As you might imagine, I was nervous as all hell as I walked into Professor Richardson’s office the next day. I’d already talked to Professor Bridgeport, and she was thrilled as hell to take me on. So, I figured that one of two things would happen when I went into that office. One: I would go into the office, get a “look, sorry, but we shouldn’t have done what we did” I’d make him sign the papers, and I’d be off to sit in the back of his classes with my head down and never take another class with him again. Two: we have a discussion and this is something that we decide bears repeating, and we start doing whatever it is that we’d be doing. Both options were both slightly terrifying. And by slightly, I mean extraordinarily terrifying
Professor Richardson looked equally nervous when I came in. He rose when I came in, but he didn’t come around to my side of the desk. He indicated to the chair that had always been mine, and I sat.
“So. I’ve got the paperwork.” I said for a lack of anything else to say, “To switch to Professor Bridgeport. All I need is your signature.”
“Oh. Yes. Great, of course.” He reached out, and I handed him the sheet. He signed it with a flourish, and handed it back to me. “Brilliant. No longer my advisee. That’s great.” Another long awkward silence.
“So—are we going to talk about the fact that we slept together, or should I just sweep it under the rug? I mean—if it’s something that you regret doing or anything like that, I can keep my mouth shut or—“
“No.” Professor Richardson interrupted sharply. “No. I mean—yes… please keep it a secret, this isn’t something we should run around blabbing, but no I don’t regret it and I would love to do it again. But—oh. There is something that I have to tell you, something that I should have told you yesterday before all of this. And I understand if you want run screaming from the room.”
“Okay, seriously. It’s not a lecture, just spit it out.”
“Charlotte, I’m married.”
I was gob smacked. There were a hundred different things I expected, but that wasn’t one of them. I mean, he was the “hot professor.” He didn’t wear a wedding ring. I had overheard dozens, maybe even hundreds of conversations about how they wanted to hook up with him, “get a piece of that ass” and what not. No one had mentioned him being married. No one had mentioned him even having a girlfriend. How could he have kept it so secret?
“I’m sorry. I should have said something. I should have been more upfront. I play it close to the chest because, well, I’ve got a bit of a reputation here, and I allow girls, and some guys, to play out wish fulfilment with me as a character. My wife doesn’t make many appearances on campus because—well, the truth of it is that, we haven’t been in love in a long time. But, well, she came here with me, she uprooted her entire life, moved to a different country, followed me around for two year stints all over the world. Her visa here is determined on her remaining married with me. I can’t do that to her, I can’t leave her. I know that sounds dangerously like a man making an excuse to get the pretty lady in bed, but it’s the truth, I swear it. Like I said, I understand if you want to run screaming, I really do, but I would like for you to stay.”
I didn’t move. There was a part of my brain that demanded that I should. Cheating, affairs, a hundred different things that I had never wanted to be a part of. But, looking at Professor Richardson, I was rooted to my chair. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t leave. I just couldn’t.
“I’ll stay.” I said carefully, “I want to stay.”
That smile was back. That beautiful smile of a man who was watching someone fall in love with him. It warmed me from my toes up to the top of my head. I still didn’t know what we were doing here—but I knew that I was going to like it.
He stood up again, and came around to my chair, kneeling down in front of me, taking both of my hands in his. “Really? I mean, you understand that this would be a social faux pas. It would be something that we’d have to keep secret between us at all times. It’s going to be hard to not scream it from the mountaintops.”
“Really. I want to stay, I want to be here. I want to do this with you, and I can handle all of it.”
“Alright. If you decide that you want out, let me know. Give me the word. I mean, any second of any day, you’ve got the kill switch on this thing, okay?”
“I just don’t want you to feel like you’ve been pressured into anything, alright?”
“I don’t feel pressured into anything.” I laughed, “I’m okay. And I’ll cut and run if I feel panicked, don’t you worry.”
He laughed, and then he leaned in and kissed me. “Fantastic.” He kissed me again.
“So. What is this? What can we do? I mean—we have to keep this secret, so—“
“I don’t know. I—well, this is kind of uncharted for me. I’ll figure something out, okay?” he kissed me again, a couple of times quickly and almost desperately. “You should probably go though, because I really want to do worse than kiss you right now and I don’t think fucking you on the floor of my office twice in a row is the message I really want to send at the beginning of this relationship. I’ll give you a call, okay?”
I kissed him. “Okay. I’ll talk to you later.” I stumbled out of the room, my adviser transfer form in my hand, slightly dazed, and still not one hundred percent sure what was going on. But whatever it was, I felt elated by it.