"Well, I wouldn't want to get you in trouble," she said, "but I'm sure there's something we could do about it..."
The Professor kept his office hours on Friday afternoon even though it has been a very busy week for him. Faculty meetings. A dinner for a visiting professor. And of course the mid-term papers. They were stacked all around his desk, but he promised himself he wasn’t going to look at them until next week. After the long weekend.
He knew he was spending too much time at work. It was always bad this time of year, but it was especially challenging this semester with the additional composition section he picked up. His wife had been patient. She said she understood. But he felt bad nonetheless. The little things that always seemed to add up to be the big things were sacrificed. Dinners together. Lazy Saturday afternoons out on the deck. Reading in bed together. Putting the books down.
He just couldn’t shake this creeping feeling that they were growing apart. There had been an awful argument a few weeks back. It made him feel good that they were able to resolve it the way they did, by talking it through the night, and he had agreed not to go to the literature conference and instead stay home to try to smooth things over. He knew she appreciated that. But work kept him away, and he worried that the distance between them might be turning into a serious rift.
Just one peek at the papers, he thought, then I can wrap it up and head home. He was curious to see what some of the students wrote. There were a few young minds who had an impressive mastery over language. Their way of thinking impressed him and kept him engaged in his work. But he knew he should just head out. Still, he had made a point of emphasizing that he would be there for the students during office hours and he wasn’t about to bail on them, even though no one had visited him. Probably because he had been so vocal about his refusal to discuss their papers, and that no if’s and’s or but’s were going to be accepted for missing the deadline.
He knew he had to be the only one there because there was a stillness he rarely felt. The only thing he could hear was the admin’s fan she liked to keep on at all times. But she was long gone. We’re a college, he thought, I should probably do what’s right and save energy anyway we can.
So he got up to turn it off. The series of heavy dark wooden doors on both sides of the hallway were shut. Most likely locked for the weekend. He gave a discreet wiggle to Mark Lansing’s door to see if it was locked, figuring he would be the only professor who may still be around, and sure enough, it was locked.
The other professors must have better judgement than him. Stressful week, mid-terms, long weekend, it would be a time for them to get out of town. Or at least shut the door on academia for a few days. But he was up for tenure and didn’t want to cut any corners and give the college any reason to pass on him.
He was about to close up his office when he heard someone approaching.
The voice sounded exaggerated, like someone trying to be overly sexy. Backlit from the sun shining through the window behind her, she slowly came into view. Eventually his eyes adjusted and he recognized her. “Page?”
“I don’t want to bother you, Professor,” she said in that same sexy voice, twirling the ends of her long curly brown hair. “I know it’s late, but I was wondering if we could talk about my paper.”
He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing. White blouse. Pleated skirt. White socks pulled up to the middle of her calves. Conservative black leather shoes.
This wasn’t how college students dressed these days. Yoga pants didn’t always leave much to the imagination, and the warmer weather definitely meant they were showing more skin, but this was far more provocative. He wondered if anyone saw her walk through the building to his office. He was glad he was the only one inside.
“Please Professor, can we chat about my paper?”
It was going to take him a moment to think of how to respond, but he gestured towards his office and she followed him in. He removed a stack of papers from the chair. “Have a seat.”
She’s really overdoing it with this outfit, he thought. Now that he could see her in the light he noticed the bow ties in her hair and the way her blouse was unbuttoned just so. Revealing more by what it struggled to conceal.
He decided to take a firm tone with her and cleared his throat. “As you are aware, I will not be reading or grading midterm papers until next week.”
“I know. I just– “
“Go ahead. I’m listening.”
“I just wanted to know if I could have a do over on it.”
“A do over?”
“It’s just, I really wasn’t in the best place when I wrote it.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, exaggerating her hips as she did so and pouting her lips.
“The best place? This is a 400-level senior class.”
She lowered her eyes and fixed them on the succulent on his desk.
“I know,” she said, sounding wounded. “I just overslept and didn’t have enough time to spend on it.”
“Page, what’s your last name?”
“Anderson. Page Anderson.”
He took a sip of water and leaned back in his chair. “Well, Miss Anderson, we have rules here at the University and there are rules for a reason. They’re not meant to be broken just because you stayed out too late partying or hanging out with the boys.”
“I don’t mean to insult you, but frankly it’s insulting to me that you think you can come into my office dressed like that and demand a second chance at your paper.”
“I wasn’t demanding anything,” she said. He noticed a little snottiness in her reply. She reached over the desk and rested her hand on his. “But I’m sure there’s something we can do about it.”
“Miss Anderson, are you propositioning me?” He slid his hand out from under hers and heard a soft thump as her hand fell on the desk.
“Because if you are propositioning me I will see to it that you are reported to the dean and expelled from this university. And you’d have to apply for a do over elsewhere.”
“I’m just saying maybe things don’t need to be so black and white,” she said.
He was going to have to be more clear. “Black and white? BLACK AND WHITE? What is most certainly black and white is that I am up for tenure. And the slightest hint of impropriety could sink any chance of that.”
Again with the attitude. “Well, I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble,” she said in a sarcastic tone and paused for a beat, “but surely there’s gotta be something we can do about it.”
He pushed his chair back and abruptly got up from his desk. Shaking his head, not quite believing