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Branching out into a new love story. There’s a slow build but if you’ve read my other work you know it will be worth it.
I took a deep breath as I started climbing the hill from the parking lot to the academic building. I was still not certain this was where I wanted to be. In fact, I knew it was not, but it seemed to be the only clear option for me. After years of being a stay at home mom to my two kids, now both teenagers, it was time to get ready to be back into the work force. My marriage had ended before summer began, and I wanted to be able to do more to support myself and the kids.
So here I was. Back in college at 40 years old. I only needed a few more classes to finish the bachelor’s degree In English I had abandoned years ago in favor of marriage and motherhood. I would be done in a year if everything went as planned. I had my doubts things would go as planned. It wasn’t in the plan to find my husband screwing his 20-year-old intern in our bed. It wasn’t part of the plan to have to take a job substitute teaching. I did, however, plan the bonfire in the backyard that was fueled by our mattress and his clothes. The s’mores were extra yummy that night.
I was registered for four classes, all but one was online. I was going to have to be on campus two mornings a week for an Advanced Creative Writing class. I wasn’t thrilled. I was okay with the class itself; writing was something I had always been good at. My issue was I remembered how I looked at the ‘old’ people in my classes when I was 20 and in college. Now I was about to be one of those ‘old’ people.
I had stared at my class list making sure I knew which room to be in about 1000 times. My palms were sweating from trying to not be anxious. I didn’t want to be too early or just on time. I needed to time this just right. For once I was glad that I was always being told I didn’t look my age. Most pegged me about 30. I would still stand out in the sea of 18-22-year olds.
I walked into the building and found the right room. Class was due to begin in 15 minutes. I guess it was now or never. I opened the door and my eyes washed over the tables and chairs, whiteboards and the overhead projector. Things had as much changed in the last 20 years as they had stayed the same.
A few seats were occupied, I picked an empty one in the second to last row, off to the left, close to the door. I tried to avoid seeing if anyone was giving me looks. I left everything in my bag except a pencil. I nervously twirled it in and out of my fingers, around my knuckles and back.
Other students filtered in over the next 10 minutes. Still no professor had arrived. I looked at my phone again, at the screenshot of my classes. Neil McCarthy, the listed faculty member teaching this class. Where was Neil? As if on cue, the door opened again.
I watched as a woman about my age walked in. She had shoulder length, straight, deep red hair. I was momentarily excited I wouldn’t be the only ‘old person’ in class. I watched as she didn’t come sit on this side of the desk, but instead placed her books on the desk. She started talking. Something about her name being Nell McCarthy. I looked at my phone again. Shit, somehow in the 1001 times I had looked at that screenshot I had missed that it said Nell, not Neil.
I tried not to be thrown off by this, because really. Did it matter? Not at all. Except it did. It threw me off and I was trying to force myself to get focused again. Oh, and she was hot. This was a relatively new discovery since my marriage ended. I found other women hot. Not all of them. Apparently this one I did though. I blamed my still stinging disdain for my cheating fucker of a soon to be ex husband.
I took a few deep breaths and finally was able to focus on the class. She passed out the syllabus and a class assignment and workshop schedule. I was hoping there wouldn’t be any stupid ice breaker, get to know each other, exercises. I was not so lucky. There were about 15 other students in the class, and we were about to learn every single person’s name and back story. Could this be any cornier?
We had Tyler,21. He loved playing football. Go Tyler! Then Hannah also 21. She loved to read. Suck up! Oh, and for added fun before we introduced ourselves we had to recite everyone that came before us’s names. I was suddenly very glad I had sat where I sat. I would come right after Henry, 25 in the army reserves. Tyler, Hannah, Henry, and now Emma, mother of 2. They would get no more information from me. That was already more than I wanted to share.
The ice breaker was over, thank God. There was 20 minutes left of class. Nell, she told us to call her that, went over the workshop schedule and explained how workshop worked in her class. I had a feeling half these kids wouldn’t be back once they saw how many works they had to produce and workshop. Then she sent us on our way. I made my way out of the room, out of the building and down the hill to my suv. I had survived.
I was meeting my best friend for lunch and couldn’t get out Çankaya Escort of the parking lot fast enough. I pulled into Lakeside Bar and Grill 10 minutes later. I saw her red Charger in the lot and parked next to it. She was waiting at our usual table. We had been coming here since high school. The place had been remodeled and renamed a few times over the last 25 years, even had a few different owners, but we had remained loyal customers.
As I walked over, she had her phone in her hand and yelled “say cheese” and snapped a picture.
“What the fuck Liz?”
“Hey, it’s your first day of school. Everyone needs a good first day of school picture.” She laughed.
“You are lucky I love you!” I joked. But really. She was. She had been my person since we were 7 years old. She moved here from California and did not acclimate well to life in New England. Plus, she’s kinda mean. Well not kinda. She is mean. Unless she likes you. She did not like Sean Murray in second grade. I wondered if you could still see the scar from where she split open his lip. There had been so much blood. He really shouldn’t have tried to kiss her.
That was how we met. Schoolyard, by the swings. She had just decked Sean and I had watched and laughed. I fell in platonic love with her right then. We had been nearly inseparable since. She had been a bit of a challenge to teachers, to everyone really, and I was your typical bookworm good girl my whole life.
I did everything that was expected of me. College, to meet a husband not to get a degree. Marriage. Children. Staying home to raise them while my fucker of a husband did whatever and whoever the hell he wanted apparently.
Liz did nothing anyone expected of her. Including starting a tech company, growing it and selling it for enough money she would never have to work again, if she was careful. She was rarely careful. All by the time she was 30. She was a genius. Legit. We were nearly total opposites but fiercely loyal to each other. I’m fairly certain she would have buried Dean after I caught him with the girl-child if I hadn’t stopped her. Actually, I am 100% certain, and she’d probably do it while singing a song, loudly and off key. She was terribly tone deaf.
I sat down. She had already ordered me a drink. I didn’t bother to ask her what it was. She never let me get the same drink twice. It was a pale yellow with lots of ice. I took a sip. Lots of rum. It would do.
“So how was it?”
“I survived. Barely.” I took another pull from the drink.
We ordered food and I told her about Neil being Nell. She saw something in the way I said it and gave me a questioning look. “Yes. She’s hot.”
Liz just laughed. She thought it was hysterical that after years of people thinking we were a closeted couple; I was actually attracted to women. I rolled my eyes at her. Liz always said she’s ‘strictly dickly’ whenever someone commented on our tight friendship when we were younger, usually as she kissed me just to mess with people. I never felt the need to comment.
“Seriously Em, are you planning on being teacher’s pet?” She just kept laughing. I glared at her and threw a crouton. She dodged it and kept laughing.
We finished our meal. And our drinks. We trashed Dean, our new favorite pastime.
“I better get going. The kids will be home in a few and I need to make dinner.”
“Ugh.” She put her hand to her forehead, threw her head back, “Those little heathens are always ruining my day.” She was so dramatic. I loved every part of that.
“Yes, my teenagers, who you are God Mother to, ruin all of your days. You really should have stayed in theater.” She was kicked out of theater two months into our Freshman year of high school. I left with her. We always had each other’s backs. Always.
“Speaking of the little monsters, tell Jack I’m picking her up at 9am Saturday. I wish you would come.” They had a spa day planned. She was very good to my kids.
“Yeah no. I don’t do massages, you know this.”
“Bet you’d let the hot professor massage you.”
“Fuck off Elizabeth.”
I was right. The class had lost a few students by the next meeting. I spent most of it trying not to look like I was looking at Nell. She had tight jeans on, her hair was up, and she wore glasses. It was not okay. The throbbing between my legs I was feeling was not okay.
Today I had a mandatory on campus meeting for one of my other classes. The only one of the semester. I would have an hour and a half in between this class ending and needing to be there. I decided to go to the cafeteria and grab a quick lunch to waste time. I put my AirPods in as I was walking. I didn’t do much without music, but they were also the universal sign for ‘do not talk to me’.
I walked in and took a look around. I went over to the steam tray area and ordered the eggplant parmesan. As I was waiting, I saw her walk in. I shouldn’t be noticing her. It was insane. I got my order and went over to pay for it. I looked up and she was on the other Keçiören Escort side waiting to pay for her food. She smiled at me, I awkwardly smiled back. I finished paying and went and sat down at an empty table.
I took my book out of my bag to read while I ate. The AirPods were still in, but I had turned the music off. I had barely opened it when someone sat down. The place wasn’t that busy so why would anyone choose to sit next to the old lady eating alone?
“You’re in my Creative Writing class, right?”
I looked up and it was her. I nearly choked on the bite of eggplant in my mouth. I finished chewing, took my AirPods out and replied, “Sorry. Yes. Emma.”
“The Glass Castle. Great book. Are you enjoying it?” She pointed to the book in front of me. I was half-way through it.
“Yes. So far so good.” It was a great book. I was on a big memoir kick right now. I had several more lined up for when I finished this one.
She started eating her lunch. “Oh, is it okay if I sit here? I hate eating in the faculty dining room.”
I had a mouth full of eggplant again, so I just said, “uh huh,” and nodded. I felt rude picking my book up, so I just continued eating.
“You don’t scare easy eh?”
I looked over at her with questioning eyes.
“Half the class dropped after day 1. You didn’t.”
“Oh. I have twin teenagers at home, not much scares me anymore.”
She laughed. She was even hotter when she laughed. “Noted.”
We both ate, neither of us saying much of anything. Every time she moved; I caught a hint of her subtle perfume. I couldn’t place the scent, but it was nearly intoxicating. She finished before I did and got up to leave. She stopped for a second, “See you in class next week.”
“Um yeah.” She walked away and I couldn’t believe I couldn’t even get an actual sentence out of my mouth. I picked my book back up and read until I needed to get to my class meeting. After that I went home.
My nearly 16-year-old twins were still in school, so I made coffee and settled in to start thinking on my first piece for my writing class. The assignment was “place”. No perimeters except minimum length 3 pages and creative non-fiction. I was at a loss so far.
I was still staring at a blank document when chaos walked through my front door.
With the way my son yelled for me everyday after school, you would think my house was three times the size it actually was. I got up from my laptop and walked into the kitchen.
“Jack said her, and Liz are going to get massages tomorrow. How is that fair? She’s my godmother too and I want a massage!” He was only half kidding.
“Not my issue kid, take it up with Liz.” Asher had zero reasons to be mad or jealous. Liz was just as good to him as she was to his sister and he knew it.
“Dad called me. He wants me over this weekend.”
Dean rarely asked to see the kids and I always let them decide for themselves. Jacklyn has yet to see him since we split. Asher has gone a few times, but not many.
“Up to you kid.”
He decided to go, and Jack was leaving early for her day with Liz, so she settled in quickly, so it was a quiet rest of the night. My weekend flew by. I worked Monday in a 6th grade ELA class then Tuesday it was back on campus.
I sat down and counted 7 of us left. This would make workshopping even easier. Nell came in and made us all move closer to the front now that there was less of us. I was now only feet from her for the entire class. It was not easy to keep my focus on what she was talking about. Poetic devices. Writing in scenes. Submerging ourselves in the scene we want to write about. As she continued speaking, I started to focus better and an idea of what I wanted to write was formed.
The next two weeks went by in a lather rinse repeat cycle. Work Monday, Wednesday and Friday at various schools, go to my own class Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and spend the rest of those days doing homework. We were due to submit our first piece and this class was discussing our topic. Everyone else had picked a physical, walled off place. Classroom, Doctor’s office, library, bedroom. Every one of them elaborated without prompting.
It was my turn to talk to them about my topic and I had a small pit in my stomach. Mine was not a walled off place. Mine was more of a feeling, a time, emotions all rolled into one ‘place’.
“Emma?” Nell was looking at me. Fuck. Zero choice but to open my mouth. I was hoping if I kept it simple, she wouldn’t ask more of me. They would read the piece and either understand or not when they were done.
She got this curious look on her face. I offered no more and let out a sigh of relief when she didn’t press me. Class continued and when it ended, I packed up and headed towards the door. I was almost there when I heard my name, “Emma.”
I looked up and it was Nell. I walked over to her. “Yes?”
“The woods eh? You’re the only one who thought outside the box Etimesgut Escort it seems.” She was inches from me, I could smell the same perfume from the cafeteria. I wanted to know if she felt as good as she smelled. I had to force myself to focus on not giving in to that urge.
I had no clue how she expected me to respond so I stared at her just a little too long before I finally remembered how to talk.
“I’ve never been one for staying inside boxes.” What the fuck did I just say? Priceless crap Emma!
Nell chuckled, putting her hand on my arm as she did. “I look forward to reading your piece.”
What the hell? Shit. She touched me. I gave her my goofiest smile, “Um yeah. I gotta go.” I about raced out of the room. What the hell was wrong with me?
Once home, I put some finishing touches on it then submitted my piece online. I was scheduled to be 4th for workshopping so would have a week before it was my turn. That night I had a dream about her. I had been dreaming of her since day one, and they were getting increasingly more vivid.
“How vivid Em? Like middle of class she throws you on the table and ravages your body? That vivid?” Liz’s laughter could be heard over the live music and noise of the bar.
“You are a child.” Why had I started this conversation with Liz? I should know better by now. I glared at her. I grabbed the lilac drink she had ordered for me and finished it off. I wasn’t about to tell her that was indeed the theme of most of my dreams. That since she had touched my arm at the end of class the other day, I couldn’t stop fanaticizing about her hand touching me in other places. I shook my head to rid myself of the image.
“Seriously Em, this is getting a little out of control don’t you think?” She called over the waitress and ordered more drinks. She was right. I had been contemplating dropping the class, but I checked and no one else teaches it and I need it for my degree.
“Believe me I know.” The new drink had a pale pink hue. Rum. She knew rum made me mushy. I glared at her again.
“Oh, stop making eyes at me Emma, I am ‘strictly dickly’ remember.” I threw a sugar packet at her. She ducked and it landed on the table behind us, in someone’s beer. “Great job Em.” Liz continued laughing at me.
“Fuck.” I could hear the guy behind me grumbling. I turned around and told the guy sorry then ordered him a new beer. “You are of no use to me sometimes Elizabeth.”
“I’m okay with that.” And she was. She didn’t pull punches, even with me. Liz always calls it as she sees it. “But seriously how vivid? It’s not like you’ve ever fucked another woman, and my well-timed kisses over the years aren’t enough to qualify as ‘experience’. How do you know you would even like her touch?”
How did I know indeed? “Probably the same way you know you want your latest boy toy to touch you.” It was my turn to get something thrown at me. Liz was not one to try monogamy.
“But I have fucked many guys, so I think there’s a slight difference there Emma.” She wasn’t wrong, on both points. “You should have experimented more in college the first time.” She was dead panned serious too.
“Okay can we change the damn subject?”
We went into our usual Dean bashing mode for the next hour. The rum that was flowing in the various drinks was working out a lot of my pent-up emotional garbage. The night ended and we called an Uber so we would both get home in on piece. I lived closer to the bar and as I got out Liz yelled, “Sweet Dreams.”
Workshop sessions 1 and 2 were over. Both students had written run of the mill semi-creative essays. I tried to keep my feedback on track. They both had learned the rules well and applied them fittingly into their assignment. I was starting to worry mine would be the odd man out. I would have two more days to stew over it. I was getting my stuff in my bag when I heard my name. I looked and it was Nell calling me over.
“Have you finished ‘The Glass Castle’?”
I had and then I watched the movie. It wasn’t a bad adaption. “Yeah last week.”
“I enjoyed it.”
“Have you read ‘Educated’? It’s another memoir of an unconventional childhood.” She produced the book out of her own bag.
I hadn’t but it was on my to-buy list. “I haven’t, yet.”
“Here, take it. Let me know what you think.” She put it in my hand, her other hand trailing down mine as she did.
I stood there unable to think. Small fireworks were going off under the skin of my hand. My eyes followed her fingers as they left my skin. Fuck. I was still staring at them when she spoke again.
“Looking forward to your workshop Thursday.” My eyes finally moved and made contact with hers. They were a greenish hazel. I hadn’t noticed the color before now. My heart was nearly pounding out of my chest.
“Um, yeah.” I was starting to wonder if I had totally lost my ability to speak intelligently. I snapped out of it enough to start putting the book in my bag. At least I was doing something besides staring at her. I said goodbye and made my way out of the room.
That night’s dream was so hot I woke up in a sweat. I gave in and dipped my fingers between my legs. The memory of her smell and the feeling of her hand on my skin propelled me to climax. I fell back asleep and continued dreaming of her.
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