Ray Franklin was grading badly-written German essays when the Professor called him into the office.
"Raymondt, I have something to ask you." Professor Morton Dichter had been teaching at the University for twenty years, but his accent had never completely disappeared. "My younger brother informs me that my niece now is attending the University here."
Ray nodded blankly, wondering whether congratulations were expected. Fortunately, the Professor continued without much pause. "I did not know I had a niece, but then Kurt and I have not spoken much since I came to this country. Twenty-five years is a long time..." The Professor's deep voice faded briefly, then resumed its normal volume. "My brother tells me that Marta -- that is my niece, you see -- studies computer science but she is too focused on her books and her assignments. She is not, what do you call it, having her social life. He has asked because of my position here if I can do something to see that Marta does more with her time than sits with her face to the computer."
Ray hadn't gotten to be a teaching assistant to the head of the German department by being slow. He hadn't stayed one by being presumptuous, either. He settled for tilting his head to one side and inquiring, "And how could I be of assistance, Professor?"
"Raymondt, I have been observing you in the year and a half that you have been one of my teaching assistants. You are a young man of quality and character. Of course, with your name that only makes sense -- you do know that your name means 'protector'? Well, I wish to ask you a favor. Would you agree to, what is the term, escort my niece for a few weeks? My brother thinks once she get used to the idea of being among people that she will naturally open up. I will, of course, reimburse you for half of your expenses."
That was the Professor for you. Just when he started to sound human and personal, he had to add that coldly clinical comment about money. Granted, it saved Ray from raising the issue himself, but it impaled him neatly on an ethical dilemma. There was probably something in the University policies that said professors couldn't use their teaching assistants as gigolos, paid or otherwise. On the other hand, turning down Morton Dichter would probably eliminate Ray's chances at a plum graduate school. Anyway, how bad could it be taking a girl around a few times, even if she turned out to be a total dog?
Ray had reasons to rethink his answer to that last question several times over the next two weeks.
The first encounter (Ray refused in his mind to call it a "date") was actually chaperoned by the Professor, who took both students to dinner at the Faculty Club. He explained over a veal roast and wine that his brother wanted Marta to spend some more time away from her studies, that the University experience was meant to be more than the awarding of a degree. Ray listened with half an ear, inserting comments here and there but devoting the bulk of his attention to sizing up his new companion. Marta was an inch taller than Ray but otherwise she was about what he had expected -- brains without looks. She was solid, broad-shouldered and plain, with streaked brown hair falling artlessly to her shoulders. Her voice was low and unremarkable, and she wore a drab red dress that managed to emphasize all of her curves, including the unflattering ones. However, she ate with a delicate grace that made Ray feel somehow like a country villager invited to dine with the squire. She also flashed him a look during her uncle's monologue that said clearly, "Okay, he's forcing us to be together, let's try not to make it more painful than it has to be."
Away from her uncle, Marta was a different story. The following Tuesday she met him at Gino's for pizza before seeing the latest chick flick. Ray was in dress casual, but Marta turned up in flip-flops, ratty jeans and a well-worn t-shirt that jiggled in several places every time she moved. Her conversation at dinner was centered around trees, cycles, and other words that sounded like English but instead meant something else in terms of her computer courses. Ray did his best to look like he understood every third word. His brief attempts to turn the conversation to something non-academic were politely ignored. The movie theatre was better, if only because he didn't have to try and maintain a conversation and in the relative darkness he could easily avoid the appearance of staring at her chest or waist. She seemed unimpressed by the movie and they parted with a handshake, her hand capturing his in a damp but firm grip.
Over the next week he took her in turn to a basketball game, a physics lecture by a visiting Nobel prize winner, a comedy movie and a CD release party for a local rock group. Her clothing decisions varied from not-quite-embarrassing to just off center; at the basketball game she looked like a frumpy overweight librarian, but for both the Nobel lecture and the CD party she chose clingy eye-catching blouses and knee-length skirts that practically forced you to take all of her curves in at once. Ray wanted to give her some advice, but he couldn't find any way that wouldn't be either condescending or insulting. Luckily he had picked his events well and hadn't run into any of his usual crowd, and his opinion of her didn't seem relevant since they always parted at her apartment door with the same damp handshake.
On one front, however, Ray felt he was finally giving the Professor some value for his money -- Marta was starting to open up to him about herself rather than her coursework. After the CD party, which she appeared to enjoy thoroughly, they went to a coffee bar for dessert and she told him about growing up in one of the smaller states on the banks of the Rhine, being unpopular (without specifying a reason) and deciding that the best way to get out of town was to excel at school. She then surprised Ray by demonstrating a fondness and wide knowledge of American poets, from Emily Dickinson to Carl Sandburg. Poetry was one of Ray's side interests, and he was doubly surprised to find out from Marta that Professor Dichter was a poet, having been published back in Germany before he moved to America. Marta for her part was surprised that her uncle's top teaching assistant wouldn't know that, a comment that Ray chose to take as flattery.
Their evening ended as usual at her apartment door with Ray prepared for her clammy handshake, but instead she leaned into him for a quick hug, her arms pulling him briefly but emphatically against her before she turned and went inside. Ray drove home in a confused and disturbed mood, and decided by Monday morning to tell the Professor merely that Marta seemed to be adapting to college social life. He didn't, however, claim that his escorting services were finished.
The next week was first trimester exams, so Marta was busy with her computer programs and Ray was occupied grading papers. He didn't even realize that Friday had arrived until Marta called him for a change.
"Hi, Ray!" Her voice was breathless, excited, almost girlish. If it weren't for her accent, he'd have thought the call was from someone else. "There's a goth group playing at a club downtown tonight, and I don't want to see them by myself. I wondered if you'd be interested?" Goth wasn't at all Ray's preference, but he was so amazed to hear this side of Marta that he heard his agreement and her acceptance before his brain caught up to reality. The incongruous image of frumpy Marta being excited about dark, moody goth music broke Ray's concentration for the rest of the afternoon.
He grabbed a quick dinner and drove to Marta's apartment, where she was already standing outside her door waiting for him. Ray did a double-take to make sure he had the right apartment -- the woman there was Marta's size and general shape but that was the only thing familiar about her. Her eyes were heavily made up with black shadows, and she wore a dress of some stiff but flexible black material that made her look like a heavyset voluptuous witch. She held out one hand imperiously, and Ray escorted her to the passenger side of his car with something more than his usual gentlemanly manners. She took her seat without so much as a thank-you.
Halfway to the club Marta finally broke her dramatic silence with a low chuckle. "Oh Ray, you should have seen your face when you saw me! I'm glad you agreed to take me, I've got some friends in the band but I didn't have a ride. I think you'll really like this." The comment eased Ray's confusion somewhat, although he still wondered where this side of Marta came from.
The downtown club was dim and dingy, and smelled vaguely of beer and less savory intoxicants. Ray paid the cover charges and followed Marta in, noting her animated greetings to several of the dark-clad figures in the crowd. He felt distinctly out of place, and was glad of the occasional squeeze of Marta's hand on his. He followed her lead in getting a club soda at the bar, and they wandered through the close-packed space until Marta found an empty booth, urging Ray to scoot in first. He took a long swallow from his drink, and finally found his own voice. "You said friends of yours -- computer science majors?" The tone of his voice indicated he found this hard to believe.
"Yes, Kellie's into OS design, Greg, the drummer, does something involving parallel architectures and Nina is an AI geek. You'd like Greg, he's a heads-down focused kind of worker like you." She squeezed his hand as if to take the sting out of that last remark. At that moment, the club lights dimmed and the band came out on stage. They looked like outcasts from a George Romero movie, but when the music started it was evident even to Ray's ears that they could play. Nina, the lead singer, was especially eye-catching. There was nothing particularly revealing about her outfit -- a torn shirt and dark jeans -- but she moved with a sinuous electricity and her voice had a husk that insisted on your attention. He couldn't quite understand the words of the song, but if he closed his eyes he could feel it pulsing in his blood.
" ... drink?"
Ray shook his head. The song was over and he'd missed Marta talking to him. She waved her hand in front of his face and repeated herself. "I said, can you get me another drink?" Ray apologized for his inattention, and squeezed out between the booth and Marta's backside as she moved to give him room. He sucked in his breath, feeling the stirrings of an erection he hadn't been aware of as he slid past.
When he got back to the booth with her club soda and his Tom Collins, Marta was conversing animatedly with the lead singer, and Ray took a moment to contrast the picture with the frumpy reserved girl he'd had that first dinner with. It was hard to put the two in the same universe, much less the same person. Nina looked up and saw Ray, and burst into giggles as he slid into the booth opposite the two. "What's the joke," he asked between curiosity and annoyance. "Oh nothing, just ... girl talk" was Nina's reply. Up close the singer was even more of a contradiction than on stage. There wasn't anything about her appearance that Ray could single out, and yet there was a definite aura about her -- and Ray didn't even believe in such things. He decided to change the focus of the conversation, smiling to Nina and complimenting her on her stage presence and the band's musical chops. She thanked him gravely, then slipped away quickly to get ready for the next set.
"I just wish I'd been able to make out the words," he added after Nina was safely out of earshot. That brought a loud hoot from Marta. "Don't let my uncle hear you saying that," she admonished him. When Ray looked at her in bewilderment, she smiled and leaned forward to speak over the club noise. Ray couldn't help looking down the front of her dress and wondering whether those mounds were being supported by a bra as Marta's voice curled into his ear. "You really weren't paying attention to the words -- they were in low German and I thought you were understanding them. That's from one of my uncle's poems, I adapted it for the group. I've written several songs for them."
He lifted his attention to Marta's face at this new revelation. Her hand snaked across the top of the booth to squeeze his. "Raymond ... I'd be very happy to read you his poems. And if you're very nice to me, well ... Nina told me she thinks you're cute." Marta rolled her thumb in the center of Ray's palm, and he felt a wave of heat wash across his forehead. Thoughts of the Professor vanished from his mind, and he spent the rest of the concert in a warmly fuzzy anticipatory haze.
Ray let Marta drive his car back to her apartment; the last Tom Collins had pushed him past his normal limit and he needed her help to get the seat belt fastened across his lap. They arrived at her front door, but a damp handshake was not in the cards for this night. Marta opened the door and helped Ray keep from tripping over the threshold while she turned on the lights. The inside was a cocoon of plush, soft surfaces -- velours, thick carpet, padded fabrics on the walls, and everywhere the sheen of silk. Marta settled Ray into the deeply cushioned sofa and brushed her lips across his forehead, then wandered off toward the back of the apartment. Music started up; Ray recognized the voice of Lotte Lenya from the Threepenny Opera and he floated along with those familiar lyrics until Marta returned.
She came out of the bedroom in a clinging black silk robe, the lines of a panty girdle clearly visible at her waist and below her thighs; but above that no lines, only large swaying curves. Her hair was pulled back caressing the tops of her shoulders. Ray gaped, and managed to summon up a whistle. Marta smiled at that, dark brown eyes twinkling above neat white teeth, and she moved forward to climb up into his lap.
"Ray, you've been a lovely and well-behaved gentleman for this past few weeks. Of course, we both know my uncle and my lack of looks have a lot to do with that." She chuckled, and squirmed her full bottom from side to side over Ray's trapped erection. "But you've been nicer than you had to be, and I've seen where your eyes have gone when you think I'm not looking. I think you're sweet, and Nina agrees with me."
That was her second odd reference to the singer, and Ray would have asked about it had Marta not opened the top of her robe, presenting him with two large, dark-nippled breasts that begged for his attention. He was more than willing to do just that, giving either side equal open-mouthed attention and lifting his hands to caress the outsides of her heavy curves. He suckled, drawing as much of the sweet-scented flesh into his mouth as possible. Marta leaned into him and clasped her hands behind his head, and with his mouth full Ray couldn't do anything to warn Marta about the rapidly increasing urgency in his lap. She hugged him into her cleavage as he exploded in his pants, his face ruddy from embarrassment and shortness of breath, and she didn't release him until his body ceased to shake and quiver.
"You're embarrassed," she observed before kissing him thoroughly. "Don't be, that was the sweetest compliment you could possibly give me." She shifted atop him, removing her robe and wrapping it around his eyes. "Now be a good boy and don't move or talk or peek, and we'll get ourselves cleaned up for a lovely time together!"
Ray wasn't inclined to argue as he felt Marta's soft hands remove his shoes, undo his belt and fly and drag his slacks down off his legs. The soggy cotton of his briefs followed suit once he lifted his hips off the sofa cushion. The fuzzy material of the sofa tickled his bottom, and he was acutely aware of the feel of semen drying on his skin. The apartment was cool, but not enough to make him shiver.