The sun shone brightly on the elementary school. There was a buzz of excitement in all of the classes as the last day of the year came to a close. The fact that it was a half day only added to the excitement. Many teachers had already begun to take down the decorations that littered their rooms. Not Cynthia Perrino.
Cynnie’s room was filled with odd trinkets and learning posters. And Green Bay Packers memorabilia. It did not matter that football season was long over. That did not stop the residents of this town. In fact, two first graders were wearing Packers shirts, one had on a jersey, and another boy sported a hat that he was not supposed to be wearing indoors but that his teacher had allowed just this once.
Cynnie was a young teacher of 23. She had long, wavy black hair that reached just past her shoulders as she bent over to read from a story book. Her eyes were an animated brown. Her skin was tan from her Italian heritage. She was small and slender. Great warmth exuberated from her smile. She was wearing a sky blue baby doll top and a jean skirt. One of her kids was propped up on her lab as she sat in a rocking chair. The rest of the kids were sitting on the floor, listening to her intoxicating voice.
The bell rang. The first graders began to chat excitedly as they stood up. Cynnie smiled at the kid in her lap and hugged him before setting him down. “It looks like that’s it,” she said in a bright, cheery voice. “I’ll miss you guys.”
There was a chorus of “bye, Miss Cynnie” before many of them rushed out the door.
Cynnie chuckled as she watched them leave. Only when the room was empty again did she notice another teacher standing in the doorway. “Hello, Lizzy,” the young woman said as she turned and began to gather up her things. She had to take her posters down. It would take some work.
“Cynnie,” the other teacher greeted her. She paused, seeming hesitant about something. “You know, I couldn’t help but notice how affectionate you are with your children.”
Cynnie smiled. She did not stop her work. “Well, of course. I love them.”
“Well, yes, but I don’t think it’s very appropriate.”
Cynnie frowned. Now this had her attention. She turned to give the other woman a confused look. “What do you mean? Is it wrong to love kids?”
Lizzy sighed and shook her head. “You’re so innocent and naïve, Cynnie. I know you mean no harm, but this could look bad to other people.”
“What other people?”
Lizzy swished her hands. “Parents. Other staff. You know how strongly they’re trying to protect children from sexual assault.”
Cynnie’s eyes widened in horror. “Sexual assault? What? That’s ridiculous! I’ve done nothing wrong! And most teachers who are ‘affectionate’ with their kids haven’t either. Why let a few bad bananas ruin the whole bunch?”
Lizzy sighed again. “I know where you’re coming from, but there’s nothing we can do to change it. It’s what’s best for the kids.”
“I don’t think so,” Cynnie grumbled, crossing her arms angrily. “Kids need love and affection. Many don’t get enough at home. It seems to me this is going to hurt more than it harms.”
Lizzy shrugged. “Take it up with those in charge. I’m just trying to watch out for you. I wouldn’t want you to find yourself in a sticky situation.”
Cynnie let out a long sigh. She could feel her anger slowly ebb away. She uncrossed her arms and her shoulders slumped. “I guess so. I just wish they’d go after the real problem. Who’d want to hurt innocent kids anyway? It’s just wrong.”
“I know,” Lizzy said more gently now. “They’re trying to do their best.” Her eyes landed on one of the Packers posters. “You’ve not gotten rid of these things yet?”
Cynnie’s lips twitched in a smile. She knew her friend was trying to change the subject. “You know they’re still the best.”
Lizzy rolled her eyes. “Hardly. Go Cowboys!”
Cynnie laughed. “Go Pack go!” She grinned. The tension from before was now gone. It was summer!
“This summer is going to be so fun!” Julia said excitedly as she walked around the mall with Cynnie. The girl with long, straight blond hair tied up in a bun and blue eyes was Cynnie’s best friend. She wore a lot of pink, jewelry, and red lipstick. She was very outgoing and energetic.
Cynnie gave her a calm smile. “I know. It’ll be fun to work at the shop again.”
“You guys have good ice cream,” Julia said with a nod.
Cynnie chuckled lightly. “It’s called gelato.”
Julia shrugged. “Whatever. So, when is your brother getting married?”
“November,” Cynnie replied. She smiled. “He’s so excited. He’s trying to make sure everything is perfect. I have to say, I’m going to miss him when he finally moves out.” She loved her brother John. The two of them were very close.
“But then you’ll have the whole house to yourself.” Julia looked thoughtful. “Well, besides your parents.”
Cynnie laughed. “True.” She checked her watch. “We should go. I’ve got to get to the shop.”
Julia nodded buoyantly. “Let’s go!”
Gelateria di Perrino was owned by Cynnie’s parents. It was located in the middle of a strip mall. It looked like a gelato shop in Italy. It had a normal ice cream counter with many flavors of gelato, all labeled in Italian and English. There were also bins of hot chocolate to the left. On the right was a cash register. Behind the counter was a coffee maker. The menu was overhead in Italian and English. There were typically two or three employees working, depending on how busy it was. There was a room off to the left where one of the owners was usually working. The shop was decorated with pictures of Italy.
Currently, Cynnie’s brother’s Ben and John were working at the shop. Ben was a 31-year-old with short brown hair and brown eyes. He was eventually going to take over ownership of the shop with his wife Helen. The couple had a two-year-old son named Vince. Cynnie found him an absolute delight. “Hey, Cynnie,” Ben said with a grin from the cash register. “You’ve gotten rid of those kids?”
Cynnie smirked and rolled her eyes. “Just for the summer. And I’m going to miss them.”
“It’s good that she likes her job,” John said. He was 28-years-old. He has slick, black hair that went down his neck and warm, green eyes. Cynnie thought he smelled like fresh office supplies.
“Cynnie!” Antonio Perrino’s joyful face appeared from the office room. He walked out with his wife Molly to greet their daughter. Antonio was 59-years-old. He had slick, black hair and hazel eyes. He was the fun loving, easy going Italian shop owner who was always up for trying new things. “How was work?” He glanced at his eldest son. “You can lock up, boy.”
Cynnie gave her father a small smile. “It was good, Papa. I’m glad it’s summer.”
“You’ll have a fine time,” Antonio said.
“I know we should wait for Megan, but I’ve got an announcement,” Ben said as he walked into the middle of the shop. Megan was their 20-year-old sister. She had recently gotten back from college for the summer.
“What is it, dear?” Molly asked. She was 57-years-old. She had wavy, brown hair and brown eyes. She was the tidy, strict shop owner who disciplined her kids.
“Helen and I will be having a baby,” Ben said. His eyes danced with delight.
Cynnie clasped her hands together and squealed. “Oh, Ben! That’s so exciting! When is it due?”
“February 3rd,” Ben said proudly.
Antonio grinned. “Congratulations, son.”
“That’s great,” John said with a nod.
Molly smiled. “Is Helen happy?”
Ben nodded. “Yep. I thought you guys should be the first to know.”
“We’ve got to go home and tell Megan!” Cynnie exclaimed.
Megan took the news joyfully as well, though in a much calmer way. She had always been a quiet girl. She was very girly though. Much more so than her older sister. She had long, brown hair and hazel eyes. After the rest of the family had left, the two sisters lounged on the couch together chatting idly.
“I don’t want a calm summer,” Cynnie said. “I wish something exciting would happen!” Her eyes lit up with excitement.
Megan smiled and shook her head. “You’re always wishing to go on some grand adventure. Why can’t you just stay here and be happy?”
“But nothing exciting ever happens here!” Cynnie whined. “It’s Green Bay! Everything is safe and boring. Is this how life will always be? I want to go out and see the world.” Her eyes were glazed over dreamily.
Megan let out a soft sigh. She placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder, making her look at her. “Cynnie, you’re always looking for trouble. Be grateful or what you have. You’re too much of a dreamer. You need to get your head out of the clouds. If you go looking for trouble, you will find it.”
Megan groaned. “If you’re bored, go to Milwaukee. Or take a weekend trip to the Twin Cities or Chicago.”
Cynnie made a face. “I’ve been to those places plenty of times. They’re good cities, but they’re nothing new. I’ve never been out of the Midwest. I need to go out and see the world! Or at least the rest of the country.” She had fantastic visions of what the other regions held for her. There was sure to be tons of adventure and exciting people to meet. If only she could find the means to go out there and explore.
Megan raised her eyebrows. “Maybe you need to take a vacation to another part of the country. A safe vacation. A family planned vacation. I’ll talk to Dad about it.” With that, she stood up and headed towards her room.
Cynnie watched her leave without feeling much better for having had the conversation. She sighed as she stood up as well. She walked over to the wide, open window and peered outside. Out at her nice, perfect neighborhood with perfect houses that held perfect people with perfect lives.
She hated perfect. It was perfectly boring. Was it wrong to want a little danger every now and then? Just to add a little spice to life. That was all she was asking for. It was all she needed. And then life would be great. She was sure of it.