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First pages

Chapter 1: Jugular

Debon Wallace rose slowly from his auditorium chair and adjusted the crimson and gold-striped tie his wife, Lisa, had laid out for him at 7:00AM this morning, like a mother hen lays out her hard-earned worms for feed. The woman never ceased to dote on him, always checking his briefcase to make sure his papers were in order, checking his tea in the morning to make sure he hadn’t put too much sugar in it, because she was scared of the diabetes that ran in his family…heck, she even checked his watch, to make sure that the “12” on it faced the right direction. Yes, Debon had been facing the “12” on his watch away from his view, because so many people had wanted to admire the $10,000 thing of glory that Lisa had bought for his birthday, and rather than have them come inwardly into his space to ogle it, he’d figured he’d leave the watch facing outwards for them.

He looked into Lisa’s pensive, brown eyes, as he walked towards the podium in the 900-seat auditorium at the university’s Brennan Center, and situated himself.

She stared back at him, sitting next to the chair he had emptied, with a pained smile—a helpless reaction to something out of place on his body that she couldn’t adjust, Debon figured.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you,” he said to rousing cheers. “I am honored to receive this year’s Reuben Klein award in political science. My research, as well as my book, Jugular, has explored, as best it can, the question of hunger as a function of political savvy.”

Lisa folded her arms and crossed her legs, her once loving mouth now pursed almost permanently into boredom, just three years into their married life. Soon, she felt a wetness forming in her tear ducts. She sprang from her seat to find a ladies’ room and hide her face, before any tears could drop on her outfit. When she discovered a clean, one-unit powder room a few doors away from the building director’s office, she paused to consider trusting the bathroom’s cleanliness, but ultimately yanked a pair of disposable gloves from her red, geometrical-shaped, Dior purse and slid them on to avoid touching anything in the room.

Looks can be deceiving, she thought. This seemingly pristine bathroom, which shone as brightly as her husband did on the outside, could have been hiding some filth that her eyes couldn’t see.

“Fuck!” she screamed, as she realized she could still hear Debon’s voice booming from the auditorium. “Fuuuuccckkk!!! Fuck me! Is that…? Wow. Could he have at least credited me for that sentence? He’s acting like he just came up with these thoughts—all on his own, for goodness sake!”

Lisa listened intently as Debon rattled off more words.

“And, how exactly did I define political hunger in my research?” Lisa heard Debon say to the audience. “I defined political hunger as a function of emotional loss in the sample size of politicians I studied.”

She broke into laughter, and slapped her knees.

“I found that the deeper the degree of emotional loss in a politician’s life, the hungrier that politician became for success,” Lisa cried hysterically and mouthed Debon’s speech in unison with him. “And, politics: in its fundamental promise to “fix” things, could not have been a riper playground for such politicians—because politics not only promises them that they can fix others, or fix the world, but also, that they can fix themselves.”

The crowd roared.

Lisa emerged from the ladies’ room, gloves off, feeling defeated, but looking terrifyingly refreshed, with a deep, new application of red lipstick that would give Venus a beauty complex. Her sleeveless black dress dipped generously into a V shape that exposed her breasts a little, but she made sure to wrap her silk shawl across her breasts every few seconds, as if to assure herself and everyone around her that she would never expose her breasts again.

But, everyone knew it was lie; the shawl would fall repeatedly, and Lisa, who pushed against her youthful beauty, because she was a distinguished professor’s wife would give the world at least a few seconds of flesh: squeezed, taut, protruding from the $1,500 gown she’d bought on sale from Neiman Marcus. Her hair, though, remained in a perfectly hoisted bun, with not a wisp amiss. Her earth-toned makeup bathed itself in the gold tones of her skin, betraying the immaculate genes she so carefully tried to hide behind her dark-framed glasses.

When she rejoined the crowd, she remained standing in ovation and watched Debon’s mentor, Dr. Shane Rugard, take to the stage in his too-tight three-piece suit, hanging on to his rotund belly as though it would fall off if he walked too quickly.

“Thank you, Dr. Wallace,” Dr. Rugard said, as Debon’s six-foot-two frame, chiseled, fine-actor features and jazzy walk upstaged the short, round Rugard’s grumpy, unceremonious wobble towards the podium. “For those of you who want a signed copy of Jugular, I would urge that you kindly form a line over here as Professor Wallace leaves the stage. Professor Wallace is happy to sign your copies of the book after you purchase them from that table over there, and if you have your own copy…”

Dr. Rugard’s voice faded into the loud buzzing of men and women that rushed towards Debon.

Lisa stood up and released a deep breath, as Debon’s colleagues congratulated her on Debon’s achievement.

“I am sure you are so very proud of your husband, Professor Wallace,” Dr. Ming expressed in excitement, as she shook Lisa’s hand.

“As proud as I can be,” Lisa smiled politely.

She peered across the large hall and tried to make eye contact with Debon, whose constant watch of her while he was on stage had switched to a salacious watch of every other woman’s body parts as the crowd surrounded him. She decided she was going to march up to Debon and push those nasty, wannabe learned whores away from him, so that he could get in the damn car and drive her home to rest, but the closer she tried to inch towards him, the more strangers and colleagues alike would interrupt her with praises for Debon.

“He is a master in this field!” a professor from a rival university exclaimed to Lisa, as he squeezed her hand and grabbed an eyeful of her chest. Lisa pulled up her shawl in disgust and agreed with the rival professor.

“A master, indeed,” she said. “Excuse me.”

The next few people that crossed her path as she tried to lunge towards Debon received a “thanks” and “excuse me,” with a look on her face that really said, “get the fuck out of my way.”

“Debon!” she called, as Debon waved to her.

“Professor Wallace,” he called to Lisa.

“Professor Wallace,” Lisa said, before whispering in his ear to ask him just how long this post-speech, book-signing, festival of adulation and bullshit would last.

“One second, dear,” he muttered, as he signed a book for a tall, giggly blonde with a beauty mark on her upper lip and a slight gap-toothed smile, who swore that all of his research was brilliant: all of it.

“I hope to take your class next semester,” the blonde said, while Lisa smiled like an evil Disney character and sat back down in one of the nearest seats she could find in the hall. “Oh, and I love your watch,” the blonde exclaimed, as Debon permitted her to admire it.

Soon, Debon stood up to stretch his legs, and avoid eye contact with Lisa. He engaged the next self-proclaimed scholar of his work, a West African beauty, who questioned the methodology he used in chapters two, seven, and nine. She had issues with his sample size, his wording at the start of the second chapter of Jugular, and…a list of other critiques.

“Debon!” Lisa mouthed his name while making eye contact and walking towards him.

“Lisa, you know very well that I can’t leave here any sooner than an hour or two: I’ll be at least an hour here and then a half-hour at the dinner afterwards,” Debon finally warned, as he grabbed Lisa and turned away from the growing crowd of people waiting for him to sign their books. “You know that.”

“I’ll wait in the car then,” Lisa whispered.

“You’ll wait in the car for an hour or two?” Debon asked, with a bewildered look on his face.

“Yes, or I’ll just drive home and come back to pick you up, Debon,” Lisa said curtly.

“What the fuck is your problem, Lisa?” Debon asked. “I just won a top prize for my field—our field—and you can’t keep it together long enough to support me?”
“You know I’ve been a little sick lately and only just recovered, Debon, so that’s an unfair statement…”
“Stop it,” Debon cut her off. “Stop it. I’m signing books. I’ll see you later.”

Debon hugged Lisa like he hadn’t seen her for years, and turned back around to face the crowd.

“My lovely wife, everybody,” he cheered, as the crowd cheered with him.

Lisa blew a kiss towards him and the crowd, and walked out of the hall, as if everyone in it mattered so much to her, and she was devastated to leave them. Then, she drew her sunglasses out of her purse and strutted down the picturesque campus to find the jet-black Ferrari she had gifted herself on her own birthday.

“Son of a bitch,” she muttered, as she got in the driver’s seat, and shook her head vigorously. “It’s always about him.”

***

“Man, it’s always about her,” Debon confided in his best friend, Professor Jacks Johns, who had walked over from his sociology department, to support Debon’s political science award ceremony. The two of them chatted next to each other in the majestic, book-signing corner of Brennan Center, as the crowd slowly began to dissipate. The Center frequently hosted presidents, prime ministers, even televised media events, because its state-of-the art technology was unmatched: every crevice had a remote-controlled screen or gadget, seats that reclined, ample legroom between the seats, and a modern space shuttle feel that would make NASA blush.

Even the area by the stage, where Debon had been standing up and sitting down for the past half hour signing his books, had been designed for any author’s book-signing comfort: it had a table that ejected a copy of the author’s book after you slid your credit card or cash in it, and a cozy bench space for the author to sit and stand as he pleased.

Debon felt around his pockets in agitation, until he pulled out a secret note. He read the note and gasped, then smiled, then coughed.

“What is it?” Jacks asked Debon, concerned.

“Well…” Debon got up and faced Jacks to indicate to his next set of admirers that he was taking a break. “Er…it’s, man…I have to take a break; I thought this hall would have emptied by now. More people? I mean, seriously, was my book that damn good?”

“No, you’re just that damn fine, man!” Jacks teased.

“Shut up, man,” Debon retorted.

“All these ladies, young and old, looking to get a piece of that Debon Wallace,” Jacks remarked.

“Whatever man,” Debon continued, “you know I gotta get home to Lisa’s military barracks. I don’t have time for these hot asses.”

“Yes Lord, Debon loves his wife,” Jacks cracked, his immaculate teeth shining in the brightly lit hall. His stature and frame complemented Debon’s so much that the two could have been brothers. Jacks’ jaw protruded less than Debon’s and he maintained a much closer shave on his head and his face. His eyes were slightly bigger and friendlier and he didn’t have Debon’s dimples, but he was just as handsome, if not more.

“I do love Lisa,” Debon said seriously. “Now, just man this area for me while I go take a piss break, man? I’ll be back in 20 minutes, I promise.”

***

Lisa tapped her fingers on the steering wheel, humming made-up melodies and wondering why she had not yet driven off after 20 minutes of sitting in the car, which had been parked in a small, less trafficked lot by the campus university president’s building.

She felt guilty for having left Debon to his book signing.

Was she being selfish, or even jealous of Debon’s success? she wondered.

“Maybe I’m being selfish,” she whispered, as she dragged her shawl from her shoulders and dumped it in the back seat, on top of all the ungraded papers, folders, and newspapers Debon had refused to clear out two days ago. She sighed at Debon’s penchant for trashing nice things, but reminded herself of his consistent generosity throughout their marriage. He’d never skimped on gifts, and had the decency to buy her jewelry, shoes, clothes, and flowers whenever he enraged her. Last year in particular, when he found Lisa distraught over her grandmother’s death, he deposited enough money into Lisa’s bank account to cover both the funeral and Lisa’s new Ferrari. Lisa had tried, earlier in their marriage, to stop him from spoiling her, but learned soon enough that he knew no other way than money to express his love. He had grown up in poverty, and had worked his way to a top position at a political consulting firm, which paid him a $480,000 salary, plus bonuses: much of which he saved and invested before becoming a professor…so, as he liked to remind Lisa: “he was not going to let anyone, not even his wife, chastise him for enjoying his success.”

Lisa softened her annoyance with her ambitious hubby, pushed her car door open, and pressed the car keys until the car beeped twice. Then, she adjusted her three-inch Giuseppe heels, before marching towards the political science building, where Debon’s office was located, to leave a surprise he could find the next morning before his 9:00AM seminar.

“FIRST DATE CAKES,” Lisa scribbled on a sheet of paper. “I’m sorry for leaving your big moment early…except I never left. I’m leaving these here tonight as a reminder of our first date. I don’t take you for granted. I love you.” She then stopped by the campus convenience store and grabbed five of Debon’s favorite Choco-Cakes, which she’d forbidden him to eat the minute she realized that he would marry her. They’re more like Choco-betes: a chocolate form of diabetes, she would say to him while yanking them from his mouth, car, desk, and briefcase, until he finally gave in and stopped eating them.

These oughta please him. She smiled at her temporary Choco-Cake ban lift, as she reached the quiet doors of the political science building and began walking up its lofty staircase, which greeted visitors as soon as they walked in.

The green-painted, dreary, 1929 building paled in contrast to the Brennan Center, a five-year-old modern wonder built by renowned German architect Hans Kunnen. Most offices in the building had been renovated, but it still retained an old, musty, book smell, along with some priceless, antique, furniture that could never be replaced as long as the university stood.

Lisa’s heels ached like no man’s business as she climbed the building’s stairs, so she slid them off and hopped to Debon’s suite, hoping to both leave his gift and crash for a few minutes on the comfy sofa she had bought for his office two years ago. The charming suite held five professors’ offices in a cove, with Debon’s office being the largest in size.

She pulled out her keys to his office, and turned on the suite lights quickly—she couldn’t wait to rest her body. She heard a slight bang against a wall, but couldn’t tell which wall, so she ignored the sound and twisted the key softly into Debon’s office door, revealing an even bigger bang.

“Baby!” Debon exclaimed, as a busty, dark-haired woman with her naked buttocks bent over his office desk turned around in shock.

“Lisa!” Debon repeated, as his hands scrambled for his clothes. “This—this building is supposed to be…empty…every poli-sci professor is at the dinner ri-right…now. I didn’t…I don’t…I didn’t mean to disrespect you, Lisa. Lisa—it’s not what you think, I…”

“I’m sorry,” the naked woman, a grad student in their department, apologized as she grabbed her yellow and purple blouse from the coat stand behind Debon’s office chair, and began to dress.

Lisa walked calmly to Debon’s desk and placed her five Choco-Cake surprises on it.

“Is this…is this pube hair?” Lisa remarked, as she stroked Debon’s newly ordered Bourbon Cherry desk, as if no one else were in the room. The office’s white, renovated, cathedral-style windows ushered in loud gushes of wind, as evening fell.

“Lisa!” Debon cried helplessly.

“I brought you Choco-Cakes, Debon,” Lisa exclaimed. “I’m not scared. I’m not scared of your diabetes anymore.”

The room grew tense and silent as Debon’s grad student finally put on her shoes, in sync with Debon who was now almost fully dressed, save for his cuff links. The grad student apologized a second time to Lisa and turned towards the office door to head out, when Lisa lunged towards her dark, wavy tresses, grabbed her head and punched her vigorously.

Debon tried in vain to insert his body between Lisa and the grad student, but Lisa only took that opportunity to knock Debon’s head with her shoes, which she had been carrying in her hands this whole time. She then grabbed the grad student’s neck and whispered next to her lips, “That Professor Wallace is a knock-out, but this Professor Wallace will knock you out!”
“No, Lisa!” Debon screamed, as the grad student fell towards the floor. “What have you? What have you done? She’s not—is she breathing? What the fuck have you done, Lisa?”
Lisa stood coldly, her neat bun now collapsing into a sweaty fall.

Footsteps approached the office suites from the hallway, and Lisa’s heart raced like she had just injected dangerous drugs into her system and was about to die. She prayed to God that no additional bold souls were in the mood to enter Debon’s suite this evening, when the entire department should have been at the awards dinner.

“Oh God,” Debon whispered to his ill-fated lover on the floor. “Oh, God. Please, please, open your eyes.”

Lisa folded her arms, crossed her legs, and sat on Debon’s couch, eyeing him in disgust.

“Please,” Debon whispered again to the grad student.

“Professor Wallace!” Jacks called from outside his door. “Dude, everybody’s cleared the Brennan Center now—the program coordinator has even locked up the table with your unsold books: all three of them. I’m off to the dinner; you coming?”

“JACKS?” Debon shouted. “Is that you, Jacks? My wife and I—there’s been an emergency…”

* * *

“Now, listen to me, and listen carefully,” Debon whispered over the grad student’s ear as she blinked slowly. The emergency room doctor stood in the hallway, chatting with two nurses about her condition. Debon kept his left eye on the doctor and his right eye on the shell-shocked student. “You have a concussion. You were helping me with some books, when half my shelf fell on you. Got it?”

“No, your wife…hurt me,” she replied.

“She…are you kidding?” Debon asked. “Are you kidding me right now? If you were married, and you walked into your husband’s office to see him screwing a gaddamn…” Debon tucked his anger back inside his mouth, and searched for his charm and common sense. “Baby,” he continued. “She did hurt you.”

The student nodded.

“But you destroyed her,” he continued with an even lower tone. “Permanently. You’ve left a scar on her heart that no doctor can ever fix. Ever. And so have I. This is what we’ve done to her, baby.”

The student covered her mouth, and began to sob.

“Now, now,” Debon said, sweetly. “There’s an easy way to fix all this, okay?”

“Okay,” she sobbed.

“All you have to do is think of your career in my department, hmm?” Debon encouraged, in an icy tone. “Think of your dissertation in a few months and you passing it with flying colors—because you HIT your head in my office, while you were working so hard, in the wee hours, and my WIFE, who was there, and whom we betrayed—but we’ll leave that part out—was there to rush you here, with me. Everyone will feel sorry for you; I will ensure that you’re the darling of the department. And you will get the three letters you crave: Ph.D. – from Hanover – the topmost university on the planet. Do you understand me?”

“Yes,” she spoke quietly.

“I’m sorry, come again beautiful, I can’t hear you,” Debon whispered with fire in his eyes.

“Yes,” she repeated. “I was in your office with you and your wife, shelving books, when a ton of them came down and hit me.”
“Good girl,” Debon whispered. “Good. Girl.”

The E.R. doctor walked in, folded his hairy arms across his chest, and asked the student several questions, while she and Debon nodded in agreement. Hours later, Debon kissed her on her forehead to say goodbye, and found Jacks in the waiting room.

“Thanks for taking Lisa home,” Debon said.

“Get your ass in the car,” Jacks responded. “And tell me everything, from start to finish.”

Debon walked silently, his shirt buttons missing, head spinning.

“Is that the girl who left that little note in your pocket tonight?”

Debon nodded.

“Gaddamit, Debon,” Jacks shook his head. “Just, get in the car.”

* * *

The next day, after classes, Debon drove to the five-bedroom cul-de-sac he shared with Lisa, just outside the city of Voltin, Connecticut. He was hoping to nap in peace before Lisa returned home. Instead, he found a stringy-haired Lisa scrubbing the floors and rearranging all the trinkets on the crystal tables in their foyer and living room, when he arrived. He greeted her. She said nothing—for a few seconds. Then, she began reciting what seemed like a combination of gibberish and scholarship. He heard her utter the words “edict” and “decree”…and “the political culture of that fragile nation-state did not allow for the secularism of its leaders, thus raising the question of whether the republic could thrive without the separation of religion and government.”

“When you’re ready to talk, I want to talk,” Debon offered sadly.

“The republic cannot thrive,” Lisa said, looking up with tears forming in her eyes.

“The republic needs leadership and leaders need to talk,” Debon shouted.

“I WANT A SEPARATION!” Lisa yelled. “I want to separate, I want to leave your muthafucking ass—right now. The republic is OVER. I want a divorce.”

Debon placed his car keys on the ground, by their massive, iron-clad entrance door, and dropped his briefcase as well. He loosened his tie and walked over to Lisa whose face, without makeup, still looked like a makeup advertisement. He grabbed her from the floor, knocked the cleaning sponge and gloves from her hands, and sat her down in the living room, on one of their exceptionally nice chairs. Then, he brushed her now mossy hair from her face and tucked it behind her small, angelic ears.

“You’re angry,” Debon spoke slowly. “You’re angry because you and I have not touched each other or looked at each other—we have not connected for months. We have not fucked, Lisa. You are beautiful, and I have tried. You have rejected me. Something between us is broken. I am to blame for cheating, but don’t you dare, for one second, act like it wasn’t YOU bent over in my office, when you were a grad student in my department years ago. Don’t you dare sit here and act like you were above that girl you saw yesterday. Don’t you pretend like you didn’t fuck your own way to your doctorate degree, or like you didn’t become assistant professor in MY department right afterwards because I made it happen.”

Lisa got up and slapped him, before he pushed her back to the seat, with a laugh.

“I deserved that,” Debon chuckled.

Lisa struggled to speak but was too incensed.

“Keep your political memory alive, dearest,” Debon scowled. “We built this marriage, this republic based on a promise you made to me, to stay. You would stay, and I would keep you afloat. You would have whatever bits of materialistic shit you wanted, and I would help your career at Hanover. You are a long way from tenure, my sweet. If I have the university deny you tenure, where are you going to go, Lisa? Where the fuck are you going to go? Who is going to hire you? You’re going to start over in some community college after the embarrassment of being rejected by your husband’s department?”

Lisa stood up to leave, before Debon ended with a few more blows.

“I have the one thing every professor at Hanover wants and that’s tenure,” Debon said, more calmly. “You know what tenure means, Professor Lisa Wallace? It means you stay. It means you can hoot and you can howl and holler aaall you want, but at the end of the day, you stay.”

Chapter 2: Si Vis Amari, Ama

Hot days burned through autumn in Connecticut, and most of the young women on Hanover’s campus showed their gratitude by donning sleeveless shirts, shorts, dresses, sunglasses, and bright-colored fingernails, every chance they got. Karol Drew felt she was by no means “young,” nor was she in the slightest mood for playful summer fashions in autumn. She kept her attire straightforward: a black blouse, white pants, and a modest string of pearls. Her sweet, cherubic face looked at least 10 years younger than her age of 38, partially because she allowed her artsy cousin, who worked at The Pink Spa on Broad Street, to practice all sorts of new treatments on her face.

She applied a warm cherry gloss on her lips, since she was no fan of lipstick. She then brushed her newly cut bob away from her face, using the rearview mirror in her comfy blue Toyota Camry, and muttered a few words of encouragement to herself before finally getting out of the car and rushing into the Skylar building, where she taught her Women’s Studies course. Instead of the dainty black and white purse she could have worn to work today to match her outfit, or even the red one Lisa had given her last Christmas, she carried a massive aqua blue sack of books across her back, which drew attention to her bright, purple flats—and not in a good way.

She hurriedly greeted the rest of the faculty on her floor and rushed into her office to review her syllabus for her class that afternoon.

“Shit,” she mumbled to herself. “Why, why, whyyy did I schedule the most tedious chapter on the planet for today of all days? There is no way in hell these students would have read these selections, let alone engage them in class the way I need them to…urgh!”

She banged her fist on her maple wood desk, and heard a gruff voice calling her name at her office door.

“Professor Drew!” the voice called.

“Come in!” Karol answered gingerly, as she rose to shake her visitors’ hands. “Dr. Phillips, Dr. Gray…you’re a bit early to audit my class.”

“Indeed, we are early, but not to audit your class,” Dr. Lam Phillips said. “We came to look around the Women’s Studies department: talk to some of your faculty, and observe students outside the classroom, before we audit your class later on.”

Lam’s massive white beard swished left and right as he moved his lips, and the gray hairs covering his bald spot seemed to have decreased in number since Karol last saw him. Still, he looked as distinguished as his titles of Hamilton T. Fitgerald Professor of Classical Music and “Dean of Faculty” suggested. In fact, he looked regal. His navy blue jacket, embroidered with the Hanover emblem, fell across his tall, broad shoulders, in a way that made him look like an heir to someone’s throne.

“Indeed, we…are…early,” Dr. Pearson Gray, Lam’s sidekick, echoed nervously, not knowing quite what to say next.

Karol cussed Pearson out in her head. She despised the entire line of Grays that yielded so much power at Hanover—and the obvious nepotism at play when Pearson’s father, Gray, Sr. appointed him to the university board. She eyed his navy blue jacket and khaki pants, disgusted by the fact that he couldn’t even muster enough balls today to wear something different from Lam’s outfit.

“No balls,” Karol muttered.

“Sorry?” Pearson asked.

“Oh, I said, NO PROBS!” Karol replied. “So glad to have the two of you here, and I’ll be sure to see you in my class at 2:30.”

“See you at 2:30,” Lam and Pearson chimed as they exited her office and closed her door.

“He has no fucking identity,” Karol whispered to herself before picking up the phone to call Lisa.

“Hello?” Karol spoke softly into her tan, 1990s era office phone. “Oh, thank goodness, you finally picked up, Lisa…I’ve been so nervous; they’re auditing my class today…I’ve been trying to reach you forever—wait—what? You’re coming to sit in on my class too? Well now, aren’t you the supportive friend!” Karol laughed, revealing pearly teeth that had been straightened with adult braces, just 15 years ago.

“Anyway, lady, it would be so calming to see you—my nerves are shot right now,” Karol continued. “If they don’t like my class, or this department, they won’t allow Women’s Studies to become a major. This is so much pressure, Lisa! Yes, yes. I know. OK, I hear ya. Well, listen, I’ll see you at 2:30, and then we could go to lunch afterwards? Alright, missy. Bye.”

Karol walked into her classroom at 2:15PM, hoping that no students had dropped the class while the university was still in its registration period. She counted three students out of the 12 that had initially registered. “Please lord, let there be students,” she whispered, as she wondered whether Dr. Phillips and Dr. Gray were approaching her classroom. Instead, Lisa approached.

“OK, phew…hi,” Karol smiled and waved, as Lisa sat down. Afterwards, Paris Sinclair, Karol’s Teaching Assistant, walked in and seized a seat by Karol’s teaching podium.

The clock struck 2:29 when Lam and Pearson walked into the classroom and situated themselves at the back.

Karol coughed and began her lecture, with five students present. She swore she would make it the best lecture of her life, regardless of the low count.

She began with an impressive recollection of each student’s name, then moved her hands about as she elaborated on the assigned readings and asked students if they had any questions. To her slight horror, they did not. She sighed and continued for several minutes before asking students again if they had any questions. A few, who felt sorry for her at this point, tried to unpack the week’s dense assignment with impressive Hanover vocabulary, but Karol eventually saved them from the torture and shifted away from the week’s reading.

“Class, I want to come back to a point I think we missed a session ago in this reading packet by Emily Johnson,” Karol motioned to her T.A. Paris to distribute some handouts and waved a packet in the air. “Almost all of you argued that the women in the text gave in too easily to their suitors, right?”

“They did!” one student offered. “They weren’t strong women!”

“Yeah,” another student chimed in, to Karol’s delight. She knew the controversial text would spark commentary.

“But, think about what these women stated they wanted, from the very beginning of the text,” Karol said. “What mattered to these women most?”

“Love?” the students echoed.

“LOVE,” Karol repeated. “And, could love have been possible, had these women held up their emotional walls up the entire time, and carried out their father’s war as if it were their own? Should they have put his war—his need for war—before their need for love?”

The students grew silent, some nodding as if to say “maybe not.”

“SI VIS AMARI, AMA,” Karol scribbled on the chalkboard, before dismissing the class. “That is a Latin quote by a Roman philosopher named Seneca. It means, “if you want to be loved, love.””

“Hmm,” the students muttered.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

China Noëlle is a cheeky scholar whose first foray into a Ph.D. department came at the age of 21. She launches mega websites, produces television, and cooks totally made-up, unique, delicious, dishes in her spare time. She travels globally and has lived in or visited four continents - Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. She lives in Los Angeles.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
The underlying message of the book is that life and love are shifting concepts that can be influenced by power at any time...in this case, academic power and political power.
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The inspiration came from attending so many colleges (I have lots of advanced degrees!), which seem stale on the outside, but are RIFE with scandal: flirtatious professors, offenses swept under the rug, and sociopathic personalities that make for one big adrenaline rush.
Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Angelina & Brad could easily play the main characters (Lisa & Debon), if they somehow put their real-life differences aside. More importantly, I'd love for readers to tell me which characters they think they identify with the most. My friends & personal readers always pick which character they are.

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