Am I really about to go to Professor Ingram’s apartment? I stare at the address in my email for a moment, wondering if this is a good idea or not. I pick up the phone to text Mya, but I put it back down. I want this to between just Professor Ingram and me.
Getting off the bed, I wonder to my closet for something to put on. I throw on some skinny jeans and an oversized sweater that falls off my shoulder all the time to the point where that’s how I prefer it now. I brush my hair down and slide on my boots. I decided to spray on the perfume I had on that night at the ball. A part of me hopes he notices.
I apply some eyeliner and mascara with some chapstick to keep my lips hydrated in the cold win. I hate lipstick because it fades and comes off on everything. Looking in the mirror at myself, my stomach is turning in knots times three. Once I approve of my outfit I turn around and look at the jacket. Should I bring it with me?
Picking it up, I fold it. I grab my cross body bag and put the jacket inside. I take a deep breath and head out.
Cranking the car up, I type the address into the GPS. He doesn’t stay far from campus but far enough to not be surrounded by college students. I pull into the apartment parking lot and turn the car off. I sit there and mentally prepare myself. My phone rings and its Todd.
“Hey Todd” I say as calm as I can
“Hey, Krystal. I was wondering if you wanted to go to the movies tomorrow night.” He has been working hard to regain my trust these past 2 days. I applaud him for his efforts
“Uh sure. That sounds fun”
“Great it’s a date. I’m glad you’re giving me another chance to prove to you that I’m not a complete ass” I can sense his excitement through the phone.
“Yeah, well I have to go. See you tomorrow” I mumble, trying to sound interested when I’m sitting in front of my professor’s apartment complex. This is so nerve wrecking. After we hang up I tighten my scarf and get out the car. Grabbing the bag, I head to Professor Ingram’s door.
344......345.....346.....347 I stop in front of his door and knock lightly. Professor Ingram opens the door and all the air leaves my lungs.
“Hey Krystal, come on in. It’s freezing outside” He stands back waiting for me to walk in.
I walk past him and begin taking off my scarf. I lay my bag by the door. Hopefully, I won’t have to go in it. When I’m about to take my jacket off I feel him behind me. He pulls the jacket off and hangs it up. I hear him inhale and I smile.
“Thanks, Professor Ingram”
“Oh, please call me Julius. We aren’t at school or anything.”
I blush lightly and walk over to the coffee table with the piles of paper on it.
“You weren’t over exaggerating when you said you needed help” I sit on the sofa and feel the warmth from his fireplace.
He laughs “I know. I’m swamped, Dr. Quinn picked a fine time to just up and leave”
“Tell me about it” I shake my head and somehow find my paper in the pile. My grade was already on it. I smile and hold the paper up “I got an A+”
He sits next to me, but not that close. He has two plates with pizza on them. “Yeah, I thought your paper was amazing. Your take on the Great Depression was great”
“Thanks” I take a plate and peel a pepperoni off, eating it. By the time I eat it, my stomach growls for more. I place my hand over my stomach.
“Do you eat, Krystal?” Julius looks at me with a concerned look.
I smirk “Yes. Surprisingly, I do. I’m just really picky so it takes me a while to figure out what I actually want to eat. If it were up to me I’d be living on pizza and spaghetti, but my parents don’t agree with my dietary plan”
He chuckles. I can’t help but stare at him as he laughs.
We start grading papers and just like I predicted, my sweater falls off my shoulder. I see Julius eye my shoulder, but I act as if I don’t notice. I wasn’t trying to give him any ideas, but I wasn’t going to come over here looking like a slob. After an hour or so I feel my shoulders and back get tense. I stand up and begin stretching.
“You ok?” He asks
“Yeah, just tension in my shoulders and back.” I reach up to the ceiling to go a full body stretch and I feel my sweater rise. I know my stomach is showing. I assume he is looking. Thank God I’m a relatively fit person.
“You work out?”
I nod. “Yeah, not really. Not a lot of time to with homework and projects.” I sit back down and pick up a few more papers. Julius sits his pen and papers down and groans.
“You know what, let’s take a break. These can wait for a little while.” Julius gets up and goes into the kitchen. He comes back out with 2 wine glasses and a bottle a wine. He pours mine first then his. I slide my boots off and pull my legs up into Indian style.
“So Krystal, What is your major?”
I take a sip “Early Childhood Education”
“That’s great. What made you pick that?”
I lick my lips and his eyes drop from my eyes to lips. “My mom is a 2nd-grade teacher and my dad is a 12th-grade History teacher”
“Ahh okay. So what do you do for fun?”
Uh oh. What should I say? Oh, I like to go to balls and kiss my masked professors.
“I just enjoy hanging with my friends. I’m not as social as they are, but they make sure they drag me out to have fun almost every weekend.” I take a rather large sip and with the other hand, the tips of my fingers pull on a loose string in my sweater.
Julius looks at my hand “Why do you do that?”
“That” he runs his fingers over the edge of my sweater mimicking what I was doing.
“Nervous habit.” I force a small smile.
“Hmm. So I noticed your friend, Ms. Graham is a Greek. Did you attend the ball, Saturday night?” What was that hmm for? I hope he doesn’t think I’m some weirdo or something. I want to pick at my sweater so bad, but I don’t want him to know that I have something to be nervous about. I eye my bag by the door.
“Yeah, I was there.” I go to chug some more wine but when I realize my glass is empty, I set it on the coffee table.
Julius’ eyes light up “Really? I didn’t see you there”
“It was a Masquerade ball, Julius. I wasn’t supposed to be seen” I giggle.
“Crap, you’re right.” He chuckles.
“So was your date that guy who came to my class?”
I nod “Yep”
“How did that work out? You didn’t seem that attracted to him outside my class”
I stare at him for a moment. Uh, hurry up and think of something. “We are working on trust. He wasn’t the best date that night.” I think I’m giving out too much information. Please stop asking me questions.
“What do you mean?”
I clear my throat, “He just couldn’t keep his hands to himself”
I bite my lip and look around. He doesn’t say anything. He takes a sip of the wine. I thought that would have been a dead giveaway. “So why are you giving him a second chance? He was a jerk and I don’t think he deserves you”
Is this Déjà vu, because I recall him saying the same thing at the ball. “It’s not really a second chance. More like a trial period” I shrug. I wonder why I’m really giving Todd a second chance and I can’t come up with a logical answer. It’s not like we had a great connection.
“Do I make you nervous?” He looks at me as if he is trying to put a puzzle together not knowing that a piece is missing.
“A little. I’m not used to someone wanting to know about me. And plus, you’re my professor. I say that I have a lot to be nervous about.”
Julius slides closer to me and I begin hearing the bump of my blood going through my veins, but I don’t flinch or react. I uncross my legs to put my feet on the floor, but he catches them. Julius lays my legs across his lap and I feel a chill rush through my whole body.
How is he doing this with me when I know he wants Audrey? It’s like he is lusting after two different women with no guilt. I guess he isn’t the one who should be guilty. I was keeping a secret from him. I jump when my phone vibrates in my lap. It’s my mom of all people, she wants to call today, now! When I don’t answer, she immediately calls again. Rolling my eyes, I answer.
“Hello, hi mom...... Yes, I’m fine...... No, I’m out with friends (lie).....Mom, you act like I’m going to get murdered”
I hear her yell. “Oh my God, Krystal Aud-”
I hurry up and interrupt before she can get my whole name out. I know he is listening. I just hope he didn’t hear that part. I have to learn to turn my call volume down.
“Mom, I have to go. Byeeee” I hang up and take a deep breath.
“Your mother sounds protective”
“Yeah, she was worse my freshman year” I roll my eyes.
Julius starts rubbing my leg and I stare at his hand. If Todd tried to do this I would probably stop him but it’s not Todd so I should stop comparing. Julius is nothing like him.
“Do you want me to stop?”
“No,” I say a little too fast. I feel my face get warm. “I mean…”
“There is nothing to be embarrassed or nervous about.” He smiles and reaches up, brushing his thumb over my cheek. It takes me back to that night. When we were standing in the shadows. I inhale and look up at Julius, I want to see if he will recognize my eyes. His eyes lock onto mine and my breathing shallows as I exhale through my lips.
He leans forward, getting close to my face. Without thinking, I lay my hand on the side of his face like I did that night. When his lips are an inch from mine I close my eyes and wait for him to kiss me but he doesn’t. I open my eyes and look into his.
“Krystal, I’m sorry. I can’t kiss you. When you touched me it reminded me of someone else.”
My heart drops and so does my hand from his face. “Oh”
I can feel my emotions coming to a head, I get up and slide my boots on “I should get going, it’s late.”
I go to put on my coat, but Julius stops me “Wait, I’m sorry. I just can’t get this girl off my mind. I met her at the ball, but I never got to actually see her without the mask. I just wish I knew who she was.”
He sighs and hangs my coat back up. He takes my hand in his “You are a great girl, but I just have to know who Audrey is. That’s why I asked you if you knew her”
“Well, I hope you find her,” I say in a cold manner. I begin to get angry and on the inside, I’m yelling, IT’S ME! I’M AUDREY!
I pull my hand from his “I really think I should leave now” I say softly. I can see the hurt on his face as he knows that he has hurt my feelings. I grab my scarf, jacket and bag. I open the door and rush out. I was so stupid for even coming. I don’t what I was expecting to get out of this.
He watches me get in my car before he closes the door. I crank the car up as tears sting my eyes. I slap the steering wheel before putting the car in reverse. I drive back to the dorms feeling defeated. Even if I told him that I was Audrey, I probably wouldn’t be what he expected. I look at the clock and its 1:32am.