Kate withheld her feelings for a while. She threw herself into her classes. She attended book club and maintained her reading. She found friends and went out with them. She embraced college life. Being away from home was nice. Having a major crush was better.
Fall came. Bitter winds overtook the campus. The scenery was beautiful. Kate liked walking around the grounds. This was where she found Molly's favorite spot. Kate came across her on a bench far from the middle of campus. Molly asked Kate to join her. She eagerly accepted.
Molly sighed, "I don't mind when fall comes until it gets too cold to read outside. Right now I'm okay, but you're the first person walking by who didn't look at me like I was crazy," Molly laughed. Kate grinned, "I used to do the same thing at Lakewood High. People stared at me, and once I got busted and an administrator asked me to go inside or leave campus with an order to see a doctor. I was comfortable, but I guess people thought I'd be too cold."
"Yeah, they're just trying to be nice, but sometimes they need to bug off. So, how's the reading going for this week?" Molly asked. Kate held up her book. There was no bookmark. Molly gasped, "Wow, you already finished it? Good for you. I had to grade some papers for a writing class of mine, so I guess that's holding me back some. Do you have an easy course load this semester?"
"I guess. It's kind of my first semester here, so I don't know if it's light or hard. I just try to do well," Kate replied. Molly nodded, "As you should. Man, most freshmen take forever to figure that out. I've even had seniors beg me for advice on bringing up their grades, and when I ask for their notes or their study schedule, they look at me with a blank expression. If you just keep up with the work you're given, you'll be fine. But if you do get overwhelmed, talk to somebody. Sometimes just ranting about your hard work can make things easier. Everything is that way-just tell someone."
Kate bit her lip. She heard words come out of her mouth. She barely remembered saying them-"We should just say things. I…I have a huge crush on you."
Kate blushed. How could she say that? She eyed Molly. Her gaze had moved from the tree line. Now it was solely on Kate, "Wow, smooth transition," Molly smiled. "I…I hate to give you the same spiel I give everyone else, but you can't date your teachers. I have a strict policy about that, and I don't like to date students after they graduate either. But…I'll admit you're different than the rest. I don't know what it is, but I am having a hard time telling you this. We click in a way that I haven't ever clicked with a student. Maybe it's my past, maybe it's something true. Maybe I should toss my policy into the wind, but I can't do that. I could lose my job, and I love it here, Kate. Look at this place. This is my childhood. I have favorite spots like this all over the city, and I can't give them up, not even for someone amazing like you.
"You're okay with it, right? I mean, we can still talk, but we are never to cross that boundary. Not even after you graduate. I mean, maybe years and years after you graduate, but I can't be with you any time in the near future," Molly said firmly. She almost sounded scared. Kate's heart ached because of that, not the rejection.
"Maybe I'll find someone else while I wait," Kate whispered, "and I hope this doesn't make us awkward. I feel that connection too," Kate said. Molly nodded, "That's why this happened. Just…we'll have to keep fighting it. Can you do that?" she asked. Kate smiled, "Of course I can."