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Eleanor was excited about returning to college. She’d always loved learning, and although she loved her career, after her ugly divorce a new direction seemed like a good idea. She just hadn’t anticipated how young everyone would be! She hustled to her first class, feeling old and out of place. Not the way she’d wanted to start the semester.
She collapsed into a vacant seat in the lecture hall and pulled out a notebook and pen. It wasn’t until the professor walked in and fired up his own laptop that she realized that every other student in the room was sitting behind a laptop or tablet. She blushed furiously and mentally kicked herself for not anticipating that classes would be different this time around. Being a middle-aged college student sucked.
The class was divided into small study groups to work on a project. Eleanor introduced herself to the group, feeling impossibly self-conscious. “Hi, I’m Eleanor Pierson. Ellie. I got a degree here about 20 years ago, but now I’m looking to make a career change, so here I am again.” She smiled warmly and a few of the students smiled back. Most were glued to their phones or laptops, though. She made a note of everyone’s name so that she’d remember. Travis, one of the few who’d smiled at her, offered to set up an online group for them to communicate about their project and post drafts and things. The group was enthusiastic, but Ellie’s stomach dropped when Travis turned to her and said, “I can help you set it up if you have a computer at home, Ms. Pierson.” She knew she was blushing again. “Thanks, Travis. And call me Ellie, please. I have a laptop and I’m familiar with the software. I’ll get it set up and be ready to go for class on Wednesday.” She was chagrined that the punk looked impressed. “Yeah, the old lady can take care of herself,” she thought. It was a good thing Travis had that warm smile, and dimples, and broad shoulders…or else she’d really dislike the guy.
It was a disappointing day, but Ellie wasn’t going to let it define her second stab at college. On Wednesday she dressed carefully, wearing a flirty dress that always made her feel pretty, and a light cardigan to ward off the chill in the classroom. Platform sandals made her feel tall and in charge. She was ready for the day. In the classroom, she took out her laptop and got ready for class to begin. Travis slid into the seat in the row behind her and leaned over the table. “Got it all sorted out, Ms. Pierson?” He asked. Ellie half-turned in her seat and smiled at him. “Yep, all set, Travis. Thanks. And don’t call me ‘Ms. Pierson’—it makes me feel old!” She laughed. “Oh, well, it’s just that, well, you’re my mom’s age, and I’m supposed to address my mom’s friends respectfully, so…” Poor Travis stammered and shrugged. “Good Lord,” Ellie thought, “I’m old enough to be his mother. What on earth am I doing here?” Outwardly she just smiled and turned to face the front of the classroom as the professor began his lecture.
The semester progressed, thankfully without many more humiliating episodes, and Ellie really enjoyed the class. And Travis, bless his heart, continued to sit behind her and made sure to include her in group conversations about their project.
Thanksgiving break was coming up, and Ellie was looking forward to it. Going to school while still working full time was draining, and she was eager for a few days of nothing more pressing to do than stuff herself full of turkey and pie. After the last class before break, she stood to leave and somehow managed to catch the strap of her laptop case on the table behind her, which in turn caused Travis to stumble to avoid running into her, and all of his books and things went tumbling out of his arms.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” Ellie bent to help him retrieve his things, scooping up a flurry of papers. Travis tried to snatch them from her hands, but then straightened and took them from her gently, then handed one of them back. “Here, Ms. P. It’s an invitation. To a party. At my frat. Friday night. You can, uh, come if you want.” It was clear that having the old lady from class was the last thing he wanted at his frat party. She started to make her excuses, and then his face brightened. “Ms. P, you totally have to come!” She looked at him, confused. “Mr. Fuller will be there, and he’ll need someone to hang out with!” He gestured toward another classmate and when Ellie looked over, her heart dropped. Granted, he was a good-looking guy, but he was clearly her age or older, and she realized that Travis wanted the old folks to entertain each other to keep them out of his hair at the party.
Whereas she was embarrassed and uncomfortable, “Mr. Fuller” was clearly amused. He laughed and extended his hand, “Hi, Ellie, I’m Nick.” Ellie adjusted her bag and shook his hand, warming to him and his effort to put her at ease. She liked the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. He leaned forward and stage whispered, “I think our young friend here wants to be sure that I don’t use my maturity and blatant sensuality to canlı bahis şirketleri steal away all the young girls with daddy issues at the party.” Ellie giggled, surprised at his ability to laugh at himself. “Well, we can’t have that, can we? I suppose I’ll have to attend, to save the wayward and impressionable sorority girls from your lecherous advances.” She laughed out loud at the look on Travis’s face. He clearly wasn’t sure whether he should take them seriously or not. “Uh, okay. I guess I’ll see you Friday,” Travis said, and made a hasty exit.
“I think I might need to be there to protect you, actually,” Nick said as he joined her as she exited the classroom.
“Me?” she squeaked. “Protect me from what? Isolation and boredom?” She smiled up at Nick, noting how tall he was.
“From Travis, of course.” He said it matter-of-factly, as if she had any inkling what he was talking about. “Travis?” She said, “Why would I need protection from him?”
“He wants you. And given that you blush every time he talks to you, I think it’s entirely possible that you’d acquiesce. And that would be a disaster, because you’d be wasted on him. He’s a nice kid, but not what you need.”
Ellie stopped and looked at him, dumbfounded. She sputtered helplessly for a minute, trying to think of something to say. Finally she settled on, “First of all, you’re crazy to think he wants me. Second, I do not blush! And third, how on earth could you know what I need?”
He smiled—damn those eye crinkles—and held up his hands in a placating manner. “I certainly meant no offense. But let me explain. Travis chose his seat carefully. He sits behind you and every day leans forward to look down your blouse. Then, during class, he uses the reflection in his laptop screen to look up Melissa’s skirt.” Melissa was the gorgeous blonde who sat in the row behind Travis, of course.
“What?! Travis says hi to me before class, but he has no reason to want to look down my blouse. And someone should tell Melissa what he’s doing!” Ellie was already thinking of how to alert the girl, outraged and indignant.
Nick laughed again. “Oh, she’s well aware. She figured it out the first day and has worn short skirts ever since. She teases him with little glimpses. She glares at you, too. I don’t think she likes that he’s ogling anyone else.”
Ellie just stared, then realized that her mouth was hanging open. She closed it, then said, “How do you know all of this?”
“I’m observant,” Nick replied. “And I particularly enjoy observing beautiful women. Plus, it’s delightful to see a woman who still blushes when she’s nervous or aroused.”
“I do NOT blush!” Ellie managed to avoid stomping her foot, but she could feel the heat creeping up her chest and neck and that fear was confirmed when Nick brushed the back of his fingers against her hot cheek.
“Certainly,” he agreed, “no blushing whatsoever.” He smiled again and began to walk away. “I’ll see you Friday night, Ms. P.,” he called over his shoulder. Ellie just stood on the walkway for what felt like a long time, students hurrying around her like a stream diverted around a rock.
“What the hell does a 40-year-old woman wear to a frat party?” Ellie wailed. She could hear her brother’s kids in the background, making their usual ruckus, and she was sad that she was missing the big family Thanksgiving dinner. He chuckled. “From what I recall of my frat days, the less you wear, the better. Of course, since you’re my big sister, I think you should wear a turtleneck. And long-johns. And a burqa.” He was clearly amused by all of this. “I hate you,” Ellie responded, but the smile in her voice took the sting out of her words. They chatted for a bit more and he promised to give her love to his wife and the terrors (as she called her nephews), and she hung up. She dropped the phone onto her bed and resumed riffling through her closet in frustration.
On Friday morning, the phone rang, waking her from a tryptophan-induced coma. “Hell…?” She cleared her throat and tried again, “Hello?” Her sister-in-law’s laughter rang over the phone line. “You’re not supposed to be hungover until tomorrow, silly!” Ellie rolled over and groaned. “He told you, did he?” She sat up in bed, wrapping the comforter around her waist.
“Of course. He’s worried about you. He said you sounded a bit panicked.” Sarah sounded compassionate, at least. Ellie sighed. “I’m mostly just traumatized trying to figure out what to wear. I don’t have frat party clothes. I have clothes for sitting on the couch, eating ice cream, and binge-watching Netflix.” Sarah laughed.
“That, my dear sister, is why we’re going shopping. Suit up! It’s Black Friday! We’re bound to be able to find some killer deals on some sexy clothes for you.” Ellie couldn’t help but smile. There was nothing Sarah loved more than a good bargain.
“But you’re two hours away!” Ellie looked at the clock. It was already 9 a.m.
“Weelllll…” Sarah said. “In my defense, I brought coffee…”
“What?” Then Ellie canlı kaçak iddaa groaned. “You’re outside, aren’t you?” Sarah laughed. “Open the door, it’s cold out here!”
Several hours later, Ellie was back at home, rubbing her sore feet. “You’re evil, you know. That was brutal!” Sarah looked bright and fresh and just grinned as she hung Ellie’s new purchases on the hook on the closet door. “You’re going to be so hot!” Sarah said, fingering the slippery fabric of the dress they had bought. Ellie laughed. “Given the lack of substance to it, I’m afraid I’ll be cold!” Ellie couldn’t believe that she’d let Sarah talk her into such a scandalous dress. Still, she had felt so beautiful in it, the deep blue bringing out the blue in her eyes and the soft fabric clinging in the right places.
“I have to get home to corral the boys, and you need time to get ready,” Sarah said, gathering up her own purchases. She shooed Ellie toward the bathroom. “Go take a long bath, pamper yourself, and send pics when you’re all done up!” With a hug and a squeeze, she was out the door and Ellie was alone. Before her nerves could get the better of her, she decided that a relaxing bath was just the thing.
The party was obviously huge. Ellie had to park a few streets over. She walked briskly toward the party on towering heels, feeling alternately sexy and insecure. A car slowed near her and she walked a bit more quickly. I figure stepped out from the shadows next to her and she uttered an involuntary shriek of fear. “Hey, Ms. P, it’s just me!” She recognized Travis and put her hand over her heart with a chuckle. “Travis, you startled me!” She looked over at the car, which had now pulled even with them and stopped. She could hear the thump of the music from the party, even though they were still a block away. She was about to ask Travis what he was doing out here when he reached out and put a cloth over her nose and mouth. There was an acrid chemical smell, and then everything went black.
“Seriously, dude, I don’t get it.”
“Shut up, fucker. Look at her. She’s hot!”
“She’s fucking OLD, dude. There are hundreds of hotties with bouncy titties and shaved pussies back at the house. Why did you grab this one? Jesus?”
There were sounds of a scuffle. A third voice interjected.
“Leave him alone. He’s clearly got a boner for her. Let him have her. You don’t have to join in. Some guys like the MILFs.”
“See? So shut up, douche.” Ellie recognized Travis’s voice now. She kept perfectly still. She didn’t want them to know that she was awake.
“How much of that shit did you use?”
“She’s not dead, is she?”
“Shit, what if she is?”
A hand fumbled down and felt for a pulse, then drifted to her breast. “I can feel her breathing. Don’t scare me like that, asshole.”
She could feel that the car was still moving, and the guys continued to bicker and tease each other. The car stopped and the voice from the front of the car was more clear; he must have turned around to address Travis and the other boy in the back with her. “Okay, we’re here. Make it quick, Trav. I want to go back and find my own pussy.”
“Seriously? It’s just me? You guys aren’t going to participate?” Travis sounded disappointed. She tried not to shudder, but she knew that tears were leaking from her shut eyes. Hopefully they wouldn’t notice while she was crammed in the floorboard of the car.
“Fuck,” Travis exclaimed. “You jerks have taken all the fun out of this. Let’s just dump her here and go back. She’s still out, so she can’t identify any of us.” The doors opened and she was unceremoniously dragged out and dumped on the ground. She almost cried out when her head smacked the door frame on the way out of the car. Someone, Travis she assumed, at least had the decency to pull her skirt down to cover her exposed panties before the boys got back in the car and drove away. She laid there for a long time, terrified that if she moved or opened her eyes, they would be there waiting, that it was all a trick. Eventually the drug, the knock on the head, and the terror were just too much and she rolled up onto her hands and knees and vomited until she was empty. She crawled a ways away and curled up and cried. It occurred to her that she was still vulnerable, out here alone in the dark, so she struggled to her feet and looked around. Although it had felt like they were driving forever, clearly they’d just been going in circles because she was still on campus. Ironically enough, she was closer to her car than she had been when Travis had grabbed her. She took off her shoes and began to walk haltingly toward her car. She didn’t realize that she was still sobbing until she heard the voice.
“Hey, hey! Ellie, what’s wrong?”
She screamed and began running full-tilt for her car, fumbling for her keys. She was still a bit woozy, though, and staggered and almost fell. A hand caught her arm just above the elbow, and she went wild, screaming and thrashing, trying to hit or claw her canlı kaçak bahis attacker. He moved behind her, wrapped his arms around her to pin her arms to her sides and then walked her to her car, where he wedged her between his body and the driver’s side door. Eventually she realized that he wasn’t moving, and wasn’t hurting her. Instead, he was speaking calmly, a litany of soft words, reassuring and comforting.”
“Shhh. Shhh. Ellie. I’ve got you. You’re safe. It’s okay. Just calm down and you can tell me what happened. Shh. You’re okay.”
She took a long shuddery sigh and then said, “Can you let me go? I need to blow my nose.” He immediately let her go and she fumbled in her clutch for a tissue. She took care of cleaning herself up and turned to face him. She looked up slowly and realized that it was Nick. He was looking at her with a frown and she bit her trembling lip to keep from crying again.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it was you. I’m, um, I’m just going to go home now. I’m sorry.” Ellie couldn’t meet Nick’s eyes, and turned and tried to fit her key into the lock, but couldn’t see for the tears blurring her eyes. He put his hand gently over hers.
“I don’t think you’re in any state to drive right now, Ellie. Let me take you home. Or, if you’re not comfortable with that, let me call a friend to come get you.”
His concern and consideration broke her, and she put her forehead against the window of her car and sobbed. He rubbed her back in soothing circles and let her cry. Without quite knowing how it happened, she ended up crying into his shirt, her hands fisted in the lapels of his coat. Once she got control of herself, and her sobs had been reduced to hiccups and shudders, she smoothed his coat and looked up.
“I’m so sorry. I’m no normally like this. I shouldn’t have…” She gestured vaguely and tried to turn back to her car. He took her face between his hands and forced her to look up at him.
“It’s okay. You’re fine. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I can guess at the gist and you have every right to fall apart. Do you want to go to the police?”
She shook her head miserably and choked back the hysterical laughter that threatened to bubble up. “Nothing happened.” She started laughing, but it was a harsh, ugly laugh. “I was too old and ugly. They dumped me on the side of the road and went to find a better specimen.” She could hear the bitterness in her voice and felt sick. “Jesus, what’s wrong with me? I didn’t get raped and my feelings are hurt. That’s sick.” She closed her eyes, unable to meet Nick’s gaze, knowing that he must be thoroughly disgusted by now.
“Hey,” he said softly. “I’m glad that you’re okay. And, for what it’s worth, I’d rape you any day.” She could hear the smile in his voice, but he pressed closer and, if she wasn’t mistaken, there was some physical evidence to support his claim. Her eyes popped open in surprise.
“I’m not going to rape you, of course. I’m going to take you home, make sure your house is safe and secure, and then tuck you into bed, preferably with a large glass of wine.” He gently removed her keys from her hand and steered her toward his car, parked nearby.
“Tequila.” Ellie said.
“What?” Nick paused in the act of opening the passenger door for her.
“Wine won’t do it. I need tequila. Fortunately I have some.” She smiled a shaky smile and slid into the seat.
Nick was as good as his word. He poured her a generous shot, checked all her doors and windows, and waited in the living room while she went into the bathroom and changed into pajamas and brushed her teeth. Then he tucked her into bed, something that hadn’t happened since she was a girl. She felt remarkably pampered and safe. He kissed her softly on the forehead and said, “Get some sleep. I’ll check on you tomorrow.” He let himself out, making sure the door latched behind him, and she slid into a deep sleep.
Once again, Ellie was woken from a profound slumber by the ringing of her phone. It seemed like years since that phone call from her sister-in-law. Could it really have been just yesterday? She answered the phone with a hesitant, “Hello?”
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Nick’s voice was warm with concern.
“I’m okay. Helluva hangover, though.” She winced, as the throbbing in her head made itself known.
“I can imagine. How about some aspirin and coffee?”
Ellie made a face. “I’ll probably manage to get out and get some coffee later, but I don’t think I’m up for it just yet.”
“What if the coffee comes to you?”
“What the…?” Ellie laughed. What is it with people arriving on her doorstep with coffee? A girl could get used to that… “One minute, I’ll be right there.” She rushed to the bathroom to comb out her unruly hair and scrub off the smeared makeup from the night before. A swish of mouthwash and she went to open the door.
Nick stood there, holding two large coffees, smiling hesitantly. “I didn’t know how you take your coffee, so I figured I’d get one black and one as girly as possible and let you pick. But I’ll confess, I like my coffee girly.” Ellie laughed and took the coffee labeled “black.” Once Nick’s hand was free, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of pain relievers. Ellie smiled and stepped back,
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