That morning, Megan rose like she always did and took her time getting ready. She didn’t realize she put on a bit more make-up and perfume than she normally did.
At 8:29, she was standing at Paul’s backdoor. She knocked and waited. He opened the door and smiled. “Looks like my lesson on being on time worked.” Her smile contorted a bit. He knew she was holding something in. “You can say anything you need to, Megan.”
“That was not funny. My rear still hurts from that.”
He laughed, grabbed her keys and headed for the garage. She followed, cautiously looking around. They walked through the side door and into the garage. Paul had a 1957 Chevy Bel Air sitting there. It was the color of burnt rust. He opened the passenger side door “After you.”
“We’re going in this? Is it yours?”
“It was my father’s car. Also, I thought it was such a nice day the car could use a day out.”
“Why do men always act like their cars are people?”
“Why do women have to name their hand bags?”
“We don’t name them.” Megan protested.
He slid in on the other side. “Dooney? Louie?”
Megan rolled her eyes. “Those are designer names. Dooney and Burke. Louie Vaton.”
“Oh.” He just realized he had made himself look dumb rather than get her back for making fun of the car. Paul started the car and drove off. They were into the next small town before he pulled into a fast food restaurant. “Would you like something to drink?”
“You actually let people drink in your baby?” She looked shocked at him.
“If you keep it up, I’ll make you ride in the trunk.”
She realized her joke was not funny to him. “A coke would be fine.”
They rode down the road and saw the sign for the battle field and museum. He turned off on to the quiet dirt road. After another six miles they arrived. There were not many people there that morning. He stopped the car and then helped her out.
After their tour of the museum, Paul led her back outside. “Would you like to walk down to the battlefield and look around a bit?”
“Sure.” They headed down the path. The trees shaded them from the warm sun. A cool breeze blew and he watched as it blew her hair softly in the wind. “It’s a lovely day.” She whispered.
“Yes, it is.”
“It’s so quiet out here.”
“An honor to the death and destruction that was suffered here.”
Megan looked at the older man as they walked. “That’s a different way of thinking of it.”
He smiled and kept walking. “I started out as a history teacher. Sometimes you have to be positive about the negative. If you don’t it will get to you.”
“How does a history teacher become a headmaster at such a young age?”
“I went to Anderson myself. My parents thought I needed to be here, kind of like yours. When I returned, after I got my degree, I taught for a year before the headmaster retired. When he did, I applied for the position and got the job.”
“But you said that you didn’t have many friends here.”
“How do you think teachers that have been here for 20 years feel about having a former student being their boss?” They got to the end of the path, which stopped near the lake. “What do you want to do at Yale?”
“I am planning to study art history. I want to work for a major museum like the Smithsonian. I figured a degree from Yale would help me.”
“Too bad we don’t have a real art program at Anderson. That’s something I have been trying to get for sometime.”
Megan sat down under the tree. He took a seat near her. They listened to the birds and other nature sounds. “Too bad we didn’t bring a picnic lunch. It would be nice.”
“Can you cook?”
‘Then you expected me to make one?” He put on a face of indigence.
“No. I can make a good sandwich though.” She said this with a touch of pride in her voice. She then looked over at the water. “It’s nice enough one could swim.”
“You mean now?”
“We would have to skinny dip.” He looked a little embarrassed.
She got a little smile on her face. “Never seen a woman naked?”
He didn’t know what to say. Then she laughed. “I am just kidding, Mr. Latham.”
“Are you hungry?”
He stood up and held out his hand. “Let’s go for lunch.” Latham pulled her up a little harder than he should have. Megan came up quickly and was almost into his arms. They stood only a few inches from each other. Paul smiled at her and she retuned his with one of her own.
“Are you trying to flirt with me, Headmaster, Latham?”
He stepped back from her. “No. I’m sorry…”
She giggled. “I was just kidding, again.”
“Of course.” He turned back to the trail. “Shall we?”
He started the car and pulled back out on to the dirt road. “I saw a little café before the turn off. Some of my professors have said it is good.”
“Won’t we run into someone?”
“No. None of my professors stayed in the area this week.”
They arrived at the little café about one o’clock. The crowd was gone and it was just the two of them. The waitress brought them menus.
“This all looks good.”
Paul looked over his menu at her. Her hair was pushed back behind her ear and she seemed very intent on her menu. “Yes, it does.” He replied and returned his eyes to his own menu. ‘Stop it, Paul.’ He thought to himself.
“What can I get you?” The waitress returned to their table.
“I’d like the turkey on rye with fruit and ice tea.” Megan closed her menu and passed it to the girl.
“I think I will have the same, except potato salad instead of fruit.” He closed is menu and passed it to the waitress as well. She left them alone.
“Can I apologize?”
“For what?” He gave her a peculiar look.
“I should apologize for the comments by the lake. You just seemed so…straight laced. I thought it was funny to get a rise out of you.” The waitress interrupted to bring them their teas.
He looked at her strangely. “I am not straight laced.”
“Really?” Meg stirred her tea with her straw.
“I just don’t believe it, Paul.” This was the first time that she had used his first name all day.
He took a drink. “Believe what you want to believe.”
The waitress brought their food. “Enjoy folks.”
They both started eating. Her statement was getting to him. He was not straight laced or a prude. Why would she think that? “Let me ask you a question.”
“What else do you have planned for the day?”
“Nothing. I might study when I get back to the room. Why?”
“Are you willing to take another trip?”
“Why Mitchellville?” She stirred her drink again.
“Because there is something I want you to see.”
Megan smiled, “Okay. I’m game.” She really didn’t want to go back to the school. She had to admit to herself that she was having a goodtime with him. And now his surprise trip was intriguing her.
They finished their lunch and paid. He pulled the Bel Air onto the road and started on their little adventure. But before Meg knew it they were there. When he stopped the car, she was surprised. “What is this place?”
“One of my favorite places to go.” He let her get out of the car and led her inside to an office. The older man at the counter looked them over. “What can I do for you?”
“We need two jumps.”
She looked at him questioning. “Jumps?”
“Yep. We’re going to bungee jump.”
The older man looked at her and realized she had no idea of what she was getting into. “Miss, are you sure?”
“Yes. If he says we’re jumping. We’re jumping.”
“Do you both have ID?”
She pulled out her license and so did Paul. The man took their information, had them sign releases, returned the licenses and then grabbed some gear. “Follow me.”
They went out to a stationary crane and got into the bucket. “Have you done this before?”
“No.” She answered rather meekly. Then he went over the safety procedures with her. Paul began to think it was funny that she had never done this before.
“Okay. Who is going first?”
Paul looked at her and could tell that she was nervous. “I’ll go first.”
Megan watched as he got up to the edge and into the safety equipment. He didn’t seem nervous in the least bit. He threw his arms out and jumped face first. Paul screamed a bit at first, but otherwise he had a smile on his face. Then the operator lowered him down to the inflated mat area below. He unstrapped himself and then waved to her as the cable came back up.
The man helped her into the device. “Turn your back to it. It will be easier to go.”
She held on to the edge of the railing. Megan took a deep breath and let go. “Shit!” was the only response he heard from the ground, but she didn’t scream other than that. It made Paul laugh. The operator lowered her down. Once she was on the ground, he came over to help her out of the harness.
“What do you think?”
“You do this all the time?”
He nodded his head and proved it by unhooking her straps quickly. “I jump at least a few times a year.”
“Okay. I take back that entire straight laced comment.”
“Good.” He helped her over to the awaiting man. “Thanks, sir.”
“Hope you enjoyed it, young lady.”
“I did.” She smiled at the man and Latham.
They walked to the car and got in. Paul looked at her. Her hair was messed up and her face was still flushed, but she seemed to glow.
Suddenly she pouted up. “I guess it is back to school now.”
With a very straight face he said, “It would be the straight laced thing to do.” Paul smiled at her a bit. “Okay, it’s four o’clock. What do you want to do?”
“Something that might get me in trouble.”
It was answered by her lips on his. It was brief, but pleasant. Then she moved away back towards the door. Megan couldn’t turn to look at him.
“Wow.” Was the only thing to come out of his mouth. “When you said it would get you in trouble, you didn’t mention that it could get us in trouble.”
“Can we say it was a rush of blood from the jump?”
“We could.” He stated the car and pulled on to the road. “But would that be the truth?”
“Yes.” Megan looked over at him. She couldn’t read his face. So she looked out the window. It took a few minutes before she realized that they were going in a different direction. “Where are we going?”
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think it would be wise to go back yet.”
After half an hour, he pulled over at a motel. Her eyes got really wide and she looked at him in disbelief. “What are we doing here?”
“We need to talk.” He ran into the lobby of the motel. She could see him get a key from the desk and return. Paul parked the car and got out. Megan didn’t move. He leaned in the window. “Out.”
“I’m not going to …”
“We’re going to talk, Megan. That’s all.”
Hesitantly she got out. He walked over to the door and opened it. Then Paul held the door for her. Megan walked into the little room. Latham came in behind her, shut the door and grabbed her. Before she knew it he was kissing her lips. After a minute, he let go of her.
“Was that blood rushing to the brain?”
“Yeah.” He sat down in the lone chair in the room. “Sit please.” Paul watched her sit on the end of the bed. “So where do we stand?”
She leaned over and reached out to him. Megan kissed him and he kissed her back. It was very tender and sweet, but also very erotic in that it was forbidden. They leaned back from each other after a few minutes. “We’re even. We’ve got it out of our systems, right?”
Paul looked at her face and realized she was biting her lip. He tried to read her face, but got nothing. “I have to admit that on some level I enjoyed it, but I think I can easily say it is out of my system.”
“But what do we do from here? I have enjoyed today but at the same time wonder if it is wise to continue to spend time together.”
She listened carefully to each word of the statement. Then she closed her eyes and thought.
“Yes, sir?” She didn’t open her eyes. That answer told him that this week was easily over for them.
“Shall we go?”
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Anderson announced their top ten percent for the graduating class. It was a tradition that they held a dinner for the seniors the following Friday night. Latham, as headmaster, was expected to be there. He dreaded this dinner because he knew the list of names well before the students. Megan Downey was third in her class. Since the fall break, they had talked a few times briefly. Most of it was when she went jogging or in the hallways at school. He could accept that. But the dinner usually meant that the students would be dressed up and out of uniforms. In the uniform he could think of her as a student; but out of it he started to think other things.
As he put on his suit, he wondered what she would be wearing tonight. “Stop it, Paul. She is a student.” He scolded himself as he fixed his tie.
His mind wondered to that day in Millersville. Megan’s lips were so soft and subtle. He could have spent all day kissing them. When they had stopped he had to admit that he felt like a horny teenager. The whole drive home he had to stop himself from pulling over to make out with her again. But he was afraid that he wouldn’t stop at that.
Paul arrived early and was greeted by his secretary. “You look extra dashing tonight, Mr. Latham.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Ladd.”
The older woman looked at him and straightened his tie. “We need to find you a girl, Mr. Latham. A good looking man like you needs a beautiful woman on his arm.”
He frowned at her. “Is that all you think of?”
“I am an old married woman. That’s my job to be nosey and fix single people up.”
“And just who in this small town would you suggest I date?”
The older woman looked over his shoulder at the few students coming in the door. One in particular caught her eye. “Well, if she wasn’t a student, I think that one would be my choice.”
Paul turned around and his jaw dropped. He closed his mouth quickly and watched as Megan finished coming into the gymnasium. Her hair was curled and pinned up from her face. She wore a red halter style dress that was low enough to be revealing but not inappropriate for the evening.
“You approve of my choice?”
“She looks nice, but like you said she’s a student.” He tried to sound annoyed at her.
“But she’s into history and sports. I even heard her tell one of the other girls she went bungee jumping over the break. That sounds like your kind of girl.”
Again, he looked at her annoyed. “Please keep your match making to yourself for the rest of the evening.”
She smiled at him. “Whatever you say, Headmaster Latham.”
Paul tried to her his mind off of her. He went into the kitchen to check on dinner. Then he came out to speak with some other faculty members. Suddenly he felt like he was being watched and looked up to see her talking with a classmate. She was staring at him from across the gym. He nodded at her. Her eyes moved back to the classmate. Latham positioned himself to watch her out of the corner of his eye. As it got closer to time to be seated, the young man she was talking to escorted her to a table. Then Latham noticed they were going to sit at his table.
As he began to move to the table, Mrs. Ladd stopped him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Latham. I put her at the table before you said anything.”
“It’s alright. She is a pleasant young lady.” ‘Especially with those lips’ he thought as he continued on. When he arrived the only empty seat was next to Megan.
“Good evening, Headmaster Latham.” The way she said it was polite, but was bordering on that same seductive way she had used at the lake on their day trip. He looked around the table, but if anyone noticed, they didn’t say anything.
“Miss Downey.” He acknowledged the other students at the table and then sat down.
“So, Mr. Latham, have we gotten any early acceptance calls?” Sue Mallory asked.
“Early acceptance calls?” Megan looked questioning at her classmate.
“Usually the schools start calling about this time with admissions.” Jake, the student to her right, answered.
“No, I haven’t yet.” He answered the entire group. The young man to Megan’s right engaged her in conversation about their Latin class. Paul knew she was bored silly. She had taken Latin because her counselor had recommended it, not because she was interested in the dead language.
Dinner was served and Jake began to really flirt with Megan. He kept leaning over and whispering in her ear. At one point, Paul even saw him put his hand on her leg, under the table.
After dinner, the band began to play. Jake asked her to dance, “Megan?”
“No, thank you.”
“Oh, come on.” He was going to beg. Then he realized she would not change her mind. “Stacey?”
Within a few minutes the entire table, except Megan and Paul were dancing.
“Don’t you dance?”
“Not with Jake. He has two left feet. Have you ever seen him play soccer?” Megan asked sort of surprised.
“There is a reason for that. He’s so bad; they won’t even let him play on the intramural teams for soccer.”
He laughed. “Is he bothering you?”
“A little, but nothing I can’t handle.” It dawned on her why he asked that question. “So you saw that?”
“It took everything not to back hand him from the table.” He tried to keep his voice steady, but she could hear the agitation in her voice. Megan thought it was cute.
“You look nice.”
“You do too.” He answered. “When do you leave for home?”
“Christmas Eve. You?”
“I’m staying here until New Years. Then I’m heading to New York to see some friends.”
“Sounds like fun.” She watched everyone dancing. “Can I stop by and talk?”
He was surprised. “Sure when?”
“We’re at dinner tonight.”
“Sure. Use the back door.”
Another student returned to the table and asked her to dance. Meg accepted this time. Paul watched as she twirled around the dance floor and tried not to be obvious. He wondered what she wanted to talk about. She’d not really expressed any interest in anything substantial to this point.
After two hours at the dance, Paul walked home. He took his time and enjoyed the night air. Megan was still dancing with one of her classmates when he left and knew that she would not there before him. He went into the house via the back door and she was seated on his couch. Latham couldn’t help but look her over one time in that dress.
“How in the world?”
“Some women can run in high heels.”
“How did you get in?”
“Found your spare key.” She tossed it to him.
“Okay.” He came on in and sat across from her on the couch. “So what do you want to talk about?”
“There is no us, Miss Downey.”
“Really? I seem to remember a motel in Millersville.”
‘God she is not making this easy on me.’ He reached out and touched her arm. “I thought we had talked about this, Megan.”
“I enjoyed those two days with you. But I miss not getting to talk to you. Yes, the whole event with Millersville and the loneliness made me make friends here. I’m glad for it. But I really enjoyed being with you.”
“Megan, I am not sure about this.”
She smiled at him. “Look. I enjoyed the time at the motel room. But I can live with a platonic relationship.”
“I’m not sure that I can.”
“That’s alright too.” The brunette leaned in to kiss his lips. He allowed her to do this without protest.
“You know what this could do to you?”
“About the same thing that it could do to you.”
He smiled and then kissed her lips softly. “I feel like a lecherous old man.”
Megan touched his shoulder. “You feel like a strong young man to me.”
“You are so funny.”
They sat on the couch and talked until it got to be late. “Can I walk you home?”
“Won’t it be strange if someone saw us?”
“Not if we take a short cut back to the dormitory.” He grabbed his leather jacket and draped it over her shoulders. Then he walked her to the dorm. It was cold and clear out.
“Good night, Megan.”
“Good night, Paul.”
He started to leave and then turned to look at her again. “A movie tomorrow night at my place?”