# 100 – Empty Rooms and a Blue Shoebox

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Bruce peeked into the bathroom. It was empty. He sat down at his desk and organized his work for tomorrow. Five minutes went by and there was still no Liza. Bruce was sure that she’d said that she would wait for him here. He looked around the office as if maybe she’d been standing there all along and he hadn’t seen her.

Then he noticed that the library ladder wasn’t in its usual spot. Dread swept over him. He should have told her in the beginning. Maybe it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal back then. It was too late now. He shouldn’t have taken the box. That just made everything worse.

Bruce stood up and walked around the desk. It was like being in a dream where you could only move in slow motion.  When he got to the shelf, he crouched down and fished his hand around behind the row of books. He pulled out the blue shoebox. It was still there. He opened it. Nothing was missing. He was just being paranoid. But where was Liza?

Now he was worried. What if something happened to her? That was ridiculous. What could happen to her? He’d left her sitting in his office. Maybe she had decided to walk to class without him.

Bruce took the documents from the shoebox and locked them in his filing cabinet. He went to the door and looked out into the waiting room. Empty. Janice was off today and no one else was around. He jogged out to the sitting area and tossed the box into the fireplace. Bruce grabbed his coat, book, and sketch pad from his office and headed out to look for Liza.

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# 23 – Janice and Dean

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Bruce pulled her onto his lap.  He was thinner than he looked.  Liza wasn’t fat, though she’d been referred to as “sturdy” or “strong” more than once.  She was having visions of his lean leg snapping under the weight of her mammoth ass.  Then she wondered if this was against some kind of University rule.  It probably wasn’t okay for a professor to be making out with a student in his office.  Probably he would be fired and she would be expelled.  She needed a cigarette.  But then, his soap-and-books smell had her floating off into a dream world.  This wasn’t weird.  The worries faded away until nothing but happiness was left.  Liza never felt like that.

Unfortunately, like all good moments, this one passed too quickly.  There was a sharp knock on the door and they snapped back to his office.  Liza jumped up and backed away as if Bruce had burst into flames.  He raised his eyebrows and called out, “Come in, Janice.”

Janice was in her early to mid-sixties.  She was dressed in dark jeans, a purple button- down shirt, and black hooker heels.  Her smooth, snowy white hair was wrapped up in a French twist.  Tortoise shell glasses rested on top of her head, keeping some loose strands at bay.  Janice bustled toward Bruce’s desk with a stack of manila folders, but veered off when she noticed Liza.  “You must be Liza!” she said, extending her hand.

“Liza, this is Janice, my assistant.  Janice, this is Liza,” said Bruce.

“Nice to meet you,” said Liza, shaking Janice’s hand.  She was one of those warm, enthusiastic people who automatically felt like an old friend.  Liza liked her instantly.

“Nice to meet you too,” said Janice, “The picture that you drew of the Dean is beautiful.  You’re very talented.”

“Dean?”  Liza was confused and apparently so was Janice.  She was frowning at Bruce.  Then it clicked.  “Holy shit, you’re Dean Wells!”

# 22 – Hunter Wood

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Hunter Wood was Liza’s favorite building on campus.  The huge mansion had originally been the home of the University’s founder.  It now housed the liberal arts college.  She’d never had a reason to go inside before, so her excitement overrode some of her nervousness.

Hunter Wood was a Victorian era mansion, the brick kind, with cone-shaped roofs and tons of cool little architectural details.  A wrought iron fence surrounded a little yard that was filled with flowers, ivy, and neatly trimmed hedges.  The building was an oddity amongst the urban campus’ other towering glass monstrosities.

Liza was so distracted, that she walked right into Bruce under the stone archway that led to the porch.  Surprise flashed across his face, but he recovered quickly and stared at her with a look that she couldn’t interpret.  She just stood there, grinning up at him like a dumb-ass.  Nice.  Real smooth.  Way to play it cool.

She opened her mouth, but realized that she had no idea what to say.  Now that she was standing here, her whole reason for coming seemed stupid and childish.  What was she planning to do?  Stomp her foot and whine until he lied and said that he liked the picture?   “Uh…hi,” she said, shifting from foot to foot.

“Hi.”  He continued to stare at her.

Her mind shut down, her hands began to wring involuntarily, and sweat started running down her back.  “Uh,” she repeated.  She could just walk away.  It would be more embarrassing than the current situation, but she would never have to see him again if she dropped econ class.  Liza was considering this when Bruce took her by the hand and pulled her into the building.

The inside was even more spectacular than the outside.  Giant chandeliers, stained-glass panels, and hand-carved wood accents passed in a blur as she trotted along behind him.  Some of her nervousness dissipated during their march through the building.  By the time they came to a stop outside a door on the third floor, she was relatively calm.  The high ceilings slanted every which way to reflect the roof line above.  Several huge murals covered them.  She tilted her head back for a better look, but Bruce drug her inside and closed the door behind them.

They were in an office, his office, apparently.  He let go of her hand and went to sit behind a huge wooden desk that was covered with neat piles of papers and books.  The office was huge.  She felt like she was on a movie set.  To the left, there was a sitting area with leather chairs and a fireplace.  The wall to the right of his desk contained built-in bookshelves that were overflowing with books and knickknacks.  Another wall was lined with diplomas.  His PhD caught her eye.  Bruce Wells.  The name sounded vaguely familiar.  She turned back to find Bruce watching her quietly.

Behind him was a bank of leaded glass windows and a credenza filled with pictures.  Most were of Bruce with various groups of people; other professors, by the looks of them.  They were more the white hair and tweed jacket type, so Bruce stood out with his buzz cut and t-shirts.  Liza smiled.  There was a slightly larger picture of a woman and a little girl.  The middle-aged woman was nondescript.  The girl, probably about five or six, was adorable.  She had Bruce’s eyes, and Liza knew immediately that she must be his daughter.  She glanced at the woman again, this time thinking that she would not look out-of-place sitting on a broom.  Be nice, Liza.  She opened her mouth to ask about them, but when she turned to Bruce, he was looking away.  Right.  Long story.  Don’t want to talk about it.

Bruce shifted in his seat and Liza caught sight of a picture sitting on the opposite side of the credenza.  It was the picture she’d drawn for him.  The parchment was set in a slate blue mat and funky pewter frame.  This time when she glanced back at Bruce, his face was resting in his palm.  His long fingers were covering the bottom half of his face, but his crinkled eyes gave him away.  Liza walked around the desk and swiveled his chair toward her.  Bruce dropped his hand, revealing a rare, tooth-baring smile.  He tried to turn his head, but Liza stopped him with a kiss.

©2013 Syanne Djaenal

©2013 Syanne Djaenal