saying, ‘ ring any bells, Lynch? ’
“Oh,” Ronan cleared his throat. He looked nervous. Adam didn’t think he was intimidating enough to strip Ronan down to nervousness. “I don’t know. I didn’t think you meant - I didn’t know it was to date. You said if I had any questions about the bake sale to contact you. I didn’t.”
“It’s called being subtle, Lynch.”
“I don’t do subtle.”
“No kidding. You’re terrible at it. Ok, how’s this for unsubtle; would you be interested in going out? To be very clear, I’m asking you out on a date.”
“Oh, fuck you.” Ronan said jovially but his skin was flushed red, all the way down his neck.
“Propositioning me before dinner, Lynch?”
Ronan exhaled an over dramatic huff of air. Adam thought that it was good Ronan was breathing, he looked so red. He felt giddy at the prospect of reducing Ronan to a speechless rosy mess.
“You’re an ass.”
“I have some tutor sessions today until 4. I’m free afterwards.”
“4:30 then. I’ll pick you up.”
Adam grinned, his cheeks hurting from how wide he had been smiling the entire exchange. Ronan looked to be faring no better. “Don’t be late.”
“Oh, using your teaching voice against me.”
This time Adam flared a deep red. “I don’t have a - shut the fuck up.”
Ronan cackled and didn’t to seem to care of the string of bewildered looks he was attracting. Adam, the evermost professional, tried to subdue Ronan’s wild laughter. He briefly thought that a kiss would do the trick and he was admittedly curious at what Ronan would do, if Adam had suddenly kissed him. Adam didn’t, because there were students and parents around and it would’ve been entirely unprofessional but he thought of it while he watched Ronan laugh and laugh and laugh.