I grasp the edges of my desk for support as I fight the urge to vomit, faint, or both. This cannot be happening! My eyes lock with Conrad’s, and his jaw is clenched tight, but his eyes are wide with surprise, shock, and I’m guessing horror.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I hear Des mutter under her breath.
All I want to do is get up and run from the room, but I keep myself planted to my seat to avoid causing a scene. I can feel tears prickling behind my eyes but blink them back. Conrad shakes his head slightly and then scans the rest of the room before speaking again.
“As I was saying, my name is Mr. Riley, your new Advanced English teacher. I’m pleased to be joining you here this year.”
His first words come out sounding a little shaken, but by the end of the sentence, he seems to gain his composure. Not me, though, my heart rate is dangerously high right now.
“I’m going to get right down to our first assignment,” Conrad, or shall I say Mr. Riley continues, “everyone, please get out a piece of blank paper and write down at least five novels you enjoy, and five that you didn’t. If you’re not a big reader, that’s okay, just write down anything, even if it’s a book you feel is overused or overrated. What I’m trying to figure out is what our reading list will be this year, and I’d rather try something a little different than the usual high school staples that everyone has read already or finds too boring to be interesting.”
Now usually, a new and exciting assignment like this would have my hand raised right away to bombard the teacher with questions, but I can’t even move. Another student raises their hand and asks a question that I probably would at this point.
“So, how will you choose your list from ours?”
“I’ll take in account the genres you’ve chosen, for example, choosing books that are similar to those read the most amongst you, and avoiding books that are considered least favorable,” Conrad replies.
“So we won’t have to reread Romeo and Juliet, or The Catcher and the Rye, or Moby Dick?” the student asks.
“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what you guys give me for feedback here.”
“I happen to like Romeo and Juliet, or books like Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby,” Desiree’s voice sounds from behind me, “you know, the doomed romance type of books. What do you think, C... Mr. Riley?”
I could turn and smack her right now, but I’m dying here.
“I have enjoyed those stories very much myself Miss…er…”
“Desiree. Desiree, Claire.”
I picture Des’s face right now, she’s playing along, and with one eyebrow raised, I bet.
“Yes, Miss Claire. I’m sure there will be similar stories to those that will make the new reading list. There is so much new and undiscovered literature out there that is just waiting to be discovered. I think it’s time to change things up a little bit.”
“Well then, I have to say that I’m eager to find out what you come up with,” Des responds.
“Alright, I’ll let you get to it then. In the meantime, I’m going to hand out the seating chart. Please fill in your name and pass it on.”
I’m staring down at my desk, unable to meet his gaze when the aforementioned piece of paper is placed under my nose. I brave a peek up at Conrad, and he’s staring down at me with a look I can’t begin to interpret. Is it anger? Fear? Concern? I have no idea. I’ve never seen this expression on him before, and I don’t think I like it.
“Please fill in your name and pass it on Miss Chase,” he murmurs before breaking eye contact and moving on.
With those simple, unassuming words, I can feel everything between Conrad and me, slipping away. Questions begin filling my brain. Does he think I lied about being eighteen? Why didn’t he tell me that not only is he a musician, he is also a high school teacher? You would think that something as significant as what you did for a living would have come up. Why didn’t I just tell him I was still in High School? Maybe if I had, he would have divulged his information before it was too late. This is just the worst; this is basically the final nail in the coffin that I didn’t realize was being built.
Once everyone is preoccupied with their first assignment, Conrad takes a seat at his desk in the front of the room. I dare another peek at him. He’s leaning back in his chair, his eyes scanning the classroom until they land on me. I quickly look down at my paper, embarrassed that he caught me staring at him. Just then, I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket, and I assume its Desiree, probably asking how bad I’m freaking out right now. I peek up at Conrad again, unsure of how to proceed, and see him setting his phone down in front of him on his desk. He gestures with his chin in a move so subtle, I’m not sure it’s intentional, but the look he gives me tells me that it was. So as inconspicuously as I can manage, I take my phone out and read the message.
*We’re going to discuss this tonight. It would appear we have a lot to talk about.
I look up at him, and he’s still staring at me, but he’s careful to move his eyes around the room as well, so it’s not apparent. I quickly text him back. His phone must be on silent because it doesn’t make a noise or vibrate. If I didn’t know what was happening, you would think that he’s just browsing the net or something.
*Why didn’t you tell me you were a teacher?
His brow furrows as he reads it, then I wait for his reply.
*We’ll talk about it tonight. Now put your phone away and finish your assignment.
This time, it’s me that’s frowning at my phone. I look up at Conrad again, and he’s smirking at me. What? I want to find out now, but decide that it’s probably best to just do what he says and put my phone away. Now I have to wait for the rest of the day to talk to him? Today is going to be the longest day ever! In the meantime, I set about working on my first English assignment, given to me by Conrad Riley, a painfully hot teacher by day, sinfully sexy musician by night.
At the end of class, I don’t even look at Conrad as I place my paper on his desk and practically run from the classroom. I need some air. Desiree is hot on my heels but doesn’t try to say anything until we are outside. I take a seat at a picnic table and groan loudly, hiding my face in my palms. I feel Des place a hand on my back.
“So, I take it that you had no idea?” Des asks softly from next to me.
“This is crazy. What do you think he’s going to do?”
“I don’t know. He wants to talk about it tonight though."
“How do you know that?”
“He sent me a message during class.”
“Maybe that’s a good sign?”
I look up at Des then and give her a get real look.
“I doubt anything about this situation is good Des. He literally can’t date me now. Even if it’s legal by age, it certainly isn’t legal if I’m his student. He’s not going to jeopardize his career for me, and I wouldn’t ask him to.”
“Well, this just sucks, but look at the bright side. While all the other girls in our class are fantasizing about kissing him, you’ll already know what it’s like.”
“I wouldn’t call that a bright side. That just makes it so much harder- especially because he's an amazing kisser.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. Could you imagine if you had gone all the way with him?”
“He’s too much of a gentleman,” I pause and take a deep breath, “Ugh! What am I going to do Des? Maybe I should transfer from his class.”
“No way, don’t do that. I know it’ll be hard, but you need this class, and it’s your favorite subject. Just talk to him tonight and see what he says.”
“It doesn’t matter what he says. Nothing can make this better. Maybe I need to cut my losses and just walk away, avoid him altogether aside from class.”
As much as the thought of that pains me, the logical and what I’d like to think as my dominating side, I know this may be the best thing to do for both of us. Who knows, maybe that’s what he’s already thinking and is preparing to tell me this evening. I don’t know if I want to even go through the torture of that conversation. I pull out my phone.
“What are you doing?” Des asks curiously.
“I’m going to text Conrad.”
“And say what exactly?”
“That I don’t think I should see him tonight or any other night for that matter.”
“Seriously? You’re giving up, just like that?”
“It’s not giving up. It’s doing the right thing.”
Des reaches out and takes my phone from my hand. I shoot her an irritated glare.
“Come on Des. It has to be done. I’d like to save myself some dignity and do it first. It’s only inevitable.”
“Screw doing the right thing for once Syd. I think you need to wait to see what he has to say. I know you, and I know that you’ll torture yourself wondering what it was that he had to say. If anything, it’ll give you some closure.”
“Oh, I don’t know Des…”
“Oh, stop it. Just trust me on this one.”
Des hands me my phone back and stands up.
“Anyway, we’d better get going to our next classes. I would hate for you to get a tardy slip on the first day and I know you’d hate that.”
The rest of the day drags on, just as I knew it would. What had started as a great day for me, turned into a terrible one. The hallways were already abuzz with news about the new, hot English teacher. I couldn’t seem to escape it. My second to last class of the day, I have a free period. I decided to meander around the temporarily quiet hallways for a little while before going to find a place to work on the homework I’ve already acquired from a relentless history teacher when I pass by an open doorway. I look into the nearly empty classroom and see Conrad sitting at his desk, with his attention focused on the papers in front of him.
Before I realize what I’m doing, my feet have already carried me into the room. My shoes scrape against the dingy green linoleum, and Conrad looks up to see the source of the disruption. The expression on his face is of curiosity, but he doesn’t say anything right away as I move further into the room towards him. I look around for a chair, and decide on my desk, front and center, and take a seat. I just sit there and stare at him for what feels like forever before he stands up. My eyes are glued to him as he goes over to the door and closes it before coming back and leaning against the front of his desk.
“So Sydney, what are we to do about this little situation?” He asks quietly, calmly.
“I don't know. I guess there’s nothing we can do,” I whisper, my voice lost in my throat.
Conrad pushes away from his desk and paces a few times.
“I thought you were in college.”
“And I thought you were just in a band. Why didn’t you tell me you were a teacher?”
“If I relied solely on that band for money, I’d starve.”
“Okay, but answer my question,” I say with a little more force than I anticipated.
Conrad gives me an amused look and shakes his head.
“I don’t know why I didn’t tell you yet. I was planning on it, and I almost did once, but we were interrupted.”
“You’ve had plenty of other opportunities.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right. However, you’ve had plenty of opportunities to tell me you were in high school and failed to do so.”
“I was afraid that you wouldn’t be interested anymore.”
Conrad nods in understanding, I think, before slumping back against his desk again.
“Damn it Sydney. This is not good. You do understand what this means, don’t you?”
“I do. It means we can’t date, and I need to keep my mouth shut about anything that has happened between us so far.”
“I could lose my job.”
I cast my eyes downwards and try to fight the tears that threaten to fall.
“So, I guess we’re just going to have to be extra careful then.”
Huh? My eyes shoot up to meet his.
“Wait. What?” I stammer in surprise.
Conrad stands up straight and walks forward to my desk, placing his hands on either side of it and leaning down slightly.
“It’s unethical as hell, and illegal too, I could get into a lot of trouble here,” he says, voice low.
“W-what are you talking about?”
My heart starts to thump hard against my chest, and my stomach does those flip-flops. Is Conrad saying what I think he’s saying?
“After I saw you this morning, I thought you had lied about your age, so I checked your record, so I know you weren’t lying about that.”
“Conrad…” I start, but he shakes his head.
“When we are in class, you are to call me Mr. Riley.”
“Are you kidding right now?”
Conrad leans in a little closer and smiles that sexy smile of his that makes me lightheaded.
“And outside of class?” I breathe.
“Outside of school, you can call me Conrad. Sydney, I don’t want to stop seeing you. I know it’s wrong, but I…I want…”
Abruptly, Conrad stands up straight, just as the door to the classroom opens. I jump slightly in my seat and see that the intruder is none other than the principal, Mrs. Gallagher.
“Alright then, Miss Chase, I appreciate your input on this. I’ll look into it and get back to you tomorrow,” Conrad says to me in a very teacher-like voice.
I quickly play along and nod my head and stand from the desk.
“Thank you, Mr. Riley. I just thought that it might make a good assignment. Hello, Mrs. Gallagher.”
Mrs. Gallagher smiles kindly at me and then at Conrad.
“What’s this assignment?” she asks curiously.
Oh crap! Fortunately, Conrad is quick on his feet.
“Sydney was just suggesting that we do an essay comparing classic literature, with their modern counterparts. Today I had suggested we make a list of novels that students feel are outdated and find new stories that we could ascertain from now.”
Mrs. Gallagher nods thoughtfully for a moment and then nods.
“I like it. Good job, Miss Chase. Now, if you could excuse us, I need a moment with Mr. Riley.”
I nod, with probably too much enthusiasm.
“Thank you, Mrs. Gallagher, and thank you, Mr. Riley. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow in class.”
“Thank you for coming in, Miss Chase, see you tomorrow,” Conrad smiles broadly at me, and I see a glimmer in his eye.
I dart out of the room quickly, and then half jog down the corridor until I reach my locker. My legs shake so hard, they give out on me, and I slide down the lockers and sit on the hard floor. I can’t believe that just happened. Is this happening? Am I actually about to embark on a secret affair with…with my teacher?