Author:H.M. Ward

chapter 7

My stomach floods with dread as I walk toward the English building. I don’t want to see Peter. I don’t want to see his eyes. I don’t want to hear him say whatever he’s going to say. And I swear, if he makes up some lame excuse about last night, I’ll lose it.

I manage to get to the offices and slowly move toward Tadwick’s room. I wish I didn’t care. I wish Peter didn’t matter, but last night was so awesome and I thought we had something. I was wrong. I hate being wrong.

I drop my sociology books on the student desk since it’s empty. The office door is closed. I step up and knock. My heart slaps into my ribs and my pulse shoots into dangerous territory. I wait, but no one answers. I knock again and feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. A slow sinking feeling fills my stomach and I turn slowly.

Peter is behind me with a stern look on his face. “We’re over here,” he says, and walks away expecting me to follow. We cross the hall and enter a different office. This one is barren. There are no books, cats, or picture frames to be found. I step into the office, past Peter, and he pushes the door closed behind me. Peter gestures for me to take a seat. I sit down in one of the chairs in front of his empty desk. Peter walks around me and sits behind the desk.

His blue eyes search my face, but I stare at him blankly. I need to be numb. I tell myself, No matter what he says, no matter what happens, don’t react.

“How are you?” he asks. I arch an eyebrow at him, like it’s a stupid question. “That good, huh?”

I tap my teeth together once and glare at him. “Enough with the pleasantries, Dr. Granz. I want to know if you intend on replacing me as your TA, or if we’re going to lie to everyone and pretend we don’t know each other.” I’m as prickly like a withered rose, all thorns.

His jaw drops for a second. He leans forward, looking at me as though I shouldn’t think poorly of him. “I didn’t know you were a student. I thought you were older. You seemed older when you sat down.”

“I didn’t know you were a teacher.” My eyes slip over his face, and then slip down to his tie and perfectly pressed white shirt before returning to his face. “I have trouble believing that you forgot you were a doctor. If you’d mentioned it, we could have avoided last night all together. I would have asked what you were a doctor of, and you would have told me. We both would have realized the problem and gone our separate ways.”

“What’s happened has happened. We can’t change it—”

My temper is about to break free. I’m trying so hard not to yell. I point my index finger at him and say in a low voice, “Don’t make me climb across this desk and slap you, because I will. Don’t talk to me like I’m a child and tell me shit I already know. I asked a question. What are you going to do?”

Peter presses his fingertips together as I speak. Those blue eyes search my face, looking for something. After everything that’s happened, I can’t believe that he can still look me in the eye, or that he’d want to. He lets out a slow breath and drops his hands to the desk. “Nothing. I’m not going to do anything. Last night was an accident. I wasn’t employed here yet and you weren’t my student or employee, not yet.”

“It’s a technicality, and they won’t care. If someone finds out and we don’t say something now, you’ll ruin your reputation and mine.”

“So, you want tell Dr. Strictland?” He stands suddenly and walks to the door. “Let’s go tell her.” Peter’s hand is on the knob, twisting it when I bounce out of my seat and block the door with my body.

“Don’t you dare open that door.” Peter towers above me and looks down into my face. He’s too close, but I can’t step out of the way. “You can’t tell her. They’ll fire me, not you.”

“Then, what do you want me to do, Sidney?” Peter closes his eyes for a second and runs his fingers through his hair. It’s the only indication he’s given that this is stressing him out too. “I want to do what’s right, but I don’t want to hurt you more than I already have.”

I stiffen. “You didn’t hurt me,” I lie. “And costing me my job isn’t right.”

Peter is silent. He steps away from the door. Our shoulders brush together as he turns away. It sends sparks through me, making my stomach twist. He doesn’t seem to notice what he does to me. Peter sits behind the desk and leans back.

When I don’t resume my place in the chair right away, he holds his palm out, indicating that I should sit. “Spell it out, Sidney. What do you want to do?”

My eyes dart between Peter and the floor. I don’t want to lie to Strictland, but Peter’s right. Technically we didn’t do anything wrong, so there’s nothing to tell. But it makes me uneasy. My world is turning into a house of cards. Throw another secret onto the pile. Sure. Why not?

“Nothing” I say. “We’ll do nothing. Nothing happened. It wasn’t important and it’s not as though it’ll happen again, so I don’t think we need to say anything.”

As I speak, Peter’s eyes slip away from mine. He gazes at the bookcase behind me, looking through me like I’m not even there. “If that’s what you think is best.” I nod. He continues, “Very well…” Peter opens his mouth as if he’s going to say something more, but he doesn’t. I wish he would. I wish he’d tell me what I did wrong last night, what made him push me away. Can he tell that I’m fucked up? Can he tell that I’ve been torn to pieces and put back together again?

I don’t let anyone get close to me. I keep them at arm’s length. The walls guarding my heart went up a long time ago. They don’t have cracks or crevices where someone can slip in. That’s why I don’t understand my reaction today. I shouldn’t care. I would have left at the end of the night and never called. I don’t want to know him, and I sure as hell don’t want him to know me. But…there’s a chink in my armor. There has to be.

I nod again, taking Peter’s silence as a cue to leave. I stand and walk to the door. Peter doesn’t get up. He watches me as I reach for the knob and says, “Sidney.” I turn to look at him. “Be here early tomorrow.”

“How early? For what?”

“Just do it, okay. Meet me here at 7:00am.”

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