Originally posted 2016-04-08 12:00:53.
“I will say this, you certainly know what you’re doing,” Dr. Loehr turned to me from the telescope. We had been learning celestial coordinates and locating stars. I didn’t want to point out that I had been doing this for years on my own, staring up at the night sky. I knew all the major stars and constellations by heart. It was easy. I can’t believe that you’re doing this… a small voice in my brain nagged me. My heart pounded in reply. I really couldn’t. Sneaking into an observatory during a college course and blending in with the kids was a new low for me.
It was exciting, daring, and I had gotten away with it for a week or so. There were enough students that I could fall in the shadows, stay on the outskirts. Until tonight. We were finally using the equipment and applying our knowledge to locate stars. Not only did I locate the stars, I found a few planets too, after I was done. I had seen them all before, but not through a telescope of this magnitude. Looking at Jupiter’s moon, Venus, a sliver of light, and Mars, I felt like Galileo trying to prove that the Earth revolved around the sun. I would be in nearly the same amount of trouble if I was caught.
“Did you see the news about the gravity waves?” I asked him.
“Of course,” he replied, a smile lighting up his face. He was a young doctor, recently hired by the University. “It almost forced me to change the curriculum. What do you make of it?” His question was genuine. I kept my eye on the telescope images, tuning it to find my favorite stars.
“I think it’s amazing. Now we can hear Earth and Einstein has been proven correct. I think it re-writes the book. I wish I could have seen Hawking’s reaction and heard his words after he found out about the whole thing.”
“You’ve read Hawking?”
“Who in here hasn’t?” I asked, turning from the instrument. I flashed a smile, a real one, at the young doctor. He flushed a little, but his gaze went back to its usual state in a few moments. I had seen the look before, in plenty of men I’ve loved. It was nice to find someone with whom I could actually talk about my passion.
Dr. Loehr looked at me a little more closely. “What was your name again?” He asked.
“Shelly,” I replied absently, looking through the viewfinder searching out my next target. He said nothing and sauntered away from me.
Class came to an end around 10:30. Students shuffled out of the room to a shuttle bus. I had driven an hour from town, but it was worth it. I went to follow the crowd out and felt a pull on my elbow. “May I speak with you for a moment?” The professor asked. I shrugged and turned to face him.
He looked awkward, upset. “You’re not one of my students, are you?”
It was my turn to flush. I felt my ears warm with the correct accusation. “No sir,” I admitted. “My cousin attends University here and told me about this class. I couldn’t get in, my math was bad out of High School… but I’m sorry. I just love the stars, always had.”
A gleam entered the man’s eyes as he stared at me. “I can tell,” he smiled. “You just wanted to get in here and play on the equipment, right?”
“You’ve got me.” I answered. “But Dr. Loehr, how long did you know?”
“Please, call me Pat,” he said, collecting his wares. “Long enough.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because you actually give a damn. You’re not taking this to fulfill a science requirement or because you’re some new-age astrology nut. You actually care about gravity fields and black holes…” he took a breath, steadying himself, he looked nervous. “You know, I’m glad you’re not one of my students.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, my heart pounding
“Because,” he said softly. “I don’t give students my phone number, and I certainly don’t ask them out for drinks after class. I assume you’re old enough to drink.”
“25,” I answered. “You got me.”
“Then you’ll come out with me?”
“Sure!” I took his hand and we went out to our cars. I followed him back towards the college. We stopped at a bar along the way called “Moonshadows.” I smiled as we walked through the doors. This was more than I dared hope for. Drinking with men and going home with them more often than not was my life, but tonight. Tonight there would be discussions about the expanding universe, what lies inside black holes, how our universe is going to end… I felt giddy.
“What got you into Astronomy?” I asked when Dr. Loehr… Pat… when Pat returned with our drinks.
“The planets,” he answered. “I always dreamed there’d be life up there. On the moon, on Mars… silly things really. What about you?”
I told him about my stars. Everything and nothing. We talked for an hour, then two. One drink became three, then five… and then I didn’t remember much.
We must have walked back to his place. We went on his roof and I crouched over his personal telescope with the aim of settling an argument about the topography of the moon. I gazed through the small viewfinder, searching out the round disk. I felt warm fingers brushing hair away from my neck, exposing it to the bite of air. Arms encircled me as lips caressed the nape of my neck. “I love you, Shelly,” he whispered. “I love seeing your passion when you talk about stars, it made me think maybe you’d have the same passion under my canopy.” Drunken thoughts spoken by a man who had lost his capability to reason.
A smile lit my face. This was a man who could love me. Love me and my stars. His lips continued to caress my neck as I turned my head to face him, pulled by his sweetness, his passion. Our lips connected, sending the fire of a thousand suns through my veins. This was what I wanted, what I dreamed. My hands sought out his in the darkness.
Then I felt it.
A hard, cold end to my bliss, to my dreams. It wasn’t the first time I had been in this situation, but most men had the decency to remove it beforehand. A ring as icy as the ones around Saturn.
I pulled away fast, separating from the dream back to reality as space-time warped around me. You should have checked. Idiot. I stumbled back, threatening to knock the telescope on the ground. Both of us turned to catch the falling equipment, saving it from its fated connection with concrete. Fuck Gravity.
“You…” I stared at the man. “You’re MARRIED?”
To his credit, he looked terrified. “Yes.” He hung his head. “Recently too…”
“How could you do this to me?” I shrieked. “To your wife?”
This could have been avoided if you checked… I wanted him, though. I wanted to be blind, to make him available to me. I should have known it was too good to be true.
“I’m sorry. I have to go,” I flushed, getting away from him.
“For what it’s worth,” he said. “You’re welcome in the observatory whenever you feel the need.”
“Is there any danger of you trying to cheat on your wife again?”
I couldn’t see the man’s face, cloaked by the night. “Not with you,” he answered, his voice losing its magic. He fucking lied. I sensed it on him. I wasn’t the first student he had brought here, wasn’t the first one to go out for drinks after class… I left the rooftop thanking my stars that I was safe.
But the stars called to me and he was right, I did genuinely care. I went to every class, watching through my telescope as Dr. Loehr attempt to seduce other young women. But none succumbed. I made damn sure they wouldn’t fall into his gravitational field and get lost on his roof under the stars.
This is a continuation of Shelly’s story. She first appeared in “Starry-Eyed Night” back in October.