The Professor

They are damn uncomfortable but the parents like them. The gowns we wear at commencement with our “hoods”—more big, colorful collars than anything— designating our degrees. I have a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and now I was roasting in my costume while a comedian I’d never heard of was giving the commencement speech to our graduates.

I am a tenured professor in the History Department of a Chicago-area university. I have taught there for twenty-three years, my specialty being nineteenth-century American History with a side interest in the post-World War II expansion of the American Empire.

With the ceremony done and the students getting their pictures taken with each other and with parents, I carried my folded gown and walked the half-mile to my on-campus house. It is a pleasant place, and it is where my wife and I raised our two kids, both now grown—a daughter a financial analyst in Manhattan and a son a teacher in the Minneapolis Public-School System. It was lonely. My wife, Georgie (for Georgiana) was killed two-and-a-half-years before when we were T-boned by a guy in a pickup reading a text. She was killed, he got a good-talking-to, and I got a permanent limp in my right leg.

Summers were always free time for the family. When the kids were small, we either went for three-week trips with a rented trailer or Georgie and I got gigs teaching summer courses. Georgie, who I met in college, taught at the University too—Mathematics—so we had plenty of time off in the summer. We didn’t have a lot of money but roughing it in a trailer or getting a school to pay for our courses made for a good life.

In the past few years, though, with them all gone, I’ve spent the summer either staying in town working on one of my books, with the occasional trip to New York or Washington or the South for research, or teaching a course in Europe. Two years ago it was at Trinity College, Dublin. This year I was teaching a course on post-WWII America in affiliation with Merton College in Oxford, England.

 The course ran from mid-June to mid-August. Accommodations were provided and the pay was good. It would also allow me to do research on the relations between the U.S. and the U.K. in the post-WWII era.

I flew into New York en route to spend a few days with Krissy, our daughter. She and her roommate tolerated me for three nights and she kindly allowed her “old man” to sleep in her bed while she shared with her roomie. For the record, I’m 51 and she’s 25. Then a flight to Heathrow and the bus to Oxford. It was early when I arrived, but a porter was waiting. I settled in and took a nap before heading out to get something to eat and get a feel for the area.

I had four days to get oriented before my class began. We’d meet for two hours each morning at ten and then for two hours each afternoon but Friday. Most of the thirty students were from the U.K., but there were several from Ireland and two or three from Germany and one from Sweden. Three days a week I had open-office hours in the afternoon after class. They had nicked a don’s office for me and it looked pretty much exactly like you’d expect an Oxford don’s office to look. All leather and old-books. Cigarette and cigar and scotch-glass stains on the desk. Strangely, I thought, were the rugby pictures on the walls. I would have thought cricket more appropriate but then I was as capable of stereotyping as anyone else.

The don, I was told, had gotten a nice summer-teaching post at Stanford and most of the things in his office were inherited from the prior occupant, and he kept it to give the place a lived-in feeling. Except for the rugby photos. That was his game and those were his photos.

The idea of the open-office was to provide a place for talking about things, and it proved popular. By the second week of class, at least four or five students, and sometimes more, congregated in the office, sitting on any flat surface, to talk. About things in general and not just about post-War America.

Summer finally reached Oxford after I was comfortable with my routine, and as I was on the High Street heading for a drink at a pub at which I’d become a regular I heard a woman call, “Professor Allen?” I turned and saw someone I did not recognize. She rushed up to me and, noticing my bewilderment, introduced herself as Sharon Heller. It took a moment.

“Wait. Didn’t you used to have blue hair?”

“‘Used to’ is right. I’m all grown up now.”

She must have been 26 or 27. I remembered her from a post-Civil War Reconstruction seminar. It’d have been four or five years earlier. She was average looking, but I remembered her because of the hair and because she had a caustic wit she was not shy about during class. Then I remembered she submitted a very good paper on the Presidential election of 1876.

She was in Oxford as part of a fellowship that allowed her to teach and get a small stipend from another college while she worked towards her Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I should be clear about students. I’ve always noticed my female students. But everyone knew that was it. I never thought of cheating on Georgie and I was adamant about a wall between professor and student. I can’t speak of others in the University, but I took my responsibilities seriously and it was well-known. It made life much simpler.

This carried over once I became a widower. By then, of course, notions of romance between a student and me, an over-fifty, slightly-overweight man with a slight limp, were far-fetched anyway.

Still, I remembered some female students. I don’t know whether it was the blue hair or the paper on Rutherford B. Hayes’s election, or a combination thereof, but I recalled Sharon Heller. We went to the pub together that day and that became a regular thing. We had dinner three or four nights a week. We took a few trips into London and a bus up to Woodstock to wander around Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family’s massive estate north of Oxford.

I enjoyed her company and I think she enjoyed mine. She occasionally dropped by my class and did so on the final day and joined us all in the backroom of a nearby pub for a celebration of the course’s conclusion. As my bags were packed the following day and I waited for the bus to take me to Heathrow, she stood with me and shook my hand and gave me a kiss on the cheek as I boarded.

I again stopped in New York to visit my daughter.

“So you have a crush on a former student?” I had mentioned Sharon once or twice in calls with Krissy.

“Krissy. I do not have a crush on a former student. I just enjoyed her company while we were both in England. Now that I’m back, I’m back. And because you’re wondering, we didn’t do ‘anything.’” I got home the next day.

When the fall semester started, I had my normal mix of large classes for freshmen and sophomores and seminars for juniors and seniors. Things proceeded as they always had. There were plenty of social events during the week to occupy myself with and I took the train into Chicago every few weeks for a show or a concert.

For Thanksgiving, I went to Minneapolis, to Michael’s with several of his fellow teachers. I returned home on Saturday. Once classes resumed on Monday, the focus shifted to getting everyone prepared for pre-Christmas final exams. Panic starts to set in and spread, and I extend my office hours. For the rest of the semester, a line forms about half-an-hour before I arrive. The Thursday after Thanksgiving was a particularly long afternoon.

As I was packing up after a last freshman left, I heard a light rapping on my door. I was tired. Looking at my bag, I gave an unenthusiastic, “Come in.”

“Yes Professor Allen.”

Sharon Heller.

“Can I buy you a drink?” she asked.

“Why aren’t you in Cambridge?” Meaning the one where MIT is in Massachusetts and not the one where it is not in England.

She told me she stayed at her folks’ in Madison, Wisconsin for the holiday and was doing some research remotely through Christmas. She drove down to see me and now was taking me for a drink and then I was buying her dinner.

*          *          *

“I know it’s not my place, Dad, but run, do not walk, away from this woman. She’s got major daddy-issues.”

It was Friday afternoon and Krissy was being overdramatic, but there was some truth in what she said. Sharon was her age, give or take. I had to promise Krissy I would “take it slow” to get her off the phone. I told her that I had as pleasant a time as I’d had for years at the dinner I had in town with Sharon that night. Krissy insisted that it’s one thing to have a good time as long as it didn’t go “too far.” We both knew what she meant by “too far.” But only one of us cared. It wasn’t me.

Georgie left me with an unfilled but not, I hoped, unfillable void. I had passion for work and passion for my family and my community. I needed passion in love again. I needed this woman. This woman. I called her shortly after I hung up with Krissy and asked her to dinner. She knew the place from her student days.

Once seated, I asked, “What are you looking for with me?”

It was clear it was something, and I wanted to know what.

“Wow. You don’t mince words.” She smiled. “I’m looking for someone I can love and respect. And who can love and respect me. That’s all I want with you. It’s not complicated.”

She wasn’t a word-mincer either. I remembered that from when she was my student. Was my student.

Then she smiled and leaned towards me. “If that’s too much to ask for, I’d like you to fuck me tonight.”

Yes. Sharon was no word-mincer.

I’d only had sex with one other person. Georgie. My first and sometimes I thought my last. I took care of myself myself. Suddenly, that was no longer enough. Suddenly, I was hard. She sat back as if she had not just said something that altered my universe. With a canary-eater’s grin.

And what she said hung over the rest of our instantly-forgotten but lovely dinner. We did not order dessert.

I drove us to the house and when we got there and were through the door, she turned. She was about four inches shorter than me and after I took off her coat and put it and mine in the hall closet she turned to kiss me. It was electric and my dick, already semi-hard in anticipation, turned to steel. She positioned herself so she could feel it against her stomach.

Her tongue crashed into my mouth and I let it explore until I got the nerve to try to enter her mouth and after some playful swordplay she let me in and I was moaning as I hadn’t in a very long time. And she broke the kiss.

“Where?”

I grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs. Since Georgie’s death, I’ve become tidy, and the bed was made. She asked me to wait as she went into the bathroom, leaving me confused as to what I was supposed to do. I decided to stay, removing my jacket.

Shit. When she came back she was naked. I had not seen a woman naked since Georgie. Who was taller and thinner than Sharon with smaller boobs. Sharon was round and had glorious hips. Her boobs sagged a bit and had large areolae. Her pubic hair was neatly trimmed and I could see—as I stared—the hint of her pussy.

She exaggerated the swaying of her hips as she approached. She then knelt in front of me and without a word unbuckled my belt, unbuttoned and unzipped my pants, and pulled my pants and briefs down. She unbuttoned the bottom buttons of my shirt and my dick pointed at her face.

“I’ve wanted to do this ever since Oxford,” and she lowered her lips to my cockhead and when it was covered her tongue swirled clockwise and then counterclockwise around it. She made an obscene sucking sound as she popped her lips away and looked up at me.

“Don’t worry, Edward, it only hit me after we’d spent time together in England, never while I was here in school. We all knew that was verboten.”

Sometimes she called me “Professor Allen” and sometimes “Edward.” But it was clear tonight that I was Edward. All of me was Edward.

She returned her mouth to my dick and put it in deeper and deeper, all the while giving her tongue free rein along and beneath it. Finally, I felt her nose against my skin. Her right hand circled beneath me and her fingers tickled my balls, one after the other. She pulled her mouth away and then began to inhale-and-exhale me as I tried to rock my hips in time with her movements.

I grabbed her head to pull her in but also to control my movement. I knew I wouldn’t last, and when I moaned, “I’m cumming” she placed her mouth about half-way down me and began to whip her tongue along the sides and to squeeze my balls, now in the palm of her hand.

I burst. If I had done it so violently before, I don’t recall. My hands were off her head and on her shoulders to prevent me from falling. She swallowed what shot into her mouth. I slowly dropped to the floor after she pulled her mouth off me, giving my dick’s head a light kiss and licking its tip as she did. I was barely in my pants and underwear, wrapped around my ankles, with shoes and socks on and shirt opened from the bottom (and my tie still knotted).

“So I guess you got that out of your system.”

She stopped. “Fuck you.” And she stood and marched out of the bedroom. I didn’t know what I did wrong. I stood and pulled up my pants and hurried into the hall. The bathroom door was closed. My knocks ignored. The door opened, and Sharon was dressed, glaring at me.

“Sharon. What did I do?”

“You think this is about fucking some professor? That you were some unachievable dream I had? A conquest? Fuck you. I wanted to fuck you. I wanted to suck you, to swallow you.”

She was beginning to weep. I placed my hands on her hips and said we needed to talk. She followed me downstairs and sat on the sofa as I got her water.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Sharon. I’m old enough to be your father. I’m a widower and that was the only time I’ve had any kind of sex with someone other than Georgiana.”

My limited experience surprised her. “I know how old you are. But I just enjoyed being with you in Oxford and I really missed you after you’d gone. You weren’t a professor. You weren’t an old man.” She used finger-quotes for that. “I just liked being with you. But it’s not like I have a ton of experience myself. I’ve slept with a bunch and, as I guess you can figure out, I’ve given head to a few over the years. But I’ve never wanted to have sex with anyone in the way I wanted it with you. Does that make sense?”

“I don’t know if it makes sense. But, again, why?”

“Edward. After you left England, I started regretting not at least trying to get into bed with you there. I didn’t know whether it would have gone anywhere but I was pissed I hadn’t even tried. I didn’t think this at first. Only a few weeks after we started hanging out together so much. So I decided after I spent Thanksgiving with my folks up in Wisconsin that’d I’d come down here to, well, try to seduce you.”

She took a sip of the water.

“Do you have anything stronger.”

I needed one too, so I came back with two Scotches with ice. She looked at hers for a moment before taking a slug.

“Wow. I’m not used to the strong stuff.”

“I can get you something else—”

“No. This is perfect.

“Where was I? My dissertation supervisor OKed me working remotely for the rest of the year so I drove down this morning and waited for you to finish with your office hours. And you know what happened from there.”

She put her glass down.

“I didn’t mean to freak you out and I’m not a stalker. Really. I just wanted to . . . love you.”

 At that, she got up and started towards the door.

“Wait. Sharon, where are you staying?”

“I checked into a hotel when I got here. I’ll stay there and will be gone in the morning. I’m sorry Professor.”

“Wait. Look. I don’t know what is going on. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed spending time with you in Oxford. It felt so different from the strictures of this place. And I know you’re no longer a student. But I’m still—”

“Edward. You are what you are. That’s all that I want.”

“Let me drive you to your hotel. Will you come back in the morning? Tomorrow’s Friday and I have no classes. Just a departmental meeting at noon. We need to talk about things. And I really want to do that. OK? We’ll do it before I have to go in.”

*          *          *

“Are you insane?”

Krissy again.

“After I told you not to, you took her to dinner and then had some kind of sex you’re not willing to tell me about and I really don’t want to know about and she’s staying at a hotel in town and you’ve told her to come back in the morning to ‘talk things over’? Dad, this will not end well.”

I’d had enough.

“Krissy. Stop it. I’m going in with my eyes wide open. I feel some connection to her from Oxford and—”

“Daddy. She’s insane. Don’t you under—?”

“I told you to stop. If you’re going to spend your time badgering me about it I’m just not going to talk about it. I like her. She’s—”

“Daddy, she’s barely older than me.”

“ENOUGH. I can do the math. OK? I told you that my eyes are open. What happens happens.”

After additional protests that she is only looking out for me she gave up and I promised that I’d let her know what happens.

*          *          *

The doorbell rang at about 8:40. I’d been up for a while. I’d showered and shaved. Sharon’s car was out front and she looked beaten up.

“Coffee?”

“Please.”

She followed me into the kitchen and sat down at the center island while I got her a cup.

“A little milk and a little sugar.”

She nodded as I put it down in front of her.

“Sharon. I want to see you again. And I’d like you to stay in town so I can do that. This house is empty since my wife died and the kids left. You can stay in my daughter’s room and set up in the study to do your work. It’s not you moving in or anything. I just think it’ll be cheaper and I don’t like the alternative of you going to Wisconsin or back to Cambridge.”

It seemed like the only plan that made any sense although I knew it crossed a line. A living-together line. Krissy was right. It was insane. But I wanted to do it. I wanted her to be close to me. She went to the car and brought her suitcases in.

“I checked out of the hotel. Either you were going to ask me to stay here or I was going back to Madison with my folks and then to Cambridge. I’ll try to keep my hormones under control.”

I leaned down and kissed her on the mouth. This time it was my tongue that enter the breach of her parted lips. It was my tongue that circled hers and it was my moaning that I heard. I didn’t have to leave for a couple of hours so I took her upstairs. I needed to fuck her.

Fortunately, she’d brought condoms. I had such a hair trigger, though, that I came shortly after I entered her and had to finish her with my finger. I was way out of practice with both—the entering and the fingering—but my enthusiasm was enough as Sharon came not long after I did. I set the alarm for 11:15 and we fell asleep.

I don’t recall anything about the departmental meeting. Midway through I received a text from Sharon saying she was working in the main library and I agreed to meet her there at 3, after I met with a student who’d asked to speak with me.

*          *          *

I didn’t care what anyone thought. My reputation was such that no one wondered whether there had been something going on between Sharon and me while Georgie was alive and while Sharon was my student. The only thing I wondered about was our age gap. Over twenty years. She’d be in her fifties when I hit seventy. I was in shape now but that wouldn’t always be the case.

This was put aside for the time being. Once the taboo was broken of making love in the bed I long shared with Georgie, Sharon kept staying with me after we finished and she didn’t last long in Krissy’s room. I counted myself lucky to feel and smell her body next to mine while she slept.

It was clear that we were making love. At times we fucked but more often we just enjoyed and savored each other. Usually, it wasn’t planned, but one of us wanted the other and we’d head up early. I loved watching her undress. She knew and made a point to strip in front of me. Whatever she was wearing, I’d sit on the bed as she took off her top and her bottom and her bra and her panties.

“Your turn,” but I was never up to displaying myself in stages and ripped everything off as quickly as possible. We’d lie facing each other as we kissed and then her hand gripped my dick—always hard from watching her strip—and I would reach over to run a finger through her pussy. Often she then turned on her back and I reached into the drawer for a condom and when it was on I would be above her, between her legs and on my elbows. When she asked me to come into her—sometimes lightly (“come on in, the weather’s fine”), sometimes passionately (“I need you in me”)—I lowered myself as she grabbed my dick and guided it in.

I entered slowly, deliberately. When I was in all the way, I lay on top of her and we’d share a kiss. It was where my dick was meant to be, in her pussy. I started to rock my hips and felt her hands on my ass, squeezing it to control my rhythm as I raised myself up to my elbows for leverage so I could increase and then vary my speed. I loved looking down at her, her eyes closed as often as not, as she felt sensations through her. Her breath increasingly desperate. “Tits. Tits.” She wanted my hands on them and I would put my right hand on her left tit, maintaining my position with my left on the bed. She loved me to fondle it and as I felt her getting close my thumb and index finger ran to her nipple and gently rolled it, which always sent her over the top. At times I tried to edge her, to back out and slow down when she got close but I was too often too excited and threw all subtly aside as I pistoned her, her knees up to increase her own leverage as she responded.

I was well enough practiced that I could hold myself until Sharon started to cum, and then I exploded in her. When it was done, I rolled to my left side and then onto my back and we both stared at the ceiling. Her hand teasingly batting my dick as mine ran lovingly up and around her stomach.

And that’s when it happened. Christmas was less than a week away and the kids were coming home in a couple of days. As my hand lazily caressed her, I said, “I love you.” It came out and I was happy it did.

“I know. I love you too.”

I turned my head and she lifted herself so she could place her lips on mine. When we awoke, I was spooning her, both of us naked and under a blanket. I don’t know how it got there.

*          *          *

Krissy was home a couple of days before Christmas. Sharon and I picked her up at O’Hare Airport. She’d been warned about Sharon but she did not look happy when she saw us. I introduced them, but she sulked in the backseat as we drove home. When we got there, Sharon said she had to run a few errands in town and I was alone with my daughter.

“I told myself I wouldn’t but I’m going to say she’s making a fool of you. She’s got issues.”

“Krissy. The only one who has issues with this is you. All you can think of is Age Difference Full Stop. You’re not here. You’re not me. And we are not having this conversation again. If you didn’t want to come you could have stayed in New York. I’d have understood. But I’m not having you come here and continue to sulk like you did in the car. Do I make myself clear?”

“But I’m—”

“Jesus Krissy. Again with the ‘I’m only looking out for you.’ I get it. I got it when you first said it way back when. I heard you then and I appreciate it. But, damn it, this is my life and I love her.”

“Have you told her that? That you love her?”

“I have. I meant it then. And I mean it now. She is not Mom, I know that. No one will ever be Mom. She’s Sharon. OK?”

“But when—”

And my stare shut her up.

When Sharon came back and she and I spoke in my den while Krissy, yes, sulked in the living room, Sharon said she sympathized with Krissy, that’d she’d do the same if her father—who had the good fortune of still being married to Sharon’s mother, and happily by all accounts—was dating or living with someone her age she’d be all over him to get his head out of his ass. I told her that Krissy’s stubbornness was annoying when she was a teen but now it bordered on sedition. She smiled, well beyond her years. “Let me talk to her.”

We walked out into the living room.

“Krissy. You and I are getting dinner in town. You have five minutes to get changed. Nothing fancy, but neat.”

She made it clear that she would brook no opposition, and Krissy went to put on a dress and a nice pair of shoes.

When they were gone a cloud was lifted in the house. They barely spoke beyond the minimum and that could not be sustained. I made myself dinner while they were out and then I called Michael. He was driving down from Minneapolis in the morning and in addition to confirming his schedule it was good to have his ear.

His message: Dad, it’s your life. Live it. We’ll—“and I include Krissy”— still love you.

When the two women in my life returned from dinner, a left-over bag in hand, they seemed to have reached an uneasy truce. Krissy said “goodnight” and headed immediately to her room. Sharon came with me to the den.

 “It’ll take time. Part of it is Georgie. She still misses her terribly and in some respects it wouldn’t matter how old I am. But much of it is me. I told her that it was OK that the only way I could prove myself to her was by proving myself to you. I don’t want to always be wary of upsetting her, of making her think I’m fucked up in loving you, but if that’s what I have to do, that’s what I have to do.”

And we agreed to a sex moratorium while she was in the house.

*          *          *

On Christmas Eve, Krissy asked to speak to me alone. When she closed the door to the den she sat with me on the couch.

“I had an affair with one of my college professors.”

“I’m sorry?” It was more a question, that I did not understand what she’d just said.

“It was a mistake. I knew it then, but I still did it. That’s why I’m so freaked out about Sharon.”

I was silent.

“I told Mom and she told me not to tell you. That you’d get upset.”

“Of course I’d get upset. I am upset. Did he . . . force himself on you?”

“No, no. Definitely not. I wasn’t even in his class anymore. I was a senior and I had him for a seminar in my junior year. He never did anything inappropriate when I was his student.”

 “Well, that made it alright then?”

“Daddy. I know it was wrong. He knew it was wrong. He was married, but I don’t think I was his first, I guess, ex-student he slept with. We only did it a few times. I realized it was nuts. I never spoke to him again.”

“Did you report it?”

“I pretty well went after him so it really wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t, and isn’t, worth ruining me and ruining him. And I’m not telling you who it was. I’m telling you this to try to explain why I’m so freaking out about Sharon.”

“But you’re not her and I’m not whoever this professor was.” (I had a pretty good idea who he was.) I reached for my daughter, now crying. “Krissy. Darling. You did a stupid thing when you were a senior in college. We all do stupid things. You realized you made a mistake, you told your mother, and I’m not angry at you for it happening. It never should have, but that’s on him. I’ll respect your wish not to do anything. But if you change your mind, I am here. You do know that?”

She nodded against my shoulder. “Of course I know that. Just as Mom was.”

There wasn’t more to be said. She knew where I was. And she seemed to understand that what happened may have colored her view of Sharon. Her concerns were legitimate, but this helped explain why she wouldn’t let it go. I didn’t know whether I would tell Sharon. I was not going to ruin Christmas.

And Christmas was not ruined. Michael came alone. He was “between girlfriends” but not as irritable as he sometimes was when that’s where he was. Krissy claimed to be too busy to have a boyfriend so it was just the four of us. Sharon had told her parents in Wisconsin enough for them to understand why she was staying in the Chicago area for Christmas, with her promising to drive up before New Year’s. She was still trying to figure out what she would do when her period away from MIT came to an end. She had to be on-campus when the spring semester started.

But that was for later. On Christmas Day, the four of us exchanged small gifts. We then went to the small Episcopal Church we attended on special occasions.

*          *          *

It ended, of course. It was insane. Sharon had to return to Cambridge. She had to teach several undergraduate courses to keep on track for her degree. And to pay the bills. A couple of days after Christmas, we loaded what she needed and I drove her to O’Hare. Krissy and Michael were nice with her as she said goodbye at the house. There were still things she’d accumulated, but there was plenty of room in the house to keep them until she could collect them.

We both knew that the separation would likely be permanent. It would add too much to the already gaping age-gap. And with a final kiss before she went through security she was gone. We kept in touch and we were both lonely, but the calls became less frequent and when she told me she had starting seeing someone at MIT, she was gone.

*          *          *

As the spring semester began, word got around campus that I was again available and in need of companionship. Colleagues, more than a few of whom I’m sure had a self-satisfied I-knew-that-would-never-last perspective, and students, apparently rejuvenated upon learning that I had lived with a former student, were dangling possibilities. Or themselves. Students remained off-limits, even former students, but I did have a few enjoyable dinners with members of other departments. Nothing, and I mean nothing, ever became of any of it. It was again enough that I could take care of myself.

I thought of Sharon often, including when I masturbated, and sometimes swiped through photos of her on my phone. The few display-photos that I had of her were in a drawer, leaving only those of Georgie and the two kids in the living room and only Georgie in the bedroom. Where it had long been, Sharon kindly insisting on it.

For the summer, I’d arranged a gig at Brown in Providence, Rhode Island. It was basically the same deal as I had done with Merton College in Oxford the prior summer. Two-month course, good pay, and room and board. I could also hop on Acela to visit Krissy in New York.

It was also near Cambridge. I hoped that Sharon might visit. I’d told her what I was doing for the summer, but she didn’t react. Just a “that’s nice.”

Again the summer class-schedule was compact. Classes ran all day, with an hour-and-a-half for lunch and a half-day on Friday. By the end of the second week, I had a pretty good sense of my students. At Brown, they were mostly from the U.S. with a smattering of from Canada. Things were going much as planned until the Thursday of the third week. After lunch and with everyone settled in, and just after I started, I got a question:

 “Excuse me, Professor Allen. When are you going to talk about Rutherford B. Hayes?” Fuck. She was in the back.

“We’ll be getting to the 1876 election early next week, when we get to Reconstruction. Ms.—?”

“Heller. Sharon Heller. I was hoping you would get to it . . . today?”

Fuck. Fuck.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Heller. Maybe later.”

And with that I attempted to engage the class about Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea. Whether I remembered that the Union won the war is lost to me. She came up when the class was over. I was with two other students and she asked whether I told the story of a former student giving me a blowjob that I thought would give me a heart attack and they looked at each other, at me, and at her before beating their retreat.

“You had to do that didn’t you?”

“You loved it.”

“What? The ‘now’ or the ‘then’?”

“Well. I know you loved the ‘then.’ Maybe I can get you to love the ‘now.’”

 And with that, she got on her toes and placed her lips on mine, and I allowed her tongue to reach into my mouth and I could not stifle my moan. We adjourned to my office.

We talked. She said it was not working. The “it” being our separation.

“But I thought you found someone.”

“I thought so too. But he wasn’t you. He was great. Really great. But—”

“But he wasn’t me. Sharon. We both know it can’t work. You in Boston and I’m not. You’re young—”

“Yeah, and you’re not. I’m in a Ph.D. program at MIT. I can figure it out. What I can’t figure out is me. To me, everything’s always been simple. Logical. Things where they’re supposed to be. Even with the chaos in the real world I can figure it out. But I can’t figure us out. And right now, more than anything else in the world, that’s what I have to figure out.”

“Why isn’t it simple?”

“Because it’s not. It’s just not. Don’t you get it?”

I did. We remained silent for what seemed like hours, neither of us moving.

“Edward. I didn’t want to still love you. Lord knows I’ve tried.”

She stood and began walking around my desk.

“I’ve spoken to Krissy about it.”

What?

“And if you’ll have me, I want to marry you.”

She spoke to my daughter. About marrying me.

“Sharon. I need time to think.” After a moment. “I still love you. But I need time to think.”

“Take what time you need. Although we both know you don’t have very much time left, old as you are.” She couldn’t contain her when-are-you-getting-to-Rutherford-B.-Hayes smile.

“Sorry. That was a little cruel. Look, Edward, I can get a gig at the University with you, but I’ve made some approaches to some financial institutions in Chicago and I’m pretty sure I could get a good job at one of them with my background. Giving up on my MIT Ph.D. would be worth it if I have you.”

I wasn’t prepared for this. She was gone and now she was back. I never wanted her to leave again. She kissed my forehead. “For now all I ask is that you take me to dinner.”

And I did. Our conversation safely keeping to what we’d done since I said goodbye to her at the airport. I knew much of it from our phone conversations, but seeing her as she told me and having her see me as I told her was far more natural. When we finished, she said she’d booked a room at a hotel in downtown Providence and said she’d like to see me tomorrow. She’d called a cab, and it picked her up after I told her I was looking forward to tomorrow—we’d meet for lunch—and she kissed me on my lips and when she removed them she whispered as I held the door, “I really do love you. You know that don’t you?” and I could not keep myself from nodding.

When I got back to the apartment Brown had given me, I called Krissy.

“She called a couple of weeks ago. Dad. She’s crazy for you. I hate to say it but it’s almost like Mom. And stupid things. She said she loves watching you when you fall asleep on the sofa the way you always do. I think part of it is that she wants to take care of you. But part of it is that she just wants to be with you. If I had a woman who thought like that about me I’d probably marry her. And I’m straight.”

“Did she talk about kids?”

“Yeah. I mean, it had to come up. I think it’s the one thing she’s not sure about. But Dad. What do you feel? Put aside the age thing. Put aside the baby thing. Put aside the distance thing. Could you love her the way you loved Mom?”

“Honey, I could never love anyone the way I loved Mom. You know that. But could I love Sharon in a different way but as I much as I loved Mom? I think I already do.”

“Then Dad. Marry her. Seriously. I like her. You love her. I’ve moved on from the fucked-up view I initially had. So if a father needs his daughter’s blessing, you have it.”

After I told her I appreciated what she’d told me and got her to say that she spoke to Michael about it and he was all for it, I hung up. Without putting the phone down I called Sharon. Just to chat. I told her that I’d like to have lunch at her hotel. I had no class in the afternoon, so we agreed to meet at one.

We fucked in a hotel for the first, but not last, time that afternoon. We met in the hotel lobby and ate at its restaurant. There’s something strangely decadent about having lunch in a hotel restaurant where you’re treated royally and need only saunter to an elevator bank to get to your room. Or, in this case, her room.

Before we ordered we cleared up two things.

First, she told me she’d thought about having kids, but that it was not something she could see herself actually doing. “It’s not who I am or who I see myself as becoming.”

Second, she agreed to marry me. It was a simple proposal.

The menus still on the table, but the wine already open, I asked her.

“Sharon. I know I’m not much and I’m getting less of “much” with each day. But I want to marry you. Will you?”

She burst into tears unbecoming of an economist but sufficiently to garner the attention of several staff-members and several other diners.

“Of course I will. You’re the only person I’ve ever loved and the only person I could imagine ever loving.”

When I reached for her she said, “Stop. Just stop. I know how you loved Georgiana. I do not want you to do anything but savor her and your memories of her. All I want is for you to love me and be happy each morning that I am your wife. That is all I want. And, Edward, we can talk about a ring later.”

It was the most enjoyable meal I’d had since Georgie died. I’m a man and I’m not supposed to say this, but it was like I was living in a Harlequin romance. But, as I say, I did not care.

So I ordered a steak, not without a disapproving glare from my fiancée, and she had fish. We finished the bottle and this time we shared a dessert. Once we settled the check we walked, arm-in-arm, to the elevator and I kissed her with as much passion as I could muster as we headed to the seventh floor. I wasn’t quite sober and I wasn’t quite drunk. But I was hard as a rock and I felt her hand brush against the front of my trousers as we headed up.

When the doors opened we found her room and after she fumbled with her room card, her door was open and we were in her room. Things are a blur to me as to how we got there, but the next thing I remember with absolute certainty is me lying naked in the center of the King-sized bed and my dick pointing at the ceiling. She was prepared, and pulled a condom from her bag and rolled it onto me. She was beautifully naked—which with her is a redundancy—and she straddled me. She moved so her pussy was above my face and lowered it to me.

“Get me wet.”

A command with which I willingly complied. I enjoyed eating her, as I loved eating Georgie. Now I licked up and down her labia and passed over her clit. Licking up with my entire face and then removing my tongue from her to bring it down to do it again. And again. Until she put her hand on my forehead and pushed my head to the pillow. She sidled down and when she was across my hips she raised herself. Her right hand grabbed my dick as she looked into me. She directed the head of my dick to her entrance and slowly, slowly lowered herself onto me.

It took every bit of willpower to not come. She was rising and lowering herself on me. My dick caressing the deepest part of her. It was a slow, passionate dance the likes of which I’d never before seen. Up and down. And her eyes closed and her neck seemed to lose control of her head as it wandered aimlessly around, like the tail of a slow-moving fish. My hands locked onto her hips and I adored her body. Her tits following the motion of her chest, their nipples engorged.

She was lost in a way I’d never seen a woman lost before. All of her existence, and therefore all of mine, in the spot where we were joined. Slowly rising and then her whole body seeming to drop down to take all of me in her.

“I’m getting close.”

Her eyes opened and she smiled. “Slow down baby.” She slowed down more, to give me the chance to get control. Her calling me “baby” was not helping. She never let me get out of her and was rolling on me. Her spectacular tits flailing around, hypnotically. It was the most obscene and wonderful thing I had ever seen. Slowly up my shaft, and quickly down. Slowly up, and quickly down.

She had me and she had my dick, which in those minutes were pretty much the same, at her mercy. The only sounds our labored breathing and the squish-squish of her wetness savoring my dick. Her fingers reached for my nipples and began to squeeze both of them between her thumbs and index fingers. She was now looking at me, an expression I’d never seen before. The snake tempting me. In that moment I understood why Eve could not say “no.” I was consumed by her passion as she picked up the pace of her rocking and her impaling herself on my dick.

Her eyes somehow froze my ability to come. She would not allow me to come. Not yet. All was outside my control. All was her and her pussy and my dick in her pussy and I was hers.

She began to come. But it was not the manic orgasm we’d often shared. It was the intensity of a magical transformation, slowly but irrevocably turning her into a goddess, my goddess, as it flowed through her. As hers began, my own orgasm lifted my hips to push myself, somehow, deeper into her as the spurts tried to fill her. Four, five ropes.

When she calmed, she leaned down, using her hand to make sure I remained inside her. Her lips were upon mine till she lifted them off and rolled off of me, with me shrinking, and lay down on her back to my right. We held hands.

Again we fell asleep until I had to pee. It was a little after five. When I returned, she was beneath the sheet, wiping the sleep from her eyes. I pulled the sheet across her body and knelt between her legs. My dick hardened. After a quick kiss on her lips, I moved down and suckled on her right tit. The nipple quickly rose and I licked and lightly bit it before turning to the other. Sharon began to moan and her hands pulled me to her. Her tits were made to be suckled.

“Baby. I need you. I need you to fucking eat me. Now.”

After a light kiss on both of her nipples, I moved down so my face was just above her pussy. I loved seeing it. Smelling it. Tasting it. And was soon running my tongue up and down and flicking her clit as it passed. I put one and then two fingers inside her and twisted them, searching for her g-spot, trying to control her as her hips began to shake. Her hands grasped my head into her until she exploded and I tasted her wonderful juice.

When she regained control, she said, “straddle me” and after I shuffled up so my dick was by her face she tried to put it in her mouth. But the angle was wrong and she told me “on your back old man” and her old man was on his back and she turned to put his dick in her mouth. When I said, “I want to eat you too” she straddled my face and lowered herself to my mouth. I held her ass so I could eat her and we became a clash of slurping and sucking and moaning sounds until I could hold out no more. My hips starting flailing and my tongue stopped its licking as I began to cum, spurting into Sharon’s mouth. It was not as much as I had spent earlier but she swallowed most of it.

As I tried to resume my licking of her, she rose and turned. She kissed me and I could taste myself in her mouth and I enjoyed the taste, not least for having been in her mouth. I was about to ask about finishing her when she said, “just enjoy the show” and she ran her fingers along her labia and dipped them inside herself and was quickly rocking as she lay beside me. She turned slightly and with her free hand lifted her left tit to me and I was again suckling her as she said “baby, baby” and she suddenly shoved her left hand over her clit while her right furiously pumped inside her and turned again on her back and came yet again. I watched in awe. I kissed her on the lips when she was done, and then took her right hand and put it in my mouth to taste her again.

After that, we looked at each other, and each of us told the other of their love. She got up to pee and get presentable I soon followed. We didn’t dare shower together. While she suggested we order room service, we both knew that I would not be up for more sex for a while. Instead, we went to a nearby restaurant for a light dinner. The bottle of wine from lunch was still in our systems, and my steak was still in mine, so we just had water with the meal.

When we returned to her room, we got in bed. We were under the covers, she behind and with her right arm around me, spooning. I drifted off the sleep moments after I heard her light snore.

*          *          *

Sharon stayed with me for the rest of the summer. She’d withdrawn from the MIT Ph.D. program and lined up a job as an economist at the Chicago office of an international bank. She started after Labor Day and was able to take the train to her office and stay home—our home—on Fridays and work remotely.

Some colleagues were shocked but most were pleased when I got back an engaged man. She was the guest-of-honor at a cocktail party held in mid-September by the History Department, although she had an unfortunate interaction with a professor on an economics issue related to the Crash of 2008 and the adequacy of the subsequent stimulus-package. But even that professor pulled me aside and told me “she is a keeper.”

We kept the wedding low-key. It was held in the University chapel with the chaplain officiating. Sharon’s folks came from Wisconsin. Being near the age of my future father-in-law was awkward and I know he and his wife, who I met in Madison a few weeks before, were disappointed about the “baby issue.” Sharon, though, made them understand in the visit and in a series of phone calls that she was not having kids no matter whom she married. The disappointment was somewhat tempered by her sister, Helen, already having three girls and one boy. So those four and Helen and Sharon’s brother-in-law, as well as her parents, represented the Heller side. Helen was the maid-of-honor.

Michael was my best man. He and Krissy, who actually enjoyed the small bachelorette-party that Helen insisted on holding two nights before the wedding were there for the Allens. My parents were long deceased. Georgie’s parents came from Florida. That last bit was very important to all of us, especially Sharon. They knew that nobody, not even Sharon, could replace the part of my heart where their daughter would always reside but they were happy that I found someone who would make me happy. And that was Sharon.

Various other friends and colleagues for both of us were also in attendance as we took our vows and shared our first husband-wife kiss. A honeymoon, of course, was out of the question given my course load and Sharon’s just starting her job. It would have to wait for summer, but neither of us minded. Good things happened for us in the summer.