The hardest thing about being a professor was telling students that they failed an exam. Even after nearly ten years, Andy hadn’t developed a stomach for it. Med school meant so much to these kids and anatomy was the most important class of the year. At the very least, a failure in anatomy meant a black mark on their transcript and spending their summer locked in the anatomy lab. If they failed a second class, they would be asked to repeat the entire year. A third failure meant expulsion.
There were five failures on the second anatomy exam. Two of those five people had also failed the first exam. Two failed exams under their belts meant that passing the class would be nearly impossible. They’d have to earn no less than a B on the final exam just to pass.
One of the two students who failed both exams was a pretty girl named Brittany Adams, who always came to lab wearing tons of eye make-up. When she came to lab, which was rarely. Brittany needed to get a lot more serious about the class, or else she was going to be spending some time with him during the summer. Or worse, next year.
Andy scheduled a meeting with Brittany for the day after the grades went out. She showed up fifteen minutes late, although he had to admit that she looked gorgeous.
“We need to try to figure out what you’re doing wrong,” Andy told her in his most gentle tone.
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong!”
Brittany’s eyes filled with tears and he clenched his teeth. He had known she was going to cry. All the female students cried when he had this talk with them, thinking it might soften him up. It had never once changed their grade. He pushed a box of tissues across the desk and waited respectfully while she wiped her eyes.
“Brittany,” he began again. “It’s important to try to develop good study techniques. Medical school involves a lot more studying than college.”
“I just can’t do it, Dr. Callahan…”
“Let me give you the names of a few upperclassmen who do tutoring,” he said. “I’m sure they could help you, Brittany…”
Andy felt a stab of guilt as he wrote down the names of his former star pupils. What Brittany really needed was for him to help her directly, one on one. He’d done that for a few failing students in the past and several times it had nudged their grade into the passing range. Last year, he’d literally spent 10-15 extra hours per week in the lab, tutoring students who needed extra help, free of charge. He did it because he cared about his students and he wanted them to pass.
But he also did it because back then, he had nothing else going on in his life. If he came home early, it would be to an empty, lonely apartment. Now he saw Jan in the evenings and he didn’t want to give that up. There was finally something to look forward to at the end of the day.
When he had looked into Jan’s eyes on the night of her exam, he had known that he was in love with her. He couldn’t be in love with her for so many reasons—she was his student, she was too young for him, they had only been together for a short time. But somehow he was. He almost said it to her that night, but she made a comment about keeping things casual and he realized the time wasn’t right.
Someday the time would be right though. Someday he was going to tell her that he loved her.
Jan often went to Andy’s office after class to say hello, which often led to a steamy make-out session. She found the door to his office closed as usual and she had her hand poised to knock when she heard voices coming from inside. She looked around and saw the hallway was empty, so she pressed her ear up against the door.
It was the voice of Brittany Adams, one of her classmates. Brittany was a pretty girl who wore more make-up to lab than most girls wore to a party. Jan guessed what was going on in there: Brittany had failed the second anatomy exam.
Jan was pressing her ear so hard against the door that she nearly toppled over when Brittany yanked open the door. Brittany’s doe-shaped eyes were rimmed with red. She glared at Jan.
“Yes, Jan?” Andy said, raising his eyebrows.
She looked from Andy to Brittany, her cheeks turning red. “Um, Dr. Callahan, I need to… um… talk to you about the exam…”
Brittany’s features changed—she must have assumed that Jan had failed the exam too. Brittany patted Jan on the shoulder and whispered, “Good luck.”
Jan closed the door behind her. Andy grinned and quickly wheeled out from behind his desk. “I’ve been thinking about you,” he said, sliding his hands up her shirt. She stiffened.
“Are you going to fail her?” Jan didn’t know where the question had come from, but she felt compelled to ask.
The smile faded from his face. He leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know,” he said. He looked somewhat troubled. “But… probably.”
Jan didn’t say anything.
“It’s not like I enjoy failing students,” Andy said. “I wish everyone could pass, but… well, anatomy isn’t easy.”
“Would you have failed me?”
“If you had failed all the exams? Yeah, I would.” He sighed. “Some people don’t belong in medical school, Jan.”
She studied his face. She wondered what he would have been like if he had become a surgeon, like he had wanted. If he had, they never would have met. She wondered what gray-haired old professor she would have ended up sleeping with to get her A. She wondered if he’d still be taking pills from that bottle of anti-depressants. “Can I ask you a question?”
He raised his black eyebrows at her. “Go ahead.”
“Am I the first medical student you’ve had sex with?”
To her surprise, Andy started laughing.
“What’s so funny?”
He tried to wipe the smile off his face. “I can’t believe you could ask something like that. Don’t you know me at all by now? I’ve never done anything like this in my life.” He shook his head. “Half the time, I still can’t believe I’m doing it…”
Jan felt relieved. The question had been running through her head ever since she had heard Brittany’s voice coming from inside his office.
“Although I guess I did technically sleep with one other med student,” he admitted, “but that shouldn’t count since I was a med student too.”
She was surprised he had volunteered that information about himself. He had never spoken before about any other girls had been with. “You had a girlfriend in med school?”
He shrugged. “She was my anatomy lab partner.”
“Why did you break up?”
“I got shot.” He shrugged again.
It took Jan a second to realize what he was saying: his girlfriend had broken up with him because of his injury. She couldn’t even comprehend how horrible that must have been for him. Her heart went out to him as she imagined him as a young medical student, lying in a hospital bed with the knowledge he’d never walk again and everything he had worked so hard for was over. What sort of girl would leave him in that condition?
Andy read her mind: “She didn’t dump me because I couldn’t walk, if that’s what you’re thinking. It was… complicated. We weren’t right for each other.”
“I mean it,” he insisted. “She would have stayed with me, but… the whole thing made me realize that we wanted different things. It was better we figured that out before we got marr—” He stopped himself before the word left his mouth.
Jan’s mouth fell open. “You were engaged?”
Andy shifted in his chair. “Look, I don’t want to talk about any of this.” He reached out and grabbed her by the waist, pulling her closer. “I just want to be with you. Okay?”
Jan couldn’t say no to that. She allowed him to pull her into his lap and bring her close to his body. As he kissed her, she couldn’t help but feel an ache in her chest as she thought of the hurt he must have gone through all those years ago. He had lost the girl he had planned to spend the rest of his life with. Once again, she thought of that bottle of anti-depressants in his medicine cabinet.
“I won’t hurt you,” she promised him.
He didn’t reply.
Jan was worried things might be a little awkward after the talk they had in Andy’s office, but he called her the very next evening. Cindy was in the room with her, so Jan pressed her cell phone tightly against her ear so that there was no chance of her professor’s voice being overheard. She was being a bit paranoid perhaps, but Jan didn’t delude herself about how much trouble the two of them would be in if they got caught.
“Hey, Jan,” Andy said. “Do you feel like coming over and doing some studying?”
Half the time when he said that, he meant sex. The other half of the time, he actually meant studying. She could never tell by his voice which was which. “Sure,” she agreed.
Jan closed her anatomy text, got up off her bed, and pulled her coat off the chair in front of her desk. Cindy raised her perfectly shaped eyebrows. “Where you headed?”
“Nowhere,” Jan muttered.
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Nobody…” She cleared her throat. “Just going out to study.”
“Then why aren’t you bringing any books?”
Jan felt a rush of blood come into her cheeks. “Um, I was going to, uh…”
“Oh, come on, Jan!” Cindy gushed, nearly bouncing on her mattress. “Tell me who it is! Please? Is it Johnny Evans? Chris Johnston?”
Jan shook her head at her ditzy blonde roommate. Cindy didn’t look like she could keep a secret for five seconds. She felt sick at the thought of Cindy knowing about her and Andy. “I… I can’t.”
Cindy studied her face, maybe wondering if she could change her mind. Finally, she sighed, “Fine, go have fun with your prince.”
Jan took the now familiar drive to Andy’s apartment. As she made the final turn on the wooded path to his one-story townhouse, she noticed that she had started humming a little tune. She shook her head at herself. He’s turning me into freakin Mary Poppins.
She pulled into the driveway and parked behind Andy’s car—a large white Ford with hand controls. Considering he was the youngest professor she’d ever slept with, she thought it was amusing that he drove a car that looked like it was owned by an eighty year old. In a lot of ways, Andy acted very much like an old man.
Andy yanked the door open almost before she had even knocked. She couldn’t help but suppress a smile. “Happy to see me?” she asked, closing the door behind her as she entered the house.
“Not really,” he said as he pulled her into his lap and pressed his lips against hers. She saw the way he was gazing at her and she remembered the words she had kept him from saying a few days ago. I love you, Jan. Even if she had prevented him from saying it, she could see in his eyes that he meant it. Although she truly had no idea why.
As she nuzzled against him, she felt him wince slightly. Ever since she found those painkillers in his medicine cabinet, she was acutely aware of him showing any signs of pain. She hated the idea of him being in pain. “Are you okay?” she asked him.
“Huh?” He raised his black eyebrows at her. “What do you mean?”
“You flinched,” she pointed out.
“Oh.” He shrugged. “My damn rotator cuffs are pretty much shredded from twelve years of wheeling myself around. I should probably be going easy on my shoulders, but what are you gonna do?” He shrugged again. “By the way, can you name the four tendons that make up the rotator cuff? You should have started that dissection two days ago.”
Jan shook her head.
“I’ll give you a hint,” he said. “The mnemonic is SITS.”
“Andy,” Jan sighed, “I was really just hoping that we could… spend some time together without talking about anatomy. I mean, the final isn’t for a while, right?”
Andy seemed almost taken aback by her request. “Oh, uh…” he stammered. He shook his head then grinned at her and pulled her closer to his chest, “Yeah, of course. I’d really like that.”
Even though it made things more exciting, the secrecy of the relationship was sometimes difficult for Andy. He loved spending nights with her at his apartment, but he also wanted to take her out. He wished he could take her out to dinner or to the movies. Or go for a walk in the park. But none of that was realistic.
It was also frustrating that when he heard from his mother on their weekly Sunday night phone call, he couldn’t tell her about Jan, even if she was right in the room with him. His mother had been so excited when he got engaged to Jessie years ago, and now she was just as frustrated by his love life as he was. But while he had abandoned the idea of getting married, his mother still hadn’t given up on him.
“I have a girl for you, Andy,” his mother told him during their Sunday night call. He was in bed and Jan was lying against his chest. He could tell that she could hear his mother’s voice by the way she snickered into her palm.
“Mom, I’m not really—”
“She’s great, Andy,” his mother interrupted him. Jan giggled again and he swatted at her to be quiet. “She’s my friend Martha’s daughter. Her name is Beth.”
“Okay, what’s she like?” Andy asked. Jan widened her eyes in mock insult.
“She works at a bank,” his mother told him. “She’s divorced and has a fifteen year old son.”
“Fifteen year old son?” he repeated. “Christ, how old is she?”
“Andy, stop being so picky!” his mother scolded him. “She’s a really nice girl. Very attractive. I think you’d really like her.”
“I think you should go out with her,” Jan whispered, still giggling. Andy grabbed a pillow off the bed and playfully smacked her in the shoulder.
“Look, Mom, I have to go,” Andy said, fending off Jan’s efforts to hit him with the pillow. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Please consider going out with Beth,” his mother said. “I know you’re nervous, Andy, but you haven’t been out with a woman in so long.”
Andy transferred the phone to his other hand, away from the side Jan was on. He didn’t want her to hear what his mother said and he certainly didn’t want her to know it was true. “Really, I’ve got to go.”
He hung up the phone and now Jan was nearly hysterical giggling. He shook his head at her. She was so young and carefree and passionate--so different from himself. When he was around her, he felt like a different person. He loved that about her.
“What?” she said, still giggling slightly. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
Without warning, he grabbed her wrists and pounced on top of her. She squealed as he pressed his lips against where her neck met her shoulder. He ran his hands over her breasts as they she pushed her tongue into his mouth. He loved Jan’s breasts. Jessica had great breasts, but none of the few women he’d been with in the thirteen years since then had nearly as nice tits.
“I want you, Andy,” Jan breathed.
“I want you,” he whispered back.
That was another thing he loved about Jan. She got that he couldn’t always go go go like most guys her age probably could. Sex required some amount of planning in that he took a Viagra prior to make sure he’d last long enough to please her and he usually needed to empty his bladder first.
He had explained to Jan how his bladder worked when he had been teaching her about how the sacral nerve roots provided voluntary control over the bladder. She kept giving him a look and finally he said to her, No, I don’t have any voluntary control over going to the bathroom, if that’s what you’re wondering.
He then explained to her about the catheters he used at regular intervals during the day to empty his bladder. He could usually tell if his bladder was full, but he had no ability to empty it voluntarily or hold it in. When he was in rehab, they had given him the option of trying to get his bladder to empty on its own and wearing a legbag, but he opted to go the opposite direction: maintaining continence and cathing religiously. He didn’t like the idea of wearing a bag of urine around his leg. The result was that he had to be very careful. He couldn’t drink too much and when he felt his bladder becoming full, he had to catheterize himself ASAP. Especially if he was having sex, he needed to make sure his bladder was empty so the pressure on his abdomen wouldn’t result in an accident.
Andy wheeled to the bathroom to go empty his bladder and when he returned, Jan was splayed out on the bed, naked, looking incredibly sexy. He almost couldn’t believe he was having sex with this girl. He wheeled over to the foot of the bed and grabbed her by the ankles. “I changed my mind,” he said.
He pulled her body down to the edge of the bed as she squealed and laughed. He separated her legs and buried his lips in her pussy. He loved eating Jan out. He loved the way she squirmed and cried out. And he had so much more control over his lips than he did over his lower body. He also liked the fact that she told him he was the first guy who had ever done it for her. He guessed that made sense, considering the only men she had ever done it with were the old professors she was banging for a grade.
Jan came quickly, lacing her fingers into his black hair and screaming so loud he worried his neighbors would hear. He lifted his head and wiped his lips with the back of his forearm. He kissed each of her knees. She was perfect and he adored her.
Over the next several weeks, Jan found herself at Andy’s house nearly every night, doing things that had very little to do with studying. If there was lab that day, she’d shower first, although Andy confessed that he barely noticed the smell of formaldehyde anymore. “I’ve eaten my lunch in that lab,” he admitted.
Even though her grades had improved, Jan had to admit that she didn’t love anatomy lab. She still looked at anatomy lab as something she had to get through and she was glad when each one ended. She began to question her dedication to becoming a surgeon, considering how little interest she had in cutting up a human body. She still had this idealistic notion of being a female surgeon, but it didn’t make sense to go into a field where she was going to constantly be struggling just to stay even.
Andy, on the other hand, would have made a great surgeon. Not only did he have an encyclopedic knowledge of the human body, but he had the most skilled hands she had ever seen (both in the lab and outside). Even though he was a great professor, she felt it was a loss to the world of surgery that he had decided to give up on finishing medical school.
“You never regret not becoming a surgeon?” she asked him once, while lying in bed.
He shrugged. “There are a lot of things a person can do with their life. It’s only natural to sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had chosen another path. But I’m happy with what I do and that’s what matters.” He squinted at her, “And how about you? Do you ever regret giving up your life to go to medical school?”
Jan made a face. “I’m not giving up my life.”
“Don’t be naďve,” he said. “Medicine has already become your life and you’ve only just started. Just wait till you’ve got a pager attached to your belt and you’re spending Christmas Eve in the emergency room.”
“Sounds like fun,” Jan said with a smile.
“I can see you being a great doctor,” he said earnestly. “But you have to know why you’re here. You’re not honestly becoming a doctor just to prove a point, are you?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing wrong with it,” Andy said. “I just don’t believe it. Maybe you believe it, but I don’t.”
He was right, even though she hadn’t realized it. She didn’t go to medical school because she wanted to prove a point. “I just didn’t want to be like my mother,” Jan said. “She just stayed at home with the kids, never had a career or a life of her own. Never earned a dollar on her own. It was so… pathetic.” She sighed, “So you figured me out, I’m just like all those other girls who don’t want to end up like their mothers. I guess I figured a surgeon was about as far away from a homemaker as you could get.”
Andy laughed, “Jan, trust me: you are in no way like any other girl. None that I’ve ever met before, anyway.”
Jan rested her head against Andy’s shoulder. The muscles in his arms and shoulders were extremely taut due to so many years of wheeling his chair. Even though Andy was a lot older than she was, he was still much younger than any of the professors she had been with. And definitely in much better shape—she hadn’t ever had a muscular arm to snuggle up against. The muscles faded below the belt, but it was something she rarely thought about anymore.
“You’re all quiet all of a sudden,” he commented.
“I’m just… happy,” she said.
And for the first time in her life, she realized it was true. She hadn’t even realized how miserable and alone she had felt before Andy came into her life. She was in love with him and if he took it upon himself to say it to her, this time she was ready to say it back.
And then something happened that ruined everything.
To be continued...