Chapter 9 – Professor, Professor

Penny wanted to beat her head against the table in front of her hoping that some of the knowledge from the book would be absorbed that way instead of this painful way of reading it over and over and still getting nowhere. She hadn’t meant to take a class this hard and this full of science but this cute guy had been signing up for it and she had needed another science credit and she hadn’t really looked at the name of the class on the sign up sheet she’d just grabbed the green clipboard that the hottie had put down and put her name down. Now she was stuck, if she tried to transfer out now there would be no open slots for her in any of the dumb people science classes and she’d be forced to try and find a way to make up for it during the summer and there was no way she was giving up her summer fun time to do stupid science.

She had thought at the beginning that she could fake her way through it to a passing grade but the professor was having none of it. Instead of multiple choice tests his were all long form and filled with big words she didn’t know. When they had taken the initial placement test during the first class to see where everyone was she had never felt so dumb in her life and if the look on the professors face as he handed them back was anything to go by he agreed with her there. Pretty much the only time he ever agreed with her. At least he never called on her, having given her up as a lost cause from the beginning. 

Now she was stuck in the library on a saturday night trying to cram when nothing was sticking in her brain. If she didn’t pass this next test then she was going to flunk out and all that time laughing off barbie jokes and trying not to cry in public trying to white knuckle it to the end of the course would all be for nothing.

“If this is how you choose to study it’s no wonder that you are failing my course.” Jumping at the sound of the voice that had been haunting her dreams she twisted in her chair to find her Professor standing behind her shaking his head in stupefied awe.

“No, I wasn’t… I was just…” Her tongue tied, she was never tongue tied but this guy always made her feel so damn small. 

“Just falling farther behind, that much is clear enough without your stuttering admissions.” She could feel what little confidence she had left begin to ebb away with each word and the tears began to well up in her eyes without permission. She wasn’t above using tears to get out of a traffic ticket or two but crying in front of Professor Cooper was a level of humiliation that she never wanted to experience.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because I’m stupid.” Her voice cracked over the words and the tears continued to fall even though she was trying to hold them back. She just couldn’t stop crying and she was starting to think that it might have been better to just disappear instead of having this whole exchange. Flunking out and running home a failure had to be less painful than this.

“Hardly. You may not be as inclined towards my field as your fellow classmates but that does not necessarily make you stupid.”

“Huh?” Was he being nice to her? Looking up at him he wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t frowning either. Maybe brutal honesty was his brand of nice. At the moment she would take anything.

“You possess an intelligence that I admire. You read people fairly easily and while you are failing the course you have not quit it as many in the past have when faced with their own failings.” This time when she managed to see him through the cloud of her tears she saw something that made her heart stop. He was smiling. Not the nearly crazed joker laugh he would give in the classroom whenever someone amused him with a wrong answer, this one was more genuine and kind.


“I admire you for trying.” Now he was talking slower and enunciating in a way where the tone alone questioned her ability to understand English. He just called her smart and she was proving him wrong.

“Oh, thanks.”

“If you need any extra help my office hours are posted and I always try to help the students who are earnest in their desire to learn. Whatever the reason for it.”

“Thanks Professor.” Watching him walk away from her she turned back to her books with a dopey smile on her face. She could do this, Professor Cooper said so.

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