The next day I arrive at Professor Ingram’s class an hour early for my T.A. job which I had been avoiding, obviously. When I walk into the class he isn’t paying attention. I clear my throat and his head turns to me. “Krystal”
“Hi, Professor Ingram. I know I’ve been missing my T.A. work and I’m sorry” I pick at my shirt wondering how this is going to turn out.
He stands “It’s okay. I’ve been managing pretty well” he eyes the giant stack of papers on his desk “Well sort of”
I smile “Yeah. I can see”
“Um, about Thanksgiving...” He mumbles but I hold my hand up “It’s ok. It’s water under the bridge”
He smiles “Good. I didn’t know if you were still upset or not, but I really wanted to apologize for Nora. She left the next day. I don’t think I’m going to see her anymore”
I nod “O okay. Well we should get to these papers”
I take my jacket and scarf off and he watches. I’m wearing black skinny jeans with boots and a long sleeve crimson red shirt. My hair has loose curls in it with one side pinned back.
“You look lovely today.” He says
“Thanks” I say as I feel my phone vibrate in my back pocket. I look and it’s a text from Jacob
Jacob: Hey half-pint. Have a good day and talk to Julius.
I smile and put the phone back in my pocket. He must be a mind reader.
As I’m sorting through the papers I feel Julius’ eyes on me. I know he wants to say something yet the room remains silent. When I’m done with the papers, I take them in the file closet and when I turn around he is standing there “Crap, you scared me”
“Sorry, look I’m really sorry about all of this mess I’ve put you in. You didn’t deserve any of it. I was a fool to let you go and I don’t love Nora. I just thought I did” He babbles on till I lay my hand on his chest.
“It’s okay. I understand.” I say as I look into his eyes.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It was a chapter that you needed to close without the influence of me or anyone else.” I smile.
Professor Ingram takes a deep breath “Thank God. I’m glad you understand and if it’s okay I want to remain friends with you”
“Friend?” I look at him confused.
“Yeah. I know you’re with Jacob now and I’m okay with it. “He looks sad.
I giggle “You saw us kiss didn’t you?”
“Yes, we had a moment and yes he is a great person, but we aren’t together. We both know that I want you so I and Jacob are going to be good friends”
His face lifts “You want me? Why?”
“I don’t know. You just have a special effect on me and I do miss you a lot, but it’s not going to be easy. You are going to have to earn my trust. You messed up once, don’t let it happen again. Okay?”
He slides his hand around my waist and pulls me to him “God, I have missed you so much” He leans in to kiss me, but I lean back “Oh no mister. You are going to have to work for this”
“Are you really going to torture me, Ms. Smith?” He pouts
“Yep.” I walk out and I hear him groan.
During class, he is back to his old self, talkative. I take down my notes as he speaks. I know he is looking at me so I bite my bottom lip more than usual to tease him. I nearly laugh when he stutters a few times. Mya nudges me “Are you two on good terms cause every time he looks at you he fights a smile” I nod and she does a silent clap.
I tease Professor Ingram numerous times throughout the week just for payback. The hardest part of the torture is me refusing to call him Julius. He groans when I call him Professor when it isn’t class time. I don’t go over to his apartment either which is driving him crazy also.
Two weeks go by and the Annual Christmas Ball is here. As much as the word “Ball” puts a sour taste in my mouth, I decided to go because of Mya. She has again picked my dress for me. This time it is a Navy blue beaded sleeveless gown. I am in awe when I pull it out of the bag.
“My God Mya this dress is amazing”
She jumps up and down “I knew you would love it! I can’t wait for tonight. It was so hard keeping this dress in my closet from you.”
We spend the day doing out hair and makeup. I’m trying to fix a curl when I get an email from an unknown person. When I read it my heart drops
I KNOW ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PROFESSOR. IF YOU DON’T WANT THE WHOLE SCHOOL KNOWING THEN MEET ME OUTSIDE OF THE BALL AT MIDNIGHT. ALONE OR ELSE.
I sit down on the bed and stare at the text. I’m being blackmailed.
“Krystal, what’s wrong?” Mya asks
I pass her the phone and she gasps “Who the hell knows!?”
“I…I don’t know. What am I going to do?” I’m near full panic mode. I don’t know what I would do if the whole school knew that I was fooling around with a professor. I can’t bail on the ball but I really didn’t want to go now.
Mya convinced me to finish getting dress and we will figure out the rest. She helps me put the last touches on my look in silence. She is also thinking the same thoughts as I am. This whole situation could blow up and ruin a career.
“Okay all done. Look at me.” Mya orders and I obey “It’s going to be fine. There technically isn’t any proof of y’all doing anything. So maybe it’s a bluff”
I nod “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
When we arrive at the ball I am anything, but excited. I look around to see if anyone is looking at me, but I see no one. My heart is pounding with fear. I see Julius and he smiles at me as he is talking to the Dean of the school. I wonder what they are talking about.
Mya brings me a drink to calm me and I drink it faster than I plan to. I stand on the side of the party watching everyone dance and I feel a hand on my back. I jump and turn around
“Jacob!” I smile. He picks me up and spins me “Hey half-pint. I missed you”
“I missed you too. What are you doing here?”
“I got an invite from Julius” He says as I eye him up and down. “You clean up nice”
He laughs “Yeah you know, I try, but you my dear look gorgeous”
I blush “Thanks, but I don’t feel gorgeous. I have a problem”
I pull him away and tell him about the email. He says that when I go outside he will go through a different door and stand to watch just in case anything goes wrong. I feel better knowing he will be there. I really want to know who this person is blackmailing me. I start to think it’s Todd, but I’m not sure. It can be anyone.
To pass time, I dance with Jacob. He takes my mind off of the whole situation for a little while. I eye Julius and he looks happy and jealous at the same time. I assured him that Jacob and I are just friends, but I know he wishes he would dance with me.
Jacob’s humming in my ear calms me a lot. He rubs my back softly as the DJ plays One Republic. I wish I could tell Julius what is going on, but he would just try to stop me from going out there. I need to know. I hear Jacob start singing the song in my ear and I lean back and sing with him. He really does know how to calm me.
When midnight comes around Jacob and I separate. Mya walks with me to the door “Just scream if anything happens and we will be there okay?” I nod. I take a deep breath and go outside in the cold. I wrap my arms around myself and wait on the sidewalk of the building. There is no one out here just me and silence. I begin to shake from the cold as I wait then I see someone come out of the shadows. I squint my eyes “Robert?”