Writing

Reading Sundays: THE NON-AFFAIR (Part 9) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

“Caroline, please don’t exaggerate. There must be plenty of others who could perform this service for you.”

“I don’t understand.” My throat shut, so I had to swallow to open it. “I thought—”

“No.” He looked directly at me, his light-brown eyes as opaque as shiny coins in a too-bright sun.

I sat there, crumbling.

He rose to his feet, edged around that huge desk, walked past me as if I were another plastic chair, and opened the door.

“I must ask you to leave, Caroline. I’m very busy at present.”

I gazed around his room one last time. His desk gleamed smugly in the sunlight.

“Please leave. Now.” His face was immobile as he held the door open.

Somehow, I got to my feet and left, my arms wrapped around my brown leather bag. As I stepped into that antiseptic corridor with its white walls, white ceiling tiles, cheap white linoleum floor, I heard his door click shut behind me. I stumbled outside into a painfully sunny courtyard and slumped down onto my favorite bench. What was I going to do? He was the only person who knew my work well enough to be able to write a convincing letter of reference for the prestigious law schools I wanted to go to. I sat there for many moments, a cool wind wafting loss all around me.

***

“Caroline.” Father stood in the doorway of his study holding The Baltimore Sun, as I arrived home.

“I was right all along, not letting you stay at university. It is no place for respectable young women.”

I stared up into his unreadable face as he placed the paper into my hands.

“I believe this concerns one of your professors.”

The study door clicked shut behind him.

Alone in the sitting room, I leaned over the pages of The Sun. [To be continued.]