by Hasheemah H. Afaneh
James would have one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five restless and almost sleepless nights to come after Hanna Bean and her mother were to walk into his office.
A sunny yet windy day in mid-August of 1985 was the day Hanna Bean and her mother walked into James’s office on the second floor of J.Victory Elementary School. Hanna had just moved to the suburban town with her parents earlier in the summer and standing at the steps of J.Victory Elementary School, she did not know what to expect. Neither did James.
James was sitting on a black leather chair, flipping through papers stacked on his desk. When he saw Hanna and her mother walk in, his frustrated frown turned into a curious grin at the newcomers.
“And you must be Hanna Bean,” he said, standing up and looking down at her, smiling widely enough to bare the small teeth he had. Hanna merely nodded her head, looking into his piercing, black eyes.
As Mrs. Bean started to encourage Hanna to speak more to James, James remembered something he never thought to remember. The moment his intense, black eyes locked with Hanna’s, James remembered looking into those soft brown eyes before. He felt the same warmth in his heart now that he felt then. A knot formed into between his brows. The more he looked at Hanna Bean – her eyes, her olive-colored skin, her dark hair – the more he saw his first wife, Linda. He and Linda were only married for five months before she left him. The people of the town gossiped and speculated the reason for the demise of the relationship. “And good riddance,” they’d say. Though, come a few months later, the gossip died out and James was married again.
“So the school year starts the 29th of this month, correct?” Mrs. Bean asked, interrupting James’s thoughts.
James looked to Mrs. Bean and replaced his questioning expression with an assertive one. “Yes, the 29th.”
“Great. Hanna, I think you’re going to like it here,” Mrs. Bean told Hanna, who only shrugged her shoulders.
“She’s not a big talker in front of people she’s just met,” Mrs. Bean to James.
Linda was not a big talker in front of people she’d just met either, James thought.
As Hanna Bean and her mother started toward the office door, James bid them farewell. “Farewell, Hanna.”
“Farewell, sir,” she replied, gazing back into his eyes. Hanna almost recognized him from a past life, but she did not think much of it as she walked out of the office. James heard Linda’s voice in the back of his mind. I may hold a magical surprise for you one day, she had said two months into their marriage.
Was Hanna Bean that magical surprise? James began skimming through Hanna’s papers, nervously. Born in 1975, her record quoted. James stood for a moment. 1985 minus 1975 is…ten years. Ten years are…
Hanna Bean, James whispered to himself. Hanna Bean.