Legacy of Love(9)

By: Donna Hill

“What’s your day looking like?”

“Not too bad. I have one class this morning and one right after lunch,” Jackson said. “How about you?”

“Two before lunch. Department meeting this afternoon and then I’m done. Wanna grab a beer or something later?”

“Yeah, yeah sure. Meet you around five?”

“Cool.” He got up from the chair. “And thanks again for standing in for me.”

“We gotta help each other out.”

“So I’ll see you around five. Over at Smitty’s?” Levi said on his way out.

“Yeah. I’ll be there and the beers are on you.”

“No doubt. Later, man.”

Jackson unsnapped his satchel and took out a folder stuffed with graded papers, notes and the lesson plan for his upcoming class. He checked his watch. He had about ten minutes. He leaned back in his seat and went over his notes, making sure that he had plenty of material to cover during the ninety-minute session. Some days his class arrived fully prepared and were totally engaged. Other times, it was like talking to comatose patients. He hoped today wasn’t one of those days. He wasn’t up for it. It was taking all of his concentration to stay focused on what he needed to do and not what had happened earlier.

He expelled a long, slow breath, dropped the folder on the desk and swiveled his chair around so that it faced the window.

She was out there. The tug of a smile arched his lips. All the circumstances that had led him to leave Louisiana and move to Atlanta weren’t coincidences at all. Did she know? Did she believe as he did that they were destined to be together?

He pushed back from his chair and stood. Totally crazy, he thought as he shoved his papers back in his satchel and snapped it shut. Had someone told him he’d give up everything that was familiar and move to a new city in search of a woman he’d never seen before, he would have had them committed. But here he was.

Jackson opened the door and stepped out into the now busy corridor, teeming with eager young men and women bent on making a difference in the world. It was only a matter of time, he thought, before the two of them would meet again. He felt it in the marrow of his bones.

Just as he approached the entrance to his classroom, his teaching assistant, Victoria Rush, stopped him. Victoria was a doctoral student whose dissertation was on ancient and African art—his passion. She’d campaigned hard for the position and beat out several other candidates. Victoria was good. She was thorough and professional, but it was becoming clear to Jackson that Veronica spent a little too much time trying to prove herself to him. She always offered much more than the assignment called for, needing just a “few minutes” of his time a bit too often, even asking if there were any errands that he needed her to run.

On the surface it was all pretty harmless, but he was beginning to get an uncomfortable feeling. He hoped that this relationship wouldn’t become a problem. Besides, one would think that her schedule would be pretty full without having to add his agenda to hers.

“Hey, Victoria, class is about to start.”

“I know. I was hoping that I could talk to you after your class.”

That uncomfortable feeling began with a tightness in his insides. “Is it the research paper?”

“Actually—” she lowered the books she was holding to her chest to reveal a low cut top “—it’s personal.”

“Personal? Victoria—Ms. Rush, if this has nothing to do with the course…”

“I know this may seem inappropriate, professor. But I don’t know who else I can talk to.” She blinked away the water that began to well in her eyes.

Aw, man. The last thing he needed was a crying grad student. “Okay, after class. Meet me in the cafeteria.” At least the cafeteria was public.

She beamed a smile, flashing deep dimples in a nut-brown face. “Thank you.” She turned and hurried away.

Jackson lowered his head for a second and blew out a frustrated breath then opened the classroom door. Hopefully his students would be awake, otherwise this was going to be a long hour and a half.

The ninety-minute Art History class wound down on an up note. The scheduled trip to the High Museum for the unveiling of the fertility statues was all set. The students actually seemed excited. Jackson left the class feeling good until he remembered his meeting with Victoria. Reluctantly he walked through the corridors until he reached the cafeteria. He couldn’t imagine what Victoria could want or better, what he could do about it.

The tables were dotted with students huddled over textbooks and Styrofoam containers of French fries and half-eaten sandwiches. Jackson surveyed the brightly lit room and didn’t see Victoria.

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