Professing Love

Professor Marilyn Huggins was leaving her office, walking through her art studio classroom toward the door when she saw her former lover and present Department Head Professor Marc Miller stepping through the door with an unfamiliar younger woman by his side.

From the girl's red eyes and drained look, Marilyn immediately knew exactly what was going on.

"Hello, Professor Huggins," Marc said in his most friendly voice.

"Hello, Professor Miller," Marilyn answered neutrally.

"Are we catching you at a bad time?" Marc asked.

"I was just leaving for the day," Marilyn explained. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Well, I don't want to be an inconvenience," Marc said sheepishly.

"Who is your colleague?" Marilyn asked sarcastically.

"I'm sorry, that was rude of me," Marc said. "This is Annie Leavitt. Annie, this is Professor Huggins."

Marilyn reached out her hand to greet the young co-ed. She was the usual type Marc often associated himself with – former high school prom queen real life Barbie doll. Annie was tall and blonde and strikingly beautiful although she looked dazed and confused at the moment.

"Nice to meet you," Annie said politely, accepting Marilyn's handshake but not quite looking the professor in the eye.

"Professor Huggins is one of our most esteemed instructors," Marc said proudly. "She was once a celebrated model."

Marilyn peered at Marc. "We don't talk about that anymore, Professor."

"There's no reason to deny your successful past, Professor Huggins," Marc replied with a grin.

"Those days are over," Marilyn reminded him.

"But not forgotten," Marc remarked nostalgically.

"And how is it I may help you?" Marilyn asked impatiently.

"Well, I was hoping you could do me a small favor," Marc said awkwardly.

"Such as?" Marilyn knew exactly what was coming next.

"Would you be able to put Annie up at your place for a while?" Marc requested hopefully.

"Jesus, Marc," Marilyn said with irritation. "This is rather sudden although not that unexpected coming from you."

"We could really use your help," Marc said.

"Is there a problem I should know about?" Marilyn frowned.

"I don't have any place to stay," Annie spoke up, her voice breaking.

"Aren't you in the dorms?" Marilyn inquired.

"My boyfriend and I got a place off campus last semester," Annie revealed.

Marilyn threw Marc a look. "For God sakes, Marc," she complained. Then she returned her attention to Annie. "What happened with him?"

"He kicked me out," Annie explained. "When he found out." She glanced at Marc with uncertainty.

Marilyn gave Marc a killer look.

"As you can see, we're in a bit of a bind here," Marc said, ignoring Marilyn's reaction. "Will we be able to rely on your kindness, Professor?"

"I won't be any trouble, I promise," Annie said, sounding like a beggar on a street corner.

Marilyn let out a loud sigh. "Okay," she agreed reluctantly, knowing arguing with Marc over something as stupid as this wasn't worth it, even though she hated getting caught in the middle of his foolish sexual affairs.

"Great," Marc said with relief. "So, I'll just leave the two of you to do what you need to do. Annie's suitcase is right outside the door." He leaned in and kissed the girl on the cheek. "You're going to love Marilyn," he predicted. "She's charming."

"Say hello to Ellen for us," Marilyn called out as Marc headed for the door, never missing the opportunity to needle him about his wife.

"Really, Marilyn," Marc complained as he disappeared from the room.

Marilyn turned and looked at Annie. The professor was used to being around younger people, of course, and this wasn't the first time Marc had dumped one of his muses on her, but Marc's act was growing tiresome.

"How long has this been going on?" Marilyn wanted to know.

"Marc, you mean?" Annie asked blankly. She shrugged. "A couple of months."

"You had him for a class?"

"Last semester," Annie revealed. "Art History. I'm an Early Education major but it was a requirement."

"You poor dear" Marilyn muttered. "Okay," she said, "Let's go."

Annie followed the Professor out of the room, grabbing her large cloth bag from the floor of the hallway outside the door.

They didn't talk as they left the arts building, Marilyn trying to figure out why in the hell Marc was doing this tired act once again.

Marilyn led her new ward through the parking lot to her sports car, motioning for Annie to get in. The girl put her bag in the backseat and climbed into the passenger's seat. Marilyn slipped behind the driver's wheel and drove them off the campus.

Marilyn wondered if the poor kid realized it was over with Marc who only involved Marilyn when he was no longer interested in continuing the affair.

"You must think I'm pretty foolish," Annie sighed, her head turned out the passenger's side window watching the passing scenery.

"I think you're young," Marilyn replied.

"I'd been with Alex since Freshman year," Annie said sadly. "My boyfriend," she specified. "You know him – Alex Marshall?"

"Oh!" Marilyn said, surprised by the revelation. "The Harmonica Man!"

"Yeah, he was in your class last year," Annie said. "He liked it."

"Maybe he'll take you back," Marilyn said hopefully. "Forgive you."

"I blew the best thing I ever had for some stupid fantasy."

"I'm sorry," Marilyn offered.

"I still need to get my stuff out of there," she remarked, her voice quivering.

"We can worry about that later," Marilyn advised.

"Professor Miller is a bastard, isn't he?" Annie realized.

"He can't help himself," Marilyn explained.

Marilyn's bungalow along the Blue River was only a few miles from Green Campus so it wasn't long before she was pulling her car into the small driveway in front of the purple house.

"This is cute," Annie remarked as they climbed out of the car, Annie grabbing her bag from the backseat of the car. "Too bad I'm too miserable to enjoy it."

"I like it," Marilyn smiled as they walked up the front pathway to the small porch attached to the front of the house.

The lawn was manicured with attractive plants and flowers in front. When they stepped inside, Annie saw how neatly kept the interior of the home was.

"You have a nice place," Annie said, sounding sad and defeated.

"Thank you," Marilyn said, giving the girl a look as they stood in the living room.

"I've ruined my life, haven't I?" Annie sighed, her eyes tearing.

"You made a mistake," Marilyn clarified. "You'll get through it."

"My mother is going to be so disappointed," Annie frowned. "She really liked Alex."

"He's easy to like," Marilyn remarked.

Marilyn gave her guest a quick tour of the small cottage, showing her where to find things in the kitchen and the bathroom before leading her into a small bedroom, cluttered with paintings and drawings stacked against the walls.

"The day bed pulls out into a sleeper," Marilyn said. "It's fairly comfortable."

"Thanks," Annie said. "This will be fine."

"Just be careful with the art work," Marilyn requested.

"There are a lot of nudes in here," Annie realized, glancing around the room. Some of them were framed others kept unrolled with a couple of cross sticks on their backs. There were charcoals and pastels, pencils and paintings.

"Yes," Marilyn agreed.

"Wait," Annie said when she gave the pieces a closer look. "Are these you?"

"In younger years," The Professor confirmed.

"You posed?"

"Helped pay the tuition," Marilyn shrugged. "It was Marc's idea."

"Why do you still have them?"

"Some were gifts," Marilyn explained. "Others I kept in case the artist became famous down the line."

"You slept with Marc?" Annie asked, looking closely at one of the drawings and not at Marilyn.

"Yes," Marilyn said. "I was twenty two. He was thirty-six."

"I'm twenty-two and he's fifty-two," Annie said. "He never asked me to pose."

"Would you want to?" Marilyn wondered.

"Well, it would be nice to be asked," Annie shrugged, studying one of the portraits that highlighted Marilyn's ribs and breasts. "How beautiful you are," Annie said with appreciation.

"Were," Marilyn corrected.

Annie threw her a look. "You still are," she said warmly.

Marilyn smiled but didn't reply.

"You didn't mind so many men seeing you?' Annie asked.

"Women too," Marilyn said. "I didn't think about it much. I was doing it for Marc, really."

"How long did it last with him?" Annie asked.

"Too long," Marilyn replied.

Annie gave Marilyn a wide eyed stare. "What's wrong with me?" She sobbed.

"Settle in," Marilyn said, heading for the door. "I'll start supper."

Annie watched her hostess leave and then she let out a loud breath as she returned her attention to the nudes, fascinated by the revealing and impressive works even in her misery.