Seventh grade. I was 13 and in love for the first time.
My arithmetic teacher, Mr. Allmeroth (Vernon, in my dreams), was fresh out of college. He was young, as teachers go; funny, cute, and a boy. A grown-up, sophisticated boy. Not like the ones my age, who spent a lot of time punching each other in the arms and making rude noises.
I had to find a way to win his heart.
Mrs. Flora had given all the girls in her Sunday School class a tiny bottle of “Here’s My Heart” cologne for Christmas that year. I was saving it for something special. This was that something.
Monday was worksheet day. Mr. Allmeroth would walk from desk to desk, checking each student’s progress and offering help. I stuffed the perfume into my purse that morning and smiled with womanly guile.
Worksheet time finally arrived. As I scratched a pencil across my paper, I tracked his location at the first desk. In 11 more desks, he’d be with me.
All I could think about was what it said on the bottle. It echoed like a mantra in my brain: “HERE’S MY HEART, Mr. Allmeroth, HERE’S MY HEART”.
The perfume would do the trick. He would take a whiff, see past the skinny, flat-chested girl I was on the outside and swoon over woman I was inside.
Just one desk away now; Joel was having trouble with triangles. Mr. Allmeroth crouched closer toward him to help. It was time for perfume. I reached into my purse and felt for the smooth, round lid. There—twist and tip.
The bottle slipped from my hands and fell upside down inside my plastic purse. I fumbled to catch it with both hands, turned the bottle back upright, and wiped my soppy hands on my skirt.
A groan flew around the room like a vicious rumor. Heads popped up from papers and nostrils twitched with bloodhound determination.
“PEEEUUUUWWW!” “WHAT IS THAT SMELL?” “MAN – SOMEBODY STINKS!”
Heads craned and fingers pointed toward the only motionless body in the class.
“It’s ROBIN!!” My face boiled in humiliation as laughter and whispers ping-ponged around the room. “She’s getting all smelly for Mr. Allmeroth!!”
Girls harrumphed in indignation; boy guffawed with glee. Coughing and choking sounds mingled with the “Here’s My Heart” all around me. I dipped my head as low as my neck would allow.
Mr. Allmeroth’s back straightened up from its crouch over Joel’s triangle page and he turned toward the classroom. I heard a low growl coming from my teacher’s throat. He took a deep breath.
“The next person I hear will go to Mr. Baker’s office. I want eyes on papers. Heads down. Hands working. NOW.”
In moments, his tasseled loafers headed toward my reeking desk.
I could see Joel’s shoulders bouncing up and down in jumping jacks of silent cackles.
Mr. Allmeroth leaned in over my desk. As he stood silently scanning my paper, I forced myself to look up at him. I had to see if he understood the desperate actions of a girl in love for the very first time. Was he laughing at me, too?
“You’re doing just fine,” he said quietly. His face showed no trace of ridicule or disgust. It was the face of a teacher checking a paper—nothing more. His eyes met mine for just a moment, and I knew he understood.
“What a nice compliment,” he whispered. “Thank you.”
He patted my back lightly and moved on to the next desk. My worksheet had an “OK” scribbled on the top, and I knew I would be okay, too.
I was only a girl, and he was a grown man. I would give my heart away many more times before it found a permanent home. But I would never forget the teacher who thanked me for offering it to him first.
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Contact Robin at email@example.com