The last week saw you absent for your best friend Vidya’s wedding. It was an Indian wedding, and you were gone from classes for three days because of it. Unfortunately, one of the days just happened to be your midterm exams in your class on British Economic and Social History from 1700 -1880.
Alas, it was the bane of pursuing a master’s degree; while your other friends spent their nights finding the loves of their lives, you spent yours finding sources for research. You pushed your self-pity aside as you emailed your professor one rainy Thursday afternoon, explaining your circumstances and asking him if you can make up for your absence by taking another exam. While your friends discouraged you from emailing him given his reputation of not usually giving considerations for absences, your same friends also found themselves proven wrong as the your professor replied almost instantly, telling you to come to his office at 9 AM for a make up exam the following Saturday. Screams filled the near-empty cafe where you always worked together as your friends pushed you around, unable to hide their excitement for the fact that your professor, who was also considered to be the hottest one in the entire school, was merciful with you despite his reputation to be otherwise.
“Do you think you’ll do something… under the table? ” your friend Nina asked you, a suggestive tone in her voice as she nudged you.
“Surely not, darling. I think it’ll just be what it is: a make up exam,” you told her as you cleared your brain of the thought of a more… clandestine affair occurring in his office.
“Or maybe a... make-out exam?" You groaned at your other friend Gail's pun. "This the chance you’ve been waiting for! You’ve had the hots for him since that master lecture hosted by the department, which was when we were just undergraduate seniors, and now, you get to be with him alone in a soundproofed room. Girl, this is your chance!”
You shook your head at the thought, all the while convincing yourself that nothing was going to happen. While you did want him, you just knew that he woudn't go for someone like you, and there were a million other reasons as to why anything beyond a student-professor relationship between the two of you. Besides, didn't the university have rules against relationships with professors? Or did that apply to undergrads only? Either way, the university rules were the least of the hurdles separating you from him. However, hope was a stubborn thing, and he often played the lead in your dreams and fantasies.
Letting out a heavy sigh, you pushed everything aside to study for your exam, praying that the make up test would be easy enough to at least pass.
Saturday came, and you pushed the the door to the department open. All the cubicles were empty, even the desks of the department secretaries. Only one row of lights were open; they were the ones illuminating the corridor where your professor’s office was. You walked to his door and knocked apprehensively, slightly scared of what was waiting on the other side.
“Come in,” you heard a firm, deep voice say from behind the door you just knocked.
You warily turned the door open, only to find Professor Hiddleston sitting behind his desk, his hands clasped in front of him.
“Good morning, sir,” you whispered, petrified as you ventured closer to his desk. His beautiful face stilled you to where you were, and you felt the wind rush out of your lungs, just as it always did when you laid your eyes on him.
Professor Hiddleston was considered to be one of the most stringent lecturers in the History department, and within good reason: his qualifications were beyond stellar, with his doctoral dissertation on the historical relations of Great Britain and the Philippines in the 18th century earning him a PhD from the University of Cambridge, unanimously awarded by his jury after a viva voce defence, all the while still lecturing history in your university.
“Take a seat,” he said, gesturing to the empty seat across him facing the desk. Sat across him as he looked for your exam, you took the chance to look around his office. His office was simple, with his towering bookcase almost stealing attention from him. It was packed to bursting with books, and you couldn’t help to notice that there were small toys and knick knacks that lined his shelves along with his books, with a Shakespeare bobblehead beside his anthology of Shakespeare anthologies, a small elephant figurine beside his books on Indian-British relations, and a small jeepney beside his books on Philippine-British trade history. You smiled at the tiny detail, maybe he wasn’t as uptight as the stories had made him out to be.
“Here’s your paper,” he said, and you returned your attention to him, sitting up as you anticipated your exam. He slid the paper towards you, and you read it as soon as your eyes met the paper. Your eyes widened as you saw the question.
“Discuss the economic and sociocultural impact of the British Occupation of Manila on the Philippine economy.”
Shit! This was his specialty, and you pursed your lips as you chastised yourself for studying about the British East India Company more than this topic, given that your friends did tell you that their questions were about it. You should have known that it was going to be harder than the exams that your class took, specifically because he made an exception for you.
In your peripheral vision, you swear you saw him smiling, seemingly happy with himself in his stupid little tweed jacket and his stupid little wire-rimmed glasses as a grin showed itself on his stupid little lips framed by that stupid little beard when he saw that moment of panic wash over your face. You tore your eyes away from the page to look at him, and the grin dissipated immediately.
He cleared his throat and reached the nearest pen on his desk. “Use this pen,” he said, handing you a heavy and expensive-looking pen.
“You are allowed to use the back to organize your arguments, however doing so will mean that you have less space for your final answer,” he said as you took the pen from his long, shapely fingers and settled down again.
“Are you serious?” you whispered, more to yourself than to him.
“I heard that,” he told you sternly, and you gulped a little from the unwavering strictness in his tone.
“While I normally allow you to have an extra sheet of paper for organising your thoughts, I feel as though I must remind you that I have already made an exception for you by allowing you to take a make-up exam, and I expect you to be worthy of that exception by meeting me halfway. Have I made myself clear?”
“Yes sir,” you replied, feeling defeated as you laid your eyes on the blank sheet of paper.
“Besides, I know you’ll do perfectly well either way. You have, after all, been one of my best performing students during recitation. I’m sure you’ll conquer this feat victoriously, without shadow of a doubt,” he said, with a kinder tone this time.
You looked up at him in response to the esteem he had just crowned you with. A soft smile curved itself on his thin lips, before they eventually opened as he said “You may begin.”
You took the cap off of the pen he handed you, only to be greeted with the gleaming gold tip of a fountain pen. You closed the pen again and glanced at him before looking at the side of the pen, where the words “To Thomas, Here’s to knowledge and wisdom. Love, Dad” were etched on the side of the barrel. You turned the pen around to look at the top of cap, gasping as you saw a Montblanc logo inlaid at the tip.
“S-sir, I believe the pen you gave me is too valu―”
“Use. That. Pen,” he replied, his intonation seemingly warning you not to question his judgement again. He grabbed a stack of papers ―presumably your classmates’ exams― and took another pen from the mug of pens on his desk, poised to check them.
As he started writing, the soft scratching sound of pen writing against paper filled the room. You steeled yourself and opened the cap, beginning to write. You wrote your student number first, at the top of the page, before heading to the space below the question to really get to business.
Remembering how you had read his doctorate thesis on a whim last night ―and the subsequent dream that followed wherein he was fucking your brains out as he whispered the abstract of his thesis in your ear― a warm blush crept to your cheeks as what you needed to write came to you (or rather, in the dream, literally came on you).
Scrambling to hold on to what little composure you already had, you figured you should start with your introduction first, stating that the British Occupation of Manila from 1762-1764 had a significant impact on both the economic and sociocultural landscapes of the Philippines. As you wrote with the pen, you couldn’t help but notice how smoothly the pen wrote, the ink complementing the curves of your penmanship.
While your classmates in Juniors often teased you for your messy cursive, you were the only one who had persisted to write with it, until eventually your penmanship was nothing short of the standard set by you teachers long before. Through university and even until your masterals, your penmanship was often praised by your peers, but you didn’t pay much mind to it, simply because what the penmanship said was more important than what it looked like.
Upon finishing your first paragraph, you heard Professor Hiddleston drop his pen, the heavy piece of metal slipping from his hand and dropping with a loud thud as metal met wood. You looked up, only to find him staring at your paper.
“Are you alright, sir?” You asked him, concerned by what had just happened. He usually wasn’t clumsy, and the mere fact that something slipped from his hand meant, to you at least, that something had gone wrong.
“I-it’s nothing,” he told you, losing eloquence as he stumbled on his words. You looked at him for a while, wondering why he lost his composure before turning back to your paper and continuing with your writing.
For the next hour, that was the unusual pattern that followed: you would finish writing a paragraph, he would act clumsily one way or another, you would ask him if he was fine and he’d say he was alright. All the while he looked as if he was on edge about something, stroking his beard nervously, or gripping his table, or fidgeting with the items on his desk. All the while he was breathing quite heavily, and at some point you were genuinely concerned if he was well.
Through it all, you couldn’t help but feel a certain tension, as if his behaviour wasn’t caused by sickness. Aside from the fact that you could feel his gaze intent on you, your thoughts were also divided by what was happening. While half of your mind was preoccupied with how the British occupation ended the galleon trade and injected a significant population of Sikhs in Manila, the other half of your mind started to wonder what could have caused his current state. Thinking about him, and how both of you were virtually alone in the department, and what you could do to him clouded your thoughts. His disposition at the time only fueled your day dreams of him pouncing on you and fucking you into the next academic year, and the thought of what he could do to you was definitely more appealing at the moment than talking about British trading houses set up in in the port cities.
However, the rational side of your mind interfered with your fantasy. Maybe he had a girlfriend, and she sent him a provocative picture as she knew he was at work. Your heart grew heavy with the thought, and you tore yourself from your wandering thoughts to finish the essay, once and for all.
Once you finished, you asked if he was doing fine as you passed your paper to him, and he told you yet again that he was alright.
“Y-you forgot to write the course code and your section as well as the name of your professor,” he whispered, his voice thick with an emotion that you couldn’t quite place. You looked at him quizzically, simply because wasn’t necessary to write all of that as your class was the only masteral class that he taught, but you gave in to his request and wrote what you had forgotten. From the corner of your eye, you saw him grip the edge of his desk as you began to write his name, his knuckles turning white as he watched on.
You handed your paper back to him along with his pen and looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to say something, more especially about his behaviour in the last hour.
“Y-you may leave,” he said, obviously flustered. Thinking he needed some time to sort himself out, you stood up from the seat and left, still confused about everything that happened.
You didn’t see him for a week after that, as he was invited to a university in the Philippines to give a talk to some undergrads about his doctoral paper. When he came back, however, all the papers had been checked, and he stood before your entire class, informing you all that once you had received your papers, you were free to leave.
He called you last. At this point, everyone else had already left the auditorium. You walked on over to him as he uttered your name, his hands visibly shaking as he held your paper in front of you, waiting for you to take it.
As soon as the paper left his hands, he collected his things and left in a hurry, leaving you in his dust as you held onto your paper. You took your things and left, visibly still puzzled by his behaviour.
As soon as you stepped out of the classroom, you rushed to the back of your essay to look at his comments.
“ The structure of the essay was sound, with the points elucidated clearly and eloquently. Sources were cited within the text properly, and almost all bases of society, culture, and economy were covered. This merits you an A, although I regret that I cannot grant you a score higher than it. ”
You swore you almost broke out in a dance after reading his feedback, and you read it again just to make sure that you weren’t dreaming. As you read through it again, you realised that there was something else at the bottom.
“By the way, I’ve wondered for the longest time as to who owns such enticing penmanship, given that prior to this exam, I only knew this penmanship with its corresponding student number. I’ve been holding my torch out for the writer, and as grace would have it, the person I’ve been looking for happens to be you.
Your handwriting is hot a fuck. (I almost creamed myself when you cited me in your essay.) Meet me in my office at the department as soon as you read this; we have much to make up –and out– for.”
Your eyes widened at what you had just read. As you walked to the department, you remembered everything that happened while you were taking his exam in the department, and finally understood it all as you read those last few sentences in his own messy handwriting.
Finding yourself in front of his door yet again, a surge of confidence came over you and you smirked; as it turned out, you always had the upper hand.