The next morning, Jan showed up at Andy’s office prior to classes. She knew she couldn’t tell him about Jake’s threat because she knew he’d want to turn him in, but she felt like just talking to him would give her a sense of what to do.
She knocked on Andy’s door and waited for a response. Every time she came to school early, Andy had been there. She knew he woke up ridiculously early, so he was often in his office trying to get some work done at the crack of dawn. That or hanging out in the anatomy lab.
Jan noticed Andy’s secretary, Linda, walking down the hall. Linda was a grandmotherly woman who had been working with Andy since he had first started; all of the students loved her and it appeared to be mutual, but Jan was the one exception. If Jan didn’t know better, she would have thought that Linda hated her. She had the distinct feeling that the secretary knew what was going on between her and Andy and didn’t approve.
“Hi, Linda,” Jan said, trying to appear as friendly as possible.
“Hello, Jan,” Linda replied, barely looking at her as she unlocked the door to Andy’s office. As the door to the office swung open, Jan realized that it was empty.
“How are you doing, Linda?” Jan asked politely, tugging at her T-shirt nervously.
“Fine,” Linda said, not looking up as she arranged some forms on Andy’s desk.
“Oh, good,” Jan murmured. “Um, do you know where Andy is?”
Linda stared at Jan and she realized she had done it again. Goddamn it. How could she be so careless? “I mean,” Jan said, blushing bright red, “do you know when Dr. Callahan will be here?”
Linda narrowed her eyes. “No, I don’t.”
“Okay, then,” Jan murmured. She had lost all interest in finding Andy and just wanted to get out of her.
“Miss Wright,” Linda said in a tight voice, “I’ve worked with Andrew Callahan for many years and he’s a very good professor and a good man. And someday he’ll find a woman who loves him. I think it’s downright despicable that you’re taking advantage of the fact that he’s very lonely right now.”
Jan felt a burst of anger rising inside of her. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.
Linda shook her head. “I never thought I’d see the day when a 22 year old snot-nosed med student would tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about. I knew I was right about you, and I’ve told Andrew as much.”
Oh great, Linda was talking trash her to Andy. She felt her face turn red with anger, but she knew it wasn’t going to do much good to fight with Linda. It was obvious that Linda thought of her boss like a son and was extremely protective of him. She guessed there was very little she could say to convince Linda that she wasn’t some kind of Lolita.
“I’m sorry I bothered you,” Jan said quietly. “I wish you could understand.”
She could see a flash of doubt fall over Linda’s face, but it passed quickly. She was a 22 year old medical student and she was dating her 35 year old paraplegic anatomy professor. Nobody was going to understand if this got out.
The problem with spending the early morning in the anatomy lab was that a couple times a week some students would come in early to study, and it was inevitable that they’d hit Andy up with some questions. Most days he didn’t mind. In fact, he was happy to help any students who had the initiative to show up at the lab at seven in the morning, and often he’d launch into an impromptu teaching session with some helpful hints for the next exam. Above all, Andy loved to teach more than anything. It was an amazing feeling to impart knowledge to these eager young med students. And he knew that he was good at what he did.
But there were also some days that he wanted to be alone and today was one of them. He was still feeling a little down about his shoulders, despite Jan’s attempts to cheer him up. With every passing day, he worried that shoulder surgery was becoming more of a certainty. If he had that surgery, he’d certainly have to hire someone to help him around the house, since he wouldn’t be allowed to transfer by himself for a while. He winced at the idea of needing someone to help him into the shower.
He called an attendant service after his doctor’s appointment, to see what his options were. The receptionist on the phone was very nice, which somehow made the whole thing harder. “What sort of disability do you have?” she asked.
“I’m a paraplegic,” he said, “but I’m going to have a shoulder surgery so I won’t be able to transfer on my own anymore while I’m recovering.”
“So you’ll need someone to come to help with transfers in and out of bed?” she asked.
“And into the shower and the toilet as well?”
Andy’s couldn’t make himself answer that question. He didn’t want to think about needing someone to come help him onto the toilet for his bowel program. It was too much. “I… I’m sorry,” he finally said. “I’ll call back another time.”
And then of course, there was the all-important issue of his wheelchair. It had taken him a while, but Andy had come to love his manual wheelchair. It was lightweight and nondescript. He’d almost certainly have to trade it in for a bulkier power wheelchair. He told himself that the trade would be temporary, but he suspected he was deluding himself. His shoulders were never going to go back to the way they were before, and he needed to go easy on them if he didn’t want to go through another replacement in five years.
He tried to look on the bright side. At least there was a surgery available to relieve his pain. And even if he ended up staying with the power wheelchair, he was sure he’d get used to it and probably get to like it just as much as his current chair. This wasn’t the end of the world. But he still wasn’t in the mood to be assaulted with questions about the female pelvis at seven in the morning.
After he couldn’t take it anymore, he left the lab and wheeled back to his office. He noticed the door was already open and Linda was inside, filing away some papers in his filing cabinet. “Hi, Linda,” he said, as he wheeled past her. “Don’t mind me.”
When his secretary turned to face him, she had a somber look on her face. “Andrew, can I talk to you?”
“Of course, Linda.” He frowned with concern. “What’s wrong?”
Linda closed the door to his office and settled into the chair in front of his desk. “I want to talk to you about Janice Wright,” she said.
Andy heaved a sigh. “Linda…”
“I know what you’re doing with her,” Linda hissed. “Andrew, how could you? I thought you had more integrity than that…”
Andy wasn’t happy Linda had figured it out, but he knew she was loyal to him and would never rat him out. But it worried him that she knew, since that meant they weren’t as discreet as he would have liked. “I like her, Linda,” he finally said.
“You know she’s just doing this for her grade, don’t you?”
“I have no intention of changing her grade,” Andy assured his secretary. “And she knows it.”
“Oh, Andrew…” Linda shook her head. “She’s taking advantage of you. You have to know she isn’t really interested.”
Andy felt a flash of anger. “Why? Why is it so ridiculous she could be interested in me?”
Linda’s eyes filled up with tears. It was uncharacteristic for him to snap at her, but he knew exactly what she was thinking: poor Andy Callahan, crippled and in a wheelchair, what attractive young girl could possibly want him? He wanted Linda’s respect, not her pity.
“I’m sorry,” Andy said gently. “I didn’t mean to… look, Linda, I know you don’t like Janice, but trust me when I say that I would never cheat for her. Never. Do you believe me?”
Much as Linda distrusted Jan, Andy knew that she trusted him. Linda nodded somewhat reluctantly, then stood up from her chair. “I don’t like her any better, but I guess you know what you’re doing,” she said. “I just had to say my piece.”
Linda hesitated for a moment before opening the door. “Just… don’t let her wreck your career.”
There was something very ominous about Linda’s warning, but Andy tried to put it out of his mind as he got back to work.
Jan desperately wanted to tell Andy about Jake’s threat, but she couldn’t do it. Even though he didn’t want to get caught anymore than she did, she also knew that his moral code would prohibit him from providing a copy of the answer key to anyone. He’d rather lose his job than negotiate.
Jan felt a lot differently. After years of having her grades “adjusted”, she didn’t have any ethical issues with cheating. She didn’t like being blackmailed, but it was hard to throw stones. She knew she had done some pretty bad things during her academic career—if she had ever seen an opportunity to blackmail a fellow student, she knew she would have taken it without a second thought.
The only problem was complying with Jake’s demands. She had no idea where a copy of the practical exam answer key might be or how to get a hold of it. She had always simply demanded that her grade be changed—she had never gone through the fine art of cheating. For all she knew, he hadn’t even decided what the answers to the exam would be. Although Andy was anal-retentive enough that she was sure he wouldn’t leave the exam-writing until the last minute.
When Jan got to lab the next day and saw Jake and Cindy already at the table, she felt like doing an about-face. She didn’t want to go near Jake, pretend like she didn’t despise him. If anyone else, even Cindy with her big mouth, had discovered her secret, it wouldn’t have been as bad. Why did it have to be Jake, of all people? That little slimeball.
Jan approached the cadaver, keeping her eyes down. She had been dissecting the right arm yesterday and she had intended to further separate the muscles of the hand. However, when she looked down at the arm, she saw that her careful dissection had been destroyed. The delicate tendons and muscles in the arm had been all but ripped to shreds. Jan looked up and saw Jake’s eyes boring into her. At that moment, she knew that he had been responsible for this. It was a warning—he had destroyed her dissection and he could destroy her career.
“What’s wrong?” Cindy asked, concerned.
When Jan didn’t reply, Cindy circled the table to look down at the cadaver’s arm. She too noticed what had been done and looked horrified. “Oh my god!” Cindy cried. “Someone ripped apart your dissection!”
Jan tried to tell her it was okay, but at just that moment, Andy was wheeling by the table to help them. Cindy immediately spoke up: “Dr. Callahan, somebody did something terrible!”
As Andy surveyed the damage to the arm, she saw the look of disgust on his face, “Jesus Christ, what the hell happened here?”
Jan had to look away. She knew that the guilt was showing plain on her face.
Andy, on his part, was furious. He couldn’t understand how someone could do something like that to one of the cadavers and he proceeded to make a very angry announcement to the class about competitive behavior. All the while, Jake watched with an amused look on his face. Once he had the nerve to actually wink at her.
Andy was still fuming later that day, when Jan came by his office. “It’s really disgusting,” he said as she sat down on his lap, “and to think, the person who did that is going to become a doctor someday. Disgusting.”
“Well, all med students are competitive,” she reminded him. “That’s how we got here in the first place.”
“There’s a difference between being competitive and that,” he said, shaking his head. “There are lines that can be crossed.”
Sometimes Jan wondered how he was able to be with her, considering how strong his beliefs were about how cheating was wrong. He knew that she spent years having her grades inflated through less than kosher means. How could he be in a relationship with someone who was capable of that? She wondered if she disgusted him as much as the blackmailer did.
“It’s different with you, Jan,” he said, as if reading her mind.
“Why?” she asked.
“You were very young,” he said. “And you understand now that what you did was wrong.”
“Maybe it’s just different because you want it to be different,” she suggested.
Andy looked up at her. She was always amazed by how blue his eyes were. It always managed to catch her off-guard. “Maybe you’re right,” he said. He pulled her closer to him on his lap and kissed her full on the lips. “Man, why couldn’t I have fallen for a girl who was less corrupt?”
“Have you officially fallen for me then?” Jan teased him.
“I think it’s safe to say yes, I have,” he said, grinning at her.
Their eyes met and the smile faded from his face. Say it, Andy. Tell me that you love me.
Tell me you love me. So I know this is all worth it.
“I, uh…” He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing hard. “I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” Jan sighed and got off his lap so that he could wheel himself out of the office. She knew that he was in love with her, so she guessed it didn’t matter if he actually said the words, but it would certainly be nice to hear right about now.
Without his lap to support her, Jan pulled her own chair up to Andy’s desk and began playing with one of his paperweights. The inscription on the marble weight read “Dr. Andrew Callahan, Professor of the Year, 2006.” She knew he had received a lot of honors for his work at the university and that he was a great teacher. She hated the idea that all that could get screwed up because of her.
That was when Jan’s eyes fell on the computer.
The screensaver wasn’t on and the desktop was in plain view. She saw a folder on the desktop that was called “Anatomy.” She clicked on it, knowing that she had a good few minutes before Andy got back. She hadn’t really expected to find anything, but certainly not a folder that was called “Exams.” It seemed almost too easy, like it had to be some sort of trick. But then again, Andy didn’t expect anyone to be nosing around his private computer.
She clicked on the icon and it opened up a directory of a number of files. One of them was labeled “final 2008”. When she clicked on it, she realized that she was staring at the final exam for her class.
Jan’s heart began to pound. She knew this might be her only opportunity to obtain a copy of the exam and satisfy her blackmailer’s request. She took a deep breath and pressed the button to print the exam.
She eyed the door to the office as the printer slowly lay down ink on the papers. “Hurry up, goddamn it!” she whispered to the printer, which didn’t seem capable of complying. She saw the images of muscles and nerves appearing on the blank papers and it was all she could do to keep from ripping the papers out of the machine.
Just as the last page was finishing, Jan heard Andy’s key fitting into the lock. She quickly closed the documents on his desktop and yanked the pages out of the printer, just as the door swung open. She folded the sheets in half and stuffed them into her jacket pocket.
When Andy entered the room, she felt like he immediately knew what she had done. Of course, that was impossible, but she felt his eyes boring guilt into her chest. He had trusted her and she had betrayed him. I’m sorry, she thought, but I didn’t have a choice.
“Are you okay, Jan?” he asked, his brow furrowed in concern.
She nodded weakly, “Yeah, I, uh… it’s been a hard day, I guess. I think I’m going to head home.”
“Of course,” he said softly. “Lie down, get some rest.”
If he ever finds out what I did, that will be the end. But he’s not going to find out.
It wasn’t until she had returned home and was inside the bedroom with the door closed that she felt safe pulling the exam sheets out of her pocket. It was somewhat exhilarating to have the final exam in front of her—anyone in the class would have killed for a look at this.
But should I look? she wondered.
She had gotten an A on the last exam just through studying. She had earned her grade and she knew the material backwards and forwards. And for once, it felt really good to get the grade she deserved. But it was really hard work. Maybe she could earn an A on this final exam, but it would be difficult. And really, who was she kidding? Grades were what were really important in medical school, not the branches of the brachial plexus.
Jan began reading the first page of the exam. She imagined Andy carefully constructing these questions, trying to think which points would best test the knowledge of the students. As she continued reading, she felt an ache growing in her chest.
I can’t do this…
She couldn’t cheat on this final. Not because cheating was wrong, but because she couldn’t betray Andy that way. He trusted her now. He thought that she had changed and she couldn’t let him down, even if he never found out, because…
Because I love him.
She smiled to herself at the thought. There was no longer any doubt in her mind about her feelings for Andy Callahan. She loved him. And even though she wasn’t totally sure where this relationship might take her, she wanted to stay in it for the long haul. She laughed to herself when she thought of the expression on her parents’ face when she brought her 35 year old paraplegic anatomy professor home from Christmas dinner and introduced him as her new boyfriend.
But first she had to protect herself. And if that meant giving in to Jake’s blackmail, then so be it.
To be continued...