The DealBy: Elle Kennedy
He doesn’t know I’m alive.
For the millionth time in forty-five minutes, I sneak a peek in Justin Kohl’s direction, and he’s so beautiful it makes my throat close up. Though I should probably come up with another adjective—my male friends insist that men don’t like being called beautiful.
But holy hell, there’s no other way to describe his rugged features and soulful brown eyes. He’s wearing a baseball cap today, but I know what’s beneath it: thick dark hair, the kind that looks silky to the touch and makes you want to run your fingers through it.
In the five years since the rape, my heart has pounded for only two guys.
The first one dumped me.
This one is just oblivious.
At the podium in the lecture hall, Professor Tolbert delivers what I’ve come to refer to as the Disappointment Speech. It’s the third one in six weeks.
Surprise, surprise, seventy percent of the class got a C-plus or lower on the midterm.
Me? I aced it. And I’d be lying if I said the big red A! circled on top of my midterm hadn’t come as a complete shock. All I did was scribble down a never-ending stream of bullshit to try to fill up the booklet.
Philosophical Ethics was supposed to be a breeze. The prof who used to teach it handed out brainless multiple choice tests and a final “exam” consisting of a personal essay that posed a moral dilemma and asked how you’d react to it.
But two weeks before the semester started, Professor Lane dropped dead from a heart attack. I heard his cleaning lady found him on the bathroom floor—naked. Poor guy.
Luckily (and yep, that’s total sarcasm) Pamela Tolbert stepped in to take over Lane’s class. She’s new to Briar University, and she’s the kind of prof who wants you to make connections and “engage” with the material. If this was a movie, she’d be the young, ambitious teacher who shows up at the inner city school and inspires the fuckups, and suddenly everyone’s putting down their AKs and picking up their pencils, and the end credits scroll up to announce how all the kids got into Harvard or some shit. Instant Oscar for Hilary Swank.
Except this isn’t a movie, which means that the only thing Tolbert has inspired in her students is hatred. And she honestly can’t seem to grasp why nobody is excelling in her class.
Here’s a hint—it’s because she asks the types of questions you could write a frickin’ grad school thesis on.
“I’m willing to offer a makeup exam to anyone who failed or received a C-minus or lower.” Tolbert’s nose wrinkles as if she can’t fathom why it’s even necessary.
The word she just used—willing? Yeah, right. I heard that a ton of students complained to their advisors about her, and I suspect the administration is forcing her to give everyone a redo. It doesn’t reflect well on Briar when more than half the students in a course are flunking, especially when it’s not just the slackers. Straight-A students like Nell, who’s sulking beside me, also bombed the midterm.
“For those of you who choose to take it again, your two grades will be averaged. If you do worse the second time, the first grade will stand,” Tolbert finishes.
“I can’t believe you got an A,” Nell whispers to me.
She looks so upset that I feel a pang of sympathy. Nell and I aren’t best pals or anything, but we’ve been sitting next to each other since September so it’s only reasonable that we’ve gotten to know each other. She’s on the pre-med path, and I know she comes from an overachieving family who would tar and feather her if they found out about her midterm grade.
“I can’t believe it either,” I whisper back. “Seriously. Read my answers. They’re ramblings of nonsense.”
“Actually, can I?” She sounds eager now. “I’m curious to see what the Tyrant considers A material.”
“I’ll scan and email you a copy tonight,” I promise.
The second Tolbert dismisses us, the lecture hall echoes with let’s-get-the-hell-outta-here noises. Laptops snap shut, notebooks slide into backpacks, students shuffle out of their seats.
Justin Kohl lingers near the door to talk to someone, and my gaze locks in on him like a missile. He’s beautiful.