What wonders to find
In new worlds and mind
Discovery of spirit and sight
Can bring the soul to new height
Perhaps there I am my own
No longer random pieces sown
In a tapestry of life and love
A picture of who I am to become
London. The impossibly old city, centuries of history and culture merging with the creations of today until the two become relatively indistinguishable. Seeing it for yourself was a dream come true.
Growing up in the United States, you spent most of your childhood and adolescence dreaming of traveling Europe, this magical land that you knew so little about beyond how their actions in the past affected the outcome of what the U.S. is today. But to actually be here, in the middle of this buzzing, crazy city was enough to leave you in awe.
This was one of the last free days you would have to explore before starting your semester abroad at the prestigious Oxford University and you had every plan to enjoy it. Might as well get all the sightseeing out of the way so that you didn’t look like an idiot tourist to your new classmates. There was already enough cultural differences in the way.
But you couldn’t deny the inspiration it brought you to stand where so many poets and writers stood. Here among the teeming masses and busy streets, there were stories to follow that mapped out lines before your feet. You could choose any one single strand and find yourself immersed by more inspiration than you could ever use. London was your muse. And you intended to use it fully.
The truth was you needed the help. Halfway through with a degree in English Lit and Creative writing, between essays and papers galore, you couldn’t truly find the time to write the way you longed to. No, this would be the turning point.
You took the time to pick out specific courses that had fantastic reviews of the Professors just to ensure that this semester and the thousands of dollars you’d spent on it, would do more than enough to break through your writer's’ block. Everything from basic writing composition to Shakespearean literature was on your plate and you’d never been more excited or more nervous before. America was known for shitty education. What if you were dreadfully behind the rest of your classmates?
These thoughts churned inside of your head for much longer than you wished as you looked out over the edge of your little seat on the London Eye. You could see the whole city, with all its promises and threats from your vantage point. This was freedom. Yes, apprehension would always come hand in hand with it, but it was worth the butterflies.
You were reminded of a quote you’d heard a while back by Ralph Waldo Emerson that struck you as awfully profound while staring this new adventure in the face:
“The best bribe which London offers to-day to the imagination, is, that, in such a vast variety of people and conditions, one can believe there is room for persons of romantic character to exist, and that the poet, the mystic, and the hero may hope to confront their counterparts.”
Perhaps you will find all of those inside of yourself on your journey of self discovery and growth. There was so much to experience and no amount of trepidation would keep you from the excitement the future promised.
Over the next few days, you’d settled into your dorm and began the insanity of figuring out the world of a new university. The culture was substantially different from that of American Universities, but the energy still remained even in its reserved nature. The meeting of such great minds and intelligence surrounded you in every building and dorm. It was easy to feel out of your league as a simple writer among minds that would go on to change the world so substantially.
Your new roommate was a lively young woman with fiery red hair and a temper to match by the name of Dana Trelon. She was from Northern Ireland before she’d ventured to Oxford to study Drama and Musical Theater, so you found understanding a majority of what she tried to say nearly impossible. As if Surrey accents weren’t hard enough, throw in a tempered Irish woman and suddenly, everyone was speaking a different language.
Fortunately, Dana seemed to find the whole situation rather amusing and took pity on you as the new American. Pulling on her excellent acting abilities, she managed an even more laughable thick southern accent as a way to communicate. Little did she realize that her attempts just made her more impossible to understand. You’d just figured you’d adapt eventually or learn to read hand gestures instead.
But that didn’t mean you weren’t thankful for her taking you under her wing. As a rule, you were rarely outgoing, but having quickly been adopted by such an extroverted person had its benefits. People would start up conversations with you simply because you’d been accepted by someone well known and well loved. The warm welcome certainly blew you away.
Classes started two days after orientation, where you’d been given an impossibly large run down on the expectations of the school and how you as a student were to behave. It was immediately instilled in you that this place was like the Harvard of Great Britain and you were expected to take the honor of being a student allowed here at all rather seriously. You were given access to some of the best schooling this world had to offer and that wasn’t a fact you took lightly.
How could anyone? How does one be part of something so impossibly old and prestigious and just treat it as second hat? Perhaps you’d discover that for yourself, but you were still in a state of awe and reverence.
Your first class was a basic English Lit class, something required of you to take along with your other credits despite having taken two years worth of English Lit classes back in the states. You’d been a little frustrated at first, but after your first day in class, you were thankful for the requirement. English Lit is taught much more in depth when the English teach it.
There were two classes scheduled the next day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. You tried to stay organized with separate binders and notebooks for each class, but you were completely aware that by the end of the semester, all your carefully laid plans would be in ruin with the chaos of midterms. But such is the life of a student.
Your morning class, Fiction Writing, ran much longer than you’d hoped, causing you to have to hurry in your preparations for your next class. Not that you needed a crazy amount of time, you just didn’t like feeling rushed, especially when you wanted to figure out a good route to get there every day.
A little breathless and frazzled, you finally found your way to Into to Shakespeare, taught by Professor Tom Hiddleston, which was one of the most highly rated classes you could get yourself into. Two thick, heavy doors stood open as if greeting you with their ominous prestige, demanding both respect and attention. Funny enough, you were reminded of the speech made by Romeo as he prepared to meet his love and his doom. The same feeling coursed through you as you found the courage to enter the room.
It was clear that your musings had made you late, or rather, later than everyone else as the whole room seemed to pause and stare as you entered. This class seemed to be held to a different standard of punctuality and silence that you were clearly not aware of. First impressions were vital and you clearly looked the idiot American now.
“It seems our last classmate has finally made it.” A deep and thoroughly attractive voice greeted with a hint of frustration from your ride side.
You turned to face the owner of said voice to be completely awestruck by the incredibly attractive man standing before you. Starting from the floor up as you tried to find the balls to look him in the eyes, your apology completely slipped your mind.
He was dressed impeccably, from the sincerely fashionable dress shoes, to the fitted slacks that accented his long, muscled legs. From his long torso, hidden under a waistcoat and light blue dress shirt, to the wide shoulders that were made even more apparent by his tweed suit jacket.You never thought tweed would look good on anyone, but damn did he pull it off.
And as you finally made it to his face, you were struck by the definition of his jawline and cheekbones, thoroughly bringing attention to his roman nose and soft lips. But most strikingly, and definitely most terrifying, was those fierce blue eyes that seemed to bore right into your soul as you finally met his gaze.
Unable to stare him in the eye, you immediately looked away, focusing on the dull grey of your own flats. Any thoughts you might have been able to formulate disappeared into nothingness as you felt the weight of his gaze on you, seeing all the imperfections and faults like you were an open book free for his perusal.
As the silence bore on, you knew he was waiting for an answer. “I’m sorry, Sir. Won’t happen again”, you mumbled softly, heat rising to your cheeks in your embarrassment.
“See that it doesn’t, Ms (Y/L/N)”, was his only answer before he gestured to the only open seat in the entire room, which happened to be smack dab in the front row, much to your chagrin.
You immediately moved to go sit down, ignoring the sting of the tears that wanted to fall. Crying in front of everyone would only increase the humiliation you felt, so you were determined to not look as affected as you were. The Professor waited until you were seated before beginning his lecture, his gaze never meeting yours again.
“Welcome to Intro to Shakespeare. I’m sure many of you have come today with presuppositions on specific works of the great play writer, but I assure you, there is much to learn. I have spent my whole life studying this man and still have not come to a complete understanding. So for you to learn anything from me, you must start from the clear and honest idea that you know absolutely nothing”.
Professor Hiddleston ran a critical eye over all of his students, each one sitting on the edge of their seats to hear everything he had to say, before continuing. “The reason this is one of the hardest classes to get accepted into is simply because I expect the best from each and every one of you. Mediocrity will not be allowed. This class will challenge you, will demand perfection and quality, and if you find yourself not measuring up, you will be taken out of the class immediately. Attendance is required and any grade less than 70% will be considered failing. Am I understood?”
The entirety of the class nodded silently as you added to your embarrassment by murmuring a “Yes, Sir” out loud, the quiet tone of your voice echoing through the room.
The Professor looked at you once more as you could feel the stares of the entire class. Shame ripped through you and you had to fight back the tears once more. But it was the appraisal in his eyes that weighed more than the rest of the class. The slight tightening of his eyes, the curiosity in his stance, made you feel like a specimen on display in a museum. You endeavoured to never speak again at this point.
Thankfully, he moved on, going over the specific plays the class would be studying throughout the semester, starting with Hamlet and moving through the vast majority of Shakespeare’s works. The course load promises to be tough, but you prayed you were up for the challenge. Out of all the classes you’d signed up for, this one promised to be the best. Of course, the fact that Professor Hiddleston was the most attractive men you’d ever seen made you want to stay even more, but it just helped keep your attention. You could never get bored as long as he was speaking.
The hour went by much quicker than you expected, Professor Hiddleston dismissing the class with a simple nod and everyone immediately started to pack their things. Perhaps you’d missed the orientation specifically for this class where you were told what to do and how to act. That was the only explanation for how confusing this all was.
“Ms. (Y/L/N), please come see me for a moment”, he asked, though it clearly felt more like a demand.
Your feet felt like they weighed a thousand pounds each as you slowly walked over to Professor Hiddleston’s side. He waited patiently as you took your time, only to gesture for you to follow him as he made his way into what must be his office. Maybe he didn’t want the rest of the class to see how they would be kicked out if they behaved like you did. Or maybe he was about to give you a one on one lecture about punctuality. Either way, your heart was pounding in your head like a bass drum at a rock concert.
He opened the door and gestured you into the warm room of his office. Bookshelves lined one whole wall, filled with such interesting treasures you’d have loved to peruse. A large desk empty from all the papers that would surely be there within a couple weeks held very little personification against the dark mahogany wood that matched his filled shelves. Two chairs sat across from the dark leather chair tucked into the desk and a simple sofa loveseat set could be found on the far side of the room.
It was both comforting and professional in its feel, something you found to be interesting as it revealed a softer side to the Professor who currently was waiting for you to take your seat. You gingerly sat down in one of the offered chairs across in front of his desk as he moved to sit as well. He immediately opened a drawer, pulled out a file, and placed it in front of him.
“So how do you seem to be settling in?” Professor Hiddleston began, seemingly actually curious about your well being.
It took a moment to find your voice as you attempted to answer. His gaze demanded honesty and you doubted you could get away with a lie even if you wanted to. “It’s a little rough, I suppose. The student culture is extremely different than what I’ve known and the expectations can be a little overwhelming if you know nothing you are expected to know,” you articulated softly, examining you cuticles.
“It is unfortunately part of the adaptation process. Thus why I will not be as severe with you as I would to my other students, who have all had friends or classmates that informed them of my rules before hands. As you had no former information, it’s understandable that you might have a few hiccups,” he explained with a hint of warmth, as if he could see your fear and worry in your eyes. Knowing you, it probably was.
You finally looked up from your nails and was reassured by the understanding expression on his face. “Thank you, Professor. I appreciate the grace you are giving you,” you said with a grateful smile.
“Certainly,” he answered with the a hint of his own smile. “Now for the reason I wanted to speak to you. As you remember, all students applying to enter my class must write an essay for me explaining their reasons for wanting to take the course. It helps weed out those who are just looking for more credits and those who want to take a class with the rumored ‘hot professor’”.
“I found your essay most intriguing and excellently written and it is my sincerest desire to help you in your goals of becoming a more well rounded writer. If you’d allow me, we could work in some one on one sessions as we look at what you are writing and improve whatever comes up,” Professor Hiddleston offered with sincere interest.
You were completely blown away at his generosity, that he would be willing to help you personally outside of the classroom. “That would be incredible, Sir!” You said, feeling the excitement and the gratitude coursing through you, only to be followed by a wave of insecurity. Under the inquisitive gaze of the Professor, you felt compelled to voice your concerns. “Though I’m afraid much of my work isn’t up to par with your expectations.”
“How about you let me worry about that,” he answered, waving off your needless worries. “If I discover this isn’t worth my time, it doesn’t take much work to stop our meetings.
“Here’s my rough plan, if there is a day you are available every week,we can meet for an hour or so and go through what you’ve written throughout the week. In fact,” he paused, grabbing a leather bound journal from the far side of his desk and presented it to you. “I’d like you to begin to write something every night in this, almost as if you are journaling or using a diary. Write whatever you feel, whatever you are working through, in whatever form you’d prefer, from poetry to short stories. We will work through it all when we meet. How does that sound?”
You picked up the journal gingerly, examining the beautiful leather that must have cost him a pretty penny. “That sounds really generous, Sir. Thank you for being willing to do this for me.”
“Oh, I’m sure this will be educational for the both of us. And if you are willing to put the same work and effort into this as I am, this will bound to be the help you need to become the writer you’ve always dreamed of being”.
Just like that, you had someone willing to believe in you, to cultivate the talent you have and turn it into something that would mark the world forever. You had the chance to change everything for yourself with the help of this man, this one person who finally believed in you.