Chapter 22

       As Michael sat behind his desk, Symphony blew him a discreet kiss while her classmates were focusing on an assignment he had given. But, per usual, Symphony had completed hers with ample time to spare.

      Pretending to catch the kiss, Michael winked at her and mouthed, "I love you."

       "I love you too," she mouthed in return, as she drew an imaginary heart in the air.  

       As Symphony gazed at Michael affectionately, she noticed his demeanor had changed. He had been staring at his laptop, when all of a sudden, he began clenching his jaw — something he did when he became furious. 

     When class was over, Symphony stayed behind. Though her next class would be starting soon, she couldn't leave without checking on him first. "What's wrong, baby?" she spoke with deep concern as she caressed his cheek. 

      Removing his glasses to rub his eyes, Michael sighed heavily and said, "I just received an email from the University President. Someone said they saw us kissing in my classroom... He wants to discuss the situation with me."

       With a look of disbelief, Symphony furrowed her eyebrows and asked, "who?"

       Michael hissed. "It could only be one person — Raven. This has her name written all over it. What she's doing is pure evil! She's never seen us kiss in my classroom or elsewhere on this campus. Anytime we've kissed in here, the doors have been locked."

       Crossing over to a nearby wall, Symphony leaned against it and closed her eyes in despair. She didn't want Michael getting into any trouble or possibly suspended over his relationship with her — she didn't want him to lose all he had worked so hard to achieve. 

       Symphony spoke somberly. "I'm so sorry about this, Michael. Maybe we should put our relationship on hold until I complete your course." 

       "No!" Michael shouted as he slammed his fist against his desk, "I'm not putting my life on hold because Raven is playing these childish games."

      Tears stinging her eyes, Symphony spoke quietly, "Michael, baby. Please... I'd feel horrible if you'd got yourself into trouble over me. I'm not going anywhere. I'll be done with your class in May, and then we won't have to keep our relationship a secret."


      "Symphony. Our relationship isn't a secret; please know that. In the beginning, I didn't want people to think I was giving you preferential treatment, and you also felt the same," he spoke tenderly, pulling her into his arms. "I'll explain everything to President Myers, and then we'll take it from there."


     "And what if our relationship goes against the rules, and we're asked to stop seeing each other?"


     "Then, the answer is simple. I'll find another university to teach at."


       "But, Michael--


       "No but's. We aren't doing anything wrong. I love you, sweetheart. Once again, I'm not putting my life on hold."


***

       "Hey, girl! I bought the alcohol and icecream as you asked! It's been such a long time since we've had a Girls-Night--" Trinity trailed off when she saw Symphony balling her eyes out. "Is everything alright?"

      Dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, Symphony sniffled and said, "yes, Trinity. I'm alright. Thanks for coming over."

      Taking a seat near Symphony on the floor, Trinity took one look at her and could tell she had been crying for quite some time. Her eyes were red, swollen, and puffy. The last time she had seen Symphony cry was when her last boyfriend cheated on her. 

       Trinity sucked her teeth and huffed.

"Uh-uh. I know my friend. What happened? And who do we have to fight?"

       "Ms. Foster," Symphony grumbled without thinking. 

       "Ms. Foster? The 'Peabody' chorus teacher who doesn't know how lucky she is to have Dr. Black — Raven Foster?"  Trinity rattled off, making sure they were speaking about the same person. 

       Symphony laughed sarcastically, blinking back tears. "You got everything correct except the part about her having Dr. Black... I have him."

       "Hold up! Trinity exclaimed in shock, "you've been fucking Dr. Black?"

      Widening her eyes at Trinity's bold choice of words, Symphony exclaimed, "Trinity! Don't say it like that. But, yes. Me and Dr. Black have been intimate... I love him. But stupid ass, Raven has been a nuisance to our relationship since the day we met."

      Trinity wailed, "Damn! I knew something was up when Dr. Black stood up against the asswipe that catcalled you in the hall. But why didn't you tell me you two were together when I asked?"

      Fumbling with the buttons on her sweater, Symphony spoke quietly. "Because Dr. Black and I were trying to be careful. We didn't want that we were dating to get around campus."

     As Trinity scooted closer to Symphony, she stared at her in confusion and said, "So what's up with, Ms. Foster? What does she have to do with you being upset."

     Symphony exhaled deeply, looking upwards at the ceiling. "Dr. Black received a letter from the 'President of Peabody' concerning a complaint he received. He wants to speak to him. Someone said they saw us kissing in his classroom, which is not possible since we've always locked the door... We've never even kissed openly on campus. We're pretty sure Raven is the one that filed the complaint."


     "So how does Ms. Foster know about you and Dr. Black? Did he ditch her for you?"


      "Sorta, but not really. I mean... Kind of. Michael explained their relationship to me. Besides sex, he wasn't into her. After we began seeing each other, she's done some crazy shit. She even went so far as to vandalize his car. Michael has made it clear to her he doesn't want her, but she hasn't been heeding the message."


      "Sounds like you need to have a woman to woman chat with the trick."


     "I wanted to. But Michael doesn't want me anywhere near her crazy ass. Which I understand... He's just trying to protect me. God, how could I be so stupid? I should've known nothing good would come of me dating him."


     "Oh, Symphony. Don't say that. You said you loved the man and I'm sure he loves you. Don't let that bird get in the way of your happiness."


      "I'm trying not to, Trin... But it's hard. I don't want Michael getting into any trouble over me, you know?"


      "Yes, I know. But President Myers is a pretty down to earth guy. I wouldn't worry about this. There have been plenty of hook-ups between faculty and students. Once Michael explains the situation to him, I'm sure he'll cut you two some slack."


      "I hope you're right, Trinity. And please... Don't tell a soul I've told you all of this."

       Holding her pinky finger up towards Symphony, Trinity giggled and said, "pinky swear."

      Wrapping her pinky finger around Trinity's, Symphony chuckled and said, "what would I do without you?"

      Trinity smirked playfully, as she waved a dismissive hand. "Yeah, yeah. Just be sure to make me Maid of Honor at the wedding... Oh, and God-mother of your first child."

      Shaking her head sideways, Symphony yelped, "Slow down, girl. I love him, but we're taking things slow."

      "For now," Trinity grinned, "please be sure my Maid of Honor dress compliments my skin."


***

      "So, I was thinking about Chinese for dinner tonight. There's a new restaurant that just opened near the harbor, wanna go?"

      Feeling sick to her stomach, the mere thought of food sent Raven running for the restroom. As she hunched over the toilet, she emptied the contents of her stomach, though she hadn't had much to eat. 

      "Give me a break! This is the second time I've thrown-up in the past 48 hours," she groaned, feeling too weak to stand. 

       For the past few weeks, Raven had been feeling extremely fatigued and had a significant loss of appetite. On top of that, her breast were swollen to the touch, and she had been having severe headaches. 

      "Baby, when's the last time you had your period?" Todrick asked, kneeling beside her. 

      "A month ago, though it was very light... That's not uncommon for me. I'm not pregnant if that's what you're alluding to."

     Todrick sighed as he brushed her lengthy black-hair out of her face. "I think you should see a doctor... And take a pregnancy test. We've had sex quite a few times unprotected."

      "And I'm on the pill. There is no chance in hell I'm pregnant," Raven spoke in annoyance.

      "You say that like it's a bad thing. Don't you want to have my baby? I've told you before. I want to start a family with you."

      "Todrick, please.... Not now. I love you, but I'm not ready to have kids."

    "If not now, then when? We're not getting any younger. We're both 40 years old." He frowned. 

      Getting up from the bathroom floor, Raven wiped her eyes and said, "I need to go and lie down. Please give me some time alone, ok?"

     "Alright, baby. Holler if you need anything," Todrick chimed, as Raven left the bathroom. 

     As Raven lay in bed feeling awful, her thoughts drifted to Michael. Whenever they had engaged in sexual activity, Michael had always worn a condom. But on one occasion, he didn't. The first and only time the two had unprotected sex was in his classroom after he and Symphony's meet-up at the theater.

      Rubbing her stomach softly, Raven began to cry. While she cared deeply for both Michael and Todrick, she didn't want to be pregnant by either of them. Raven had no interest in being a mother whatsoever. And though she wanted to tell Todrick how she felt, she was afraid of losing him. Todrick might not have come anything close to being on Michael's level, but he loved her dearly.

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