That Tuesday, he was back to his stammering self. He occasionally flicked his gaze to me, tongue wetting his lips each time. After the bell chimed, he called on me. I gathered my things and headed for the front, standing before his desk. I had an expectant smile on my face.
“I’m so, so sorry for the other night, Miss Peregrine. I only remember chunks, but our chance meeting was the most vivid. I hope I haven’t scarred you—mentally, you know. I just wanted to apologize.”
I shrugged, adjusting the books in my arms. “It’s fine, really. I don’t even really remember it that well; I was so out of it, lack of sleep, ’n’ all.” Lies, all lies, but it seemed to placate him, if even just momentarily.
“Thank you for forgiving my idiocy. I hope you never find me under the, um, the i-influence again.”
Again, I gave a shrug. “Doesn’t matter. See you around, professor.”
“Hopefully not drunk!” he added with a shy laugh. I mimicked it, fleeing the room.
“Ouu, did Little Alice meet the professor after class hours? And, and, he was drunk? How scandalous. What did he say? Did he tell you how badly he wanted to shag you, dear?”
One of my friends was a real asshole. She mocked me by thrusting her hips, throwing a hand into her hair. Tiny moans rolled out of her mouth. I rolled my eyes and shoved by her with a smile.
“No, nothing like that.”
“So? What the hell did he say to you, then? Look, you’re blushing, it was obviously something.”
“Shh!” I hissed, glancing behind me to see Mister Alley staring at me, worried. “I don’t even remember,” I said as loudly as I could without drawing attention to myself. I hoped he had heard.
“Oh, poo. I bet he described in great detail how he’d f-f-f-fuck you,” she stammered out sarcastically. For a second time, I rolled my eyes.
“Leave it, Beth. He was drunk, I was tired, we looked for books.”
“Bo-ring. Call me?”
“Sure, see you after lunch.”
I headed to the lunchroom and sat in my usual spot—the corner. Right behind the cash was a small section that most ignored. It was perfect, since I could smell the food. I never had any money on me, so I could never buy anything. Not many people from the front of the cash could see behind here, but it gave me the perfect opportunity to creep on those who didn’t really look. Sometimes Mister Alley bought lunch, which gave me the perfect chance to stare at his animated face as he thanked the lunch lady kindly.
But today was one of those days, and he ended up catching a glimpse of me. “Miss Peregrine?” he called, poking his head up to get a better look.
I tried to duck away, but he had already seen me.
“Miss Peregrine! Why don’t you eat, um, why don’t you have lunch with me?” he asked, holding up his burger and diet cola.
I shrugged and heaved myself up off the ground. It would be nice to actually sit in a chair for once. I followed him out the lunchroom, however, and down the side of the building. We walked for maybe five minutes, the whole time silent, until the small path we had taken opened up to a small courtyard.
“Wow,” I breathed.
“Isn’t it just darling?” he asked, as if self-conscious.
“It’s wonderful, professor.”
He smiled at me while he sat at a park table in the little courtyard’s centre. I followed, leaving my legs hanging on the outside. Perhaps I’d be able to avoid speaking with him too much, and I could escape. I sighed; it wasn’t going to be like that.
“Hm,” he cooed. “I wanted to talk about the other night. It was inappropriate and unprofessional of me to say what I said, Miss Peregrine. You should have reported me. You still could.”
“Why? Do you want to get into trouble, or something?”
He looked down at his burger and took a small bite. “No,” was said between chews.
I rolled my eyes. “Then why are you suggesting I rat you out? That’s a stupid move, prof.”
“I know, I—I just feel so bad for saying those things to you. I deserve to be punished.”
For a split second, a smirk blossomed on my lips and I opened my mouth to say, ‘I could punish you,’ but I didn’t. I’m so glad I didn’t, Hatter.
“You were going to say something?”
I gave a nervous, forced laugh, and waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, oh, no, not really. Heh, no.”
He gave a confused glare, trying to figure me out. He couldn’t.
“So, uh…is there anything else you wanted to talk about?” I muttered, wanting very badly to leave.
“Is the homework okay? I mean—is it too difficult, too easy, something like that?”
“Oh, uh, no, it’s fine…”
Mister Alley nodded and continued to eat his burger. He offered me the last bite, but I declined.
“I’m on a diet,” I told him. He gave me another odd look. I shrugged.
I stood up and brushed my dress’s behind of bench and fallen leaves. He watched. My cheeks flushed red and I prayed he hadn’t seen them.
“Are you leaving already?” he asked, a desperate undertone lacing his question.
“Uh, yeah…I told my friend I’d call her during lunch.”
A tight smile; he nodded, opening his diet cola. He took a swig, his eyes still on me. I gave a nod in return, carefully stepping away.
“Have a pleasant afternoon, Miss Peregrine,” he cooed, his emotion a bit deflated.
With that, I left the courtyard and headed to the women’s bathroom. I called Beth, as if the lie had been truth. “Beth?”
“I saw you leave the caf with Mister Alley; babe, what is going on between you and ‘im? He’s kind, sure, and yes, attractive, but…Do you really want to fuck him? I doubt he’s good in bed—”
I choked. “Beth! I don’t—! I don’t want to have sex with him. Maybe just…I don’t know. Hold his hand, or something.”
She snorted. “Where are you? The toilets on the East side? You always call from there.”
I smiled sheepishly. “Yeah…Why, are you able to meet me? I gotta pee first. I don’t want you to hear me.”
“You’re such a fuckin’ child, Ali.”
My smile grew. “I know.” I ended the call and quickly used the toilet. As I was leaving the stall, I heard Beth’s ragged breathing enter the mint-green room.
“Christ, I—I ran all the—the way here, fuck, fuck,” she huffed between breaths. I washed my hands and wiped them on the back of my dress. I patted her head and she swatted my hand away.
“Well? You gonna fuck ‘im, or what?” She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. “You care if I light a fag?”
“No, go ahead.”
“Right.” She lit the cigarette and tossed the pack into her bag. Her bag rested on the floor as she sat up on the window sill and propped open the window.
I leaned up against one of the sinks. “I’m not going to, uh, I’m not gonna fuck him, Betts.”
She rolled her eyes and finished taking a long drag of her smoke. She blew a ghost into my face and I pawed the air to rid of it.
“What?” I nearly choked as I coughed.
“You should shag the hell outta ‘im. Show him how a virgin does it.” Out crawled another ghost, billowing around my head. I stared at her wildly.
“He’d probably never speak to me again.”
“Oh? Why, d’you think you’re that bad?”
She snorted a laugh. “Bet he’s a nice cock, don’t you?” She hummed around her cigarette. “How I’d like to get on my knees for him…”
My ears flushed red. “Okay, Beth, that’s enough!” I shrieked with laughter. I was paranoid that maybe he was outside the bathroom listening in. But we were three storeys up, and that would be creepy; I decided it was all right to chat about this.
“He said I had a nice figure.”
“Oh, and?” Her eyes begged for more. Baby-blue shadow smeared onto her lids, adorned with a messy line of black. I wish I was self-confident enough to wear more than just mascara and some nude shadow. Or had a self-esteem low enough to do what Beth did every morning.
“He said…” I looked at the ground with a nervous smile. I tugged at my bottom lip with my teeth. “He stared at my chest, and—he, he was so drunk, Beth. I don’t know how he even managed to make it to the library without falling over into a ditch.”
I blushed. “I started playing with my blouse buttons, you know how I do that when I’m nervous, and…he said he’d like to see me out of it.”
“Oh my God!” she shrieked. Beth tapped the cigarette over the window and leaned in closer to me. Her hand was pressed into her stomach, one leg crossed over the other. “You sure he was drunk?”
“God, Beth, yes. He reeked of scotch.”
“No, my dad does. I know what alcohol smells like. I’m not premature.”
“But you’re a bit childish, you must admit. You couldn’t handle a relationship with a professor. You’d spill your guts to the dean.”
I blanched. “No I wouldn’t.”
“So, what did you do after he told you this?” She ignored my weak attempt to save face.
“I told him to go home.”
“Oh, boo!” she moaned, her penciled eyebrows folding. “Serious?”
“Are all American girls this stupid? You should have—I dunno, you should have given ‘im a little show, you know? Pop a button, bite your lip, something.”
“I’m not like that.”
“Like hell you aren’t! I see the way you flirt with the boys in our class. How you tease ‘em. Wearing the shit you do. Look like a fuckin’ lolita.”
“Coming from you!”
“Oi! I know I’m a slut, but at least I am an honest one. I don’t hide behind batting lashes and loli skirts.”
“No, you’re right. You’d rather get right down to business and shove a dick down your throat.” I figured I had gone to far, but to my surprise, Beth laughed loudly.
“You’ve got me pinned, darling.”
I sniffed and folded my arms.
“You gonna tease ‘im, then? Have ‘im excuse himself so he can hide in the toilets and wank?”
The blush creeped back onto my cheeks. It spread across my front. “Beth, I dunno if—”
“Oh, come on. Imagine ‘im, trousers and pants ‘round his ankles, his forehead sweaty and his cheeks flushed…” Her voice was slow, her words elongated.
I brought one foot over ankle. I stared at the floor. “Beth—”
“As he wanks, he whispers your name—‘Alice, oh, G-God, Alice—’ and when he’s done, his body limp…he thinks of your sweet—”
“S-stop!” I peeped, my toes curling at the thought. “Please, stop.”
“Why? Too intense for you? Can’t handle the fact that our professor wants to fuck you senseless?”
“He doesn’t! He really—he doesn’t.”
“I see the way he looks at you, Ali. He def wants to.”
I pouted and adjusted my bag. “I, uh, I gotta go.”
“Whatever,” she sang. I fled from the toilets and hurried down the stairs nearby to get to my next class.
I couldn’t stop thinking about what Beth had imagined all afternoon. Would I have the allure, the sex appeal, to bring him to excuse himself, flustered and hard? I honestly didn’t think so. My face was too round, I had chubby features. Maybe I could lose weight. I’d work out everyday, eat healthy, get slim…Instead of refusing to work out, and refusing to eat. It wasn’t working out this way, I had barely lost three pounds since my last weigh-in. A sigh fluttered past my lips.
“Problem?” Mister Alley asked from behind me as I slunk down the hall. I jumped out of my skin and a small scream ripped from my lungs.
He flinched back, raising his hands in defence.
“I’m so sorry, Miss Peregrine, I—I didn’t mean to startle you,” he choked out.
“Oh, no! No, that’s, I’m fine, I’m the one who’s sorry. I was lost in my own little world for a moment.”
“I could tell. Are you all right?”
I shrugged. “Uh, I guess so.”
“What’s the matter? Do you want to talk? I have a class in,” he checked his watch, “In twenty minutes, but I’m free until then. Do you have anywhere to be?”
I shook my head. “I was just headed to my dorm.”
“Perfect; shall I walk you to it?”
“Uh…sure?” I honestly had no idea what to think. Beth’s words echoed around inside my skull, and I wanted to fluster him. Maybe he would stammer my name, and… “Sure. That’d be lovely.”
We walked slowly, side by side, until we left the building. He held the door open for me, and I thanked him. I hadn’t a clue on how to…to fluster him. “Your lesson was great today,” I cooed stupidly.
“Oh—! Thank you. I could tell that you liked it. I, um…yes.”
“Mm. No, I loved it.”
He swallowed, I had heard it. “W-well, um, what building are you in?”
“I live in the Pond residence.” A fresh smile.
He nodded slowly and stuck his hands in his cardigan pockets.
“You know, if I get drunk like that again, you’ll have to send me home immediately. I regret speaking with you. It was—”
My smile grew. “Unprofessional and inappropriate. I know. But, like I told you, it…it’s fine. Sometimes, a bit of unprofessionalism is, uh, healthy.”
“Yeah. I mean, you’re…probably sick of being a goody-two-shoes professor, always following rules and following orders…You got to hang loose sometimes, you know?”
He stopped walking, hands now balled into fists at his sides. “M-Miss Peregrine!”
I spun on my heel and tilted my head up to glance at the sky. My gaze fell back down to earth, landing on my professor’s rosy cheeks. My hands were in my pockets. I fiddled with a key that was in the left one.
“It isn’t healthy at all—it’s—it’s immoral, to, to, to—to say what I said the other night!”
“You’re such a brown-noser, prof.”
“Old fashioned. Too mature, too intelligent and awkward for your age. I think that’s your problem.”
“I don’t have a problem!”
I sniffed. In my right pocket was a stick of gum, so I popped it into my mouth and chewed obnoxiously. His eyes fell to my mouth and he watched my tongue work as I formed a bubble. I blew into it slowly, and his own tongue traced his upper teeth and lip. I blinked innocently.
“M-Miss Peregrine, I think I have to—”
I rose an eyebrow.
“I have t-to get ready for my next class. I’m t-terribly sorry.”
I shrugged and popped another bubble. “See you ‘round.”
He gave a nod and spun around wildly, one hand opening and clenching as he stormed away. I smirked. I had won. I sent an SMS to Beth, simply: “Shakespeare turned rabbit.” She’d understand.
A few minutes following my SMS, my mobile vibrated. All Beth had sent back was: “;))) winky wank!!!!” I laughed out loud as I unlocked my room door.