“Spring is so beautiful this year it almost breaks my heart,” she thought, passing beneath the sap-green trees studded with starlings. The woods surrounding her college in the central Pennsylvania mountains were just coming to life, bursting with dogwood blossoms, lilac and lily-of the valley. It was her Junior year. Walking through the forest to the cliffs was prohibited; she often walked here alone. There was a prison nearby. Now and then escapees were known to hide in these woods.
Hundreds of feet above the Susquehanna River and the train tracks which ran along the banks, she stood on an outcropping of rock and looked out across the valley. Sighing, she made her way back towards campus through the forest. Thorny shoots tugged at her mini-dress as she dodged branches, armed with her scissors. In the meadow, the air was thick with bird song and the buzzing of bees, impatient for blossoms.
It took little time to gather an armful of lilac blossoms, so profuse were they. She sat in the warm green grass and made a circlet of lily-of the valley for her hair, “There is nothing in the whole world that smells as good as new-mown clover,” she thought, sprawling on the green carpet with her arms bent upwards at the elbows. The sun warmed her legs and face. With her long hair spread out around her, she might have been floating on a green pond. She dozed briefly, then rose, gathering up her bouquet of lilacs. Barefoot and leaving a trail of dropped blossoms, she ran downhill to the music building and climbed the wooden staircase to the second floor. There were no sounds coming from the practice rooms; no piano scales or vocalizing.
She peeked into Professor Roberts’ room. Sunbeams lit the piano and the air with fine gold dust. A far-away sound of lawnmowers came through the open window along with the fertile, musky smell of freshly-turned earth. In the far corner, bent over his desk, unaware of her presence sat her voice teacher. Quietly, she slipped into the room peering out through the lilacs. Professor Roberts looked up and started to see her there, “Well, what are you doing here, Fairy girl?” he smiled. At thirty, he was not particularly handsome, but had penetrating blue eyes, which lit up when he saw her.
“Oh…I was out picking lilacs and thought I’d put some in your office.” She met his gaze and smiled back, hoping she wasn’t blushing. She had a crush on Professor Roberts, despite his being a married man with a newborn; all of the music majors did. At first, she hadn’t liked him; in fact, everyone had hated him for filling in for Doctor Schwartz, who was on a year’s sabbatical.
Roberts was exacting and stern, the opposite of the more mature, charming Schwartz. One day she realized that she had found his keys, “Professor Roberts, I think I found your keys.” She had held them out to him tentatively.
“Oh my God, I’ve been going crazy all week looking for them. Where on Earth did you find them?” She had forced herself to meet his gaze, “Um…they were in my pocketbook. I thought they were mine until this morning.” She winced as he digested this. Rather than hating her for her mistake, the key incident became an in-joke between them, which evolved into a constant teasing match. Her boyfriend, having graduated the year before, left her lonely and bored at school. There were only seven music majors, so she often had the music building to herself for her daily vocal practice. Professor Roberts never minded her visits.
The shrill excited cries of a touch football game were carried on the spring breeze. She put the lilacs in a vase of water and sat on Professor Roberts’ desk, looking down at him. She sighed deeply, “What’s wrong?” he asked, bathing her in the light blue of his gaze. “What are you doing inside on a day like this? You should be out eating ice cream on a sugar cone or something.” The kindness of his tone made her cry a little. She wiped the tear with the back of her hand, streaking her cheek with dirt.
“I feel,…I feel,…” she was trying to express that she felt lost but couldn’t find the words.
“Don’t worry,” he said; “You haven’t felt anything I haven’t felt.” She thought she must have heard him wrong or misunderstood.
“I need to go find my friend Faith, to bounce this off,” she though; “I’m not sure what just happened.”
“Well, I gotta get back to the dorm,” she said, trying to sound casual. She hopped off the desk, tossing her long hair over her shoulder, and walked towards the doorway. Her bare feet were soundless; she heard footsteps behind her. Professor Roberts gripped her arm and spun her around, slamming the door in front of her. She felt herself being pressed against the door and kissed hard; too hard. The wilted circlet of lily-of-the-valley slipped backwards from her hair onto the floor.
Strangely, in that second, she thought of Easter, “I will wear my pastel silk dress to church and my parents will buy me…jellybeans, a whole basket full; enough to make anyone sick on Easter morning.”
“Goodbye,” she murmured, pushing her way into the hallway. Hurrying down the stairway, she yanked open the heavy wooden front door. She ran the whole way back to the dorm, hair flying behind like a sail, feeling the fallen petals under her toes.
Bobbie Wayne has a BA (music) and an MFA (Art.) She was a painter (Abstract, Portrait, and sign), music therapist, singer/songwriter, Nashville songwriter and plays Celtic harp. She studied writing at Grub Street, Boston. She is published in Intrinsick, SLAB, Blueline Literary Journal, and Colere Literary magazine. Nine of her stories and essays have been published in The RavensPerch on-line literary magazine.