It's just your regular Tuesday morning in Hawkins, Indiana.
El and Max go ahead with their daily routines weaving in and out of each other with perfect precision. They've been living with each other since leaving Hawkins High, it had been a dream of theirs to one day open a bakery in Hawkins. A handful of years and couple of part-time jobs later the two had themselves a small bakery. (Yes El's father was the chief of the police and had a rather large pull in the town, but no-one had to know that)
El arrived at the bakery at her usual time with Max just behind on her skateboard, the morning was typically their busiest time with students coming in before heading to school, adults on their way to work looking for a some savoury dish to brighten their morning, even senior citizens grabbing a treat as they walk the streets of Hawkins. It was bliss for El; she loved the cosy feel of having the same patrons each day, sure it wasn't very exciting but that's Hawkins, and she wouldn't trade it for the world.
The bakery itself was warm inside. It smells like yeast, cinnamon, frying fat, and coffee. The early morning light slants through the windows. There's a bell on the door that rings when you come in. There are bagels in shiny layered rows, topped with seeds and onions. In the glass case, sugar sparkles like snow on the cinnamon twists, jelly donuts gleam in their translucent icing. Brown bread, in big round loaves, adds an aroma of wholesome goodness. The barrel in the corner holds the slim baguettes, each with its crinkly, brown paper coat.
Being a small town word gets around fast, and the word of a new teacher arriving to Hawkins from New York had reached far and wide.
"Why would anyone want to give up being in New York just to teach in Hawkins?" The question came from Max, who was in the back setting up shop for the day.
El couldn't agree more. Hawkins was the complete opposite of The Big Apple, it was calm, peaceful, old-fashioned and community-minded.
"Maybe they needed a break from the big city. You know... clear the mind and all that." El all but shouted so Max could hear her in the back.
"But of all the places to go doesn't Hawkins seem a little... far?." Max asked as she re-entered the front and leaned against the counter. El shrugged, the topic was quickly forgotten when the bell rang as the first customer of the day walked in. "Hi Mindy, same as usual?"
The morning ran as expected, the same old customers and the same old small arguments/ laughs shared with Max.
That was until 9:25 when someone outside caught Max's attention.
"Hey El, who's that?", she whispered even though the door was shut. El turned her head from the till to look out the front window.
A tall slender man was stood there, hand on his hips breathing heavily. Clearly he's just been on a run judging by his athletic clothing. El's mind was hit with a flurry of emotions and words as her gaze reached his head, the most common word being "wow". The man was raven haired with locks that fell his face almost perfectly like a movie star. With pale skin that reflected the midnight curls perfectly, his cheekbones and jawline looked to be crafted from god himself that blended unfairly with his long neck. He looked about her age as well which you know.. is good. But his height. He must have been a foot taller than her, she wondered how far back she would have to tilt her neck to see him face to face. He was lanky with wide shoulders but she thought it perfectly suited his look, as his hands combed through his hair she saw large lean muscles on his arms flex and bend to the crank of his arm she couldn't help the goosebumps rising on her arm.
"I have no idea." she croaked, barely able to put words to mouth. Everyone knows everyone in Hawkins so how has she never seen him before, she definitely wouldn't forget someone like him.
"He's fucking hot", Max states staring at him almost in a trance. El felt a surge of irritation build up when she thought of the mysterious man liking Max more than her, but her thoughts were suddenly outweighed by the nausea she felt when she noticed he looked into store. El noticed that he checked his watch with a look of worry and slight panic smacked across his face then opened the door.
"He's coming in, what do we do?", El murmurs. Max snorts. Eyes now fixed to the man who had just past the door, just then realising how ridiculous she sounds, Pull it together El her mind beckons her. "Er..I.Uh.. I mean let me take this one." El says trying to sound nonchalant as she slips next to the till. Max simply rolls her eyes, raises her hand above her head in surrender and moving to the other side of the counter pretending to be busy cleaning the appliances interested to see how badly her friend will fuck this up. He approaches the counter quickly with his head pointing to the floor, breath still untamed.
"What can I get for you today?" El says confidently like she definitely hasn't practice it in her mind as he approached. Max walks past poking her side which causes El to exert a low grunt which she hopes he didn't hear, her cheeks now smothered in red.
"Can I... Uh just grab.. Er," He stops to control his breathing while scanning the baked goods under the counter. She notices that he checks his watch again, cursing under his breath. Quickly he points at a chocolate croissant, "Just.. one of those please" He stuttered trying again to reclaim his breath. She leans under the counter and wraps up his chosen treat, then rings him up at the till.
"That will be $2 even please". Eleven states calmly, trying to meet her eyes with his.
The stranger pulls out a ten and hands it to her. Before she can open the till to give him his change he turns and rushes out, checking his watch once again. "Keep the change", he shouts as he ran out the door croissant in hand. Once outside she sees him take off running down the street. El couldn't help but be flustered at how strange the encounter was. He didn't even look at me and why was he in such a rush. Maybe he's late meeting his girlfriend.. or wife. Maybe he was just late for work she deliberated, I wonder where he works. Her mind was in full motion when she was interrupted by the red haired girl standing next to her.
"Big tipper and extremely good looking huh" Max smirked at El, eyebrows almost floating away they were so high, she laughed and walked away clearly noting how much the guy affected her. El cheeks turned a slight shade of red as she turned her attention to the next customer who was giving her a strange look. God did everyone know she has a crush on this dark haired individual she saw all but 2 minutes ago.
El had questions, What was his name? Where did he come from? Is he single?
Can she sit on his face? , God what's wrong with you!. Indeed she had many questions but the most important one was will she see him again. Oh god please let me see him again.
Mike so screwed. Like so screwed.
He had arrived in Hawkins on Saturday morning and had 3 days to settle in before his first day at work. He planned on using the first 2 days to unpack and settle into his apartment, buying the necessary items for his place and generally pottering around his apartment doing miscellaneous tasks. Then on the last day he'd walk around town and get used to his new environment and of course take a look at the school he'll be teaching at.
Mike's place was nothing special. A small apartment on the outskirts of the main street in Hawkins town centre. The building had seen better days; the shingles on the roof crooked and cracked, the bricks holding the structure up chipped and weathered. But it had a certain charm to it, something you don't see in New York.
Mike wanted to believe leaving New York was a bad idea, he had deluded himself for years thinking that it was his home. He had so many amazing memories with his best friends and the idea of moving away was ridiculous. His friends were the pillars that held up his life and without them he truly had nothing. After all Mikes family didn't speak anymore, after his fathers vanishing act at 16 he and his mother had developed a rocky relationship built on sadness, loneliness and guilt for not communicating to each other. Nancy had already left for LA, leaving Mike and Holly to deal with his mother alone. The was no doubt in Mike's mind that Nancy leaving and dropping the burden of holding the family together was one of the main reasons his family relationship had ended.
At 19 Karen told Mike to leave and to never come back. Mike left. Mike never came back. The only person Mike missed was Holly, she and Mike had grown extremely close after Ted had left. The day he left, eyes filled with tears and hurtful words oozing from his mouth, he hadn't even thought about Holly and her feelings. Only realising when he was too far gone. Mike holds his true feeling deep down, his friends knew not to ask. Mike moved to New York and within a year all of his friends had moved too.
But no. New York was not his home anymore, his friends had their own lives now and he speaks to them less and less every year. He hated New York. Leaving was hard, his friends all understood but it didn't stop the tears at the airport, wondering if the hug he gave them would be the last one. But as Mike landed in Indianapolis, he felt a surge of happiness and excitement. He had started a new chapter in his life. A new adventure with endless possibility's.
Mike's 3 day plan had failed miserably. He spent all 3 days settling into his apartment, buying everything he needed had been harder than he expected and only finished the night before his first day.
Inside the apartment wasn't much nicer. His walls were aged and slightly cracked, the brilliant white paint peeling back on itself. The carpet thickened with a decade's dust turning it's once beige colour more grey than anything. His kitchen tiny with blue (surprisingly intact) tiling on the walls sporting bare minimum appliances. The furnishings cheap and simple, small worn black sofa, medium-sized brown dining table with four skinny legs, couple of matching chairs. Single bed which was way too small for his lanky legs which dangled over the edge almost touching the floor. The bathroom like everything else was small and simple. White walls and tiles, white toilet and lid, white shower and curtain.
In the morning he decided to go for an early run, but he wasn't familiar with the Hawkins terrain and get lost 3 times. Mike finally arrived in town about 30 minutes before he had to be at school. He stopped on the pavement, hands on his hips looking for a place to grab something to eat. To Mike's surprise he was standing outside a bakery and checked his watch again before entering the bakery.
As Mike ran out of the bakery and running home he couldn't help but feel bad for being so rude to he staff, he hadn't even bothered to look up. It was a mixture of tiredness and worry about being late. Nice first impression idiot he ground as he entered his apartment. Showering and dressing in his favourite black slacks and white shirt Mike darted off for his first day as the new physics teacher Mr. Wheeler at Hawkins High.
He was prepared for all the attention, and the questions that everyone would undoubtedly ask but this was overwhelming. Every teacher had interrogated him and it was only just lunch. It was the same questions: Why Hawkins? What's New York like? Your very young to be a teacher? Is the a Mrs. Wheeler?
Teaching was his passion, he loved the expression of a students face when they finally get it and learn. He felt like he was actually doing something worthwhile and affecting a life. Physics had always been his favourite. Learning to understand the universe and all of its mysteries had always interested Mike, he would spend hours after school re-searching, reading and watching everything he could about the topic. The passion bled straight into his teaching. He was patient, giving, nurturing and completely creative in his class.
He should have been nervous walking into his classroom for his first period in Hawkins, but he wasn't because as soon as his eyes met the students all sitting at their desks patiently awaiting him, he realises that this was his favourite part, taking the clay and starting to shape it. This was going to be a fun year.
At lunch Mike decided that maybe he could kill two birds with one stone and head to the bakery to buy a snack and apologise for being so rude earlier. Also, to get away from the teachers for a while. So maybe three birds. Mike grabbed his wallet and headed out his classroom. He didn't even make it 10 steps before a group of students approached. 2 minutes later he had been dragged into the staff room by Mrs. Horton who saw him with the students. Mike decided that he'll just pop by the bakery after school.
The lunch period was busy for El and Max. So busy in fact, she hadn't thought about the man she saw earlier for a while. That was until the hoard of teachers came into the bakery basically obsessing over the new teacher at Hawkins High. It never struck El that Mike could be the new teacher in Hawkins, she expected it to be some old college professor that had some superiority complex and smoked a pipe. She had thought that until 3 female teachers (Sarah, Jill and Beth) walked in gushing about the hot new physics teacher. They walked up to the counter and brought El into the conversation.
"Oh El!, You should see the New Yorker Mike...," Sarah started before being interrupted by Jill. "He's so hot and so young, I can't believe he's a teacher." El giggled clearly taken back by their demeanour.
Another hot, young male in Hawkins she questioned until she pieced it together. Oh.
"He wouldn't by any chance happen to be tall with long black hair that makes you want to-". This time it was Beth that spoke up. "Reach up and touch it, yes that's definitely him." They all laughed but went silent shortly after, clearly Mike wasn't just affecting my thoughts El pondered as she eyed the 3 ladies.
"So how do you know him?" Jill asked as she took her usual order from El.
"He came by this morning before school, he was all hot and sweaty from his run". El mind was sent back to that moment, she was breathless thinking about his hands combing through his hair. Sarah’s voice sent her back to reality. "Mmm, Wouldn't mind seeing Mike all hot and sweaty at some point."
El liked that name. Mike. It was simple and suited him well. She could get used to saying that.
"Sarah come on, that isn't very professional," Beth teased looking back at El. "Besides, I saw him first, so he's all mine."
Suddenly El felt jealous and felt the need to comment, "Actually I saw him first," she smiled trying not to blush. "I was hoping he'd pop in some time during lunch." All three ladies shared a knowing look, "Well we should be getting back, Nice seeing you El." They all waved and walked out of the bakery.
After the lunch buzz was over Max sat down next to El sliding a coffee over the table. "Well at least we know why Mike was so unfamiliar," Max says looking at El with a smirk on her face. "God you should have heard the male teachers, it seems Mike's arrival has threatened them somewhat." El laughed but Max got up when a customer walked through the door. "Yes he's supposed to be a genius, but I'm sure that's just conjecture after all he's so young." Max was doing an impression of James Grover, one of Hawkins High other physics teachers and frequent at the bakery.
That made El burst, she thought about how smart he must be for his age to be a physics teacher. Then she felt sad and quite empty, clearly he's way out of my league, and he probably only goes for smart women or someone extremely attractive like him. With a Huff she pulls herself off the chair and got back to work.
Throughout the rest of the day every time the door opens she hopes it's him but it never is. Slowly she starts losing hope that she'll ever see him again let alone try to talk to him. Why would he come in twice in one day? Maybe he'll come by tomorrow stop acting like a teenager!!
It's nearly 5, both girls are getting ready to close for the day, El is wiping the counter staring at the front door trying not to think about what she knows she wants to think about. No luck.
5 minutes later as she's sorting the baked goods under the counter, she hears the bell ring....