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The card on the two dozen peach roses that I received during 3rd period on that Valentine's Day read: "Be home at 6. Love, C.I.H." And of course, my senior honors class was nosy and Samantha McCoy hopped up and snatched the card out of my hands. "I think I know who this is from, Miss Smithson."

I folded my arms across my chest, striking a defiant pose. They didn't know. "Oh yeah, who?"

"Your boyfriend!" She giggled and passed the card to Nathan Mitchell.

Cindy Gregory piped up, which was unusual for her. "We know who it is, Miss Smithson, really," she said matter-of-factly.

My heart fluttered. Nobody except for my (and his) immediate family and closest friends knew, and they were sworn to secrecy. "Who, then?"

"Someone…interesting," Cindy teased.

"Alright, I give. Who is it?"

Nathan spoke first, "It's Mr. Harris, in econ, isn't it?"

I smiled as some of the girls in the class giggled. "Maybe…maybe not." Whew, my secret was safe. I was one of three faculty members in the school who knew that Mr. Harris was gay. "How did you master detectives come up with that one? Was this part of your project?" Why did we have to be in the middle of a unit on mysteries?

Cindy spoke again, "Isn't his first name Christopher? Christopher Harris?"

June Anders said, "Yeah, but what's the 'I' stand for?" Murmurs from the class.

Ray McMillan, one of the most observant students I had ever had, and one of the cockiest, spoke. "It's not Mr. Harris. It's someone she's known for longer." Figures he was on the school newspaper and the debate team, he was quite an investigator; annoying but cute, like Chloe on Smallville. He got up, took the card from Cindy, and dramatically walked to the front of the class. "I've been trying to figure out who this mystery boyfriend of Miss Smithson's is since the start of school. We knew she had a boyfriend, yet she doesn't have a picture on her desk, like she has had in the past, which leads me to believe she's trying to hide something, which could point to Mr. Harris. But--" he raised his hand and paused for effect "--I happened to overhear a portion of a conversation in October between Miss Smithson and the aforementioned Mr. Harris. Seems they're just good friends. Anyway, I was at my locker when they passed and stopped by Mr. Harris' room, and Miss Smithson said something to the effect of, 'Isaac's wrapping up the next album with them, so I don't know when I'll see him again. I've hardly seen him since Taylor's wedding, except for Christmas.' Most of us know that 'Isaac' and 'Taylor' refers to 2/3 of the rock group Hanson, whom we know that Miss Smithson knows. Therefore, by my awesome deductive logic, confirmed by this card in my hand, I have concluded that 'C.I.H.' is Isaac Hanson." He smiled confidently.

Andrew Bedford, the smart-ass in this particular class, said, "Yeah, good job doofus, the initials are C.I.H. Yeah, good one, Ray." He turned to get a high-five from the second banana smart ass Brian Parmley.

Ray countered. "Upon further investigation, assisted by my younger sister Jody, I discovered that Isaac is his middle name. Clarke is his first. There's your C.I.H." He glared at Andrew, handed me back the card, and swaggered back to his seat.

I leaned back on my desk. I certainly couldn't deny it. It was my fault that I had given them the assignment at the beginning of the semester to solve a mystery. I had to say something. "Well...Ray's right. It is Isaac Hanson...he's my boyfriend." As a couple of the girls gasped, I walked to the back of the desk, opened the left top drawer, and pulled out a pair of framed photos of the two of us from Taylor's wedding (one of us posed and smiling, and one of us caught kissing at the reception), and passed it around the class. "There's your final proof. Ray, put that in writing by May, you've already passed the mystery assignment with flying colors!" The class laughed as I shook my head. Those little stinkers. I couldn't help but smile.

Of course, now the questions came, most of them at once:

"How do you know them again?"

"Is he cuter in person?"

"Is Zac available?"

"Are you gonna marry him?"

"Is he a good kisser?"

"Have you guys done it?"

"Did he write any songs for you?"

"Isn't he a lot younger than you?"

"No, really, is Zac still available?"

The students at the high school had found out about my link with Hanson when I was interviewed for the school newspaper a couple months after I started there three years before. They gave the teachers a "slam book" type form to fill out as part of the interview, and one of the questions on it was "People would be surprised to know that I:" and I had put "babysat the rock group Hanson for a couple years when I lived in Tulsa." Of course, that was put at the top of the cool meter, way ahead of I like broccoli, I use Crest toothpaste, and I sang (horribly) in a blues band during grad school.

I caved. "Alright, I will tell you the story. You're all so distracted now, especially 'cause it's Friday, and the rest of the class period will be a waste anyway.

"The Hansons lived next door to me in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Yes, I am five years older than Isaac, and ended up babysitting for the family quite a bit until they moved to South America while I was in high school, but they still kept in touch with me. When I was at college at O.U., they moved back to Tulsa, and the three oldest boys started singing and learning to play instruments. They sang and played for whoever would listen. In '95 they made a demo tape, and decided to release their music, which they did the next year. I was in grad school at Illinois State at the time they got their record contract, and you know the rest. They've constantly kept in touch with me--snail mail, email, phone calls--and Isaac and I became very good friends as we both grew older. But they have a very hectic schedule, and I don't get to see them much. Isaac invited me to Taylor's wedding last summer, which was top secret--the press didn't even know about it 'til a couple weeks later. That's when he became my boyfriend. And that's all the story I'm telling. May I have my photos back, please?"

Tiffany Beck passed it back to me, and I placed it on my desk with pride. No more hiding...or so I thought.

On to Chapter Eleven
Back to Chapter Nine

Copyright ©1999-2006 Winona Patterson.