Authors: Linnea May
"Idiot," I hiss to myself.
I'm one of them. Blushing and swooning as my thoughts can't seem to let go of this man. This arrogant bastard. Why did he have to look at me like that? Is that what he does with challenges like me? He said he liked me, "
students like me
". What does that even mean?
I let out a groan of frustration and roll over to the side, curling up on my bed while my thoughts continue to linger around Mr. Portland.
The faculty lounge is not my favorite place to be, but Professor Clark asked me to show up at least once a week for the informal staff meeting. He's the person who asked me to hold this lecture in the first place, and he's also the one who made sure that I'd be admitted with as much as freedom as possible when it comes to the content of my class.
His request came as a surprise for me, and after I got over my initial irritation at this unexpected request, I actually found myself flattered.
A school that never wanted me as a student now wants me as a teacher. Oh, the irony of it.
"I'm not an educator," I told him. "I have no idea how to teach, let alone what to teach a bunch of spoiled little brats such as the kids I'd find at your school."
To my surprise, he wasn't offended at these words, but laughed.
"That is exactly why I think you'd be a refreshing change in our noble halls," he said. "Our students could need a little insight into the real world, something coming from a man of action like you are."
It worked. His complimentary words made me realize that this would be a good platform for me to see whether it really was that simple. If the division between academics and the real world was really as sharp as I always felt it was. I want to see how these students react to my teaching, how they'd take in the idea of doing something different. For most of them, their path has been laid out early on, I'm sure. Maybe even before they started school altogether. You don't end up as a graduate student at an Ivy League school without a long term plan.
But what happens if someone shows up and messes with your head? Could there be a possibility for me to change something? A student's life, maybe. A career or even an entire idea about life and education.
I have little hope, but at least they'd be forced to listen to me for an entire semester.
If she doesn't decide to drop out of my class after our first encounter this week, little Miss Harlington will be one of them.
I can't let her get to my head too much, but it's hard to keep her out of it. She poses a challenge, a dilemma and attends to a desire deep within me. It's been a while since I had the pleasure to act on it.
I know it'd been on the back of my mind when I took this class, despite the taboo nature of an intimate relationship with a student.
I didn't expect to meet someone like her, but I knew there was a chance I could. And I knew it would cause trouble.
I open the door to the faculty lounge, my eyebrows furled deep in thought. It's still early and the meeting won't start for another twenty minutes, but the room is inhabited by a handful of teaching staff nonetheless.
I lift my chin and greet the room, met by the eyes of about half the present teachers. Most of them are perpetuating a stereotype, drinking coffee by the gallon while chain-smoking and lamenting their profession.
I sit down in the far back of the room with some distance between me and a group of three, two younger female lecturers and a Professor whose name I've forgotten.
"So the rumors are true?" I hear one of the two younger staff members ask, while I get out my tablet to answer a few e-mails for work. Being a guest lecturer for one semester doesn't mean that I can completely ignore my business for the time being.
"As nasty as it sounds, yes," the other woman says.
"I'm having trouble believing this," the Professor interjects.
He leans forward, and so do the two women, making the whole group look like three little rodents sharing a carrot.
"No man in his right mind would risk his career for something like this," he whispers, but not soft enough to escape my ears.
The women huff and shake their heads.
"Oh, men would," one of them says. She has blond hair with a disproportionately big head on top of a skinny body, making her look like a lolly pop.
"A cute little student swooning all over them- isn't that every Professor's dream?" she asks. The other woman nods enthusiastically, while the older Professor is now the one who's huffing with disgust.
"A man in his right mind, I said," he repeats. "I'm not talking about the idiots who lose track of what matters just because they're chasing some skirt. I always thought of Professor Miller to be one of the former."
"Well, clearly he's not," the blonde argues.
She looks over her shoulder, and our eyes meet before I can turn away and act as if I wasn't listening to their conversation. Her eyes widen with fear and she looks as if I just caught her with her hand in the cookie jar.
"Mr. Portland," she says, blushing and nodding toward me. She knows my name, but I have no idea who she or who the other two might be.
They all turn around to me, the other woman with a similar expression on her face as the first, while the Professor displays the same absentminded gaze that most of his kind wear on a daily basis.
"I'm sorry if we were disturbing you," the blonde says.
"Not a problem at all," I say, waving her off. "I wasn't aware that the teaching staff at such a renowned school is just as prone to gossip as people are at any other workplace."
All three of them lower their eyes for a moment, and the Professor is the first to recover from this short moment of shame.
"Gossiping is only human," he states. "And after all, we're all humans."
Humanities. I guess that's where they teach you, that even disrespectful behavior is nothing to be ashamed of. We're all human, after all.
"Besides," the blonde adds. "This concerns issues on a meta level."
"How so?" I want to know.
"Well, um," she stutters, fixing her blouse with nervous motions. "I'm sorry, I haven't introduced myself. Lilia Esquin, Sociology."
The others straighten in their seats and nod. Yes, time for pleasantries.
"Robert Warwick, Sociology as well," the old guy says.
Not surprisingly, the last of the bunch, Mindy, also outs herself as a lecturer in Sociology.
"Portland," I introduce myself. "But you already seem to know that."
The blonde lets out a girlish giggle and nods. "Well, it's not like your face and name is unknown to the world."
I nod, but don't say anything to that. The distance between them and me is a little too big to hold a proper conversation, but instead of letting it go after our little round of introduction, they decide in unison to move over to my area and place themselves in the armchairs that gather around the small coffee table in front of me. They sit in a circle around me as if I had invited them to listen to my tale, when in reality that couldn't be further from the truth.
"The thing is," Lilia Esquin continues, leaning forward to include me in their little gossip circle. "We were talking about a colleague in another department. I'm not going to say who, but-"
"You already mentioned his name," I point out, looking at Professor Warwick. "Professor Miller, wasn't it?"
He snorts. "It doesn't matter."
"He's not working at the University anymore," Mindy interjects, as if I showed any sign of interest in finding out who this guy was.
"They let him go, because he...," Lilia whispers, leaning in even closer, too close for comfort. "He slept with one of his students."
Her eyes are wide, and she's nodding, inviting me to join her indignation.
"Was it consensual?" I ask, unimpressed.
Her face changes, giving way to a quizzical confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Was it consensual?" I repeat. "Did the student want it - or did he rape her?"
The three of them exchange looks as if they were silently asking each other what I was talking about.
"I'm assuming it was a her?" I clarify, if only to mess with their heads a little more.
"Yes, yes, of course," Lilia retorts. "But what do you mean, consensual? Why would that matter?"
Now I'm the one who widens his eyes with shock.
"It doesn't to you?" I ask. "It doesn't matter to you whether we're talking about rape or sex between consenting adults?"
"It was a
!" Professor Warwick throws in. "It's just
I scan the little circle of tattletales, narrowing my eyes. It's unsettling how little these people are able to think outside their strictly rule-designed box.
"It even says so in our contracts," Lilia adds, as if she wants to prove me right. "Intimate relationships with students are forbidden."
Forbidden. I like that word.
I lean back, completely unimpressed by their demeanor. "I don't have a contract that states anything like that."
Professor Warwick clears his throat, while the women exchange a telling look. Neither of them even come close to being my type, but I'm not an idiot. Lilia is sitting closest to me, her skinny knees pointing in my direction and her eyes have that nervous flutter every time she looks at me. If she wasn't the sealed and withdrawn person I believe her to be, I'm sure I'd see the same infatuation on her face that I've seen in my classroom on so many faces a few days ago.
"Still, it's just not done," Professor Warwick comments. "Contract or not, relations like that are nothing but trouble."
He glares at me, wrinkling his nose and narrowing his eyes as if he's trying to warn me. That jealous bastard. His receding hairline, the wrinkles around his used up face and the giant beer belly don't speak of the dignified, strong man he could be, had he taken care of himself in the past few decades. Even if there was no such regulation in his contract, there's hardly a student who'd willingly share a bed with him. Except if they wanted to fuck for grades. I'm sure this happens a lot more than these people would like to admit. Fancy elite school or not, people still enjoy taking advantage of their respective position. It's only human.
Return service or not - Professor Warwick knows I could have them all, if I wanted to.
Thing is, I only want one.
She is sitting in the exact same seat she sat in during my first lecture. Third row, slightly to the left from where I'm standing. Miss Harlington looks at me with narrow and expectant eyes. No smile, no smitten beam on her face as it is on most others. She has her brown hair tied up in a lose bun, with little strands falling out at the sides, framing her delicate face. Her hands are placed on top of each other on the table in front of her, and she's wearing a white blouse that matches her fair complexion. A perfectly good girl.
The auditorium is filled to the brim. Approximately two hundred students have their eyes locked on me, waiting for me to start class. Unlike last time, I brought a dark leather satchel today. I place it in front of me on the table in a wide gesture before I face the auditorium again.
Today, I don't have a big introductory speech prepared. I have something in mind that is loosely based on what I talked about last time, mixed with a few questions that'll lead the discussion further. Or so I hope. I have never taught before and I have no experience in working with students whatsoever.
I didn't give them any homework, so there's nothing I could ask of them or discuss at this point. But there's something I need to mention before I start.
"Good morning," I say, letting my gaze scan through the auditorium. I avoid looking to my left for longer than necessary, fearing that my gaze could get locked on Miss Harlington for too long.
"There are a few things that still need to be settled in regard to how I intend to conduct this class," I resume. "First of all, I will not grade you and there will be no final exam."
Murmurs of relief scatter through the crowd.
"However, you will pass – or fail - this class based on standard attendance," I add, narrowing my eyes as I catch the eyes of individual students here and there. "And as Miss Harlington was nice enough to point out, I failed to take attendance last time."
I quickly nod in her direction, capturing her horrified look for just a second before I turn back to the crowd. Displeased whispers are hushing through the rows left and right, mixed with glances in her direction.
I don't want to single her out, especially there's reason to suspect that she's not very popular to begin with, but her attitude from last time cannot go unpunished.
"So from now, every time we meet I will let this attendance list pass around, so you can sign your name and prove that you've sat through my class and listened to my wise words from beginning to end," I say, producing a stapled stack of paper from my bag and holding it up in the air.
"Another thing that came up during my conversation with Miss Harlington is the fact that some of you might be interested in being graded for this class," I continue as I walk to the front row to hand off the attendance list. "As I've said before, there's not going to be a final exam, but if you're interested in writing an essay for a grade, you can turn it in to my research assistant."
I turn back to the front of the auditorium and return to my place in the spotlight. The murmur that fills the hall speaks volumes of the students' discontent with my proposition.
Oh, I bet they're going to love the next one.
"Also," I add. "Even though I don't feel qualified to evaluate your work, I would hate if my words were to go unheeded in this class. So we will have little random quizzes. Unannounced, and whenever I feel they make sense. I won't grade them - but it'd be nice if you don't give me reason to doubt your school's excellence."
An unhappy moan spreads across the crowd. I turn my gaze to Miss Harlington. She doesn't participate in the surrounding chatter, but fixates me with a look that is hard to read. She may hate me for mentioning her name. I pretty much blamed her for that stupid attendance list and also connected her to the idea of having unannounced quizzes.
She has every reason to hate me. I revel in the way she's looking at me now. She has to learn that her behavior has consequences, and this is just the beginning.
She doesn't raise her hand once during class. Every time my eyes land on her, I see her taking notes as if her life depends on it. Her shoulders are stiff and pulled up to her ears every time our eyes meet.
Such a good girl.
I bring my lecture to an end, leaving the students with a little assignment for homework. I never intended to give out homework, but little Miss Harlington inspired me to be the teacher she and others expect, at least in some regard.
She should thank me for not blaming the homework on her insights.
Just like last time, a bunch of students come up to me after class, bombarding me with silly questions and remarks. All of them are girls, and some come in groups of two, walking arm in arm, as if they were supporting each other. The second-hand embarrassment I feel is almost unbearable.
I cut them short and get out of the auditorium as quickly as possible. This time, Lana Harlington was not among them. I can't say I expected her to confront me directly, but a part of me was hoping for her to approach me like she did last time.
I make my way across campus, blinded by the late summer sun as I try to check my e-mails on my phone. The bright sunlight is making it close to impossible to read anything on the screen and it annoys the hell out of me. I hate being away from my responsibilities for too long, especially in a time like this, when one of my projects is about to be acquired by a bigger company. It's a small and rather young business and seeing the interest coming from the big players in the industry really pushed my confidence. The whole idea of it was new and risky, if it gets acquired at such an early stage - and for the sum of money that is in talks right now - it really shows that I know how to pick them.
"Was that really necessary?" I hear a voice coming from my left.
I stop and look up from my phone. My eyes are having trouble adjusting to the blinding sun for a few moments, but I see her silhouette right away.
Miss Harlington is standing a few feet away from me, in the shadow of a massive tree next to the bricked sidewalk I have been following. Her right hand is resting on the tree as if she was seeking support, while her other is holding a black satchel in front of her. She is wearing dark blue jeans, a white blouse and black ballerina flats.
Her eyelashes flutter as she looks at me. I know her face is supposed to show anger and determination, but the force she needs to display a non-existent confidence is obvious.
Her position next to the sidewalk, partly hidden by the tree is more than awkward. It's as if she's been waiting for me behind the bushes, ready to attack when no one else is around. No one from my class, that is.
"Was what really necessary?" I ask as if I have no idea what she's talking about.
She furls her eyebrows and steps closer. Just two small steps, that is all she dares. Her hand leaves the tree and joins the other hand at the handle of her satchel. Her shoulders are tense and lifted up to her ears.
"Blaming me like that," she says, raising her chin. "I told you why I was reluctant to tell you my name, and today you just proved me right to be suspicious."
"I didn't blame you for anything," I say. "I simply told the truth. You made me aware of a few things I needed to establish in class. You know, like a real professor would. Instead of being mad at me, you should thank me."
Her eyes widen with disbelief. "Thank you? For making me look like an ass?"
"Language!" I warn her, shaking my head. "Miss Harlington, all I did was consider your helpful advice. After all, you are more familiar with this environment than I am, wouldn't you agree?"
She looks at me with a skeptical expression. "Maybe."
"Besides," I add, now approaching her with two wide steps. She flinches but doesn't back away. Watching her react to me is captivating. Even the smallest motions make me burn inside.
I can't wait to see her orgasm under my touch.
"You should be aware of the consequences of your sassy behavior. Lecturing me as if I was a dumb little boy. Don't you think that was a little out of place?"
She narrows her eyes, holding my strict gaze while her lips move in odd ways. She's pressing them together, as if she's trying to stop herself from saying anything stupid, biting and tucking her lower lip so much, it almost looks painful.
"I agree I could have been more polite," she admits. The tone of her voice is unnatural and her words come out incredibly forced, following each other in a mechanic staccato, as if they were programmed into her.
"You're not very good at saying you're sorry," I say, winking at her.
That little wink makes her flinch and lower her eyes. It's endearing to no end.
The fact that she's been waiting for me is evidence enough to know that she seeks my presence, my attention. She's drawn to me, but she'll make me chase her. It's a game that many have played before. A classic example of courtship display that many fall victim to. I certainly have. I'm not sure about her, though. She might be new at this.
Her eyelashes are fluttering again and I notice her playing with her fingers, rotating a prominent black ring around her left ring finger.
It's easy to see that one of the hardest things for her is admitting things. Things she has done wrong, things she's feeling. Maybe even things she likes, things that embarrass her.
This could be endless fun.
She takes a deep breath and raises her eyes up to mine, giving the impression of a warrior who's entering battle.
"I said that I could have been more polite," she says. "That's as much of a sorry as I can give you."
She smiles at me, which takes me by surprise. Her smile is forced and has a belittling tone to it.
"Besides, I didn't hear you say sorry," she adds. "For pointing fingers at me in front of the entire class. You said I should consider the consequences of my behavior, but have you thought about your own?"
I raise an eyebrow at her. "I usually do."
"Oh, do you," she snaps. "Did it ever occur to you that everybody hates me now? And I’m not exactly popular to begin with..."
"That's not my fault," I retort. "Not being the popular kid in school has more advantages than disadvantages, anyway."
"Yeah, I know, I know. One can thrive in seclusion from the mainstream," she mutters crossly.
That's a quote from my book. I feel oddly flattered at the knowledge that she read it, or at least parts of it. It was not a requirement for the class. I have no reading list and no suggestions for the students. If she read it, she did it completely on her own terms.
"So, you read my book," I say. "What a compliment, considering I'm not a
She casts me another angry look.
"Well, I didn't read all of it," she says. "And I felt it was sort of a requirement, since you'd be teaching my last Econ class."
"Is this your major?" I want to know.
She shakes her head. "No, just a minor. My major is Sociology."
I want to roll my eyes at her, but keep from doing it. I pointedly check the time on my wristwatch. While I have nowhere to be for the next few hours, it's always good to maintain the impression that my time is valuable, because it is.
A fresh breeze travels across the campus, blowing the loose strands of hair in her face, while the light blouse flatters her slim frame. She lifts her left hand, the one with the black ring on it, and tries to keep the hair out of her face.
"Was there anything in my book that caught your interest?" I ask, expecting her to huff with indignation and shake her head.
But she just looks at me, with her hand still up to her temple, grimacing as if she was chewing on her words instead of saying them out loud.
"Actually, yes there was," she says eventually, lowering her hand.
Her movements are so considered and calm, in stark contrast to the heavy wind that forecasts a thunderstorm. It's been unusually hot and humid for the past few days, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who welcomes the cool breeze and the accompanied relief.
While it was sunny just a few moments ago, the sun is now suddenly hidden behind dark clouds and the heavens start growling above us.
Miss Harlington looks up to the sky with her mouth partly opened, studying the busy clouds above us.
Standing outside, let alone beneath this huge tree, once the thunderstorm breaks loose is not a good idea. But I'm not done with her, yet.
"If you wish to continue this conversation, I may have a little time right now," I tell her. "But we can't do it out here, with the thunderstorm approaching."
Her gaze goes back and forth between me and the rumbling sky above us. She's still chewing on her lips, her messy hair blowing around her pale face as she contemplates her options.
Finally, her eyes stay on mine, and she suggests a nod.
"Where should we go?"