Professor at Risk, Chapter 3

Please read Chapters 1&2 first, or this one won’t make much sense. Thanks to those readers who offered advice. Two of you said, “You got them into this mess; you straighten it out!” All of you wanted Charlie to discuss it with Samantha, but only a few of you extended that to the Dean. There wasn’t much sympathy for Charlie’s naivety, and some concern whether or not Taverna was a conniving woman. Let’s see what the characters worked out.
Charlie walked the short distance home, a shaken man. Samantha immediately detected something was wrong. She took off his jacket and led him to the living room sofa, sat him down and sat down beside him with just one word, “Give!”
He almost smiled, warmth in the intimacy of sitting beside the woman he truly loved. He took her hand and told her everything without embellishment or omission—at least to the accuracy that he could recall.
When he had finished she asked simply, “And if the policeman hadn’t knocked?”
He looked deep into her eyes, “Sam, that’s the terrible part. I really don’t know. I don’t think I was excited but it all happened so quickly I really don’t know.”
Samantha was a practical woman. She wasn’t going to let this man wander off after 35 years. “Well, first things first. I’m taking you upstairs to show you what you would be missing.” He meekly followed her.
Afterwards at supper, they seriously discussed what should follow. Should Charlie just keep mum and hope the whole thing would drift away with the clouds? Was Taverna plotting and scheming for his demise? A sort of “woman scorned” reaction? Charlie did not think so, but admitted he left himself wide open. It didn’t take too much discussion before Charlie realized that he couldn’t let the whole thing drop. First and foremost he should inform?, consult with?, his Dean and see what he had to say. He decided to stop planning how he might tell his story and the various courses of action that might follow. Let the Dean have his say first.
The next morning Charlie knocked on the Dean’s office door. Ted Thackery was a few years older than Charlie and, at least in some respects, a few years wiser. He was up-to-date on University protocol, rules and regulations but not to the extent that he couldn’t figure how to make small variations to allow particular cases to fit in, if the situation warranted. He was not as emotionally connected to other people as Charlie but that offered the promise of a detached judgment.
“Ted, I wonder if you could give me an hour of your time. Something has come up with one of my students and I need your wisdom.”
Ted looked quizzical but immediately checked his appointment book. “What about right now, I’ve got a clear morning until 11:00. How about you?”
“Great. Mind if I close the door?” (Deans were allowed to have private conversations behind closed doors with other staff members of the same sex. Special privilege?)
“Well I might as well blast you out of your chair to start with. I have had a near sexual encounter with one of my female students.”
Ted raised his eyebrows in amazement. “What in hell is a ‘NEAR SEXUAL ENCOUNTER?’”
Then Charlie laid it out in detail without pulling any punches but without mentioning the name of his other party. “My God!” was Ted’s ejaculation when Charlie had finished. “I don’t know whether to fire you or congratulate you… What do you expect me to do?”
“I really have no expectations. I just wanted to seek your advice.”
“Hmmm. Well let’s lay down the logical facts. We can get into the emotional parts a bit later. First of all, as I understand this, it did not happen on University property?”
“And nothing actually happened except a little intimate touching?”
“Well, that’s true but it certainly could be misconstrued. I’d have a hard time defending myself.”
“Against whose charge? Is the girl likely to accuse you of sexual aggression?”
“I thought of that but I really think it’s highly unlikely. First of all I don’t think she’s that type of person. I think she was desperate to win my affection and she used her major weapon—her desirability. But if she did charge me it would be her word against mine.”
“That’s not great. A jury would likely side with the girl.”
“True. But there would be no evidence—like DNA. No semen.”
“Let’s put it that the girl is, say a 20% a risk. What about the policeman. Would he put this in his report.”
“At most a 5% chance. It must have been pretty routine for him. A couple making out in a No Parking zone.” Charlie almost smirked. “In fact he probably thought that it was really quite humerous.”
Ted frowned. “I hope he didn’t. Humorous things, especially humorous SEXY things make wonderful gossip. I think there’s a decided risk. Now I suppose you and Taverna have no desire to see this story spread out on page one. That leaves one other person. Me. What are my responsibilities as Dean?
“Well first, let me put my bias on the table. I don’t want to lose you. You’re a damn good teacher and I haven’t got a replacement that’s nearly as good. So I’m heavily inclined to save you.
“With that stated, I don’t think a UNIVERSITY crime has been committed. You were not on university property. I can’t control or even consider all the actions of my professors and students off campus, unless you break more universal laws or rules… But hey, I AM stretching things in your favour.
“I think the first thing is I have to interview the student.”
“Ted, I’m afraid that’s not on. I haven’t identified her on purpose. If I tell you, it becomes part of a formal university record—possibly ending up in expulsion. If the girl is beginning to realize how reckless this move was, she’ll just want to bury the whole thing.”
Ted stroked his chin. “I see what you mean… Then I see no other course than you have to speak to her yourself. How do you feel about that?”
“Not great. But you’re probably right… I think for the good of all we should consider that this interview with you never happened.”
Ted smiled slightly. “What interview?”
Charlie got up to leave.
“And Charlie!”
“If another female student offers you a lift in her car, say ‘No thanks.’”
“Got ya. That wasn’t very smart was it?”
The remainder of the day went off perfectly normally except that Taverna didn’t attend class. Late afternoon he was sitting in his office as usual when he heard the unmistakable clack of her shoes on the corridor floor. But strangely, she was not alone. He distinctly heard the steps of another woman. He looked at the door expectantly. In a moment, two women were framed in it and immediately he knew it was daughter and mother.
Taverna introduced. “Charlie, I’d like you to meet my mother, Sophia Proscella.”
Charlie stood up a little uncertainly. “Well this is an unexpected pleasure, Mrs. Proscella. I don’t usually get to meet the parents except on special parents/teachers nights.” He shook hands tentatively. He didn’t quite know what to expect from the mother. Was this going to be a concentrated attack on him? He pulled out chairs for the two of them.
“Mr. Beckenheimer.” The mother detected his unease. She smiled disarmingly. “You needn’t be alarmed. We didn’t come en masse to eat you. My husband died many years ago and I am a single mother. That makes Taverna and me very close. I came along to give her moral support.”
“And I came,” said Taverna meekly, “to apologize. I had this distorted idea that I could get what I wanted if I only tried hard enough. And I learned that I have yet to differentiate between what is ‘available’ and what is not.”
Charlie looked at the mother. “Your coaching?”
She laughed quietly, “Well only partly.” She looked at her daughter to continue.
“Look, Charlie. I made an ass of myself. I just hope that I didn’t destroy our communication as professor/student. You mean a lot to me—as a teacher I mean.”
Charlie cautiously considered his next move. “I suppose the ideal solution would be to wave a magic wand to make Friday night go away. But I don’t think there is a wand that will remove this from our crucial life experiences—certainly for me and probably for you as well.”
“You’re right of course,” murmured Taverna.
There was a silence while each dived into their own ponderings. “Let’s just lay it out where we are now.”
There was a knock on the door frame. It was a student in Charlie’s class, Alex Trembleton—in fact the student who carried the torch for Taverna. Charlie rolled his eyes in wonder. [What a remarkable coincidence. It’s like a soap opera. The characters all come together at the final scene… Is this the final scene?]
“Charlie, your appearance at this moment is perhaps propitious, but it also inappropriate. I can’t see you for another half hour. Can you come back?”
“Yes, Sir.” Alex walked away down the hall thumbing his Blackberry to ascertain the meanings of ‘propitious’ and ‘inappropriate.’
“OK, let’s recapitulate. I’ll not try and lay blame. I am certainly not blameless myself… The ‘event’ if I can call it that, happened. Some six people are aware of some of the details, though Taverna’s name is not know by two—the Dean and the policeman. I believe mine is only unknown by the policeman. I think it’s safe to say that six people is a guarantee that this will leak out with all the embellishments that rumours can collect. So how will this be spread?” He tented his fingers and leaned back in his chair. “I think it will become pub gossip. I don’t think it will be printed in the Varsity Rag—they’re still smarting from the libelous charge after the Gorman story. I sincerely doubt that the city’s paper or radio or TV will think it worthwhile. Can we live with and accept the consequences of that lower limit of exposure?”
He looked at the other two, but they did not respond. “If it stopped at that stage I think it would be stale news in a week, then be largely forgotten—except by the participants. That would be the ideal solutions. We can pray that that’s what it will be.”
Again he checked with the other two but they had nothing to add.
“That leaves us with one other problem. Can you, Taverna, continue to attend my class? If you leave, and I could easily arrange for another professor to take you on, but then if you leave then I think rumour and observation is going to tie your name in with the story. If you stay, you’ve got to act as if nothing has happened while you sit in my class and watch me. What is this going to do to your emotional life?”
Her eyes were downcast. “I don’t know.” There was a long silence but all minds were working at top speed.
Finally Taverna sat up. “I CAN do it! I know I can. I’ll start tomorrow and I’ll take whatever comes my way. Thanks Mum for holding my hand but I’ve got to walk alone.”
Charlie hid his admiration. “OK. All settled? Then let’s adjourn. I have to meet with Alex yet.” It was nice meeting you Mrs. Proscella. I’m sure Taverna can hold up to a little gossip even ridicule.” The two ladies got up and shook Charlie’s hand as they went through the door.
In the corridor they met Alex coming up for his meeting and Taverna introduced him to her mother. After the usual pleasantries, Alex turned to Taverna. “A week today is the College Hop. Would you be my date.”
Taverna hesitated for only a moment. “I think I’d like that.”
Alex was stunned but managed to smile. “OK, I’ll pick you up about 6:00.”
“It’s a date!”
This may seem like a convenient conclusion but I realized that there has to be one more chapter. See you in a fortnight, I hope.

5 Responses to “Professor at Risk, Chapter 3”

  1. Libby Buchanan says:

    Thank goodness for common sense but how unusual!

  2. John Crossley says:

    Can’t wait.Everyone is backed into a corner.


  3. Jack Long says:

    This is working out a little too smoothly. Are you going to submerge us again in major trouble in the last chapter or are you going to let it fade away and quit while you are ahead.
    The laat chapter has lots of possibilities.

  4. Rose says:

    Hi Lyman,

    Thanks for another chapter in bedtime stories. I’m looking forward to the upcoming twist in chapter 4. Miss Mary Sunshine
    comes in waves.

    xo Rosemary

  5. Lynn cochrane says:

    Yes Charlie got off easy…this time??? Someone as naive as Charlie has got to get himself into more trouble. He sure has it good at home…too good??
    You go Lyman!

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