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Professor M

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Emma’s office was the complete opposite to the harsh cold colour tones of William’s. Her walls were decorated in a warm burgundy and lined with various shelves. There were, scattered around, different pictures of her and her husband and a small tray of tea sat delicately on a side table.

The room was larger than most others; and contained not only a desk and computer for Portman but also a small sofa and coffee table. It was like a home away from home, Victoria wondered how many professors’ before Emma stayed in this room. How many had skipped on an evening with their loved ones, or had argued themselves into sleeping in the office.

Or maybe, Victoria was over exaggerating things. Perhaps she’d read too many book, too many office romances. She shook her head at her own thoughts. If Harriet could see her now, she’d point out her obviously blossoming infatuation with a certain stand in politics professor, an infatuation some might add, happened all too fast.

“He said that he’d given you a tea” Emma had announced shaking Victoria from her thoughts. At first she questioned what Emma was saying only to realise she had been mid conversation. Tea.

She remembered the distinct smell of the substance, and the way it boiled in the dark mug she’d been given last night. Her mind raced to a bookshelf that covered one wall, several different books sat on a dustless shelf. One hardback defined itself from the rest. The material had been battered and torn at the edges from excessive use. Byron.

“I remember that.” She remarked. Another memory hit her like a shock wave. Professor Melbourne had told her the tea was hot, and – her breath halted in her throat as she chewed on the inside of her cheek.

“Then he noticed the sick on your blouse and offered his spare shirt.” Emma finished, a frown on her face as she observed the woman before her.

“Pardon me for asking, but earlier in the café. You said Again. What did you mean?” Victoria questioned, her feet shifting on the soft carpet beneath them.

“I would have thought that John Conroy would have told you. Clearly not.” Emma paused. Composing herself before she continued. “A while ago, shortly before William’s wife and son died, a student’s boyfriend made an accusation against William. The girl was in his politics class and she had visited him many times with the excuse of needing help with the lecture information. Poor William had no idea what was happening, he’s always been oblivious to these things, I warned William at the time. He took it well, said he’d let the girl know that she should perhaps ask Peele another of her politics professors. One day the girl, distraught at what she thought was outright rejection, sent William an Email. The contents is confidential but it was serious enough to make William go to her accommodation. He only went to speak to her but the boyfriend saw it and informed your Uncle. The previous Head of the University.”

“My uncle, I- What happened at the meeting?” Victoria quizzed, she had been told very little about the university her uncle owned. Even before she had chosen it, her mother had shielded her from it all. Her breath felt heavy as she exhaled.

“The board acquitted him. Your uncle and John Conroy weren’t particularly thrilled but the rest of the board took pity on him. I’m concerned for him, he can’t take another scandal.” Emma informed her.

“Professor M should never have been put in that position.” Victoria responded, a small look of sadness flickered over Emma’s face as she watched Victoria. The younger of the two sat with her back straight against the chair, her head held in a dignified manner. A manner fit for a queen, the irony. Emma smiled softly.

“No but Conroy helped push the girl into standing against William. Of course it didn’t work. As soon as the girl repeated words that only Conroy would say, that the board realised this.” Emma smiled. “The look on John’s face was priceless when he was reprimanded.”

Victoria laughed; a genuine laugh that erupted from her throat as if she had heard the funniest joke. Emma could not help but laugh as well. It was true what they said, laughter is contagious.

“It’s good to see that you can worm your way out of doing any work, and that you can corrupt Victoria here as well” The weasel like voice beamed from the doorway, the syllables drowning out all the laughter as both of them casted their eyes in the direction.

He stood there with his self-righteous pose and crooked smirk. His suit loose on his slim frame, and his umbrella under his left hand – even though it hadn’t rained since Monday. He continued to stare with his bug eyes. Neither of them had heard the door open, nor had they any idea just how long he had been standing there.

“What can I do for you Conroy” Emma spoke, her words crisp and hard as they fell on the air. John’s feet shifted further into the room, his hand pulling out a small blank envelope.

“An invite for the faculty ball next week. All professors are invited even your precious Melbourne. His invite is in with yours. I’m sure you can get it to him” Conroy sneered, he dropped the carefully folded and sealed paper onto the edge of her desk. His gaze then fell on Victoria.

“That isn’t your shirt” He mused as he took in her appearance. Victoria felt dirty under his gaze. Her weight shifted uneasily on the chair. The air becoming stale around her. “Your mother wishes for you to come to the ball, I, however don’t care what you do. But I care for your mother so Victoria make sure you are there”

With that Conroy left. The room falling into a mixture of different tensions. She could feel the anger and disgust emitted from Portman.

“I’m sorry Victoria. Please excuse me. Was there anything else I could help you with?” Emma smiled, her disgust hidden behind her mask of politeness. Victoria shook her head and left the office. Her mind running through the information she’d been served.

--

The weekend had been about as eventful, after the conversation with Emma, as drying paint. Victoria had spent most of her time in her room continuing her grossly growing essays. Occasionally she’d head to the supermarket to restock her refrigerator and purchase the casual cosmetics that Harriet required.

She’d ignored all phone calls from her persistent mother, who seemed only to call when an important event was coming across the horizon, or when she couldn’t quite get into contact with Conroy. Conroy, Victoria visibly shivered in horror at the mere thought of his name. The man was a cockroach. He would scuttle out of anywhere and scurry away when caught. He’d survive the apocalypse if he had the right resources.

Whilst Victoria’s weekend had been uneventful, William’s had been plagued with email after email. He had become aware that his feet were firmly rooted to the surface beneath him, when he attempted to pry himself off the, leather swivel, chair he’d been sitting on.

He sighed as he loosened his tie, the top of his shirt had inched itself to become undone as the man rubbed his eyes. In the past forty-eight hours sleep had swiftly become his enemy. Multiple times he’d felt his eyes betraying him and for an hour he had succumbed to the darkness.

“Professor Melbourne” the accent was heavy as he jumped at the mention of his name. It was odd to see the younger male at his office door. In fact he had never once since Albert started at the university seen him step foot onto the third floor. Normally the boy would head to Peele’s office and William was, often, relieved at that fact.

Albert was a difficult student, he was more focused at pointing out the floors in William’s teaching rather than the work that was being set. Sure the boy was intelligent and composed himself with the aura of an upper class snob but that didn’t stop William from having his reservations about Albert.

“How can I help you?” William finally found his voice as he poured the last of his coffee into his mug.

“You missed your lecture,” he paused. A frown flickered across William’s face as he peered over to the calendar that sat on the corner of his desk. “Professor Peele said he hadn’t seen you all morning.”

“Ah, my lecture. It seems time got away from me.” William responded with a quaint smile. His hand bringing the lukewarm substance to his mouth. “I’ll send you all an email, with the reading. Was there anything else?”

“Victoria. She seems to have peaked an interest in you. I don’t wish to see her judgement clouded, she is easily swayed and a man of your calibre is not good for her” Albert warned.

William released a hefty chuckle as he placed the mug on his desk and looked back at Albert. Of course, William didn’t quite understand where he was going with this. Sure they had spoken a few times, but there was nothing more to him and Victoria. She was a student, his best friend was her professor.

“I appreciate your concern, and I’m sure Victoria does but, I’m afraid, you’re imply that there is something more between us than the professional manner. I can assure you there isn’t. But trust me Albert, if, when hell freezes over, something were going on you’d be the first to know. I have lecture to cover and about forty five minutes to get there. So if you’ll excuse me” William retorted.

“Of course Professor” Albert said as he left, William sat with his hands in front of his face. His eyes watching the bookcase on the opposite side of the room, almost like he was hoping it’d open up and teleport him to the other side of the world. Perhaps another scandal was on the horizon for him.