Read Winter Jacket: New Beginnings Online

Authors: Eliza Lentzski

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Lesbian, #Romantic, #Lesbian Romance, #Genre Fiction, #Lgbt, #Gay Fiction, #Lesbian Fiction, #@lgbt, #Contemporary, #@unread, #Romance

Winter Jacket: New Beginnings (12 page)

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
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I was out the
apartment door with no time for breakfast and only a fleeting kiss to my girlfriend as I hustled to make my first class of the morning. I could feel myself start to perspire as I drove because of my phobia about being late, rendering my shower useless by the time I made it to campus. I ended up being only a few minutes tardy to my first class, but that hurried and unsettled feeling followed me all morning.

My second class of
the day was the writing seminar with Loryssa on the roster. She strolled into class a few minutes early and smiled in my direction as she sat down at her desk. I forced myself to look back down to my lesson plan and mentally prepare for that day’s class. I really didn’t know what to expect from her in light of her new living arrangement. I only looked up when I sensed someone’s presence.

Loryssa stood in front of me with only the teaching podium between us. Her skyscraper heels made her slightly taller than me that day. “
Did you have enough hot water this morning? I have a bad habit of taking too long of showers.”

At her words I reflexively darted my
eyes around the room. Her voice wasn’t particularly loud, but the question itself was a shade scandalous.

“I-it was fine,”
I said curtly.

She leaned
against the front podium and drummed her fingernails against its top. “Do you want to carpool to campus sometime? Hunter rarely has to come to campus for her classes, but I thought maybe you and I could.”

“I won’t
be spending the night in the future.”

Loryssa’
s carefully crafted eyebrows knit together. “Are you guys fighting?” she frowned.

This wasn’
t the time or place to have this conversation. I had a class to start and the last thing I needed was someone listening in on this conversation and having more rumors spread on campus.

I dropped my voice low to lessen
the chance of being overheard. “Hunter and I are fine. But you’re my student, Loryssa, so it’s inappropriate to be having pajama parties.”

Her concerned frown
deepened. “But you and Hunter—.”

“Didn’
t date until after I ceased being her teacher,” I cut her off. “And if you’ll please take your seat, I have to begin class now.”

I saw her hesitate; I could tell she wanted to say more, but thankfully she followed my cue and returned to her seat.

I glanced up at the classroom clock and then out to the dozen and a half students who populated the class. Nothing seemed amiss, so I tried not to let my conversation with Loryssa consume my thoughts.

“Let’
s start with a free-write this morning,” I announced to the class. “Everyone take out paper, or those of you with laptops, open up a new word document.”

I started to write a question on the board
that students would respond to. I liked to use these free-writing exercises, particularly on a Monday morning, because it jumpstarted students’ brains.

The door to the classroom swung open as I continued to scrawl on the chalkboard.
I expected to see a student coming in late, but I didn’t recognize the woman who came through the door. She was older, maybe in her late 40s or early 50s. Her black hair contained streaks of grey, pulled back in a severe bun. Her black suit was shapeless and her boots were unattractive.

“Can I help you?” I practically snapped.

“I’m from Dean Merlot’s office, Professor Graft. I’m here to observe your class today.” She purposefully traversed the entire length of the classroom, as if claiming the space as her own, to sit down at a vacant desk in the back corner of the room. I watched her set her briefcase on the floor near her chair. She pulled a yellow legal pad from her bag along with a pen. “Please continue,” she instructed me, clicking the writing utensil to life.

Shit
.

It wasn’t a surprise that Dean Merlot planned to observe our teaching by proxy; I’d thoroughly read the email after Thad had warned me about it. But I hadn’t expected to be personally evaluated so soon. I wasn’t sure how I managed to remain focused for the remainder of the period between Loryssa and Dean Merlot’s micro-manager both glaring at me. But by some miracle, the class period passed with minimal awkwardness. Once I reoriented my focus, I was able to block out the external distractions and teach.

I felt dizzy with stress by the time the class period came to a close. I dismissed the students and took a moment to take a few cleansing breaths as I collected my materials. Loryssa approached me, but I held up my hand before she could say anything.

“I don’t wan
t to turn this into a big deal,” I said. “You’re my girlfriend’s roommate, but you’re also a student in this class. So until one of those statuses changes, I won’t be staying over and you and I will maintain a rapport appropriate for professors and students. Understood?”

She bit her lower lip and nodded.

I tried to give her a friendly smile to lighten the moment, but it felt strained. “Do you have any questions for Wednesday’s class?”

“No, you’
ve been perfectly clear, Professor.” Her caramel colored eyes regarded me coolly and she shouldered her bag. “Have a nice day; I’ll see you Wednesday.”

The rest of the students filed out and the Dean’s spy came to the front of the room when we were alone. “What was that about?”

I had no idea what she’d overheard. “Nothing that concerns my teaching evaluation.”

She looked a little tak
en aback by my response. I hadn’t intended for my words to have such bite, but this day was wearing on me and it wasn’t even lunchtime.


Are we done here?” I tried to keep my tone civil, but everything that came out of my mouth sounded like I was pissed off. I threw my papers into my messenger bag. “I have another class to get to shortly.”

The woman flipped through the notes she’d taken on her legal pad. “No, I uh, I have all I need.”

I walked toward the classroom door, intending to make a silent, yet dramatic exit.

“One last thing, Professor Graft.” Her words made me pause in the doorway.
“The Dean wanted me to let you know she received your email concerning Professor Wagner.”

I’d nearly forgotten about the letter I’d sent Dean Merlot’s office the Friday of my birthday to protest the re-allocation of funds which had forced Kathy from Sociology to abandon her experiential course on women’s reproductive issues and rights.

“Is that why you’re here?” I demanded. “Because of that email?”

The woman
looked flustered. “Of course not. Everyone will be evaluated.”

“Uh huh,” I threw back, not believing anything from her mouth. “Have fun with that.”

+++++

I sat in my office
, staring blankly at my computer screen. I had a mountain of emails to respond to, but I wasn’t inspired. It had been a long week for me mentally. I’d successfully avoided a stack of student essays. I’d even written ‘grade’ on my To Do list and had crossed it off without ever starting the task. I congratulated myself for being so rebellious.

I was supposed to be meeting with a student in my 20
th
century Literature course about a paper she had “written” that was copy-and-pasted from Spark Notes, but I was being stood up. Plagiarism
and
missing a meeting – this student obviously did not want to pass my class.

“Knock, knock.” Hunter’s beautiful face beamed at me through my open office door.

“Hey, you.” I stood from my desk to greet her. “Is everything okay?” Based on my morning classes, I expected the worst.


Of course it is. I just thought I’d bring lunch to my favorite professor.” She waved a wax-paper bag which I knew contained a sandwich from my favorite downtown deli. “I know you missed breakfast.”

She leaned across the desk, waiting for a kiss hello. I glanced at the open office door. W
ho knew how many of Dean Merlot’s spies might be lurking out in the hallway? I hated that the thought even came to mind. I shouldn’t have to look over my shoulder every time I wanted to kiss my girlfriend. But I also hated the conference Bob had had with me about it. It had felt like getting called into the principal’s office, but I’d done nothing wrong.

I kissed her, ti
ght lipped and brief. If it was unsatisfactory, she didn’t say as much.

“Question,” I posed as she settled down into the chair across from my desk and began to unpack our lunch.

“What, hun?”


When Loryssa called you about the apartment, did she know who you were?”

Hunter’s brow knit. “No, we’d never met before.”

“I mean, did she know you were Professor Graft’s girlfriend?” I tried to clarify. It felt unnatural to refer to myself in the third person, but I had a purpose for asking the question.

She looked thoughtful. “I didn’t post my
name on the flyer, just my number. She called and we met for coffee, and since she wasn’t a socially awkward mutant, I brought her by the apartment to give her a tour. I may have mentioned I had a girlfriend named Elle, but I really can’t remember.”

I felt a twinge of jealousy that Hunter hadn’t mentioned any of this to me
before now, but I calmed myself. She hadn’t done anything wrong. It wasn’t infidelity to have coffee.

Hunter frowned. “
You’re thinking she sought me out to get special treatment in your class?”

“Maybe? I don’t know.”
I sighed and fell back into my office chair. It sounded so egotistical when actually voiced, but I was still suspicious. “She just acted so…
unsurprised
to see me in your bedroom last night.”

H
unter made a thoughtful noise. “You make a good point.”


Well, regardless of her intentions, it won’t be a problem now,” I noted. “I had a talk with her after class today about boundaries, plus it’s not like I’ll be running into her anymore when I’m brushing my teeth.”

“A
re you
sure
you can’t stay the night anymore?” Hunter openly lamented.

“It’ll only be for a little while,”
I promised. “It’s practically Spring Break, and then the semester will fly by.”

She sighed and looked disappointed. “Okay. You’re right. Once the school year is over, things will be back to normal for us.”

I thought about my interaction with Dean Merlot’s teaching evaluator, and I wasn’t quite so sure.

“I was thinking about going to the track after work today,” she said as she bit into a ham and cheese sandwich. “Do you want to come?”

“Only if you don’t make me run.”

Sometimes we went to the loc
al high school track after work. Usually Hunter ran while I sat in the bleachers and read, wrote, or graded papers. She was like a gazelle, long legs striding like she was hardly exerting any effort. Her leg movement was so fluid and languid she looked like she was barely moving except when there were other people on the track and she strode past them. I’d discovered that runners were a different breed of person with their own culture. She’d gotten to know a few of the people who also religiously ran at the track, and listening in on some of their conversations was like observing aliens.

She’d dragged me on a few runs and had even helped me pick out a new pair of running shoes, but I just wasn’t mentally tough enough to go more than a mile or two without my mind co
nvincing me I was going to die. I’d thought myself mentally tough or at least in shape enough to keep up with her, but I’d sorely overestimated my own abilities. But she didn’t tease me; she was just gently encouraging throughout it all. She said she’d get me to run a 5K race with her some day.

“Hey, you want to get a drink tonight?” My friend Emily walked into my office without knocking. “So sorry!” she exclaimed when she noticed I wasn’t alone. “I didn’t know you were meeting with a student.” She turned crisply on her kitten heels and walked straight out from where she’d come.

I practically leapt from my chair. “Emily!” I called out to her.

She paused and came back. “Yes?”

“This is Hunter.” I didn’t spend much time off-campus socializing with my co-workers, so I hadn’t felt the need to introduce Hunter to everyone in the Department. Emily was different though.

“Oh!” Emily exclaimed, recognition coloring on her face. “I’m so sorry I called you a student. I had no idea.” She flashed a reproachful look at me. “
This one
never puts up any personal belongings in her office, let alone a picture of her girlfriend.”

“It’s okay,” Hunter dismissed easily. She abandoned her sandwich and stood up to greet my friend. “Technically I
am
still a student for a few more months.”

Emily was silent while she took in Hunter’s presence. Her
eyes narrowed perceptively. “So you’re the reason my dear colleague has put up with so much grief this past year.”

“Oh, lord. Emily, that’s not fair,” I chastised.

“I’m sorry,” Emily said with a mischievous grin. “I couldn’t help myself.” She continued to look between the two of us with that same impish grin. “We’ll have to do dinner sometime,” she offered. “There’s a new Indian place I’ve been wanting to try.”

Hunter was doing her best impression of a robot beside me. I kept my hand firm against the small of her back as a stable, reassuring presence. “Sounds great,” I said. “We love the stuff.”

“Henry’s IBS might not,” Emily commented with a snort, “but maybe he’ll just have to stay home and we’ll have a girls’ night.” Emily was a Rhodes Scholar and I bet she’d never before uttered the phrase “Girls’ Night” in her life.

With a promise that we’d get together soon, Emily left us to our lunch. Hunter flopped down on the extra chair in my office. “Do you really still get a hard time about dating me?” She sat up more erect in the chair. “Tell me the truth.”

“Emily was exaggerating,” I insisted. “Everything’s fine.” Even though the words came out, I couldn’t help but glance back at the open office door and wonder when my next run-in with Dean Merlot would be.


Is this something that’s really going to happen? Dinner with her and her husband?”

“Probably not,” I admitted. “Not because of you,” I was quick to add. “I think Emily was just being polite.
She’s never invited me and my significant other out for dinner with her husband before. I’ve actually never even met the man. I’m kind of convinced he doesn’t exist.”

Hunter looked more at ease. “I guess I didn’t think about what dating a professor would really mean. Everyone’s so
smart
. Like, total brains. I wouldn’t even know what to talk about.”

BOOK: Winter Jacket: New Beginnings
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