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One fleeting glimpse on a summer day was all Jim needed.
I'd teach, she'd work part-time once the kids came. We could live the American dream and have it all, the white picket fence, the 2-3 kids, dog, you name it." McDowell, faltered his smile fading.
"I don't know what happened really. We just let our careers get in the way, like so many other couples. We just drifted apart after Luke was born. It just seemed we couldn't recapture what we had. I guess I thought having another child would help solidify the family, but it didn't help. Not that either one of us regret Veronica.
"At first it wasn't great for the kids, but I think they handled it a lot better than we did. Sometimes Luke tells us we worry too much, that we're always asking how he and his sister are feeling. Michelle and I only want to make sure they know we're there for them, no matter what. Parents forget how strong children are sometimes."
He took a deep breath and paused, gathering his thoughts. I had not asked about his divorce before and sensed it had been something he didn't really want to discuss. It was strange to hear him talk about it, yet comforting at the same time. Still, I said nothing and let him continue.
"But they adjusted well. Both are getting good grades and complain we worry about them too much. Michelle and I know we didn't handle the situation well at first, but they've been wonderful. Luke's really enjoying his football and Veronica has advanced yet another belt in kung fu. At this rate I'm going to be living with an NFL player and Mulan." His voice faded away and I smiled at both his pride for his children and the cultural reference.
McDowell became somber. "I don't feel like I spend enough time with them. I mean, I go to the games and the belt promotion ceremony things. Michelle is certainly willing to compromise and reschedule. But work has been so hard. It's all research and reading and PhD dissertations and committee meetings. I thought things would be easier once I had tenure."
I remained silent as waited for more. It seemed completely inappropriate to say anything. He didn't and we sat there, lost in thought. I wasn't sure whether to say something, or whether it'd even be appropriate to say anything. McDowell turned back to me. "I'm sorry! This is your confession time, not mine. We're here to discuss you, not me. I didn't mean to get side-tracked."
I shook my head and frowned, trying to figure out what to say to make him feel better. "It's okay Professor, really."
Despite my reply, he moved closer so that our faces were just inches from each other. His eyes shined like a pair of topazes. "Are you sure? Is there anything else I can do? I know you've had a very hard time, Emily. You're going to be thrown out into the adult world, to scratch a living for yourself. Granted, your parents really are not making things easier for you..." his drifted for a moment and it seemed he was trying to find his voice, or the appropriate words. "If you need anything Emily, you know you can always ask me. I've been there. I understand."
I nodded. His hand felt strong and warm against my skin. I took a deep breath and tried not to stare into his eyes while trying to voice an adequate reply. "Thank you, Professor. You've already been a big help."
This appeared to be the end of the conversation and I thought he'd move away. Yet it seemed there was some magnetic force there, keeping me inches from him. I was becoming very aware of his proximity and I knew I ought to leave, as I didn't want to possibly embarrass myself. As I mustered my willpower I thought all I wanted to do at that moment was to sit there for the rest of the night.
Reluctantly I forced my head away, ready to depart. Suddenly his hand left my wrist and I could feel his arm coil around my waist, pulling me towards him. Before I could say anything, his other arm snaked around me and he pressed his lips to mine.
In my shock, I thought I was dreaming; but the feel of his lips kissing my own and his tongue exploring my mouth were both real.