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Ping! As the elevator arrived at the Political Science department, I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for the next few hours. It had been a long day and I was tired. Usually I looked forward to Thursdays, but my mood had not been helped by personal matters. As I stepped out of the elevator I mentally berated myself yet again for losing this extra time that could be done doing something else; but it didn’t stop a small shiver of excitement.
Nodding to a few professors, I quickly walked toward Professor Laurence McDowell’s office, where I received extra help for Topics in Ancient Political Theory. Turning my gaze, I felt the warm sun through the windows as I contemplated the Boston skyline. Once again I reminded myself why I was here. As I glanced up at the clock, I knew that I had arrived a little early and decided to mentally review what material I needed help with. However, I noticed my thoughts drifting the longer I pondered.
The material was interesting to me and the professor was an excellent teacher. However, my parents’ impending divorce, the advanced nature of the course, the load of my other classes, RAing, and my time spent working to support myself caused my grades to slip.
I was lucky Professor McDowell had noticed the less than spectacular papers and was more than willing to help. His enthusiasm for teaching and his students led me to choose Political Science as my major, as well as him for an advisor. He was well liked by students, and it wasn’t a surprise to see the same students take as many of his courses that they could, me included.
Once the professor understood my situation, he had been incredibly helpful. He had recommended alternate texts to read, people in the class who could help me, and offered weekly private office hours to go over the material along with any questions I had.
And it’s the private office hours that you really look forward to, said a small voice in the back of my mind. I shushed it, but had to agree. Grateful for the help, I was also secretly thrilled that I’d get to spend time with the professor without any interruptions.
Unlike some of his colleagues, McDowell was rather attractive. I had first become drawn to him when he had been a guest speaker in one of my lectures. He had been so confident and cheerful, speaking to the students, rather than at them. His blue eyes would sparkle and light up when he became particularly enthusiastic, and it was impossible not to be caught up with him. The professor’s hair often would fall into his eyes, and he’d push it back impatiently while speaking. When I began to recognize that habit of his, I thought it made him look like a dark and brooding romantic hero with no time to deal with trivialities like his hair.
When taking classes taught by him, I tried to dismiss my interest as a student crush on a teacher. It was to little avail. His attractiveness was not lost on other female students, nor the information that the professor was divorced. Sometimes it could be murderous trying to see him under normal circumstances, as many of them liked to see him just to “chat”.
You have him all to yourself now, said that same voice. I shook my head to clear it and knocked on the door to his office. After hearing “Come in!” I opened the door. Vivid blue eyes blinked at me over reading glasses; apparently I had interrupted something. He smiled when he saw I had entered.
“Emily!” he greeted me, rising. “Now I can procrastinate more in grading that never-ending pile of exams. I am eternally in your debt.” The skin around his eyes crinkled as he grinned, and I couldn’t help but smile at his boyish enthusiasm.
“I am glad I saved you from the tediousness,” I replied, playing along. “Now, if you were really in my debt, you’d give me an ‘A.’ How about it, Professor?”
“We-e-ll” he said, drawing out the word, “your arrival only delayed the inevitable. I’ll have to get to them eventually.” McDowell leaned forward conspiratorially and gave me a small smile. “How about…a ‘B’?”
I folded my arms and shook my head. “Come on! It’s not my fault someone procrastinated in grading them. ‘B+’ at least.”
“Or, you could do this the right way.” He nodded toward the chair in front of his desk. “If we don’t start, we’ll be here all night.” McDowell cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “That would be scandalous!”
Yes it would, but it’d be fun… We chuckled, but I felt a little uneasy. I tried to hide my discomfort by sitting down and settling myself in. I wondered if he knew how many of his female students would just love to pull an all-nighter with him.
After a brief pause Professor McDowell sat down. He began to neaten his desk a bit, pushing the exams aside as he brought the books we needed into view. Realizing he had a considerable number of exams and other items to re-arrange, he looked up at me. “Just give me a moment to switch gears here.”
Take all the time you need, Professor. I ofise gelen escort watched him as he tried to organize himself as quickly as possible. My tired mind let my thoughts drift as I waited.
I often fantasized about what I could do when alone with the professor in his office. How we’d appear simply as a professor and his student to the rest of the world. How that pretense would be dropped as soon as it was just the two of us. I’d playfully remove his glasses, pull him to me by his tie and we’d share quiet, passionate kisses before leaving for a romantic dinner.
Other times I’d imagine being the naughty student being “punished” by him. Despite my protestations he would force me down, holding my wrists against my back. Using his weight and strength, he’d bent me over a desk, driving himself into me. I’d try to push him away, only to end up thrusting against him…
“There we go.” McDowell had finished organizing the desk and settled into his chair. He looked up at me and smiled. The professor relaxed as he stretched his arms up and cupped his hands behind his head, waiting for me to start. Unfortunately, it was his turn to wait as I was distracted by how nice the shirt looked on him. Not only did it bring out his eyes, it also showed off his muscular chest and shoulders. I briefly imagined what it’d be like to tear off that shirt and see what his bare chest looked like, running my hands down his warm skin…
His voice brought me back to reality. “Emily? Are you ready to start? Are there any burning questions that we should get out of the way?”
I inwardly sighed, knowing that I was here for a few hours of hard work and not a sexual dalliance. “Actually, I had a question about certain points in the discussion regarding Hobbes’ theory on the state of nature…”
Over the next few hours we went through the various political philosophers talked about during class. Eventually my brain had had enough and I was getting frustrated through sheer exhaustion.
McDowell sympathetically smiled at me over his reading glasses. “We’ve gone over a lot of stuff. I’m sure your brain is tired. Mine is. Let’s take a break.”
I stood and stretched, my eye catching the couch he had along the wall. Realizing it’d be much more comfortable than the chair; I took a few steps and threw myself on it, grateful for the cushioning. As I put my head back to relax my neck, I saw McDowell move to join me.
I felt the couch shift with his weight, and I moved closer to the edge to give him space. I didn’t think it was best to get too close to him, as the couch wasn’t very big. Sometimes I wondered if he knew how I, or how many of his female students felt about him. On occasion it seemed he wasn’t averse to playfully flirting back with me, but I knew it’d never go anywhere.
He imitated my position, resting the back of his head against the top of the couch. We sat there in silence for a few moments, until I heard the movement of the couch fabric. Turning my head, I was drawn into his blue eyes, only perhaps a foot away from my own.
“Emily, are you okay?” His question prompted a frown from me, as I wasn’t sure what had trigged it. The professor continued to gaze at my face, almost as if he was searching for something. “You seem to be tired, and I noticed your attention occasionally drifting both in class and here. Has something happened?”
I turned my head away from him, looking up. I did not really want to get into it. I spoke to his ceiling. “Yeah, I’m ok as can be.”
His head lifted from the couch, and out of the corner of my eye I could see him intently looking at me. Some of his hair had fallen onto his forehead, and I resisted the urge to tuck the strands back into place. “I don’t want to pry, or to make you uncomfortable. If…if you felt my comment about staying here all night was inappropriate, I’m sorry.”
Feeling embarrassed, I turned towards McDowell. It had been a joke. “No, it wasn’t you. I knew you were joking…it’s just all the other…stuff.” That was eloquent.
He edged a little closer, gently placing two fingers on my wrist. His skin felt warm against mine, and I felt an urge to snuggle up and rest my head against his shoulder. “I only want to help Emily. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
Exhaling, I explained that I received a phone call from home from my mom. “She seems to think I’m going to go into politics or something. She still can’t or won’t understand why I didn’t go into engineering or computer science. That’s where the good money is, according to Mom. And with that money comes security, like she doesn’t remember the dot com bust.
“I don’t know. I can’t make her understand that Political Science as a major will automatically make me an intern to some sleazy politician. She’s still hounding me to change my major. That it would mean I’d be graduating much later than planned doesn’t seem to register either.
“Then otele gelen escort she goes on and on about my brother. She’s trying to guilt trip me into doing what she wants so he won’t go off and become an architect or something. I mean really, it’s not like he’s planning to open a video game store or something. But no, he’s rebelling, and heaven forbid we children don’t do what our parents want us to do.
“She’s just mad about the divorce. Her marriage failed, so now she has to make sure we’re in “good” jobs so she can show the world that she didn’t fail in something. I don’t know. I just want her to leave me alone.” I stopped, saying what it was I really wanted her to do.
I sat there, breathing hard with my shoulders hunched. Sometimes I just wanted to hit something after talking to my mom. Hearing only silence, I turned to the professor, afraid I had offended or perhaps unnerved him. To my surprise, he had a grin on his face.
He spoke through his smile. “Actually, I’ve often felt jealous of politicians.”
I felt my brow furrow, completely taken aback by this turn of the conversation. “Why?”
His smile broadened. “Professors don’t get sleazy interns. Certainly we get the Teaching Assistants, but they’re not as fun. They’re busy working on their theses or dissertations or something.”
Despite it all, I couldn’t help but smile at his flippancy. Yet, as I looked into his eyes, I faltered. At first I thought the professor was trying to lighten the mood. Yet, whether by the inflection of his voice or the look in his eye, it seemed as though there was something more to his words. I gazed at him, unsure of what to say.
I decided to keep it playful as I opted to raise the stakes. I raised an eyebrow and winked. “Interns don’t have a monopoly on sleaze, you know.”
McDowell’s eyes widened for a moment. His chest expanded and I noted once again how nicely he filled his shirt as he inhaled and maintained a single breath. His eyes lowered for a few seconds, then he exhaled. “No, I suppose they don’t. But we were talking about your family situation, right?”
I stopped, preferring the teasing and even sexy direction the conversation had been taking. It was a lot more fun than thinking about how my parents were driving me crazy. I didn’t have to turn my head, as I did not want to see McDowell’s eyes watching me. He seemed to know that he had hit a touchy subject, and I thought I could detect sadness in his voice.
“I know it’s hard…” His voice came calmly to my ear. “But it’s not easy for your Mom either. She’s going to have to provide for herself now. You said that she stopped working before you were born, I believe?” I nodded, feeling comforted by the soothing tones of his voice. “And of course, being Asian, there’s always the cultural and academic pressure.”
I smiled and inclined my head towards him. I tried to find something to say that would make him smile. “Are you saying non-Asians don’t have the same pressures? You’re stereotyping…”
But McDowell wasn’t going to be diverted. “I didn’t say that and you know it.”
Momentarily hurt, I stared at the ceiling again. “Emily…I didn’t mean to sound so harsh. Divorce is not easy for anyone. Your parents have legitimate worries. Not only will they not have the security of marriage, they still have two children to make sure get their degrees and have a stable and secure income.”
“And marry me off,” I mumbled, adding yet another item to my list of gripes. I heard a sigh from my left, and felt chastised. “I didn’t mean to drag all this in here, Professor. I know it’s not easy and I know they only want what’s best for me, but…”
“But they’re your parents and they drive you nuts. Yes, I know.” McDowell always made me smile, and he didn’t fail here. He however, remained serious as he sighed.
“It’s not easy, having to worry about your kids’ tuition when going through a divorce. You know I’m divorced, right? Perhaps it might help if you hear it from a parent’s perspective?”
I was surprised by his willingness to share but agreed. McDowell had mentioned his divorce when I told him of my own circumstances originally, but had never gone into the details until now.
He took a deep breath and spoke in a quiet voice. “I met Michelle in grad school. I took the academic route, became a professor. I thought she was crazy when she wanted to do a joint degree, but she said she could earn more money with both a MBA and JD.” He smiled, a faraway look in his eyes.
“We thought we had it made. I’d teach, she’d work part-time once the kids came. We could live the American dream and have it all, the white picket fence, the 2-3 kids, dog, you name it.” McDowell, faltered his smile fading.
“I don’t know what happened really. We just let our careers get in the way, like so many other couples. We just drifted apart after Luke was born. It just seemed we couldn’t sincan escort recapture what we had. I guess I thought having another child would help solidify the family, but it didn’t help. Not that either one of us regret Veronica.
“At first it wasn’t great for the kids, but I think they handled it a lot better than we did. Sometimes Luke tells us we worry too much, that we’re always asking how he and his sister are feeling. Michelle and I only want to make sure they know we’re there for them, no matter what. Parents forget how strong children are sometimes.”
He took a deep breath and paused, gathering his thoughts. I had not asked about his divorce before and sensed it had been something he didn’t really want to discuss. It was strange to hear him talk about it, yet comforting at the same time. Still, I said nothing and let him continue.
“But they adjusted well. Both are getting good grades and complain we worry about them too much. Michelle and I know we didn’t handle the situation well at first, but they’ve been wonderful. Luke’s really enjoying his football and Veronica has advanced yet another belt in kung fu. At this rate I’m going to be living with an NFL player and Mulan.” His voice faded away and I smiled at both his pride for his children and the cultural reference.
McDowell became somber. “I don’t feel like I spend enough time with them. I mean, I go to the games and the belt promotion ceremony things. Michelle is certainly willing to compromise and reschedule. But work has been so hard. It’s all research and reading and PhD dissertations and committee meetings. I thought things would be easier once I had tenure.”
I remained silent as waited for more. It seemed completely inappropriate to say anything. He didn’t and we sat there, lost in thought. I wasn’t sure whether to say something, or whether it’d even be appropriate to say anything. McDowell turned back to me. “I’m sorry! This is your confession time, not mine. We’re here to discuss you, not me. I didn’t mean to get side-tracked.”
I shook my head and frowned, trying to figure out what to say to make him feel better. “It’s okay Professor, really.”
Despite my reply, he moved closer so that our faces were just inches from each other. His eyes shined like a pair of topazes. “Are you sure? Is there anything else I can do? I know you’ve had a very hard time, Emily. You’re going to be thrown out into the adult world, to scratch a living for yourself. Granted, your parents really are not making things easier for you…” his drifted for a moment and it seemed he was trying to find his voice, or the appropriate words. “If you need anything Emily, you know you can always ask me. I’ve been there. I understand.”
I nodded. His hand felt strong and warm against my skin. I took a deep breath and tried not to stare into his eyes while trying to voice an adequate reply. “Thank you, Professor. You’ve already been a big help.”
This appeared to be the end of the conversation and I thought he’d move away. Yet it seemed there was some magnetic force there, keeping me inches from him. I was becoming very aware of his proximity and I knew I ought to leave, as I didn’t want to possibly embarrass myself. As I mustered my willpower I thought all I wanted to do at that moment was to sit there for the rest of the night.
Reluctantly I forced my head away, ready to depart. Suddenly his hand left my wrist and I could feel his arm coil around my waist, pulling me towards him. Before I could say anything, his other arm snaked around me and he pressed his lips to mine.
In my shock, I thought I was dreaming; but the feel of his lips kissing my own and his tongue exploring my mouth were both real. They weren’t tentative, exploratory kisses, it seemed as though he was trying to absorb as much of me as he could through the kiss. I breathed in his scent as I could feel my arms wrap themselves around his shoulders and neck, my fingers entangled in his hair. The moment seemed so unreal, but I didn’t let go. If it was a dream, I was going to hang onto it for as long as possible.
What are you doing?! As if by mutual psychic thought we sprang away from each other. I practically leaped off the couch as I backed away from him. McDowell rose as well, tentatively bouncing on of his feet. I wasn’t sure if he was trying to step closer or back away. From the looks of it, I don’t know if he knew himself.
I looked at him, breathless from the kiss, still unable to really think lucidly. We stared at each other, breathing hard. “I…” I started, wonderfully articulate. His eyes were so blue, I thought I’d drown in them. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, or of anything else, for that matter.
“Emily…” came his voice, filled with desire, fear, and desperation. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it…it was inappropriate.” McDowell backed away from me, eyes wide, palm wiping his mouth, as if to take away the taste of my kiss. “It’s…I think—go! I’m sorry. You should go.” He was babbling now, the reality hitting him.
I cautiously stepped closer to him, unable to decide what to do. What should I say? Should I say anything? My professor had just kissed me. Or did I kiss him? It was what I had always wanted. I was here of my own free will. This was a dream. No, I was really in his office. And he had kissed me.
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