Professor Madison McGrath was not in a grand mood.
Earlier that morning, she found out that she was required to take a mandatory training workshop for online teaching this semester. It didn’t make any sense to her because she had been teaching online classes for several semesters now.
To add insult to injury, the workshop met on every other Fridays, her usual work-from-home day.
But no matter, though the department Chair was sympathetic, there was nothing anybody could do, except to take it up with the Dean of the College. Despite her fury, Dr. McGrath was not prepared to do that. After all, she liked her job enough to not want to jeopardize her tenure at the university.
On that first Friday morning, a grumpy and sulky Maddy grudgingly got herself out of bed. She almost ditched the idea of going at all but the thought of ending up in the Dean’s bad book forced her to get showered, dressed, her hair blow dried and brushed.
By the time she stopped at the Starbucks for coffee, Maddy was already 10 minutes late.
The instructor for this workshop was a middle aged tall-ish woman. At 9 o’clock sharp, Dr. Genevieve Osaki glanced around the classroom and started the class.
She first called the rolls and noted one person missing. Frowning slightly she quickly moved to introducing herself. “I’m an Educational Technology specialist and own a consulting company.” She said earnestly. “I’ve conducted many workshops and seminars similar to this one. I’m really looking forward to working with you all this semester.” The instructor smiled sincerely. The class responded well to her warmth and a few nodded and smiled back.
Dr. Osaki was in the middle of “you can call me either Dr. O or Sensei” when Maddy burst through the door. The petite late comer, coffee in hand, headed to the back row quickly, acknowledging no one in particular.
Dr. Osaki did a double take. This woman looked just like her beloved Evangeline! Small, slender, shoulder length wavy auburn hair, even the way she scurried along balancing her coffee. Her round hips and shapely buttocks were nicely tucked in a pair of washed out skinny jeans flanked by shining leather knee high boots. Oh, and that Vera Bradley tote slinging on her shoulder, it had been Evie’s favorite!
And just a tiny hint of a familiar attitude.
Dr. Osaki’s eyes followed the petite woman, transfixed and speechless. But she caught herself and promptly regained her composure.
Smiling, she greeted Maddy. “Welcome, Dr. McGrath. Glad you made it.”
Maddy was a little taken aback that the instructor knew her name. She mumbled a feeble pleasantry back while situating herself on one of the seats at the very last row of the classroom.
She looked around and saw about 15 or so people in the room, all faculty at the university, but realized she hardly knew any of them. Well, okay, this portly guy looked vaguely familiar from a couple years ago when she had served on the university curriculum committee. He’s from the English Department, Maddy was pretty sure. Then there was that matronly nursing professor who had attended the same Spanish class with Maddy for their continuing ed. credit. She had been very friendly to everyone and was very conscientious. The rest of the class Maddy had no clue who they were. It’s not exactly surprising because theirs was a big campus.
Sipping her coffee, Dr. Madison McGrath half hid her face behind the PC, busy sizing up the instructor. Right away she decided that she liked what she saw.
Standing straight backed, the middle aged woman cut quite a striking figure. Tall and slim, short raven hair soft and shining, every strand in its rightful place behind her ears. The teacher wore a beige cashmere cardigan that accentuated her figure and the brown slacks fit her hips and legs perfectly. On her feet, she had a pair of Aerosoles black leather flats. Around her neck, the loosely tied white silk scarf added to the woman’s overall elegant appearance. Though her facial features were soft and kind and almost serene, her dark brown irises were bright and sharp, emanating intelligence and wisdom and an air of no-nonsense.
Maddy’s gaze followed Sensei as she was pacing and talking in the front. Oh, and those hands! Sensei gestured with her strong hands and long fingers. Maddy couldn’t help but staring at those sturdy palms, her eyes widening.
Dreamily as if in a trance, Dr. McGrath leaned back and let her thoughts carry her far and yonder.
After a while, all seemed quiet.
Dr. Osaki’s silky voice floated over, jolting Maddy back to class from her daydreaming.
“Ye – yes?” Maddy stammered, flipping her wavy hair, a puzzled look on her face.
“Your turn now,” the instructor locked her intense gaze into Maddy’s gray eyes, not exactly smiling. Ok, she had to hide her amusement at the student’s flustered look because boy, that expression was so much like Evie’s when she had been caught off guard.
But the teacher was certainly not amused at this woman’s lack of enthusiasm. First she was late and did not offer an apology when entering the classroom. Then clearly she was not paying any attention in class either, although Genevieve did notice that Maddy’s eyes had been glued on the teacher the whole time.
‘This woman needs her attitude adjusted,’ Professor Osaki made a note to herself.
“My turn?” Maddy glanced around and saw all the others watching her, expecting. She realized that they must have been doing self-intros.
Quickly sitting straight and clearing her throat, she said simply: “Well, I’m Madison McGrath. Go by Maddy. I teach phytopathology.”
Silence. Blank stares and confused faces all around.
How typical, Maddy snickered, ‘Nobody ever knows what it means. Not even here.’ She felt a perverted sense of quasi-superiority.
“It’s plant pathology.” She explained, with a flounce of her soft hair in an almost gleeful way.
Faces relaxed and knowing heads nodded. But it was apparent that the class was expecting a little more information because no one said anything and seemed to be waiting for more.
Maddy quickly added, “I’ve been teaching online for three semesters now so I don’t know why they made me come here.” Shrugging, she snorted, eyes rolling.
A small bemused grin appeared on Genevieve’s face as she recognized the familiar brattitude.
‘Yes, this naughty woman definitely needs a reminder,’ Sensei nodded to herself emphatically.
The self-intros moved on and to Maddy’s annoyance, the others all seemed extremely chatty and willing to talk about their families, pets, interests and hobbies and all the stuff that in her mind had nothing whatsoever to do with this class. What’s more, Sensei seemed to enjoy and encourage all the information sharing with her smiles and nods.
A little miffed, Maddy again hid her face behind the PC, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
When the intros were over, Dr. Osaki went over the syllabus with the class and made it clear that they were going to be graded for this workshop. In a serious tone, she addressed all her students: “As you are all faculty yourselves, I don’t think I need to emphasize basic things such as being on time to class and paying attention.” A few students chuckled nervously.
She continued: “I know some of you were made to come here, but regardless, you are all in my class now, and I hope you follow my policies.” She cast a meaningful glance at the audience. “Needless to say, tardiness to class or late homework will not be tolerated and will result in points being taken off.”
That, she stated with a tone that did not invite any chuckles or questions or objections. None came forth.
But Maddy of course was not paying any attention to what the teacher was saying; she was busy Googling Genevieve Osaki. She found Dr. O’s name on LinkedIn under the Education Technology Specialist category. Apparently the instructor had acquired quite a reputable professional status among her peers counting the numerous accolades on the page.
Maddy was duly impressed.
Soon the class was over. Students all said goodbye to the instructor as they were filing out.
As Maddy was headed for the garage, she was a little surprised to find Dr. O strolling alongside her.
“Phytopathology, eh?” Genevieve said it in a neutral tone.
“Yeah,” Maddy giggled. “Sounds pretentious, don’t you think Sensei?” Unable to suppress her mirth, the younger woman was rather pleased with herself.
Gen grinned, time to bring this little adorable brat of a professor down a peg or two.
“So, how was the traffic this morning Maddy?” The teacher changed the subject.
“Huh? Traffic? Oh it was fine,” Maddy replied, clueless where the subject had come from or where it was heading. “I live only about 5 miles from here,” she added.
“Trouble finding parking then?” Dr. O followed up with another question, her voice deceptively soft.
“Parking? No, no problem. The campus is pretty much deserted on Fridays, you know.” Maddy answered casually, still clueless.
“Then the Starbucks was busy?” Sensei’s voice was raised ever so slightly and her tone became a little harder.
“Wha?” Maddy’s eye lids fluttered as a light bulb went off in her brain. This was no ordinary small chitchat, she realized. The older woman was interrogating the student why she had been late this morning!
‘Oh my gawd,’ Maddy muttered under her breath. ‘Am I in the freakin’ middle school again, being told off by the principal?!’
“What was that Maddy?” The voice was steely this time.
“Um… nothing.” Maddy caught herself quickly and offered Genevieve a twisted half smile, her eye lashes batting.
“I asked you a question, Dr. McGrath,” Sensei reminded her, in a tone that indicated she was not terribly pleased at the moment.
“Oh, sorry. Um, Starbucks … no, it was not too busy I suppose.”
By now they had reached the car parking.
Maddy stood in front of the teacher, her face downcast, concentrating on scuffing the concrete floor with her boot.
“Well then?” Dr. O gently lifted Maddy’s chin and looked into her gray eyes.
“I … I was … just uh …” Dang. Maddy hated that she was unusually slow today.
Sensei’s face softened as she broke into a small grin, her voice softer too.
“Dragging your feet?” There was the tiniest hint of amusement in her voice.
“Yeah, kinda.” Maddy admitted. “Sorry Dr. O I was late.” Maddy’s face was turning bright red as she looked into Sensei’s dark brown eyes.
“Apology accepted.” Dr. O smiled, her voice silky again. “You’ll be punctual next time then, yes?”
“Yes Ma’am.” Maddy whispered.
Dr. Osaki paused for a second before she said casually but purposefully, “By the way Maddy, I would like you to sit in the front row from now on, if you don’t mind.”
“Bu – bu …but why?” Maddy instinctively vocalized before she realized that it sounded more like protesting.
Dr. Genevieve Osaki knew a naughty brat when she saw one. This one was so very adorable too.
“Why? Would you like me to spell out all the reasons, Maddy?”
Eyebrows raised and arms crossed in the front, the older woman’s face was half amused and half serious, and her voice, though still soft, was becoming stern.
“Umm …” Maddy coughed nervously, “No, uh … it’s okay. I’ll sit in the front row next time, alright?”
“Thank you Maddy,” Sensei nodded approvingly.
Maddy felt a sweet sensation running down her spine all the way to her toes as her heart was racing fast and her body tingling all over.
Quickly muttering a goodbye, Professor Madison McGrath turned and broke into a small bounce towards her jeep.
The instructor nodded as she watched the petite woman scurry away, trying to suppress a chuckle from escaping her throat.
The younger woman’s little swaying bottom, framed by the tight jeans, looked so deliciously inviting. And those round but curved thighs. Genevieve Osaki swallowed hard as her palm suddenly felt terribly itchy. She mouthed “Have a good weekend, sweetie” in the direction of the departing woman before turning around to get to her car.
That night Genevieve Osaki tossed and turned in bed. She couldn’t get the image of the petite student out of her mind, especially the pouty hair flipping, the subtle snoottitude, and oh, that nice round little bottom.
Genevieve lost her beloved Evangeline to a tragic car accident three years earlier. These past three years had been quite a painful journey for the stoic instructor.
Emily Dickinson once wrote: “After great pain, a formal feeling comes … First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.” In Gen’s case, she felt she was practically dead herself in the first year. Gradually, through therapy, meditation and yoga, and through her inner strength and grace, Gen had now reached a Zen-like haven where acceptance, peace and serenity reigned.
However, letting go was another matter entirely. The grief stricken and stubborn woman had shut close the door to her heart and been celibate ever since. Whenever she felt lonely, she talked to her sweet Evie. They would laugh and cry together. In fact, she had never shown interest in any other woman crossing her path since the day Evangeline left this world.
Until today. Today the appearance of Dr. Maddy McGrath had stirred up all the buried feelings in the stoic woman. There was something special about the plant pathology professor that was tugging at Sensei’s heart. She could tell that though the younger woman had put up a somewhat nonchalant front, she seemed sensitive, fragile and vulnerable.
Not to mention that naughty defiant streak, albeit displayed subtly.
For the first time in a long while, the stoic woman felt that all kinds of emotions were vigorously assaulting her, penetrating her mind and body, her heart beginning to thaw.
That night, Sensei continually tossed and turned in her big bed.
Meantime, Maddy played the car park scene repeatedly in her mind in the following week. She found herself squirming each time she thought of a persistent and firm Sensei. Though the teacher had been calm and kind, her stern tone and demeanor was not lost on Maddy, who has always been drawn to authoritative women, the kind who were elegant and yet strong.
Ever since her partner Sidney and she broke up about six months prior, Maddy had been feeling like an abandoned ship floating around aimlessly. She and Sid had been happily together for over a decade, and Maddy blamed herself for driving her partner away.
She had been in the throes of a nasty case of midlife crisis as she watched helplessly the power vacuum of middle age sucking the youth from her body and spirit. Hormones raging uncontrollably, Maddy could not seem to get out of that emotional whirlwind spinner for a long time and must have been horrible to live with. Not surprisingly, her relationship with Sid went to pieces.
Right after Sid left, Maddy fell into a deep depression. Normally a vibrant and active person, for a while though, she was so heart-broken that all she could manage was to teach her classes, sometimes barely, and then just go home and crash. No interest in cooking or socializing or watching TV or reading or anything else that she had always enjoyed in life. On the days when she had no class, she didn’t even bother to get out of bed. All she wanted to do was to hug her giant soft pillow and mope in bed. Or even if she did manage to get out of bed by mid-day, she didn’t bother to get dressed. With her beloved Siamese Polly perched on her lap, Maddy would just sit on the couch crying, drowning in self-pity and sorrow.
Thank goodness those days were far and few between now as Maddy slowly got out of her emotional rut. In fact she was well on her way to welcoming her old self back. Most days, Maddy functioned relatively well. She managed to focus on her work and her students and took pride in her accomplishments. To stay healthy, she had signed up for a Pilates class at the university, avoided junk food whenever she could, and managed to quit smoking altogether. She started socializing again and some nights even watching her favorite TV shows.
Still, there were good days and bad days, and on the rare occasion of a bad day when something had triggered her inner sorrow, negative emotions would relentlessly flood back and paralyze her. On those days she would cry and cry until there’s no tear left and she would just surrender to the shadow of pain. Very occasionally she would let the darkest of dark thoughts creep into her mind, albeit for a brief second.
Maddy missed Sid terribly. She craved for cuddles, but especially craved for the kind of external motivation her partner used to provide to help her go about completing her daily tasks and help her orient herself. When they had been together, Sid was the established Top in their relationship and Maddy did well under her loving but strict guidance. Sid was able to discipline Maddy effectively, the kind of motivation Maddy needed. Now she felt she had lost her anchor in life, and longed to have someone’s firm hands to steer the ship so she could be moored again and move forward with her life.
Like this week. She was supposed to finish the assignment for the next class, but Maddy just didn’t feel like doing it at all. She tried half-heartedly a couple times but just couldn’t bring herself to finishing it. Maddy knew if Sid had been here, she would’ve taken her partner in hand and the homework would’ve been completed on time.
Two weeks passed quickly and it was Friday again. Maddy did intend to complete her assignment the night before but fell asleep in front of her laptop around midnight.
On Friday morning, she briefly considered not going to class altogether, but the desire to see Sensei made her quickly get dressed and ready to go, determined that she was not going to be late today. She put on her favorite burgundy low cut sweater and a light gray pencil skirt that matched her eye color, and her black boots. Standing in front of the mirror, Maddy smiled shyly at the perky looking woman with shoulder length wavy hair. She lightly applied some Bare Minerals powder on her face and smoothed her tresses a little.
However, one thought was tugging at her. Dang, that unfinished assignment.
‘Well, I’ll just have to ask her for an extension, won’t I? No biggie,’ Maddy tried to convince herself, although her stomach did a flip flop when she recalled the older woman’s interrogation in the garage.
Maddy was getting slightly worried.
But Dr. O overall seemed rather understanding and sympathetic and all. For heaven’s sake, she had even brought coffee candies to class for everyone. How mean could she really be?
‘Surely she wouldn’t mind giving me an extension.’ Maddy reassured herself as she drove to school. Besides, it’s just a training workshop, not a real class or anything. ‘What’s she gonna do, huh?’
A little smirk appeared on Maddy’s face, ‘Kicking my ass?’ She chuckled out loud.
Dr. Osaki stood tall in front of the class when Maddy walked in with her Vera Bradley and coffee. She smiled at the younger woman to show her pleasure that the tardy student had corrected herself. Maddy blushed and quickly headed to the back row.
A cough and then a throaty “Dr. McGrath?”
Maddy turned around and saw Dr. O pointing to the row right in the front.
‘Oh, crap,’ Maddy remembered. ‘The freakin’ middle school again,’ she didn’t let the sound escape from between her clenched teeth though.
With a flip of her tresses, Maddy went to sit in the front.
Genevieve had to hide her bemused grin as she noticed the younger woman’s grudging compliance.
At 9 o’clock on the dot Dr. Genevieve Osaki motioned the class to quiet down. She cleared her throat, “First of all, I’d like to say that I appreciate everyone being here on time today.” She cast an approving look in Maddy’s direction. Maddy demurred and squirmed a little, pleased with herself.
“I would also like to praise those who have turned in their assignments on time.” The teacher looked all around, smiling broadly at her students.
Then the instructor’s tone became more serious as her smile disappeared, “Those who haven’t done so, please see me after class.” She turned her gaze towards Maddy, who as usual hid behind her PC, but now squirming more, and for a different reason entirely.
“And I hope I don’t need to remind you that points will be taken off.” Sensei’s voice showed no particular emotion but to Maddy’s ears it carried a clear tone of displeasure.
Maddy’s stomach churned a teeny bit. She slowly moved half of her face out from behind her computer and her one eye stole a sheepish look at the teacher before quickly retreating into her haven behind the PC.
But for that quick second, Maddy caught Genevieve’s furrowed brows and narrowed eyes directly casting at her.
Professor McGrath’s stomach churned slightly more because she had a flicker of recognition of those furrowing brows and narrowing eyes. Sid used to do that when displeased with Maddy and it was usually a warning that Maddy was about to get herself into trouble.
Flushed, heart pumping, Maddy tried her best to concentrate, but it was a futile effort. She felt bothered, her thoughts jumbled. Maddy barely survived the whole morning in a blur.
Finally the class was over. Maddy grabbed her stuff and walked up to the teacher who was packing up her computer while saying goodbye to other students.
Maddy waited, glancing everywhere but the instructor.
“Let’s go to my office,” the instructor said evenly while staring straight ahead. She led the way and Maddy almost had to break into a little jog to follow her stride.
Once in the office, Sensei sat down in her chair behind the big desk and motioned Maddy to the chair opposite.
“Do you know why I need to talk to you Maddy?”
Maddy did not take the seat. Instead she stood by the desk, looking at her boots.
“I’m sorry Sensei, about the assignment.” So embarrassing to utter those words, Maddy thought. She spoke in a low voice.
“If you give me an extension, I’ll get it done by Monday, I promise.”
Gen was quiet for a minute before asking, “What would you do if one of your students were tardy with their homework?”
Maddy swallowed hard. Sure she had a strict policy on tardiness in her own class. But … but it’s a different situation, she wanted to shout. For starters, this is NOT a real course!
Wisely though, Professor Madison McGrath did not share her thoughts with her instructor at that moment. She was silent.
“Dr. McGrath,” Sensei’s voice became stern, “I asked you a question.”
Maddy turned beet red in the face. She stuttered: “I … I do have a tardiness policy …”
“As do I,” Sensei looked at Maddy thoughtfully, “I’m sure you’re familiar with my grading policy, yes?”
“Uh … sure … um…not really,” Maddy mumbled, flipping her hair, her face feeling really hot now.
“I see.” Genevieve sighed. “You haven’t bothered to read my syllabus yet, huh?” Eye brows rising, the teacher’s disappointment was evident.
Maddy’s insides felt knotted as she wished the floor underneath would just disappear any minute.
Sensei picked up a copy of the syllabus from her desk. “Let’s see if you have any further questions.” She handed it to Maddy. “The information is provided on the third page.”
Maddy started to read, “Ok, here it says a 50% deduction, what? 50%? for any late … late work and after 24 hours, no assignment will be accepted. What?” She almost raised her voice, “That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think, Dr. O?”
Dr. Osaki stood up from her chair.
“I see. You’d rather stay here and argue about how harsh my policy is than getting your assignment completed in the next …” she looked at her watch, “5 hours and receiving 50% of the grades?” she folded her arms in front of her chest, coolly.
“No, no, I didn’t mean to argue, really.” Maddy panicked and started to sound like pleading. “Bu … but, it’s the first time! Can’t you start enforcing your policy next time, please?”
She was by nature a competitive person and did not like the idea of having points taken off of her work, particularly not because of its lack of quality, but a little oversight in timeliness.
“This IS for the first offense, Dr. McGrath. Go on, finish the paragraph.”
Maddy resumed reading with a sinking heart, “If it happens more than once, then no point will be granted at all for any late work. This rule will be strictly enforced. No exceptions.”
“Holy f …” Maddy caught herself in mid-sentence, accompanied by a half aborted foot stomping.
“I meant wow. I don’t know what to say.” She discreetly let her foot lower itself down to the carpeted floor.
Sensei stood tall in front of Maddy, half amazed that the student almost threw a little tantrum. With a stern expression on her face, Genevieve’s dark brown eyes locked in with Maddy’s gray ones.
Déjà vu! Maddy blinked and stepped back. For a second, it was as if a disapproving and disappointed Sid were right there in flesh about to chastise her naughty girlfriend.
Nothing was said. The only sound was from the air conditioner.
Maddy blinked a few more times. Flushed, heart pounding, palms sweating, she quickly picked up her bag and flung it over her shoulder.
“Okay, okay, I shall be heading home now to finish that assignment.” She said meekly in a barely audible voice.
“You have a good weekend, Sensei,” she hastily added.
“Off you go,” Sensei took a step forward and swiftly planted a firm swat on Maddy’s tight bottom, in the middle of the right cheek.
“I expect your assignment to be turned in before today ends!” Before Maddy had time to react, another hard swat landed, this time in the middle of the left cheek.
“Owow,” Maddy’s hands flew to cover her behind. Rubbing, she stuck out her lower lip in a semi pout at Sensei, and quickly took her leave, her chastised bottom swaying vigorously.
Genevieve grinned as she tried to shake the sting out of her hand.
‘Ah, Professor Madison McGrath, such a naughty woman,’ Genevieve Osaki thought affectionately. ‘The girl’s going to need a firm hand in her life, the same hand that my darling Evangeline quite frequently received on her sweet bare bottom.’
Sensei chuckled out loud, rather pleased.
Alyx: thank you for your encouragement!