The Mentor Ch. 01byBob_Aganoush©
Note: It has been way too long since my last story, but I hope you enjoy this first installment of my new series. It sets the stage for things to come. I promise it will not take me as long to post the remaining installments! Feel free to send suggestions or feedback.
I first spotted her right after I checked into the hotel, as I turned to walk toward the elevators. The conference was being held in one of those modernistic hotels built in the 1960s or 70s with a large atrium and a bank of glass-walled elevators. Susan -- not Sue, or Susie, or any of those diminutive forms which would never have suited her personality -- could be seen through the glass of one of the elevators that was just leaving the lobby. She was easily recognizable in her stylish green suit (probably Ann Taylor, knowing her) with the skirt cut a good three inches above her knee, and her signature flaming red hair styled in a short wedge cut that had been so popular recently. She had what could only have been a $300 Hermès scarf tied around her neck, and was wearing pointy-toed shoes with a spiked heel at least two inches tall, the kind that Sarah Jessica Parker was always wearing on Sex and the City. The shoes only added to her height which must have been at least 5'9" in bare feet. She didn't see me, as she was turned and talking with what looked like a young graduate student. I was rooted to the spot, following the path of the elevator until I could no longer see them. I shook my head, smiled to myself, and continued forward to catch the next elevator with my suitcase in tow.
I had known Susan Bascom for about ten years, ever since we had finished graduate school at the same time. We were in different programs back then, both top-ranked and well-respected, and our areas of research were not exactly the same but were similar enough that our paths crossed frequently. We both had specialties in 19th century English literature, with her focus being on the representation of gender, and mine being the role of broader social forces in the development of the novel during that era (back when I was starting graduate school men did not do gender studies). We began our job search at the same time, enduring the meat market of the Modern Language Association Convention -- or MLA, as it is unaffectionately known -- as best we could.
Susan was different than most of us, however, as she had had a moderately successful career in publishing before she went back to graduate school. She had risen to the rank of associate editor at a publishing house known for its highbrow literature list that was supported by more popular works. Thus, while most of us were in our late 20s when we finished school and began looking for our first academic posts, she was a decade our senior, knocking on the door of 40. To the casual observer, however, one would not suspect such an age difference as Susan was very youthful looking. She easily mixed with those of us who were younger, but the success she had achieved in the publishing industry was quite evident. Even in graduate school she always had the nicest clothes, the nicest leather briefcase, and the one time a conference was held close enough to her university that she could drive there rather than fly, we saw the fire engine red sports car she owned.
Susan and I were both relatively successful on the job market, each of us receiving multiple offers when many of our peers received none. Mine were a touch better, however, and I landed a plum position at a well-known university. She ended up at an institution that could best be described as "second tier," not a bad one by any means but not in the same class as my employer. I would not describe our relationship as one of friendship, but we did generally see each other two or three times a year and always said "hello" and had some pleasant conversations. She had even met my wife Sarah a couple of times when she accompanied me to a conference. She and Sarah had gotten along fabulously, and I knew they stayed in e-mail contact with one another.
In the ensuing decade, however, it was her career that had skyrocketed ahead of mine. Her first book came out to rave reviews less than two years after she finished her Ph.D., followed in quick succession by two more that were equally well received. She supplemented this with insightful journal articles that explored the representation of gender in mid 19th century England, and even branched out to examine the changing dimensions of sexuality during the same era. She was the darling of the academic conferences, the MLA and the smaller boutique gatherings like the one we were at now. She had received at least two major awards of which I was aware, and was granted tenure at her university in her fourth year, largely it was said to try to keep her there and discourage her from bolting to greener pastures. And much to everybody's surprise, she had stayed, even in the face of annual gossip that she was being wooed by more prestigious settings.
Susan was also well known not just for her research but also for her teaching and mentorship of graduate students. She had a faithful flock of former students who were loyal supporters and were vocal in singing her praises. They could be found at conferences gathered around her, alongside her current students who she funded to attend the conferences and network in preparation for their own entry into the academic job market. There were always rumors about the nature of Susan's relationships with these students but I had never heard any concrete evidence that there was any untoward behavior. I chalked up much of the gossip to professional jealousy.
While my career had developed respectably, it could no way be compared to the meteoric rise of Susan's. I had produced a couple of books that were well received but in no way comparable to hers, and while I had earned tenure in the standard sixth year, my scholarly reputation could best be described as somewhat below that of most of my star-studded colleagues at my own institution. Nevertheless, a professor's life is a good one, and while I knew I would never be among the glitterati at the MLA, I was happy.
I entered the elevator, punched my floor, and rode upward gazing down at the lobby. Unlike the MLA, which was an annual mob scene with upwards of ten thousand faculty members spread out through hotels all over the city, this conference was much smaller with only about 500 of us all in the single hotel. I much preferred this kind of gathering, where you could actually connect with colleagues, spend some time with them, and not be overwhelmed by a program book that listed over 4,000 sessions on everything from "Simultaneously Marxian and Queer Comments on Jameson, Allegory, and Method" to "Taking Away the Threat: Cribs and The Osbournes as Narratives of Domestication." As I looked down at the registration desk I saw a few more people queuing up to check in.
The chime sounded and I got out on my floor. I looked left and right down the corridor trying to guess which way was my room. As I looked to the left about five doors down, I spotted Susan and what I presumed was her graduate student, both with suitcases in hand, standing in the hallway talking. They were quite engaged in a conversation about something and hadn't noticed me. I wondered if they were sharing a room together, a wicked thought I know, but as I mentioned there had long been rumors that Susan's relationship with some of her students -- both male and female alike -- went beyond mentoring into what some would describe as a "close personal relationship." She was single when she entered graduate school, I knew, and had not married since.
I took the opportunity to check Susan out a little more closely. Even though she was ten years older than I and approaching 50, she still retained a great figure. She wasn't thin, by any standard, and had quite a few extra pounds on her, but she had great curves set off by a pleasingly plump ass and substantial breasts that she usually showed off with low-cut blouses underneath her suit. And she still had legs that were worth displaying under her short skirts -- well, short by academic standards at least. With her height, though, she carried the extra weight very well.
Not wanting to get caught staring at the two of them, I quickly turned to the right and hoped that was the correct direction for my room. As I glanced at the room numbers, I saw that I was in luck. A few more doors down and I reached my room. As I shoved the keycard in the lock, I looked to my left down the hall toward Susan. I saw the student walking further down the hall by herself. As I entered my room, I laughed at myself thinking that Susan would have been sharing her room with a student. That would have been a little too obvious, even for her. I shut the door, put my backpack down, and began unpacking my suitcase.
The conference began early that evening with an opening address from an esteemed senior colleague in our field. I often wondered who bestowed the label "esteemed" on these people; all I knew was that the speech was invariably a yawner. The only way they got people to go was by scheduling it right before the opening reception, which offered free food and booze -- well, not quite "booze" by any standard, but cheap wine and domestic beer. After all, this is an academic crowd with relatively few financial resources. The opening reception always went late into the evening as the attendees soaked up their last freebies for the next few days.
After a couple of years attending these types of gatherings I'd learned to avoid the free food and just enjoy a nice meal out. I thought of myself as somewhat better than the rest of them, not bowing to the offer of free -- but lousy -- food and wine, but holding out for a better meal. I had made plans a couple of weeks ago to meet up with my friend Carl who was similarly inclined, and we found a nice Japanese restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. By the time we got back to the hotel, it was about 9:00, and we could hear the noisy gathering in the ballroom. We went into the empty bar located in the lobby to have a drink and continue our conversation.
As I sat down, I glanced over Carl's shoulder at the restaurant that took up the other corner of the lobby. Not surprisingly given the late hour and the fact that the conference took up all the rooms in the hotel, it was largely deserted. I did spot one attended table, though, and just as I was about to turn my attention back to listen to what Carl was talking about (something about Dickens, most likely, as that was who he spent most of his waking hours thinking and writing about), I realized that it was Susan Bascom and her grad student sitting there. They too must have decided to bypass the opening reception.
Carl and I ordered our drinks, and he quickly downed his and excused himself, complaining about having to get up early for a panel on which he was presenting. I graciously offered to pay for his drink, and he just as graciously accepted. After shaking his hand and saying good-bye, I sat down again to finish my margarita. As I did, I glanced over again at the restaurant, just as Susan's graduate student was standing up, purse in hand. She began walking away from the table, and as she did, I examined her in more detail.
Having been focused on Susan when I saw them earlier, I had not yet formed much an impression of her student. She was young, probably only about 25, and was wearing casual clothes, a loose fitting beige top and dark pants -- thus confirming her relative youth, as somebody further along in her studies would have been wearing interview clothes at this conference in order to impress potential employers. She was shorter than Susan, maybe 5'4" or so, and I could see she was relatively thin even in her loose clothes. She too had short hair, but unlike Susan's red locks, hers were brunette. Her face could be described as somewhat plain, nothing you would think twice about if you passed her on the street.
As I signaled the waitress for my check, I watched the student cross the lobby and head toward the bathrooms. The bathrooms were down a small hallway off the lobby, between the restaurant and the bar. She entered the bathroom just as the waitress brought my check. As I reached for my wallet, I glanced over at the restaurant. Susan was paying her check, and as she stood up to leave, I saw she was still wearing the green suit I spied her in earlier. As she left the restaurant, she too headed toward the bathroom. Even though this brought her closer to me, I realized it would have been hard for her to see me, because of the position of some columns and large palms that helped separate the bar from the lobby.
As the waitress walked away with my credit card, I watched Susan head down the hallway and into the ladies room. In the time since her student had gone in there, I hadn't seen anybody else go in or come out. By the time my credit card and charge slip were brought for my signature, a good seven or eight minutes had passed since the student had gone into the bathroom, and three or four since Susan entered. I thought this quite curious, the two of them in there seemingly all alone. I pondered what was going on as I signed the slip and put my credit card back in my wallet.
I sat for another couple of minutes, finishing the last few drops of my drink, still keeping an eye cocked toward the bathroom. Neither of them had exited, and given the fact that everybody else still seemed to be enjoying the reception in the ballroom (which undoubtedly had its own set of bathrooms), nobody else had gone in. By this time I was incredibly curious, and wondering what the hell was going on in there. I thought back to the rumors that had circulated about the relationship between Susan and her students, and decided I had to investigate this further.
I left the bar and headed toward the hallway where the bathrooms were located. I went down the hallway, which was long enough that one could not see the bathrooms from main part of the lobby area. As I approached the bathrooms, with the men's on the left and women's on the right, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure nobody was behind me. I knew the likelihood of anybody else coming to these bathrooms was slim, given that all of our colleagues were likely to still be enjoying the conference opening reception for some time. Seeing nobody there, I put my ear to the door of the women's room and listened for a few seconds. Hearing nothing, I slowly pushed the door open just far enough to poke my head in, and as surreptitiously as possible, glanced around the door.
What I saw was nobody -- just the open area where the sinks were located, and a partition around which must have been located the toilet stalls. Once I determined that there was nobody right there, I quickly stepped inside, and quietly eased the door closed behind me. My first impression was that the women's room was much nicer than the men's room. There was carpeting on the floor, at least in the sink area, and a nice red velvet sofa and matching upholstered chairs. There was a selection of toiletries in the sink area for the women to use.
Still hearing nothing, I quietly tiptoed toward the partition separating the sink area from the toilet stalls. As I came toward it, I heard a very faint and muffled woman's voice. I couldn't make out what it was saying, but it was clearly coming from the other side of the partition. I poked my head around the partition very slowly and carefully. Luckily, there was nobody standing on the other side. As I suspected, this section of the bathroom contained the series of toilet stalls.
I slowly walked around the partition and stood immobile for a few seconds. A quick glance down the row of stalls confirmed what I suspected -- there was only one door closed, and it was the one at the far end, which was the handicapped stall. From where I was standing, I couldn't see under the bottom of the stalls, but I listened to see if I could pick up the voice again. Sure enough, I heard a voice coming from that stall.
The carpeting continued from the sink area into this section, but then stopped right in front of the row of stalls. This allowed me to creep quietly toward the end of the row and the closed door of the last stall. As I got closer, I was careful not to get in front of the gap between the door of the stall and its wall, so as not to be seen by the occupants. I stopped a few feet before reaching the stall, still on the carpeting. From this position I could more clearly hear the voice, and it did not take me long to recognize it as Susan's. I bent down enough so as to be able to see under the walls of the stall, and confirmed my auditory conclusion by spotting Susan's bare legs and her stiletto heels spread wide and facing the door of the stall. I could see in front of her, kneeling on the tile of the floor, the trouser-clad legs of what had to be her student. I was now close enough to hear Susan's voice quite clearly, even though she was speaking quietly.
"That's right, sweetie, you're doing just fine, just keep doing that," she said, in a soft and soothing voice. There were other sounds coming from the stall, but I was at an angle that I couldn't see what was going on in there, and I was fearful of being seen or heard myself. But from what I could see and hear, my mind started conjuring up quite a lovely image of that young grad student kneeling between Susan's legs.
"Harder, sweetie, lick harder up and down." Now there was no question of what was going on in there, and Susan's voice drew me closer to the stall. I tiptoed a few feet forward, staying on the carpet so as to be quiet as possible. This brought me a bit closer, so that I could see a little bit through the crack between the door of the stall and the wall. But I was too far away to really see anything at all. But imagining what the young woman was doing to Susan had gotten me very aroused, and my pants were starting to tent pole as I had quite an erection.
"Okay, now stop," Susan's said, still speaking softly but in a commanding tone. I could see under the stall that the student stood up, and I heard the rustling of clothes. I panicked, not sure what I should do. I was afraid if I started to move too quickly back toward the door, they'd hear me. I decided I'd duck into one of the other stalls and pick my feet up, so they wouldn't be able to spot my quite obviously men's pants and shoes under the stall. Just as I started to do this, the door to their stall flew open, and Susan came out, followed by the student. I was frozen on the spot, and I'm sure I must have looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.
"Bob!," Susan exclaimed, not looking nor sounding entirely shocked to see me standing there. My first instinct was to run out of there, but I was worried about the off chance of somebody seeing me flying out of the women's room and what the implications of that would be.
Before I could think any further, Susan said, "Don't move or I'll scream." That decided things for me -- the thought of Susan Bascom screaming bloody murder in the women's room, and what that would likely bring into there was not something I wanted to experience. So I just stood there, not saying a word nor moving.
"You know Professor Arnold, don't you Laura?" she said, turning to the young lady next to her. As I now looked at her, standing there next to Susan, with dusty smudges on her knees and her hair slightly disheveled, she looked as equally embarrassed as I knew I must have appeared. She just lightly nodded her head, without uttering a word.
"And that would be his erection," she said, laughing heartily and pointing toward my crotch. "Well, Bob, so nice to see you, though I didn't imagine this is where we'd first run into each other at the conference. I would ask you what the hell you are doing here, but I suspect I already know the answer to that one. You followed us in here, didn't you?"