If I like this well enough to turn into an ebook it'll get a little more fleshed out and polished. Voici"This is harassment," I said fiercely. .
He grinned. "Please report me, then."
"It's not funny; it's the kind of behavior that can get you in real trouble."
He leaned in closely, too close, and mock whispered, "Yes, I'm very dangerous."
My fingers curled around my notebooks. "Mr. Griffith, I expect you to behave in a manner—"
"Oh, please say, 'befitting your station.' My mom watches Downton Abbey religiously."
"You are a student!" I left out the fuckings and goddams I'd have liked to include for emphasis.
"You don't know me," I snapped. "You don't know a thing about me."
"What are you talking about?"
He didn't answer immediately, fiddling with his pencil and gazing out the window. Though quieter now, the school was still alive. The repetitive thwacks and shouts from all the teams practicing on the fields float through the spring air. The intercom sounded: the French club's last meeting before the end of the school year wouldl meet the cafeteria. Janitorial staff rolled carts down the hall.
"Why did you call me here?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Here, alone, now." He glanced back at me. "It doesn't feel very discouraging."
Frustrated, I stood. Perhaps more distance between our bodies would help me make my point. "Look, Cody," I began in a calmer tone, "I know that being a senior is exciting. You're not the first student to think that with graduation comes invincibility."
He folded his arms petulantly.
"But you must understand that with this kind of behavior comes real world consequences. If I choose to report you—and I will if this continues—then you could be expelled. That in turn could impact your scholarship to Syracuse."
This seemed to affect him. Cody's mouth grew tight and his strong brows furrowed. "You'd really do that to me?"
He made it sound so…vengeful.
"Cody, what you're doing is wrong."
"They're just stick figures!"
Of him fucking me. Carefully labeled, on every homework assignment, on quizzes, tests, and that time he carefully worded a lab report so that the first letter of every line spelled out "I want Mr. Hale to blow me." Unfortunately for me, I wasn't the one who noticed that particular trick. Cody's advisor had told me that there were "some issues at home," and that she would talk to him and his mother about it. She did agree, however, that it was a very good lab report.
The first drawing I thought was a poor attempt at bullying. It wasn't the first time a student had tried to use my sexuality as a means of intimidating me. My first year of teaching had been rough. Ignoring the behavior had worked in the past, so I had been surprised when the little stick figures became increasingly explicit. I had no idea that a body made of five lines and a circle could be so detailed.
I should have reported him after the first doodle.
Folding my arms, I made him an offer. "Look. If you will promise to cease all inappropriate behavior until graduation—you know what I mean, don't make that face—I won't report it."
He grinned as though he'd won something. "Okay," he said swiftly.
"Listen, Cody," I said seriously. "One doodle, one comment, one double entendre, one anything that carries a whiff of this…nonsense, and I am calling a meeting with your advisor, your mother, and Principal Caughron."
"Got it," Cody replies.
I can't help feeling like I've missed something.
"Will you sign my yearbook?"
I looked up to see Cody in the doorway of the teacher's lounge. "You're supposed to be on the bus," I replied sternly. We've already shaken hands in the graduate receiving line. I spoke to his mother at the get-together. Whe I graduated I couldn't leave school fast enough; I don't know how to relate to these kids who want to hang around and cling to the memory of their time here.
"It'll only take a second," he protested. "Look, I already started it for you."
"What?" But when I looked down at the page he opened to I saw exactly what he meant. Two stick figures facing each other, labeled with our names, empty speech bubble above mine and his with an erect penis.
Cody pressed a pen to my hand. "Make it sincere."
What I should have done is give both the book and the pen back to him and kick him out. "I will," I said, "If you stand by the doorway while I write."
Cody obeyed for once, and I wrote, Remember that actions bring consequences. Then I drew a mortar board and graduation gown over the other figure, and filled it in to hide the genitalia. I closed the yearbook.
"Will you miss me?" Cody asked as he reclaimed the book.
I smiled then. The kid just wanted attention, any way he could get it. "Not one bit," I retorted. "You've been a pain in my ass all year."
Cody laughed, showing off all his white teeth. "You were my favorite teacher," he said as if that explained everything.
"Good god. I pity any teacher you didn't like." I cut off whatever he was about to say by pointing to the hall. "Go get on the bus. Have fun on the trip."
"Come see me at Alfred's!" he called over his shoulder. "I'm working there until I leave for college!
As soon as I saw him emerge from the restaurant I knew I should have gone home to eat.
"Hi, Mr. Hale," Cody greeted me in a singsong tone. "Did you come just because you knew I'd be here?"
"God no," I replied. How did he manage to be so irritating? Of course he would brush my hand when he handed me my food. I could have gone to the other Alfred's with the drive-through, but this one was closer to home.
"Where's my tip?"
Looking through the paper bag for ketchup, I replied, "Gratuity is in addition to a job well done, not a requirement."
Cody pouted, a gesture that should have seemed out of place on such a strapping young man. "Then feel my new haircut. It's super fuzzy." He stuck the top of his head into my car. "Feel it," he said again.
With great trepidation I placed my hand on the crop of buzzed brown hair that poked like a scrub brush from the top of his visor. It was super fuzzy, as he put it, but downy soft. Though it was thick, Cody's hair was always best suited to lie flat on his head, not to be gelled and coiffed into some mimicry of style. His head smelled of Old Spice.
Gently, I pushed Cody out of the car window."Get back to work," I ordered. It would be better for me to eat at home. Cody waved as I drove off. Now my hand smelled like Old Spice.
When I opened the door I immediately wished that I had put on a shirt.
"What are you doing here?"
Cody shrugged. "My mom kicked me out and all of my friends are already gone."
He probably picked tonight because it was raining. It would make him seem even more pathetic to be so drenched that even his buzz cut was plastered to his skull. He would have selected the thinnest T-shirt in his wardrobe, this one, so that under the rain it would cling to the hard lines of his body despite the high collar and long sleeves. Jeans, so that it wouldn't seem like he was trying too hard.
"Where's your car?"
"She took my keys." Was that shivering genuine or for effect? Only Cody could know.
"And you knew where I lived."
It was so calculated, so cunning that I couldn't help but to be impressed. "Come in."
Cody shivered and dripped onto the tile in the entryway while I fetched him a hoodie and a pair of sweatpants. I handed them to him with a towel.
"I'm calling your mother," I informed him. "The bathroom is the door on the left."
The school directory provided Ms. Griffith's number and I dialed swiftly. "Is this Jennifer Griffith?" I asked when she answered.
"My name is Richard Hale, I was Cody's science teacher this last year."
"Well, Cody just showed up on my doorstep with no car, claiming that you kicked—"
"He's eighteen, right?" Ms. Griffith cut me off defensively. "If he's going to be a little shit, I can't control him anymore. Cody will do whatever the hell he wants, anyway. That's his father coming out in him."
"Ms. Griffith," I tried again, but she wasn't finished.
"Legally he's an adult. I'm not responsible anymore. Let him ruin his own life and see how he likes it when Mommy won't clean up after him." She hung up. I dialed twice more, but she didn't answer.
The phone sat heavily in my hand. Should I report this to someone? Since Cody was an alumnus and not a current student there weren't any rules in particular that applied. The faculty had just gone through a three-hour seminar on harassment and appropriate workplace interactions last Tuesday. Why couldn't I think of a good legal reason to kick this wayward child out of my house?
"What'd she say?" Cody's voice comes from behind me and I jump.
I shouldn't tell him that his mother described him as a "little shit." Scrubbing my face, I grumble, "You can sleep on the couch tonight. Then you need to be gone in the morning."
My mind told me that I was falling through space when I awoke to the mattress dipping under another body's weight. "The fuck?" was all I could manage through my groggy state. I rolled over to see Cody settling into bed like he belonged there. The rain had stopped.
"I'm cold," he said simply.
Whatever came out of my mouth wasn't English, but I intended to tell Cody to stay on the far side of the bed. Then I returned to slumber. However, the foreign sensation of another body next to mine, tossing and turning and breathing on me, did not allow sleep to hold me for long. It must have been one or two in the morning when I finally decided to go sleep on the couch. Almost as soon as my feet touched the ground I felt a hand on my wrist. I looked back at Cody.
His eyes glittered in the moonlight, his expression somber. Cody tugged at my arm. I shook my head. Instead of trying again Cody scooted over to curl his body around me, placing his cheek in my lap.
I should have stood up. Though the rain had washed most of it away, the faint scent of Old Spice drifted to my nose. Through the hoodie Cody radiated heat like a puppy. His hair had grown a little since he'd stuck his head in my car. That seemed like ages ago. Everything seemed like ages ago.
What are you doing? I should have asked when Cody placed his hand on my bare stomach. His fingers were cold; I shivered a little under his touch. Wrapping his free arm around my back, Cody pulled himself closer until the tip of his nose brushed my abdomen.
What are you doing?
Nuzzling my stomach for a moment, Cody's eyes closed when his tongue darted into my navel. My stomach contracted at the small invasion. Cody's hands flexed.
What are you doing?
All the wet sounds of his tongue slithered into my ears. The noise traveled into my jaw, my throat, down through my chest, burning there like so many coals under ash. A breeze could reignite them; a breath could cause a blaze. As Cody lightly made love to my navel my hand came to rest on the back of his head.
What are you doing?
White gold silk under my palm, then the backwards question mark of his ear, satin skin from lobe to the scratch of stubble on his jaw. The sweatshirt only partly disguised the swell of muscle in his shoulder and across his back. When my fingers reached the hem of the garment Cody sat up. I should have stood then, said enough and kcicked him out. Slept in the bathroom. Called him a cab and given him cash for a hotel. Anything but sit in silnce while Cody pulled my sweatshirt over his head and draw his knees under him. If he had looked in my eyes before he kissed me I would have told him to stop. If he had focused on anything other than my mouth when he pulled back I could have called on my superego to prevent him from kissing me again, from parting my lips with his tongue, from pressing me backward with trembling hands and lying next to me across the bed, from reaching down to grasp my growing shaft through my pajama pants. I wouldn't have let him settle on top of me so that our bodies fed each other's heat, or lifted my knees to trap his hips between them.
Cody might have fit in my bed, but he didn't belong. When he freed himself from his borrowed sweatpants I knew better than to let him draw my hand to his hardening girth. That's not where I belonged; stroking him until he gasped and came. His cum didn't belong quickly cooling on my belly. My pants didn't belong on the floor, yanked off and discarded by Cody so he could grind his hard body against mine, glueing our skin together with his emissions. My nails didn't belong on his back any more than his mouth belonged on my neck, my nipples, my cheeks, my eyes, my shoulder.
I shouldn't have turned over for him. Who did I think I was, placing myself on display, opening my legs for a kiss or two? It shouldn't have mattered that he was hard again, ready and waiting, rolling me over and dragging pillows to place under my chest. Hearing an "Oh," of admiration wasn't new, wasn't special. Cody wasn't special. He had never been special to me. Nothing about him in particular should have been enough to let him work his cock into me or given me reason to bite the pillow when his hips finally fit flush against my ass.
Cody rode me carefully, cautiously, sometimes with only the very tips of his fingers at my waist. He listened; when the first sound escaped my throat he drove himself into me until he earned another, then another still until with every thrust he drove from my lips a note to add to the perverse aria that sailed over the percussion of our bodies. My throat was raw, my eyes unfocused as my sight turned inward to the center of my pleasure. Our pleasure, shared through the shaft that penetrated my core again and again. Had the night eyes it would have blushed to see our writhing bodies, skin on salty wet skin, clasping at each other's flesh with fevered hands.
We rolled over and over, scattering linens and knocking pillows to the floor. We stayed connected; I saw to that. I was shackled to him until he had stoked the fire in my heart and belly and groin so high that it burst outward and consumed me. Cody's grasp grew rough, desperate. He called my name. Mr. Hale, Mr. Hale, at first, and then Richard, as he came. Whispered behind a sigh—Richard. The sound of his lips, his breath in my ear, the powerful shudder and the spill of hit seed inside me; I came and came and came and came.
And Cody's heart beat against my back.
And my heart beat in my chest.
And our hearts beat in time.