I took a cup of hot steaming coffee and sat on the sit out looking far away. My mind was clouded with thoughts, and I was tangled in them. I recalled the conversation with Max this morning. I was in the supermarket, getting groceries for the week, and saw Max too shopping while going through aisles. I turned to see Max and smiled at him with a Hi.
But Max did not return my smile. I was confused and asked him, “Max, Is everything fine?”
Max looked at me and said, “Everything is fine with me.”
I was confused even more at his answer. “What?”
He looked at me with a stern look and asked, “Don’t you know?”
“Max, please, I am perplexed. Be clear.”
Max exhaled loudly and asked, “What is Mr. Martinez doing at your place?”
I was taken aback by this question. “Jack is my project guide. He came over to discuss that.”
“Jack? You are on a first-term basis with your professor?” He said with a dead laugh.
“That… Max…” Max stopped me before I said anything.
“Hanna, I know you for the past four-five years. I know you haven’t crossed your limit with anyone in our college. But the way act with our professor… I don’t have any right to say this to you. But as a well-wisher for you, let me say this. You know any relationship between professor and student is not allowed in our university. But I have seen Mr. Martinez slept in your place twice. You don’t have to explain to me, but you cannot go on to explain to everyone who sees it.” He left after uttering these words.
I was thinking of the same with a confusing mind. What Max said was true. Was I doing the right thing? Yes, I know that any relationship between professor and student was not allowed. I thought of waiting till completing this course, but things took a drastic turn yesterday. What would I do?
Whenever Jack was near to me, my heart doesn’t think about anything else. But once he was away, I am confused to the core. Let me talk to Jack to wait till I complete this course. It is a matter of two months, right?
I jerked back to reality when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up to see Paige standing there.
“Hey, Paige. When did you come? You said you would be back only tonight. Why are you so early?”
Paige looked at me strangely.
“Hanna, it is ten at night.” I was shocked at her answer. I looked out to see a pitch dark sky. Was I in my thoughts for five hours?
“What happened, Hanna?” Paige sat next to me.
“Paige” I took her hands in anxiety.
“Hanna. Now I am more worried. What happened?”
Tears flowed down my cheeks, and I looked at her. “I slept with Jack,” I said a whisper.
“What?” Paige was now appalled. “Hanna, don’t play with me,” She said in a shocked tone.
I kept quiet at her words. “Hanna, Are you… Are you serious?”
I nod in silence. “Jack, came here yesterday to discuss my project. I slept when he was here and had the same dream. Jack was worried about my state. I shared the dream with him and about Amy. He consoled me, and one thing led to another.”
Paige was silent in shock. “Paige, say something,” I called her.
She sighed at me. “What do you want me to say, Hanna? I am not OK with what had happened. But, let us not stir on what had happened. Talk with Mr. Martinez. I hope he would also be confused.”
After a moment, Paige asked, “Did you had any dinner?” I shook my head.
“Get up, let me fix you something.”
We sat on the island chairs with two cups of noodles. After a thought, I looked at Paige. “My project discussion is set for tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? Why so soon?”
“Jack said, I was already late.” I stopped and looked at her. “Jack offered me a job in his company.”
Paige shrieked at me. “What?”
I chuckled at her. “He said that he wanted to sign up my project for his company, and after joining his concern, I can develop it more.”
“Wow. Give me some break in between shocks.” She shouted at me.
After dinner, we cleaned up the dishes. Paige looked at me. “Hanna, don’t overthink anything. Just sleep well. You have a project discussion tomorrow.” I nod at her, wishing her Good night.
The next day, as soon as reaching university, Alicia informed me that I was needed in the department head’s office. I nodded at her and turned to Paige.
“Oh God, Jack should have set the discussion first thing today,” I told in a slightly nervous voice.
“Good luck,” She wished me as I left for the office.
I stopped in my tracks, looking at the people inside the office. I could see the Dean, my department head, and other professors in my department, along with Jack and Max. Why are so many people there for my project discussion? Why is Max here? And who is the new person in there? I entered the room with a confused face. I looked at Jack, but he never turned towards me.
“Sir,” I called my department Head Mr. David.
David he looked at me with anger filled face. My professors Ms. Evans and Mr. Hill, looked at me with a disappointed expression. What happened?
“Ms. Johnson. Can you tell me what your project is all about?”
“It is about designing a device used to communicate with people with hearing loss,” I said to him.
“Did you design it?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said to him.
“Then why I got a complaint from Cyber Gate Solutions that you stole their project.” He asked in anger.
What? I was too shocked to speak.
“But… But…” I turned to look at Jack. What are they saying? Why did Jack not denying it? I took a deep breath and turned at Mr. David again. “Sir, I assure you that I had designed the project.”
The Dean spoke, “Do you know that Mr. Martinez is from Cyber Gate Solutions.”
I nod my head at him.
“According to Mr. Max, you were in a relationship with Mr. Martinez. Don’t you know that the relationship is forbidden between professors and students?”
I was silent at his question. I looked at Max. He looked with regret but faced me with determination.
“Mr. Martinez here had confessed that you had slept with him so that he can steal the code from his company for your project.”
“What? No.” I looked at Jack “Jack. Please tell them that is not true.”
“Jack?” The Dean asked me, “You are calling him by his first name?”
Jack turned to me and came close. He looked at me with pleading eyes. “I am sorry, Hanna. I could not hide anymore. I accepted my mistake. You also do it.” He came closer to me, saying these words. After coming close to my ears, he said in a low voice, “Now you know how it feels when you lose your future. This is what will happen to people like you, who destroy other’s life.” His face was still pleading, but his voice was hard and angry.
I was shocked at his words. Why was he talking like that? Whose life did I destroy?
Dean’s words fell in my ears, but nothing reached my mind. “Mr. Max Philips here said that he had seen you two together. Mr. Martinez had accepted the indictment. His charges will be handled in his company. But they had accepted not to take any steps if we take disciplinary action against you. So I terminate you from this university. You will not be offered any credit point for this course and will not be given any letter from this university to join any other institution. Since we cannot do anything about your bachelor’s degree, we are nullifying your masters alone. You are given 2 hours from now to vacate any personal belongings from this campus. You are not allowed to step into this campus after that.”
The security guard took me to my locker to take my belongings. Paige came running to me.
“Hanna. What happened? Max is saying something.”
The security guard stopped her. “Miss Johnson has to vacate the premises in two hours. So do not interrupt her.”
I looked at Paige and said in a dead voice, “I will wait for you at home.” With that, I gathered my belongings in a cardboard box.
I turned back to look at the building when I was about to step out of the campus gate. Tears flew down my cheeks and blurred my vision. I stepped out the gate, leaving my dreams there.