Don't Stand So Close to Me
Title: Don't Stand So Close To Me
Summary: Richard's earlier teaching experience catches up with him.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me, nor will I be making any profit, so please no litigation. pretty, pretty, please.
A/N: So this was my very first story ever written... It's also my very first writing award winner, so bear with me as I try to add the little banner that goes with it. :)
Richard stared at the computer screen in disbelief. It had been awhile since he’d heard from anyone in California and frankly that was how he liked it, but there in his inbox was a message from one firstname.lastname@example.org. He glanced back to make sure that Anita wasn’t behind him. He knew it was a bad idea to check email at other people’s houses, but Anita had greeted him at the door covered in chicken blood and other assorted grime having gotten home from work late. He figured checking his email would take up the time she needed to shower and change before their dinner date.
Hearing the shower start, he went ahead and opened the message. He got a wistful smile at the first line, but the smile soon faded as he continued.
Dear Mr. Zeeman,
Remember me? Willow? I was the redhead in the front row of the fourth period biology class you student taught in Sunnydale. I hope you’re doing all well and everything in St. Louis. My parents went there once when I was a kid; they said it was nice. I don’t know if you remember me, or even if you’re the right Mr. Zeeman. I mean, I got your address from the St. Louis public school district webpage, I figure there can’t be that many Zeemans teaching in St. Louis and so you must be the same one, but if I’m wrong, then please ignore this message.
Well, since you’re still reading, you must be the right Mr. Zeeman… or just curious, oh dear, how embarrassing. As if this email isn’t embarrassing enough. Just so you know, I’m not drunk. Evidently college girls write a lot of emails when they’re drunk that don’t make sense, or so my friends say, but I promise I’m not drunk, I’m just not sleeping… okay, maybe I should start again.
Oz is gone. You remember Oz… Daniel Osbourne? Well, we had a, it wasn’t really a fight, but I can’t really explain. Anyway, he left. Nobody knows where he went. He didn’t even tell the guys in the band. I know it’s a long shot, but I thought, maybe you might know where he’d go. I mean, you guys really seemed to get along, and it's not like Oz really talked to a lot of other people. He mentioned you a lot senior year after you went to Missouri, so I thought maybe y’all had kept in touch.
Anyway, um, if you know where Oz is, or hey, if he’s staying with you, could you please let me know. I mean, I can understand why someone would want to leave this town and me, but I just want to let him know we miss him and are worried. Well, I think that was what I wanted to say. I’m not sure, its past midnight and I’ve been in tears for the past six hours, so I could be missing something important, but not much I can do about it. Well, have a good life and all. Sorry for interrupting.
Richard was on his third reading when Anita laid a hand on his shoulder. “What’s so fascinating?” she asked, dressed for their late night dinner date at Denny’s.
“It’s a… Willow.” He answered, logging off the computer quickly, distracted by Anita’s sudden presence behind him.
“An email about a tree? Do you have camping plans or something coming up?” Anita frowned. She had only known Richard for a couple of weeks now, and while she wanted to get to know him better, she wasn’t sure she wanted to participate in the more woodsy elements of his personality.
“Nope.” He replied standing up. “Ready to go to dinner?” he asked, not sure why he wanted to avoid this topic, other than general eagerness to forget that horrible year of his life.
“Alright, but I still want to know what the email is about,” Anita let Richard lead her out of the apartment, stopping only to double check the lock on the door. Normally Richard noticed immediately when she entered the room, something must have seriously disturbed him.
“There’s really not much to say.” He frowned. “Have you heard of Sunnydale, California?”
“Well, of course. I mean, in my field its like one of the big hotspots, Evidently all sorts of magic gets warped there, sometimes becoming stronger, sometimes weaker. The trade journals all say to stay away, but they do have one of the top degree programs in preternatural biology. Do you know someone from there?”
“I did my student teaching at a high school there. The email was from a student I had. Her name was Willow.” He answered hoping that would end the conversation, but knowing Anita, that would just be the beginning.
“And why is this Willow emailing you?” Anita asked with just a tinge of jealousy. She knew it was ridiculous, but she also was aware of how many school girls undoubtedly had a crush on the man she was currently dating.
“Her boyfriend is missing. She wanted to know if I’d heard from him.” He replied.
“That’s funny. I mean, not funny ha ha, more funny hmm. My understanding was that the community lost people all the time. Why would she assume her boyfriend is even alive? And why would she think you’d know anything about it? You’re half a country away.”
“You’d have to live there to understand. They hold on to any hope they can get. I mean, when vampires became legal last year, it more than tripled the population of the small town overnight. People have to convince themselves that they’ll be okay, because otherwise it would be uninhabitable.” He frowned again. In his opinion the town was already uninhabitable. In the short time he worked there, his mentoring teacher had turned out to be some weird monster trying to enslave the children, the computer teacher had been found dead at the librarian’s house, and the swimming coach had been dismissed after the disappearance of several school champions. He shook himself out of the memories. “If you ever think St. Louis is bad, you should try that spot of hell.”
“Tell me how you really feel.” Anita smirked at the odd face Richard was making as if he had just bit into a tofu burger when expecting a steak. “So why does this girl think you would know about her boyfriend?”
“Daniel, well, the kids called him Oz, he was one of the few students I’ve really felt I could relate to. We used to talk after class, discuss life. He emailed me for awhile after I left. He was a quiet kid, not a lot of friends. I’m assuming Willow has reached the bottom of the list of his potential friends if she’s trying to find me.” What he didn’t say was that Oz was the only civilized wolf he had met during his stint on the hellmouth. He knew Anita would take that wrong; she lived in a happy state of denial about his nature most days and it was perhaps the best he could hope for.
“Poor girl.” Anita frowned, not sure how to respond to that.
“Yeah, she should have gotten out. She was so incredibly bright. I’m sure she could have gotten into Harvard, Princeton, anywhere, but Oz wrote to me that she decided to stick it out in Sunnydale, not wanting to leave her friends. I wish I could help her.”
“Sounds like the best thing you could do to help her is to suggest she get the hell out of dodge.” Anita stated, effectively ending that conversation.