With time that morning for some leisure, John Slade, that is Professor Doctor John Nance Slade, Extraordinary Professor of History and Literature, went to the union for a cup of coffee. It was one of the truly, in his estimation, good things about the union, indeed about the school itself, that they served such good coffee at the union. For him it would therefore be a triple espresso. He laughingly saw it and talked about it as ‘fuel for his engine’.
He got his espresso and saw, at a table in the back a group of his students. He went in their direction.
The school, a state school, was small enough to allow good relations between members of the faculty and their students. It was this kind of atmosphere that had John Slade walking, with is triple espresso, in the direction of the table of students.
They greeted him cordially, and responded positively, when he asked if he might join them.
Two of the girls were his students, Beth Carry and pretty Lucy, short for Lucinda, Wayne. The other girl and the boy with them were well enough known to him.
“So, how is everyone?” he asked, sipping his espresso.
“Fine, Dr. Slade,” said one of the girls and then added, with a smile, “Even though reading that stuff you assigned is a chore.” They all laughed at that.
“Hey,” he complained, between sips of coffee, “Give me a break.”
They laughed again and he joined them in the laughter.
The group of them settled down then to pleasant chat, as one after another the students left for classes that they had coming up. It left John Slade alone then with Lucy Wayne.
He had already noticed that she was quiet that morning; he thought ‘unusually quiet’ to himself.
“So, Lucy, how are you?” he asked softly.
“Oh, OK, Dr. Slade,” she said in a rather dispirited voice.
He smiled. “Well, why is it that I don’t really believe that. Is something wrong?”
(It should probably be mentioned that the smallness of the school and the atmosphere that prevailed there made such interchanges between faculty and students a more common than unusual kind of event.) Lucy smiled up at him then and said: “Oh, it’s something that my Mom told me on the phone. But I hate to be a complainer. I just don’t know what to do.””
“Well, if I’m trespassing or out of bounds, simply say so and I’ll back off,” he said softly.
“No, Dr. Slade,” Lucy went on, “It’s not that; I’m just upset.”
“Care to share?” he asked.
(At the time of this interchange at the student union, John Slade was 35 years old and had been on the faculty there for a good 7 years, since he’d finished his PhD work. He was a rather handsome man, and kept himself in good shape with his workout routine. He had curly, graying hair and a rather ‘rugged’ out-doorsy kind of face.
Lucy Wayne was petit and, he thought, gorgeous. She had dark hair that was kept short and kind of feathered, and had the body of a female athlete.
Of course, John Slade was very strict with himself about relations with students. It was an area of possibilities that he simply would never allow, not ever. Even though he thought that if the possibility ever were allowed, it would be Lucy Wayne that would attract him. He kept this information to himself.
He came from a fairly long line of entrepreneurs and business men. Being the only son of somewhat elderly parents, he had, from them, received a fair fortune. It was known to almost no one at the school but John Slade was pretty rich. He had a dab way with investments and had taken what his Momma and Poppa had left him, after their untimely demise, and seen it grown to a huge amount.)
“Her company apparently closed, went bankrupt. I guess it was a complete surprise. My going to school here has been a budget buster for us and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to leave.”
She was silent for a minute or two, and John didn’t press her.
“Since my father left, long ago, it’s always been only the two of us. At times a struggle, especially when I went to school.”
“No help from him?” he asked softly.
“Oh, no; just gone, faded. New girlfriend and all, I think,” she responded.
‘I see,” he said.
“I’m waiting for her now,” Lucy said.
“Well, I don’t want to be in the way,” he said.
She smiled at him and replied: “I think that, if there’s time, I’d like you to meet her. You’re so special.”
That made John Slade smile broadly, and as fate, or fata morgana, would have it, just then Judy Wayne was at the door of the union coffee shop.
“Oh,” Lucy said, kind of excited now, “There she is.”
John Slade was struck fairly dumb. There, standing in the doorway, was an older and, he thought, more gorgeous version of Lucy Wayne: same short dark, feathered hair, same lovely shape, though a bit heavier —- a fact which, he realized that he liked. Judy Wayne was larger in the bust line than Lucy. At her current age of 36, Judy was a real treat, though not young, hipless and blonde, as her former husband seemed to desire.
It was then that John cautioned himself to ‘behave’. “Don’t be treating the woman like a piece of meat,” he chastised himself. But he was impressed.
Lucy had gotten up from the table and was hugging her Momma just inside the doorway. John simply waited. Once they’d greeted each other, the wended their way to the table where John still was. He stood as they approached.
“Momma,” Lucy said, “This is my favorite, Dr. John Slade; I have him for history.”
Judy Wayne gave John a huge smile and extended a hand. It was all that John could do to not gather this lovely, dark haired woman into his arms. He cautioned himself again and took the proffered hand, more holding it than actually shaking hands with her.
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Judy,” he said. “Your Lucy is a bright light around here, both in class and generally.”
Judy smiled and said a ‘thank you’, and then John, grinning at them said: “And I will leave now and cease to embarrass you in front of your Mom.”
He went for a short walk then and only encountered Judy and Lucy a bit later, as he came across them, as his walk was finishing. He noticed immediately that Lucy was crying.
John Slade was a man who prized and followed his instincts. He sincerely thought that they never let him down. Such was the case now, as he approached Judy and Lucy.
“Is something wrong?” he asked. “Please, please tell me to go away if you need, if this is something that I don’t need to know about.”
“Thank you for your kindness,” Judy said. Then with a deep breath and a sigh she continued: “It’s just that my company has filed for chapter 11 and I’m out of a job and, since the costs for school for Lucy was always marginally manageable, now those costs are simply out of the question. It’s so hard.”
By the time she was finished, Judy had tears in her eyes. Lucy simply stood there and held her Momma’s hand, as Judy made the explanation. Then John left them, apologizing for intruding on their difficulty.
“No, thank you for caring,” the older, pretty one, Judy said.
It was, for John, a matter of those instincts. It is true that the image of the beautiful woman, Judy Wayne, was somehow burned into his psyche. That information he stored in the very back of his mind and went on to what was right then important.
He went to the bursar’s office. There his friend, Ned Wilson, the school bursar, greeted him cordially.
“John, what can I do for the light of the history faculty today?” Ned asked.
“I have a favor to ask, Ned,” John said.
“Sure, speak up,” Ned replied.
John then explained that he’d like to pay for the fees owed by Lucy Wayne. He indicated that he was a friend of both Lucy and her Mom, Judy and would like to do that for them.
Ned was more than happy to comply, and it was done quickly. Then John left, being aware that Lucy and her Mom did indeed have an appointment with Ned Wilson to talk about their problem.
John also decided that he would let the issue lie where it was. He wasn’t going to mention it to either of the Wayne women. He’d just do what he’d done. He also made arrangements with Ned to continue to pay those fees. It was all settled between them.
Of course, Ned Wilson made it his personal task to be sure that both Judy and Lucy Wayne knew exactly what had happened and who was their ‘angel’.
Judy and Lucy were ushered into Ned’s office by a secretary. He greeted them in front of his desk, getting up from his chair to do so.
“Mrs. Wayne, Lucy, how nice to see you both,” Ned said, in greeting them.
Judy produced a wan smile: “Mr.Wilson, it’s nice to see you, though the reason is a bit difficult.”
“Well, let’s sit down and talk about it,” Ned said, offering them chairs.
They sat and Judy came to the point: “I’m hoping that we can make an arrangements for me to pay Lucy’s fees in some fashion that is easier for me. I’d hate to see her have to leave but the company for which I worked has gone into bankruptcy and I haven’t found anything else yet.”
She hesitated for a few seconds and went on: “I apologize for putting you in this position. Lucy’s education is very important to me and I so want to see it continued.”
“She’s doing a wonderful job around here,” Ned said with a smile.
Judy was obviously nervous and so, Ned hastened to get to the point with her: “Mrs. Wayne,” he began.
.... There is more of this story ...