First day of school and I was so nervous. I felt like I was going to puke, this was the third outfit that I changed into and I wasn't liking it. My phone buzzed and I reached for it; sliding the answer button.
"Hello?" I answered.
"I hope you're ready,"Jade's voice rang through the other line. "I'm on my way to pick you up."
I groaned. "Take your time," I told her.
Jade laughed on the other line. "Mara, by the time we get to class, you'll be late. And I know what happens when you're a minute late." And she clicked.
There was no escaping for me. I huffed and looked through my closet one last time. Okay; black skinnies, Oasis t-shirt, white Creepers, and my denim jacket. I brushed my hair thoroughly, it reached to my shoulder and it was simple and plain. It didn't have volume nor an exotic hair color. Then my body; curvy and wide. My bum was in shape and I had a good amount of boobs. Looking at the mirror one last time and at last I was satisfied, for now. Jade's car honked and my nerves kicked in again. Mara, you're alright. Breathe in and out. I closed my eyes for awhile to calm down. I didn't want to have a panic attack right before class. Jade honked one last time. I grabbed my backpack and phone and headed out the door. Jade has been my best friend since high school, we met in our art class. She was Japanese American, loves to read manga and watch Japanese anime shows. Jade was also an amazing cook, she asked me to move in with her but I put down her offer. I like living alone. It's cheap rent for just a rundown studio. The plumbing wasn't great and I was always late on paying the electric bill; but it was cozy and warm.
Jade waved from inside her SUV. "Hey babe, you ready?"
I shook my head just I settled on the leather seat. "Sick to my stomach," I muttered softly.
She laughed. "Mara, it's uni in Portland. Nothing bad is going to happen."
I gulped, hoping she was speaking the truth. Moving to a new city away from Lake Oswego; I miss the cold breeze and the smell of pine in the morning.
"Oh," Jade said. "Don't forget you have an interview at the bookstore, today at four o'clock."
I nodded. Jade turned on the corner and the huge welcoming above made my stomach turn again. "Welcome Freshman to Portland State!" The sign read with big letters in green ink. Jade found the perfect parking in front of the English department building. Perfect for me, I didn't have to walk much nor would I get lost. As Jade and I walked towards the building, I was almost pushed to the ground. Many students filled the hallway; trying to add the class or simply dropping out already. Lucky for me, I'm part of the Honors program here on campus; so I get my classes first before anyone does. My classes are advanced as well, double the work. But I didn't mind, I practically studied my whole life.
"Alright, we're here," Jade beamed as she skipped towards my class.
We both peeked inside and it was already pack, class didn't start in like 15 minutes.
Taking a deep breathe, Jade placed her small, pale hand on my shoulder; giving it a tight squeeze. "I'll see you after class." She nodded and skipped to the elevator and just before getting inside, she waved back. I waved and she was gone. I took another breathe and just before walking inside, I took an anxiety pill; chugged it down with water. I rubbed my hands together and walked inside. I quickly spotted a seat on the fourth row, third chair; a redhead was seated right next to it. She was reading Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath; one of my favorites. She gave me a warm smile just as I took a seat. When I was looking through the fall class schedule, I wanted a great teacher. I was reading through the comments from this teacher, Styles. Just to say, I hope this professor isn't a prick. I texted Jade my last good luck text to her before turning it off. Just as I sent it, the door closed and I looked up.
"Morning class," a deep, posh accent spoke from up front. "I'm your professor, Mr. Styles."
I looked around the class. No wonder, majority in this class are girls and like what, six or seven guys. I looked back to the front of the class, his back was faced towards the class. Black suited and shoulder length, curly hair. Most of these girls already swooned head over heels for this guy. Mr. Styles finally turned around and my heart fell to the pit of my stomach. How old is this professor? He looks like he just got out of high school. His eyes scanned the whole class and then, what I least expected they stopped and stared right at me. I felt my heart stopped beating. Mr. Styles stare was intense and I swear I was ready to pack up and run out the class. He licked his bottom lip before his eyes scanned the class again. I exhaled and sunk in my desk.
"Before I hand out the syllabus for this semester, I'll tell you a little about myself. I grew up in Holmes Chapel, England, attended Cambridge University and studied English; as well in Art. I'm 22 years old, the youngest professor here, in Portland State. Any questions?"
Wow, he must be super smart, to only be 22 and teach such in a young age.
"Alright, welcome to English 101. Where we would explore literature, poems and short stories from incredible and famous authors around the world." Mr. Styles talked as he passed out the syllabus one by one. "We'll have class discussions, solo projects and by for your final project, you'll have to turn in a writing piece of your own. Flip to the second page," he said and my hands began to sweat. My neck began to burn and itch just as I saw him walk up my row. "These are all the books you'll need to purchase for this class. Any problems, please talk to me after class." Then he finally reached me, I didn't look up; but instead I stared at my blank notebook. Fiddling with my fingers under my desk. The syllabus gracefully fell on my desk and I swear, I felt a hint of contact just as he was walking away. "There will be times that class will be canceled, but don't count on that.
"I want you to read a novel of your choice and type up a book report due in two weeks from today. Also, if I were you I'd get a head start on studying. Your first exam is the week after your book report is due. My office hours are Mondays to Fridays; from 4:15 to 6:30 in the evening. Please make an appointment, I sure hate when students walk in unannounced.
"Rules. Cellphones must be off at all times, if I catch anyone … texting. Your phone will be confiscated and you'll need to pick it up after class. I do hate tardies; 3 tardies is already a drop from this class. Food and water is acceptable. Please respect everyone's opinion, try to make this a safe and healthy class environment. I don't care anything about your personal life, so please, I'm only going to say this once. Don't come into my office and talk to me about your troubles. We do have a therapist on campus, their information is on the last page. Lastly laptops and tablets are off limits, I'm a bit old fashion; so all your notes need to be hand written. Tape records are fine.
"This is my only class, taking that it's part of the Honors program that I'm glad to contribute my time with. Any questions about the program, if you're in it; don't be scared to ask me."
He walked back to his desk and took a seat on the edge of it. Mr. Styles was an intriguing person. Made me want to smash his head against a brick wall. He never broke contact with me. I always felt his gaze burn right at me. I build up the courage to look up and just as I did; Mr. Styles's gaze left mine. I felt myself heat up.
"Today's class is going to end early. Sign up sheet is up here and have a great first day."
Everyone leaped off from their seats and walked to his desk. Girls began to surround him; twirling or flipping their hair as they asked him questions. I waited in my seat as students slowly signed out and walked out the class. I finally got up when there was like five students left. Mr. Styles was having a deep conversation with a student as I signed out. The perks of having a Z surname, my name was the last one on the list; Tamara Sofía Zaragoza. I signed my name and just as I was about to walk out; the worst happened.
"Ms. Zaragoza?" Mr. Styles said from behind me.
I slowly turned on my heel towards him. Just as I was near him, I can smell his cologne; sweet and strong. I'm allergic to fragrances, so I pray I don't have a sneezing rampage. But I do keep my distance.
"Before class, you took some sort of pill. Anything that I need know?"
I didn't want make eye contact with him but I did. And dear lord, his eyes. I've been surrounded with brown and hazel eyes, but his. They were like an emerald stone.
"I have anxiety attacks, professor."
"Would you like to talk about it?" He asked.
I cocked my head to the side. Did he just …? "I thought you said we shouldn't talk to you about our problems."
Mr. Styles chuckled. "You're right, I apologize."
"Apology accepted. Good day, Mr. Styles," I said just as I walked out the door.
I walked to the nearest restroom and ran in quickly. I should have picked the same class as Jade, but I wanted to try something new this year. God, I was fucking wrong. Worst thing, I began to sneeze from Mr. Styles's strong cologne. I reached into my backpack and took out my medical bag. Searching for my allergy tablets, got them; I swallowed them with water. From my pocket I took out my phone and saw a text from Jade and dad.
Hola, mi amor. Good luck today, miss you back home. xx –Dad
Meet me at the car after your class. –Jade
Opening the restroom door, I peeked out to see if everything was clear. Fixing my hair, I took a deep breathe and walked out. My Creepers squeaked on the new waxed tiled floor.
"Ms. Zaragoza." That same accent said from behind me.
I froze in the middle of the hall.
"You dropped this on your way out," Mr. Styles said as he handed me a neatly folded piece of paper. I took it with shaky hands.
"Thank you," I whispered towards his chest.
"I'll see you Wednesday class, Mara."
And his boots clicked on the tiled floor. I looked down at the folded paper and began to unfold it. My eyes widen at the text. I read and reread it. In perfect cursive and ever loop and dot, it read the same note.
Come by my office anytime, Mara. I'd like to be a help to you. –Mr. Styles
Great, I said to myself. This is what I needed just before my job interview.