Jan didn’t cry over Andy. She wanted to, but the tears just wouldn’t come. She envied the girls in movies who sobbed their hearts out over their Romeos. It would have been a good release to cry, but she just couldn’t do it.
Instead, she just kept reliving the whole thing over and over. She kept imagining the crushed look in Andy’s eyes as he handed her that exam paper. She wondered if there was anything she could have done or said that would have changed things. She wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t complied with Jake’s demands, if she had gone to Andy first. She had believed she could handle it, but in retrospect, she had been way over her head.
If only I had noticed that last goddamn piece of paper in the printer.
But it didn’t matter anymore. What she had with Andy was gone and there was nothing she could do to get it back. He believed that she had been playing him all along, toying with a lonely man’s emotions just to get a look at the exam questions. How could he ever forgive her after something like that, even if it wasn’t true?
Jan avoided class and lab, not wanting to face Andy. She figured he was required to go, so the least she could do was be the one to back out gracefully. She kept to the library when she had to go to school. She tried studying for the final, hoping that a stellar performance might convince him that she hadn’t been trying to con him. Unfortunately, she found it very difficult to keep her mind on her work.
On the night before the final exam, Jan found herself in the library, studying late. There weren’t many students around, but she was surprised and relieved to see Cindy’s familiar face in the back corner. Jan went over to join her roommate, grunting at the weight of the textbooks in her arms.
“Hey, Cindy,” Jan said.
Cindy looked up and smiled in surprise. “Jan, wow… I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here.”
“Yeah…” Jan slid into the empty seat across from Cindy. She plopped the pile of textbooks down on the table, but couldn’t bring herself to open them.
Cindy gave her a funny look. “Are you okay, Jan?” Cindy asked.
Jan wondered if she was concerned or just being polite. She eyed Cindy, who was much more beautiful than Jan had given her credit for. Cindy was easily the prettiest girl in the class. With a face and a body like hers, she didn’t have to be in med school. Yet here she was, spending her weekends and evening with her nose in the books. And unlike Jan, she had earned her right to be here.
“It’s just this guy I’ve been seeing,” Jan finally said.
Cindy’s eyes lit up. “I knew it! Oh Jan, who is it? Please tell me!”
Jan shook her head. “I can’t. Believe me, I want to, but I can’t.”
“Why not?” Cindy pouted.
Because he’s the goddamn professor. “It’s complicated. Anyway, we broke up. I really messed things up.”
“Oh.” Cindy’s face fell. “I’m sorry. What happened?”
“I did something… pretty unforgivable.”
Cindy frowned, “What’s unforgivable?”
“You cheated on him?” Cindy asked.
“No, it’s not that…” Jan bit her lip. It was at that moment she realized that the truth was, she hadn’t really done anything wrong. Okay, she had stolen a copy of the final exam, but it wasn’t for the reasons he believed. The only reason she and Andy weren’t together anymore was that she had been too intimidated to tell him the whole truth. But really, she owed him that much. “Cindy, I have to run out for a few minutes. Can you watch my stuff?”
Cindy looked confused but nodded in approval. Jan left behind her books and coats and ran out of the library. She hurried upstairs, past the anatomy labs, over to Andy’s office. What am I doing? she wondered. It’s 10 o’clock at night… he’ll never be here.
Just as she got to Andy’s office, she saw the door opening and the wheels of his chair peeking out. She ran over, before he could get out the door. “Andy,” she said breathlessly.
He looked up at her, “What is it? I’ve been stuck here all night rewriting the exam.”
None of that old affection was present in his face, but she didn’t care. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked.
“There’s nothing to say,” he muttered.
Finally, he nodded. He wheeled back to give her room to enter. He gestured toward the seat and she sat down. She took a deep breath as he crossed his arms and stared at her.
She had been working on a little speech as she ran over here, but everything she had planned to say suddenly flew out of her head. Instead, she felt hot tears rise to her eyes. In half a second, they were gushing down her cheeks and her shoulders were shaking with wracking sobs. She had never cried so hard in her entire life. She wiped her eyes, trying to keep up with the rapid flow of tears, but she couldn’t.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. She continued to sob, just allowing his touch to comfort her.
“Jan,” he was saying, “Jan, please stop crying…”
“I… I can’t!” she sobbed. “I miss you.” She sniffled and hiccupped. “I know you don’t believe me, but I only stole that exam because someone was going to tell on us.”
She heard him sigh loudly. “I don’t know what to believe anymore…”
She continued to sob. She felt his fingers touching her chin and lifted her face to look at his. She knew that her eyes were red and swollen and her nose was runny—not a very attractive picture. “Look, Jan,” he said, “I do believe you, but… it doesn’t really matter. We’re wrong for each other. For starters, I’m your professor and I’m also a lot older than you. Maybe we had some fun together, but that’s it.”
“It was a lot more than that for me,” Jan whispered.
Andy pulled a tissue from a box on his desk and gently wiped her cheeks. “Yeah,” he said, “it was more than that for me too.”
Maybe there was no way it could ever “work out” with Andy, but she didn’t care as she fell into his arms gratefully. She moved onto his lap and clung to the warmth of his embrace, her lips eagerly pressed against his. By the way he touched her, she could tell that he had been missing her this week as much as she had missed him. She ran her fingers into his black hair, wanting to touch every inch of him.
“What am I doing, what am I doing…” she heard him whispering.
She lowered her lips onto his again and she felt his shoulders start to relax as he gave in. “Jan,” he murmured, “I do love you. I really do.”
“I love you too,” she gasped as his mouth settled on the connection between her neck and her shoulder.
She straddled him on his wheelchair while they kissed, softly but passionately. Even though Andy claimed to be a “pathetic anatomy geek”, he was an amazing kisser. She didn’t want him to stop, but he finally pulled away. “Jan,” he said, gazing at her with slightly moist blue eyes. “What are we going to do about this situation?”
She blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Your blackmailer,” Andy pointed out. “Who is it?”
Jan froze. Jake’s name was at the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it. If she told on him, it would destroy his career, the same way he wanted to destroy hers. She didn’t want to stoop down to his level for a change.
“You don’t want to tell me,” Andy acknowledged. He shrugged. “That’s okay, I’m pretty sure I know who it is.”
He nodded, “Yeah, I’m not quite as clueless as the students seem to think I am.”
Jan wasn’t sure if he really knew who it was or if he was just messing with her, but she didn’t want to press the matter further.
“Look, Jan,” he said. “We’ve got to come clean. We have to tell the dean what’s been going on. It’s the only chance to survive this after your blackmailer sees I changed the final exam.”
Jan bit her lip, “Well, there’s one other way…”
“I’m not changing the exam back,” Andy said firmly.
He was so damn stubborn. It frustrated her, but she had to admit that she also admired Andy for sticking to his principles. He was such a good, honest person. Unfortunately, he had the bad luck to fall in love with her. She just hoped he came away from it with his career intact.
“Andy,” she said, “if we go to the dean, I’m going to get expelled. Period. I think our only hope is that the blackmailer has a change of heart.”
Andy shook his head, “I can’t change that exam back, Jan.”
“It’s okay,” Jan said quietly. “I… I don’t want you to.”
It was the truth. She didn’t want Andy to change who he was for her. If he didn’t change the exam, he’d be a different person. Someone different than the guy she fell in love with.
Jan was more nervous during the final exam than any previous exams, because she knew that this exam might change her life. When Jake saw that the exam had been changed, she would find out if he was all talk or if he really had the nerve to go through with his threats. She had the feeling it was the latter.
When she sat down to take the written exam, she tried to take comfort in Andy’s presence at the front of the room. He addressed the class before he began. “I want to wish you all luck,” he said, pulling at the navy blue tie that complemented his eyes. “I’ve taught a lot of classes and I think this has been one of the best groups of students. Regardless of the results of this exam, I think you all have a lot to be proud of.”
Two hours later, Andy called time. She handed in her test without looking at him and made a beeline for the door. She felt her heart pounding in her chest; it was over. There was nothing she could do to change what had happened.
“Jan, can I talk to you for a minute?”
Jan slowed in her tracks as she felt Jake Masterson’s firm grip on her arm. She tried to shrug him off. “I’m busy,” she said.
“I think we should talk in private,” he insisted. “I really don’t think you want to talk to me out here.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Jan replied coolly. “What you did was just as bad as what I did.”
Instead of looking angry, Jake had an amused look on his face. “Okay, let’s talk here, Jan. What the hell happened in there?”
Jan gritted her teeth, “Look, he found out and he changed it. There was nothing I could do.”
“And there’s nothing I can do,” Jake said.
Jan felt a lump rise in her throat. This wasn’t happening. Nobody could possibly be this big an asshole. “Please don’t do this,” she said.
Jake looked at her a long time. “I’ll tell you what, Jan,” he said. “We can keep this between you and me. On one condition.”
Jake leaned in close to her ear, “We go back to my place and you fuck my brains out.”
Jan gasped and jerked away from him. “What? Why would you… you don’t really want that, do you?”
“I do,” Jake said. She cringed at the way he was staring at her. “I really do.”
“Isn’t it enough you’re dating the prettiest girl in the class?” Jan hissed.
“She’s pretty but you’re sexy,” Jake said. “And I bet you’re dynamite in bed. Dr. Callahan sure seems to like what you do for him.”
It wouldn’t have been the first time she fucked a guy for a grade. And truth be told, Jake was much more attractive than most of her previous conquests. It would be distasteful but not the worst thing she’d ever done. Except for the fact that it would mean that she would be cheating on Andy. She couldn’t do that to him, after everything else she had already done to him.
“I can’t,” she said.
Jake blinked in surprise. “Seriously?”
“I don’t get you, Janice,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re willing to sleep with Dr. Callahan for a grade, but not me? I mean, that can’t be fun for you.”
Jake would never understand. Nobody would.
Jan went to Andy’s house the evening after the exam. She walked up the ramp to the front steps and rang his doorbell with a shaking hand. She was nervous like she had been after the last test, but for different reasons. She forced a smile when Andy opened the door.
“Can I come in?” she asked.
Andy backed his chair up to give her room to step inside. As soon as she was inside, she fell into his arms, pressing her body close to his as she sat in his lap. He laughed as she started kissing his neck. “Don’t you want to know your grade?”
Jan nodded, although it seemed terribly unimportant right now.
“You got a B,” Andy said. He added, “So did Jake.”
She cleared her throat. “Oh… um…”
“I overheard some of your conversation,” Andy explained. “I pieced things together. I was pretty sure it was him though.”
“Thanks for not sleeping with him,” Andy said.
Jan blushed, “You heard that, huh?”
Andy smiled, “I sure did. I told you that you had changed. And you inspired me to change too.”
Jan frowned. She had no idea what he was talking about.
“I’m going to get my shoulders fixed,” he said. “I decided. It’s going to be rough, but this is something I need to do. I’ll make arrangements for an attendant to come over and help me when I need it, and I’ll get the damn power wheelchair. It’ll suck but I need to stop being such a pussy about it.”
Jan smiled at his words. Somehow it was funny to hear Andy call himself a pussy. She hugged him tighter.
“So you’ll still like me even if I’m in an uncool powerchair?” Andy asked.
Jan traced her finger down his chest, “Andy, there’s no way you could be less cool than you are now.”
“Gee, thanks.” He slugged her playfully in the shoulder.
“Besides,” Jan said. “I think powerchairs are really cool. You’ll be able to zoom around without getting tired. I’m jealous. Maybe you can give me a ride.”
Andy didn’t smile. “Seriously, Jan. This isn’t a small thing. I’m going to have an attendant here both in the morning and when I go to sleep. If we want to… you know, in the bed, I’m going to need help from him to transfer. We’re going to lose a lot of privacy.”
“It’s okay,” she said.
“I just wanted to make sure you knew that,” he said. He gave her a long look. “I… uh, sometimes I don’t know if all this is fair to you.”
Jan didn’t like to hear him talk this way. It seemed like he was more comfortable with having a fling with her, but now that it was more serious, he was getting nervous. She worried he thought he wasn’t good enough. “I love you,” she whispered in his ear.
He simply hugged her back.
Andy didn’t know how he was going to do it or when, but he decided on the day of the final exam that he was going to break things off with Jan.
He did love her, maybe even more than he had loved Jessie, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized that it wasn’t right. As a man who had always followed the rules to a tee, he felt that what was going on with Jan was wrong on many levels and he couldn’t handle it anymore. The blackmail just served to point out how wrong what he was doing was. He deserved to lose his job over this.
Jan was only 22 years old. She wasn’t beautiful, but she was incredibly attractive. She had limitless possibilities for a mate and he didn’t want to drag her down. When he pictured an attendant having to lift him into his bed just so that he could have sex with her, he felt ill. She didn’t deserve someone so impaired. She deserved a guy who was as young and carefree as she was. Even without the wheelchair, he knew he wasn’t good enough for her.
His affair with Jan was fun. In some ways, it was exactly what he needed. It made him feel like a man again, not just a pathetic loser who couldn’t get a girl. He wanted to start dating again someday, maybe after his shoulder problems were squared away. He’d probably have a few more disasters like he did with Beth, but eventually he thought he’d find someone to settle down with. Maybe. Hopefully.
He wasn’t quite sure how Jan would take it. He had to admit, he was surprised when he heard Jake offer to trade sex for his silence and she turned him down. That would have solved all her problems and it wasn’t like Jake was too hard on the eyes. He might have been a scumbag, but he was the sort of guy that all the girls wanted. Andy wasn’t. He never had been. Even before his injury, he had been amazed that someone as attractive as Jessica had agreed to go out with him, much less marry him.
He didn’t want to hurt Jan, but he didn’t think he had the ability to really hurt her. The truth was, she’d probably be relieved deep down. He wasn’t the kind of guy she could bring home to her parents, and the situation was only made worse by the fact that his joints were breaking down. One way or another, this had to end. And he had to be the adult and end it now, before he got more attached to her.
To be continued...