|A Question of Morality
Author: BatmanFan92 PM
Seventeen-year-old Sylvia Glenn is an aspiring writer who grapples with a sometimes difficult relationship with her family. She takes solace in doing what she does best: creating. However, when she realizes she has developed a crush on her English teacher, she is tormented by longings she knows are taboo. How will Sylvia resolve them? And how does her teacher feel? Rated a strong TRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 3 - Words: 32,876 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 01-19-13 - Published: 01-15-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3092410
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Hey, guys! I'm so glad it's the weekend. That way, I can put up these last two installments of this story. This is the shortest installment, just warming up to part three pretty much. This is where the story starts to take a perhaps unrealistic turn, but I will admit it's solely for entertainment's sake. Besides, I'm a sucker for scenes like these in movies. You'll see what I mean, hopefully, as you read on.
On Thursday night, Sylvia concentrated on finishing up her algebra homework. Mrs. Hill had given her some help the day before to the point where she could understand the process to solve the problems rather well. Her homework grade in the class improved very slightly, and maybe it would be enough to earn her a C in the class. Then again, she had three more months left in the semester, plenty of time to raise her grade.
She hadn't shown the poem "Strangers" to her parents yet, hadn't even bothered to. Her dread of their reactions to her bleak words could send her back to the therapist's chair, and she couldn't risk that with her so late in high school. She'd fall behind in homework just to go to the sessions. Besides, she hadn't had the time…
Ah, excuses, excuses. Mr. Jacobson's words still haunted her, advising her to show the poem to her parents in order to boost her self-confidence. That was where he had wanted to go with that advice, she knew it. Hopefully, he would understand that she needed time to mull over this from how to explain the purpose of that notebook paper to how to convince her parents that it was time they paid more attention to her. Spend some quality time. She got the whole concept of how complicated their work schedules were, but surely there had to be a way to set aside more time on her. Not Randall or his meaningless basketball games. He was in college now, learning to be more independent and occasionally visiting his family. What her mom and dad had to be more concerned about was her, the kid in high school and still living in this house full-time.
Sylvia frowned. Next weekend. She would wait until next weekend to reveal the poem to them. That sounded fair to her. Mr. Jacobson hadn't specified when she should do it but implied sooner rather than later. Well, she'd catch them on a decent weekend and besides, she really wasn't prepared for this weekend.
Suddenly, her cellphone rang on her nightstand. She glanced at the digital clock. 9:05…Who the heck would call at this late an hour?
Snatching the cellphone from the nightstand, she opened it and answered, "Hello?"
"Sylvia, hi. I just came across the greatest idea in the history of ideas for you, me, and Kayla to do on Friday night. It's been a while since we've really hung out outside of school, and I think this is the perfect opportunity!"
"Corey? What is it that's so awesome? And it sounds like you're surrounded by people right now…Where are you at?"
"Golden Café, you know, up on the square. I sometimes go there with my older brother. He took me there tonight, and you won't believe what the poster on the window advertised for tomorrow night!"
Really? That was it? Sylvia had dared to hope that they would be going out of town to the substantially bigger one ten minutes away to shop at the mall. She would have preferred that infinitely better to…Oh, who was she kidding? On a normal day, she despised shopping except for particular stores where they sold merchandise to her liking. However, it was awfully sweet of Corey to treat her and Kayla to a music event, if that was what it was. Golden Café, like any stereotypical coffeehouse (though sadly a dying breed), would have performers every now and again. She wondered if this whole week so happened to have musicians every night. This did somewhat pique her interest.
"Hm, I suppose I won't. I just hope it isn't a Rolling Stones tribute band." She carelessly rolled her eyes at the thought. "We have too many of those around here. Tribute bands. Pfft, massive cheese."
"I think you'll be really, really interested about who's performing tomorrow night…"
Judging from his tone, Sylvia started to suspect that Corey held something back, some secret he wanted to make a grand show out of once he revealed it.
"Oh, really, who?"
She proceeded to cough on air. Thankful that she wasn't drinking a soda at the moment, she thumped her chest to get her heart beating. For, within a fleeting second, she swore that it had inconveniently stopped. Still coughing, she held the phone away from her mouth so that the spittle wouldn't fall on it.
When she finally caught her breath, she accused flatly, "You're shitting me."
"Nope! I'm staring at the ad right now as we speak. He's going to be performing solo, so no cheesy tribute band. I'm sure you're happy to hear that."
"Not so much happy as confused. What's the point in us going? Number one, we're going to look like a few teacher's pets. And second, isn't this going a little far? He'll think I obsess over him and stalk him when he's not aware."
"Sylvia, you have a dark imagination, hon. I'm just saying that it'll be fun. You'll get to find out what his music style is."
"I don't care."
"You do. Admit it."
"Fine, fine," Sylvia submitted. "I'll go. What time is it?"
"Seven to eight, it's an hour long set. I already called Kayla. She's curious about the idea of a musician teacher. She says it'd be like School of Rock, so she's very psyched about going. Besides, Sylvia, Golden Café has the best coffee. See you at school tomorrow! And I'll pick you up at six forty-five."
"K, sounds good. Bye, Cor."
Sylvia hung up. For some reason, a foreign part of her urged to scream in outright giddiness. It inquired of her what she thought he would look like with an acoustic guitar. Would it be simply for show and no talent whatsoever? Well, he wouldn't be performing if he wasn't good. Could he sing? If so, how well? She worried that he might spot her in the audience with that silly, dreamy smile on her face she sometimes got when privately thinking of him.
Bizarrely enough, she looked forward to this performance tomorrow night. And at least it was within curfew hours. That would definitely suit Mom and Dad as far as that went. What other excuse was there left? She absolutely had to go, and nothing would stop her!
"Why did you talk me into thinking this was a good idea? It'll look like I'm encouraging him to go out with me or something. That's the last thing both me and surely him would want. I mean, it'd be his job on the line. I can't risk it. People will talk, spread rumors about him. I just…This will get me too involved," Sylvia confessed in the backseat of the Tahoe, running her fingers nervously through her hair to ensure it looked sleek and pretty.
Despite the rapid misgivings spewing forth from her, what she had selected from her wardrobe silently revealed to both of her friends that she aimed to impress. She wore a pair of the nicest white jeans she had along with a deep purple ruffled sleeveless shirt that was under her heavy winter coat. Her shoes were ruby red flats. And as much as she inwardly protested, her impulses won out in having applied make-up. Yes, make-up: shiny pink lip gloss, light amber eye-shadow, and a hint of blush that she "borrowed" from her mother that happened to be in the bathroom cabinet.
She hadn't meant to doll herself up to that extreme just to watch Mr. Jacobson from a distance in a crowd of coffeehouse regulars, honestly. Shame ate away at her for attempting to be such a lowly, common girl. A girl like Cristina or Allison. A girl she wasn't and would be embarrassed to be. Look at her now.
"It's not like us high school students aren't allowed to go, Syl." Kayla craned her head to glance at her friend. "But, it's not like Golden Café is for little kiddies, obviously. It's for trendy hipster teenagers and adults…like us. And, you know, we'll be watching him from afar. There's nothing to worry about. He won't judge you or either of us."
"No, duh," Corey chimed in as he neared the town square. "Fact is, he'll be happy to see us if he does. Students finding out about his musical talent, and we'll be spreading the news. He'll love that. Most musicians love attention, after all."
"If you say so…But, I'm telling you, I think it's weird. Teachers moonlighting as musicians. It'd be like finding out—and luckily, this'll be years down the road for Kayla and me—your gynecologist paints abstract portraits. Like, the really messed-up, trippy ones like Picasso."
"Who said anything about gynecologists? Ick!" Kayla shuddered though held-back laughter. "That is funny, though."
Corey nodded. "Yeah. But, there's nothing wrong with Mr. Jacobson being a musician, you know, even if it's just a hobby. I know your mind, Sylvia. You've been curious about the idea ever since I told you about it last night. Haven't you?"
Sylvia blushed uncomfortably. "Yeah, to be honest, I couldn't help it. It's an interesting concept."
"Then chill. Oh, and you look so cute by the way. If he sees you tonight, he'll like that, too."
"We're here," Kayla chirped. "Wow. Looks like a huge turn-out."
So huge, in fact, that Corey barely found a decent location for a parking spot. Once he eventually did, however, the rest of the night was theirs to enjoy. As soon as they entered and chose a spot in the back to sit (because of Sylvia's mingled insistence and self-consciousness), they each ordered coffee. Sylvia wasn't overly fond of coffee, but she wanted to look sophisticated, as weird as that was. It wasn't like Mr. Jacobson would be terribly impressed with her choice in drink, much less choice in coffee flavor, which happened to be French vanilla.
Soon after a group finished up performing a jazz standard, one of the employees walked up to the microphone to announce Mr. Jacobson. Except he didn't call him Mr. Jacobson but Michael Jacobson. Michael…Well, she already knew his first name anyway. Most students in the school knew the teachers' first names, obviously, from syllabi and the directory in the assignment books. No one addressed teachers by their first names, as common courtesy dictated. Not even Ms. Gilbert, the free-spirited home ec teacher, was called Angela by her students. It just wasn't done.
She wondered what instrument he'd play. Piano, guitar, sitar, saxophone…The possibilities were endless. Maybe he'd play drums. That would be fascinating.
When she noticed him take the stage with an acoustic guitar, she unknowingly held her breath. Of course. The most crowd-pleasing instrument at a coffeehouse had to be the acoustic guitar, one that Jason Mraz might as well have copyrighted. Nonetheless, despite that mildly sardonic thought that was a blip in her mind, Sylvia glued her eyes to him.
It was the most casual she'd ever seen him dress. Blue jeans, a Clash T-shirt, and even some navy blue Converse, though one might postulate that he was much too old for hip sneakers like that. His black hair was fashionably disheveled for this occasion. His blue eyes, even under the dim coffeehouse light, glowed like sparkling diamonds in a dark mine. Wait, diamonds didn't sparkle when initially mined…What did it matter? Those electric blue eyes could stand out, even on a cloudy, moonless night.
"I'm starting to see why all those girls in my class stare at him like they do, mouth agape." Kayla opened her mouth, making sure to slacken her jaw, before laughing at those girls' expense for being so dim-witted. Sylvia laughed along with Corey joining in with his infectious chuckle.
"Hey, guys. Glad to see quite a few of you turned out tonight," Mr. Jacobson charmingly commented as he settled himself on the stool onstage. "Well, basically, I'm going to be performing some cover songs tonight mixed in with a few originals I came up with. Starting off, I think you can all recognize this tune, even all you teenagers out there."
A ripple of laughter spread through the audience. Pleased to see that his joke caused a positive reaction at the very least, Mr. Jacobson smiled before he started playing.
The first song happened to be one that Sylvia did know and adore, "Dear Prudence." The Beatles. A ridiculously large grin threatened to take over her face and spread past her ears. Little to her knowledge, in that dim light, Kayla and Corey exchanged a knowing glance. Kayla, aware that her friend could be hurt by the crush in the end, was more fretful over Sylvia riding such an exhilarating high. Corey, more confident in that things would turn out all right, grinned more broadly, breezily. If Sylvia did end up hurt, they would loyally be there to cheer her up.
In the meantime, the songs were so enjoyable. He did a few more Beatles covers: "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", "In My Life", and "Let It Be." His original songs had wonderful lyrics. One of them went as follows:
"Tonight could have been my chance
If you had stayed
I wish I could have stayed in your eyes
As long as we could simply be"
Maybe they did sound corny, with that inherent hopefulness that he seemed to carry with him all the time. However, the rest of the song was so deep and meaningful, then so what about a few cliché lines? They weren't uninspired, she could confirm that, what with his pitch-perfect delivery.
And his singing voice…His singing voice struck a chord in her with its rich tone and that alluring huskiness. His tenor would stick with her all night long. His cover of "Heart of Gold" cemented that truth for her. The way Mr. Jacobson sang and strummed his guitar, expressing himself, demanded her attention. In actuality, she barely touched her coffee and let it cool to lukewarm temperature, but she didn't care. His lyrics and his voice captivated her, absolutely entranced her. Though an hour had passed by the time he was finished for the evening, she assumed it had only been ten minutes. Where had the time gone?
"He's definitely got the chops," Kayla remarked approvingly. "There's definitely some talent we didn't know about before tonight."
"I'll say that. It's just a good thing I don't see Allison or Cristina anywhere. They must not have known about it. Their loss. But, maybe it's a good thing they didn't show. I, for one, wouldn't have wanted to see them throw their panties at Mr. Jacobson. Act like a couple of mindless groupies. No one wants to see that."
Sylvia laughed at Corey's joke. "No kidding. Well, I think it's time we head on home"—she then stood up—"There's not much else to do here. We already watched what we came here for. We don't have any VIP backstage passes."
"You don't need any."
Immensely startled by that deep voice, she jumped practically a foot. How could he have possibly spotted them? They all sat toward the back together!
"Hi, Mr. Jacobson, sir," Kayla smoothly greeted while Sylvia merely stuttered, "Um, uh, um…Hi."
"Hi, you three. I was wondering how many of my students would show up. It's not like this was heavily advertised, though, I must say."
"I hung out here with my brother Greg last night. That's how I found out. It was totally my idea," Corey openly bragged, stopping short of winking at him, as far as Sylvia saw it.
"Yeah…Yeah, Corey dragged us two along to see you perform. I…I thought you were great out there. You did a…a…a good job." She smiled up at him, though it more than likely resembled more of a grimace.
Turning toward her friends due to a requirement for back-up, she was shocked to find that they were meandering their way out of the coffeehouse. Rather quickly. How stupid were they? It couldn't be guaranteed that Mr. Jacobson would keep up his gentlemanly sweet façade around her. She half-expected the true colors to bleed out at any minute. A little wary, she shivered.
There was no need to get herself worked up, though, for Mr. Jacobson smiled more effortlessly at her. "Thank you, Sylvia. You know, I was glad to see that you three showed up. Unlike with other jobs, for me, it's nice to see reminders of the workplace. Then again, I enjoy teaching and interacting with students."
She sensed him steadily gazing at her, taking in what she wore before those beautiful blue eyes traveled up to hers. "Have you given that poem to either of your parents yet? Have they read it?"
Anxious that she would disappoint him, she murmured uneasily, "No. Not yet…They will, though. I just need a little more time."
He laid a hand on her shoulder. "OK. Whenever you feel the time is right. I didn't expect you to show it to them just yet. From what you've told me, it sounds like that you'll have to work through the jitters. But, I know that…that you'll overcome this strain you have with your parents."
"How can you be so sure?" Sylvia whispered.
There was a look that flickered on his face, as though he didn't know whether or not he should tell her this. With a long exhale, gradually, he answered, "My parents divorced when I was nine. I refused to get along with my dad for the longest time. But when he took me on a camping trip my sophomore year in high school, he told me that he wanted to work through this with me. He wanted to repair our relationship. Turned out, it was easier to forgive him than I thought it would be. And I was a rather stubborn guy, too. If I can do it, you can, too. Believe me."
"Thanks for the advice, Mr. Jacobson. I'll take it to heart." Sylvia meant it sincerely with no trace of cynicism in her voice.
Then, more abruptly, she added, "I enjoyed hearing you sing, especially. You got a really pleasant voice."
With two of his fingers, he tilted her face toward his. Not to kiss her but to give her this boldly piercing stare that was probably equally as effective.
"You look exquisite tonight, Sylvia. I know it's improper of me to admit it, but it does look like you put up an effort. I'm just letting you know it didn't go unnoticed. However…" To lighten the intimidation he seemed to be causing her, he consolingly smiled at her. "You don't need all this. All this make-up. You're fine the way you are."
Her heart nearly broke from hearing him say those endearing things to her. To her. No one else in the room but her received this sort of attention. He had to be tricking her. There was no way these words had suddenly popped into his head.
"Thanks. That was a thoughtful thing to say. Have a good weekend. I'll see you in class on Monday." Sylvia shirked away from his fingers, and he didn't oppose that action. She surmised that he would encourage her backing away because he was being forward.
She didn't predict that he would take her hand in his, rubbing circles in her skin with his thumb.
"It's not something to say. It's the truth," he told her more gravely.
She fearfully glanced around her, wondering if anyone noticed. It seemed that the coffeehouse visitors were more caught up in their own lives and not the fact that a popular local musician currently held his student's hand.
She blinked back a few tears from being so moved by this gesture. "It's ill-fitting of me to say this, but that's so sweet. I'm not going to forget that any time soon. Goodbye."
Drawing back her hand lightning fast, she didn't want to give him the wrong impression of proving to him that she was a sure thing. Especially when she wasn't, being a student and all the complications that came with that.
"Bye, Sylvia." His lips quirked upwards slightly. "You have a good weekend too, OK?"
Why did he do this to her? Torment her with gentleness and chivalry?
What with the way Kayla and Corey chatted eagerly throughout the ride home, one would have thought they had attended a riotous rock concert and participated in a mosh pit. Mr. Jacobson had proven that he was creatively talented; therefore, he was "one of us"…at least from Corey's perspective. Kayla, being of a more common sense mindset, was just happy that she went to a well put-on show. Acoustic numbers were more her taste in music than anything loud and abrasive.
Sylvia dreamily smiled as she looked out the car window, out at the wintry stars and the moon concealed by a stray cloud. What a calm, perfect night. She sighed placidly, at peace with her current mood. It wasn't a tortured mood. His voice resonated in her mind, long after she heard him sing. She wouldn't forget it, either singing or speaking. Whether giving advice or confessing the truth in his songs. If only he was a few years younger, that was the thing. If he was her age, she'd go out with him willingly.
Dad half-smiled at her when she got in the house, much to her relief. He'd been waiting for her to come home for once. It was like every good father did when it came to their daughter. They'd wait in a sometimes agonizing manner, pacing back and forth, anticipating their precious little girls to come home safe. Mr. Jacobson might have had a point then. She could fix this and demolish the wall between her and her parents.
"Had a nice time?" He ruffled her hair, like he used to do with her when she had been a little kid.
She nodded, grinning. "Yeah, the guy put on a great performance. It was an acoustic set, but it was one of the best I'd heard in a while."
Dad's smile faded. "Ah, yeah? Hm, makes me wish I would have stuck with the musician route sometimes."
"But, that would have been the classic starving artist route, unfortunately. I can understand more why you chose being a lawyer."
"Hm, really? I thought you resented your mom and me for our jobs."
"Sometimes, I do." Sylvia started mounting the steps. "I'm not gonna lie. But, that's only because you don't think I'll go anywhere with my writing."
"We actually don't know. Maybe if you showed us some of your work…I'm sorry, Sylvia. I was being terribly clueless the other day when I asked you when you started writing your poetry."
"I got a poem in my room I want you to read. Do you have time to…?"
Dad smiled more composedly. "Of course I do, sweetheart. Just hand it over to me, and I'll look over it tonight. Tell you what I think in the morning."
"Thanks, Daddy." After giving him a brief hug, she continued up the stairs with a relaxed smile of her own on her face.
She would have thought Dad would be harder to reach, spiritually wise. It would appear that he would be the easier of the two. Mom, though, was going to be a much tougher cookie to crumble. She went to her room, retrieved the paper, and handed it off to her dad and back again. To dream. To ponder over the thrilling happiness she received tonight at the hands of her unarguably favorite teacher. However, it would be more and more difficult not to play favorites in the classroom setting on her end. As an older, wiser teacher, he would likely play it cool by continuing not to display preferential treatment. And she was never disruptive so she wouldn't have to worry about him doing the polar opposite by yelling at her. The mere thought of that unnerved her, as it was very uncharacteristic of him to even raise his voice, as calm as he was.
She recalled the first day of school, when she had met him in person in first semester English III, the required English course for juniors.
Sylvia had read in the school district's newsletter that three new teachers were added on to the high school faculty this year. Helen Ross, Kenneth Bell, and Michael Jacobson. At first, she paid these names little mind until she received her schedule for her first semester. Apparently, one new teacher Mr. Jacobson would be teaching the English III class due to Mrs. Livingston's departure. She remembered smiling in relief because she had heard not-so-nice things said about Mrs. Livingston like how she was supposedly a cantankerous old lady who graded very harshly. Having a new guy teach her class instead was definitely a pleasant change of pace.
She had no idea what he looked like or how old he was. All she knew was that anyone would be a more suitable person than a bitter old bat who did nothing but screech at kids. So Corey, whose brother Greg had had her, insisted. Nevertheless, she looked forward to English III all day that first day. She cursed the fact that it was the last class of the day. She practically died with impatience in finding out who Mr. Jacobson was and what he would be like. At lunch break, she thought she heard whispers in the hall regarding him, but all she managed to catch was his name and then hiss, hiss, hiss.
By the time last hour came, with her first in the classroom (as it was adjacent to her Biology II class), Sylvia didn't expect to see him at his desk already. Or his appearance. She clenched her jaw, which would have unhinged right there.
The eyes caught her attention first. So electrically blue and penetrating like X-ray vision or something preternatural. They were both eerie and alluring at the same time. His black hair was rumpled but not quite the just-got-out-of-bed look. It was smooth, short in style, yet so, so thick. His hollow cheeks flattered the overall narrow planes of his face, with those cheekbones very prominent, and his nose long. That was what she supposed one flaw was the nose, it being noticeably longer than average, whatever that meant. However, his full lips more than made up for that.
Oh, who cared about his nose? This was one of the most handsome teachers she'd ever encountered. Overall, she was in awe but not quite overly impressed. He had yet to show his personality.
At this moment, he chose to look up at her, bestowing her with a warm greeting smile. "Hello."
Since when was she so shy? Sylvia could be quite the sardonic wit amongst her friends and could be very courageous in standing up for herself. Once last year, she had cursed a jock out after the foolish ignoramus had dared to call Corey the dreaded "f" word, deeply offensive in its connotation. Naturally, she'd had to tear that idiot to pieces. It took to being around Mr. Jacobson to cow her.
She wished she could have said more, but other students proceeded to file in so she retreated to the back of the room.
As much as she chose to remain indifferent toward this new teacher until further notice, she couldn't believe some of the reactions he received. Some girls acted like they would near faint at the sight of him. Not in fear but in swooning. She could retch, but she didn't want to give Mr. Jacobson that much of a hard time. Who knew? She could learn to like him.
Unbeknownst to him, he actually made it rather difficult at the moment due to him increasingly reaching Hot Teacher status among these insipid girls. Oh sure, the man could be classified as a pretty boy. But, Sylvia was more curious to see as to how competent he truly was in teaching English. Then again, they never did much on the first day. So, she wouldn't be able to conclude anything on the guy. He'd be a mystery until then….and that frustrated her to no end.
For the rest of the class period, he managed to cover his expectations for them as presented in the syllabus and kept the flashy Hollywood smiles to a bare minimum. Then, he propositioned them with the inevitable "getting to know you" game, only in this one, it involved the throwing around of a hacky sack he just so happened to have in his desk drawer. This convinced the stoners in her class to take a liking to him almost instantly.
Are you kidding me? Sylvia thought with mounting aggravation. This guy is such a joke already, I can see that. He's trying to become a celebrity in this school or something, getting every kid to like him. I'm not falling for that. Nope. And this kids' game? Pfft. How old does he think we are? Three? Ugh, he's going to be unbearable and insult our intelligence.
Whoever caught the hacky sack each time had to state their name and however much about themselves as they pleased, as long as they kept it short. Those who already caught it had to try not catching it again.
When Sylvia at last caught the hacky sack, she went through the motions. "As you guys may or may not know, I'm Sylvia Glenn. My parents named me after the poet Sylvia Plath because they had a very sick sense of humor"—she waited for the few chuckles in the room to dwindle—"But, ironically enough, I do write poetry. And stories. My favorite artists are The Beatles, the Ramones, and Pat Benatar, to name a few. I guess that's it. Who hasn't had it yet?"
After the game was over, so was class. When the bell rang, her peers raced out the door and to their cars and freedom. However, Sylvia opted to stay behind. She had to solve the mystery of whether or not Mr. Jacobson was an egotistical, people-pleasing ass. What kind of teacher brought hacky sacks to school for one thing? For another, was he the late twenty-something who insisted on being the cool, hip type? One of the teenagers? Did he skateboard for his commute?
And, the most abominable of all, was he only here to check out high school girls?
"Did you ride your skateboard on the way here?" she asked the one inquiry that had to be the least important, but it was a start.
Mr. Jacobson glanced away from his computer, initially bemused that she remained and stood a few feet away from his desk, before laughing. Not offended, not even remotely pissed off, just laughing at her.
Sylvia flushed red, physically noticeable, in combined embarrassment and anger. "It's a legitimate question."
Wiping a stray tear from his eye from laughing so hard, he asked in turn, "Are you trying to be condescending to me because of my age? I can assure you, I have my B.A. in English and plan on getting my Master's when I have the time. I'm qualified to teach, Sylvia."
"You mean to tell me it's not an act? You're not going to try to hang with the kids and act like one of them? If not act like one of them, do everything in your power to persuade them to like you? That's what I got out of the first day, Mr. Jacobson. And I'm not impressed. I don't mean to be rude or anything, but I'd rather not have a teacher kiss up to their students. I've had teachers like that before, not naming names, and let me tell you, that ticked me off. It was always the popular ones they favored, too."
He then turned his body and wheeled chair away from the computer entirely to focus his attention on her. "You're quite the intellectual, I can see that already. You're older mentally than you are chronologically. Interesting…And don't worry, I'm definitely not the type to 'hang with the kids' as you say."
He added even more seriously, "And I'm also sorry to hear that some teachers still display bias over their students. I guess things haven't changed much since the 90s, my generation, which makes me around a billion years old"—Sylvia couldn't help but laugh at that random joke—"But, that's not right. That was always a pet peeve with me while I was in school, too. I promise you, Sylvia, that won't happen. Teachers should be rewarding toward students' talents and achievements but also be willing to assist whenever they're struggling. Not treat them like dumbasses, which I've seen before."
"How did you react to that?" she asked, intrigued along with amused that Mr. Jacobson actually used 'dumbasses' in a sentence.
He let out a sigh but struggled not to laugh. "I'm not even sure if I should be telling you this. This isn't sound career advice for you as a student."
"I'm interested. I've got nothing to do. No sports, parents don't get home til seven or eight, usually… But, um, yeah, I won't tell anyone."
"OK, so I was around your age, maybe a year or two younger. This happened to me with a history teacher because I was absolutely terrible with memorizing dates and events and so on, so forth. So, this teacher (who shall remain unnamed to protect the innocent) forced me to stay after class. He told me sternly that I was practically failing the course and probably would unless I didn't memorize those dates. He pointed out his astonishment as to why this was so difficult for me. Didn't offer help or anything. Just essentially told me how stupid I was."
Sylvia metaphorically perked up her ears. "That guy should have been fired, first of all."
"Oh, he was, eventually." Mr. Jacobson waved a dismissive hand. "Anyway, after he went through his entire spiel, I told him to kiss my ass and that he should read the textbook cover to cover in one sitting to see if he could remember what year the Treaty of Versailles was signed and when Iwo Jima happened."
For propriety's sake, she made an enormous effort not to laugh but was unsuccessful in the attempt. She laughed so hard that mirthful tears nearly sprung to her eyes as well.
When she finally recovered, she admitted, "That isn't very solid advice for getting through high school. You're right. Did you fail it?"
"No, and I'll tell you why. My best friend happened to be very well-versed in all things world history. He'd help me study for tests. I managed to get out of that class with a B just to spite the old man who said I couldn't pass his class and that I didn't have a chance in H-E-double hockey sticks."
"That's actually inspiring." She smiled, warming up to this teacher she thought would have deserved her disdain.
Mr. Jacobson smiled more self-deprecatingly. "If you call a sixteen-year-old boy's bull-headedness inspiring, that's all well and good. So, you're a writer?"
Oh, now the conversation turned to her. Sylvia was flattered, especially since he asked about her writing, in a sense. "I am. I've been writing poems and short stories for recreation since middle school. I've never published anything, though…But, yeah, it's something fun for me, creative outlet and all that. I'm in poetry club right now, have been since freshman year. I think I could have been the president…if we had more people in it. But, guys hate poetry, go figure."
Mr. Jacobson's lips twitched. "That's a stereotype that's been perpetuated over the years, that's for sure. I don't think that's true. I'm living proof."
"Oh, really? What poets?"
"I like Poe, some Wordsworth…but I'm more partial to contemporary poetry, twentieth-century. Like Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou…But, my favorite of all time has to be Allen Ginsberg."
"Allen Ginsberg…? I think I've heard of him. James Franco played him in that movie, didn't he?"
"You kids and James Franco." Mr. Jacobson feigned disapproval. "Yeah, that's the one. He was one of the Beat poets back in the 50s. The stuff he wrote really put people on edge. I guess I like writers who can affect things, move people, whether in a good way or an unsettling one like Ginsberg certainly did.
"I think it's interesting that you like to write. Now, I don't know how you write yet, so I'm not going to tell you yet whether or not you should try getting published. But, since you do it as a hobby, I'm sure you've had plenty of practice. I'm trying to write a book myself."
"What is it?" Sylvia was inwardly gleeful that she'd found a kindred spirit.
Disregarding his computer entirely, he picked up a pen to fiddle with while he spoke. "Well, I'm trying to work out all the kinks in its storyline, but its genre is a crime drama slash psychological thriller, leaning more towards the thriller route, I think. Obviously, since I'm a teacher now, I'm not going to have a whole lot of time on my hands. Maybe one day, I'll finish it and look for some publishers. But, for now, it's at home, collecting dust. What about you? Any genres you write in besides poetry?"
"Mm, I usually write fantasy or adolescent coming-of-age. Like Sarah Dessen but less contrived."
Mr. Jacobson chuckled. "That's probably the first negative review from a teenage girl I've heard about Sarah Dessen novels. Just on my first day, there were some students in my class positively raving about her."
"Not me. I'd like to say I appreciate literature, and that's why I'm in poetry club."
"Speaking of which, Mrs. Yates approached me today. She's going to be on maternity leave pretty soon, so she's thinking about stepping down from the position as you guys' club organizer."
"Oh." Sylvia was disappointed, as she'd rather liked Mrs. Yates. She taught freshman English, and it was her interest in poetry that incited her own passions for writing it again. She had given it up for quite some time after being made fun of for an original poem in seventh grade English class. Mrs. Yates was a dynamic woman, and she'd miss her while she was at home, waiting on her baby. Baby girl, it was going to be, apparently.
"And I volunteered to take over for her. She said she'd very much appreciate it, and I'll be supervising you guys starting in October."
Needless to say, she considerably cheered up at this news. She couldn't think of a better substitute than this teacher slash aspiring writer. Mr. Jacobson wouldn't be the typical slacker young teacher. If anything, he seemed to be someone who liked to keep busy, even if that meant time away from his novel draft.
"That would be great. I'll look forward to that. I didn't think I'd like you, Mr. Jacobson, to be honest. But, at least you're a writer on the side. That's awesome. And I'm not trying to kiss up to you or anything. That's truly awesome."
"Thank you." He smiled dryly. "I think you'd better run along now, Sylvia. I'm not about to keep you from having a life. You don't want to talk to a boring old man like me."
"For a boring old man, you're sure interesting." Sylvia slung her tote bag further up her arm as she made to leave the classroom. Then, an impulse stopped her. Oh, her troublesome impulses would get the better of her someday.
"What musicians do you like?" she asked him. "Just curious."
"The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Moody Blues…All the classics. I play guitar, actually."
"Really?" She might have sounded a shade too excited at this.
"Yeah, I have been since sixth grade. OK, come on now, out. I do have teacher things to do, as much as that might shock you. I'll see you in class."
As much as she would regret this later, Sylvia blurted out just as she passed through the open doorway, "And next semester, too. I think you're going to teach my British Lit class."
Mr. Jacobson nodded. "That's right. I figured Glenn was familiar. I'm going to be seeing you quite often, I understand it."
"Yeah. Bye!" she practically chirped.
During her long walk to the parking lot, Sylvia chided herself for being so lame around this new teacher. She probably didn't impress him with her extremely inquisitive nature and her enthusiasm. When was she ever enthusiastic, borderline manic? Ugh, she found herself insufferable. What she dreaded the most was if Mr. Jacobson disliked her writing, overly critical of it. Maybe calling it too fluffy, too saccharine.
Something told her, though, that she was wrong. That, somehow or other, they were going to end up becoming friends.
Sylvia sighed, disbelieving that she would be so sentimental over the first day of junior year and that instance in particular. Bluntly, she didn't feel so warm and fuzzy on the inside when it came to another interaction with another teacher who had been cold. Very cold and ruthless and mean. She was relieved, looking back, that he hadn't done anything more to her than what he did, but that was enough. That shouldn't have happened.
And neither should this. She couldn't say she knew Mr. Jacobson on a personal level and if she was smart, she would avoid that outcome. Who knew what lengths he would go to in order to cop a feel for himself? Get him all nice and aroused?
The bile rose to her mouth from her throat, and she swore if she recalled that other, more traumatizing moment in her life, she would indeed vomit. Not many male teachers went into the teaching profession with golden hearts and pure intentions. They planned on gazing down female students' tops, ogling them and their every movement from their walk to the way they flipped back their hair, and feeling…touching…parts that they either weren't allowed to or didn't care enough to touch back home.
They weren't getting it at home, so they had nowhere else to turn to but the workplace. But those youthful, attractive students…Mr. Jacobson could have his pick with those girls lustily gazing at him every day. One of these times, he would bow down to their desires.
Darting to the bathroom down the hall from her room, Sylvia dry-retched in the toilet. Suppose he inappropriately touched her? Suppose he hurt her? Suppose he had to force her to resort to the administration or the police like she should have done the first time? No, no…He seemed so gentle, so thoughtful…
She cried. Even on a perfect night, that memory always had to resurface, the one from freshman year.
A/N: I will say that Sylvia's freshman year experience won't be anything straight out of a horror movie or anything like that. At this point in the story, I was surprised that it was getting so detailed. Part three will be one of the most detailed of all. So, on Saturday, I'm going to put up the final part. Keep your eyes pealed.
Oh, by the way, the coffeehouse performance scene...Yeah, those types of scenes in movies I'm a sucker for. They really are a dying breed, and it's a shame. This was back when musicians had actual talent. They're still around just...Those things seemed to bigger in the 70s. Hope you liked this.