The Student and the Professor {Ashes}

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  1. Who in hell would ever think that it was a good thing to have a English class right after a wildlife biometrics class? Certainly no one in their right mind, or at least not someone who just about loathed any English class that they had ever taken in their life, so much so that they avoided taking the class until just about the last minute so that they wouldn't have to sit through the class when they really didn't want to. Oh no, that would be a terrible idea, right? To have to have one difficult class and then turn around to take one that was generally regarded as boring with the literature that would be read and with the essays that would have to be written in order to pass the class; now that was a stupid idea, because who would do something like that?

    Then again, Hayden had never really considered herself to be one to make the best decisions in her life when they became extremely important to her.

    Groaning to herself as she blew out a sigh from her mouth as she re positioned the backpack on her shoulders, she grumbled to herself lightly as she made her way through the pathway that was made around campus for the students to walk upon, though most of the time students would trample their feet upon the grass in order to make a short cut to their destination. Surely she should have better planned her schedule, just so that she could have avoided doing something as stupid as getting her English class to be right after her wildlife biometrics class, one that she felt as if she was really going to enjoy later on in the semester once the class would finally start. However, when dealing with measurements and taking in information for different formulas that would help her pass the class, it took a lot of her mind power, or so she liked to think, and really, she did not want to spend an hour and fifteen minutes listening to a professor raddled on about some literature 'genius' that created 'great work that will never be able to be replicated' right after that class. Perhaps she had just had terrible English teachers in high school, she wanted to reason with herself, and that they were the reasons as to why she wanted nothing to do with this class, however she figured that that wasn't the case. She just, frankly, wasn't into learning about any those things.

    Could she understand the people who did like this kind of subject? Of course, if only because she was questioned more often than not of how she could enjoy her science classes as much as she did, and of how she could stand all of the math that she had to deal with. It was just her thing; it was something that kept her interest and it was something that kept her awake because she liked it, and she figured that since she could like something like that, then someone could like something like English. She liked learning formulas, she liked looking at the chemical properties of things, but, most of all, she liked biology. She liked the body, she liked cells and molecules and other things of that nature, and she certainly liked working with those things in animals. It was so interesting! How could it not be? True, it could become quiet bothersome when having to remember so many different terms and formulas, but certainly it was better than having to read a story that she may not even understand because she couldn't read between the lines like most people probably were able to to analyze and understand the deeper meaning behind it all. That, and because she wasn't the best with writing essays on said stories or essays that they had to read.

    It just didn't seem right to her; she had well enough English skills, and while she hated writing essays she figured that she could do them relatively well, so why did she have to take a class on it, especially seeing as it would do nothing to help her, really, in regards to getting her into vet school? She was more than convinced that the things she would have to listen to in the class would do nothing to benefit her, so why take it?

    But alas, she had to take it since it was part of her curriculum. If she wanted her degree, she had to take this class and she had to pass it. Great. But maybe it wouldn't be as bad as she was making it out to be; maybe she was just overreacting. She wanted to believe so, and she wanted to believe that she would be able to get through this class with the ease that she had been able to get through her other classes. Hayden figured herself to be relatively smart, not the natural kind of smart like a few of her friends were who could fall asleep in class and still come out with an 'A' on any test that they took despite the fact that they didn't have to study but once to memorize everything, but the kind of smart where if she studied something hard enough and worked with it long enough she could understand it and then remember it, which she did with all of her classes, or most of them anyway. Throughout her time in college she had only made one 'B' out of all of her classes, the rest of her grades having been 'A's' with that one 'B' having been for her Early U.S. History class, because, again, why did she really need to know something like that?

    Of course, she could have taken an English class to have gotten it over with long ago, herself knowing that she probably should have done that during her Freshman year, but because of her stubbornness and dread for the class, she pushed it back until now, her Junior year of college. But she digressed; maybe this would be a bit of a blessing. Though the class would, more than likely, be boring to her, perhaps this class would be able to give her a little bit of a break between everything else, seeing as this was the lowest level class she had that semester.

    As she made her way into the building that the class was to be in, Hayden Johnson ran a hand through her dark brown, wavy hair that reached down a few inches past her shoulders, her generally tan skin beginning to finally cool as she stepped into the air conditioned place. Breathing out another sigh, she reached in her pocket to grab out a piece of paper that held her schedule on it, herself peering down at the paper as before she picked her head up to look this way and that as she made her way down the hall. Now, where was the class... Oh, there it was!

    Before she stepped into the place she could hear the chattering of students here and there, and when she stepped into the classroom that had the room number that she was supposed to be in a few students turned their heads to look in her direction before they would turn away to return back to their conversations. Hayden shook her head before she pocketed the schedule again and headed into an empty seat, herself sitting at the second table to the front of the room, five tables lining in the room, them all long with chairs attached to them already. As she pulled the chair out to swing back so that she could sit on it, Hayden started to slip the backpack from her shoulders as she finally sat down, leaning down to open the pack to grab out a notebook and a pen, furrowing her brows to herself as she leaned back in the chair and grabbed her phone from her other pocket. There were about ten minutes left before the beginning of class, and as soon as Hayden picked her head up to look in the direction of the door after seeing a bit of a shadowed figure come into the room, she rose her brows at the sight of the man who walked into the room, heading to the front and over to the podium. Apparently there was their professor.
  2. "Yeah... okay... I understand... Fine, bye."

    With a sigh Jack flipped his phone shut. His soon-to-be ex-wife just couldn't leave him alone about the divorce settlements. Though they were supposed to go through their lawyers for such things, Karen called at least three times a week. It was so difficult, hearing the voice of a woman that he still loved, chiding him over his poor bookkeeping and whether or not he really needed the lawnmower, since he was living in an apartment now anyway. The divorce wasn't his idea, to say the least. He thought that they had been happily married over the past eleven years, but apparently he was mistaken. One day he came home from the university and Karen was crying, talking about how she couldn't do it anymore. Though he was initially confused as to what 'it' was, he eventually figured out that 'it' meant marriage. To him.

    His apartment, found fairly quickly after that fateful day, had become his prison. The walls were blank, most of the pictures from the past fifteen years bringing about happy memories with Karen, which were now incredibly painful. She insisted that their friends not know until the divorce was in process, so he had lost contact with most everyone. His mother called once a week, a paragon of kindness in the darkest time of his life. Just last night she had reminded him to keep his head up and focus. He was on track to make tenure next year, and he needed to stay focused on his job. But really, his job was all he had left. At 34 years old, Jack felt that he really hadn't accomplished much. Sure, he had a doctorate in English literature and taught at the best college in the state. Sure, he'd had a couple short pieces published in national writing journals. Sure, he'd scored the winning goal during the hockey championships in his last year of undergrad. But his diploma, the journals, the trophies... they were still packed away in the boxes that littered the corner of his living room.

    Looking into the bathroom mirror it was easy for him to see how miserable Karen's latest phone call had made him feel. He was so angry with her, but he missed her more than anything, and it was starting to wear on him. Splashing his face with cold water, he pushed back his slightly shaggy blonde hair, scratching at the scruff on his chin and cheeks. Karen would be pissed if she saw him - she hated when he wasn't clean shaven. The stubble highlighted the light pink scar on his left cheek. It was the remnant of an old hockey injury that had nearly broken his jaw. She hadn't liked the scar either, said it made him look reckless, whatever that meant. He loved the scar, as it reminded him of a time where he felt like a winner. He could have gone pro - he had the right build, short and muscular, but Karen had refused. She wanted a family, she said, and professional hockey would get in the way. Sometimes he regretted it, but he loved his job. Literature was an escape, now more than ever. If he could bury his head in the complete works of Shakespeare, then maybe he could ignore the gaping hole in his heart that Karen had left.

    Realizing that he was running late for class, he quickly knotted a dark red tie around the collar of his white button down shirt and ran out the door. His apartment was right next to campus, and fortunately the classroom for his freshmen level English class was close. As he walked quickly to class, he glanced at the students milling about. Some of them he recognized from classes. A girl sitting near a bush had written the worst essay he had ever read in his life about The Scarlet Letter. A boy running toward the recreational center had turned in an analysis of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew that had clearly been written after he watched the more recent movie adaptation, Ten Things I Hate About You. One girl smiled and waved at him - she was an excellent student, he remembered, always turned in her papers a day early. So many students had passed through his classes over the past eight years, and he remembered nearly every single one of them. He constantly wondered how they were doing, if they were following their dreams. Perhaps sometimes he thought of them with envy, wondering what his life could have been if he could go back in time, back to his junior year of college. The year he met Karen, the year that everything had changed. But would he really change it? Jack honestly wasn't sure anymore.

    He ran into the faculty office, popping the syllabus for his class into the copier, quickly making 20 copies. "Running late again, Jack?" Phyllis asked, shooting him a knowing smile from behind her desk. Though she could be a bit of a busybody, Phyllis had always been kind to him. She reminded him of his mother, who was currently half way across the world on a cruise through the Mediterranean. The fact that they had a very similar shade of golden blonde hair didn't help.

    "Ah, you know me, Phyllis. If I wasn't late, I wouldn't get anything done." He peaked into his mailbox, pulling out a few forms that he had to fill out later. Putting them in his bag, he swiped his copies from the machine, bid goodbye to Phyllis, and made his way down the hall. He could hear the chattering from two rooms down. Freshmen always seemed to be the noisiest, he thought, followed by seniors. Of course, there were always a few upperclassmen in his low level classes. They generally kept to themselves, not fitting in with students that were only two years their junior. He only had two this time - a junior girl and a senior boy. The rest were all freshmen, all wanting to get their English requirements done as quickly as possible. Jack could admit that he preferred teaching the higher level classes, if only for the student's enthusiasm. These lower level classes offered a nice break though, and a lot of entertainment, considering that their papers were generally terrible.

    He entered the room, moving immediately to the podium. It was a classroom that he had taught in multiple times before and he felt himself instantly getting into a groove as he pulled out his class list and the stack of copied papers. A small smile quirked at his lips - the papers were still warm. He put the stack on the front table, instructing the student to take one and pass them back. Standing at the podium, he looked over the class. The freshmen were squirming in their seats, fiddling with pens and notebooks. Some were trying to glance at their cellphones subtly, but it was completely obvious. A large boy that he recognized from the football team sat in the back, looking like he was about to take a nap. That was the senior, for sure.

    "Hello everyone," he began, his eyes roaming over the crowd. "I'm Doctor Ralston, but feel free to call me Jack. This is intro to English Literature, and I'm sure you're all very excited to be here this afternoon." A few people snickered, and he could have swore he heard the football player start snoring. "I'll be taking attendance, just to make sure that you're all in the right place. As he went down the list, he locked eyes with each student, giving them what he hoped was a comforting smile. He came to the other upperclassman on his list - they were all conveniently marked - and raised his head. "Hayden?" he called, his light hazel eyes glancing around.
  3. Even after the man walked into the room, Hayden found her eyes gravitating back towards the phone that she held in her hand, beginning to drown out the noises around her as she started to read the text messages that she had gotten throughout the time that it took her to walk from the building where her biometrics class had been to this building. A few she had to raise her brows at, even bringing a little bit of a smirk to her lips before the expression would fall as she flipped to the next one. In all honesty, she, somewhat, hated the world of texting, if only because of the habit that a lot of her friends had with shortening and abbreviating every single word that they wanted to send to her. Really, was it so bad to type everything out? Did it not take them longer to sift through their mind of all of the abbreviations? But she digressed; what ever floated their boat was fine with her. So long as she could decipher what they were saying, she was completely fine with it, even if it did become a bit aggravating at times.

    But, pushing the thought aside, as the noises in the room began to quiet as the man at the podium started to speak and introduce himself, Hayden flipped her gaze from her phone to the man, her lips pursing before she put her phone into sleep mode and shifted it back into her pocket, herself still leaning back against the chair as a paper was passed to her. After grabbing a sheet, she passed the rest down and started to look down at the syllabus, taking note of the office hours that the professor had, as well as other general information that would lead the students into contacting him if they ever needed him for something that dealt with the lessons that he would present to them. After a while she looked up from the paper, however, and listened as the man started to name off the names of the students that were in attendance, her eyes every once in a while flickering over to the other students in the class. More than likely these were Freshman, anxious for one of the first classes of their first semester in college, something that she could respect, though something that amused her a bit, if only because of the looks that they would give and of how their legs would jut up and down quickly with nerves. She couldn't blame them though. She had been the same way when she was a Freshman; anxious beyond all belief when beginning her college career because she didn't know what to expect.

    It had all been a mixture of fear an excitement; fear of what could happen and fear that the classes may be too much for her, so much so that she may even begin to rethink her career path and major direction, and excitement because, finally, she was out of the house and away from her parents. She loved them, of course, but she knew that once she jumped into the realm of college she would be considered an adult to most eyes and that was what she always wanted, especially given how she was twenty years of age at that point. It was long past time that she be treated like an adult. Of course, that would still come in due time, she figured, given how the people she hung around with didn't necessarily consider her to be an 'adult' just as they didn't seem to consider themselves to be true adults in a way. They were all just... People. Had she been getting a bit more respect from her family after proving that she could do the work in college, however? Yes, and she loved it so dearly much, though she hated the times in which her parents would begin to treat her like the little girl they still wanted her to be.

    Going to college meant that she could make her own decisions, and it meant that she could begin to take care of herself, even if this place of education gave students a bit of a false sense of responsibility and Hayden wouldn't even argue that it was a bit of a false sense. But she tried her best to be independent and on her own without her parents help, the only thing having really stopped her from that being the fact that they didn't want her to pay for anything because they didn't want her getting a job yet, other than over the summer with the internship she had at a veterinary office in her home town. They just wanted her to be able to completely focus on her studies, rather than be bogged down with work that may distract her more than she wanted to be, though, when she thought about it, she figured that they just wanted her to focus on her studies so that she could keep the scholarships she had been awarded.

    But as thoughts of her past freshman year of college crossed her mind, Hayden quickly brought herself to the present when a slight jump came to her body as her name was suddenly called. It took a couple of seconds for her mind to process the fact, but when it finally did she blinked her eyes quickly and looked up at the man to take notice that he was looking around the room for her. "Here," she responded, raising her hand in the air to catch his attention before his eyes caught her sight. When that happened she lowered her hand and rested it against the table, leaning forward and straightening her back a bit to give herself a better posture. At least this professor wasn't one of the older ones. She had always being more intimidated by them just for the sheer fact that they certainly had more years on the subject than she really wanted to admit and see, which meant that they probably graded harder and were less lenient with things. But even as she looked at the man there seemed to be some sort of... Wariness to him, even behind the little smiles that he had given to the people's whose name he had called. Maybe this just meant that he would be an easier teacher; maybe this meant that he could really care less about the lower level class and would rather be teaching something else. That thought, in a sense, calmed her a bit, and made her feel a little better.

    Nevertheless, the thought caught her attention enough to cause her to narrow her eyes a bit, her gaze looking the man up and down before she turned them to look away at the board as she listened to him go off with the rest of the names on the list.
  4. The class continued like the start of any other semester. He explained the syllabus, went over the reading material, the assignments, his office hours, etc. Though he wasn't sure why he even included office hours for the lower level classes, since freshmen never came to his office hours. Though he wished they would. The time he spent waiting in his office for a student to show up was boring to say the least. Occasionally he would watch hockey games or do the Sudoku from the daily newspaper, anything to distract himself from the fact that the students didn't care about the area of study to which he had dedicated his life.

    Considering that it was the first day, he let the class out early. They seemed like a good bunch. The freshmen were fidgety, maybe a handful of good writers. Hopefully, anyway. The senior football player started doodling on the desk near the end. The other upperclassman, the junior girl, kept glancing at her phone, but overall she seemed bored. Probably another one that waited too long to take the required English course. Hopefully she would pay more attention than the football kid.

    Though it was only Monday afternoon, he felt exhausted. He didn't have any more classes that day, and his office hours didn't start until the next day. They were Tuesday and Thursday mornings, from 10 to noon, or by appointment. He always left the appointment option on there, though few took advantage. Even the students in his advanced classes found time to come to his office hours on the rare occasion. Though he was one of the higher ranked professors in the department, he still taught these lower level courses. After he got tenure he would leverage it so that he only taught classes he enjoyed. Maybe he'd start teaching more graduate level courses, even.

    He went to the Hub, which was the popular nickname for the student center. Officially named the Hubertson Building, the expansive area had nearly everything a student could want - coffee, multiple dining options, couches perfect for napping, quiet study areas, a printing area, and more. But all he was interested in was the coffee. Quickly picking up his regular order of some iced drink that Karen had made him try that he ended up loving, he made his way back to his office, filling out paperwork until he went back home. The routine was already getting old, and it had only been a day.


    A few weeks passed, bringing about the chill of autumn and the first big assignment in his intro to English Lit class. Through some shorter assignments, he discovered that the class as a whole wasn't terrible, but that really wasn't saying much. He stood in front of them, leaning against the podium, holding a copy of The Great Gatsby in his right hand. "Your paper on Fitzgerald's most popular work is due in one week. There are two office hour opportunities before the due date, and you can always ask questions through email. If you need help," he said, eyeballing a few of the more hopeless students, "please don't hesitate to ask."

    He knew his words fell on deaf ears, considering that he couldn't remember the last time someone from his intro to English Lit came to office hours. Unless they were begging for extra credit at the end of the semester, of course. More than anything, he just wanted to go home. The divorce finalized the previous day, and he was still in a state of shock. Somehow, he had been hoping that Karen would change her mind, that they could go back to the way they had been - but that had been shattered when they signed the papers and she left with a handsome younger guy in an expensive suit. Jack wanted to throw something, to yell, to scream. Instead he went home and got shitfaced, and he planned on finishing off this pack of beer that evening.

    By the time his Thursday office hours rolled around, he was slightly hung over and he knew he looked fairly terrible. But he was awake and alert, though he figured he would just be staring out the window for two hours. He propped his door open so everyone would know that he was in and proceeded to watch the students milling about the quad at the base of the English Department building. Even his job was starting to lose meaning, and Jack wasn't sure how to pull himself back anymore.
    #4 ashes, May 30, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2015
  5. Throughout the few weeks that the semester had been in session, Hayden had gotten herself back into the rhythm of waking up early in the morning for morning classes, doing homework, and studying for test and quizzes that the professors would spring upon them, some of them pop, others having been planned. But even if she was able to set herself back into the swing of school life, she still could not help but believe that this semester was different, and it wasn't only because of the fact that her classes were harder and because of the fact she found herself stressing over her classes already; she figured that it may be because of the fact that now she was really beginning to set into her core classes. She wanted to do well with what she did, and she wanted to up her chances of getting into vet school because it wasn't easy and she didn't want to end up failing at what she had been working so hard for because, if that happened, then what would she do? Hayden knew that there was still another year of schooling that she had to go through for her senior year, but it nevertheless still made her nervous, and why she was beginning to think about her future so much was beyond her.

    Perhaps it had been because of her roommate and her preaching about the opportunities that she had been given and how for the summer she would get this internship at some office that she would likely stay at after she graduated with her degree. No her having to go to graduate school or anything, she would likely have a job already, a good one as well, and that made Hayden nervous because she knew she wouldn't be in that same position. While she had gotten an internship over the summer, and while she was likely going to go to the same place for this summer, she wouldn't be offered a job for a long while because she still had so much more school to go through after her undergraduate year. She even spoke with her mother about her worries a few days ago, telling her that she was afraid to mess up in any of her classes because she felt as if these ones would really make or break her, and, of course, her mother told her not to worry and just study. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done.

    But as she sat in her English class again, she leaned her elbow against the table with her head resting against her hand as she listened to the discussion go on about something or other that they were reading about. This class wasn't as bad as Hayden had originally thought, however that still didn't make it any better in her eyes. It was still incredibly boring, and it was still a class that she considered to be a waste of time. Nothing of what they were doing interested her in the least bit and, to be honest, she normally pushed this class on the back burner of her mind so that she could put her full attention into her other classes. Yes, her grade was already beginning to slip for this class based on the assignments she had turned in already because she never paid full attention to what was being talked about, ending her up with already a 'B' despite the fact that only a few weeks had passed. But she told herself not to worry about it; there was no way she could get anything lower than a 'B' in an English class, right? Especially for an intro one.

    That used to be a thought that crossed her mind anyway. As soon as the wording of their first paper was brought up in class, it being mentioned that it was due in a week, Hayden snapped her attention to the man at the front of the room and looked at him with furrowed brows and a puzzled look. What... When the hell did this come up?! Sure, maybe if she looked at the syllabus every once in a while she probably would have taken note of the due dates for assignments, however, since she hadn't, and since she generally drowned things out in this class, it was almost as if this was the first time hearing about the assignment.

    For the next couple of days she actually put English on her list of classes that she had actual homework for to work on, herself having read the reading assignment that they had to write about while she looked at the prompt that they were given. An analysis paper, one that she did not want to deal with, but something that she was beginning to become more flustered about than she actually wanted to. Maybe she should have listened to him explain things in class better; maybe she should have listened to the discussions that went around the class about the work.

    Hayden groaned to herself as she leaned back in her chair, herself sitting at a round table at the Hub with her roommate who sat on the other side of the table, a bit of an amused smirk crossing her lips. "I can't believe you're actually stressing yourself out over this paper. It's English lit., Hayden! English lit.! You should be able to get this done easily with how easily you're able to figure out those math problems and science equations and everything else you do."

    With the roll of her eyes, Hayden peeked to look up over the screen of her laptop as she looked at the girl in front of her, huffing to herself lightly as she turned to look back at the screen. "Oh, shut up, Emily. You're not helping."

    Emily threw her hands up in a defensive manner as she pursed her lips and shook her head. "Oh come on, lighten up. I've never been able to give you a hard time about a class since that history class you had, and I want an opportunity to do so."

    This was so stupid; why was she having such a hard time trying to get something down on the paper? She blamed her high school teachers. No, she blamed herself. Hayden's fingers lightly tapped against the side of the laptop as she blinked her eyes at the one paragraph she had of the paper, it only being the intro and not a very good one either. What else could she saw without making this seem like some sort of summary of the book? What could she say that would keep it on topic with what the prompt was saying? A terrible feeling was beginning to well in the pit of her stomach, because really she only had a few more days to work on this paper and she had other homework to work on and finish that needed to be turned in tomorrow and on Monday, and it was because she was beginning to feel like an idiot because she couldn't figure out something like this. It was English; why was she having such a hard time?

    She needed help; she needed to ask for some advice on this even if that just about went against everything she went for. But, if she had to suck up her pride and ask for help to get a good grade, then so be it. She refused to get anything lower than a 'B', especially n a freshman level course. "I'm just gonna go, since you seem so insistent on bothering me." Again she rolled her eyes, but this time she closed her laptop as well and put it back into her backpack.

    "Aw, come on Hayden, you know I didn't mean it."

    "I know," she said as she put her backpack on her back, herself standing shortly after. "But that still doesn't mean you're not being a bother. I'll see you back at the apartment." And with that she departed, herself going in her mind to try and remember where that man's office was. Before she had closed her laptop she looked online to see where his office was, and after seeing that it was only eleven o'clock in the morning, she figured that she had an ample amount of time to ask him for help. Still, it was hard to believe that she was doing this, even to herself. There had only been one time she she had ever gone to a professor's office hours, and it hadn't even been because of the fact that she was worried about her grade; she just needed to go to make up a test. It had been during her sophomore year in the fall semester when she had fallen too sick with a virus to do anything and landed her in the hospital. At least the professor figured that that was a viable reason to let her make up the test.

    Where was his room, where was his room... As she walked her way into the English Department building, she blinked her eyes and turned this way and that as she navigated her way through, pouting to herself gently before her eyes widened a bit when she saw the number that she was looking for. The door was slightly ajar, and from the side of her vision she could see the movement of a shadow in the room. So, someone was in there. Taking a breath, she shook her head and headed over to the door before she peeked in a bit, only to see Doctor Ralston sitting at his desk, looking a little more than worn out and rough. What happened to him? The sight alone made Hayden pause as she tilted her head, a certain sense of sympathy coming to her over the man despite the fact that she had no idea what, if anything, was wrong with him. But she had to push the thought aside; she wasn't here to examine him. She was here for help, despite the fact that she didn't want to be there.

    "Doctor Ralston?" She reached a hand over and knocked on the door with her knuckle gently to get his attention, and when he looked up to see her she gave a small, faint smile before it quickly fell as she stepped into the room. "You're office hours are still open, right? I'm having a little trouble with the paper and I've got a few questions to ask about it." She took another step into the office, one of her hands reaching for the strap of her backpack so that she could be ready to pull it off if he didn't send her away.
  6. He could do nothing but blink stupidly at the door for a moment. A student? From his intro to English Lit class? In his office? Suddenly he was very aware of how bare everything was outside of the texts lining the walls and his desk. Like in his apartment, all the photographs were gone, replaced with empty space and his constant Hub coffee cup. Before she had entered, he had been listening to hockey highlights on his computer and grading some rather poor attempts at textual analysis. His hand gently shut the laptop, stopping the announcer's voice from screaming about the stupidity of the goalie during the last play.

    It was Hayden, one of his upperclassmen. She looked a bit nervous, and he figured that she didn't often come to office hours for any teachers. Most students didn't, anyway. Upon taking in her request, he blinked a few times. "Ah, certainly!" he said, standing as he gestured to the chair next to his desk. He closed the door, shutting out the sound of the office ladies giggling down the hall. Hayden wasn't a terrible student, but she wasn't excelling. Jack had figured that she simply didn't care and would do the minimum amount of work to pass, which is what most upperclassmen did in these types of classes. But looking into her eyes, he noticed that she seemed genuinely concerned.

    Pulling out his personal copy of The Great Gatsby and a copy of the essay prompt, he began going over the assignment, answering her questions as they went through line by line. It wasn't a complicated assignment, but it did require knowledge of the text, and he could tell that she hadn't been focusing while she read. He recalled seeing that she was a science major and decided to try a different tactic.

    Setting the book on his desk, he leaned back in his chair, lightly stroking the blonde beard that had emerged over the past weeks. "Literature isn't really your thing," he began, keeping his tone light. "I can understand that. For the longest time the only thing I cared about was playing hockey. Science, math, even English - I really didn't care. Nothing made more sense to me than hockey plays, skating, and winning. When I decided not to go into the professional league, I thought the world had fallen apart. It was so stressful that I didn't eat for days at a time. But I started throwing myself into my studies, and found that immersing myself into a book made all that stress disappear, even just for a moment."

    Leaning forward, he rested his elbow on the desk. "I can tell that you're nervous. Whatever your nervous about, try shutting your brain off and living inside of someone else's story for a while. I'll give you an extension if you promise to try reading the book again, this time with a focus and relaxed mind. The prompt is asking for your opinion of these parts of the story. It isn't a trick question, I promise," he chuckled, pushing his hair back from his forehead. "Bring me your essay during these office hours next week and tell me how it went, okay? I'm here to help you understand literature, so I'll do whatever I can for someone looking for assistance."

    He reached forward without thinking and patted her shoulder gently. It was then that he realized how long it had been since he had been in contact with another human being. She was warm and friendly and very close - and she was his student. Sitting back again, he tried to stop the heat from rising in his face. So foolish, he thought, being so starved for affection. Karen and her young beau flashed through his mind, and he knew that she wasn't suffering. But talking to Hayden about the assignment had helped. Patting her shoulder had helped. He tried not to think about these things, offering her a smile. "Feel free to stop by any time," he said, picking up his worn Fitzgerald and fidgeting with it nervously. So much for being a cool professor.
  7. Despite herself, Hayden couldn't help but set her gaze on the emptiness of the office, the place feeling so impersonal, the place feeling so... Cold. It was a bit of an odd thought, one that she didn't necessarily want to think about, but remembering the way her organic chemistry professor's office looked she couldn't help but compare the two. While the other one had pictures that his children had drawn for him on the cabinets in the room, as well as pictures of them and his family on his desk, this office had nothing. Of course she reasoned with herself that it was only a professor's office; more than likely, he didn't keep things there. But again, she didn't know. And, to be honest, she didn't really care.

    Her eyes blinked as she nodded her head after the man motioned for her to sit down, herself pulling the chair back a bit as she let the backpack slip from her shoulders, herself swinging it over to set it on the ground. She reached in and pulled out her laptop, as well as her notebook for the class and a pen just in case she had any notes she wanted to write down- especially seeing as she had yet to do that in that class at all. After all, she figured that she really didn't have to take any notes for the class since she could always just read the literature she was given and go off of that. Apparently she was wrong in that, however, and as she started asking the man questions she found her pen scribbling words on the paper below her. She asked him about the story itself, as well as just about the introduction she had written for the paper, asking if she was on the right track or if she needed to scrap it all and completely start over.

    The talk certainly helped, and it led her to begin to understand the text a little bit more, though there were still more than enough blank spots in her mind about everything. Periodically over the time that she listened to the man speak and point out certain quotes in the text-ones that she would write down and make a note for herself to look at those again-, she would look at his face, watching as he seemed to concentrate on the little bit of work he was doing in explaining everything. It was apparent that he was well versed in this story, but it only made her wonder how many times he had to go over it, make notes for himself, and then try to explain it to kids who could, probably, care less about the subject, over the years if he had been teaching for that long. That thought, when it crossed her mind, made her think, and it even brought her mind out of what she had been trying to listen to as well. There was a part of her that felt a bit bad for pushing this class off as easily as she did, because regardless of the fact that she didn't like it, there was still a professor that had to like the subject enough since they wanted to talk about it. How would she feel if there were obviously students who looked like they would rather be at other places as they looked through their phone throughout the class and completely blocked out what she was trying to teach them? Probably pretty angry, but it was almost sad to think that that was exactly what she had been doing in his class.

    Was the thought and realization enough to get her to completely change her attitude on the class? No, not really. But it was a thought that stayed in her mind nonetheless.

    As he started to speak to her on a general basis, him mentioning that literature wasn't her thing, she couldn't help but snort at the notion because it was true. "Is it that obvious?" While in high school she had had reading assignments and essay's to do, just like in this class, she always only put half amount of effort into it all; she only did what was needed in order for her to get a decent grade, a decent grade for that class being either a middle 'B', high 'B', or a low 'A'. Anything else? Well, she just didn't like 'C's' or anything lower than that in any class, regardless of whether or not she liked the class. Luckily for her, she had never gotten that low grade in a class. Almost, but not completely. She just... Didn't like taking in stories, no matter how 'magical' or anything else it could be. Something like that wasn't in her mind set.

    But she pushed the thought aside as soon as hockey was brought into the mix, her head tilting as she narrowed her eyes at the man. So, he was a sports guy? Was that what had been playing on his laptop as she walked into the room? Hayden couldn't necessarily say, however she couldn't deny the confusion and surprise that came from her after he mentioned that he played the sport and was, apparently, good enough at it to have gone pro. Why would he pursue a job like this if he could have gone pro? Regardless of that, she knew that that wasn't the point that he was trying to make.

    "I feel like trying to immerse myself into the story is a lot easier said than done. I can just never... Connect with the characters, I guess." She shrugged her shoulders as she scratched at the back of her head after speaking. "I just feel like it's all so pointless given that they're fictional and given that they're just figments of someone's imagination that are on paper." Did she respect people of the craft? Yes, because not everyone could write and she figured sitting down to write a book wasn't a simple process, but was it something that she wanted to get into or even read? Not really.

    But then he brought up the extension, the words alone causing her to stop for a second and process it all. So, he was going to give her more time on the paper? While she didn't want to smile to show her obvious happiness, and relief, about the matter she could already feel her lips beginning to stretch across her face. She tried her best to pull them back in, herself having to bite the inside of her cheek as she placed her hands on her lap and gave him a nod. Yes! She was going to have more time on the paper; now she could worry about her other assignments. Of course, with the extension she knew that either he would expect her to have something much better than she probably ever thought about writing, or it meant that he really was just that lenient of a professor and was willing enough to help her. While Hayden wanted to believe that it was the second option, there was a part of her that believed it was the first; he was going to expect something better out of her because he was giving her more time to work on that.

    The thought alone was enough to get Hayden to drop her smile, if only because it worried her just a little bit. Did she really want the extension if it was going to mean her having to put more work into it? Yes, and it wasn't only because of the fact that she would have more time on it; it was because of the fact that he was giving her this opportunity to begin with. She was going to take it with stride and... Do her best with it. "Um yeah, okay. I'll definitely read it over again to try and understand it better. I'll do my best, I promise."

    Her smile softened a bit, though it just about fell as quickly as he leaned forward and pat her shoulders, causing her to raise her brows a bit as she looked back to the man. Perhaps he was just trying to give her a bit of encouragement for the assignment, just so that she would actually do it and do it relatively well. Nevertheless, she pushed the thought aside and started to put her things back in her backpack, zipping it up and then standing from her chair. There almost seemed to be a moment of an awkward silence that overlapped the two as Hayden but her backpack back on and looked back over to him, watching as he fiddled with the book in his hands. Right. And he said she was the nervous one.

    "Thank you for the help, and for reexplaining all of this to me. I really do appreciate it, especially the extension. Most professors won't do that for students." Again her smile softened out a bit as she gave him a little nod. "Especially not professors that have the Doctor title, or at least from what I've seen." She started to back up then as she maneuvered her way out from in front of the chair so that she could start making her way towards the door. "But again, thank you. I'll send you an email if I have any more questions about the assignment. But, until then, I guess I'll see you in class Monday." With that she gave a little wave and turned away from him as she started out of the door and headed out of the office.


    Throughout the next week, Hayden had done all she could with the essay as well as with her other assignments. Right after she had left Doctor Ralston's office the day she went to him, she went to work on the essay for a few hours until her next class was in session. In the end she decided to completely start the essay over, but with a bit of a clearer mind on the subject at hand, it was almost a little easier to her. Of course, the assignment was no less of a headache to her, however she wasn't as flustered about the entire thing as she had been previously. There were still kinks to work out with it, things that she had asked Emily to help her out with since she actually liked to write analysis papers, but, overall, she figured that she had done a pretty good job with it. Was it the best work she had ever done in her life? No. But it certainly was something that she considered to be good with an English paper, especially one that she didn't want to write and one that she had such a hard time with in the beginning.

    But she took the extension she had with stride, and, really, she accounted that to being the reason as to why she decided to work a little harder on the paper. If anything, she figured that she could have at least put in more effort if he was willing enough to give her a bit of a leg up with the assignment, especially considering how she was, probably, the only one given the opportunity to do so. And what kind of person would she have been had she completely passed the thing aside to wait until the last minute, again, to work on it? She hadn't worked on it too much for a few days, however as Monday rolled around she put herself back into the worked and finished it a day after the assignment was due, which was why Hayden found herself traveling back to the man's office that next Thursday, a week later.

    As she approached the door that was, like last time, slightly ajar, Hayden took a breath as she held the folder with the essay in the pockets in her arms, herself reaching out a hand to knock on the door with her knuckles again. "Doctor Ralston?" With a little smile across her lips, she stepped into the room after getting his attention and set the folder down on his desk. "I finished the assignment; a four page paper on an analysis of The Great Gatsby with all of the sources and everything else that's needed in an English paper." Throughout the course of the last two class days for the class, she had learned to pay a little more attention in there, and she had even began to take notes. She still refused to take part in any of the discussion that went on about any work that they were reading, but she was beginning to listen to it a little more. It was still quite boring, but she felt as if she was beginning to have a better appreciation for it all.

    "Everything you need should be in the folder, but is that all you needed? For me to just turn this into you?"
    #7 Shelby, Jun 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2015
  8. [BCOLOR=transparent]Looking away from the ragged book in his hands at Hayden’s comment about his title, he laughed. “Having a doctorate just means that I spent a ton of time taking classes, so I definitely understand what it’s like to be overwhelmed in a subject.” At her parting words he nodded, a smile on his face. “See you Monday, Hayden,” he replied, closing the door after her. She had taken up the rest of his office hours, thankfully. Plopping down in his chair, he took a deep breath. Seeing her face scrunch in concentration and light up with understanding - that was why he had wanted to become a professor. But something she said was bothering him. She felt that relating to a character was pointless? That, in turn, fiction was pointless? He hadn’t said anything, because he wasn’t sure what to say at the time. Tons of thoughts had flooded his head and none of them had made any sense, so he had just continued talking about the assignment. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]But the words followed him home that evening as he perused his favorite books, the books that had pulled him through so much. The bookcase was the only thing in his apartment that looked like it belonged there. It was filled with dusty tomes, paperback novels, literary reviews, just about anything that he could get his hands on to read. Even a few kids books from his childhood stood stalwart on the bottom shelf, all the books lining up to protect him from the mess that his life had become. To Jack, these were all real people - they just lived in his head. He thought about how to put these thoughts into words as the week continued.[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Over the weekend, he went out to grab lunch only to find Karen standing at his doorstep, tapping her foot on the ground impatiently. Realizing that he had forgotten his phone, since he was only gone for fifteen minutes, he figured she had tried to call. For a split second he thought about hiding until she left, but her icy eyes locked on to his, as though drawn by him thinking her name. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Jack,” she said, her tone flat. She stomped up to him, wearing a pair of red high heels that he had bought her two years ago for her birthday. Though her face was blank, she looked good. Beautiful, he thought, before mentally berating himself. This was his ex-wife now, and he needed to stop these weird feelings. “I tried calling you, but you didn’t answer. I found a box of your stuff in the garage. It’s in the trunk of the SUV, if you’ll get it.”[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Sure, no problem,” he said, turning to head down the stairs. She followed, the clack-clack-clack of her heels echoing off the bare apartment hallway walls, giving him an odd sense of foreboding. The silver SUV was parked near the entrance, and he was surprised that he hadn’t seen it when he came back. His lunch, a sub from the shop down the street, hung from the crook of his arm in a bag. The box was rather small and fairly light, he discovered as he lifted it out of the trunk. Karen closed it with a quick motion, looking him over with critical eyes.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“I never did like when you let your hair get too long,” she said, pursing her lips. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Though he felt self-conscious, he kept his gaze steady. “You don’t really get a say on that anymore.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Her eyebrows raised and the corners of her peachy lips turned down. “Goodbye, Jack.” Not giving him the opportunity to reply, she got in the SUV, slammed the door, and drove away.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Feeling very confused and tired, he returned to the apartment with the box. Opening it, he found some old t-shirts, a few hockey pucks, a small tool set - and Karen’s copy of their wedding photo. She knew that he would know it was her copy, considering that she left it in the frame that had been on her desk for over ten years. The cruelty of the gesture astounded him for a moment, before he picked up the picture and tossed it into the trash, frame and all.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He sat on the couch, his sandwich forgotten on the kitchen counter. Had he been such a bad husband to deserve this kind of treatment? They hadn’t fought, not really. Sure, they had grown apart over the last five years, but wasn’t that normal? She had wanted kids and he didn’t feel ready, but was that reason enough to put him through this?[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The more the distance grew, the more he saw the cracks that had been in their relationship for years. Maybe Karen was right with all of this. Though he still felt love for her, was he [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]in love[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] with her? He couldn’t say anymore.[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]Throughout the week, he had watched Hayden in class on occasion. She wasn’t a good class discussion participant, and she had previously played with her phone during his class. But now she seemed to be taking notes and listening. Though she didn’t say anything, he felt that this was a good sign. Maybe he had gotten through to her, showed her the merit of English Literature? He highly doubted it, but if it brought her a bit closer to understanding, then he felt accomplished.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He found his Tuesday office hours very uneventful. One student had come by, but they had been looking for Professor Landry, who was right next door. He heard the student asking her for extra credit, and he couldn’t help but chuckle. Since his meeting with Karen over the weekend, he had felt oddly calm. In fact, he hadn’t felt much at all. Being stony was better than hurting, he decided as he kicked his feet back and watched hockey highlights. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The next two days breezed by, and by Thursday morning, he was almost looking forward to his office hours. He wanted to read Hayden’s paper and see if she had gleaned anything from his advice.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]When she showed up, he offered her a smile as she stepped into his office. When she handed him the folder with her assignment, he flipped through it briefly, glad that she had made the page length. He didn’t know how many times he had to take off points because someone stopped at three and a half pages instead of finishing it out, or wrote eight pages when the prompt required five.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Yeah, that’s it!” he said, setting the folder on his desk. “But I’ve been thinking about something you said, about how fiction didn’t matter because the characters aren’t real.” He looked up at her, since he was still sitting, and was almost taken aback by the look in her eyes. She seemed to care about what he said, which wasn’t something overly common in his undergraduate level courses. “Fiction, I believe, is a way for us to see what it really means to be human, without all the physical stuff getting in the way. In fact,” he said, picking up [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]The Great Gatsby[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent], “this book does a great job at discussing love, morality, social classes, and especially human isolation in a way that is very difficult to understand from people in real life. I’m not saying that you should drop your science major for English, but don’t underestimate the importance of understanding the raw human condition.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Also, feel free to come back to office hours for help with anything you need. Whether you want to talk about an assignment, or something in a novel, or about the merits of literature,” he said with a smile. “Or if you need any help. All of your professors, including me, are here to help. Don’t forget.” He leaned an elbow on his desk. “If you don’t have any more questions, I’ll see you tomorrow in class. I have another hour that I’m stuck here, if you have any concerns or comments.”[/BCOLOR]
  9. Hayden watched as the professor flipped through the pages that she put in the folder, biting the inside of her cheek as she watched, almost intently, trying to remember if she had really put everything in the folder that needed to be there. There had been a handful of times in high school when she had forgotten to put a works cited page at the end of the essay if she needed any sources from any place, those little mistakes having cost her a big portion of her grade in the end, especially when she was first beginning to learn the different writing formats. But she was getting better at it. Of course, she still had to double check and make sure that she had it, but she was getting better, and that was all that mattered, right? Pushing the thought aside, however, when Doctor Ralston gave her the okay to let her know that she had everything that needed to be in there, she let out a little breath of relief, even giving off a little laugh, before she put her hands behind her back and nodded her head.

    Mission accomplished! Of course, she knew that the mission, or so she dubbed it, wouldn't be complete until she got the grade back to see what she made on the paper, but she figured that the initial steps had been completed. Why she felt so compelled to want to accomplish everything in this class, she couldn't say so, and when that realization seemed to dawn on her she stopped the little chanting in her head and blinked her eyes. Why was she putting this effort onto a class that she didn't care about? Shaking her head to herself, her attention was set back on the man when he started to speak again, her brows raising as she listened to his comment about what she had said a week ago about fiction meaning nothing to her because it wasn't real. He made good points, she had to admit, but what he had said were things she had heard in the past; literature taught people things that couldn't be learned through facts. Of course it was able to do that. After all, why would people even bother to teach it in school other than to teach people how to read proficiently enough if it didn't mean anything and if it didn't teach anything? She couldn't deny that in a few of the works she had half heartily read that there were morals behind a lot of them, as well as long metaphors that held some sort of significance that could be seen clearly to most people if they looked hard enough and if they were able to understand the context in which it was taken. But didn't everything that happened on this earth have a meaning behind it, whether or not it be good or bad, whether or not it be significant or 'normal'?

    His perspective on it interested her nonetheless, and she was sure the widening of her eyes and the furrowing of her brows were an indication that she actually was paying attention and thinking abut what he was saying. She folded her arms over her chest as she tilted her head to the side a bit, not normally ready to get into a conversation with a professor on a subject matter that meant nothing to her, but, for some reason, she wanted to with him. He didn't make it seem like he was going to berate her for saying something wrong, not that any of her professors had ever given off that sort of air around her, but there was no doubt in her mind that some looked at her oddly if she spoke the wrong words or if she got a question wrong. That, she figured, was a reason as to why she never spoke up in class and why she let her knowledge on the subject flow on paper or scan tron. "But you can learn human nature and condition through other ways other than literature, no?"

    She paused for a second to get her thoughts together before she started to speak again. "I mean sure, in literature, especially fiction, you're more than likely able to see more of the emotional side of a human depending on the story and depending on how the writer wants you to see it all, but isn't that where it goes wrong? You're only seeing and reading what the writer wants you to see and read, and, as far as I know, people tend to have very different views and opinions on matters. Does it and can it have a true form to it, and could the writer be representing the world for what it is and what it may be? Possibly. But if someone's writing a fictional story, no matter how many true facts they may have in there depending on the setting and no matter how realistic the fiction is, if it is at all, aren't we still seeing a world that they want to see? Aren't we still seeing people that they want us to see and making more of it than it needs to be?"

    Again, she couldn't help but shrug her shoulders, almost feeling a bit embarrassed in that moment for what she was speaking. How could she speak against something like this against a professor that had spent years studying literature? "I'm probably spouting nonsense, and I could even be completely wrong and I'm probably not making any sort of sense, but I guess I still just don't feel that fiction could be of any importance to my life. I just don't really... Care to immerse myself into another world or into another character's life. If anything, I'd rather learn the human condition through actual fact rather than by someone who wrote a story that came to their mind that they wanted to write down on paper and ended up getting published because people liked the story line to it. I don't discredit writers because I figure what they do is hard, and I can understand how reading a book can be important to some people and how it can teach people certain things and how a certain piece of work can just reach out to some people, but I feel like reading a book isn't going to teach me anything other than the fact that most writers have odd minds and ways of thinking and that they tend to put their own emotions into the work which tends to reflect on the characters and happenings in the story. I just don't understand why I have to read literature in order to 'learn something' when I'm never going to look at any of these works again when I'm done with them."

    Even despite herself though, she couldn't help but give off a little snort and a laugh. "Maybe I just don't trust writers who write fictional work. I've always heard that you can't trust a good writer. Then again, I may just not trust a lot of things that I can't see for myself, like history. I figure that that's a long story, and while I think most of it is actually true and factual, sometimes I can't help but wonder if a lot of things that happened happened because of the biased views some historians may have on the matter."
  10. [BCOLOR=transparent]He listened to her attentively, keeping his face neutral to hide his surprise. Though her words had stuck with him from last week, it wasn’t as though he had never heard them from past students. At least once a semester a student would come to him and tell him that they didn’t see the point in studying and analyzing literature, that they were better off with their business degrees and science degrees. Usually he gave them a little talk about how literature helped form the basis of society and understood human behavior, and they would just nod and turn in subpar work for the rest of the semester. But Hayden struck him as different, and he was certain of his supposition as he listened to her speak. She had thought about this and wasn’t saying it just because she didn’t like his class. Her words were the truth for her.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]That was something that he didn’t see in undergrads often, and his respect for her was raised. She had good points, ones that he had thought while pursuing his higher degrees. Was what he did pointless? Did the study of literature really matter in the long run? He had decided that he ultimately didn’t care about the answers to these questions. If he could make money doing something that he loved, then he wouldn’t complain. But it was moments like this, where he could engage another mind in these kinds of thoughts, that really made his life’s work seem meaningful. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Authors certainly craft their stories and words through their own perspectives. We see the world the way that they do, or the way that they have made up. But it isn’t just characters and themes in stories themselves that teach us. By reading another person’s perspective, even if their perspective contains trolls and dragons, we gain insight into how people think, how they imagine. But this is pretty theoretical, high brow junk I’m throwing at you.” Jack straightened his tie, his fingers fiddling with the plain silver tie clip. He used to have nicer tie clips, but they had all been gifts from Karen, so those were still in boxes. And probably would be donated to the local thrift shop, he thought, not keen on reminding himself of those lingering, painful feelings.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“There is a great merit to physical facts and science, but you can’t let that be the only lense with which you view the world. Do you know why you’re required to take an English course, even though you’re a science major? Because it is seen as important to your life by the liberal arts committee. Not necessarily that you can quote Shakespeare back at me, though that is always fun,” he said, grinning as multiple quotes popped into his head. He left those alone, though. No need to scare her, he thought. “But because understanding literature makes you a well rounded individual. Though you may never pick up [/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent]The Great Gatsby[/BCOLOR][BCOLOR=transparent] again, you might remember Gatsby and his isolation, or anything you wrote about in this paper, and just maybe it’ll help you someday.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Did his knowledge of literature help him through his divorce? No, not really. But he at least felt that other people understood his plight, expressed through their novels, and that did make the load feel a bit lighter for a while. “It also lets you experience the harsher truths and emotions of the world without so much pain,” he added, wishing that he could burn the sad smile and wistful expression off of his face as soon as he felt it slide into place.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He barked out a laugh at her quip about the trustworthiness of authors. “Hayden, I’ll tell you this - none of us are truly honest, author or no. Actually, authors are generally honest about their dishonesty, if that makes sense. Not like the writers of history books, who tout that their text is the complete truth. ‘History is written by the victors’, as they say. Novels don’t claim to be truth, but they offer some version of it, nonetheless.” He leaned back, studying her face. Though she looked like a junior in college, there was a keen intelligence and curiosity behind her eyes that belongs to someone older and wiser. “And you should always question things that you’re told. Unless you have Professor Heathers in the history department. I wouldn’t get on her bad side,” he said, a grin on his face. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]This conversation was the first time he had felt anything in nearly a week. Just a spark of joy, a tiny but powerful thing shot through him. Hayden, this girl he had known for only a month or so, a student in his class, had made him feel alive again. The thought brought a blush to his cheeks, and suddenly she seemed very close. He felt that he could practically smell her shampoo, hear the rustling of the fabric of her clothing, see the light against the skin of her lips…[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He realized very quickly that he had let himself stray too far. Turning away, he saw that their talk had taken up the rest of his office hours. Though he didn’t have another class until 2 that afternoon, he needed to go home. Take a cold shower and punch himself in the face for thinking these things about a student. A student who was still looking at him with her pretty eyes.[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]“Sorry Hayden, but I have a lunch appointment,” he said, standing suddenly. Then he was very close to her, the top of her head right at his sightline. She was warm and close and he needed to leave. “Feel welcome to stop by any time, okay? I’ll get your grade back to you by the next class. I look forward to reading your work.”[/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]He ushered her out the door and locked it quickly. After saying goodbye he jogged off to his ‘lunch appointment’, getting to his apartment in record time. The shower did him good and he had successfully pushed the odd encounter out of his mind by the next class. But he had promised that he would have her paper graded to hand back the next day, so he found himself sitting on his couch that night, her paper in his hands. And it was good. Not amazing, but easily an A-. Making a few comments and suggestions, he topped the paper with the grade. Pausing, he wrote ‘great work!’ next to her title, feeling himself blush. Maybe he needed to get out a little more, hang out with people his age. The only other people he saw were other faculty, students, and the owners of the sandwich shop down the street. Jack decided to go out this weekend, but he had to get through Friday first.[/BCOLOR]


    [BCOLOR=transparent]In his Intro to English Literature class, he tried very hard to not look at Hayden. Occasionally he would catch a glimmer of light from her hair, or see her eyes watching him as he talked, and it made him flush slightly. Hopefully she didn’t notice. As the class ended, he approached her, holding out her folder. “This was a great paper,” he said, keeping his voice level and professional. “I look forward to seeing what you come up with next.” He left it at that, returning to his desk. She was just a student, and he was a lonely professor. She wasn’t a friend, or anything else of that nature. That’s what he kept telling himself, all the way until he left his apartment on Friday night to head into town, looking for the quietest bar in the college town to drown his sorrows away.[/BCOLOR]
  11. Hayden listened to the man intently, letting her arms fall to her side as she started to chew on her bottom lip as she furrowed her brows. Again, she found him making good points, points that even made her rethink about her look on the subject. Did she still find it to be less important to her than anything else? Yes. And while she knew that one of the main reasons that English literature was a subject that was taught in school was to make sure that the student could be, as he said, well rounded and so that they could have at least been introduced with the subject matter at hand and so that they could look at things a different way, there was still a part of her that wanted to resist the topic and just go about what she wanted to do. Then again, now that she thought about it, was that not how she always was, even with other things in her life? Hayden didn't like to admit it to herself, but she knew that, while she was generally open minded about things, she could be close minded with other things, and combine that with her general stubbornness that generally clouded her mind when ever she wanted to refuse against something, it became difficult to convince her of things that she didn't want to believe or even think about.

    But this professor... He was beginning to make her rethink that. Odd how this one person could make her rethink a bit of how her mind worked, despite the fact that she had been told plenty of times to open her horizons and to stop focusing on just one thing solely with the tunnel vision she usually kept in her sights. Maybe she should be a little more lenient with other things that she generally kept at the back of her mind while also keeping the more important things in her mind as well. Of course, that was much harder said that done, and Hayden only knew how quickly her mind would change with something and how these thoughts may just pass her mind so quickly that she could convince herself that she never even thought about it, but... Maybe it could be a start. Her eyes blinked slowly as she let the thought process go through her, her eyes looking away from Doctor Ralston for a quick second before he started to speak again, mentioning something about how everyone was dishonest, which she knew she could agree with fully. The little comment she had made before had only been something that one of her English teachers in high school had said, but it was amusing nonetheless to see and hear his view on the matter.

    Her eyes went back to look at him then, herself generally quiet and not responding to anything else that he had spoken about before, mostly because she felt as if she had nothing to say back to that, and because she figured that it was something that would continue to stay in her mind for a long while. But as that little bit of silence enveloped the two of them, she finally did speak up, saying a simple, "I guess it's a good thing I hadn't had her for history. Otherwise, I may have failed the class, or at least not have gotten what I made in there. I guess I just question everything in my life, or just life in general," with a little snort and laugh coming out of her shortly after. "I'll just stay away from the History department."

    But it seemed as if shortly after she had spoken the word he seemed to have quickly looked away from her, the movement causing Hayden a bit of confusion as she tilted her head a bit. Had she... Said something wrong? Suddenly, growing a little embarrassed with herself for reasons unknown to herself, she turned her head to look away for a second as she scratched at the back of her neck, quickly looking back to him, again, when he stood from his chair quickly and told her that he had to head to a lunch appointment. She took the words and nodded her head, though as he stood he had grown closer to her, causing her to freeze for a bit as she was able to get a closer look at his face, noticing things that she hadn't noticed before when she had been siting at the desk a week ago when she had asked for help on the paper. When had he gotten that scar and how had he gotten it? Had it had anything to do with his hockey playing? Did he have any more scars? She wouldn't ask the question, of course, but even if she wanted to she wasn't able to as she was soon ushered out of the door.

    She couldn't help but stand in her spot by the closed and locked for for a second as she watched the man walk off, her eyes narrowing a bit, herself... Confused. She tried to push the notion from her mind, however, as she finally started to make her way out of the building so that she could get to the Hub and sit there until her next class was to be in session. But all the while she thought back to the conversation she had with her English professor, except instead of thinking about the words that had been spoken, she thought about the looks and expressions that had crossed his face. Some moments he had seemed relatively happy, but at others he seemed... Sad, and she wasn't sure why that bothered her so much.


    When she had gotten her paper back she had been a little more than ecstatic, a wide grin stretching across her lips as her eyes widened as she looked down at the A- that had been written on the paper, even a 'great work' scribbled by the title of the paper. "Wait, are you serious? I don't think I've ever made this high on an English paper before!" She tried to level down the excitement as she cleared her throat and looked at Doctor Ralston, giving him another grin before she muttered a thanks for him and turned to walk out of the room. Her face had turned flushed from embarrassment of her having shouted out something like that, but she quickly pushed the emotions aside and just decided to be happy for herself. It was a little unsettling, yes, for her to feel this excited about getting an A- on the paper because, again, she told herself that she didn't care about the class and that it was just another 'A' to her, but still, it was the principle of the matter. While it wasn't a normal 'A' or A+, it had still been better than a 'B' or anything lower than that. And she felt accomplished. But one of the most accomplishing things that she thought, and even felt as she looked back down at the paper as she walked on the sidewalk, was the 'great job'.

    It was a sort of praise that she was used to getting to, though not by her professors. Or, rather, it hadn't been verbally written or spoken to her that they thought that she had done a good job, but even so this felt different. Maybe, she figured, she just wanted to prove to this professor that she actually could do that, and that she, in a sense, could prove to him that with his help and advice she had actually been able to accomplish something. In a way, she figured it was her way of showing him that she was willing the put the effort into it, and apparently he was able to see it.

    Later that Friday night, her and Emily decided to head into the local part of town together just to hang out and relax since Emily didn't have to go to work that day, themselves milling about as they walked the sidewalk with their hands filled with a bowl of frozen yogurt that they had gotten a few moments ago. The both of them knew that it wasn't a normal sight to see; to see two college girls walking about the town with frozen yogurt in their hands on a Friday night when they could have probably found a party somewhere or when they probably could have found a way to sneak into a club or bar, but neither of the two felt up in partaking in any of those activities tonight. Or, rather, Hayden really hadn't and she had been able to convince Emily to skip a party that she had planned on going to, using the very choice words of, "Don't you have to go to work early tomorrow morning?"

    But this was nice regardless, she figured. "I still can't believe you're so excited about getting an A- on that English paper when you don't even blink an eye at any 'A' you get in any of your other classes."

    Hayden rolled her eyes at the comment and brushed it off as they went to sit down in a bench, her friend and roommate having teased and prodded about the matter long enough. Hayden couldn't deny though that it was still a surprise to her that brought out a little bit of giddiness to her that she wasn't used to feeling. Normally she always felt some sort of satisfaction from getting a good, high grade in any of her classes, and while she felt satisfaction with this, she still felt as if it was different. Again, she told herself that it was merely because of the fact that she had done something so unexpected that she couldn't help but feel the way she was feeling, but she wasn't sure. "I'm not excited about it," she tried to down play as she waved her spoon in the air before she brought it back to her yogurt, "I'm just happy about the grade. It's different than getting an 'A' in my other classes."

    She wasn't sure how much longer they had been sitting there, talking with one another when she saw a familiar figure that caused her to stop her thought process and made her cut off the words that Emily had been saying to her. Was that... Doctor Ralston? Her eyes blinked as she tried to focus on the figure as he started towards one of the bars that wasn't too far from where they were sitting, the man still wearing the clothes that he had been wearing for class that day. Yes, it was certainly him. She had only seen a few professors outside of class before from what she could remember, though never before had she seen one outside of the campus grounds. While she knew that the professors had their own lives outside of the university, Hayden couldn't deny how odd, yet normal, it was to see him. "Hey are you listening to me? What are you staring at, Hayden?"

    When she felt a gently push against her shoulder, Hayden shook her head and turned her attention from the professor back to Emily, catching note of the girl's furrowed brows and pursed lips. "Huh?"

    "What are you starting at?"

    "Oh, nothing. I was just thinking." She shrugged her shoulders and quickly took a bite of the yogurt on her spoon, trying to play it off as best as she could. Her eyes still diverted over to where the man had once stood, his figure now gone from the spot as the door to the bar swung open and closed. There was a part of her that wanted to head in there and say hi to him, or to say something to him, but she resisted against the urge and stayed where she sat at. No, that wouldn't be right. In her mind, that seemed a bit stalkerish and the thought alone was enough to send a shiver down her spine. So she turned her head to look away then and settled back into the conversation she had with Emily, her mind still going back to her English Lit. professor. He was probably meeting with other English professors and administration anyway.


    Another month had passed before another paper was assigned for her English Lit. class, Hayden having been putting in the same, if not a little bit more, attention into what was being talked about in the class. She had even spoke up a time or two here and there about the reading that they were working on through some rush of reasoning that she couldn't explain, but she couldn't deny that she didn't feel any more embarrassed than she thought she would have by speaking up, even if her face had turned a little red after she was finished speaking and after things had quieted down.

    But even if she was paying more attention and even putting in a little more effort into the class, she still questioned as to why she was heading over to Doctor Ralston's office that Tuesday during his office hours. She told herself before that she wasn't going to go so that she could figure it out on her own, and because she felt as if she actually knew what she wanted to say for the paper, but something just... Compelled her to go to the office hours. She reasoned with herself that she just wanted to see if she was heading on the right track with the paper, because she knew all too well how going off track in the very beginning of a paper could screw her over in the end, and that reasoning was enough to get her to get out of bed with her laptop to head back to campus so that she could speak with the man. This wasn't just because she wanted to hear him and see him again in his office, she told herself as she shook her head. She wouldn't question him with unnecessary things and that she was there for important reasons.

    That was what she was trying to convince herself, anyway. Hayden knew that she could have just sent him an email with the little draft that she had in order to ask her questions, and she knew that she probably could have brought it up to him after class too, but this, she figured maybe was better. Maybe it would help her get a better grade like last time, or at least set her on the right track so that she could actually turn the paper in on the day it was due, rather than turning it in with an extension like the last one.

    When she saw the shadow of the man bouncing off the wall like the past two times she had come to the office with the door ajar, she knocked on it, like before, and called his name, like before. "Doctor Ralston?" Again with her raised brows she stepped into the office and gave him a smile. "I'm not bother you, am I? I just had a question about the beginning of my essay that I wanted you to take a look at if you don't mind. Since I knew you had office hours at this time, I figured that I could probably get questions answered quicker now than I would had I sent it to you in an email. I... Hope you don't mind."
  12. Going to the bar had been a bust. He was surrounded by noisy college students, their laughter and jovial talk making him feel much worse. Especially when he started recognizing students. Paying his tab, he darted out of the building and back onto the main street. For a moment he thought he spotted a head of familiar dark brown hair on a bench across the street. Jack darted into a nearby alley, peeking out when he was sure that he was hidden. There she sat, the student he couldn't get off of his mind, with another girl on a bench. They seemed to be laughing about something, frozen yogurt cups held in their hands. Though he couldn't see very well from this distance, he could see the way her wavy hair caught the artificial light from the nearby lamppost, the wide smile on her lips. He could even hear a few words here and there, and he just stood for a few minutes, mesmerized. She was so alive, he thought, so full of hope and curiosity. A smile crossed his lips as he thought of talking with her earlier.

    Though this immediately brought back the strange feeling that he had during that meeting, and he realized that what he was doing was highly inappropriate and incredibly creepy. Making sure that her head was turned, he darted away, not relenting on his pace until he was over a block away. Slowing, he started mentally cursing himself. The weird feeling in his office, watching her with what he knew was a dopey expression, hoping that she would come back to talk to him again... He was acting like he had a damn crush on a student, and even worse, one that was nearly fourteen years his junior. While he wasn't old enough to be her dad or anything, the feeling was inappropriate.

    Why was this happening? Was it because of the divorce? Was he really so starved for affection that he would turn that longing toward one of his students? Well, longing was a strong word. He just liked her company, really. It wasn't often that students were genuinely interested in what he had to say. That was what he kept telling himself as he walked the last block to his apartment. His buzz was long gone and he considered maybe getting out into the dating scene again. Karen hadn't waited, that was for certain. But he knew that he wasn't ready. The idea of another woman scared him to death, the only people he really wanted to associate with being his coworkers and his students.

    Which brought him back to Hayden. It was ridiculous. He'd had conversational students in the past, ones that he had been able to write excellent recommendation letters for, ones that still sent him the occasional update email. Hayden wasn't special.

    Then he felt like an ass, because she was special. His conflicted thoughts followed him as he scurried up the stairs to his apartment, locking himself in for the night.

    Needless to say, when he got home he took a cold shower.


    For a while, things continued like nothing had happened. Nothing had happened, he reminded himself. He was glad to see Hayden participating a bit in class, though her voice was always hesitant. She was smart and had good points, and the flush on her cheeks was kind of cute. Every time he thought such a thing he wanted to pinch himself. She wasn't paying attention and speaking up for him, no way. Maybe his words made her reconsider her approach to the class. Maybe the good grade had spurred her to try harder. But it wasn't for him. It couldn't be.

    Over that month he had begun to find his stride, despite his strange feelings about Hayden. Deciding that he was starting to look like a hobo, he had started keeping his beard trimmed and neat. He got his hair cut into a shorter style that the barber had recommended, and Phyllis said that it took five years off of his appearance. The boxes in the corner of his apartment were slowly starting to be unpacked, things that reminded him of Karen being donated to the local charity shop. She hadn't contacted him since the wedding photo incident, making it easier to figure out how to live on his own after over ten years of marriage. He even cooked a couple nights a week, cutting down on sandwich shop visits. It had gotten to the point where he was considering getting a pet, maybe a cat. Karen hated animals, but Jack had always wanted a pet.

    The next paper in his Intro to English Literature class was due in a week, and he couldn't help but hope that Hayden might stop in for office hours. It was pretty ridiculous, really. She didn't need his opinions anymore, considering that he could tell she had read the text from her occasional additions to the class discussion. But that didn't stop him from being hopeful that Tuesday morning when he propped open his office door. While he waited for her- no, while he waited for any student that needed his help, he opened up his Facebook account, scrolling through the timeline without absorbing much. Until he saw a comment that a friend had left on a relationship status update. An old friend of Karen's, Hillary something with the obnoxious kid, had said 'Congratulations, so happy for you!' to an engagement announcement.

    Karen was getting remarried, and to that younger guy in the suit that he had seen at their final divorce paper signing. It had only been a few months. Suddenly a thought struck him, a revelation akin to a man seeing light for the first time - Karen had been cheating on him. She wasn't one to jump into marriage so quickly. Hell, they had dated for four years before she had finally agreed to make it official. So much began making sense - the long nights at work, the unusual amount of business trips, the weird stuff she occasionally brought home. He had been so naive, so very in love with her, that he hadn't even considered that she was having an affair. The air in his office became very stuffy.

    He closed the computer and opened the window, breathing in the fresh air from the quad. That day, when he found her crying, was it from guilt? Or from wanting to be with her lover? Everything felt like a lie.

    "Doctor Ralston?" he hear a voice chime behind him, and his heart felt like it literally skipped a few beats. When he was at his lowest, though she wasn't aware, she always seemed to show up at his door. He turned toward her, a rush of affection for the young woman washing over him. His lips turned up into a smile as she started rambling about her paper, and the dull ache of his Facebook discovery was forcibly pushed to the back of his mind. "You know you're always welcome in my office, Hayden," he said, finding that he really meant it. He would never turn a student away without good reason, but he found that he would let her in regardless of what was happening. He stood and closed the door, giving them some privacy, though the sounds of the students milling about the quad still came in through the open window. "Pull up what you have and I'll take a look!"

    They went over the beginnings of her paper, and Jack was happy to find it much better than her previous draft. Hayden was definitely a science major though, and he adjusted the structure of her paper a bit to fit the topic better. He went over it with a fine toothed comb, helping her to tweak her topic sentence. The paper didn't require that much work, honestly. He spent twice as long on everything than he should have, simply because her presence and their easy conversation helped him relax. Though the awkward moment from the last time she had been here still haunted him, her presence was too much of a balm on his broken heart to dwell on the memory for more than a moment.

    "You've improved quite a bit since last time," he said after he could find nothing else to pick over. "I'm really impressed with you, Hayden. I know this isn't your interest area, but the effort you put in really is great." There were so many things he wanted to say, so many things he couldn't say, that he just settled for smiling at her. Jack tried to drink her in with his eyes, hopefully to retain some of this peace when she left him to his thoughts once again.
  13. Hayden wasn't sure why, but when he mentioned that she would always be welcomed in his office, it sent a jolt through her. In that moment, she was happy that she decided to wear a long sleeved shirt that day because of the fall season coming with it's cool air, if only so that he wouldn't have been able to see the goosebumps that she could feel rise the skin of her arms. It caused her to stumble a bit as she took another step into the office to sit in the seat that she had sat in before that was right next to his desk, that was right next to him, and even though she registered the fact that she could hear voices from outside due to the open window that sent a bit of a cold wind through, the voices were generally mumbled and clouded in the back of her mind as she watched the man sit back at his desk and told her to show him what she had. She pulled the laptop out, turned it on, and then opened up her documents so that she could pull up the introduction for the latest paper, herself turning the laptop around so that he could read it, her eyes going to his face so that she could try and discern what he was thinking and what he may think about the paper.

    It wasn't normal for her to be nervous about something, or at least not when it came to school work. Generally, Hayden figured that she was a bit of a confident person in terms of her knowledge of the subject that she was working with unless she had no basic knowledge of it of course, but otherwise she was never this anxious about something. When turning in a test on a test day in class there were general bouts of flutters that came through her, but not because of the fact that she was nervous but because of the fact that she wondered if she did as well as she thought she did. It wasn't fun being disappointed about something; it wasn't enjoyable to look down at a test to see that she hadn't done as well as she thought that she had if only because it made her feel more incompetent than she knew she was. But with this, with him reading what she had written for the paper for right now... She was nervous, and the nervous flutters that generally came through her in the times when she turned in the test weren't as strong as these ones. She wanted to blame it on the fact that she always found it nerve racking to have someone reading something that she wrote in front of her because she knew that she wasn't a writer and she knew that she wasn't the best when putting together the structure of a proper English paper, but there was a part of herself that knew that, while that was the case as well, there was something else that made her this anxious.

    As best as she could, she tried to push the thought aside, which worked for a bit as soon as she started hearing the feedback that he was giving her on what she had so far. She took mental and actual notes with what he told her to do and with what he said would probably be better for her to do to make the paper better than what it was, but it was still good. He hadn't given her the criticism that she had expected, and he hadn't told her that she needed to start over and completely change the format and thought process that she had been thinking of and that she had been going with. Of course, there had been a few things to change, but not nearly as much as she had thought there would be. And when he told her that she had improved since the last paper, and that he was impressed with her, Hayden knew why she had wanted to do this and why she had been putting such an effort into this class.

    It was because she wanted to hear him say things like that, and because with him telling her things she felt as if she had his respect, something that she found herself wanting equally as bad. Ever since she saw that 'great job' next to the title of her last paper she wanted to know that he was impressed with her and she wanted to know that he thought she was doing a good job. It was almost as if she craved to hear that come from him, but why him? Why not a teacher that could actually help her with getting her degree and her career path? Why was it this professor, an English professor when at the beginning of the semester she wanted to be as far away from this place, and the class, as she could? She just liked hearing it. And even if the thought was becoming a bit of a bother to her, she couldn't help but smile, nearly grinning, at him as she nodded her head and flipped her laptop shut after saving the document and closing the program. She'd work on it when she got the chance before her next class, she told herself. Either that or she would work on it back at the apartment, though she was beginning to get become less inclined to want to work on any English papers at the apartment. There were too many chances for Emily to pester and tease her about the matter, something that seemed to have become a past time for the roommate over the past month. But as best as the could, Hayden always pushed her aside, telling her that she just wanted and 'A' in the class so that she could get straight 'A's' this semester, if she was able to do that. With the semester rolling on, her other classes were beginning to become more difficult, and with her putting as much attention into this class as she had, she couldn't deny that it was getting difficult to handle everything.

    But she had to do it, and she knew she had to. There were no excuses, or at least not in her mind.

    "Thank you. I mean it, really." The grin she sported turned more into a soft one as she looked at Doctor Ralston, remembering about a month ago of how she had seen him out on the town going into a bar on a Friday night. Even if it had been that long ago, she could still remember what he wore, even if he had been so far away from her during the time. She tried not to think about that too much though, because again she reminded herself that professors had lives outside of the university, just as the students did, or at least most of them. Nevertheless, over the course of the month she had noticed the subtle changes to him, like the fact that his hair was shorter and that he seemed to be a little happier then he seemed to have been at the beginning of the semester. Something still seemed off about him, as if there was still a sadness lingering through his body, but he seemed better. But she didn't want to think about that. "I guess I just have a better appreciation for the class and literature. I still feel like it won't have that much of an importance on my life later on, mind you, but I am learning to appreciate the craft and work a little better and more. That's why I want to put more effort into than before."

    At the smile that he gave her, she had to will down the flushing of her cheeks, which ended up working, but it was surprising that she had to do as such in the first place. She brushed a few strands of her hair behind ear then, looking down at her lap for a second before she blew out a breath and looked back at the man. There wasn't much else for her to say to him, and they had already used, again, the majority of the time for his office hours. And, again, there had still never been a knock on the door with another student on the other end needing to talk to him, or a professor just wanting to talk to him since they had nothing else to do either. In all honesty though Hayden liked it. But figuring that it was probably time for her to go, mostly because she could feel herself beginning to get nervous under his gaze again, though whether the feeling as a good or bad one she couldn't say, she stood from the chair and slung her backpack over her shoulders. "I should probably go. Thank you for the help again, and this time I'll actually have this paper done on time without actually having to have an extension with it." Laughing lightly at the comment, she stepped back and headed to the door, her hand resting against the knob before she stopped and turned to look back at the man.

    "Um, I know you've probably heard about it already, or at least have seen a few flyers about it around campus, but the pre-veterniary club that I'm in is hosting our annual chili cook off this Friday." Why was she telling him about this? Why did she even bring it up? "I don't know if you like chili or anything like that, but the cook off is open to anyone whether they be student or professor. It's a ten dollar entrance fee to get into it, but given the fact that they are going to be about twenty different contestants in the cook off, I'm sure you'll get more than your ten dollars worth of food. Some of it's really good too, surprisingly enough, or at least it has been the past couple of years." Again, she rubbed the back of her neck and grinned sheepishly. "Or if you don't get your fill, then at least the ten dollars will go to good. We're giving the money we raise to local animal shelters that need help and that don't have a lot of the resources they need for all of the animals. So, if anything, you'll be helping out with a good cause. And getting good food in the process made by students of different majors in the university." She turned the knob on the door then and opened it, looking away and the back to the professor. "It's just a thought though. I think you should come if you don't have anything to do though." The turn outs for the event were generally of good size, and they were always enjoyable for her even if she didn't really cook anything. She was going to be helping with the even though by making sure that things were in place and by even helping one of the teams that were going to be in the competition. She wasn't going to help them cook, but just like the previous years she was going to help them pass out their chili since there was only two of them. They figured having a third person could help, and the two that she decided to help were pretty good friends of hers.

    "I'll see you in class tomorrow. Have a good day." With a curt nod in his direction, she turned and headed out the door, leaving it open just as it had been before she came into the office.
  14. He grinned back at her after she mentioned the extension. It wasn't a habit of his to give them out, but considering that she was the only person who had come to his office at that point, he had felt compelled to give her a sort of gift in appreciation. At first he had thought that her kindness was because she felt that she owed him for the extra time, but now he felt that it was something else. From looking at her paper, he knew she didn't really need his help. Though he had tweaked every little thing he could think of, it would have been a good paper without his input. So why did she come back? He watched her sling her backpack over her shoulder, his throat tightening a bit as her wavy hair caught the late fall sunlight coming through the window. It looked soft, and he had the strange desire to reach out and touch the dark brown locks.

    Before he could even ponder how weird this urge made him, she turned back around, a slightly nervous expression on her face. As she spoke, he recalled the flyers in the Hub about a chili cook off, but he hadn't paid enough attention to know which club was the sponsor. He had considered going anyway, considering that he was a single guy and cooking wasn't his list of skills. But now that he knew that she was involved, he knew that he would be there. Maybe it wasn't the smartest move, considering his confusing feelings toward the young woman, but this was different than seeing her downtown so many weeks ago. It was a school sponsored event that he would have probably gone to anyway without her asking. Plus, he wanted to see her outside of an academic setting again. The bright smile and laughter that he had heard that night was still clear in his memory, despite his best efforts to forget.

    "I'd thought about going, but now I'll definitely go! Chili sounds great, especially in this weather. And how could I say no to you, really?" he chuckled, only realizing a moment later what he had actually said. A fiery heat crept up his neck, and suddenly his office seemed far too small. He saw her stiffen a bit before she bit him goodbye with a curt nod. He waved, not able to say anything. After she left, he gently closed his door. Starring at the whorls of the wood grain, he wondered just what in the hell was wrong with him.

    She is a student, he told himself. She came to you for help, and told you about an event that she probably was telling everyone about. You aren't special to her. But he wanted to be, desperately even. The day had started terrible with the news about Karen, had gotten better with Hayden's company, then became twice as bad as it had been before. Could she report him for harassment based on that comment? Not that he actually thought that she would, but his possible tenure came back into his mind.

    Maybe he could accept that his heart was foolish and unwise, wanting someone like Hayden. Yes, after months, he could finally admit that he wanted her in some capacity, though everything was foggy beyond that point. But he was the older adult here. He needed to keep himself in check and not act like a school boy.

    He would go to the chili cook off. He would eat chili, say hello to Hayden, and be completely respectful and professional. But for now, he leaned back in his office chair and starred out at the sky, wondering what the hell was happening with his life.


    Jack did his best to treat Hayden no differently than any other student in class. He looked at her just as much as everyone else, though he couldn't help but notice that his smiles felt more real when they were for her. Foolish, he kept thinking over and over.

    Friday came with little fanfare, and once he was finished teaching his higher level course on Victorian Literature, he made his way toward the yummy smell coming from one of the larger quads on campus. The area was pretty full, and he was glad to see a good turn out for Hayden's event. Giving a student with a badge that said 'Chili Cook Off Staff' his ten dollars, he made his way into the fray.

    Determined not to rush around looking for his student, Jack took time at every booth, seeing a few familiar faces. The chili was pretty good, and there were some animals from the shelters located throughout the chili booths. Considering that he had been considering getting a cat, he took the opportunity to look at the animals. There were a lot of dogs, and while he liked them, he felt that a cat was more his speed. He could imagine sitting in his favorite chair, a novel in his hand and a cat curled up on his lap. The image gave him an odd fuzzy feeling, and when he finally found a few cats up for adoption, he looked carefully. There were a few kittens that some little girls from the local elementary school were scooping up and kissing, along with a handful of older cats in cages.

    One in particular caught his eye. A sleek calico cat was curled up toward the back of her cage, her face buried in her paws. "Hey," he said, gesturing for the caretaker. "Can you tell me about this one?"

    Apparently the calico's name was Eve, she was 3 years old, and she was very shy. The caretaker gently pulled her out of the cage, and while Eve didn't put up a fight, she was clearly unhappy about being away from her comfortable spot. Her face startled him a bit - a large scar covered her right eye, and the eye itself was rather bloodshot. "The poor dear was attacked by a dog as a kitten," the woman explained, holding Eve out to him. He scooped the bundle of fluff into his arms, a smile cracking across his face. She settled quickly, pushing her face into his chest. "Her vision is fine, but the scar has made it hard to get her a new home. She's been with us for nearly two years, now. Has all of her shots and is spayed, if you're interested."

    "I am," he said quickly. He felt a weird kinship with the cat. Someone had hurt her, as well. Though he wasn't scarred physically, his heart certainly bored the marks of his struggles over the past half a year. Though he couldn't take Eve home with him that day, he filled out the paperwork and agreed to pick her up the next day at the shelter. He placed her back into the cage, and she looked up at him, startled. A sad mewling noise escaped her before she curled back up, hiding her face.

    Turning from his future cat, he saw that Hayden was at a nearby chili booth, spooning out samples. Taking a deep breath, he approached, determined not to stick his foot in his mouth again. "Hayden!" he said, a big smile on his face. "Looks like your club got a great turn out! And from what I've tasted so far, everything is delicious!" Taking a small bowl offered by another student at her booth, he took a bite. "Though this one might seriously be the best I've had so far," he told her, feeling lighter than he had since she left his office.
  15. The rest of the week for classes went without a hitch, Hayden having found herself doing just about what she would normally do during the school week. At times, she almost felt as if she had settled herself into a rut that she was unable to escape, something that always seemed to stifle her and caused her to think about too many things that would bother her and things that would put her in one of her 'moods', something that Emily had dubbed when ever she found Hayden to be more frustrated and irritated than normal. But while she liked the stability of life at times, there were times when she liked to break out of her habit and do something out of the ordinary, or, rather, just do something that she didn't do very often. That was why she liked the events that were set up for the club that she was apart of. Of course, they generally only had two main events throughout the school year, one of them being the chili cook off and the other being in the spring semester when they would plan a trip over the course of spring break just to hang out as a group and do nothing related to school or their major. Those were always fun. But they had other events throughout the year as well, some of which had pulled Hayden out of some of her classes because she went away to a conference or something else that would help build her connections with people of the career field and of other fields relating to what she was going into. But, those were more formal and business oriented events, and while at times they were amusing, they were more so for learning experiences and more so for the students to help prosper later on in their lives.

    But if Hayden had to be honest, the chili cook off had always been her favorite, even past the trip that was normally taken during spring break if they didn't have any plans to go to any beaches to party until they blacked out, and she had been apart of it since she joined the club her freshman year at the university. There was always just this... Jovial air that surrounded the area that they occupied. With the music that played, with the people and kids than ran around and enjoyed the chili that was made by many other students in hopes of obtaining the trophy that stood on the award's stand next tot he voting stand, and with the people that just came together to make it all happen, it was just fun. It was a lot of hard work getting it all together, but the outcome of it always turned out better than any of them expected.

    As per usual with these events unless time permitted, Hayden skipped her last class of the day so that she could help set up earlier that day, much like most of the members in the club did to help out. Thankfully her Friday's were generally her easier day of the week this semester, so she had only had to miss one of her classes for the day, a class that she wasn't worried about in the least bit. She helped set up the tables for the different stands that people would use for their stands with chili, she helped make sure that things were in order, and she helped the animal shelter set things up in their area to make sure that the animals were okay and to make sure that they were in an ideal spot that would help make it to where more people saw them. After all, they tended to get a lot of adoptions during this time, something that Hayden was happy about since she volunteered at the place every once in a while. Since she didn't have a job, and since she loved to help the animals, she figured that she could do volunteer work when she wasn't too busy with school work. Didn't hurt that it looked good on a resume either, but that was besides the point and it was not the main reason as to why she did it. But once the event was underway and once more people started to circulate their way throughout the area that they had reserved for the event, Hayden found her way back over to the stand that she was to stand at, cracking jokes here and there with the two people that she stood in the booth with, Jared and Melissa. They were both apart of the pre-vet program as well, and they were both apart of the club as well, both of them being juniors just as she was.

    "Come on! Get your chili and vote for us!" Jared's voice rang out as he cupped his hands over his mouth before he turned back to the large pot that was settled on a portable burner that they had settled on the back table. The smell of it was amazing. The smell of the entire place was amazing if she was being honest, but there was no doubt in her mind that she was going to smell like chili for the next couple of days if she wasn't able to get the smell out of her hair.

    A couple of hours passed by, Hayden filling little Styrofoam bowls full of the chili and passing them out to people as they came by the table asking about the chili as they chewed on it. She let Jared and Melissa answer those questions seeing as they were the ones who actually made the chili and she was merely the person who had only been their taste tester as they were making it and who merely was there to serve to chili out to people, giving out big smiles and giving out a few compliments here and there. Hey, anything to get votes for their chili and she would be happy. The last year they ended up coming in second place, though they figured that they may have a bit of a better chance of winning this year since the team that won last year graduated. "This is our year! I can just feel it." That was something that Jared had continued to tell them throughout the course of the week, and he had repeated the phrase more than a few times throughout the event. But there were a lot of new contestants in the competition, something that made Hayden less than inclined to be as confident as Jared was, even Melissa had her own reservations on the matter. But, overall, they were enjoying their time there, even if they bumped into each other every once in a while and even if every once in a while a little bit of chili was spilled on the ground or on their clothes. It was a good thing they decided to get the aprons this time around.

    When she heard her name being called in another direction, Hayden quickly turned her head, only to see Doctor Ralston standing by the booth with that smile of his on is face. She had half a mind to call it a charming smile but she wouldn't put that much of an emphasis on it, or at least she was going to try not to. "Hey, Doctor Ralston, you came!" Grinning, she walked to the other side of the stand and filled a bowl full of chili before she passed it over to him along with a spoon for him to use, herself looking down for a second under the table to check and see how many bowls and spoons they had left. They still had a decent amount, she figured, for the time being. They had already had to send Melissa to get more bowls and spoons about an hour ago because they underestimated the amount of people that ended up showing up. But soon enough, she picked her attention to look back at her English professor, smiling back at him as she watched him taste the chili and then went to compliment on it. "The turn out is bigger than we thought it was going to be, but it seems like everyone is able to handle it. I haven't heard anyone running out of chili yet, so I figure everything is going perfectly well." She chuckled a bit at the comment as she brushed her hand to sway away a few pieces of hair that decided to get in her face. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail for the day, just so that it wouldn't get in her face and, hopefully, any of the chili. "And thanks. I had no help in making the chili though, so those two are the ones to compliment about it. I'm just here to help serve it as their 'server girl'."

    "And because of you have pretty face." She could hear Jared say as he turned his head to look in their direction for a quick second. "That's why we just use her the way we do. People are just naturally drawn to her, and we use that to our advantage to get votes." The teasing tone was evident in him as he spoke, even when he laughed at the little punch that he received from Melissa at the comment, her having muttered a 'hey!' in response to it all before she hit him. Hayden knew that he was only joking about the matter, and when they turned back to their work she couldn't help but roll her eyes and laugh lightly at it, blushing even if she tried to hide it by ducking her head a bit before she looked back up at her professor.

    "You'll have to excuse him. He's been standing by the chili for too long. Buuut, if you really do feel that way about the chili you can always vote for us to try and help us win." Grinning again, she reached one of her hands out and tapped it over the little stand that they had that sported the number '10' on it to represent their table number. "We could always use another vote and it'd be very much appreciated. We came in second place last year by only about twenty votes, so it's really easy to see that every vote does count." Really though, Hayden knew that she didn't want to talk to him about that, even if she looked up at him with hopeful eyes, something that she had grown accustomed to using against the people that came by their table. She just wanted to... Talk to him, as odd as the thought was. It was different to see him out of class again, and it was different for the fact that she was actually speaking to him outside of class and outside of his office. He just seemed so... Easy to talk to. He almost didn't seem like a professor in that moment. She wanted to think that she was thinking too deeply about it, but she knew she wasn't.

    "So, are you enjoying the event? If you haven't already I recommend heading over to the adoption area if you're looking to get a pet, or even just to show the animals a little bit a love for a little bit of time. They really deserve it, trust me. I've spent a lot of time with a lot of the animals that are out here from volunteering at the shelter. They're all really sweet."
  16. He nearly choked on his chili when Hayden's friend talked about her 'pretty face'. Jack had tried to not pay attention, considering his strange feelings, but he had to be honest - she did have a pretty face. Especially today, with her cheeks rosy from the fall breeze and her eyes shining with passion. His heart felt like it kept skipping a beat whenever he looked at her, so he just occupied himself with taking another bite of the chili. He hadn't be lying, it was the best he'd had thus far. Was it because Hayden handed it to him? Maybe, but he was in no position to figure that out right now.

    Listening to her talk, he felt himself relax. "Of course I'll vote for you!" he said. "Even if your chili hadn't been the best I'd still vote for your team. Have to show your friend here that his strategy of having you on his team is working!" There, he did it again. Firmly putting his foot in his mouth. Why did he revert into a bubbling teenager again when it came to this student? It was as if the last twenty years of his life hadn't happened and he was fourteen again, trying to ask a pretty girl to the homecoming dance.

    "Yeah, it turned out great!" he responded, looking around at the stands, hoping to regain some of his sense. "Actually, I just came from adopting a cat!" he said, excited to be on a topic that he shouldn't be able to stay something weird about. Pointing over to the stand with his new cat, he told her about Eve and how glad he was to have found her. "I'm glad that I can pick her up at the shelter tomorrow. Sometimes the apartment gets kinda lonely, and I haven't had the opportunity to have a pet before now. Figured it would complete the literature professor trope, you know? I'll put on some reading glasses, get a novel and a glass of wine, and read with a cat on my lap." He chuckled, scratching the back of his hand with the one that wasn't holding the chili bowl. "Not that I'm a big wine drinker," he said, knowing that he was going off on a tangent and should steer the conversation back on track.

    People kept milling around him, taking bowls of chili from Hayden's teammates, but the two of them seemed to be in a little bubble where no one could bother them. She looked at him with such sincerity and interest that he just wanted to talk to her about everything and anything. But of course there was a line, and he couldn't cross it. Surely she wouldn't even want him to try. The thought that she might actually enjoy his company enough to try something so ridiculous was laughable. Hayden was a beautiful, smart, funny young woman, and he was sure that she had a boyfriend already. Or at least a bucketful of admirers, all young and charming. He was just a middle aged lonely guy. Now he was starting to feel bad about himself again.

    "Since I've never had a cat before and you're familiar with animals, maybe you could give me some tips? I know she has her shots and is fixed, but I don't really know what I need for her." Jack hadn't even thought about it until he said the words. How did he even take care of a cat? "I mean, I know basic stuff, like food and water and a little box..."

    What was he even asking her? He was getting the cat tomorrow, and she was busy this afternoon, so it wasn't like he could ask her to meet him somewhere. He had been so determined to keep talking to her that he had just kept blabbering about anything that he could manage. "Ah, I'm sure with some research I can figure it out." Now he was just being weird, and he felt that Hayden's female teammate was looking at him strangely. "Well, I'm going to go try some more chili, though don't worry, you've secured my vote," he said, trying to sound casual. "Maybe I'll see you again before I head out."

    And with a parting smile he dashed off, depositing the chili bowl into a nearby trashcan. How did he keep doing that, over and over? Was he so flustered by this young woman that he couldn't even keep his cool for five minutes? Eating the different types of chili was rather calming, though none compared to booth 10. He gave them his vote, hoping that they came out victorious. Looking down at his watch, he noticed it was getting toward the end of the cook off. He went to the shelter booth that he had visited earlier, getting there just as they were packing up for the evening. The lady smiled and let him hold Eve as she put the rest of her animals carefully into a van. The cat mewled up at him, looking at him through one wide yellow eye and one narrowed bloodshot eye. She seemed to contemplate him for a moment before pushing her face against his chest, a low purr rumbling through her body.

    "Looks like she likes you, too," the woman said, smiling at him as she continued to clean up her station. Jack just nodded. It was strange, to think that he had just decided to give the little creature a place to live. Maybe with Eve, his apartment would feel more like a home. He reluctantly gave Eve back to the lady and watched her be packed into the van.

    Then he turned, locating Hayden's booth once more. Mentally calming himself, he walked toward the table as casually as possible. Catching Hayden's eye, he nodded in greeting and smiled. "Thanks for inviting me today. I got some great chili and a new cat, and I owe it all to you!"
  17. The fact that they had seemed to conjure up another vote from someone else caused a bit of excitement to run through Hayden, enough to where her grin stretched out wider if that was even possible. But then she listened to the rest of what her professor said, and while there was a part of her mind that told her that she had only been hearing things and that she was only misunderstanding and taking his words in a different connotation than he had meant for them, she couldn't help but let the grin from her lips slip as a shock went through her body because she knew that she hadn't heard him wrong. No, he didn't mean that in the way she thought, right? There was no way that he was agreeing to the fact that she was pretty, right? The thoughts continue to send a shock through her, causing her to stand in her spot, nearly frozen, for a few seconds before she was able to come out of her thoughts and back into the present. With the heat that had settled itself in her body, there was no doubt in her mind that she was blushing wildly, something that caused even more of a rush of embarrassment to run through her. But the feeling that she had been feeling before wasn't embarrassment, not after her professor seemed to have agreed with Jared had said. It was more... Flatter, except it seemed so much stronger, so much larger, than something as simple as that. And she liked it. She liked the feeling.

    Hayden tried to push the thoughts and feelings aside as she continued to listen to the rest of what he said, widening her eyes a bit and then bringing the smile back when he mentioned that he had decided to adopt a cat, something that genuinely interested her, however with her mind as clouded as it was with confusion she could hardly concentrate on the matter as well as she would have liked to. "Really? Oh, that's great! You're really going to love her, I just know it, and I know she's going to love you too." But how would she know something like that? She didn't really know this man yet she felt as if she could already tell that he was a good one, one that seemed to be so genuine with just about everything he said and did and one that was just so endearing to her. She caught the little note that he mentioned, something about having gotten the cat in hopes of making his place less lonely. So... He lived alone? In that moment her eyes diverted down to his left hand to look at the ring finger, only to see the absence of a ring to settle around the digit. So he was single, or rather he had no one to share his life, and apparently home, with? That didn't seem right to her. Actually, it was surprising. Why didn't he have a wife or a significant other to spend his time with?

    Her mind went back again to the fact that his office was void of anything personal. There were no pictures hanging on the walls or on his desk, and there seemed to be no little trinkets littered around the place that he may have gotten as gifts from someone who cared about him. Unless he was a very private person, something that certainly could be the case, it almost seemed as if he had no one. Maybe that was why there seemed to be a sort of sadness in him, even if he was trying to hide it with smiles and with the excited way that he talked.

    "I'm sure you're going to make a great pet owner, and if Eve seems to have enough trust in you already, then I think that pretty much guarantees that you're a good guy. After all, ever heard the saying that a person doesn't choose a cat but the cat chooses the person? I'll just have to ask you later on in the coming weeks of how she's doing." She tilted her head before she let her eyes wander a bit to the people that walked around the booth, more of them now walking over to Jared and Melissa as they were the ones, now, passing out the chili as Hayden found herself distracted with the man in front of her. But she paid no mind to it, really, and unless or until one of them told her to get back to work, she was more than happy to keep talking with the man. Even if she found herself more nervous around him now. Even if she felt these odd flutters in her stomach when she looked into his eyes and heard the sound of his voice and thought back to what he had said before. She went to open her mouth to speak about what he could do in regards of taking care of a cat, but before she was able to answer him he mentioned something about doing research on it instead, and with only being able to give him a short nod he gave her his departing words and then turned to leave. "Ah, okay. Enjoy the rest of the event!"

    It seemed as if when he was gone she was able to let out a breath that she hadn't even realized she had been holding, causing almost a bit of a shudder to run through her. What the hell was wrong with her? She shook her head to try and replace her thoughts with other things, to which had seemed to have been easier than she thought it would be after she turned and started back with the task that she had been given. Only every once in a while, or more so more often than she wanted to admit, Hayden would think of them man when she would look out in the crowd to try and see if she could see him, only to be unable to find his stature, and even when she would turn to look at Melissa with the questioning gaze that she sported. "What?"

    "Nothing." But with the tone that she held, Hayden could only guess what she was thinking.

    Time ticked on and it seemed that more and more people were beginning to filter out of the event area as the shelter was beginning to pack up their animals so that they could start their journey back to the place, a few people lingering around the area in waiting for the winner of the competition to be told. Voting had ended ten minutes ago, and with the way things were seeming to go it was only going to be a few more minutes before the votes were tallied and the winner would be revealed. The chili that they had made had actually been completely drained from the pot that they had, something that they felt accomplished about but also a little saddened about, mostly because it meant that they would have no left overs to eat after everything but they all digressed; maybe this just meant a good thing for them.

    Breathing out a sigh, Hayden stretched her arms over her head before she dropped them and started to help Jared and Melissa clean the area just as other people were beginning to do with their stations. She packed up the rest of the bowls and spoons that they had left over and Jared went to go put the pot in the back of his truck so that he could carry it back to his apartment along with the other kitchen utensils that they ended up using while Melissa took the left over food items that they had laying around at the booth back to her car. And everything else that was around they threw away, but in the process of cleaning up Hayden was able to catch the sight of Doctor Ralston again, those butterflies beginning to form in her stomach as he approached the booth, his words causing her to smile a bit even as she tried to, again, hide the little reddening of her cheeks. "It's no problem, really and you don't have to thank me for that. It was an open event, after all." But why had she asked him specifically when she had said nothing about it to anyone else other than Emily who she figured she had to tell given the fact that they were roommates? Why had she blurted it out to him at his office hours on Tuesday? "I'm glad that you came though and that you enjoyed yourself. That just means all of it was a success then!" She chuckled lightly at the comment before a loud megaphone could be heard going off in the area with a man's voice on the other end, one of the sponsors of the pre-vet club.

    "The votes for the chili cook off have been tallied and we have the winners of the contest right here!" The man stood in the middle of everything, holding up a piece of paper in his hand. The area quieted as people turned their attentions to look at the man, waiting with bating breath to see who the winning team was. Jared and Melissa walked over to the side of the booth that Hayden had been standing at, standing right next to her as they waited as well, though Jared seemed to be the most anxious one of them all. "In third place, we have table number five!" Claps were brought their way as everyone turned to look in the direction of table number five, a group of four people who grinned excitedly as they looked towards one another, giving each other high fives with their laughs emitting from their booth.

    "Congratulations guys. And in second place, a very close second place with only a ten vote difference from the winner, is table number ten!" Again there were cheers and claps brought their way as people turned their attention to look in their direction, though the booth didn't seem as jovial as the other team had been. Hayden clapped her hands a bit as she looked over to Melissa and Jared who, also, were clapping though the obvious looks of disappointment could be seen etched across their faces. Jared soon rubbed a hand through his hair as he rested a hand on his hip, shaking his head.

    "How the hell did we lose, again?! We got so many compliments this year and I thought we were a shoe in to win!" He groaned and shook his head again before the announcer went off to tell who the winner was, more and louder claps and cheers being brought out to the winning team as they were presented with the little trophy as their prize. "At least we improved from last year," she heard Melissa say as she shrugged her shoulders. "We only lost by ten votes this time. That's better than twenty like last year."

    The two other teammates continued on with their little grumbles, but at that point Hayden breathed out another sigh before she rested her hands against the table and looked back to Doctor Ralston, giving him a shrug. "Well, I guess we've always got next year. Thank you for the vote though, even if we didn't win. We really appreciate it." At that point she gave him a softer smile, a little disappointed as well over the fact that Jared and Melissa's creation hadn't won the prize, but she hid it well enough and tried to shrug the matter off. People were beginning to leave the event then, people making their way through the grass so that they could head back to their cars or walk along the side walk to head back to their dorms. "I should probably start helping with getting everything taken down, and to just help these two cope with another loss. It was really good to see you here though, and I'll see you in class on Monday? Take good care of Eve, and if I could give any advice with something that you could do for her to make her more comfortable when you bring her home, you should make sure to get one of those cat tree structure for her, especially one that has a space for her to sit and hide in. Since she's so shy, she likes to be in enclosed places when she's feeling nervous, but when she doesn't want to be away she can always just sit on one of the higher levels of the thing in order to see everything. It'll give her something to play on too, and I think it might make her happy."
    #17 Shelby, Jun 5, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  18. A frown crossed his face at the announcement of the chili cook off winners. He really thought that Hayden's team had it in the bag, and while the team that won did have some good chili, it paled in comparison. But really, a little voice in the back of his mind spoke up, do you mean that? Or did you want Hayden to win regardless? Stuffing those thoughts away, Jack looked back to Hayden. Her disappointment was clear, and her teammates didn't look any better off. But when she gave him that soft smile he couldn't help that his heart skipped a beat.

    After he realized that Hayden was giving him advice for the cat, he quickly took out his smart phone and began taking notes, nodding his head as he listened. "Scratching tree... hiding spot... high levels... Okay!" he said, closing his notepad app. "Thanks so much! I never had pets, so I'm kind of unsure how to keep her properly. But I'm glad to know someone like you, who is so knowledgeable at this sort of stuff!" Jack blushed again, realizing that he just couldn't help but compliment her whenever he talked. And now he was acting like a little boy with a crush again. Giving her one more lingering smile, he said, "I'll see you in class next week," and made his way out of the area.

    He made a detour and walked to a nearby pet shop. Going inside he was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of things that one could buy for a pet. Plucking a cart from the corral up front, he quickly found the cat section. There were more brands of food than he cared to count at the moment, plus toys and treats and beds and so much more. Pulling out his phone, he began researching cat food and what other basics he needed. A half an hour later found him with a small bag of dry food, two bowls, a collar, a litter box, litter, a few toys, a bag of treats, and a fluffy bed. Looking at the back wall, he saw the structures that Hayden had recommended during their talk. There were so many that it seemed overwhelming at first. Consulting the list she had given him, he found what he felt fit Hayden's criteria perfectly.

    Though the cat supplies were fairly expensive, it wasn't as though he was lacking in money. In fact, he was a fairly low maintenance guy, and since being single he had saved quite a bit of money. Considering that Karen actually made more than he did, alimony wasn't an issue. So it was almost a relief to have something besides sandwiches to spend money on again. The apartment seemed to be made to accommodate himself and the cat, as her furniture fit into the empty corners and spaces that he just couldn't seem to fill with anything. He probably looked quite foolish, he thought, surrounded by cat litter and little feathered cat toys and a rather large scratching post tree without a cat.

    But the foolishness went away after he finally picked Eve up from the shelter. She seemed to recognize him this time, rubbing her hand against his face. He was surprised that she pushed her bad eye against his hand, but apparently it didn't hurt her anymore. Maybe these old wounds could heal, and someone else could touch them again without pain. Like how Hayden is touching your heart? his subconscious asked, but he buried that thought for now. He had enough to deal with considering the bundle of fur in his arms.

    Eve seemed to like her new environment well enough. She quickly found the litter box and the food, scarfing down nearly half the bowl before climbing up into the scratching post tree. She sat in the little boxed area near the top, her face poking out the front. He stood and petted her for a long time, her purrs filling the still air of the apartment until she fell asleep. A grin crossed his face, and he knew that he had made a good decision. Pulling out his phone, he snapped a picture of her sleeping in the scratching post tree. Maybe he would have the chance to show Hayden how well her suggestion had worked.


    On Monday he had a hard time keeping his eyes off of Hayden. She looked pretty, and considering that he had told her that he thought she was pretty, he wondered what she must think of him. Surely she thought that he was creepy, that he was crossing a boundary. He thought that some of his comments crossed a line, no matter how much he tried to stop himself. Jack had always been earnest in love, and this strange crush seemed to be no exception.

    After class he waved her over, pulling out his phone. "I thought that I'd let you know your suggestion was really well received," he said, showing her the picture of Eve sleeping in the cat tree. "She really loves it. I think being able to hide is helping, just like you said it would." He beamed at the picture, and at Hayden, and he wished that he could make her come to office hours on Tuesday or Thursday, that there was another paper due soon. But the only one left was the final, and then she would be gone. And he wasn't sure what to make of that particular sensation just yet.
  19. He was happy to know someone like her? Even if he only meant it in terms that she was able to give him advice on how to better take care of a cat, Hayden still took the words to heart and they made her heart pound in her chest just a little bit harder. She took a breath, blushed, and nodded her head as she put on a wide smile for the man, watching as he started to type something into his phone, more than likely notes in order to keep everything straight with what he wanted to get. Hayden found her eyes going back to his left hand, again telling her mind that he didn't have a ring and that he hadn't come to this event with anyone, and that he had come over to her table twice when he hadn't needed to do so. While she knew she should think the actions to be odd, she didn't. It was almost... As if she wanted him to keep doing that. Again the same thoughts began to surface in her mind that she wanted to keep talking to him and that she felt like she could talk to him about anything despite not even really knowing him. But even as those thoughts surfaced her mind she automatically wanted to throw them out, to no avail, because what was she thinking? He was an older man, her professor. Why would he want anything to do with her?

    Why did she want to have something to do with him?

    "Ahh, okay. Great! I'll see you on Monday. Take good care of Eve." As she watched him walk off, Hayden couldn't help but let her eyes linger, as well as let her hands nearly slip on the table that they rested on as she leaned forward a bit. What was wrong with her? Shaking her head as she blinked her eyes when Doctor Ralston exited from her view, she blew out a breath and ran a hand through her hair before she turned back to help finish up the cleaning process like she had intended to. But all the while as she listened to Jared and Melissa complain about how they lost, Hayden still found her thoughts on that man. Did she honestly have some sort of crush on him? It was something she didn't want to admit to herself, something that she denied even as it crossed her mind. It even made her snort, because that couldn't be the case, right? Granted, she didn't really know what having a crush on someone felt like besides when she was in high school and felt as if she had a crush on the guy she dated for a wasted and dreadful year and a half, but this was still different. It was stronger, and she didn't know whether she liked it or not because she knew that that was treading upon dangerous territory, and she wasn't sure if she was willing to step over that boundary.

    It had taken a couple of hours to get everything cleaned up around the area and put away with the entire club pitching in to help, and eventually they all landed themselves back into the room that they held their meetings in, chatter going back and forth excitedly as the treasurer told them that they had raised over two thousand dollars throughout the hours that the event had been. Cheers blew up in the room, hands clapped, and eventually after deciding that they were all going to celebrate on their next meeting over the turn out they all left to head back to their respective homes. Hayden decided to hang around a bit with Jared and Melissa, trying her best to distract her thoughts even if Melissa continued to give her those looks that questioned so many things about what happened at the event, even if nothing happened. In all honesty, Hayden was surprised that she hadn't asked.

    But that had all been fine and well, and when she got back to the apartment she headed right to her room, closed the door and changed into her night clothes to head to bed, instantly shutting her eyes and falling asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. Apparently she had been more tired than she had thought, and in that moment she had been happy that she hadn't taken a shower beforehand and told herself to take one in the morning, otherwise she might have fallen asleep in there. But... She dreamed that night, and while it hadn't necessarily been a nightmare, it had been one that woke her up in the early morning when the sun was still down and when there were no noises going around in the apartment that normally happened when Emily was awake.

    With her heart racing and with her lips and just her entire body in general feeling tingles rum through her nerves, Hayden sat up in the bed and ran both of her hands through her hair, her breath a bit labored, her eyes a bit wide as she stared out at nothing. Why did she have that dream? Why had she dreamed about Doctor Ralston? And why had she been in it, kissing him as he kissed her back with his hands traveling along her body that heated her up in a way that she liked way too much? And why hadn't she pushed him away? Even if it had only been a dream it had seemed so real to her. Even now, as she sat in that bed with one of her hands slowly traveling down to her lips to let her fingers lightly run across them, it was almost as if she could have felt everything. His lips on hers, his voice in his ears as he whispered to her, her breathless laughs as she listened and fell into it all, happy with his hands running up her sides and around her back as she pressed her chest into his.

    This wasn't right. That dream hadn't been right, or at least that was what Hayden was trying to tell herself. That man was her teacher, a man that likely wanted nothing to do with her and was only being as nice to her because she was his student and he had to help her with the questions she asked about the class. That was it. He wasn't being nice and friendly to her because he wanted to, he just had to because of his position over her. But as that thought ran through her mind she shook it away. She didn't want to believe that; there was no way he was only being like that towards her because he had to. There was just no way! And Hayden didn't want it to be that way because now, even if she didn't want to admit it to herself, she felt an attraction towards the man, a strong one and it wasn't only because of his looks but also because of his personality. Something was just so alluring about him to her that she couldn't help but think about him.

    But those thoughts were wrong! Or were they right? Was it bad that she wanted those things that she dreamed to have actually happened?


    That weekend hadn't been the best for Hayden with her thoughts so muddled and confused about everything. In order to try and settle the thoughts, she did any homework that she could find herself to do just so that she could distract herself, Emily having asked her if something was wrong and Hayden always responding that nothing was wrong and that she was fine. She just didn't feel well. But when Monday rolled around a new set of nerves ran through her as she walked into her English Lit class, her eyes targeting on Doctor Ralston but then instantly darting away. No, she would not think about that dream. She would not tell herself that she wanted to really know what it felt like to have his lips over hers even if she wanted that to happen. It took an incredible amount of effort to get her to keep her eyes off of his lips and off of his hands, her eyes always staring down at her notebook. Oh, why was his voice even distracting now?! All she could imagine were the flatters and compliments that he told her in her ear in the dream that she had, causing new sets of tingles to run through her body.

    It was safe to say that she hadn't paid attention during class that day, and when class ended she instantly packed her things up and planned on leaving, all the while keeping her eyes away from the man until she saw that he was trying to wave her down. Just walk away, she told herself, yet her legs still took the path in order to get to him. It was then that she let her eyes wander his face, again taking note of the scar, his eyes, and the general features that appeared upon his face. The words that he spoke were nothing but a muffled mess in her mind until she took notice of the fact that he was showing her a picture of what seemed to be a cat, his cat, Eve. Hayden blinked her eyes as she looked at the picture before she looked back up at the professor, just wanting to melt at the beaming look that he was giving. He seemed to happy... Why was she acting like this with him? At the cook off she had been fine, and in his office hours she had been fine, but now, as she stood in front of him in a classroom when the door was wide open for anyone to see that walked by, she was nervous and infatuated with this man now. "Um, oh! That's great. I'm glad she likes it."

    Giving a nod and putting on a bit of a forced smile, she adjusted the straps of her backpack and looked back down at the picture. That was a lot easier to look at. "She looks really happy and relaxed there, and you even seem happy about her being there too which is good as well. A happy cat owner is a happy cat, after all." Scratching at the back of her neck, she could feel her face flushing before the man which caused her to become even more embarrassed and made her feel so foolish. This was so stupid. How could she had developed any sort of feelings, these feelings that were beginning to surface, for the man and so unexpectedly at that? Then again, maybe it hadn't been unexpected. Maybe she had been having these feelings over the past couple of months but was now only wanting to realize them.

    Nevertheless, she knew that she couldn't stay in the room any longer with him, least she do something stupid that could ruin her reputation and cause him his job. "I uh... I'm sorry I can't stay and chat about her longer, but I've got another class to get to. I'll see you the next class day." Maybe. In that one moment she finally looked back up at him, stared for a second, before she gave a nod and turned away, quickly walking around of the room and heading out of the building. Next week was Thanksgiving break, and a week after that classes were to stop and exams were to be taken, meaning that the last paper for this class was going to be due soon. And, oddly enough, as she walked outside and let the cold air rush past her, she couldn't help but grow sad over that. There would only be a few more office hours for her to attend if she wanted to, which she did, oh how she wanted to, but she told herself that she wasn't going to go. No, she wouldn't go this week, and she wouldn't go the one day next week when classes were in session before they were let out fore the short break, and she wouldn't go to him before finals would start. In fact, she figured that she wouldn't have done that regardless, seeing as most students tended to flood professor's offices' when final exam time was approaching. But even that hurt a bit to admit it to herself, but maybe it was best. She'd just send him an email if she needed any help.

    These feelings she was having towards him weren't right, even if she wanted them to be.
  20. Jack could admit to himself that he was disappointed in Hayden's lack of reaction to the picture of Eve. She had seemed so excited for him at the chili cook off, so eager to give him advice. It was one of the things he liked about her - her enthusiasm. Even when she was arguing against the merits of literature to him in his office, she had passion and drive behind her words. But now... She seemed like she didn't want to talk to him. Which she had every right to feel, he thought as she bit him goodbye, unable to hide his confusion and sadness behind a half smile. She practically ran out of the room, and he sat back at his desk chair, staring at the ceiling.

    Had he finally pushed her too far? Were his comments at the chili cook off too personal? Did she know that he had a bit of a crush on her? Hayden didn't seem the type to gossip overly much, so even if she had a suspicion, he didn't think she would tell anyone. He had thought that balancing the line was difficult, but nothing was worse than seeing her run away from him. It made him want to follow, to tug her back against his chest, and then... what? Really, he had never thought about anything physical with her, besides thinking that she was quite beautiful and that he liked watching her talk. But it hit him in that moment that all he really wanted to do was kiss her, feel her smooth skin under his rough palms, run his fingers through her silky hair, feel the curves of her body...

    And now he was starting to get an erection. Just like a teenager again his mind reminded him, and he cursed himself. He had to stop thinking about this for now, so instead he thought about Karen and her new boy toy future husband. That made him calm down rather quickly. With a heavy sigh he gathered his things, making a stop in the English office before heading home. Luckily Eve was waiting for him, her one good eye seeming to sparkle when he came in the door. She meowed at him softly, hopping to the floor and rubbing up against his legs. Coming home to Eve instead of an empty apartment made everything better, but he couldn't deny that he was still missing human companionship. A flash of dark brown hair and a beautiful smile flashed in his mind, and he shook his head. Why was he torturing himself? She clearly didn't want to talk to him anymore, and the class was about to end. So just leave it at that, he figured.

    But as the night wore on, he realized that he couldn't. It would bother him for the rest of his life if he didn't at least talk to her one more time, just to be sure that she was okay and he didn't do anything to offend her. How he would do that wasn't so clear, and he couldn't distract himself with grading, so instead he went to the gym. He had always been kind of stocky from his hockey days, and though he had thinned out a little over the years, his muscles were still tight and compact. Wearing some basketball shorts and a tank top, he warmed up before hitting the heavy weights. When he really needed a distraction, he lifted heavy, considering that it required his full attention to his form so he didn't hurt himself. After pushing himself to his limit, he took a break, glad for the clear mind that his physical exertion gave him.

    He took a drink, noticing that a woman kept looking at him from her treadmill. It was at a fairly slow pace without incline, and he could tell that she wasn't sweating, but he wouldn't judge. After a moment she stopped the machine and came over to him. Being a man, he couldn't help but notice the curves under her tight fitting workout shorts and sports bra. She had a pretty face and long platinum blonde hair, and she was giving him a look that he hadn't seen in a very long time - she was stripping him with her eyes, and he could tell exactly what she wanted.

    "Can I help you?" he asked, wiping his forehead with a towel.

    "Oh, I'm sure you can," she practically purred, a suggestive smirk twitching at her lips.

    He gave her an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I'm not really interested."

    Before he could even process the fact that he had turned down what appeared to be no strings attached sex with a pretty woman, she had rolled her eyes and walked away. Though he wasn't the kind of guy to do a one night stand, he hadn't even thought about her offer. The only thing in his mind was Hayden, and it was starting to drive him crazy. He thought of her here at the gym with him, her lithe body sweating from working out, going home with him and taking a shower and--

    He nearly kicked a barbell when he stood, carefully putting his equipment back before heading to the showers. That image had made him full on hard, and there was nothing to do about it except for to take care of the problem. He ignored the few other guys in the room and entered a shower stall, locking it behind him before he stripped. He turned the water on pretty hot, rinsing off quickly before he leaned against the wall with one arm, the other hand stroking himself quickly. He tried so hard not to think of her that he could think of nothing else, and he came to the image of her face smiling up at him, her lips red from kissing him, her cheeks stained a pretty pink. He didn't think he could hate himself any more than he did in that moment.


    He could barely look at her during the next class, remembering his time at the gym with shame. She deserved better than a perverted guy like him. Someone young and not heartbroken, for starters. Near the end of the class, he told everyone to put their books away. "I know that the semester is ending soon, meaning that you'll all have exams coming up." His words were met with loud groans, but he just smiled and continued. "The only thing you have left for this class is one paper. I'd suggest you get it done early so you can focus on your other classes. I'll, of course, have my regular office hours tomorrow and Tuesday. None next Thursday, due to Thanksgiving, but feel free to email me at any time over the break. I'll get back to you in less than a day, I promise." Rounding his desk, he held a stack of papers. "I'm sure you've all seen these before. They're instructor evaluation forms. Please don't put your name on them, they're supposed to be anonymous. There are a handful of questions where you rate me from 1 to 5, with 5 being best and 1 being worst. Then there is a spot on the bottom for you to write any opinions about me, the class, or my teaching style. I can only improve if you're honest! Take the last ten minutes of class to fill them out, then put them face down on my desk when you're finished."

    Jack sat down, wincing slightly, still feeling his intense work out from two days ago in his thighs. He sorted through some papers, glancing up at Hayden every so often. He had to talk to her, but he couldn't think of one not creepy way to get her alone with him. Maybe he just had to hope that she would come to his office hours, but with how she was acting, he didn't think that was a possibility. Sighing, he ran a hand though his hair, pretending to read a paper but really just thinking about the mess that his love life had become.
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