Chapter 4

         Beep! Beep! Beep! His snooze alarm sounded for the 5th time that morning. He had overslept.

        "Oh shit!" Michael yelled as he sat up straight, nearly knocking Raven off of him. "I'm gonna be late!"

       For the past three years he had been teaching at John Hopkins University, Michael had never been more than five minutes late to class. It was something he was very proud of. Since receiving a new release on life, and being hired as a professor at a very prestigious institution, he never wanted anyone to think he took his position for granted.

       As Dr. Black, he was respected amongst his peers and looked upon as a human being. When he was Michael Jackson, not so much. Or at least that's the way he felt at times. While many loved him, many sought to disrespect him daily.

       Every day, there seemed to be a new crazy story printed about him or some dirtbag journalist that had taken his words out of context. And although Dr. Black and Mr. Jackson were essentially the same personalities wise, it wasn't until he left Hollywood that he started getting the respect he so rightfully deserved.

       He didn't know what it was about the place that made people act so differently, but it was all a facade. A facade he no longer wanted any parts of.

       As Dr. Black, he still did many of the things that brought joy to both himself and others, but without all the fanfare and hoopla. And even though he tried keeping most of his charity work quiet from the media, there were times in the past when it was beyond his control.

      But at the end of the day, he knew everything served a purpose, so while he never took his fame for granted, he also knew that for him, it had run its course.

      Rolling over onto her side, Raven mumbled half asleep, "calm down; the university is literally ten minutes away from here... It's not that damn serious!" 

      Michael scowled. "It may not be that damn serious to you, but to me, it is! I take great pride in being on time for my students."

        Tossing a pillow at him, Raven pulled the sheet over her head and yelled, "Oh, for godsakes! You act as if no professor has been late before."

     Folding his arms across his bare chest, he hissed. "Maybe we should keep this thing that we have going on between us to the weekends? Whenever you spend the night during the week, it throws me off in the morning."

       Jumping out of bed, Raven looked at him as if he had gone crazy. After a delectable night of hot sex, she didn't expect him to be so uptight. She knew he was a stickler for punctuation, but damn, he was becoming impossible to deal with.

       As Raven hastily collected her things, she shot back at him through gritted teeth, "really, Michael? How about it if I just stop fucking with you all together! You have way too many damn rules!"

       Crossing over to where she stood on the other side of the bed, he took her by the hand and said, "look, Raven, I'm sorry. It's just that I take my career very seriously. It's important to me. Please understand me on this."

      As he smoothed her hair away from her face, he kissed her cheek delicately, hoping she wouldn't be too mad with him. He truly felt sorry for getting upset with her, but he wasn't perfect, and sometimes he could get a little angry.

      Extending his hand towards her, he spoke tenderly and teased, "come on! Let's have some breakfast before we head out. There's no use in us being both hungry and upset."

      Knowing all too well he was trying to soothe her over, she rolled her eyes and replied, "Ok, but I'm still mad at you."

       As he led her to the kitchen, he retorted hastily, "you'll get over it. Now come on before we're actually late-late, and can still make it on time."


***

       When Michael arrived at the university later that morning, he took off running as soon as he parked his car. Initially, Raven wanted to ride into work with him, but he told her it would be best if she drove herself.

       Under calmer circumstances, he would have said yes, but he didn't feel like being bothered with having to give her a ride back to his place so that she could retrieve her car. 

     And truth be told, after the bad argument they had that morning, they both needed to be away from each other for a little while so that they could get their emotions in check.

        As Michael quickened his pace, determined to make it to his class on time, he bumped into Symphony — literally. But fortunately, he caught her in his arms before she fell backward.

       "I'm so sorry! Are you alright?" he asked frantically, as a worried expression appeared on his face. 

       "Yes, I'm fine," she replied softly, her voice audibly shaken.

        Oblivious to the fact that he was still holding her, he licked his lips slowly. "That's good. I'd feel terrible if I hurt you."

        "Well, it's a good thing you're an excellent catcher, or else I'd be making you buy me a brand new outfit," she teased, "grass stains are not easy to remove."

       When he smelled the flavor of the gum she was chewing, he soon realized he was holding her much too close.

      "Ahem," he cleared his throat as he slowly but reluctantly let go of her. "Are you on your way to my class?"

       "Yes, of course, I am!" she laughed. "Or do you think I'm playing hookey?

       "Gee! I hope not. Or am I that horrible of a teacher that you'd find the need to skip my class?" he bantered in return, raising his right eyebrow at her.

        "God, he has such sexy eyes." Symphony thought silently to herself before snapping out of the intrusive thought.

       "Of course not! I'd never skip your class. I find it very intriguing."

       "And I find you very intriguing as well!" he shouted in his head, before chastising himself. "Stop it, Michael! She's your student!"

        Looking down at his watch, he came back to reality. "Come on, Ms. Wilson. As you already know or have probably heard, my students being on time is very important to me. So to set a good example, I try to be on time as well."

        As they made their way towards his classroom, Michael tugged gently on Symphony's book-bag. "May I?" he smiled.

       "What a gentleman you are... Thank you," she smiled in return, passing her bag along to him.

       "I try to be Ms. Wilson. I try to be. My mother taught me very well."

       When they arrived at his classroom, Michael glanced at his watch once more, feeling relieved that he arrived on time with ten minutes to spare.

      Once class began, he passed out several cans of silly-string to his students and said, "ok, you guys, let's have some fun today! We're gonna play a game of trivia. Partner up, please."

        As Symphony looked around for someone to pair up with, he quickly ran over to her. "Oh! Ms. Wilson. I need a partner, as well. Would you mind?"

         "No, I don't mind at all. In fact, it would be my pleasure," Symphony replied silkily.

        After everyone had finished partnering up, Michael went over the rules of the game. "Ok, so everyone has a set of cards with questions on the front and answers on the back. Please note that some of the cards contain accompanying pictures. I want you to take turns asking each other questions. If your partner gets the answer wrong, spray them with the silly string... You may begin."

         Turning his attention back to Symphony, he smirked. "Ready?"

       "As ready as I'll ever be," she said with a glint of mischief dancing behind her eyes.

       "Please be warned, Ms. Wilson... I take no prisoner's," he spoke deep, biting down on the lower corner of his lip.

       As they played the game, Michael scratched his head in disbelief. Symphony hadn't answered one question incorrectly. And while he was in awe of her knowledge, he still wanted to cover her in silly string. One of the few things that he missed about his former life was having an insane amount of fun at his Neverland Ranch. He was still a big kid at heart, and that would never change.

       Catching the look of disappointment in Michael's eyes, Symphony laughed. "Is everything alright, sir?"


      "I've never lost to anyone in this game before."


     "Hmmm... I guess you've met your match?"


     "What makes you say that?"


     "Oh, I don't know? I guess everyone else you've played with wasn't up to your level."


     "And you are?"


    "Well... Not to toot my own horn, sir, but I know my stuff. Come on, last card left. Shoot!"

       As Michael looked her straight in the eyes, he read the last question of the game to her.

       "These four chords are known as the German sixth, French sixth, Italian sixth, and less commonly, the Australian sixth... But not in that order. On this music scale, in which order are they given, from left to right?"

       Tossing her head back in mock defeat, she placed her hands over her face. "Oh my gosh! Are you serious?"

       "You know, if you can't answer the question, Ms. Wilson. I'll go easy on the silly string."

       Noticing that his finger was already pressed against the trigger valve, Symphony quickly chimed, "uh uh, not so fast, Dr. Black. From left to right, the answer is as follows: Italian, French, German, and Australian. A German Sixth is like the Italian sixth but with one extra note placed at a perfect fifth above the bass note."

      Michael's jaw dropped. She had answered one of the hardest music theory questions he had ever asked a new student.

       "You can put down the silly string, sir. It's not happening," she grinned triumphantly. "


       "Amazing... I must give it to you! You weren't playing when you said you knew your stuff. Please explain to me why you're in this class?"


       "How about we discuss this over coffee or tea? Per our conversation the other day, you asked if we could continue at my convenience."


        "Sure! I'd most certainly love to. How about this afternoon at 4 pm? There's a quiet mom & pop coffee shop that I love going to. It's called Van Gogh Cafe, over on 300 Ann Street."


       "Great! I'll meet you there. And by the way. Please leave the silly string in class. You're still holding the can."


       Michael chuckled. "Will do Ms. Wilson... Will do."


***

      "Wait up!" Raven shouted, running towards Michael's car.

      Becoming startled, he bumped the top of his head against the trunk of his 2007 Toyota Prius. "Damn it! Ouch!" he winced in pain as he rubbed his head, "what's wrong, Raven?"

       "Oh, everything is alright. Where are you headed to?"

       Not really wanting to answer the question, he tried to avoid giving her too many details. "Sorry, I don't mean to rush, but I'm running late for a meet-up."

       Raven eyed him curiously. "A meet-up, huh? It sounds like a date.

       Michael shook his head sideways. "It's not a date. I'm just meeting someone for coffee."

       "Sounds like a date to me, but since it's not, can I tag along? I had another rough day, and a good cup of Joe sounds amazing right now."

      "Raven, No! I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude but--"

       Throwing her hands up in a stop pose, she said, "look, Michael, I understand. I go out on dates all the time, and you never seem to have a problem with it. I should give you the same courtesy. Call me later if you have time."

       When Raven turned around and walked away, a tear escaped her eye as she whispered, "why do I keep wasting my time? I'm nothing but a good piece of ass to him, so what's the fucking point?"

       As Michael watched her walk away, he slammed the trunk of his car shut. "Damn it!" he hissed in frustration. Raven was a nice enough woman, but besides sex, he didn't have much in common with her. He had some thinking to do. His intentions were never to hurt her, but what was he to do when he told her how he felt many times before?

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