Chapter no 37

The Teacher


I MUST HAVE SWALLOWED a few too many horseshoe Lucky Charms, because I am having amazing luck.

First I got away with breaking into Kenzie’s house.

Then Mrs. Bennett decided she was not going to report what I did to the principal. I didn’t even think that was possible, but she was nice to me. She didn’t smile, of course—that would be way too much to hope for—but she recommended some cheap tutors that I might be able to afford, and she told me she would drop the zero if I pulled it together by the end of the semester.

And now I am at the meeting of the poetry magazine, and Mr. Bennett thinks the new poem I’ve been working on for the last two weeks is worthy of being in this issue. I have been so scared Mrs. Bennett would tell him what I did and that he would think less of me, but I guess she didn’t tell him because he is looking at me the same as he always does.

“I love this line,” he tells me. “‘The blood drains out of my heart with each beat.’ What a powerful image.”

I look over at Lotus to see if she’s listening, but she is looking away. She was so angry about Mr. Bennett entering my poem in that contest rather than hers, she doesn’t even speak to me anymore. She doesn’t seem interested in being friends, which is saying a lot because Lotus might be the only kid in the school less popular than I am.

The Reflections meeting is officially over at 4:30, but the more dedicated members of the magazine usually stick around till five, discussing poems for the magazine and just stuff we read in general that we like. Lotus is the last to leave, slinging her backpack over her shoulder and vacating the room without even saying goodbye. I’m about to follow her when Mr. Bennett says my name.

“Addie,” he says. “Hang on.”

I freeze, curious to hear what he has to say. I’m even more curious when he walks over and pushes the door to his classroom shut. When we’re alone, he raises his eyebrows at me. “So what happened? What did Eve say to you?”

It’s strange how he calls her Eve instead of Mrs. Bennett. I mean, obviously he wouldn’t call his wife Mrs. Bennett to her face, but it seems like he should call her that around me. But that fact is less significant than the fact that he knows what happened. She must’ve told him what I did.

God, this is so embarrassing. “Um,” I say. “It was…okay.”

His voice lowers a notch. “She went easy on you, right? She’s not involving the principal?”

I shake my head wordlessly.

He nods in satisfaction. He tugs at his tie, loosening it around his neck until I can see just a little bit of chest hair peeking out. “I told her what a hard time you’ve had in the last year. I told her to give you another chance to make it up.”

It all finally makes sense. I was wondering why Mrs. Bennett suddenly decided to take pity on me. It was because of him. He told her not to go to the principal.

“You helped me,” I blurt out.

“Of course I did, Addie.” He smiles at me, his eyes crinkling. “I wasn’t about to let my favorite student get kicked out of school. I had to stick up for you.”

My head is spinning. Mr. Bennett knows what I did, and he doesn’t hate me. Not only that, but I’m his favorite student. I almost want to burst into happy tears.

“Thank you,” I manage. “Thank you so much.” “Of course,” he says. “I only did what was right.”

The rush of emotions I feel is almost overwhelming. Before I can stop myself, I throw my arms around Mr. Bennett in a massive hug. My eyes are welling with tears, and I cling to him. I never hugged my dad, not since I was a little girl, and I never even hugged Mr. Tuttle. But I never felt quite this grateful to another person before. He believed in me. He went to bat for me.

Mr. Bennett hugs me back, not pushing me away even as I cling to him. The hug lasts far longer than I intended it to, but I don’t want to let go of him, and he doesn’t seem to mind either. But then something firm pokes me in the leg. Like a roll of toilet paper.

Oh my God. Is that…?

I leap away from my teacher, horrified. I had hoped maybe I was mistaken, but when my eyes drop, I can see the telltale bulge in Mr. Bennett’s pants. From the look on his face, he realizes exactly what has happened, and he looks completely mortified.

“I am so sorry, Addie!” he cries. He turns away from me, attempting to conceal it, but it’s far too late for that. “This is completely… It’s unacceptable. I’m so sorry.”

“Yes,” I say in a small voice.

“It’s no excuse,” he says in a small voice, “but you have to know that my wife… We have nothing in common anymore. I feel nothing for her. And then I meet you, and it’s like… I finally connect with someone for the first time in my life.” He hazards a look at me, his face bright red. Even when he is flustered, he is so handsome. “But that’s no excuse. No excuse. I am just so sorry.”

I wish he would shut up and stop apologizing. “Right.” “You should go,” he tells me.

I do what he asks of me. I grab my backpack and quietly leave the classroom, although my head is spinning even more than before. As I walk away down the dim hallway, I try to make sense of it all.

Mr. Bennett is the sexiest teacher in the whole school. Everybody knows it. And he’s married to a grown woman, who I would assume he has sex with. But for some reason, while I was hugging him, he was getting turned on. By me. And then he told me that he’s never connected to anyone like he has to me.

The weird part is that I was thinking the exact same thing.

I freeze in the middle of the hallway. I don’t know what to do next, but I can’t leave right now. I have to figure out what just happened in there. I owe it to both of us.

I turn around and walk back to the classroom. Nobody is around the school anymore. All the clubs have ended, although some of the teams are still meeting outside in the field. Mr. Bennett is sitting at his desk, and when he looks up at me with his soft brown eyes, it feels like the two of us are the only people in the entire school. In the entire world.

“Hi,” I say.

“Addie.” He frowns. “I don’t think we should talk about this anymore.

Like I said, I am incredibly sorry.” “But I want to talk about it.”

Mr. Bennett stands up. He can’t conceal that he is still turned on. He stares at me across the room. “Close the door,” he instructs me.

I do as he says.

I float across the room until I’m standing right in front of him. He’s about half a head taller than me, and I have to tilt my head to look up at him. His lips look moist. There were moments with Hudson when I felt a stirring inside me, but never anything like this. This is like that, on steroids.

“I’m trying to resist you,” he murmurs. “You have no idea how badly I’m trying.”

“You don’t have to.”

I thought that I would be the one to have to make the first move, so I’m surprised when it is Mr. Bennett who lowers his lips onto mine. It’s the first time I have kissed a boy—well, a man. At first, it’s just his lips on mine. But then a few seconds later, his tongue enters my mouth. I always knew in my head that people kiss with tongue, but I never imagined how it would feel. At first, it feels super weird, like some alien object worming its way inside me, and I’m not sure I like it. I almost want to pull away, but he’s holding me tight, close to his body, and also, it would be lame to pull away. He’d be so disappointed.

And then, after a few more seconds, my body starts to tingle. And it’s… incredible. My whole body feels like it’s on fire, like it’s an explosion. I don’t want it to ever stop, but then he pulls away.

“This is wrong,” he says.

That makes me angry. Yes, he’s my teacher, and he’s a lot older than me. And married. Okay, that sounds bad. But at the same time, we connect. When two people connect on the same level we do, don’t they have a responsibility to do something about it, no matter what the circumstances? “I don’t think it’s wrong,” I say.

“It is.” His brows bunch together. “But I can’t resist you. I’m helpless.”

I can’t resist you. I’m helpless.

My only fear is that we could get caught. Look at what happened to Mr. Tuttle, and nothing like this even went on with him. But maybe that’s the difference. Mr. Tuttle and I weren’t doing anything wrong, so we weren’t careful. But Mr. Bennett and I will be careful.

Like he’s reading my mind, Mr. Bennett looks anxiously at the door. “We shouldn’t do this here.”

“I know a place.”

He looks surprised, but he follows me dutifully out the door to the classroom. There is a place in the school that nobody else knows about where two people could be alone. I took photography last year as an elective, and the class was all digital, but it didn’t used to be. There’s a darkroom set up next to the classroom that kids used to use to develop photos, but now it’s just a small empty room with a large sink and old chemicals. Maybe someday it will be repurposed for something, but now it’s a haven of privacy.

I close the door behind us.

“You’re really something, Addie,” he breathes.

He loosens his tie and undoes the first button on his collar as my heart skips a beat. He’s not going to take off his shirt, is he? The thought of it makes me uneasy, but thankfully, he stops after that first button.

“I’m glad you like the room, Mr. Bennett,” I say.

He grins at me. “You don’t need to call me Mr. Bennett when we’re in here.”

“Oh.” I feel stupid. Obviously, if we are going to be making out in the darkroom, I shouldn’t be calling him Mr. Bennett. “Nathaniel then?” It feels so strange saying his first name. Even after kissing him, saying “Mr. Bennett” feels more normal to me.

He grins at me. “Most people call me Nate. But it’s your choice.” “I like Nathaniel,” I say thoughtfully.

“Okay,” he agrees. “And how about you? Do you prefer Adeline?” His smile widens. “Sweet Adeline…”

I have always hated the name Adeline, but I like the way it sounds on his lips. Sweet Adeline…

Except it’s not really true, is it? There’s nothing sweet about what we’re doing in this darkroom. “I prefer Addie.”

“You got it.” He cocks his head at me. “Back in the classroom, was that…was that your first kiss?”

My face burns. I hate for him to think of me as being inexperienced, but I don’t want to lie to him. I get the feeling he knows when I’m telling the truth.

“You just seemed uncomfortable at first,” he says quickly.

For real? That is not what I wanted to hear, even though he’s technically right. “Was I bad at it?”

“No. No. You were amazing.” He shakes his head. “And it doesn’t matter if it was your first kiss or not. Forget I asked that. I just… I feel bad. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

I tilt my chin up to him. “I want to do this.”

He hesitates for another split second, considering my answer. Then he pushes me against the table used to place developed photos, and he kisses me again.

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