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I think I heard the collective “Gina, NOOOOO!!” from my readers at the end of the last chapter, and yes, it’s hard to read (and write) about this relationship. But thanks for giving it a chance. This chapter is a slow build- these two characters couldn’t just rush into sex. Hopefully the story is worth the wait, though.
I thought little of that first encounter with Gina. She was just another student on campus. A pretty student, to be sure, but just one of many, many students I had met. She had her brown hair held back by an ear-warmer headband, and, like me, she had tight running pants, a light jacket, and gloves. I tried not to stare at the way the running pants showed off her curvy bottom and muscular thighs.
We crossed the street together and ended up jogging side by side for another half mile before her route split off from mine. We chatted as we jogged, mostly commenting on the cold weather and our respective jogging plans. She was training for a half-marathon, I was just trying to keep my body busy and healthy.
Before we parted ways, I asked when she would be heading home for the holidays. She glanced down at her feet for a second, then looked at me and said, “I’m not. Things are…a little tense between me and my parents right now, so I told them I’m going to stay here and work over the break.”
Not really interested enough to dig deeper at the time, and wanting to get back to my warm house, I left it at that and said, “Well, then I’ll probably be seeing you around.”
“Is your…family staying in town for Christmas?” she asked.
I was hoping to have a productive month of writing to get a rough draft to my editor by the end of January, so I had planned to spend the break holed up in my office. “No…just…just me and a manuscript for a book I’m trying to finish.”
She raised her eyebrows in surprise, then started jogging in place to keep warm. “Well, tell me about it next time, Professor…Doctor,” she said as she started to jog away.
“Gareth,” I hollered at her, “call me Gareth when you don’t have me for a class.”
I could hear her say, “OK, Gareth” as her voice faded away.
I really wasn’t thinking about Gina in any way other than as a young lady I had met on campus. There were no instant sparks of desire or plans to seduce her. I still considered myself a married man, so other women were off-limits. Plus, I was a professor and she was a student, so it was doubly forbidden. And assuming she was about 20 or 21, I was more than ten years her senior. Triply forbidden! I honestly didn’t give her much thought after that first encounter, though the memory of her nicely-shaped lower body featured in my fantasies as I masturbated in bed that night.
I ran into Gina again on Christmas Eve. We were both jogging on campus. When we crossed paths, she turned and joined me.
“How much more for you?” I asked.
“Last mile,” she panted, red-faced and strained. “Up to seven…miles…today,” she added, finding it hard to breathe while speaking. “You?”
Equally winded, I answered, “About the same…jogged from home…walking back.”
After a few more steps in silence, she looked over at me and said between breaths, “Race you…to the coffee shop…on Branch Avenue…loser pays.”
I looked over at her and saw her eyes sparkling. The coffee shop was just about a mile away. With no warning, I took off. She squealed and chased me. It didn’t take her long to catch up and even pass me.
About halfway there, she was 20 paces ahead and I shouted, “Hey! Stop taking advantage of an old man!” I was in the tail end of my early 30’s, but these college kids made me feel much older. She was shouting some sort of response, but I didn’t hear it, because my eyes caught sight of an alleyway between two administrative buildings. At first glance it looked like a dead end, but I knew from my experience walking around campus that it led out to the main road. Gina would have to go all the way around the parking deck to get to the road.
I ducked into the alley and ran around the corner. I found myself only a block away from Branch Avenue. Glancing back, I saw Gina rounding the corner a block behind me, so I slowed down just a bit- more for the sake of my racing heart than anything else. I jogged briskly towards the coffee shop, hearing Gina’s pounding steps gaining on me. When I was two doors down, I slowed considerably, and Gina whizzed right past. Trotting up to the door, I smiled at her fake angry face.
“I don’t know…if I should accuse you…of cheating…or of throwing the race,” she panted.
“Either way, you win. Coffee’s on me. Merry Christmas,” I said, holding open the door for her. I was glad it had occurred to me that making a student pay for my drink was a bad idea. Even such a small act could be blown out of proportion and labeled as bribery- I had known a colleague get publicly reprimanded for “failing to acknowledge the implicit power güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri dynamic in such a situation.”
With all the students out of town, the line was short. We placed our orders and Gina got a seat as I paid. Joining her at the window seats, I pulled off my gloves and jacket. Gina did the same. We were both still catching our breath. When the server brought our drinks over, I reached up to take mine. I saw Gina’s face register surprise, maybe even a little anger.
As we held our mugs close to our chests for warmth, she nodded toward my hand. “You’re married?” I realized she hadn’t seen me without gloves until just then. And the class she had taken with me was a popular elective for some reason, so there were more than 50 students in the class- she may not have noticed the ring before.
“Yes. Technically married…but…I don’t know. I guess you would say separated?”
She looked out the window and her mood seemed less friendly.
“She left me in July.”
“Are you getting a divorce?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard from her since she left. She said in no uncertain terms that I shouldn’t call her. So…I don’t know. It’s hard to think she’d be planning to come back after disappearing for 5 months and taking all her stuff with her. Frankly, I’m expecting to be served papers at some point and that would be the end of it.”
“What did you do to piss her off so much?”
“Beats me. Everything was the same as it had been for years, but for some reason, the months before she left were miserable and she wouldn’t talk to me about why. I had even gotten us into marriage counseling. She left less than a week after our first time with the counselor.”
“So that’s why it’s just you and your book for the holidays.”
“I have to keep my mind on something,” I said, trying not to sound sad.
Shifting to face me and crossing her legs, she said, “Tell me about your book…”
We sat and talked for an hour and a half- but left the topic of my books after only a few minutes. Gina was easy to talk to. Nice, but a little edgy. I prodded her for some background on her family, but she said plainly that she didn’t want to be thinking about them right now. “I’ve already realized it was stupid of me to not go home over the holidays, but at this point, I’m not going to change that. It’s harder than I thought it would be,” she confessed. Then with a self-awareness I didn’t often see in students her age, she added, “I guess it’s just pride that’s keeping me here now, but it’s enough, apparently.”
As we talked, I was surprised to learn she was an Art History major. She admitted that she chose it because it was rumored to be the easiest and most fun major and that she just wanted a degree. I laughed, not taking offense at that. We talked about her experience at college and of my own career path that had led me there.
After a long, comfortable conversation, our mugs were drained and Gina stood up. “Well, I’m ready for a shower and a movie under a warm blanket.”
“That’s probably exactly what I’ll end up doing, too,” I said, not intending to sound flirty.
“I’ll see you later, Gareth,” she said, emphasizing my name.
As we walked back out into the cold air, I said, “Gina, what are your plans for tomorrow?”
“Probably the same as today,” she said with a shrug.
“We should do something to make it suck a little less. Dinner? Lunch? Drinks?”
She stood there silently, eyes narrowed in contemplation. I felt compelled to add, hopefully without babbling, “Just as friends, informally, I mean. Not like… you know. I mean…” and I pointed to my ring. I paused and looked down for a moment. “I just think it’s sad to be alone on Christmas. And since we’re both in that boat, for one reason or another…”
Gina turned her eyes upwards and lifted her heels up and down a few times, giving the illusion of hopping. Then she looked at me and said confidently, “Dinner. Then ice skating, OK?”
Ice skating? Could be…fun, I guess? I started to reply, “Great! It’s a d-…” then stopped myself. We both laughed at the awkwardness of what I had almost said. “Let me try that again…Great! Let’s plan on that. We can go Dutch.”
We swapped phone numbers and I promised to look up hours for the skating rink and a place to eat nearby. I jog-walked home, questions and possibilities tumbling around my brain.
I still wasn’t thinking too much about Gina at that point. She was nice, and I had enjoyed her company that afternoon. She was also quite attractive, but I wondered if some of that was the vibrancy of youth and sexual-emotional drought I was experiencing. Still, even trying to account for all that, Gina was a beautiful woman. She had curves appropriate to her height and her body was in good shape. Because we had only talked during our runs, I had yet to see her with any make-up, and I thought her natural beauty güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri was well above average. She lacked the glamorous look that Lynn tended to attain and instead had a less threatening, beautiful-girl-next-door aura.
I started to seriously consider whether it was time to move on. Lynn had been gone a while and gave no indication that she intended to continue our marriage. No text, no message, no email- nothing to say, “Hang in there, thanks for your patience, I’m still working through some things.” Just a discouraging, distancing silence.
At what point was my holding out just pathetic? At what point could I not be blamed for getting to know other women? I wasn’t really thinking of Gina in particular. The age difference and the teacher-student dynamic made that unwise. But it was the possibility of something with Gina that got my mind thinking about other women I could meet, perhaps some that I already knew but hadn’t thought of in a romantic sense before.
I knew that if…or when…I decided to explore those options, I would have to deal with a lot of guilt- guilt that could be explained away and rationalized as remnants of a moral sense that didn’t apply to my situation. That’s what made spending time with Gina seem wise. I knew it didn’t have a future beyond a few times together- I doubted she would consider me in that way, anyway. But I could adjust my conscience to the idea of being around women who weren’t my wife.
By the time I had walked the four miles back to my house, I had processed through all those ideas and more, and I realized that I hadn’t heard a word of the recorded lecture I had been listening to. I showered and hopped on the computer to make plans for my…date (for lack of a better word) with Gina.
I was so pleasantly distracted by thinking about that afternoon and making plans for the next day that I didn’t even remember that it was Christmas Eve until my mom called. My parents were out of state, visiting my sister and her kids for the holiday. Mom caught me up on family news, asked if I had heard from Lynn, made sure I was OK for the holidays, and asked if I had plans for Christmas Day.
“Nothing serious,” I said. “I’m going out to dinner with a…colleague who is also alone for the holidays.”
“A colleague?” she asked, her tone unclear. Judgmental? Curious? Hopeful? I knew they thought I should just start divorce proceedings and get busy finding someone else to make a family with.
“Just someone else from campus, Gin-…Gino. It’s quiet here with all the students gone, so he and I going to get dinner and keep ourselves a little distracted.” I realized it was guilt that made me lie, but that guilt had no reason to be affecting me. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Mom sighed quietly, “Well, that’s nice, but I still wish you had come out here. There’s snow and everything, and your nieces would love to see you.”
“Thanks mom, but I’m having quite a productive few weeks. I might even publish my next book in the summer.”
“Don’t work too hard- you’re young enough to get out there and enjoy life in a way you won’t be able to forever. Seize the day, Gareth! Take advantage of every opportunity.”
“Merry Christmas to you, too, mom,” I laughed, knowing she always felt the need to push me out into the world. I suspected she mainly wanted more grandkids.
Hanging up, I decided to order a pizza and spend my night watching movies. All in all, it wasn’t a bad evening, especially while looking forward to the prospect of a fun time with Gina the next day. And as I pulled a blanket over me on the couch, I wondered what it would be like to have her curled up in front of me as we watched the movie together. I looked at my phone, surprised I was even considering it.
I texted Gina with the address of the restaurant- nothing too formal, since we would be skating after. But still, something a little nicer…and something open on Christmas Day. It was a nice Indian restaurant that I had never tried other than for their lunch buffet. We met for an early dinner, since the rink closed at 8 that night.
Dinner was really, really nice. Gina seemed mature for a college junior. I had encountered too many of the kind who were still acting like their time at university was supposed to be one prolonged party and that things would just go their way after graduation. Gina was serious enough to act like an adult, and I sensed that there was probably something at home or in her past that had forced her to grow up a little earlier than her peers. Usually it’s the ones who have never seen a dark day that can’t grow up.
She looked great. It was that simple, non-flashy way about her that made her so attractive. Her outfit was nothing fancy, her hair was simple, and her make-up was, I guessed, pretty minimal. All that served to just highlight how beautiful she was in and of herself. Her sweater was a little güvenilir bahis şirketleri tight-fitting, which made me need to be very intentional about eye contact as we talked. The way brown hair slightly curled when it met her shoulders didn’t help, because my eyes would follow their flow as they landed lightly on her chest.
We discussed art and her growing interest in it. She asked me about possible careers for an Art History major, and I was admittedly ignorant of what anyone could really do with that degree if they weren’t going on to a Master’s level degree program.
She asked about my other books, and I summarized them. She realized she had read one of them for a class that semester, but hadn’t made the connection that it was me that had written it. I didn’t mind- I was happy just that my books sold, I didn’t need or expect any notoriety from them.
We talked about our personal lives. She didn’t have a boyfriend at the time and said that she didn’t honestly expect to settle into a very long-term relationship while studying. Who knew where she would end up after she graduated? She wanted minimal complications so that her career and life options would be open later.
“Have you heard from your, uh…wife…for Christmas?” she asked, when it was clear we had exhausted the topic of her relationship status.
“No, nothing at all. Lynn is an event planner, so she’s probably got a dozen different things happening this week- all sorts of charity events, business events, government and community events. Aside from wedding season, this is the big time of year for her.”
“So she’s been gone since…did you say July?” I nodded, a little uncomfortable talking about Lynn with another woman, even if it wasn’t really a date. “So have you been branching out? Enjoying your bachelor status?” She said it lightheartedly, but I suspected it was a very serious question.
I laughed softly at the thought of me ‘playing the field.’ I said, “Gina, you have to remember that I gladly chose an academic life. I feel a lot more comfortable interacting with a book on Rembrandt than with an actual person. You’re the first woman…or person, even…that I’ve talked to outside of work and family since Lynn left.”
She froze and looked at me in disbelief, her hands in the middle of tearing off a piece of naan. “You’re serious. You haven’t, like…gone out with friends, or hung out at a bar, or signed up for online dating or anything?”
“No, and the thought has seldom crossed my mind. I think a big part of me still hopes that Lynn will just walk back in and we can fix everything with one long conversation. But with each month that goes by, that hope fades. I’m…I’m not a very social person- Lynn was my best friend, and most of our friendships were with other couples. With her gone, I haven’t just lost my marriage- I’ve lost all the social connections I had. So I just keep living this way out of habit, I guess.”
“Sounds like an inertia problem.”
“Inertia- a body at rest will stay at rest until something kicks it in the butt and gets it in motion. Roughly speaking.”
I laughed, “yeah, that sounds about right. Lynn was always in motion, and that kept me going. I tend to get in a rut, live according to my habits. Starting a running routine was a huge step for me.”
“What motivated that?”
I don’t know what prompted my frankness, but I answered without pause, “Horniness.”
She had been about to take a sip of wine before I said that, but, starting to laugh, she pulled the glass from her lips and put it down. “What?!” She said, looking around at the mostly empty restaurant.
“Sorry, I don’t want to be crude, but 5 months without…my wife…and I was having a hard time.” I instantly winced at the unintentional pun, and Gina laughed, more at my reaction than at the pun. I continued,”I knew I needed something to be an outlet for that extra…energy, and running was easy to do.”
“Did it work?”
My mind had briefly wandered, picturing Gina offering to be an outlet for that energy, and I didn’t follow what she was asking. “Did what work?”
“Did running solve your problem? Help you with your hard time?” she teased.
“Well…no, it didn’t solve my problem, I couldn’t expect that. But it helped a lot. I had less energy when I got home in the evenings, and I’ve started feeling a little boost to my self-esteem.”
“But you’re still horny?”
“A guy can’t be around young coeds all day and not feel a natural response…”
“Awww, you poor thing. Are the mean college girls teasing you?”
“They don’t need to tease. You just need to be yourself, looking beautiful. A guy’s imagination and hormones take care of the rest.”
I was starting to get uncomfortable with all the sex talk, partly because of the effect it was having on my arousal level. I changed the topic and asked her about ice skating and why she had suggested that. We talked a little about her childhood interests, and by the time we had covered that, it was nearly 6:30 and time for us to get to the rink. I called for the check, and when Gina pulled out her purse, I suggested she let me pay for the meal and she could pay for ice skating. She didn’t object.
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