01 | New Professor
“Are you really not coming?” Nikki asks incredulously, over-the-top shock written on her face. “This is going to be thee rave of the year, Cupcake!”
“They’re all “thee” rave of the year,” I point out.
“Yeah, but this one’s going to be in that old building on Broadway Avenue,” she explains. “You know, that one with the Victorian meets English Old Woman design. It’s going to be huge.”
“I can’t,” I answer easily, snickering. “Not this time. I have to take care of things for Mother.”
“Fuck that.” She snorts, leaning back in her chair and kicking her legs up on the desktop. “If my old man asked me to do something, I’d laugh in his face.”
I smile, shaking my head.
Nicole, or ‘Nikki’ if you don’t want your skin peeled off, is quite easily the most gorgeous girl at Pacific University. She isn’t the most ladylike, by any means, but acting proper’s overrated anyway. With long, thick hair and pretty teal eyes, she effortlessly beats everyone in the school, especially with the habit of dying her hair unnatural colors. Even now, with her feet raised on the desk as if it’s a pedestal for her pink heels rather than a place for paper, examining the chipping yellow on her nails, she looks like she belongs in a magazine rather than a rundown classroom.
This month, her colors are baby blue and bright green. Thanks to that (and her father’s endless effort to pay off his daughter), the top layer of her hair is a light, pastel blue, while the bottom layers nearly blind you with neon green. Her skinny jeans are dual-colored (one leg white, the other black), and her pink Monster shirt looks skin-tight, just the way she likes it.
“Do you really think he’s as hot as they’re saying?”
Nikki and I look up in time to see two senior girls walk in. They make eye-contact with us, like deer caught in headlights, before scurrying to their seats, dropping their voices.
“I mean, he does sound too good to be true,” she continues quietly, leaning into her friend.
“I saw him, okay?” the other assures her. “Trust me: he is too good to be true.”
She looks too excited. “I can’t wait to meet him.”
“I can’t wait to see your face! Too bad he’s going to be late; he said he had to run home and get something.”
“Oh my God. You two are already close enough that he can tell you his plans!?”
The friend shakes her head. “I wish. He’s actually that opened with everyone.”
She sighs dreamily, leaning into her chair. “God. Did I mention that I can’t wait to meet him?”
They laugh, and I roll my eyes, zoning them out.
“Hey, you can’t blame them,” Nikki says, smirking. “Most of the professors here make my skin crawl—I wouldn’t mind being able to leer at some hot guy while I’m stuck here either.”
I chuckle. “Really, Nik?”
She grins. “Don’t judge~”
“Hey, girls,” TJ says, sliding into the seat in front of me. “Excited for the rave tonight? I heard it was going to be badass.”
“I am.” Nikki looks at me with feigned disappointment. “But Cupcake’s not coming.”
His head snaps to me, eyes wide. “Why not?”
I can’t help but chuckle. TJ’s features are all soft: his cheeks are rounded, taking the edge away from his jaw; his eyes are big and blue; and his hair is well taken cared of, styled to the left without a hair out of place. He’s so cute, it’s unfair when he looks disappointed because one look at his crestfallen expression and you immediately want to do what he wants. He knows it, too, so he uses it to his advantage all the time.
“Because I have to make sure my brother and sisters are alright,” I answer, not giving in. “Six months with Mother can’t be healthy.”
Nikki’s expression darkens. “So, she’s back?” she asks, voice flat.
I nod. “On their way. It’s only for a couple days this time, though. I’d hope for her plane to crash into the ocean or the car to suddenly combust, but that would be killing off the kids too, so I’m pretty torn.”
She laughs. “I don’t blame you. Personally, I’d nail her ass with neglect and ship her off to jail.”
“Yeah, except child protection services always gives a three-day warning. By that time, she can play the perfect mommy act. Besides, if she found out, she’d start staying for weeks instead of days just to torture me. I’m suicidal after an hour; I can’t handle seven days.”
“The sad thing is I can totally see her doing that even though she hates being there as much as you hate having her there.” She shakes her head.
“Wait, who are we talking about? Cupcake’s mom?” TJ joins, looking at me. “You have parents?”
Nikki rolls her eyes. “No, TJ, didn’t we tell you? She was grown in a lab as the prototype for the perfect human.”
“What? Too cliché?”
“Definitely,” he states. “Anywho, how come we never hear about your parents? I’m sure Trent doesn’t know at least.”
“They’re not important,” I say, leaning into my hand as I shrug.
“Whose are?” he agrees, sighing. “Just wish mine would disappear for weeks on end.”
“Speaking of disappearing, did you hear about that girl that went missing last month?” Nikki questions, moving her hair out of her face. “Apparently, when they found her body last week...”
I ignore them. The murders were all that anyone talked about before the rumors of a new teacher started floating around, so I’ve already heard everything they’re gossiping about. Instead, I entertain myself with the rain outside, racing water drops to blank my mind out.
Suddenly, there’s a click and someone steps into the classroom, their shoes tapping on the ruddy tiles.
I look over, more out of habit than real interest, and my eyes widen at the same time Nikki and TJ’s mouths drop.
“Holy shit,” Nikki breathes, the sound of her heels hitting the floor filling the room.
“More like Holy God,” TJ corrects.
The seniors weren’t exaggerating—if anything, they underestimated. Everything about him is edged—dark, messy hair, sharp jawline, piercing green eyes—and the smirk on his mouth isn’t helping anything. He’s wearing a white, button-up long-sleeve that emphasizes his large shoulders, his defined arms, and the dark slacks feel out of place. For a wild second, I wonder what he’d look like clad in leather.
With a playful smirk, he says, “Dr. Frey has taken another job in a different state, so starting today, I will be teaching the psychology classes.” His tongue rolls over the words with a sliver of an accent, but I can’t place it. English, possibly?
Nikki lets out a low whistle. “Shame he’s not teaching a sex ed class,” she whispers, “because I suddenly need hands-on practice.”
We laugh, trying to keep our voices down. The new professor looks over at us, as if he heard, but goes on like nothing happened.
“Since today is my first day, I figured we’d go easy, like an introduction of sorts.” He leans against the desk, hands on either side of him, and gives a sly smile as his eyes sweep the class. “First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Chase Kingsley. I have a Ph.D. in psychology from Cambridge, but I’m not a fan of being called ‘doctor,’ so any other variant is fine. I teach a little differently than other professors, as I don’t particularly like textbooks, standardized tests, or homework, so there won’t be any of those—” he’s interrupted by a chorus of hoots and hollers “—but that means the only thing I have to grade you on is participation, which will likely be a problem for a few of you. In an effort to make things fair, I have a deal to offer: no homework for those who feel they can get enough participation points, but for those who need more points, I’ll assign some sort of work to be turned in over the course of the semester. Is that agreeable?”
A couple of people cheer, but most nod enthusiastically. I sigh in appreciation, grateful to have something other than participation, but equally grateful for the lack of tests. Nik and TJ share the sentiment—we’re all awful at test-taking.
“All right,” he continues. “Now that business is out of the way, is there anything you would like to know?”
Almost instantly, everyone in the room raises a hand. Even Nikki and TJ have their hands up and that never happens.
“You.” Mr. Kingsley points at Erin. “Yes, you, with the red hair.”
Erin, the junior class president, smiles. “How old are you?”
“I’m twenty-eight,” he answers, green eyes amused. “How old do I look?”
“Not old enough to have a Ph.D.,” she says flirtatiously.
He chuckles, coolly side-stepping the look on her face. “Okay, next.” He looks around the room, stopping at Harley. “You, with the half-shirt.”
Harley stands, her shoulder-length curls bouncing as she shoves her hands in the pockets of her short shorts. “Are you married?”
He raises an eyebrow, feigning innocence. “Married? No.”
“Taken?” she pushes, quirking her hip.
“No,” he repeats, the smirk back. “I’m currently single.”
“If you could choose,” Nikki starts, stretching out her legs on the desk again, “between a girl with boring, natural hair or a girl with fun, colorful hair, which would you choose?”
Harley glares at her, knowing that she purposely asked the question just to interrupt her.
He studies Nikki for a few minutes, completely amused. “I’m guessing you’re Ms. Sutton.”
She grins. “The one and only.”
“So that means the people next to you would be Ms. Tyler and Mr. Justice, correct?”
I blink, surprised to hear him call my name, but quickly go blank, nodding. In all honesty, I should expect this professor, new or not, to know who we are. Our entire group is known all around campus. Hell, most of us are known around the city.
“I’ll tell you what, Ms. Sutton. If the three of you tell me about yourselves, I’d be glad to answer your question.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’re into deals.” She returns his smirk with a practiced one of her own. “We’ll answer your questions, but you have to give me a one-hundred-percent honest answer, yeah?”
“Of course,” he says, bowing mockingly.
“What do you wanna know?” she asks, challenging.
The entire class is staring at us, too interested in what’s going on, and I start playing with my fingers, distracting myself with picking at my nails.
“Let’s start easy, shall we?” He walks towards us, stopping at the desk her feet are raised on. “What’s your favorite color?”
She scoffs. “That’s the best you’ve got?” When all he does is tilt his head expectantly, the smirk widening, she rolls her eyes. “Right now, I’m leaning more towards green, but it changes every day.”
TJ thinks about it for a few beats. “Red.”
He looks at me, waiting, and I clear my throat, overly aware that everyone is waiting on pins and needles for the answer. “Uh, pink?” It sounds more like a question, though. I’ve never given much thought on my favorite color, but if we’re going off of hair—like in Nikki’s case—then I guess pink it's.
There’s a bit of confusion on his face, but it’s gone quickly, wiped away as Nikki sighs impatiently. “Question two: what’s your favorite subject?”
Nikki doesn’t hesitate. “Theatre.”
Neither does TJ. “Art.”
He looks thoughtful as he nods, accepting these answers, before looking at me expectantly.
I bite my lip, thinking. “Well, um, I guess psychology?”
Erin snorts, and TJ sends her a threatening glance.
“Really?” Mr. Kingsley muses. Thankfully, he doesn’t comment on it any further. “Last question: why do you think everyone is so interested in what you three have to say?”
Nikki snorts. “That’s easy,” she says. “It’s obviously because everyone’s a bunch of nosy SOBs.”
TJ laughs. “Careful, Nikki, your entitlement is showing.”
She swats at him, and he laughs.
“Well then, why do you think they’re all staring?” she counters.
TJ just shrugs. “Because we never talk about ourselves. Didn’t we just have a conversation about Cupcake’s mom? The woman I didn’t know existed until twenty minutes ago?”
“Touché,” Nikki concedes.
“Interesting,” Mr. Kingsley says, amused again. “What about you, Ms. Tyler? Why do you think everyone is so engrossed in our conversation?”
That one really is an easy question—I don’t even have to think about it. “Because they don’t know how to take us,” I answer.
He smiles crookedly, one corner of his mouth turning up. “Good,” he says, turning from us to head back to the front of the class. “And that, class, is what we’re going to be talking about. Within the next couple of days, we’re going to learn about the different personalities and how they respond differently to certain situations.”
“Um...” a quiet girl in the first row mumbles. “What do you mean?”
“Well, by a show of hands, how many of you have heard of the sixteen personality types?” he asks.
Almost everyone in the room raises their hands. The three of us don’t bother, even though we went over it last week.
He nods in approval. “Okay, can someone tell me the characteristics of the ENJT, or the Executive, and the ISFP, or the Artist?”
The same girl timidly raises her hand. “The Executive personality is assertive and outspoken, while the Artist is considered quiet, sensitive, and kind.”
“Good,” he says. “Given that information, how do you think the Executive personality would react if someone was picking on a classmate?”
“They’d probably stand up for the kid. Y’know, get in the way and tell the person to stop or something,” some guy near me answers. I don’t miss the meaningful look he sends us, as if he’s seen us make fun of someone before.
“What about the Artist personality? Would they stand up for the student or turn a blind eye?”
“I don’t think they’d necessarily turn a blind eye,” someone in the front says. “I think they’d wait until it was all done and over with and then go over to the person, offering help or something.”
“Very good,” he praises. “In a situation, faced with a certain problem or person, particular personalities react differently. The Executive, as he stated, would more than likely intervene or face the problem head-on, effortlessly expressing their thoughts, but the Artist would help behind the scenes. Maybe they would offer to tell a teacher with the student, or simply offer a friendly shoulder; either way, the Artist would be more behind-the-scenes help.” He looks at the girl. “Understand now?”
“I think so,” she says timidly.
“Great.” His smile is breathtaking. “Now, as I said earlier, I don’t find a need for books—simply because not everything you need to know can be found in standardized texts—so the next thing to do is pass them up.”
“He never answered my question,” Nikki whines, handing her book to the person a couple seats in front of her.
“What was the point in asking us those questions anyway?” I mutter. “Did he just want to use us to ease into teaching?”
“Can’t blame him,” TJ says. “Nikki practically made it too easy.”
“Oh shut up,” Nikki grumbles.
After everyone’s book is past up and stacked in a pile beside his desk, the bell chimes, signaling lunch. Everyone bustles to get up and get to lunch quickly, but the three of us take our time, not worried about our table being taken.
Just as we pass his desk, Mr. Kingsley says, “Oh, and by the way,” TJ, Nikki, and I stop, looking back at him, “hair color isn’t important to me.”
“Then what is?” Nikki asks, surprised to actually be answered.
“The mind.” He smirks.
Nikki rolls her eyes, and TJ and I snicker as she turns around, heading for the door.