Fall foliage had begun to turn and the local Wal-Mart had devoted three aisles to backpacks, pencils, and lunch pails and other school supply needs. The air tasted tangy and daylight lasted fewer hours than in previous months. Yes, the surge of excitement stuck to Harlow Shelton's skin like honey. Already, the sun slipped toward sunset, its powerful rays waning as the day inched toward a close, and midnight dressed for her starring role in the heavens.
"Ms. Shelton," Mr. Reeves, the Dean of Arts and Letters at the University of Greensboro said with all the warmth and polish of a car salesman. "Many students here are older, returning to complete earlier degrees or begin new ones."
Harlow forced herself to smile, though it felt plastered on. At thirty-seven years old, the desire to earn a degree in literature--namely literary criticism--had placed her in this odd meeting with the withering, but stoic old man.
"Thank you," she said. "My advisor said that, too."
Feeling the autumn breeze brush against her cheeks, Harlow noted how it contained hints of the approaching iciness that waited in the wings in months to come. Yes, winter would be cold, wickedly cold.
And I'll be dragging my butt across this frigid campus.
"Student services can provide assistance with study skills, tutors, and of course, adjusting to campus life ... like any other freshman."
He chuckled, a dry chortle as if not used often. Catching her expression, he hastily cleared his throat as he peered intently at her.
Harlow grimaced, and then recovered with another frozen grin of her own. She knew that like the slow, graceful entrance of fall, so had her youth exited, gently robbing her of her, lush skin, her soft, thick hair, and her lean body. Tessa's arrival at the weight of eleven pounds and five ounces wrecked what was left of her fit body. Now, as a budding twelve year old, her daughter had managed to inherit the figure, Harlow once had. Perhaps it was the chill in the air, or the seeping gloominess from the somewhat cloudy sky that gave Harlow a taste of the blues.
Beneath the thicket of blue laid the latent fear of going back to college after a fifteen year hiatus. Scared, nervous and crammed with self doubt, Harlow had two hours to herself before she needed to scamper back downtown to grab Tessa from her dance lessons.
"Then, if there is nothing else," said Mr. Reeves, straightening his checked black and white tie. His gaze bore into something far more interesting in the distance as he patted his salt and pepper hair. It seemed their discussion had ended without notification to Harlow. "Good day."
He strolled off toward the cluster of three humanities buildings nestled in the center of campus. The area was soon crawling with students. Mr. Reeves was swallowed up by the mass.
Hoisting her backpack, a nice mature blue, Harlow headed toward the liveliest section of campus--the university center. She strolled past chunks of restaurants, colligate stores, mailboxes the size of Chinese take-out containers and sweat-stained rooms that rolled out from athletic corners. She bypassed the bookstore, opting to delay the agony of paying for textbooks until later, much later if she could help it.
She entered The Pit, the area designated as the place for students. Wireless student friendly decor and furniture scattered about the open space. Along its edges kiosks peddled all types and kinds of wares, but Harlow made a beeline for only one.
As she approached the Park Avenue Brew booth, Harlow mentally counted up how much free change she had in her pockets. Tessa had dance and cheerleading to think about, but after working all day, Harlow sorely wanted this reward.
"Welcome to Park Avenue Brew. What can I do for you today?" asked a voice caressed with the unrestrained exuberance of youth.
Harlow titled her head sideways and prepared to give the young man the adult tone he sorely needed, but caught herself at the rich ocher of his eyes, brown hardly covered it. Ocher--deep and vibrantly streaked. They peeked through a curtain of long raven strands.
Oh, nice ones.
"Ma'am," the youngster smirked with a shrug. "What would you like?"
You on a platter covered with loads of sweet, strawberry jelly.
Harlow flinched as the coarse words zipped across her mind, long before she could snag them back. Thankfully, they hadn't escaped her lips and crafted a seriously embarrassing moment.
Instead she released a steadying breath and said, "One small mocha caramel coffee."
His eyes met hers and the smirk stretched--netting the distance from ear to ear. Their gazes aligned and Harlow's breath whooshed out at the sheer, raw intensity nestled in those brilliant orbs.
"That'll be $3.97," the clerk with the cute face and sizzling eyes said.
Get over yourself. He's a baby and you're well old enough to know better. He ain't interested in some overweight, thirty-seven year old single mom. Yeah, that's what every college cutie is searching for.
She passed him the five dollar bill--her last, with a mixture of regret and sadness. Whether her feelings were for the fact the clerk was way out of her league, or because it was her last five dollars, Harlow didn't quite know.
The cutie clerk dropped the dollar and change into her hand with complete apathy. Risking another glance, Harlow noted how his eyes remained locked on hers. If only she had those tightly coiled bodies on the commercials, he would find her more appealing. Before she'd cleared the counter, he asked the waiting customer what he could do for her.
See, he ain't interested in me. What am I thinking? Sure, a lonely woman longs for lots of things, but a clerk at a coffee shop the age of my nephew shouldn't be it. She glanced again out of the corner of her eye at the raven-haired clerk. He casually leaned against the register and his fingers flew over the keyboard with speed and habitual knowledge. He's only being polite the way all clerks at coffee joints are supposed to be. Probably had one too many espressos anyway.
"Small mocha caramel. Ready!" shouted another coffee clerk from beneath the PICK UP HERE sign. The squeaky clean blonde's ponytail bounced as she had already turned away from the counter, leaving the cardboard cup alone.
Damn, I can't even get you to hand me the freakin' cup I paid for.
She scooped it up. Snared raw cut cane sugar and flavored creamer from the condiment bar and headed for a seat. With hands brimming with her necessary finds, she dropped them onto the closest table, allowing the items to spill across the scarred tabletop. Dropping the backpack to the black vinyl seat, she scooted in after it. In moments, headphones firmly attached to her mp3 player, Harlow dove into what remained of her medieval literature assignment on Chaucer. Tomorrow commenced the first day of class, but Harlow wanted to be ahead. The downloaded syllabus spelled out the course and with the crammed schedule she and Tessa shared, Harlow knew she wanted to be ahead of the eight ball.
Printed out text from the internet had helped Harlow keep from having to buy the textbook right away. She vaguely remembered Chaucer's work from high school way back in the day. As the time swept by with quick flashes of people coming and going, Harlow read, laughing occasionally from Chaucer's wit and hidden humor.
From time to time she found her eyes sliding toward the coffee clerk with increasing regularity. He didn't even glance her way. Though Harlow knew he saw her, he didn't allow his eyes to connect to her at all. An empty feeling filled her belly, but she understood she was being silly. He didn't know her and he didn't find her attractive. Moreover he may have a girlfriend. Still the flame flickered on inside her panties, forcing her clit to beat out its own S.O.S.--Send over Sex. Deep within, she realized with cold awareness, her hunger growing with each eyeful gathered of him. Warm feelings came from her and successfully colored her from head to feet. He wore his straight black hair a bit long; it brushed his shoulders like an intimate caress. The Park Avenue Brew blue polo-styled shirt fit hardened, lean muscles and tightly coiled arms, cut from exercise--biking, perhaps, or swimming. The hints of summer sun had begun to fade from his flesh, but coppery brown tones warmed his skin.
Perhaps Indian or Native American.
Rebuking her horniness, Harlow took out her pen and paper and began to take notes. She didn't know what Dr. Cane would focus on exactly, but she wanted to write down her notes. Ignoring the urgent desire to look up and over, Harlow bit her lower lip and struggled to remain focused on the Middle English passages.
As the sun cut through the clouds outside the rectangular bank of windows, Harlow's attention waned once more and her eyes, hungry for something more pleasant than parchment, went to the clerk and an ahhhh slipped from her lips.
The rush gone for the moment, the coffee booth seemed to relax as did its three-person staff. The cutie clerk leaned over the counter, forearms casually crossed over each other. Fingers from one hand drummed in absolute boredom and the other remained flat against the countertop. He stared off into the opened, circular university center. Scores of students went about their business, locked in their own worlds by their mp3 players and cell phones.
But Harlow's honey-brown eyes greedily devoured only one student, and yet when she'd gotten her eyeful of him, somehow she craved him even more. Her curiosity and attraction hadn't been fulfilled. Instead she caught herself staring rudely at him.
Lord have mercy! I'm going to hell for these thoughts. She peeked at the cutie clerk again. Her coffee cup drained, her libido filled, Harlow's nipples tightened against the cotton of her bra. I've got to get out more. I'm so damn starved for affection that I'm ready to lap up the coffee clerk. Goodness!
The pleasurable ripples wafting from the squeezing of her thighs under the table didn't care the clerk looked about twenty, didn't mind he wasn't black, and didn't at all take offense to the flashes of fantasy taking refuge in her brain. Not one bit.
As the clerk stretched, elongating his lean hard body, Harlow had to admit, desperate or not, he was hella fine.
I need some prayer and laying on of hands by the pastor, for real. I'm starting to sound like Tessa talking about Corbin Bleu.