A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings #2)(8) by Debbie Macomber

The first item on that list was to ease the pain with a distraction, by giving to others. With me, that was teaching.

I’d graduated from college with a master’s in education, but I’d never taught. I wasn’t looking for a full-time position, so I found a volunteer job, an evening class two times a week, where I taught English as a second language.

It proved to be a good choice. I enjoyed my students and admired their determination to tackle the complicated idioms and slang of the English language. I had ten students that had immigrated from all around the world.

More and more I found myself looking forward to teaching my class. A large part of the satisfaction I derived came from one of my students named Nikolai Janchenko. At my best estimate Nikolai was close to my own age and from Ukraine. By far he was my most enthusiastic student. What I enjoyed about him most was his ability to make me laugh.

Monday night I parked in the Community Center parking lot. As soon as I pulled into the designated slot, I noticed Nikolai standing outside the center’s front door. He was a fine-looking man with a thick head of salt-and-pepper hair. From our conversations I knew he worked in a deli as a baker. His shoulders were broad from all the upper-body work he must do. He wasn’t a large man by any means, average height with strong but blunt Eastern European features. From what his school file told me, he’d been living in the States for five years and had recently acquired citizenship.

Nikolai must have recognized my car because he hurried across the street to meet me. By the time I’d reached for my purse and books, he had the driver’s door open and offered me a hand to help me out. I enjoyed how much of a gentleman he was.

“Good night, Teacher.”

“It’s evening, Nikolai. We would say ‘good evening,’ versus ‘good night.’ ”

“Good evening, Teacher.”

“Good evening, Nikolai. It’s good to see you.”

“It’s very good to see you,” he said. His eyes sparkled with warmth as he proudly handed me a loaf of bread. “I bake for you.”

The loaf was still warm from the oven and the aroma was heavenly. I raised it to my nose, closed my eyes, and inhaled the scent of yeast and flour.

“This is bread made with potato.”

“It smells delicious.” I would enjoy toasting a slice for my breakfast and planned to share the loaf with Nichole and Owen.

“I make it special for you.” He walked alongside me, his head turned toward me, watching me closely.

“I’m over the moon.”

He stopped abruptly and frowned. “Over the moon? What does this mean?”

“That’s an idiom, Nikolai, and what we’re going to be discussing in class this evening.”

“You explain this moon. You jump over it like cow in school rhyme?”

“No.” I had to smile. I found myself doing that a good deal whenever I spoke to Nikolai. His mind was eager to soak up everything I had to teach. All my students were keen learners, which made these two classes the highlight of my week.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Nikolai take a seat at the table at the front of the class. He chose the spot front and center each time and hung on my every word.

I put my purse and books down on my desk. Moving to the front, I leaned forward and placed my hands against the edge as I looked out over my students.

“Good evening,” I said.

The class returned my greeting in a mingling of different accents.

“Tonight I want to talk about idioms.” Knowing that some of my students needed to see the word written, I walked over to the board and wrote idiom in large letters for them to see and copy down.

“Idioms are part of every language,” I said. “It is a word or phrase that isn’t meant to be taken literally. For example, if I say I am over the moon, that means I’m thrilled or happy.”

José raised a timid hand. “Then why not say you’re happy?”

“I did. Only I said it in another way. Here’s a second example. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase ‘It’s raining cats and dogs.’ It doesn’t mean cats and dogs are literally falling from the sky.”

Titus raised his hand. If I remembered correctly, he’d come from South Africa. “We have a similar saying in Africa. We say it’s raining old women with clubs.”

The discussion turned lively after that, as the other students shared idioms from their own cultures. Some I found hilarious, and soon we were all laughing and sharing.

It always surprised me how quickly the class time passed. Before I realized it was even possible, our session was up. As had become his habit, Nikolai was the last to leave. He waited so he could walk me to the parking lot.

“Do you understand now what I meant when I said I was over the moon?” I asked as I collected my purse and books.

“Yes, Teacher. You say you are happy I bake bread.”

I felt a little silly having him call me Teacher all the time. “Nikolai, you can use my name if you prefer.”

His eyes widened slightly.

“My name is Leanne.”

“Leanne,” he repeated, pronouncing it as if it were foreign on his tongue, which it probably was. At the same time, he said it as if he were speaking in church or a library, slowly, with a low voice, like a prayer. “Leanne is a beautiful name.”

“Thank you,” I said as we walked out of the classroom.

“A beautiful name for beautiful woman.”

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