Denise Miller sighed as she looked up at the clock in her classroom. Parent-Teacher Conference day always seemed like one of the longest days of the year...thank God it was almost over! She only had one more parent to see...
Denise glanced down at her notes. He was the father of one of her newest students, and she didn't really know anything about him except his name, Chris Jones. His son Brian was somewhat of an enigma; he was quiet, very smart, but underachieving. He always seemed to be distracted during her seventh-period AP World History class, like his mind was somewhere else all the time. She glanced again at his folder, again other than the fact that the family had moved quite a bit, there was little biographical info to go on.
Denise stood up and smoothed down her black knee-length skirt as she heard the sound of approaching footsteps. She calmly walked over to the door and opened it just as he got there...
The man was short, slight of build, short hair, glasses, extremely well-dressed, and Denise couldn't immediately ascertain his age as she extended her hand. "Hi, I'm Denise Miller...Brian's History teacher. Please come in!"
"Chris Jones..." was the reply, "Nice to make your acquaintance Miss Miller." He smiled a warm, confident smile as he walked into the classroom. He took a seat in one of the two comfortable, padded chairs behind her desk and waited for her to sit down. He quickly took in her appearance as she walked by to sit down across from him. Thin gold button-up blouse, black skirt, heels, pretty shoulder-length brown hair, put up in a clip, brown eyes, and a nice figure-not skinny by any means, but for a teacher in her mid-30s it was obvious Denise took care of herself and prided herself on her appearance. He smiled again as she sat down, crossing her legs and picking up her notes.
"Thank you for coming in, Mr. Jones-"
"Please, call me Chris!" He replied. "May I call you Denise?"
"Sure..." Denise answered as she glanced over her notes. "I'm glad you came in... I have been wanting to talk to you about Brian. He's a good student, he's obviously very smart...but most of the time in my class he seems like he's in another world. I was hoping maybe speaking to you would give me some insight as to how I can best handle him."
"I see..." replied Chris, his eyes never leaving her as he spoke. "May I ask how long you've been teaching, Denise?"
The question surprised her a bit. "This is my 12th year of teaching here."
"I see..." he responded again, his expression like someone doing differential calculus in their head. "So that makes you...about 36?" She nodded. "Do you think you're a good teacher, Denise?"
Again she was a bit surprised by the question. "Well, I-"
He cut her off quickly. "I didn't think so."
A bit shocked, Denise tried to respond, "What do you m-"
Once again he stopped her. "If you really thought you were, you wouldn't have hesitated to answer." He smiled again. "I bet you've always wanted to be a teacher, haven't you, Denise?"
"Well yes...I have...how did you know?" Denise wasn't feeling like she had control of this conference, a feeling she wasn't used to. She was used to being in control of EVERYTHING in her life. She thought, it's time to get back in charge of things. "So tell me, Chris, what exactly is it that you do? I see you and Brian have moved around a lot..."
"I'm a professional collector." Chris answered, folding his hands in his lap and continuing to look at Denise, measuring her response. He could see in her eyes that he had piqued her curiosity a bit.
"A collector? What is it you collect?"
"Professionals!" Chris chuckled, and Denise giggled just a bit as well at his apparent joke. "No, seriously... I collect rare and unique artifacts that I have found in my travels around the world. I have quite a collection now, if I may say so myself..." He smiled and again waited for her reaction.
"Oh wow... I had no idea...!" Denise exclaimed. "Anything of historical significance?"
"Of course you had no idea..." Chris smiled. "Well, I think they have historical significance...but then I'm not a so-called expert on history... I've never really had them appraised as such... maybe you could suggest someone?" He gave a slight wink.
"Well, me of course!" Denise exclaimed. "I'm a History teacher after all!"
"Why yes you are... well I'd be honored, of course, if you would come by sometime and take a look... let me know what you think..."
"I'd love to! I'm always interested in anything historical...!" Denise gushed.
Chris smiled a bit wider, delighted at her almost childlike curiosity. "Well just let me know when you have the time, and I'd love to show you my collection..."
"Well..." Denise quickly thought, "you're my last conference of the day... I guess I'm available now...if that's ok...?" She really wanted to see this collection... maybe there would be something she could work into her class, maybe even a field trip? she thought to herself.
"Good then, you're done here." Chris answered, it was much more of a statement than a question, although Denise didn't catch that. "It's not a far drive from here, and I do have a new acquisition I need to display, maybe you could help me?"
"Sure!" Denise exclaimed as she grabbed her purse from the desk. "Where are you parked?" He stood up and held the door open for her as she walked through it.
"Just outside...the drive there will give us a chance to finish the conference, don't you think?" Chris smiled wryly.
"Sure, that's a good idea!" Denise followed Chris to his car and let him open the door for her as she climbed into the seat. As they pulled out of the parking lot, she turned to him and asked, "Okay, I'm curious. Why did you ask me if I had always wanted to be a teacher?"
"Just trying to figure out why you are... you seem better suited for something else... maybe something that doesn't require as much intelligence..." Chris calmly stated.
"What do you mean??" Denise quickly replied, a bit taken aback at his statement.
"Well, it's obvious to me that the reason Brian isn't able to focus in your class is primarily because you aren't able to challenge him enough. He's a smart young man, and you...well..."
"You're questioning my intelligence?" Denise asked. "You don't think-"
"Oh I think plenty, my dear." Chris reached over and stroked her hair as he drove down the highway. Denise was once again feeling like she didn't have control of the conversation as she turned her head to look at him. "Don't you worry your pretty head about it right now, we have a collection for you to look at!" And Chris turned the car up a long hilly drive through a grove of trees. Denise turned her attention back to the front, curious to see what kind of house the Joneses lived in...
The driveway wound its way up the hill and through the trees into a clearing, and Denise gasped...it looked less like a house and more like a medieval castle! "Oh my God, I had no idea this place was here... it looks like a castle...!"
Chris laughed at her comment. "Yes, most people have no idea this is here... it was built almost a century ago and I found it by chance when we were looking for a place to live around here, I needed a place with enough room to display my entire collection, so I guess I lucked out, huh?"
"I would say so!" Denise exclaimed. "It does seem like a lot of house for just the two of you, though..."
"Well as I mentioned, I needed a lot of space to adequately display my collection... our living needs are really not that great." Chris parked the car at the side and then walked around to open the door for Denise as she slowly climbed out, taking in the entire scene. "I take it that it meets your approval then?" he asked, not that it really mattered to him, but he wanted Denise to continue to let down her guard, which she was doing easily enough as it was.
"Oh yes!" she exclaimed as Chris led her around the side of the house, past well maintained gardens and around to the front of the house, the sight of which was truly magnificent. To Denise it almost seemed like something out of a fairy tale. As they approached the front door, Chris stopped and turned to her.
"Before we go in... you haven't asked me yet what my collection is. For a long time, I have been intrigued by the vocational arts...that is, what people do for a living. It is my feeling that without those who perform necessary and often forgotten-about jobs, our society would crumble and disappear. So I started collecting rare, unusual, and interesting items from the different vocational fields. I believe, in my humble opinion, that I possess the largest and most impressive collection of this sort in the world." Denise's eyes widened at this statement. "So when I said I was a 'profession-al collector, you see I was not far off!" He chuckled as he put the key in the door and unlocked it, opening it and letting the amazed teacher walk in first.
The foyer was breathtaking, with high ceilings, beautiful chandeliers, and adornments worthy of a British monarch, at least that's what Denise thought as she took it all in. The foyer itself seemed large enough to be a ballroom! Straight ahead, about twenty-five feet away, was a large closed door; as she glanced to her left and to her right there were two more doors in each direction, also shut.
Chris smiled as the wonder easily showed in her face. "Quite breathtaking, I think. I've worked hard to bring a sense of history to this place, which I hope you'll appreciate. Each of the doors you see leads into a separate room where I have items from my collection displayed. As you will soon realize, each room has a unique theme. Let's start with the kitchen, shall we?" And he strode straight ahead, key in hand as she followed. "I keep all these doors locked as well... one can never be too careful when dealing with antiquities. And I have worked far too hard building my collection to allow anything to happen to it."
He unlocked the door and opened it, reaching in to turn on the light, and then letting Denise walk in first. Her amazement continued as she walked into the 'kitchen'. It indeed was a kitchen, and a large one at that, but it was clearly a homage to the culinary arts. All around the sides of the approximately 20' by 20' room were antique and rare appliances, pots, pans, utensils, each hung on its own, unique place, under glass, with a small plaque detailing what each item was, when it was made, and a description of its historical significance. Denise's curiosity was racing as she checked out some of the items on the wall where she had walked in...a cake knife from Louis XIV's palace, two pots from ancient Rome...it was truly amazing, and yet the most amazing item revealed itself to her as she turned towards the center of the room. She gasped.
There was a pedestal in the center of the room, and in a kneeling position on top of it was a statue, a statue of a woman, dressed in a chef's outfit, complete with a chef's hat, an apron, and a somewhat revealing smock that displayed her 'assets' quite well, Denise thought for a moment. In one hand the statue held a hand mixer, in the other a measuring cup. There was a glass case over the statue to protect it, much like the rest of the artifacts in the room, and a plaque with an Italian-sounding name that Denise didn't recognize but assumed was the name of this female chef, then underneath 'Created 10/21/69' and a list of her culinary accomplishments. Denise read it with interest, then looked over the statue again; the woman appeared to be maybe in her mid-thirties, and not skinny by any means, but with nice, natural curves, and quite pretty as well. The detail that the sculptor had created out of what appeared to be some kind of white granite was simply amazing to behold.
As she read over the plaque again, Denise realized there was no mention of the artist. She turned to Chris, who was standing next to her watching her reaction, and as she opened her mouth it was as if he knew what she was about to ask.
"I'm sure you are wondering about the artist... he has amazing skills, does he not?" Denise nodded yes as he continued. "I first ran into him some time ago... he has interests similar to my own. This is his work, he did a number of pieces in my collection."
"If the rest of your collection is as amazing as this..." Denise's voice trailed off as she continued to take in the amazing collection of items in front of her.
"I thought you'd be impressed. Soon my collection will be complete, and I plan to open the house up as a museum for all to see... beautiful things should be displayed for all to see, shouldn't they, Denise?" He smiled as he noticed her gaze returning to the beautiful statue in the center of the kitchen.
"Yes...definitely..." She mouthed as she continued to gaze wide-eyed at the statue as Chris walked over to an antique refrigerator and opened the door, pulling out a bottle of champagne, and pouring a couple of glasses.
"You look thirsty my dear. As you can see, not only is this kitchen a collection but it is functional as well..." He handed her the glass and she took it without thinking, taking a few sips. He took a sip of his and then sat the glass down, picking up the bottle and opening the door to walk out. "Ready to see more?" he asked.
"Oh yes...!" the intrigued teacher answered as she followed him out of the room, pausing to let him re-lock the door before following him towards another one of the locked doors. "What's next?"
"You seem quite excited, dear Denise, this makes me very happy. I love a healthy curiosity in a woman, it only adds to her beauty." Chris smiled and Denise blushed as she watched him open another door. "Here we are, the Doctor's Office." He watched her walk in and then followed behind, enjoying her amazed reaction again.
The room was about the same size as the kitchen, and resembled quite closely a large patient examination room. Along the walls were a large variety of medical instruments, most made before the twentieth century, a few quite a bit older than that. They, however, were not the first thing that Denise noticed. Rather, her attention was immediately drawn to the center of the room.
On a pedestal, very similar to the one in the kitchen, was displayed another kneeling statue, this one of a female doctor. As with the chef statue, this one was also dressed in a rather skimpy doctor's smock, a thermometer in one hand, a tongue depressor in the other, and a stethoscope around her neck, with the end nestled perfectly in the statue's ample cleavage. Chris smiled as he watched Denise's eyes taking in every inch of the statue as she kneeled down in front of it to read the plaque below. It read "Dr. Anita Adams, Created 1/31/1971." And once again it had a list of accomplishments of its subject. Denise also couldn't help but notice that the statue had an interesting expression, almost a combination of wonderment and surprise.
"My artist has a real gift for capturing his subjects." Chris stated as he watched Denise get up and walk around the room, sipping her drink and glancing at the other items, but her eyes bouncing back towards the statue, amazed again at how lifelike it was done. "I heard him say once that he likes to display them as he feels they should naturally be..."
"I wonder..." Denise started to say as she walked back by the statue.
"Yes? What is it you wonder about, Denise? Please, do tell me." Chris looked upon her rather impishly as he surreptitiously refilled her glass and waited for her response.
"I wonder....what she was thinking just then..." Denise answered as she gazed again upon the statue's face.
"Oh, I imagine she was truly amazed at how the artist captured her so easily... after all, she was able to watch his process... can you imagine it? I'm sure you can... I mean, what woman wouldn't want to see her beauty captured forever in such an amazing way?" Denise nodded as she absorbed his words and took a few sips of her drink.
"Uh huh..." she agreed as he led her out of the room and to the next one.
"This is the Police Station," Chris said as he opened the door. And as they walked in, Denise wasn't quite as surprised by what she saw...it looked like a typical old-timey police station, with antiquities around the sides, and in the center, a pretty policewoman statue, displayed much like the first two, on her knees, looking slightly upwards, in a sexy police-girl getup, a pair of cuffs in one hand, a gun in the other, and a small billy club dangling from the collar around her neck.
As Denise sipped and looked, she realized that all three statues had had something around their neck, she just hadn't paid any attention to it before. She didn't give it any more thought than that, though, nor did she think that all three were in pretty much the exact same pose, and looked to be about the same age, and had natural curves and beauty, not that fake 'model' beauty that society seems to want everyone to have. Or that they were all female, for that matter.
"He certainly has...a distinctive style..." she sighed, feeling a bit relaxed from the champagne as she sat the glass down in the foyer.
"Yes he certainly does. It seems only natural to be displayed in such a way, doesn't it, Denise?" Chris asked as he started to lead her to another room. She nodded in agreement.
There were several more similarly 'themed' rooms that he showed to her. A courtroom, with a sexy woman judge in the center; a building site, with a woman dressed as a construction worker on a hot day; a laboratory with a barely-dressed lady scientist adorning the middle of the room. All of the statues were similar to the ones Denise had seen in the previous rooms.
Chris could tell that all the walking, as well as the champagne, had made Denise quite a bit tired. "We're almost done..." he said, just one more room to show you, Denise. I think you'll find this one especially interesting and definitely worth the wait!" And he opened the door as she walked into... 'The Classroom.'
The lights came on a bit slowly, first illuminating the walls of the room, as Denise noticed all of the ancient tools of education, quite a number she had seen before in books, but never close up like this! She was positively glowing as the lights finally came on in the rest of the room, and she turned her attention to the center of the room, to the pedestal.
It was empty.
Denise turned quickly to Chris in surprise. "No statue for this one?" she asked.
"Oh yes. Do you remember back at the school, I mentioned I had a new acquisition I needed to display?" She nodded yes. "That's what I needed your help with. I seriously doubt I could properly display it without your help."
Denise beamed happily. "Then I'm so glad I was able to come! Of course I'll help you put it on display!" The two or three glasses of champagne had given the thirty-something schoolteacher a slight buzz, enough that she wasn't really putting a lot of thought into what she was saying.
"Well then. Right this way, please." Chris led Denise back out of the room and into another one, one that was quite simply decorated and furnished like an antique living room. He gestured to Denise to have a seat on a low-back couch in the center. "I know you're tired, Denise, have a seat for a minute and relax, I'll be right back."
Denise yawned as she made herself comfortable on the couch. Her mind was swimming at this point, overwhelmed by the amazing collection she had seen so far. And what was this latest acquisition? Her curiosity was at its peak. As she thought about this, she felt a pair of hands settle down onto her shoulders, rubbing gently.
"I apologize for the wait...I know you're tired...it must be so stressful for you, having to try and teach all those smart young people...maybe you'd feel better if you just RELAX a bit..." he leaned down to whisper the last three words directly into her ear, watching in delight as she shuddered.