I walk out of the apartment building and see him standing outsideof silver BMW. I don’t allow myself to be distracted by the specimen of the automobile parked in front of me. I look at him and my eyes narrow. He looks back at me amusingly, eyebrows raised, before opening the door and ushering me inside. As soon as he slides into the driver’s seat he starts the car and pulls off.
“So when are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?”
“What ever gave you that idea?”
“If looks could kill I never would have made it back into this car. So I repeat, my question, what seems to be bothering you?”
“How do know where I live?”
Out of the corner of my eye I can see him trying to hide a smile.
“Something amuses you Mr. Harper?”
“Not at all, but like the question you asked of me yesterday,that too is of little consequence.”
“Is it now? I think I deserve to know. And if you won’t tell me Mr. Harper, I’ll get out of the car right now and go back to my apartment”
The car is quiet for a moment. Then he says casually,
“The university has a file on everyone; mailing list and all. I simply pulled your file.”
I can’t believe this guy. Pulled my file? Who does he think he is???
“Oh, that simple huh? So glad you didn’t have to do anything morally wrong to get my information. I mean God forbid you just ask me for it.”
We rode the rest of the way in silence. When the car finally stopped, we were in front of an enormous fixture with great white pillars.
“This is the Boston Public Library. Since you’re so into books I thought this would be a good place for us to start today.”
He motions for me to follow him up the steps and when we step inside I take the beauty of it all. He leans down and whispers in my ear, “So what do you think?”
“It’s beautiful.” I breathe.
He guides me up a flight of stairs and finds a small table with two chairs in a back corner; completely hidden from view of anyone else in the library.
“I’ll be right back.” he murmurs.
A few moments later he returns with a thick book. It’s old and its pages are worn. There is something about old volumes that makes me smile. Their age makes them all the more fragile and you often wonder who else before you held this same book. He hands me the book and says, “Read a page to me.”
I look at the worn cover and realize he has handed me my favored book of Leo Tolstoy. Without hesitation, I find my favorite part of the book and begin to read.
Some minutes later I stop and look up at him. He’s studying me. I put the book down and lean back into my seat.
“Why did you stop? I was actually enjoying that.”
“Well, I just decided this was a perfect time for us to get to know one another Mr. Harper. Now should I go first or should you?
He taps his fingers on the table as he broods over my statement.
“Come now, this isn’t rocket science.”
He smirks and starts talking.
“So true Celeste and outside of class I would much prefer if you would call me Chad. Why you haven’t taken the liberty to do so yet is what baffles me.”
“All you had to do was ask. Besides I didn’t want to overstep my boundaries.”
“Boundaries huh. Ok. Why did your coworker call you Kat. Your name is Celeste.”
“That was my manager. My middle name is Katelleya. He noticed it on my application when I applied for the job and he liked it. It’s stuck since then. Tell me just how old are you?
“I’m twenty three. Why don’t you live on campus?
“I’m a space freak. What part of England are you from?
“Manchester. I’m assuming you’re eighteen, nineteen at the most.
“You assume correctly Chad. I have a late birthday so this legal thing is a little new to me.”
His eyes narrow at the implications in my words. I pay him no mind and move on to the next question.
“Is this your first teaching job?
“Just wondered how a man of your age and little experience as a professor can afford such nice clothing and that car. Seemed a little off to me unless you’re secretly rich.” I joke.
His silence made me alert. Wait was this guy secretly loaded? Then he replied.
“Yeah well you see about that….”
Harper has just dismissed class and as I walk out of the room I hear him say, “Ms. Watson would you mind remaining behind for a couple of minutes please?”
As I turn around to walk back inside, one of the other girls gives me a look that is undeniably laced with jealousy. He waits for the last student to file out before he speaks.
“So now that I’ve made pretty clear my intentions towards you, I need you to tell me how you plan to respond to them.”
His voice is so casual as if this conversation we are about to have doesn’t unnerve him at all. As he speaks he walks around to the front of his desk and perches himself on the edge. His face is expectant as he awaits my response. I don’t know what to say, his statement completely caught me off guard. My surprise must be apparent to him.
“Celeste, you seem a bit flustered.”, he begins. “I have a proposition for you. How about we spend some time together tomorrow and we can discuss it then?”
I nod not knowing what else to say. He turns his upper body to grab his messenger bag from the desk and slides off the edge. He walks towards me very slowly and stop in front of me and leans down to kiss my forehead. My eyes close as his lips make contact with my skin. I feel my pulse quicken as he whispers into my ear.
“Maybe by then you will have found your voice. Until tomorrow then.”
With those words he saunters out of the room leaving me alone. Did he really just kiss me? Could he be any more bold? I take a moment to compose myself and then quickly exit the building.
I’m sitting on the couch in my living room and my phone rings. Without checking the caller ID I answer it. A bright voice with a slight Spanish accent says,
“Hey honey how is everything?”
“Mom, hey how are you I’m fine everything is great!?”
“I’m fine sweetie just making sure you’re doing well. How are your classes? Do you like them? Any nice looking boys out there? Oh Celeste I miss you so much!”
More like a man I thought to myself.
“I miss you too mom and my classes are fine but lets not make this twenty questions right now. I just want to hear about what’s going on at home. How’s Dad?”
“Well you know your father. Calvin is still his stubborn self overworking…”
As I listen to my mother’s voice a sense of homesickness over came me. I miss my family and of course my cat Isis. That little ball of fur used to cuddle up next to me every night and her purring was a comfort to me through the night. I tune back into my mom enjoying these brief moments we can spend talking together.
An hour later I am in the shower standing underneath the hot water which at this moment is now cascading down my body. I can feel the tension leaving my body as my muscles begin to loosen. My mind wanders to tomorrow’s events. What exactly does he want to do? What if he doesn’t like me like he thought he did. Will I make an utter ass of myself and fall over something nonexistent? Once again, I’m interrupted by my ringing. I lean out of the shower and pick up my phone which was, up until now, resting on the bathroom sink. I don’t recognize the number but answer it anyway. Putting it on speaker I place it back on the sink and answer as I lean back in the shower.
“Celeste, how lovely to hear your voice. I trust you know who this is.”
I’m stunned into silence. He lets his words brew for a moment before he says,
I quickly turn off the water and rush to get out of shower and then it happens. My feet are wet so I fell on the tile floor. I scream as I go down and lay there mortified for what seems like forever. Harper is calling my name in alarm.
“Celeste answer me.” he says again in a firm voice.
“Hellooo?” I wail.
“Um..I would rather not say.”
“I need to know that you are okay.”
“Take me at my word then, I’m fine. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to know how you got my number?”
“That’s of little consequence at the moment. I called to let you know you should be ready tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
“Of little consequence?!?? Are you kidding me??”
“No, today is not that day Ms. Watson. I’ll see you tomorrow morning. Have a lovely evening.”
The line went dead and I was still laying on the floor trying to muster the strength to peel my body off the tile. Once again he rendered me speechless. How in the hell am I supposed to keep up with guy? Eventually I pulled myself up off the floor and left the bathroom to dry myself off. I hit my head on the floor earlier and now my head is killing me. I climb into bed to take a nap and drift off into a deep sleep.
The next morning, I wake up a little later than usual but still have enough time to get ready. I didn’t blow dry my hair before going to bed last night so its fallen into its curls around my face. I go to the bathroom to freshen up and then walk to my closet to decide what I should wear. The weather is sunny but slightly cool. I throw on my red skinnys, a black ribbed tank top and my black Toms. I look in the mirror and decide to put some studs in my ears and apply a thin layer of a lip plumper. I’m satisfied. Fifteen minutes later my phone rings. I answer it and he voice comes through.
I look at the clock. It’s five minutes to ten.
“Well aren’t you early?”
“Aren’t you ready?”
“You got me. I’ll be out”
As I’m locking up my room a thought hits me…how in the entire fuck does he know where I live!!??
“Mr Harper.” I mumble giving him a small nod in the process. I drop to the floor to retrieve the white plastic lids covering the tile. As I’m doing so, I realize with even more embarrassment that Harper is a few inches away from me doing the same. As the last few lids are salvaged from the floor I run back into the storage room to get another box. This time I managed to replenish them without making another mess. As I finish I turn to him and hand him one. As he reaches out to take it from me his hand brushes mine I can see his body stiffen. His face says nothing but his eyes, those eyes tell all.
“Um Kat if you’ve finished with that can you go back to doing inventory in the back please?”
I’m partially grateful for my co worker’s interruption. Without his interjection I don’t know how I could have ever torn myself away from this man and those beautiful eyes. I mumble my goodbye to Harper and as I turn away to leave I hear him say,
His voice is husky but soft. I keep calm until I walk into the back and prop myself up against the wall. My legs are like jelly, wobbly and shaking. My heart is beating fast and I can feel those butterflies in my stomach all over again. Oh God what is he doing to me?
I’m back inside my apartment and I’m famished. I grab a container of Chef Boyardee and pop it into the microwave. My life as of right now is the epitome of a struggling college student but it doesn’t help that on this particular night I’m entirely too lazy to cook. After devouring my poor excuse for a meal, I climb into bed and try to finish some of my homework assignments. Math, my Waterloo, I managed to knock out on my break at work and my German professor neglected to give us an assignment. Biology consisted of a couple of flashcards and an outline quickly completed so now all I had to tackle was English. As I skim through the quotes, one catches my attention. “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind”. I stare at it for awhile rereading over and over. With great reluctance, I push away the thoughts creeping into my head. It takes me all of an hour to finish this assignment. I smile proudly looking over my work and with a sigh fall back onto my pillow into a peaceful sleep.
The day creeps by. German is only forty five minutes and I feel as if I’ve been here for an eternity. I realize my longing to get to English to see Harper is what is making this so difficult for me. I need to get control of my emotions. There is no reason for me to behave this way. Fifteen minutes later class is finally over. I don’t permit myself to run to his class like a giddy little school girl. Instead, I move at a slightly slower pace than normal and walk to the building across the quad and enter the English department. As I walk down the hall, closer and closer to his room I start to feel those familiar twists in my stomach. Mustering all my strength I open the door, walk across the room and sit in my seat. He hasn’t arrived yet. The agony is nearly ripping through me and every time the door opens and more students enter, my head perks up hoping to see him following close behind. Five minutes after class should have begun, a short flushed man with gray hair and black rimmed glasses come rushing in. He apologizes for being late and announces that Mr Harper is ill and that he will be substituting until his return. Upon hearing his words, my heart drops. I sink down into my seat and try my best to pay attention to the lesson.
Two more days go by and there is no Mr. Harper. Not in class or even in the coffee shop. I begin to give up hope on seeing him again until Friday afternoon. Class was scheduled to start in twenty minutes and German was dismissed early. So I, having nothing better to do, went to class early just to sit and wait. As I open the door and walk in, it takes a minute for me to realize that Harper is there. He is sitting behind his desk and looks up at me with a startled expression.
“Hello.” he breathes.
“Hello.” I respond. My voice is barely audible. I walk to my seat and all the while I feel his eyes following me. Once seated I ask,
“Are you better?”
“Slightly” his eyes shifting to the papers on his desk.
“Visited a doctor?”
“No.” his voice tenses as he continues to flip through the documents.
“Um..why?” He is silent for a moment as a slight grimace appears on his face. He sighs.
“A doctor can’t do anything for me. My problem is much deeper than anything you can see on the surface. It’s infected my mind. But frankly, I would rather not remedy the situation. I’m enjoying it too much.” As he says this, he slowly looks up at me and my eyes widen when the meaning of his words sets in. I look down at my desk and feel heat rush through my body. You could feel the tension in the air. It was like a magnetic force pulling at the both of us. I was silent for a minute but then I whispered, “Why did you stay away?”
“I had to”
“I needed to think over things before seeing you again. And I had some business to attend to.”
“And now that you’re back, will you stay?”
“I am. There is so much to look forward to here”.
As he uttered those words the first few students came in. The conversation was over…for now.
She just left the room, and as soon as that door closes and I lose sight of that perfect ass I bury my face in my hands and tell myself to get it together.
“She is a student. Your pupil.” I tell myself aloud hoping to drive the point home to my subconscious.
What’s wrong with me? I can usually control my emotions. I know better than this. A thought leaps into my head and I quickly leave my seated position and rush to the window. Peering out into the academic quad I see her walking in a hurried manner to the bench right outside the building my classroom is housed in. She appears flushed and bit out of breathe. I study her as she pulls out a notebook and attempts to busy herself; my homework assignment no doubt. She is tapping a pen against that pretty mouth of hers. Less than five minutes ago it had been giving me a smile so coy that I felt that special rush of heat through every part of my body. I hope she didn’t think me a creep for my obvious flirtation with her. But then again, she returned the advance. Suddenly as if she knows I’m watching her, her head pops up and looks right at the window. I catch my breathe as her eyes meet mine. Trying to make light of the situation I nod curtly and move away from the window. I grab my blazer, put my papers back in my briefcase and leave the room. I need to get back to my apartment and quick. My head is muddled and the need for utter solitude and silence is aggravating.
Thankfully, upon exiting the building I notice she is no longer perched on the bench. Instinctively, I relax some and stroll across campus. Half an hour later, I’m walking into my apartment. Without a second thought, I drop my briefcase by the door and fall into the couch in the middle of the room. I’m tired and despite my best efforts, this afternoon’s encounter keeps replaying in my mind.
I’m walking into the classroom assigned me. Ugh this college is nothing like what I’m accustomed to. This is my first year as an English professor although it’s not my first experience. For the past three years while I was in college at Oxford, I was a teacher’s assistant and he made me do damn near all the work; the lazy prick. On several occasions, I had to make the lesson, the homework assignment, teach the class and grade the papers. The only thing he took upon himself to do, was to grade the final exams. God how I hate when things aren’t done properly. In a sense I am grateful for his lack of input; it taught me how to teach and how to learn from my students. My mother till this day can’t understand why I’ve decided to come all the way to the Unites States but I’m not into the whole you’re-privileged-let-people-do shit-for-you-while-you-reap-the-rewards thing. She wanted me to help with family business basing her need for me off of my excellent people skills and cut the crap attitude but I felt it wasn’t my calling. So yes I may be an English professor at the moment, but I will eventually, in my own right, move up without my mother’s need to “pull strings”.
The room is moderately full and I’m glad to see that most of them have a sense of how to be on time. I can’t stand tardiness having being raised to be on time to everything. “Train a child in the way he should go..”, I mutter to myself. I may be young, but my age is irrelevant when it comes to my expectations and my first goal is to make them fully aware. Hopefully, this first assignment will drill it into their brains. I walk to the front of the room and introduce myself as I remove my blazer and begin to copy the assignment onto the board. When I turn to face the class I look over my students and I see her. I’ve always been accustomed to female attention, so the looks on all the women’s faces don’t faze me. It’s the look on hers that catches my attention. Her eyes are big and brown and full of innocence. The dark brown curls around her face make them sparkle. She looks at me expectantly. Waiting. Hmmm..let me indulge her. As each of the students introduce themselves I can’t help but feel my irritation rise. I don’t care to know about any of them. Just her. After what seems like an eternity, she stands. She looks nervous. I smile in attempt to soothe her unease.
“Ehm. Hello, my name is Celeste Watson. I’m from Loganville, Pennsylvania and books are my greatest joy in life” She attempts to regain her seating, but I stop her with a question.
“So you love to read. Interesting. Does that mean you tend to fare well in English courses?”
“I’ve never had a problem before.” Fiesty. I like it.
“Is that so? Well tell me Ms. Watson, what’s your favorite book?”
“Anna Karenina” Not what I expected. One usually heard a girl of her age say something like “Twilight”. One of those obscene love stories. I ask her why.
“I have an attraction to love stories and tragedies and Anna Karenina contains both. She wants love but the times in which she lives and her circumstances make it impossible for her to be truly happy.”
And there it is, the love bit. “Ah, love. Every woman’s desire.” She squirms a little bit. I see my words have an effect on her. Good. She gives a small smile and sits back down.
I’m running. The air is brisk and cool and feels good considering the sweat I’ve worked up. Exercise helps clear my mind and the park is free, open and relaxing. I normally don’t run on Monday afternoons, but today was a much needed exception. The bell of the coffee shop tings when I open the door. I started coming here since my move to Massachusetts a couple of months ago. It’s a mellow place with nice music and friendly employees. I walk over to the counter and the barista boy comes to take my order. He finishes making my espresso and hands it to me. I go to reach for a lid and discover there are none there.
“Excuse me, you’re out of lids” I say.
“Oh, sorry about that man. I’ll get that fixed right away. Kat!” he calls into the back.
“Yes!?” I hear a soft voice reply
“We need more lids out here.” Less than a minute later, a girl comes stumbling from the back with a big cardboard box. When she turns to face me, I realize who I’m staring at and she drops the box. Plastic coffee lids now cover the floor but neither one of us pay any attention to them. I swallow hard, and say her name.
“There are seven quotes on the board. Your assignment is to copy each one and write a paragraph that contains not only the author’s name, if there is one, but also explains the meaning behind each one. Googled explanations will result in a failing grade. A paragraph is at least ten sentences. Anything less will render the explanation, no matter how original, null and void. I want to know your thoughts and see how you think. I want to see how well you can dissect a sentence and think beyond the words written on the page. Think. It’s not hard.”
He had delivered our first assignment within the first five minutes of class. Despite the simplicity of it, it was clear to all that although he was young, Mr. Harper meant business. His next words seemed almost strange to me after such a speech of expectations and applying oneself.
“Now,” his voice slightly softer. “I would like to get to know you a bit more. After all we will be seeing each other for awhile and I think its only suitable that we are properly introduced.”
Was is it me, or did he look dead at me when he said that?
“So starting at the left and working our way over to the right, please say your name, where you are from and your favorite thing to do.”
The first person, an Asian boy, stood and delivered what was requested. And so it went student after student until it reached me. My stomach was in knots. The glances from this all too handsome man had left me warm and prickly. I could feel sweat beginning to form. I stood slowly and cleared my throat.
“Ehm. Hello, my name is Celeste Watson. I’m from Loganville, Pennsylvania and books are my greatest joy in life.”
He stared at me intently with those deep eyes as I lowered myself into my seat and caught me off guard by asking another question.
“So you love to read. Interesting. Does that mean you tend to fare well in English courses?”
“I’ve never had a problem before.” I reply
“Is that so? Well tell me Ms. Watson what is your favorite book?”
“How nice but unexpected. Why if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I have an attraction to love stories and tragedies and Anna Karenina contains both. Her want for love but the times in which she lives and her circumstances make it impossible for her to be truly happy.”
“Ah, love. Every woman’s desire.”
This was getting embarrassing. He hadn’t asked anyone else additional questions. But at the same time, I liked the attention he was showing me. I give him a faint smile, and although the next student has begun to introduce himself, Harper’s eyes continue to flicker back to me. I pretend not to notice save for the couple of times that I intentionally look up at him and we lock gazes.
Twenty minutes later, class is over and I find myself stalling. I slowly gather my things and put my notebooks in my messenger bag and my pens back in their case. I can feel his eyes studying me as I get out of seat and walk across the room to the door. I’m the last one to leave. As I reach for the door knob he says in a soft thoughtful voice, “Good day Ms. Watson. I look forward to this semester with you.”
I turn slightly and look him in the face and see him staring very pointedly at my face. I decide to be bold for once and reply with what I hope sounds like flirtation, “Oh, I am too Mr. Harper. Good day.”
With that I walk out of the room. The moment the door closes behind me I rush down the hall to the front of the building and out onto the quad. I need air and sun. What just happened back there has made me a bit dizzy. Was he flirting with me? I know I certainly was, but then again who hasn’t flirted with their teacher or professor? To calm myself, I sit on one of the benches underneath the trees and pull out Harper’s assignment. As I reread through the quotes, I look up at the building I just emerged from. Standing in the window was Mr. Harper. And there was no mistake, that he was looking right at me.
It’s early, and the sun is just starting to rise. I can see the light coming in through the window and I groan, knowing I don’t have that much longer to sleep. Excitement begins to flutter in my stomach when I consider what this new day brings. I just hope I don’t succumb to my own clumsiness and trip over my own feet in the middle of the academic quad. It takes everything in me not to stay in bed, but being late for class on the first day of college is not the best look. Stumbling out of bed I walk past the mirror and double back. I stare at the brown skinned girl looking back at me in the mirror. Her brown eyes groggy and that dark brown hair tousled from the previous nights sleep. I tell her something Mama used to say to me every morning, “Today is yours for the taking. Make every moment count”.
An hour later, I’m leaving my apartment and walking towards my car. I am so grateful my parents wanted to put me up in a place of my own rather than share a dorm room with another student. I like having my own space. The drive to the university is no more than ten minutes. This I don’t mind in the slightest; for it will give me time to gather myself and prepare myself mentally for this first class of the day. It’s almost eight o’clock, and I’ve just pulled into the student parking lot. I walk across campus to an old building and stroll down the hall until I reach my destination. Room 126 the wooden door says. Taking a quick deep breathe for good measure, I push the door open and shuffle inside.
My professor, Mrs. Capella is already here along with a couple other students and appears to be ready. As I sit down and pull out my textbook, she introduces herself and begins to tell us her expectations for us during the year. I’m a bit confused that she has begun considering the class is not due to start until eight fifteen and several seats in the room are still unoccupied. Timidly I raise my hand and she gives me a slight frown clearly annoyed that we have just started and I’m already asking questions.
“Yes?” she said in a clipped tone.
“We still have ten minutes before the class is scheduled to begin and there seem to be quite a few students missing. Shouldn’t we wait for them?” I reply.
She gave me a hard look that made me very uncomfortable before asking my name. “Celeste. Celeste Watson.” I say.
“Well Ms. Watson,” she says with a sneer. “For future notice the class begins when I arrive or whenever I deem fit. I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t question my actions seeing I am the professor and you are the student. This is college not highschool and we won’t have this conversation again. Do I make myself quite clear?”
“Yes.” I manage to whisper. Great. Just great. It’s my first day and I’ve already managed to upset one of my professors. More importantly, its my math professor and since I’ve never been stellar in the subject getting along with her is imperative. I sit quietly through the rest of the class and try not to draw attention to myself.
I’ve reached my last class of the day, English, and I’m silently praying for a better outcome than the previous ones. Besides the incident in math this morning, I also succeeded in walking into biology two minutes late which caused my professor to call me out in front of the entire class. And it seems that all the fellow peers in my German class can carry out entire conversations leaving me, who can’t get past Guten Tag, extremely lost.
My head is resting my hands when I hear a man’s voice introduce himself as Mr. Chad Harper. His voice is strong and British and he doesn’t sound like he is two steps from the grave like the rest of my professors. Tentatively I look up and see him writing a quote on the board. From the back I can see he has a muscular build due to the way his suit hugs his arms. He is tall, about 6’ 2” with dark brown hair and olive toned skinned. He turns around to grab something from his desk and I see just how young he is. Mr. Harper appears to be no older than twenty five and has a straight nose, full lips and the hint of a moustache. He turns back to the board and finishes scribbling his quotes and then turns to face the class. I can see from the expressions of the other women in the class that they too have come to the conclusion that our professor is quite handsome indeed. Hazel. His eyes are hazel. And as those beautiful hazel eyes scan the room and each of the students in attendance, they land on myself and freeze. I quickly look away not wanting to get caught staring but can still feel his eyes glued to my frame. Slowly I look back at up him and meet his stare with one of my own. A small smile plays around his lips and then without bringing it to its completion, Mr. Harper my young and handsome English professor, began the lecture.