A/N: All right, the final installment to this lengthy short story. I hope you all enjoy. XD
The following Wednesday morning, Sylvia woke up much too early to suit her. She'd been fleeing from a certain lecherous teacher's sweaty, gross hands, and that had compelled her to wake up as soon as possible. Unfortunately, it wasn't even seven thirty yet but six forty-five. She groaned, stretched out her arms, and lay back down. Much to her disconcert, she couldn't fall back asleep. It was too close to the time when she normally arose. So, giving up, she stepped over to her desk, where all her writings were. There was something she wanted to re-read again. "Confessions of a Teenage Melodrama", the one that Mr. Jacobson deemed poetic enough for that contest, she supposed.
She hadn't perused it in a while, but she wanted to read it through his eyes, so to speak. What did Mr. Jacobson find so fascinating about this piece?
Well, he had told her, "This is one of the wittiest yet saddest poems I've ever read. I would ask about it in more detail, but I'll respect your feelings by not doing so. You really laid it on there, Sylvia, blood, guts, and all. I won't ask, like I said, but I will say I wonder what you've been through to display on these pages."
"Nothing you'd care to hear about," Sylvia had replied, glancing away from him for a minute, humbled enough not to meet his eyes. He wouldn't want to hear the harsh reality.
"Hm, OK. Well, I'll tell you what. How about I enter it in a teen poetry contest? How'd you like that?"
And her reaction had been one of abundant elation that she had to refrain from hugging him. He had smiled and said he would hear back from the contest judges in a month if she fell into one of the top ten slots.
Skimming over the notebook pages of the original draft, she noted a red flag that had been dangerously close to revealing her true feelings over a sensitive matter.
I have one final confession
One that I should never divulge
No one would want to listen to it
Not even myself
There is a schoolgirl infatuation I'm having
Not an ordinary one
On an extraordinary guy
Equal parts masculine and nurturing
Clever yet attentive
Sarcastic yet funny
I won't say I remotely like him
Not even to myself
But, I can assure you
That he is incredible
One in a million
A diamond in the rough
Closing her eyes, refusing to believe those were her words, Sylvia started to tremble. Her hands shook so much that she had to put the notebook away so she wouldn't drop it on the floor. She might as well have flat-out admitted on the paper that she loved Mr. Jacobson. Well, not loved, but liked a great deal. Maybe cared about, she didn't know. She wouldn't know. Ever since freshman year, she hadn't thought about guys too much, hadn't even considered them. They were callous enough to overlook her too, as she wasn't blond or buxom or noticeable enough. All fine and well, she liked it that way. There was once a time when guys were more attuned to creativity in a girl. Not any more, too passé, out-of-fashion, pointless. And then, he noticed her.
She had to drive that notion out of her mind. Remotely crushing on a teacher was taboo enough, much less what could happen between them. It could be something as innocent as a few casual words exchanged, and a judge could throw the book at him. She couldn't risk it. Too much lay at stake. Her reputation. His reputation. Her appeal to colleges and beyond. His career in anything, including music, writing, and teaching. He wouldn't be able to claim a niche in any job he eyed due to his criminal record as well as having to become a certified, official pervert.
Sylvia shook her head, as if to affirm these terrible things would happen should she continue thinking about him. As for her, she could luck out going to a decent college like a state university or Drake, which she seriously considered. But, then, if Mr. Jacobson's infamy made national headlines, she would be accused as a slut and a tease for allegedly inviting him into bed with her. She was repulsed by the notion. It would happen, though. Rumors would spread. Sororities would gossip mercilessly about her. The jocks and the drunken fools (that usually went hand-in-hand) would accost her and try to get in her pants. Her life would be ruined. Everyone involved would have their lives in shambles, including her family and to a lesser extent her friends.
It was a nice thought, though, if all went perfectly well, and she wouldn't have to stress over court dates. He seemed to be a genuine person, intelligent, and close to if not her equal. His conduct was never lewd, and he maintained friendliness mingled with professionalism.
But, there was something underneath the surface, the way Mr. Jacobson had been looking at her lately. His touches, though few and far between, had never been too invasive or tactless. Nothing to violate her personal space. He was quite nice, not at all like Mr. One who would Not Be Named.
Oh, what was she thinking? Irrationality would defeat her yet at this rate. Somewhat peeved, Sylvia turned away from her desk, pretending that the notebook with that one poem, her apparent best work, had never been created.
British Lit was uneventful, only more discussing regarding their most recently read chapter of Jane Eyre and the upcoming quiz. Allison and Cristina acted like dogs in heat, the way they unabashedly stared at him. Allison appeared to be tossing her highlighted blond hair more than usual while her partner in crime simpered, laughing too hard at Mr. Jacobson's purposely lame jokes. Somehow, before, Sylvia could disregard this immature behavior that was far beneath her. Flirtation was never her style.
However, what with how these two shameless girls carried on today, she felt the urge to strangle them. How dare they assume just putting it all out there would gain Mr. Jacobson's notice or respect. To earn respect, you had to act respectful, polite, and be yourself without being common about it. These two in the front row were less than common. They were worms.
Sickened by their behavior, she whispered to Corey, "Do they honestly think he'd sleep with either of them? How immoral do they think he is?"
"I don't know, but he's definitely not immoral if he likes you," Corey whispered back, which just made her more ashamed than ever.
How did Corey's answer even make logical sense?
When the bell rang, Mr. Jacobson asked Sylvia to stay after class. She wondered what this entailed. It wasn't like she told him she wanted to strangle Allison and Cristina. She wasn't even serious about those thoughts, just entertaining herself. Unless…This was about the contest.
"So, Mr. Jacobson, what is it? Did you hear back from the judges?" she asked to confirm her hunch.
Mr. Jacobson glanced down at his desk and sighed, placing his hands in a gesture of uncertainty on his hips. That couldn't bode well for her. Was she in trouble then? Did the principal somehow dig up dirt on a relationship that was not even in fruition? He looked disappointed over something, judging by how his shoulders slumped.
"I did get a call…"
Oh, no. Maybe he had to take a few days off because of a family illness or death, something tremendously grievous.
Just when Sylvia started to become extremely concerned, Mr. Jacobson looked up at her with a grin. "Guess who's a finalist?"
She gasped. "Oh my God, really?!"
He chuckled, stepping out from behind his desk, flashy grin still intact. "You sure are. The judges called me this morning and told me that your poem really stood out to them. Out of three hundred entries, can you believe that?"
"I'm having a hard time grappling with the concept that I'm top ten material, Mr. Jacobson."
His grin evaporated, and his face turned solemn. "I never doubted that you were, Sylvia. You are genuinely one of the most talented high school level writers I've ever read. See, I'm not going to go overboard and say of all time because that's too broad. But, from a high school student your age…It's impressive. You doing it as a hobby made for some excellent practice. I'll say that much."
He brightened when he changed the subject, the seriousness gone from his face. "Now, in a couple more weeks, we'll find out if you won. The feedback from the judges sounded quite positive. They each talked to me over the phone, and they were all unanimous in what they essentially said. They said that after looking through so many entries, they still remembered yours as one of the highlights. One woman mentioned that she thought you captured what poetry really was all about in that poem: laying your thoughts and emotions bare for all to see."
"Stop it," Sylvia said modestly, her cheeks flushing. "I'm grateful to the judges for placing me in the top ten. That's enough for me. All this other fawning over me is seriously embarrassing."
"Hey, I'm just the messenger. All three of them provided glowing reviews. 'Confessions of a Teenage Melodrama' paints a picture, tells a story. Each stanza of yours reflects a confession. The lay-out makes sense. And then, what you are candid about…That last stanza especially…It definitely makes the reader wonder who that lucky guy is."
Fortunately, Mr. Jacobson's voice didn't turn grave during those last sentences but, rather, sounded vaguely amused, even teasing. The rational side to Sylvia gave a sigh of relief. She realized the past few days that she couldn't continue feeling what she felt. Though it was human nature to react to certain things emotionally, she had to rid herself of them completely. The heart palpitations, the sense of wonder she got whenever she looked straight into his eyes…everything. She would put all of it up for sale, metaphorically, and it would be bought, or just vanish entirely. She would like that, honestly. He would be furious with her and stop being her mentor and friend. Not only could she not risk all those other things, but she would not sacrifice that professional friendship.
"I wrote that poem a couple of months ago," Sylvia replied dismissively, coolly, disregarding her inner protests. "I'm no longer interested in that guy. I was just feeling…I was just feeling poetic. Besides, if this particular person discovered that that stanza might have referred to him, he will despise me."
With a sideways glance in her direction, Mr. Jacobson proceeded to walk up to the window to casually stare out of it. His cool, calm, and collected façade did not match the inner turmoil he faced as well.
"Why would you assume that?"
She stated grimly, borderline frostily, "It's immoral. My little infatuation on him would be widely considered immoral. He'll wash his hands of me. That's why he can't find out. He'll be disgusted, and I'm not prepared to throw the friendship I share with him under the bus. And it's not like I haven't tried fighting my own emotions."
"Why even try, though?" he murmured, hesitantly meeting her fiery gaze. "If you tell him…"
"This is inappropriate to discuss with a teacher." Building her wall between her and her English teacher a few bricks higher, Sylvia informed this in short, clipped tones, much to the man's trepidation.
She ran away from him, in a sense. She was hiding something. Whatever she felt, it was so deep-seated in shame that she wouldn't budge in terms of spilling the details. Mr. Jacobson understood this and respected this. But, she shouldn't have had to confront it alone.
Despite his thoughts, he agreed, "I see your point. This conversation is getting into rather personal territory. Good call, Sylvia. My advice, though, as your teacher, would be to tell the boy you're crushing on how you really feel about him. It's common sense. Anyone could tell you that."
Sure, anyone. Too bad the person alluded to in the poem wasn't a boy. He hadn't been a boy in that sense of the word for roughly ten years. Her hands shook again, like they normally did whenever Mr. Jacobson cut too close to the truth, which could never escape her lips. He would hate her. He would demand of her to show up to class every day once he revealed his wrath just to spite her and humiliate her. Although everything inside her screamed at her that he would never do such a thing, the cynical Sylvia denounced that claim by assuring that he was a guy first and foremost. Men had testosterone, and if you did something foolish to upset them, their rage would bubble over.
Even Mr. Rochester had been immensely unhappy with Jane Eyre at one point, when she'd resolved to move out of Thornfield out of respect for his previously exchanged marriage vows. Like Jane Eyre (at least until the end of the novel), Sylvia would choose the righteous path in sparing her feelings to accommodate for what was principled and ethical. She would hardly invite him to get too close to her. Yes, she would miss their stimulating conversations, but these had to end for the greater good.
With a heavy heart, she told him, "I have to go. I'm already late for algebra."
"Let me write you a note."
She stood a respectable five feet away from his desk, watching Mr. Jacobson write up a pass. The guilt returned with a vengeance, but she knew she was doing the right thing.
When he handed her the note, she observed the troubled shadow that passed through his handsome face. "I said something wrong, didn't I?"
Sylvia shrugged, seemingly indifferent to his concern. "Don't worry about it. Why would you think you did?"
Mr. Jacobson shrugged in response. "I don't know. I shouldn't have bothered to mention the last stanza of your poem. It's clearly a sensitive topic for you, and I'm sorry I ventured into it."
The most awkward silence between them yet ensued. They both stared at everything but each other. Nibbling on her bottom lip, Sylvia chewed away her embarrassment.
To break the ice, Mr. Jacobson finally looked up at her to smile. "Well, let's hope you rank in the top three. And who knows? Maybe you'll win it all. You've certainly earned it."
She couldn't resist smiling back, though her lips barely upturned. "Thanks. I hope so, too. It'll prove so much to my parents."
"Have a good day, Sylvia."
"You too, Mr. Jacobson."
Neither of them saw the other's reactions after she strode rapidly to algebra class. If they had, they would have regretted the conversation. For, Sylvia trembled slightly on her way, fighting back tears. Mr. Jacobson rubbed his nose in an anguished manner before wondering out loud, "What did I do?"
And he felt so damn helpless for not trying to counsel her further.
It promised to be one of the best days of her life after that, ironically. Corey and Kayla were feeling jokey at lunchtime, and Sylvia reaped the benefits. They were also very excited that their friend had made it past the preliminaries in the teen poetry contest and onto the final round. They speculated what rank her poem would be. Kayla realistically guessed fourth or third, Corey loudly yelled out number one, and she personally thought she would be number six.
When she got home, her dad was there, having got off work early, apparently. It was a rare occurrence for him, but she was really pleased to see him. Better yet, he told her that he finally read "Strangers" and gave her his input.
"I must say, Sylvia, that poem really made me think. After that Sunday dinner that went awry, I did feel bad for raising my voice at you, even though you did curse. But, I've noticed that Randall has been like that to you for a few years now, the way he'll taunt you and just wait for you to react. And I was too preoccupied preparing cases to be there for you. I feel like I've failed you as a parent. How about I take you out to lunch some time? Wherever you want. We do need more father-daughter time."
She didn't know whether to gleefully laugh or cry at his offer. "OK, Dad. And you didn't fail as a parent. Firm hours are long and busy. I should have been more understanding."
"Don't worry about it, kid." He hugged her. "How about…Hm, not this weekend, unfortunately, I do have too much paperwork that can't be ignored…How about the weekend after that? I'll definitely make time. And we'll talk about your poetry. We'll just have a real conversation."
"That sounds good to me. I got some homework to do, but that sounds like a plan."
Sylvia beamed once she was in the sanctity of her room, comforted by her friends and her father. She would have to show the poem to her mother next, and that would be the tough part. Her mom, being a nurse, had random hours during which to work. For the most part, they did stay the same but would only vary in when she came home. If Dad was difficult to talk to due to his job demands, it was more so with Mom. However, Sylvia had a proposition for her too, once she was home.
For now, she called up Kayla to discuss female woes that involved males. A male…an older male…who should never unearth the truth. Supposedly, the truth set you free, but she philosophized that it would only be more restraining in her case. She would hate for him to pack up and transfer to another school, but she knew that it would happen. Either that or he would be in court for allegedly advancing on her, something he was too good to ever do, bless him. Nothing optimistic could result from this.
"Kayla…I need to talk to you." Humiliatingly, she blushed already from what she would divulge.
Kayla automatically sounded anxious. "Sylvia, what is it? Are you OK? Is it something with your parents again? It better not have been that lousy excuse for a brother you have. Did you know he tried to come onto me in freshman year, flirting and whatnot? I can't believe you two are rela—"
"Yeah, yeah, I say that to myself all the time," Sylvia cut in, though not in the mood to count the ways in which she wished she wasn't related to Randall. "But…It's something more serious. I'm afraid I'm…I'm really starting to fall for Mr. Jacobson. This is so ludicrous because I know he'll hate me so much if he ever finds out. I can't afford to ruin his life and mine."
"Mmm, yeah, I can see your point. But, it's not like you saw him and from day one you thought you'd have sex with him or seduce him. That's not you, first of all. And not to mention you would never dream of crushing on a teacher."
"Until now," she groaned, placing her head in her hand, tormented and self-loathing over what she felt. "And it's a mistake, totally by accident. I've seen news stories, OK? I'm not like any of those students. And on his side, he's not like any of those teachers up there on the stand. He's not trying to come on to his students. He has a strict 'no cellphone' policy in his classroom because I remember him telling us that the future should still involve talking to each other in person and not through technology all the time. He's smart enough not to implicate himself into any sticky situations. He ignores the girls who flirt with him without being rude to them in class, since he treats everyone with the same respect. That's admirable. If I tell him how I feel, I'm going to taint all that."
Kayla wisely input, "It's a double-edged sword, isn't it? I guess many of us don't think we'll do or feel something that's taboo yet it happens nonetheless. Speaking of attractive teachers, though, remember Mr. Neal from eighth grade math? So many girls in our grade were crushing on him, I swear."
Sylvia wrinkled her nose in revulsion. "I didn't. I couldn't have cared less about the man at the time. While all those girls were staring, they failed to notice what a horrible teacher he was. He was such a slacker and didn't give a shit about grades or anything. I mean, pfft, he once had the gall to tell my class that he wouldn't even grade our homework."
"I crushed on him a little," Kayla admitted, giggling at her folly. "But, it wasn't full-blown or anything. It was all 'oh, he's nice-looking', but I didn't make a big deal out of him apart from that. He really wasn't that bright."
"See? I'm not the type to fall for teachers based on physical features or on anything. I'm smarter than this…"
"There's more to it then. You like him because of his personality. He does have a generous one from what I've seen in class. He'll crack jokes every now and again to get us smiling. Like, with the FANBOYS acronym for conjunctions, you know, he told us just think of the guys at Comic Con."
Sylvia snorted in laughter. "Yeah, he would say something like that."
"And then with the book we're reading right now, The Great Gatsby, he said that if he earned a dime for every time the book stressed how much Gatsby's obsessed with Daisy, he would own a casino by now."
"Oh, jeez…See, that's what is so cool about him. He has a tendency to use ice-breaking humor yet not detract from his abilities as a teacher."
"You speak of him kind of affectionately just when you're agreeing with me," Kayla pointed out quietly but not in a patronizing, judging manner. "His personality definitely has you hooked. I like that he never yells at anyone, too. My class might as well have been considered remedial, what with how rambunctiously some of us would act out. One guy—he was a stoner, big surprise—was so rude to him that Mr. Jacobson yelled out 'hey', and that startled us into silence. That was before he expressed more calmly just how disruptive Cody was being before smiling and cheerfully giving him a detention. What a comeback."
Sylvia stared down at the notes she dutifully studied for the Jane Eyre quiz coming up in a week or so. She was upset with herself for paying attention to the perfect guy. Well, he would be if…
She bemoaned piteously, "I wish he was younger, our age. Then, I could go out with him without it being weird at all. I could confess that I like him without him judging me. But, since he's old, and that's so taboo…"
"What the fuck? I swore he was twenty-eight."
"Well, twenty-six isn't that much less of a difference."
In Sylvia's mind, she had always considered him twenty-eight. Then again, as with all twenty-somethings, it was hard to pinpoint just exactly how old they were. However, his being twenty-six did change one little aspect. It meant the age difference was below double digits. She shook her head swiftly to eliminate that thought.
"How do you know this, Kayla?" she interrogated. "I thought you were the voice of reason who…"
"I have this weird little habit of looking up teachers' Facebook pages. Don't ask me why, it's a quirk," Kayla said defensively. "And he's twenty-six. That's what it says on his profile. Oh, and in case you were curious, he likes the movie Reservoir Dogs and the Minnesota Vikings."
"I don't care," Sylvia practically whined. "I would never have thought to even so much as glance on Mr. Jacobson's Facebook page because I'm not weird like you tend to be. Not to mention I'm distancing myself from him. I tried to today, but I don't know how long it's gonna last, especially with the look on his face…"
"What? You're telling me there's actually a chance of him liking you?"
"Yes! I think there is!" she postulated louder than necessary, tears threatening to stream down her cheeks again.
"You heard me. Tell him. Lay it all on the line. If he likes you back, have a five-year plan that involves you not doing anything beyond him teaching you for at least two of them. That is, if he doesn't see it as a fling. If not, well, back down gracefully, say you found his personality appealing and not his looks, and that you are aware of how serious the situation is."
If distance hadn't separated them at the moment, Sylvia would have sprinted the five blocks it took to get to Kayla's house and kiss and pinch her cheeks like a grandmother. The advice she just garnered was so much better than she would have bargained for. Even when it came to the very slim chance of Mr. Jacobson liking her back, it sounded like a great plan to her. That way, no one would be too perturbed over her admiration for this teacher. Her parents would be apprehensive at first, but they would grow to like him, just as she had.
However, that was only if he didn't see this as a fleeting crush that would last a few more months, and it would end. Being more precocious beyond her years, Sylvia had the gut feeling that this wasn't passing fancy. It hadn't been like with all the other crushes her age when she'd fantasized and even fabricated personalities that simply didn't exist. What she'd seen from Mr. Jacobson, more and more gradually, she'd liked earnestly. His effervescence brushed away her cynicism, causing it to retreat to the shady corner whence it came. He'd brought out the part of her that was outgoing, witty, and eager to connect with others.
"That…That's brilliant, Kayla. You're a genius." She beamed.
"I know I am. But, here's the thing. This is not to get your hopes up. He could like you, but at the same time, he's a grown man who knows what women want to hear. It's like that one book I read once called Dateable…"
"You mean that one book that basically tells teenagers to go out with Catholics and wait until after marriage to breed?"
"A crude summary but yes. And it's Christianity, Sylvia, not necessarily Catholicism. According to my view, though, it's OK for a given guy to not be religious as long as he has some moral fiber backing him up. Otherwise, he's a sleazy scumbag."
"That's good because I'm atheist."
"And I'm a Christian who can accept that. Because thank God that He didn't make me a zealot. But, anyway, guys do see women like fish. With the right bait, they can reel them in. If Mr. Jacobson is genuine then—to be blunt here—damn, girl, you might have lucked out. If nothing goes wrong of course…"
"Yeah. Thanks, Kayla, you're a very supportive, loyal friend. I'll remember what you said. You should totally be a psychologist."
"I'm more or less interested in marine biology, but you flatter me." Kayla giggled. "Bye, Syl."
As she put her cellphone back in its place on the nightstand, Sylvia smiled to herself. She shockingly couldn't wait to reveal her feelings to Mr. Jacobson, the sooner the better. For, if she held back for too much longer, she'd keep having the mood swings from nervous and depressed to totally blissful, depending on where the scenario stood. One way or another, it had to end. There had to be the final solution to her moral dilemma.
And yet, the back of her mind reproached her for such hasty thinking, believing that he would take this remotely well. She hadn't contemplated this before, but could he sue her for something like defamation if she told the truth? Maybe he would show his real spiteful self then by placing her in the courtroom, testifying against her with false accusations, and chasten her in front of the jury along with many members of the community. He'd paint her with the letter "W" for whore on her chest for all to see…metaphorically, of course. He would beseech the jury to find her guilty, for attempting to hold his career hostage by seducing him, sleeping with him…
What a vivid imagination she had. If only she channeled it to her writing.
By the end of the week, Sylvia acted as though she hadn't tried disassociating herself from Mr. Jacobson. By neutrally raising her hand on occasion during the class discussions, she provided her input in a scholarly, mature manner over whatever was mentioned in a given Jane Eyre chapter. She would insightfully point out what a particular character's flaws were and what they most likely thought in the situation. The more sensible students in her class (the sad minority who were in this for the sake of academia and higher learning) would avidly jump in with their surmises.
What considerably differed, though, were the after-class talks she'd had with her teacher, the brief ones before she headed off to algebra. Recently, as soon as the bell rang, she was the first one out the door.
For some reason, that altercation in what normally happened on a daily basis would agitate Michael Jacobson's mind to the extent that he wondered if he really had done something wrong. And if he had, why did he care so deeply? She might as well have stuck a knife in his chest and mortally wounded him. In cool rationale, he would barely manage to assure himself that there was nothing to talk about when it came to the two of them after class. She had to go off to persist in her quest to raise her math grade, and he had to plan for that afternoon's creative writing class. He hadn't received a phone call regarding Sylvia's final placement in the young poets' contest, so there was no pressing urgency for her to speak with him on any issue.
If that was the case, the most logical one at that, why did that sadden him?
Meanwhile, Sylvia breezed through the rest of the week with her future goals and objectives in mind. Without torturing herself over her liking of Mr. Jacobson, she was in great spirits. It was a shame that that was what the correlation had been over her prior dour mood, but she would triumph over this schoolgirl crush soon. And yet…He stayed in her thoughts as often as not.
On Friday evening, when she propositioned her mother with a trip to the movies on Saturday afternoon, with Mom agreeing to the idea rather open-mindedly, Sylvia felt her spirits soar. Another strained familial relationship fixed. Mr. Jacobson was right, after all. She could accomplish this! She wished she could tell him…
Unfortunately, plans that hung tentatively in the balance such as this one had a pestering tendency to be dashed. So she was to discover…
The morning started out like any other ordinary Saturday morning, not with her watching those atrocious cartoons they had on TV now, but with her eating her Cocoa Puffs cereal. As content as she was, Sylvia looked forward to the afternoon and the movie she would see with her mother. It was supposed to be a PG-13 romantic comedy, a genre she wouldn't normally be caught dead watching. As she pointed out to herself, she realized that a girls' day out, mother-daughter style, essentially consisted of this at the very least. She could feel free to watch such a movie with her mom…as long as she stayed tight-lipped on the matter and not tell her friends.
After the cereal, she went upstairs to retrieve her poem that her dad had put back on her desk to show to Mom. After all, this could be something they could discuss and potentially bond over the following words that might be said. Their relationship could be mended and be back to what it once was. The last time they'd remotely hung out as a mother-daughter pair had been two months ago, when they'd shopped at JC Penny's together. Even then, it felt awkward. Hopefully, a theater trip wouldn't be so…
As she walked down the stairs, Mom strode down past her, appearing to be in quite a rush. She was headed toward the coat rack in the front hall. What the…?
"Mom? Where are you going?" Sylvia called out, confused.
In the meantime, Dad wasn't available, not because of work-related matters but because he'd taken initiative to do the weekend grocery shopping. At least if she had to raise her voice, he wouldn't have to hear it.
Mom answered tersely, "Change of plans, Sylvia. A nurse up at the clinic isn't coming in today, so I have to take her shift. I'll be gone almost all day."
In all these years of her parents working, she'd understood and been respectful of their wishes for her not to interfere whenever they found themselves preoccupied. Yet, all those years had taken their toll on her, especially when Mom had interviewed for that nursing job five years ago. With both parents employed now, it made things difficult.
Therefore, she snapped.
"What? Why? Why is it so urgent? It's not like you work at the actual hospital, Mom. Can't somebody else substitute for that nurse's shift? I don't get it. Mom, you promised we'd go to the movies this afternoon! Remember?"
"I haven't forgotten." Mom was now halfway in her long winter coat. "But, I'm sorry, they called me five minutes ago to tell me I have to work her shift. There's nothing I can do."
"How about taking the day off and spending it with your daughter?" Sylvia combated within herself not to scream, but the effort proved futile.
Her mother closed her eyes, sighing, before shrugging into her coat. "I don't have time for this right now, Sylvia. We can go next weekend."
She laughed humorlessly—in fact, almost caustically. "That's rich. And what then? Somebody else is going to need you. I get it. You're a nurse who's on call practically twenty-four seven. I see what really matters."
"It's fine, Mom. Really. Could you at least take this poem?" She gestured to the piece of paper in her hands. "And read it when you have time at work or now? It's important. It talks about the relationship I have with you two…"
"I can't. I have to be there by ten o'clock, and it's already nine forty-five. You're holding me up."
"Sorry for the inconvenience," she bit back. "But, I'm your daughter. Being offspring should be more important than a job. That's what families do. They're there for each other. Like you weren't for me when you didn't believe that that monster of a teacher—"
Mom closed her eyes again, sighed, and pinched her nose. "Please…Can we discuss this later?"
"No! Mom, why didn't you believe me?! And why do you go out of your way not to spend time with me?"
"I don't. Do not turn this into me abandoning you."
"You might as well have! By taking me to the therapist, thinking I was crazy…"
"Sylvia! That is enough. I need to report to work and do my shift. We will discuss this later," Mom addressed in a tone of finality.
"You know what?!" Out of immature impulse, Sylvia tore the notebook paper up. It wouldn't have mattered, since she had a copy of it saved on her laptop, but it wasn't like her mother had to know. "You don't need to read this. If you're not going to put in the effort to mend this, I'm not going to try!"
At last, the ice queen appeared to have thawed. "Honey, I'm—"
"I hate you! I FUCKING HATE YOU!"
Before her mother could say anything in either reprimand or comfort, Sylvia ran up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door closed.
After she heard that woman drive away to work her pointless clinic nurse shift, she resolved to go out on a walk. An angry walk. Washington didn't feel so severe in the winter anyway, and she needed to straighten out her turbulent emotions. Ensuring to leave a note on the refrigerator for Dad once he came home, she quickly exited through the front door and proceeded to do just that. She didn't care where the destination lay, as long as she wasn't trapped in this spacious house alone for the umpteenth time in her life.
That walk passed by in a blur to her as she passed leafless trees, picture-perfect suburban houses, and neatly trimmed lawns. The chilly wind blew through her as relentlessly as she strode. Nothing but the color red existed in her line of vision. Too raging beyond relief, she kept going. No poetry she could write at home now would give her solace. Calling up her friends wouldn't do, as they were probably off on fun weekend plans. She knew Kayla was going shopping with her mother, of course. As for Corey…Well, she didn't know what Corey was up to, but she wasn't even in the mood to talk with either of her best friends.
Although this did occur often, she needed to be alone nonetheless, to sort her feelings out.
Not every word Sylvia had shouted at her mother had been intentional. She didn't know the past would somehow find its way to the surface through her vocal cords, which were now raw from all that painful use. So much had been going on. Was she happy about crushing on her teacher or was she thoroughly miserable? Did she like to confide in friends or not? Was this self-pity or her depression taunting her? Did she want to dissolve the barrier between her and her family or not?
Strangely, she discovered herself standing by the lakeside ten minutes later. Stifling her gasp, she remembered that she hadn't been here in years.
It was a park, the only one in town and her former favorite location. She stood on the bridge, gazing down at the iced-over lake. She used to go here often when she was a young child, around eight or nine or so. Her parents would walk with her whenever they ventured out, whether it was them watching her fooling around on the playground or her laughing while feeding the ducks. They would all come out here as a family to walk the trails to get in some exercise before the cooler weather hit. Visiting this park continued for her, only by herself, through her preteen years.
And then…And then, freshman year partially stole her innocence…or maybe it was sometime before that, when Mom decided to be a nurse again to help pay the bills and such. Dad had to work longer hours once he got promoted within the firm. Randall, aware that his sister wasn't that popular in her grade, began ridiculing her. And then that absurdly loathsome teacher…No wonder she'd stopped going. It would remind her of everything she had lost.
On a milder day, she might have been able to see her reflection in the water. Because of the ice, she couldn't see it, but she knew it would portray a lost (in so many ways), lonely girl who only wanted things to revert back to the way they were. That was all she wanted. Material possessions? Who needed those when she just…?
Sylvia leaned on the railing, staring progressively more blankly at the frozen lake. She was numb. Not physically but emotionally. She couldn't cry.
Everything stopped around her, and she slowly drifted off into her own little world. She thought she'd go insane. There were rhythmic footsteps, like someone jogging, on the bridge. Who jogged in the winter? Although she wasn't much of a superbly fit person, she understood the concept of being in top physical form. What bothered her was who would jog when it was thirty-five degrees out?
No…What? He couldn't be here. This was just the icing on her cake of the worst day of her life, wasn't it? Cautiously, she turned her head over her shoulder to look into the intruder's eyes. Vivid, pale blue.
Mr. Jacobson stood there, immobilized, a few steps away from her. He had on a black winter coat and pants ideal for working out. The cord of an iPod was visible on him, and he deliberately removed the buds from his ears.
Instead of being welcoming toward him like her impulses begged her to, Sylvia inquired, "What are you doing here? It's early February."
"I work out. This is actually one of my favorite spots to jog. I should be asking you the same question."
"I'm looking at the lake. It's very pretty this time of year, you know," she retorted defensively, snorting disdainfully as she settled her head onto her crossed arms and burying herself further into her thick blue winter coat.
He stated this, no question in his tone at all as he slowly, cautiously approached her.
"Don't." She lifted a warning hand, not that that fazed him too much. "I want to be alone right now."
"You know you can talk to me about anything," Mr. Jacobson entreated softly.
That was what frightened her. Aside from her closest friends, she had never allowed anyone to get this close in years. Her logical side would scold her rather tyrannically, commanding her to get it together, that freshman year incident was really no big deal. She'd suffered no physical scars and nothing that police or doctors would find on her person. Yet, it shook up her world so much.
Sylvia's bottom lip trembled. "That's the thing. I can't. You're my teacher."
"What difference does that make?" He stepped nearer toward her, causing her breath to hitch in her throat and her heart to race. "Students can confide in teachers if the need should arise…especially when they're hurting for somebody to talk to like you are now."
"I had a fight with my mom!" she yelled, loud enough to scare a squirrel ten feet away. "N-Not a physical one…verbal. I yelled at her…She couldn't take me to the movies like she'd promised because of work. Dad's out grocery shopping. Corey and Kayla have plans. I'm here…"
Silence stole its way between them.
"I'm here," she repeated quietly, lowering her head so that her hair covered her face.
"So am I," Mr. Jacobson whispered, placing his hands on her shoulders so that he could turn her around.
Sylvia froze like prey caught by a predator.
"Look, it's just that I feel like being by myself right now, OK?" she talked at nearly the speed of light, so it seemed. "I don't need anyone. All people have done to me is bring me down. Like, my mom, she doesn't mean to, but she's let me down so many times. Of course I was going to have a fight with her! She should be spending more time with me. Randall isn't that important. I'm the kid living in the house. And that doesn't even inclu—"
His lips prevented her from saying any more.
Her entire body seized up before she yielded to his lips. They felt as beautiful and mesmerizing as they looked, the way they just covered her own. How he kissed…
She aggressively shoved him off her, the tears already falling down her cheeks. "No! Mr. Jacobson, stop! You're a teacher for God sakes! What you did to me just now was entirely inappropriate and—"
"Call me Michael when we're not at school," he implored, his startlingly lovely eyes filling with hurt.
"NO! Please don't!" Sylvia held onto the rail behind her, beginning to violently sob. "Do you know what could happen? My dad's a lawyer, he'd know this shit! And anyone else would since it's so basic. If I'm seen with you like this, like we are now, you're going to be arrested. They'll sue you, and your career will be ruined. You wouldn't be allowed fifty feet near the high school. You couldn't teach anywhere any more, no one will take your writing, and no one is going to ask you to perform at Golden Café any more. And you know why?! You'll be a registered sex offender…And I-I won't let that happen to you. I care about you…so much."
Mr. Jacobson's eyes became so soft, so gentle that she continued shaking while the uncontrollable sobs overwhelmed her fragile frame.
"I know what's at stake. I'm an adult, Sylvia. I am aware of the consequences. But…" He proceeded to wrap his strong arms around her, holding her tight. "I can't fight my emotions any more. I care about you, too."
"D-Do you mean it?" She buried her face in his coat.
"Yes. Without a doubt. But, something tells me there's something deeper going on under the surface. What else is wrong?"
Conflict rose up within Sylvia. Should she tell him? She'd only told one other person, her mother. And she hadn't believed her.
"Would you believe me?"
He nodded. "Of course."
She sighed shakily and then bravely proceeded. "It was freshman year. Mr.-Mr.-damn it, I can't say his name because it's so hard to because of that memory but…Fine. Mr. O'Brien"—she shuddered—"was the earth science teacher for my grade. He was…Ugh, he was in his fifties and was going to retire after the next year. When I was in his class, he'd…he'd look at me very strangely, like he thought I was attractive or something. He made me nervous and not in a good way. After that, he would go out of his way to encounter me wherever he went. He started taking the same lunch hour I had, stood out in the hall so I couldn't avoid seeing him, and even supervised the classroom where I and other kids in that part of the alphabet took that Explorer test. Then…Th-Then…"
Cradling her face so tenderly that she almost fell from the shock of it all, Mr. Jacobson coaxed, "Go on. It's OK."
"One day, we were at a lab table, doing an experiment. Corey was my lab partner…So he saw it…He saw it when Mr. O'Brien walked past our table…but not before groping my ass."
Fresh tears brimmed in her eyes, about to fall. "I tensed and nearly knocked a beaker over. He just said with this horrible smirk on his face 'Oops, pardon me, Sylvia.' And the bastard winked at me! I ran out of class and threw up in the restroom. Then, I went home, told Mom…and she didn't believe me. He was respected in the community, played golf with my uncle…So, she took me to therapy, and I had to take Prozac and…"
Bile churned in the back of her throat again, like she did when reliving that memory. As she burst out crying again, Mr. Jacobson held her so that she wouldn't collapse on the bridge.
"Shh…I'm not like that prick. Shhh….I won't hurt you."
"He scared me," she sobbed, feeling so childish. "I wouldn't come to school for a week after that."
"Who could blame you?" He settled his chin on top of her head. "That sick excuse of a human being sexually assaulted you. I'm relieved that it wasn't worse, but he should not have touched you in that way. I'd throttle him if I ever saw him. But, you never reported it to the school?"
She shook her head against his warm chest. "N-No one would have b-believed me there. Corey did, but since I wouldn't talk, no one believed him either."
"And you know what the most unnerving part is?" Sylvia added.
"I feel really, really safe in your arms."
However, her tone sounded a great deal lighter when she told him this and as she stood back in his embrace, she waveringly smiled. He returned her smile, wiped away the remnants of her tears, and ran a hand through her dark hair.
Sylvia sobered again. "Don't you have a girlfriend? Or a wife? I should have thought of that and conducted myself accordingly, not run into your arms like that."
"No," Mr. Jacobson denied in a timely fashion. "Well, I did have a girlfriend, but we broke up two months before I even moved here to this school district. She didn't want to deal with the distance I'd put between us by moving here. We dated for two years, but it was way too long." He shrugged. "We weren't entirely compatible for each other."
"And what? We are?" Gesturing at the space separating them, Sylvia pinned him with a very grave stare.
He leaned his forehead against hers. "Don't tell me you haven't felt it either."
"Doesn't make it any more right."
"Maybe not by societal standards but…Somehow, in the middle of becoming acquainted with you, I became attached. Not in an obsessive way but endearing. I noticed how increasingly our conversations happened, and the topics were more than what I would expect a seventeen-year-old to speak with me about. I would be the last man on earth to be a sex-driven pervert, believe me. That's why I denied it myself for so long…But, the emotions were much stronger than I gave them credit for. I care about you, Sylvia, honestly."
Seeing the sincerity reflected in his eyes, the cynic in her could not ignore that fact. Then, he noticed her for her personality, not her appearance. That was a rarity unto itself. If he'd never expressed interest in any other teenage girls, then it must have been true. He'd reserved that interest for only one girl…her.
"So, none of those other girls flirting with you made an impact on you?"
"Other girls flirting with me? Huh, I never noticed them batting their eyelashes and whispering about me in the hallways," Mr. Jacobson joked, yet another one that made Sylvia laugh.
She brought a hand up to his face. "You're so kind…That's what drew me in and your passion for literature. And then your sometimes corny humor…Your smile…I'm not even going into detail about your eyes. Michael, are you angry at me for feeling what I feel toward you?"
Fear was still evident, lingering in her voice. She displayed logic so much of the time that she didn't want to completely obliterate that mentorship/friendship they had during class hours. She would not plunge into this, if she knew he would horribly regret it. A lump built up in her throat, and tears stung her eyes at the mere thought of him resenting her for this.
After what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Jacobson shook his head. "I could never be angry with you, Sylvia. Besides, I'm equally to blame, if we have to play that game. However, we could always hold off on pursuing anything until after you graduate high school. We'll set some ground rules. You formally call me Mr. Jacobson in class, and we don't make it obvious we like each other. No telling your whole grade. Understand?"
"Whoa, whoa, no need to be that formal in the here and now," he murmured, holding her close. "I know that you started liking me out of pure intentions, seeing past the looks and noticing my personality. Why else would you have been so suspicious on that first day, thinking I wasn't competent because of my looks and age? I remember that quite vividly, hmph."
The faint smile on his face widened when she chuckled through the remaining tears that trickled down. "I thought you were going to be such a slacker. At the end of the day, I knew you and I were going to get along, but I didn't know we'd take it this far."
"Neither did I." Mr. Jacobson (Michael…Sylvia was unsure what to call him now) wiped these tears from her cheek with his thumb. "At least you weren't a student willing to throw herself at me. What you just told me might have revealed a partial reason why you avoided that."
Their lips were only separated by only a small space.
Taking a breath, she admitted, "I was concerned that all the kind things you'd said to me were just lies to get me to trust you before you'd prey on me. I was scared of you at one point. I thought you'd cause physical harm to me."
"No. Never," he whispered tenderly. "That story you told me about that teacher sickened me. I could never fathom why someone you're supposed to trust, supposed to learn from, would do something as overtly lusting as that. I would never do that, especially not to you. You never have to be afraid of me."
"I know that now," Sylvia whispered back, shutting her eyes. "I trust you completely."
Nothing happened for a while, only the two of them standing on the bridge. It being such a cold day no one else was out in the park except for them. It was totally by happenstance that they would meet out here today, but she found that she didn't much mind. Whenever she needed someone to confide in, he was somehow, in one way or another, right there to listen.
"I don't mean to be forward or anything, but aren't you—?"
He pressed his lips to hers, first his top lip covering hers before his bottom lip joined. Sylvia sensed herself gasp, but it wasn't one of disgust or sheer terror but of pleasure. It was bizarre that out of all people to elicit such a reaction in her, it would end up being her English teacher. At the same time, she didn't really care. All that mattered to her was that he reciprocated her feelings and hadn't disposed of them like she'd assumed he would. Like common sense told her that he ought to have. And yet…
This kiss was one of the purest things she'd ever known. Mr. Jacobson was so gentle, guiding her more inexperienced lips through the kiss. His hands stayed on her waist and never wandered down to other, more intimate parts of her body that she would never allow touched. At least not for now, given how young she was and her hesitance toward the concept of sexual activity. All she wanted, all she could ever ask of him was for him to care. And he obliged.
This was like tasting heaven. She'd remember this forever. He was such a good kisser…
When he gradually broke the kiss, Sylvia just as slowly opened her eyes to see his electric blue ones gazing at her, taking her in.
"This is as far as I go for now," he informed her. "I'm never going to touch you where you don't want to be touched."
"You're a brilliant kisser," she complimented.
He chuckled wryly. "I try…Hm, I'm still wondering why that one teacher was so respected if he was so despicable…"
"He'd put in many years in the school district. He was a historical artifact, I guess." She snorted derisively. "He'd reached a level in the community where he couldn't be touched. I wish he'd gotten fired, but no, he peacefully retired. He lives in Hawaii now, supposedly. I hope he stays the hell there, so he'll never look at me in that weird way again."
"I'll be the only one looking at you now," Mr. Jacobson assured, giving her the lightest peck on the lips.
It was almost uncanny that for a student/teacher relationship, this was rather innocent. Sylvia welcomed this, however, she would not want anything more sensual than this. Sometimes, the merest things such as sweet kisses proved the most potent as well as the most valuable. Even when realizing their attraction toward each other, this remained at a comfortable level for her. After what he reassured her of, he would never grope her, never molest her. He still retained being a perfect gentleman.
"So, I take it that that was that last stanza to your poem then? You were referring to me?"
She nodded, half-grinning. "Yeah. I shouldn't have, but I did."
Mr. Jacobson embraced her again. "Never be skeptical over this. This is genuine for something that normally is the furthest thing from it."
"No kidding…Hm, I wrote a note to Dad, telling him I'd be back at around noon. That's still an hour and a half. Would you want to take a walk with me?"
"Of course. And Sylvia, did you show that poem to your parents?"
"Just my dad, so far. My poem turned out to be effective for him. Our relationship's getting better."
His face broke into a light grin. "That's good—that's great news. I met your parents during parent-teacher conferences, you know. They're good people. I know you'll fix whatever troubles you're having with them."
They proceeded to walk down the bridge and onto the paved trail, and they even gambled by holding hands. Who would see anyway?
"So, what's your favorite color?" Sylvia asked.
"Green. What about you?"
Giving him a sly, sideways glance, she readily responded with, "Blue…But, it's always been that way. Your eyes just give me an excuse to have a favorite shade of blue now."
He chuckled. "OK, my turn. What's your favorite movie?"
"That's a hard one…Um, Pride & Prejudice."
Mr. Jacobson's lips twitched in amusement. "How come I'm not surprised? You being of a literarily advanced mindset, your precociousness…That's what caught my attention about you. I wouldn't fall for just any teenager, believe me."
And so it went on, until it was ten minutes til noon. At that time, Sylvia said goodbye to her teacher, giving him one last hug before she went on her way and he on his. However, they both knew this wouldn't be the last they saw of each other.
Of course not, not by a long shot. Now that they'd gotten something established, she couldn't imagine parting with him. He was so kind and attuned to her emotions…How often would she find a man like that, regardless of age? She would stick with him. They didn't even have to kiss. A great weight was lifted off of her shoulders in the knowledge that he gave her his encouragement…not to go gung-ho but to at least share a companionship beyond friendship/mentorship.
She couldn't wait until Monday now.
Two weeks later, Sylvia charged through life more optimistically than she had in recent memory. She patched things up with her mother, though cried in the process due to the massive guilt that she'd told her she'd hated her. However, Mom was forgiving and even hugged her. She hung out with her friends like she always did but even invited a couple of others such as Alyssa Lees and Tricia Larson to join them for lunch. All in all, them being so close-knit, it was mainly still her, Corey, and Kayla. There was always room for more, though, the ones who wouldn't judge them based on their strange little quirks that drove everybody else away.
Allison and Cristina still attempted flirting with Mr. Jacobson, but he showed no interest or acknowledgement of their supposedly seductive mannerisms. In fact, one British Lit class proved very interesting.
"All right, guys. Can anyone tell me why it is implied that Jane remotely considers St. John for marriage?"
Allison raised her hand, he selected her, and she promptly answered, "Because St. John has your blue eyes, Mr. Jacobson."
Are you fucking kidding me?! Sylvia thought, temporarily disregarding the fact that Mr. Jacobson ultimately chose her to be his…well, especial favorite student. She still stuck to her guns in terms of morality. And she knew what Allison said was totally crossing the line.
As typically as always, Mr. Jacobson responded with humor. "That's not exactly confirmable, Allison. He's a fictional character, for one. For another, I've personally never met the man, so I wouldn't be able to identify the shade of blue of his eyes. Navy? Midnight? Cornflower? Periwinkle? We could guess as to the real color all day and go through the Crayola box in the process, but we wouldn't be learning anything."
To the shock of many, Allison loudly harrumphed and piercingly shouted, "I just want you to notice me!"
"Coo-coo, coo-coo," Corey muttered to Sylvia, waving his finger around his head in a gesture that referred to the blond popular girl's mounting insanity. Sylvia stifled several giggles.
Again, Mr. Jacobson remained unfazed. "I do. You're my student, and you were answering my question in a rather far-fetched way, I might add."
"That's not what I meant!" she whined, holding back a painfully obviously rehearsed sob before getting up and leaving the room. Cristina dutifully followed while shooting a dark glare at Mr. Jacobson before making her departure to tend to her heartsick friend. The rest of the class restrained from laughing at this turn of events.
"She'll be fine, everyone," Mr. Jacobson assured half-seriously, half-amusedly. "And if she does something out-of-hand—like accuse me of performing sex acts in the classroom on her—I know I have my witnesses. After all, it would be a serious accusation that couldn't be made lightly, according to the principal, and I would be called in for questioning. So, please, if anything negative does come of this, let me know. I don't want this little episode to disrupt the rest of class or the semester."
And Sylvia swore that when his eyes rested on her, he gave her a brief wink. She didn't think she even saw it until Corey hissed, "He definitely thinks you're better than Allison."
"No kidding," she murmured from the corner of her mouth before smiling ever so subtly back at Mr. Jacobson.
"And he winked at you! Oh my God…You…"
"Shhh, Corey, shut up."
It must have been difficult for her best friend to take her seriously when that spreading grin showed itself on her face.
Another poetry club meeting came and went with the girls suggesting that they have a bake sale fundraiser to raise money for prom. All other clubs that were enlisted to help could contribute any baked goods they saw fit. Sylvia, being the unofficial club president (though treated as such by her fellow poetry aficionados), passed the idea and thus they would spend Saturday afternoon selling cookies, brownies, pumpkin bread, etc.
Ironically, the day of this meeting marked Valentine's Day as well, a holiday she steadfastly refused to observe. Even now that she could confirm that Mr. Jacobson did indeed return her affections, she wouldn't celebrate it with him for five seconds. Firstly, it would be wrong of her to be romantic with her teacher no matter what time of day. Before, during, or after school, the time was irrelevant. If they ever got caught…Then again, they wouldn't do anything sexual for a long time to come, if it ever came to that point. For now, she could relax, a little.
Outwardly, Mr. Jacobson was just the opposite. He passed out candy to everyone in his classes (though the foreign language classes supplied those students with enough, safe to say) anyway, which was more than she personally would have done if she was a teacher.
This, then, didn't explain the reason why she stayed behind that day. Was she hoping for a hand-out? For a card? For a teddy bear holding a heart? She had no idea, but she went about packing and making sure her supplies were in order in her tote bag…at a snail's pace.
His breath tickled her ear. "Happy Valentine's Day, Sylvia."
Sylvia made a disgusted face. "Thanks. You too, Mr. Jacobson, but this so-called holiday is pointless. Even though I'm not technically, technically single any more, I still have to pretend I am. That part doesn't bother me so much as it's…It's just cliché, capitalism's hold over the American economy proving at its most prevalent. It's like with Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving now"—she wrinkled her dainty nose—"It's all about money."
Mr. Jacobson drew back from her and thoughtfully scratched his chin. "Excellent points. You could be on debate team with that unarguable logic. I wonder if you'll still feel that way when I tell you I have something for you."
"Ugh, no. Please, Mr. Jacobson, you didn't. I thought I not only felt strong emotions for you but respected you as a mature man and an intelligent teacher. If you did this…"
He paid no mind to her barbs as he pulled out a drawer in his desk and removed a rose and a heart-shaped package of Reese's peanut butter cups.
Sylvia's mouth dropped open. "Holy…"
"I know gifts mean very little to you, and it's the invisible concepts that matter. However…" Appearing almost shy, he scratched the back of his neck. "I felt compelled to do this for you. It'll be the only year I can get away with this, you know…unless you plan on taking Creative Writing next year."
"What do you think, Mr. Jacobson?" she teased, graciously accepting the gifts though hurriedly put them away in her tote bag to lessen the risk of passersby encountering this unusual, unorthodox scene. "I plan on being an English writing major with an emphasis on creative writing. For me to purposely avoid taking your class would be madness."
Mr. Jacobson chuckled and reached to embrace her…
…When the phone rang.
"Damn it," he cursed. "I hope this is good. If Allison Gordon really did end up making false accusations about me…That's the thing about pissing off students like her, you'll never know if—Hello, Mr. Jacobson speaking. Yes…Mmm-hmm."
Sylvia became acutely alert as he continued talking with the mysterious person. "I was wondering if—so, you've declared the winners. So, how did she…?"—she could see the grin dancing on his face in profile—"Ah, yes, well, you did already say she would make top ten. Excellent. All right, I'll tell her. You have a good day, too. All right. Bye."
She held her breath when he hung up.
Turning to her with the widest grin she'd ever seen on his face, he gave some heartening news. "Second place, Sylvia! You'll receive a check for five-hundred dollars in the mail in five business days."
To muffle her shrill scream of delight, she covered her mouth and let it all out. She received second place! She was a cash prize winner! For her work! She suddenly became so much more credible as a writer if the judges had approved of her this much. The fact that she didn't place first did not bother her in the slightest. She'd never dream she would rank this far up to begin with.
"That's brilliant!" she gushed, pushing all decorum aside to walk up to Mr. Jacobson and hug him.
Her smile became giddier when his arms enveloped around her, giving her a gentle squeeze. "I knew you could do it. I always had faith in you, Sylvia."
She snuggled against him slightly. "In more ways than one. You've done so much for cheering me up and bringing my confidence level back up to where it used to be, Mr. Jacobson. I'm going to remember that for a long time."
"Just as you'll remember this."
The halls would have cleared off by now, so no one else was there to witness the kiss Mr. Jacobson bestowed to his student or her eagerly returning it. It was chaste again, soft. Sylvia trembled in excitement this time.
When they broke the kiss, his long, lean fingers stayed, cradling her chin. "You are talented, wiser beyond your years, sensitive, and beautiful. But, beautiful is last with me because that's irrelevant compared to all your other traits that are invisibly beautiful. I can't see them, but I can notice them expressed through you."
She rolled her eyes. "Again with the beautiful thing."
"You don't believe it?"
Mr. Jacobson pretended to look scandalized. "Is that so? Well, your hair is wonderfully groomed, I must say. Though, yes, it is the conventional brown, it flatters you and your skin tone. Your eyes…They're amber sometimes, did you know that?"
"I did, actually."
"And your heart-shaped face…But, I'm getting carried away here. I'm going to be sappier than a maple tree at the rate I'm going."
Another lame joke for her to nonetheless smile at, served up to her in a way only he could deliver.
"You have a good day, Mr. Jacobson." Sylvia gave him a one-armed hug before drawing back and going on her merry way.
"You have an excellent one as well, Sylvia."
"I already had it," she said over her shoulder, almost flirtatiously.
When she left the room today, Michael Jacobson still smiled. It had been a sublime day. To think, there did not have to be anything more than what they shared at the moment. At least, not until she graduated…As much as she seemed doubtful over the possibility of the relationship continuing after her high school career, he wasn't. He wouldn't abandon her. He would become a constant in her life, she would see.
After a while, it wouldn't be so foreign any more, not so strange. Because what they shared was real and pure and something that couldn't be stolen or bought. Maybe one day, they could fall in love the rest of the way. For now, Michael Jacobson was content with the world and with this situation. They cared about each other. That was all that mattered.
Sylvia glanced out the car window toward the school, wondering about Mr. Jacobson but not agonizing herself over him any more. It felt wonderful to have someone care about her on such a deeply emotional level. And it wasn't even like she had totally dismissed boys her age either in the past. Then, suddenly, boom, bang, shazaam, she'd fallen for a man nine years her senior. Not that she minded, for his youthful enthusiasm for life in general more than made up the difference. Of course, his exuberance brought her out of her shell.
Intrigued, Corey asked, "Soooo…How did things go between you and the hot teacher?"
"Ugh, don't speak of him like he's an object, Cor," Sylvia groaned though knew he only kidded. "And it went well. Really well. Number one, someone called him to tell him I got second place in the poetry contest."
"Ha! Knew it! Still think you should have gotten first, though."
"And…He gave me these."
She showed him the mini-Reese's peanut butter cups box and the red rose that had its thorns absent. Normally sweet and calm, Corey nearly lost control of the wheel due to him being so ecstatic.
"Corey, stay on the road!"
"OK, OK, but that's so adorable! I can't believe he'd do that for you. And on Valentine's Day at that. Huh. Who knew Mr. J could be so romantic? He definitely knows how to spice things up."
Mockingly rolling her eyes, Sylvia said firmly, "Don't tell anyone."
"I won't." Corey smiled at her softly, the seriousness there in his eyes. "It's not like I talk about you two being an item in my Facebook statuses. What kind of gossipy gay man do you think I am? Perez Hilton?"
She snorted with laughter. "I just don't want to jeopardize what Michael and I have at the moment, even if it's not much for propriety's sake."
"Oh, so now it's Michael, huh?"
"Yeah…on occasion. It's going to be Mr. Jacobson the rest of the time until I graduate for now. But…I think I'm going to think of him as Michael in my private thoughts."
"Awwww, twoo love, awwww!"
She punched him in the arm. "Shut the hell up, Corey. Please…"
Once again, her smile could give so much away pertaining to how she really felt. And what she felt right now was contentment. Blissful contentment.
A/N: Well, that's the end of it. I will admit that I really did veer off the realistic course after a while, especially since the end kind of felt like Ned's Declassified to me in all honesty. XD But yeah, not being encouraging about student/teacher relationships or anything, but that was always a darker subject I always wanted to explore creatively. Unfortunately or not, it did turn out rather sweeter than I first imagined it would be. And this had nothing to do with protecting any of the characters either, it just sort of veered off into romance territory while I typed this up.
As for the pervy teacher, well, what Sylvia tells Mr. Jacobson is what happened to me, except without getting my ass grabbed, thank goodness. However, it did feel like I was being stalked by this one teacher within school walls in sophomore year, and it was fairly unnerving. The last day of school that year was a huge relief because this was his last year of teaching before he retired. I had an odd feeling about this guy, like he had the blackest aura of anyone I'd ever encountered.
Anyway, creepy true story aside, I hope you liked this fictional story as much as I liked writing it. Thank you for the viewership.