Hayleigh did not know what to think of her Math teacher.
It had only been two weeks since the new term started, and although she’d had her fair share of strict teachers back in high school, they paled in comparison to her Statistics professor.
Professor Henderson had a reputation for being one of the most difficult teachers on campus, and now she was experiencing it firsthand. He was clearly not the type to cross the moment she arrived late to his class on her first day. Since then she’d been punctual, and yet for some reason he’d developed the habit of calling her out at least once every meeting. Math was never her strong suit to begin with, and she despised feeling embarrassed every time she couldn’t answer his questions.
“I hate him,” Hayleigh declared as she slammed her Statistics textbook on her desk. “What did I ever do to him? Just because I’m late to his class once, he decides to humiliate me in front of the whole class every single time?”
Hayleigh slumped to her bed and faced her dorm mate Tara, who was on her laptop with her earphones on. Tara looked up at her and quickly removed her earphones. “Sorry, what?”
Hayleigh shook her head with a sigh. “Nothing.”
“No seriously, what happened?” Tara asked, putting her laptop away. “Is your Stat professor bothering you again?”
Hayleigh collapsed to the bed and stared at the ceiling. “Yeah, and I’ve already failed three tests. I think I’m gonna be in trouble.”
Tara shrugged. “Maybe you can ask him for like a special project to make up for it.”
“I can’t even stand the idea of going near him. He scares the hell out of me.”
“This is Professor Henderson, right? The hot one?”
Hayleigh snorted. “Sure, until you take his class. Hardly anyone else is passing. He explains everything once and expects you to just get it. I think he’s got something against students.”
“Then he shouldn’t have been a teacher.” Tara laughed. “Thank God I don’t have to take Stat. He’s the only one who teaches it, right?”
“I know.” Hayleigh groaned, closing her eyes. “God, what am I going to do?”
Tara didn’t say anything. Hayleigh glanced up to find her dorm mate already with her earphones back on.
Hayleigh sighed and buried her face to the sheets.
It wasn’t a bad consolation prize to take after studying two hours longer than usual, but after three fails in a row, Hayleigh needed to get at least a B from now on to stay afloat.
As the bell rang and students rose from their seats to leave the room, Hayleigh stared at the blood red mark on her paper. Professor Henderson was still up front fixing papers. She chewed on her lip and mentally counted to three before finally finding the courage to walk up to him.
Professor Henderson didn’t even bother looking up as he began slipping papers inside his satchel. “Yes, Miss Sullivan?”
Her mind drew a blank. She should’ve at least rehearsed what to say. For some reason, she could only stare at his hands, mesmerized at how much broader his arms and chest looked up close. Against his six foot frame, she had never felt any smaller.
“I’m waiting, Miss Sullivan.”
Hayleigh blinked in surprise as her gaze refocused on his face. She didn’t realize his eyes were a shade of stormy grey, which looked light against his dark hair. He eyed her with a bored, almost impatient stare.
“Sorry.” She cleared her throat. “I just wanted to consult about my performance. I’m on a scholarship and I need to get at least a C in your class. I was wondering if I could take up a special project or something to bump up my grade somehow…”
“I don’t offer special projects.”
Her gaze dropped to the floor. “Oh.”
“However, I am scheduled to hold a make-up class tonight.”
Her head shot up in surprise. “You are? Really?”
“Yes, in this very room.”
“Oh, thank God.” A mix between a laugh and sigh left her. “I still have a chance then.”
“8 pm, Miss Sullivan.” He slung his satchel over his shoulder. “Don’t be late.”
“Yes sir.” She eagerly nodded as he left the room without another word.
When Hayleigh returned to Room 304 six hours later, she was surprised to find nothing but empty chairs.
For a moment she wondered if she’d gotten the room or time wrong, until Professor Henderson glanced up from his reading at her arrival. He had his legs up on the teacher’s desk with his sleeves rolled up, looking completely laidback. That adjective was something she never would’ve associated with the likes of him, but that pleasant surprise was cut short at the fact that she was the only student in the room.
“Where’s everyone else?” she asked, stock-still by the doorway.
“Apparently not having as much difficulty as you are.” He closed his book and removed his legs from the table. “Shall we begin?”
“Oh.” She slowly walked to the front row and dropped her bag to the floor. “Great.”
That was a complete and total lie. Everyone she knew was practically drowning in his class. Perhaps she was the only one crazy enough to put herself through extra classes with the infamous Professor Hell-derson. Thrice a week during broad daylight was bad enough.
“So.” He snapped her back into attention. “Since you’re the only one here tonight, I’ll adjust my lesson plan. What are you having problems with?”
He began wiping his thick-rimmed glasses with the front of his black cardigan. Hayleigh suddenly had the strongest desire to shrink and disappear from the room.
“Um.” She fumbled restlessly with her pen. “Everything?”
He didn’t seem surprised at her answer as he slipped his glasses on and began flipping through his textbook. “Where would you like to start?”
“From the very beginning...?”
He paused in turning to the next page. She expected to be skewered by those piercing grey eyes, but there was oddly no ice in his gaze tonight. Briefly, he massaged the back of his neck and promptly closed his textbook.
“Very well.” He sighed, grabbing a chalk. “Let’s begin.”
Over the next two hours, they reviewed four weeks’ worth of lessons. She’d been worried they’d cover everything too fast, but tonight he dropped all the jargon and gave more applicable examples, and she surprised even herself at how quickly she was able to catch on. He repeated himself less and she didn’t need to ask as many questions. In fact, at the short test at the end of the session, she was stunned to get a B minus, though it took her ten minutes longer than the allotted time to finish.
“Impressive. You’ve made a complete turnover in just one lesson.”
She held her test paper like it was made of gold. “I can’t believe it. And here I was thinking I’d be hopeless.”
“With this test alone, you’d technically already be in the upper 25% of the class.”
“Too bad it’s not a real test then.” She laughed. “I’m surprised no one else is here. Everyone I know has been having difficulty too.”
“Probably because nobody else knows about tonight.”
Hayleigh paused from slipping her paper inside her bag. “What do you mean?”
Professor Henderson turned around and began erasing the blackboard. “I never meant to hold a make-up class tonight.”
She eyed his back. “Then why did you?”
“You looked like you needed it. Besides, nobody else seems to care if they’re failing in my class or not.”
He dusted the chalk off his hands and faced her again. For some reason, she couldn’t look straight at him.
“That’s... very considerate of you,“ she muttered. “But you didn’t have to hold one tonight just for me.”
“It’s not like you can take it back,“ he said, packing up his things. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Hayleigh slumped back to her chair, completely dumbfounded. Who would’ve thought the famed asshole actually had a nice side?
“I feel terrible.” She slowly shook her head. “I’ve completely wasted your time.”
“Don’t be. It’s the least I could do after calling on you in class so much.”
She couldn’t help but smile a little. “Does that make things even now?”
A faint smirk formed on his lips in response. It was a minuscule gesture, and yet it lit up his face in a completely different way.
“If I rallied enough people, would you consider holding a refresher class once a week?” she asked.
“What if I said no and offered to teach you over coffee instead?”
Coffee? Had she heard him right?
Was Professor Henderson asking her out?
“I’m sorry. That was forward of me.” He dropped his gaze at her silence as he stacked his books and notebooks. “But the offers stands, if you want to.”
Hayleigh could barely keep her jaw from hanging. Only one big why? echoed in her mind, and yet surely it would be rude to ask that out loud…
Her face began to feel like it was in front of an oven. Oh God, she was probably beet red by now…
“You know what, forget I ever asked,” he quickly said. “It was inappropriate.”
The words left her mouth of their own accord. It surprised even herself the moment she heard herself say it.
The smile—now a little wider—returned to Professor Henderson’s lips, and for a second it was almost worth it.
“Great. I look forward to it then.”
Hayleigh quickly slung her bag over her shoulder and forced a smile back. “See you around.”
She dashed out of the classroom without another word.
Rowen waited until Hayleigh left the room. When the door closed after her, he took out the phone from his pocket and sent a message.
Submit Hayleigh Sullivan Year 3
Within seconds, a reply arrived.
Pythagoras - submitted PT H.S.3 10/3 NEW!
His phone vibrated again. Another message, this time from K.M..
Finally! A junior, eh? This is gonna be interesting!
Without replying, Rowen slipped his phone back in his pocket and left the room.