Summer Sabbatical


Notes [Last revised August 22, 2018]:

○ This is our submission for the Summer Lovin' contest 2018, so please consider voting.
○ The legal age characters and story are re-imaginings from the authors' correspondence with a couple of readers.
○ Thanks to Skye4Life and DrBiSensual for editing this.
○ This is a long detailed story with a slow buildup.
© Copyright 2018 by MindsMirror. All rights reserved.
~ Tim ~

"You think he'll go for that?" Dad's deep voice asked and my ears perked up as I continued down the hall certain he was talking about me.

"You sure we can't delay the trip?" Mom asked.

"We need to travel there in person and get guarantees that deliveries happen before August or we're done," he replied emphatically.

"Why did the vendor wait so long to tell us they couldn't fill the order?" she asked.

"I'm just glad they let us cancel. They better make good on refunding our twenty percent down payment or we might go under anyway. "

"Yeah, this could hardly have come at a worse time," she worried.

The Saturday morning sun streamed through the kitchen window as I turned the corner and their conversation halted abruptly when they noticed my presence. It was the first I'd heard about any trip and I didn't understand why the timing was bad. They were seated at the granite counter peninsula which separated the kitchen from the eating area.

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   Here was where they were concocting their plan while not knowing I'd been within earshot. It was a bit early for me to be up on a weekend, but I needed to study.

"So, do I get to tag along?" I asked.

"Good morning, Tim. Your Mom and I were just discussing that. We know finals are next week, so we're trying to make arrangements for you while we're gone," Dad said.

"I am a grown man, so I can take care of myself, you know?" I offered hotly, not liking where this appeared to be heading one little bit.

"We know that, big guy," Dad said trying to assuage my premature provocation.

Mom cheerily chimed in trying to apply the brightest possible glam, "We were thinking you'd like visiting your Aunt Ava. She's all alone in that beach house retreat right on the ocean. "

I thought about that for a second and said, "I guess that'd be cool, unless she's going to have a bunch of rules. "

"I promise, we're not providing her any," Dad said reassuringly.

Mom agreed, "Yeah, it's her house but I think she'll understand a young man needs some freedom. " She sipped from her coffee and continued, "We simply want to have someone around to check up on you every once in a while. "

"Right," Dad joined.

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   "It'll settle our minds if we know you'll occasionally get a decent meal and someone to tell us that you are alright. "

"Yeah, I figured," I replied. "So, if I didn't have finals, I could've come along?" I asked as I poured my own cup of coffee.

"You'd be bored within days, plus we're funding our entire trip with plastic," Dad told me.

I knew their business had been running lean lately, but I guess I hadn't realized how dire it'd gotten. I put milk in my coffee and on my cereal. Without fully thinking it through, I had a sudden urge to ask, Why doesn't she come here? I'd just put the carton back and closed the fridge when I started to form the words, "How come - " and then nearly bit my tongue before screwing up this opportunity to go to the beach. "I mean - um - how long are you guys going to be gone?"

"At least three or four weeks, we've got a number of places lined up and we're still trying to get some others scheduled," Dad explained. "If we manage to line those up, it could stretch the trip out; it all depends upon how things go and how successful we are. "

"So, I'd be at Ava's at least a month?" I asked as I sat and began eating my breakfast.

Mom answered, "Well, I've just spoken to her. She's taking one of her summer sabbaticals and won't be teaching. She offered to let you stay there until your courses start back for fall semester. "

Ava had an odd sense of humor that mirrored mine and her phrasing made me wonder if my summer vacation should be considered a summer sabbatical, too. She'd twisted the term to her use because in addition to teaching elementary school sixth grade, she was a part time English instructor at the community college.

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   I sat there thinking as I ate and the thought of being at the beach for the entire summer kind of sealed the deal for me. I'd been considering maybe getting a summer job, but all of a sudden potential adult supervision didn't seem so bad. It was actually sounding like this would work out even better.

"Okay, I take my last final Tuesday night, so I'll leave early Wednesday. That'll give me plenty of time to get there in the daylight. When do you guys leave?"

"Day after tomorrow," Mom replied and quickly added, "Ava offered to come get you if you agreed. "

"That's alright, I can drive - oh - now I get it - you don't want me throwing any parties while you're gone. "

"No, that's not it," Dad said sincerely.

"Yeah, you think I'll invite my vast group of friends," I said with exasperation.

"We know both of your friends and your ex-girlfriend," Dad told me.

"Exactly my point, I wouldn't even know who to invite," I huffed. "Besides, driving to Ava's would be my first opportunity to drive more than an hour or so," I argued.

"He's right Don, he needs the experience driving there. He's been commuting the whole year without incident. "

"I know you're right, April, we're guilty of sheltering him.

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   At least she'll be waiting there on him. "

These types of conversations happened a lot, especially when they didn't know I was listening. They frequently occurred despite me being right in the room with them. Exclusion from their discussion of me often resulted in me drifting into my own thoughts. I'm sure all of their concern was because they loved me but there was a hidden reason. I'm not supposed to know that Mom couldn't have any more kids, but you can't unhear some conversations. Me being an only child probably amplified their protective nature and might even have been behind my calm character. Their suspicion that I might throw a party was probably rooted in the fact that I never really went crazy like you hear about some college kids. Maybe they thought coddling me would foster a backlash, but really, they gave me enough freedom and I tended to stay out of most trouble.

Suddenly, this introspection had the whole situation making perfect sense. This wasn't going to be the first time I'd gone to visit my relatives while my parents traveled, but it was the first time since I'd started taking college courses as a senior. I was almost finished with my third semester at State and was looking forward to taking this summer off. I was regretting having continued straight into the summer session right after graduating from high school. The thing I was thinking now, as they continued talking about me as if I wasn't in the room, was that there'd been other relatives to care for me in the past.

My Dad's three older sisters all lived nearby, were married with multiple children each and had been frequent emergency day-care.

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   The last of their kids had moved out several years ago. I had numerous opportunities to experience the singular focus that a young teen might have in each of their strictly ruled homes. Dad's parents had passed a few years back. Mom's father had passed, and her mother was in a retirement community in Florida, so she wasn't really an option.

Aunt Ava was Mom's only sibling and she was by far the closest to my age of any of our relatives they might have chosen. Despite her occupation as a teacher, she would probably offer the least restrictive oversight. The fact that she was my favorite aunt didn't hurt in the least.

The great part about her teaching was that it often meant she'd be free in the summer. When she didn't teach during summer break, she'd spent some time at our house or we'd made a few family trips to see her at the beach. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years, but now I might drive to visit her by myself. I was just starting to think of all the things I might do now that I would be there on my own.

"Earth to Tim," Mom said, pulling me back from my daydreaming.

"Sorry, I was just thinking about the beach," I said. "What did you two decide; am I sufficiently responsible to drive the full eight hours alone?" It was a little sarcastic, but I wanted to convey the fact that their nearly nineteen-year-old son didn't need to be babied.

"You really were zoned out," Dad said and laughed.

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   "We were talking about giving you money for the trip. "

"Oh, sorry. Um - Yes please?" I said holding out my open palm with a big smile.

"Do you think three hundred will be enough?" Mom asked exchanging a look with Dad.

"Yeah, and I have some money from tutoring and birthdays," I told them. It was probably around three thousand by now, but I didn't say that out loud nor did I mention how much had come from Ava. Dad put two hundreds and some twenties in my hand. It looked like he'd given me a little more, but I didn't count it.

"Okay, we'll pay to get your oil changed in your truck before we leave Monday," he said.

"Thanks, but you can do that when I get back, since I just had it done," I said.

"See, he is responsible," she said and grinned widely.

Dad mussed my hair and said, "Yeah, I guess he is at that. "

~ Tim ~

The Monday morning of their departure came more quickly than I could have realized. My weekend had disappeared with study for my tests. We saw one another at meals and not much else before it was time for them to go.

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   At the cab, they both hugged me tightly and gave me final instructions for locking up the house before I went to Aunt Ava's. I wished them a safe trip and watched the car drive away a few hours before their flight. I felt bad about not getting to see them off at the airport, but I had a test today and with all the security, I'd just have been their driver.

Back inside the house, I quickly ate breakfast and headed out for my first final of the week, Calculus III. I breezed through it, returned home and began studying for history. It wasn't my best or favorite subject, but so far, I had a decent B grade. The last final would be Chemistry II and I wouldn't need to study for it at all. I'd already turned in my last essay paper in English III, which was the final for that class. Around dinnertime was when I started missing them. I guess that was at least partially selfish, because I wasn't a very good cook. Mom and Dad liked cooking, so I didn't do much more then help mix a salad or slice vegetables for them.

I made a batch of macaroni and cheese to go with some microwaved leftovers. Sitting at the table, I began day dreaming about the beach again. Of course, it started with Ava's cooking. She was probably as good a cook as Mom and I secretly thought she was better.

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   I still wouldn't be able to go to bars yet, but she might let me have a beer or some wine. The dry overcooked mac and cheese was pretty horrible and just sat on my plate. I picked at the meatloaf and broccoli, which I like fresh, but reheated is kind of disgusting. Last time I'd seen Ava, she'd made some biscuits that just melted in my mouth.

In fact, every time that I'd seen her either here or at her place, she'd gone out of her way to make some special dish for me. These weren't just desert items that most kids would like, but things she knew I liked. I was probably about five when she made clam chowder for me at her Mom's home. That memory turned into other seafood dishes she'd prepared over the years. She was from a different generation than my Mom. They were literally born in different decades, and it showed in their cooking. Mom was still from the generation where vegetables were cooked until soft. Ava would make them exciting and crunchy by just cooking them enough.

After dumping the remnants of my dinner into the garbage disposal, I thought about the possibility of meeting girls at the beach. Maybe I would meet someone else vacationing from college. Ava had a few neighbors with cute girls around my age, at least they'd been girls the last time I'd seen them.

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   Most of them had been teenagers that were a couple years ahead of me, so they hadn't given me much notice. Things had changed a little since then, though. I'd gotten taller and been working out in the garage with weights, plus I had a mustache. It wasn't causing the women on campus to gravitate toward me, but I thought it might at least give me some additional notice.

Swimming at the beach every day would be great, and I couldn't help thinking how tanned and cut I'd end up being with nearly three months at the beach. The ideas kept bubbling to the surface as I imagined all of the different ways I might enjoy my time. Besides being at the beach, Ava had a pool and a pool table. I wasn't sure why she kept the pool table after Jon died, but she'd gone to the effort of moving it into her mom's garage, so maybe it reminded her of him. I'd been allowed to play on it a few times and she was fastidious about keeping it clean and clear. As I thought about it, I guessed it was possible she played, and I'd just never seen her. She was fit and youthful for an aunt, so I could easily imagine her leaning over to shoot.

It was a certainty that she loved her new pool; she'd shown us pictures of it a couple of years back when she was visiting. It was long enough to do laps in and that was probably part of how she stayed in shape. Somehow thinking about all the ways Ava and I might interact, I was suddenly envisioning her dirty blond hair from the back. It was darker from what I remembered and as she turned to me I realized it was from being wet.

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   The yellow bathing suit she had on left very little to the imagination. The wet bikini top's triangles were nearly transparent, and the strings were so thin that it hardly looked like anything covered her firm breasts. I felt myself becoming erect and worried aloud, "What if I can't control that when she's around?" Staring out the back window as I finished washing my dish, a tinge of anxiety crept into me about this trip.

~ Ava ~

Sitting beneath the shade sails on my back deck, I looked out over the water as another year of teaching was in the rear-view mirror of my mind. It carried a kind of melancholy because the kids I taught were all advancing to middle school. The thrill of watching someone learn something new was always what'd motivated me to teach, while the loss of watching them go often impelled me to quit. In a sense, my seven years of teaching had given me enough loss for a lifetime.

The mental battle over quitting was due to the loss of my husband, Jon, a little over nine years ago. It'd been devastating although we barely had a life together. I was two years into college and everything stopped. During my mourning, April invited me to come stay with them. That was when I really got to see how eight-year-old Timmy's brain worked. When I finally went back to school, it was his gift for learning that made me want to follow in my mom's footsteps and become a teacher. If I'd have known how similar the loss of kids graduating would feel, I might have chosen a different career.

Watching them go on to learn more and live their lives is a joyous event, but it also takes them away.


   Don't get me wrong, I don't miss all of them. I'd be an awful liar if I said I missed the ones that have no intent to learn and seem hellbent on disrupting the ones that do. However, there really are just a few of those in grade six. Most of the ones that are causing trouble just want attention or aren't picking up the information as fast or already picked it up and should be in a higher grade or advanced class.

There wasn't much segregation by students' abilities in elementary school, at least when I started teaching. Now though they were beginning to test kids earlier and break them into groups. That's good in many ways, but also causes various kinds of friction. Most teachers want to teach the advanced kids, not just because they are smarter, but they believe the behavior problems are less frequent. Parents all want their child to be in the advanced class, so they will get into good schools. I'm of the mind that you teach people from where they are in any situation. That requires small enough groups that you have time for each individual and most public schools don't have that kind of funding. I usually get the mixed group of kids and I like to think I do pretty well preparing them for middle school.

Occasionally, the really good kids would come back to see me from middle school, high school and just this year I'd even had some in the English courses I taught at the community college. When they did, the delight was indescribable. There hadn't been any returning visitors this year but there had been several last year when Tim graduated high school.

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   It almost made up for my not getting to see my sister's boy walk across the stage. He had a place in my heart.

April is several years older than me, but had married a younger man, Don. They both had striking blond hair and blue eyes. Tim had started out with blond hair, but it'd gradually turned light brown by the time he was five. They came down for a beach vacation the year I graduated high school and brought Tim with them.

That's actually when I met Jon, he was Don's lunkhead of a best friend. I probably wouldn't have dated him if we hadn't of met while we all played cards at my Mom's house. I'm pretty sure it was a setup, April was always on the lookout for me. Don had invited Jon, who had been stationed nearby, over to visit several times while they were down those few weeks in late May and early June.

Jon was older than me but about the same age as Don. When I first met him, I didn't think he was my type. If I'd met him away from April and Don, I would never have given him the time of day. He was strong and manly, but I'd thought I wanted a more thoughtful boyfriend. She attempted to convince me to go out with him over my better judgment several times during their stay.

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I didn't actually go on a first date with him until they'd returned home. A few days later April called me to check if I'd gone out with him yet. Coincidentally, I had just gotten back from a very nice dinner and an interesting movie. I'm sure I chatted with her for an hour about how it'd gone. He'd been to see the movie we watched before but thought I'd like it. I'd have called it a chick flick, but he didn't see it that way. He was full of surprises and that's what brought us together. I moved into his small off base apartment while I attended college and we lived together for a while until he convinced me to marry him. We had the whole family there for a beautiful ceremony on the beach, just before the towers came down. A month later he was shipped off to war. He came home for periods of time, but kept getting called back up for another deployment.

I've definitely missed having a man around the place, but just never seemed to meet anyone that measured up to my expectations. Now, Tim was going to be here any moment and my heart hadn't slowed much since he'd called me from the beach shop. He couldn't wait to buy a new swim suit and a boogie board. He said he was looking forward to seeing me and down deep I knew I could really use his company.

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~ Tim ~

Early Wednesday morning at near daybreak, I set out for the beach. It was kind of thrilling for the first hour, but as the miles counted up on my odometer, I could understand why Dad was worried about me driving this distance. When I was a little more than three quarters of the way there, I took a break to get gas, a bite to eat for lunch and coffee to keep me awake. .

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