She hadn’t seen them before; perhaps he only wore them when his eyes were tired. But today, his penetrating sapphire eyes were partial y hidden behind a pair of black Prada glasses. The black frames contrasted sharply with the warm brown of his hair and the blue of his eyes, making the glasses a focal point on his face. She realized immediately that not only had she never seen a professor as attractive as he before, she had never encountered a professor who was so studiously put together. He could have appeared in an advertising campaign for Prada, something no professor had ever done before.

(For it must be noted that university professors are not usually admired for their fashion sense.)

She knew him well enough to know that he was mercurial. She knew him well enough to know that he was, at least recently, a stickler for polite-ness and decorum. She knew it would probably be all right if she sat down in one of his comfy leather club chairs without his invitation, especially if he remembered her. But given the way he had addressed her, she stood.

“Please be seated, Miss Mitchell.” His voice was cold and flinty, and he gestured to an uncomfortable-looking metal chair, instead.

Julia sighed and walked over to the stiff Ikea chair that sat just in front of one of his massive built-in bookcases. She wished he had given her permission to sit elsewhere but elected not to quibble with him.

“Move the chair in front of my desk. I won’t crane my neck in order to see you.”

She stood and did as she was told, nervously dropping her knapsack on the floor. She winced and blushed from head to foot as several of the smaller contents of her bag spilled out, including a tampon that rolled under Professor Emerson’s desk and came to a stop an inch from his leather briefcase.

Maybe he won’t notice it until after I’m gone.

Embarrassed, Julia crouched down and began to gather up the other contents of her knapsack. She had just finished when the strap on her very old bag snapped and everything she was carrying crashed to the floor with a loud bang. She kneeled quickly as papers, pens, her iPod, cell phone, and a green apple skidded across the floor and onto The Professor’s beautiful Persian rug.

Oh, gods of all graduate students and eternal screw ups, kill me now. Please.

“Are you a comedian, Miss Mitchell?”

Julia’s spine stiffened at the sarcasm, and she glanced up at his face.

What she saw nearly made her burst into tears.

How could someone with an angelic name be so cruel? How could a voice so melodic be so harsh? She was momentarily lost in the frozen depths of his eyes, longing for the time when they had looked down at her with kindness. But rather than give in to her despair, she breathed deeply and decided that she had better get used to the way he was now, even though it was a grave and painful disappointment.

Mutely, she shook her head and went back to filling her now broken knapsack.

“I expect an answer when I ask a question. Surely you’ve learned your lesson by now?” He studied her quickly, then glanced back at the file in his hands. “Perhaps you’re not that bright.”

“I beg your pardon, Dr. Emerson.” The sound of Julia’s voice surprised even her. It was soft but steely. She wasn’t sure where her courage had come from, but she silently thanked the gods of graduate students for coming to her aid…just in case.

“It’s Professor Emerson,” he snapped. “Doctors are a dime a dozen. Even chiropractors and podiatrists refer to themselves as ‘doctors.’”

Sufficiently chastened, Julia tried to zip up her broken knapsack. Unfortunately, the zipper was broken now too. She held her breath as she pulled on it, trying to coax it back to life with unspoken curses.

“Would you stop fussing with that ridiculous abomination of a bag and sit in a chair like a human being?”

She could see that he was beyond furious now, so she placed her ridiculous abomination on the floor and sat quietly in the uncomfortable chair. She folded her hands, just to keep from wringing them, and waited.

“You must think you’re a comedian. I’m sure you thought this was funny.” He threw a piece of paper which landed just shy of her sneakers.

Bending down to pick it up, she realized it was a photocopy of the terrible note she’d left for him the day Grace died.

“I can explain. It was a mistake. I didn’t write both…”

“I’m not interested in your excuses! I asked you to come to the last appointment, and you didn’t, did you?”

“But you were on the telephone. The door was closed and…”

“The door wasn’t closed!” He tossed something at her that looked like a business card. “I suppose this was meant to be funny too?”

Julia picked up the discarded item and gasped. It was a small condolence card, the kind one would send with flowers:

I’m so sorry for your loss.

Please accept my sympathy.

With love,

— Julia Mitchell

She glanced over and saw that he was practically spitting he was so angry. She blinked rapidly as she tried to find the words to explain herself.

“It’s not what you think. I wanted to say that I was sorry and…”

“Hadn’t you already done that with the note you left?”

“But this was supposed to be for your family, who…”

“Leave my family out of it!” He turned his body away from her and closed his eyes, removing his glasses so that he could rub his face with both hands.

Julia had been evicted from the realm of the surprised and relocated right into the land of the astonished. No one had explained. He had completely misunderstood her card, and no one had set him straight. With a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, she began to puzzle over what that meant.

Oblivious to her musings, The Professor appeared to calm himself through a Herculean effort, then closed the file and dropped it contemptuously on his desk. He glared at her.

“I see that you came here on scholarship to study Dante. I’m the only professor in this department who is currently supervising theses in that field.

Since this — ” he gestured between the two of them “ — is not going to work, you’ll have to change your thesis topic and find another supervisor.

Or transfer to another department, or better yet, another university. I’ll inform the director of your program of my decision, effective immediately.

Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

He swiveled in his chair toward his laptop and began typing furiously.

Julia was stunned. While she was sitting there, silently absorbing not only his tirade but also his conclusion, The Professor spoke, not even bothering to lift his eyes in her direction. “That is all, Miss Mitchell.”

She didn’t argue with him for truly, there was no point. She dragged herself to her feet, still dazed, and picked up her offending knapsack. She cradled it to her chest, somewhat uncertainly, and slowly exited his office, looking very much like a zombie.

As she exited the building and crossed to the other side of Bloor Street, Julia realized that she’d chosen the wrong day to leave home without a jacket.

The temperature had dropped, and the heavens had opened. Her thin, long-sleeved t-shirt was soaked only five steps outside of the department. She hadn’t thought to bring an umbrella, so she faced the prospect of walking three long city-blocks in wind and cold and rain to get to her apartment.

Oh, gods of bad karma and thunderstorms, have mercy upon me.

As she walked, Julia took some comfort in the realization that her ridiculous abomination of a knapsack was currently serving the very proper purpose of covering her wet and possibly see-through t-shirt and cotton bra. Take that, Professor Emerson.

As she walked, she contemplated what had just happened in his office.

She had prepared herself by packing two suitcases the night before, just in case. But she had sincerely believed that he would remember. She had believed that he would be kind to her. But he wasn’t.

He hadn’t allowed her to explain the colossal fuck-uppery that was the note. He had misunderstood her

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