Friday afternoon couldn't have come too soon for the students of Peterson High School. It was the first week of June, and they had less than two weeks to go until graduation. For Michael Rossi and Bobby Williams, it meant that in ten short days they would finish their years at Peterson and move on to bigger and better things. In Bobby's case it was a football scholarship at State, and for Mike Rossi a chance to study Industrial Arts at Brookfield U.
"I thought that English Lit class would never end." Bobby said as they headed for the bus stop on the corner. "I can't seem to understand Hamlet, they speak so funny. You never know what they're talking about."
"Well you better figure it out real quick." Mike said to his longtime pal. "Cause Old Man Winters is a bug on Shakespeare, and Hamlet is supposed to be his favorite. You know he's going to put it on the final."
"Shit," Bobby groaned. "I'm screwed then. I even got those Monarch Notes, but they still didn't help."
"Tell you what," Mike said as he suddenly stopped. "How about you take my story notes home over the weekend. Read them tomorrow and I'll come over Sunday and go over them with you."
"That'd be great." Bob said, the relief in his voice evident. "What am I ever going to do without you when I get to State."
"Properly fail," Mike joked. "But by then you'll be someone else's problem."
The larger boy joined in the laughter and slapped Mike on the back. They had been friends since the ninth grade. Even back then, Bobby had been a jock. Mike on the other hand had been a skinny, pale little kid who more than earned the nerd title. He was the kind of kid that always seem to get beat up by the bigger guys. That was until the day Bobby Williams had come across a Junior about to deposit Mikey in a waste bin after he had spilled milk on his jacket.
Bobby didn't know Mike from Adam, but he'd had a little brother who used to get picked on by the bigger kids. In fact, since Bobby was left back in the fifth grade, he was eighteen months older than the rest of his class. That made his little brother Steve only six months younger than Mike.
From that point on, the two had formed an unlikely friendship. Mike had spent many a night tutoring Bobby in one subject or other. Bob in turn had helped his younger friend branch out in other areas that he normally wouldn't have approached. True, he wasn't about to try out for the football team, but he had long ago shed his nerd image. At least in appearance.
Rummaging through his knapsack, Mike finally came up with a small red binder and handed it to Bobby.
"Try not to drool on it when you eat." He said as his friend dropped the binder in his own carry case. "I realize that I'm asking a lot, but I do try to take care of my study notes."
"Funny, Rossi, real funny." Came Bobby's reply. "There are times I wonder why I kept them from putting you out with the trash."
Mike didn't seem to hear the comeback. His attention seemed to be concentrated on his knapsack as he sorted through it's contents looking for something. A worried look flashed across his face as he began to shift through the books and binders a second time.
"Lose something? Bobby inquired.
"My sketchbook," Mike replied as he looked a third time. "It's not here!"
"Of course I'm sure," He answered, a tense anxiousness in his voice. "I've looked three times!"
Michael's great love was drawing, and his sketchbook was his pride. Not that he ever showed it to anyone. Sure, once in a while he would produce a portrait for someone after he had ripped it from the book, but no one ever saw the book itself.
"Hey don't worry about it, it's just a book. I'll bet it's sitting in your locker or under your desk in one class or another." Bobby said as he glanced at his watch and saw that the bus would be there in a few minutes. "Don't worry about it, you'll get it Monday."
The hard angry look he suddenly got from his friend told him he had said exactly the wrong thing. It was as if after causing a losing fumble, Mike had told him football was only a game.
"Ok, I'm a thick headed jock and don't know anything about art." Bobby apologized. "I know you're going to go back and look for it, do you want me to go back with you?"
"Nah, I don't want you to be late for your job at McDonalds." Mike said, accepting the apology. "You might need those job skills some day."
"It's a good thing you're such a hot shot artist, cause as a comedian you'd make a great waiter."
"There's the bus, get going!" Mike said as he pointed out the gray bus rounding the corner.
"Ok, ok." Mike said as he grabbed his bag and started to head for the stop.
"One of these days, I really want to see what's in that book." He said after he had gone a few stops. "My moneys on a dozen or so nudes of Jenny Greene!" Bobby added, making reference to the girl who was without question, the hottest babe in school.
From the sudden blank look he saw on his friend's face before he turned to run the last twenty feet, Bobby got the impression he hadn't been far off.
After checking his locker and coming up empty, Mike began to reverse his steps for his last few periods. The book had been in his bag during his lunch. He'd done a quick sketch of Timmy Butler playing his sax in the lunchroom. Mike clearly remembered putting it away after that. Having no luck in the rooms used for English Literature and Health Science, the brown haired youth headed for the second floor and American History.
Since entering the school, Mike had only passed one other person in the halls. The dismissal bell on a Friday afternoon was like the starting gun at the races. Even the Teachers were usually gone by 3:10. With luck, he would find the book fast and make the 3:35 bus.
Quickly moving to his desk in the back of the classroom, Mike lifted the desktop, only to find it held only a few papers and a spare pencil. He was sure, it had to have been here. The only other possibility was Music Appreciation, but they'd listened to a concert tape today and he hadn't even opened his bag in that class. Could someone have taken the book out of his bag somewhere else.
"Did you lose something?" Asked a voice from the front of the room.
Mike whirled around to find himself faced by Mrs. Koda, his history teacher. Normally, Mike loved sitting in the back of the room and watching Mrs. Koda teach. It wasn't that he had such an interest in history, it was that he loved watching her walk around the room.
Arlene Koda was as far from the stereotype school teacher image as you could get. Standing 5'6", she had long curly red hair that reached down to below her shoulders. Bright emerald green eyes lit up her face, and she had a body that not even Jenny Greene could match. As on most days, she was dressed rather conservatively, a plain white blouse and blue skirt. Yet even these plain clothes couldn't hide the woman beneath.
Only in her early thirties, Mike had heard someone once say that she had come in second runner up in some statewide beauty contest back when she was in college. If she had come in third, Mike couldn't imagine what number one and two could've looked like.
"Is something wrong Mr. Rossi?" He heard her ask.
Mike suddenly realized that he'd been standing there for over ten seconds without saying a word.
"Er ... no," He stuttered. "I ... er ... forgot my sketch book somewhere and ... thought I might have left ... it in class."
"Oh, then this must be yours." Arlene said as she pulled open one of her desk draws and pulled out a thick black bound book. "I found it on the floor in the back of the room when I was cleaning up earlier."
Michael went pale as she lifted the book up and flipped it open to a page near the front. A cold sweat suddenly ran down his back as she turned a few pages.
"I only took a quick look before to see if there was a name in it." Arlene said as she turned another page. "I didn't see one, so I just put it away. By Monday, I figured, someone would've come looking for it."
Michael's heart was racing as he slowly walked to the front of the room. Each time she turned another page, his heart felt like it skipped a beat.
"Oh God," The 17 year-old pleaded in a silent prayer. "Please let her stop."
"This is really excellent work. I have to say I'm impressed." Arlene continued as she admired one particular drawing. "I can see why you'd be worried that you lost this book."
"Yeh," Mike replied, trying so very hard to be cool as he reached out for the book.
"In fact, I'm surprised you haven't submitted any of this work to the Peterson Quarterly or the Yearbook. I'm the faculty advisor for both you know." She went on as she flipped a dozen or so more pages, scanning the last half of his work. "In fact I..."
Her voice suddenly fell silent as she flipped back to a page she had just flew past. From the look on her face, Mike knew he was busted. He suddenly felt dizzy and was afraid he was about to faint.
"Oh my..." He dimly heard Mrs. Koda say as she turned a few more pages.
She paused for a second, a look of disbelief on her face. Then she turned another page.
"Oh my Lord!" She exclaimed, this time much louder.
With that, Michael did faint.
Michael's first sensation of consciousness was the smell of flowers. Even before he opened his eyes, the sweet scent filled his nostrils. When his eyes did open, they quickly focused on the soft full breasts pressing against the white blouse of the woman leaning over him. He was laying on a couch in a large room he recognized as the Teacher's Lounge.
"I'm glad to see you're back with us, Mr. Rossi." Mrs. Koda said when she noticed his open eyes. "I was beginning to wonder if I was wrong in not calling the paramedics."
"No, ... I'm ok..." Mike mumbled as he shook his head to clear it.
As he sat up he saw the thick black book sitting on the coffee table. In a cold numbing clarity, he remembered what had happened. Hesitantly, he sat up and tried to think of something to say.
"I'm really sorry about all this..." He said.
"I should think so," Mrs. Koda replied. "I really can't even express how shocked I am by the drawings in that book. Or how surprised I am that a young man of your scholastic ability could have created them."
With that she flipped open the book and turned to the offending pages. Spread out across ten sheets were a dozen or more sketches of a man and woman engaged in various sexual acts. Some of the figures were generic, but more often than not, the male figure was Michael himself.
Arlene turned past the assorted drawings, stopping at a close-up of a woman performing fellatio. She could've been mistaken about the other depictions, but there was no doubt that the likeness in the close-up was her own.
"These drawings are enough to get you expelled, you know that, don't you?" She asked Michael.
Michael merely nodded, too stunned at the idea to say anything.
"And that, I think would be a real shame. I'd hate to be the cause of your losing your scholarship."
Michael's eyes followed the Teacher across the room, for once his attention riveted on her words instead of the sway of her ass. She still had the book in her hands, glancing down at his creations as she spoke.
"But I do have a responsibility as a Teacher in this school to maintain discipline and order. I just can't let an incident like this go unacknowledged."
A dozen possible repercussions of his stupidity flashed through Michael's mind. His parents' reaction if he were expelled, the loss of his chance to go to Brookfield. In half of them, he saw himself needed those job skills he jokingly suggested Bob might need.
"It would be different if these were just simple nudes." Arlene continued. "I could just dismiss them as art with a poor choice of subject. Yet as hard as I try, I can't classify drawings like these as anything but pornographic."
"I don't have to worry about getting a job at the McDonald's" Michael thought as he saw his future flush down a toilet. "My father is simply going to kill me and be done with it. How is he going to explain to his friends and business associates that his son got kicked out of school for drawing porno pictures of one of his Teachers."
"Still, a decision that will have such a strong effect on your future shouldn't be made in haste." Michael heard Mrs. Koda say, snapping his attention back to her. "And since if anyone is the offended party in this matter, it's myself, or am I wrong in concluding that I'm the subject of these images?"
Michael shook his head no.
"Well then, as the offended party it's up to me to decide what action should be taken," She concluded. "I've decided to sleep on it over the weekend and come to a decision by Monday."
With a loud bang, she slammed the book shut.
"You may go." She said. "I'll see you Monday morning."
Michael was on his feet in a flash and headed for the door, his hands still shaking. He was about to disappear down the hall when Mrs. Koda called after him with a final question.
"Can I assume that no one else has seen the contents of this book?" She asked.
"No, Ma'am. I mean, Yes, Ma'am. No one ever sees that book but me." He answered quickly.
"Good, very good!" Arlene said, a smile on her face.
With that, Michael turned and ran down the stairs and out of the building as fast as he could.
Michael slept very little Friday night and was listless all day Saturday. He felt like a condemned convict, waiting for the ax to fall. Better if Mrs. Koda had simply decided yesterday, at least he wouldn't have to suffer through this terrible waiting. Then he reminded himself that as long as she hadn't rendered her decision, there was still a chance he could find a way out of this mess. It had barely been twenty-four hours and he was already a nervous wreck. What would he be like by Monday morning?
All afternoon he ran errands, trying to keep his mind off the impending decision. His Mother had commented on his sudden moodiness, but his father had told her not to worry about it. The boy probably has a girl on his mind. Little did his father know how true that was.
Getting home about 6:30, Michael sat down to a late supper with his family. He wasn't really hungry, but skipping it would cause too many questions. He wasn't really paying any attention to the table talk until his Mother remarked that one of his teachers had called today.
"One of my teachers called?" Michael asked as his eyes lit up. "Which one?"
"Well I didn't take the call, Cindy did." His Mother replied. "Who called?" He asked his little sister.
"Mrs. Kodak or something like that" She replied, still stuffing her face with stuffing.
"Koda?" Mike asked.
"Yeh, that was it." The twelve year old said. "She said something about some book she found in school that belonged to you."
"What exactly did she say?" Michael questioned his sister, his face turning cold and pale.
"Just that she found some book of yours and that if you wanted to pick it up you could stop over her house and get it."
"Just that her husband and her were going out at 07:30 and it would have to be before then."
"07:30!" Michael exclaimed as he looked up at the kitchen clock, it was already 7:05. "Why didn't you tell me before?"
"So I forgot," Cindy replied. "Big deal, you'll get it tomorrow. I left the address over on the bulletin board."
Michael jumped up from the table and quickly found the note pinned to the corkboard. It was an address in the Pinedale section. That was at least a twenty minute drive.
"Dad, can I borrow the car?" He asked his father as he reached for the spare keys in the hook below the board. "I might still be able to catch them."
"I can't see what's all so important that you need to rush over there?" His father said as he too noted the time.
"It's my sketch book..." Michael began to say.
"No wonder you've been so depressed." His Mother interrupted. "John..." She said as she turned to her husband.
"All right, " John Rossi gave in. "But I don't want you speeding over there. I know that book is important to you but it's not worth getting into an accident for."
"Thanks Dad!" Michael exclaimed as he bolted out the kitchen door.
Michael's heart dropped a little more as he watched the dashboard clock click off each new minute. He'd been stuck in this traffic jam on Main St for nearly a half hour and the bright green digits now read 08:05. By now, Mr. and Mrs. Koda were long gone, and with them any chance of his retrieving his sketch book and his future. By tomorrow she might've had a change of heart. Maybe she would mention it to her husband and he would be so outraged that he would demand she take some punitive action against the offender. Either way it meant another sleepless night.
By 08:15 he had cleared the traffic and was now only 5 minutes from the Koda house. He decided to still head there and at least leave an apologetic note. Maybe that would help. Stopping to use a pay phone, he told his Mom that he had been delayed by the traffic and that he was going to take the car over to Bob's house if that was ok with Dad. 6 minutes later he was pulling up in front of the Koda house.
The house was big, twice the size of the one Michael had grown up in. A carefully kept lawn and an endless row of flowers showed the work of professional landscapers. Thinking of all the hot Saturday afternoons he had spent with a mower, Michael felt a tinge of envy of someone who could afford to pay to have that done for them. A car was parked in front of a two car garage, a new 95 Lexus.
Michael wondered how a teacher could afford a house like this, then he remembered someone once saying that she was married to some kind of surgeon.
"Great, nice to know her husband has easy access to sharp knives." Michael said as he walked up the pathway.
Michael had reached the large front door when he suddenly realized that he didn't have anything to write a note on. Searching his pockets, he could only come up with a dry cleaning receipt. A message scribbled on the back of that wouldn't exactly leave the type of impression he wanted.
From the street, he had noticed a few lights on throughout the house. It could just be part of an alarm system, but if he was really lucky, maybe they had a maid or someone at home he could let know he had stopped by.
Brushing back his hair and straightening his clothes, Michael rang the bell. A few minutes passed and there was no response. He tried it again and was about to give it up and head home when he heard footsteps approaching the door.
The door swung open and Michael was rendered speechless. The woman standing there bore only a superficial resemblance to the teacher he knew. The long red hair that was normally pinned back and hidden had been styled into a intricate design. Normally she wore a very subdued pink lipstick, now it was bright red. As red as her lips was the cocktail dress she wore, the plunging neckline of which gave him a delightful view of the breasts he had so fantasized about. In fact, so taken was he by just the sight of those soft, white globes, he didn't immediately notice the imprint of her nipples against the thin material of the dress. It was obvious that she wasn't wearing a bra.
"Mrs. Koda?" Michael finally stammered out.
"Michael," She answered somewhat embarrassed. "I didn't really expect you this late."
"I'm sorry," He said. "I didn't get the message until very late, then I got stuck in traffic. I was just going to leave a note then I realized that I didn't have anything to write on."
"Very well, as long as you are here, you might as well come in." She said in a voice that said this hadn't been her first disappointment of the evening.
"You have a beautiful house." He said as he walked from the foyer into a large living room. Everything about the house said money.
"Thank you, but I had nothing to do with it." She replied as she walked over to a desk on the far side of the room. "My husband had it decorated by professionals, and it's cleaned by a maid. It's just another trophy to his success."
Immediately, Michael knew he had hit on a sore point right out of the box. Not a good thing to do with someone who held your fate in her hands.
A large 11 x 14 photo on the wall caught Michael's attention. It was of the finalists in a beauty pageant. The stories had been true. The third runner up was obviously a younger Arlene Koda. To Michael, she had it all over the winner and runner-up. What could have those judges been thinking?
"That's another one of my husband's trophies." Arlene said from behind him. "Miss Mayfield County - 1983."
Michael did understand at first, then he realized that she was referring to herself as the trophy, not the photograph.
"You were beautiful." Michael observed, then added a few seconds later. "I mean not that I don't think you're still beautiful now ... I mean..."
"That's ok," She said as she turned and headed to a large chair and sat down. "I'll take it as the compliment it was intended to be."
Michael flushed, it seemed every time he opened his mouth he put his foot into it.
"I was having a drink," She said as she filled up a glass that was resting in the end table next to the chair. "Would you like one?"
"Err sure..." Michael said as he walked over and took a seat on the couch on the other side of the end table.
"I guess you're a little surprised at seeing me like this." She said as she handed him a glass of wine. "My life at school is very different from the life I live at home. It's almost like I become a different person when I walk through those school doors." Sitting this close to her, Michael quickly realized that the drink she had just poured was far from her first this evening.
"At home I'm just supposed to be the beautiful wife of Doctor Alan Fitzgerald, one more monument to his achievements. I really don't have to do anything but supervise the maid and other servants and look good for guests."
"I thought your name was Koda, " Michael interrupted. "but you said your husband's name is Fitzgerald."
"Koda was my maiden name, I decided to keep it as far as my teaching credentials went." She answered. "I was a teacher before I was a wife, it was something I wasn't going to let just slip away. He wasn't too happy about that, let me tell you."
This was getting all too deep for Michael. Why did she suddenly feel the need to unload her problems on him. Don't all these rich people have psychiatrists to help them with their problems. He wished she would just give him back his book so he could get out of here.
"But that's all going to change now, I won't be teaching after the end of this year." She said.
Suddenly she again had Michael's attention.
"A few of Alan's colleagues suggested to him the other day that it was inappropriate for the wife of the new head of surgery at Saint Mathews to be wasting her time teaching. There were far too many important social activities that went with his new position that she should be attending to. So just like that, my teaching career is history."
"Couldn't you have worked out some sort of compromise?" Michael asked, surprised that he was actually interested.
"You don't compromise with Dr. Alan Fitzgerald III." Arlene answered sarcastically. "He commands and like the word from on high the little people scurry to obey."
"Position is everything to him," She continued. "I once asked him for a divorce since it was obvious that he never really loved me. He only said that it wouldn't look good and it was out of the question."
Michael listened and watched in amazement as she finished her drink and poured another. She was obviously now feeling the effects of the alcohol.
"You know, I could deal with it if he was screwing one of his nurses. That I could fight against." She said unexpectedly. "But his only mistress is his fame."
Michael almost dropped his drink upon hearing her remark. Never could he have imagined his teacher using the word 'screw'.
"But I'm really wasting your time with all this, aren't I?" She said as she put down the glass, now half empty. "What you came here for was your sketch book, not to listen to my problems."
With that she produced the book from alongside the arm of the chair. It was obvious that she must've been looking at it prior to his arrival.
"I guess I was a little hard on you over this yesterday. Sometimes I get a little too wrapped up in my 'teacher mode'." She said as she flipped through the pages.
"Well I guess maybe I deserved some of it." Michael said, trying to sound contrite.
"I made much too much of it all." She said as she once again scanned the offending pages. "If anything, maybe I should've been flattered by it."
Michael couldn't believe what he was hearing but he wasn't about to contradict her. Not at least until he had the book and was out of here.
"I think it's been a long time since anyone's though of me like this." She said as she looked down at drawings of her engaged in various sexual activities.
Michael opened his mouth to say something, then decided that silence was really golden. Better to just let her go on, since she showed no indication of stopping anyway.
"I have to say though, with the only view of me you ever saw being that of the schoolteacher, you did a really great job with these sketches."
Her reference to her school outfits made the youth suddenly realize that he had been staring at her breasts all the time they'd been sitting there. Luckily she hadn't seemed to notice.
"Of course my nipples are much bigger in real life." She said so casually that Mike did a double take. "And I don't have a bush like that. I keep it nice and trim. But of course you had no way of knowing that."
"Err, maybe I should leave before your husband gets back." Michael suggested, hoping she would take the suggestion and let him leave with the book.
"Oh don't worry about him," She said, dismissing the idea with a wave of her hand. "He's attending a dinner in his honor at the club. That's where I'm supposed to be by the way. But after the fight we had before leaving, the one where he put his pronouncement on the end of my teaching career. He decided that I could stay home. I can see him there now, telling people that I had to stay home with a headache."
"One thing I am curious about." She said, "And I really like to satisfy my curiosity about it before you leave."
"Sure anything." Michael replied quickly, his hopes rising when she mentioned his leaving.
"I've noticed that in all the drawings, you've depicted yourself as rather well endowed." She said. "And I'm curious as to whether that's a true to life depiction or just wishful thinking."
"What?" Michael asked. "You want to know if I really look like that naked?"
"Yes, exactly right!" She said with a smile.
"Well, yeah, that's what I look like. I only make something up in my drawing if I don't know what it really looks like." He said, hopeful that would satisfy her and he would be out of here with his book in a few minutes. With all the trouble that book had caused him, he was now thinking of burning it.
"Please don't take offense," Arlene said. "But it's been my experience that young men tend to exaggerate in this area. I afraid I'm going to have to have more concrete proof than just your say so."
"Well they say seeing is believing." The Teacher replied.
"You want me to drop my pants and show you?" Michael asked. This was getting really weird.
"That would definitely answer the question." She replied. "And after that the book is yours."
"I don't know..." Michael said, he had a funny feeling about this.