Her taxi stopped in front of her old home. Her parents no longer lived there, she knew. They had moved deeper into the Confederacy, to a planet nearer Earth. If she explained herself, the house's current inhabitants probably would let her have a look around - if they had been home. The driveway was empty.
The house was different than she remembered. Shingles had been replaced with a more utilitarian siding and a more colorful paint job. Window frames were perfectly white, complete with metallic sheen. They had been stained wood when she lived there. At least the roof was the same, she told herself. If it was so different on the outside, Nita doubted the innards would even look familiar. Better to skip this part of memory lane, she decided.
Nita recalled that even the store fronts on the way to her old home looked mostly unfamiliar. Had so much changed in five years? She tried to think of the place from her past that was least likely to have changed. "Can you take me to Hoskins High School?" she asked the cab driver. He said something in response, but memories drowned out his words. The taxi started up again, and images of the past flashed in time with the houses that buzzed by. When the cab arrived, she paid the driver and walked up to the high school's main entrance.
A glance at the parking lot showed school was still in session. She checked her watch; it would be the final class of the day. A small smile came to her as she remembered sneaking out the doors before her at roughly this time of day, more than once her final year here. Nita had not always been the best influence on her friends, but they never complained seriously.
Nita finally entered the school. The same teacher aide was seated behind the small check-in desk just inside. She immediately recognized Nita, but the former student could not remember her name. "Nita Morgan! I never expected you to voluntarily enter those doors."
A memory of her sneaking past a distracted aide to get out of the school made Nita smirk. Another one of her being dragged back inside by one of the security guards brought a full-fledged smile to her face. "Me neither," she admitted. Nita glanced down the empty hallway. "Would it be alright if I looked around a little? A lot has happened since I was here and I want to . remember better times."
Sympathy crossed the teacher aide's face. "Aw, life doesn't always turn out the way you expect it to, does it?" The aide checked her wrist watch. "There are only twenty minutes left until classes let out. Why-"
"Thank you, I promise I won't disturb any classes," Nita got in before the woman could suggest waiting. The aide caught herself and made to protest, but just smiled and nodded at Nita. She headed down the hallway.
Glancing through the windows in a few of the classroom doors, she saw that the same classes were being held as when she was a student. This was the mathematics wing. Like most of the other subjects taught at the school, she had no use for it. These classes were probably the ones she cut the most.
The hallway branched off in two directions. Literature and electives were one way, sciences and history the other. History was the only subject she genuinely liked, so Nita decided to head in that direction. The history classes were further down the hall than the science rooms. On her way there, she noticed one of the doors was open.
Nita had to smile. That was Kevin Davidson's favorite class, biology. The teacher had an open door policy: "You don't like this class, or think it's too hard? Leave whenever you want." Of course, no one ever did, but it was a quirk Kevin always got a kick out of. She remembered he never asked any questions in class - not because he was uninterested, but because it was the only class he actually did the homework for. His eyes always lit up and he spoke with such passion when Nita invariably asked for help in the class. She had never cared for the material, but seeing and hearing him when he was like that made the otherwise boring explanation worthwhile.
"That's the amazing thing about life!" he would say, just as he set off on another topic. Nita started. Was that what Kevin would say, or what she had actually heard it just now? Nita approached the open door, her heart beating a little too fast. There, in the front of the classroom, was Kevin Davidson. He wrote on a desk pad with a stylus, everything projected on the board behind him. The students were paying attention to every word he uttered, some even taking notes. As he finished up the topic, Nita noted the differences in his appearance. Same hair style, but the more formal clothes of a high school teacher. His shoulders looked broader than she remembered, but otherwise . he was exactly the same. And he looked so happy to be standing in front of the room, teaching the subject he had such passion for. "Any more questions?" Kevin asked the class, his hands placed on his desk as he leaned forward. A slight smile tugged at his lips. One of the students raised her hand. "Tabitha?"
"Mister Davidson, aren't you single?" Some of the students smirked, as if it was an inside joke that only the class was privy to.
Kevin stood straight and slipped his hands into his pockets. "That's none of your business," he said in a light tone.
"Maybe," Tabitha said. "But is it hers?" She pointed to Nita, standing in the doorway. Kevin turned around and noticed her for the first time. The smile left his face and his jaw dropped open for an instant. He stood their silently while the class chuckled. Neither Nita nor Kevin moved until the bell rang a full minute later, and then it was only so Nita could move out of the doorframe to allow the students to leave.
When the room was finally clear but for the two of them, Nita decided to break the silence. "You're a teacher." That sounded rather lame to her ears. "Wow. It suits you, you look good." She was not one for empty compliments. Even in his state of shock, she was impressed by the man he had become. Nita came over for a quick hug that she could not resist giving. The physical contact brought Kevin back to reality. He pushed her away.
"Five years?" he asked. "You never contacted me. Now you want to see me? Try again."
Nita blushed and leaned against the board. "Actually, I didn't know you were here. I was reminiscing and kind of bumped into your classroom."
Kevin's smile came back. "That sounds like you. You always were bad at keeping in touch with people. Never contacted a single friend growing up, we always had to call you." Nita made to protest, but bit back her words. It was true, after all. At the moment, however, she deeply regretted it. Kevin had never been more than a friend to her, but he was the type of person she never wanted far from her life. "Let's go out. I don't want to stay in school after-hours." Nita nodded and mumbled her agreement.
He led her to the main office where he picked up messages and clocked out. One message in particular made him laugh, and he showed it to her. It read, "Nita's in town, you should look her up." There was no signature on the bottom. "Who sent that?" she asked.
"Tom," he replied. Tom was his older brother, and an executive in AmeriGroup. Since AmeriGroup was the one hiring all the pirates, Tom knew their comings and goings. That meant Kevin had been keeping tabs on Nita, even though she never spoke to him directly.
"One more reason I missed you," she muttered.
"What was that?" Kevin asked. He was in the hall already. Nita rushed to catch up, shaking her head. "I'm parked in the faculty lot, did you drive here?" She shook her head again. "Let's go then. It wasn't here when we were students, but there's a great Mexican place that happens to be owned by AmeriGroup .."