The stack of books she was expected to carry to his office hours was insane. Some of them were stuffed into her already full backpack. A solid third of them were in a stack, balanced precariously between her forearm and her chin. One was tucked safely into her armpit, leaving one hand open to hold her coffee cup such that the condensation dripping off the sides splashed neither her nor her cargo.
His office was all the way on the third floor of Sturges, down the great hill from her house off Main Street. She had wanted to stop into one of the restaurants there, grab a slice at Mia's maybe. Unfortunately, his last minute email explaining that a reference list would not be acceptable, and that she needed to bring all her texts with her, prevented her from having time for anything more than a iced coffee from Muddy's and a blister from scuttling so quickly in her not-yet-broken in heels.
She wasn't entirely sure why, but she felt it necessary to look professional when she met with Prof. Kappe. He was intimidating at best and mind-scarring at worst, with his angular, angry face and his broad shoulders that would make chopping her into tiny bits rather easy. His students made up all kinds of stories that he could kill you with a stare and that, if you got less than a B- in one of his classes, you would never get a job anywhere but McDonald's. He was nothing like a history professor was supposed to be, they whispered as they sulked out of his Sturges classrooms, he's more like a science professor, so intense, so scary. She had never played into those rumors. Prof. Kappe had been her favorite professor. At least, he HAD been her favorite professor, until he had signed on to be her Capstone mentor.
The four flights of stairs could have been worse, as another student had kindly held open the Sturges doors for her and a third had ran after her to hand her a book that had dropped. Knocking on Prof. Kappe's door was another story. She sort of jabbed at the glass with her elbow, which was more painful and less loud than she had hoped. It took her three or four jabs before Prof. Kappe realized she could not open the door of her own accord.
"Kimber, come in."
Prof. Kappe slid silently behind his desk, fingers perched in a classic super-villain "steeple". His eyes were focused directly on Kimber, which, at this point, only made her slightly nervous. She tried to place her books as daintily as she could, but inevitably one or two spilled to the floor. Prof. Kappe was not a patient man, and watched her scrambling with a sense of condescension and disdain. Finally, she was able to sit, flatten her skirt slightly and clasp her hand atop her crossed knees, eyes staring directly at Prof. Kappe's purple mug.
"It's nice to see you again," she managed to squeak, eager to avoid eye contact.
"And you as well. I see you received my email. How many books have you brought with you?"
Kimber pulled the zipper on her backpack and began emptying out the piles of textbooks, novels, books and articles she had compiled.
"About 20 altogether," she said as she tidied the stacks.
Prof. Kappe slid, this was the best word anyone could find to describe his movements, his long, thin fingers over the spines of the books teetering on the edge of his sturdy wooden desk. At a particularly firm touch, four of five of them toppled into Kimber's lap. His lips remained pursed in classic disdain, though occasionally he would nod or murmur to himself as he passed a particularly voluminous text.
"These will be an acceptable start, I believe, though I was expecting quite a bit more from you. You did have the whole summer to prepare for this."
Kimber's eyes snapped up from the ground to look at her pile, hands clutching firmly to the books now craddled in her lap.
"Acceptable start? Professor, these are all of the most referenced texts in this field. I spent most of the summer attempting to cross-reference every book and article I could find, to determine which books were the most seriously academic and therefore suited for the project."
Prof. Kappe's lips uncurled into a thin half-smile, no teeth, more of a smirk than anything. He placed one hand flat atop the tallest pile of books, on a maroon volume with no dust-jacket, entitled "Magic and the North East: The History of American Witchcraft". Kimber tried to smile herself, though she felt primarily uncomfortable with a twinge of dismay.
"That is a wonderful start Kimber. But don't you also have a large number of books and articles you need to bring to me? The books you used to find references would undoubtedly be wonderful sources for this very intensive project."
His words were drawn out to almost a hiss, lingering so long on "intensive" that Kimber wasn't sure that was the word he really said. She looked back to the floor. He was right, after all. Prof. Kappe was the most published history professor in the department. He knew his stuff. Plus, it didn't make any sense for him to be malicious about this. It was going to be more work on him to grade a bad paper than a good one. He was only being tough on her so she would do well, Kimber tried to convince herself beneath the shame.
"Well, I must be getting back to work. Is there anything else you need from me, Kimber?"
For a moment, Kimber was silent. She shook her head and began packing up the books. In fact, Prof. Kappe was mid-pleasantries when she realized she DID have something else she needed and began rummaging through her bag for the one book she wanted to discuss. It was suspiciously absent.
"Yes, Kimber?" Prof. Kappe said, a distinctly impatient tone coloring his words and expression.
"Well, I had a book I wanted to talk to you about, but I can't seem to find it right now. I will, um, I'll bring it to your next office hour."
Prof. Kappe nodded and turned back to his desktop as Kimber tried to slip out the door, which was rather impossible with all the books she had. Getting back downstairs was not anywhere as easy as getting upstairs, as the books seemed to refuse to balance and her mostly empty coffee cup was dripping directly on top of her foot. She didn't stop feeling uneasy until she had dropped all of her books on her desk and floor and taken a long hot shower. Her roommates referred to it as washing off the Kappe, which made the whole situation slightly more uncomfortable than it had been in the first place.
She couldn't deny they were kind of right. There was a very distinct, metaphorical layer of grime that coated everything that had been in Kappe's office and her penchant for febreezing her room three times a day didn't make it go away.
"Maybe that's why he agreed to be your mentor," Lily would laugh, watching Kimber attempt to clean her room, "He wants to know where his creepy mind-magic came from."
Kimber scoffed at her, slipping on pajama pants and pointing out the childishness of that assertion, mostly because she hated giving Lily the satisfaction of being even a modicum of correct. She grabbed "The Linguistics of Magic" and crawled into bed, thinking maybe she could figure out what Prof. Kappe's strange abilities could be called.