Often, I wonder how it could have been between us. She was 14 when we met. She was seated at the very back of the class - frail, thin, and so pale one had to wonder if she spent her whole life hidden in the basement of their house. I was just as young myself - only 22 and fresh out of college. The nuns had hired me to teach Literature to what I had then dismissed as a bunch of spoiled, stupid, little rich girls. I was very much mistaken, of course, but that realization would come later. At that moment, however, there she was and there I was - and the first time I spoke, she looked up bored and unimpressed. "Dunderheads," I muttered, mistaking her look of boredom for incomprehension.
It took weeks before I actually caught on to what was going on. She wasn't bored because she couldn't understand; she was bored because she was too far ahead of the class to be bothered with the basics. Her mind - it was what fascinated me in the beginning. She had read Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales long before she entered middle school not because it was required but because she enjoyed it. What 14-year-old does that? It was a joy to bait her into class discussions to learn what she knows, a joy to provoke her into arguments because she always argued intelligently and passionately. Yes, it was her mind I loved right from the start but it didn't take long before I fell in love with the rest of her. She was brilliant and stubborn, pretty but utterly graceless. She was always tripping, always knocking things down - something I found cute because it was such a contrast to her sharply organized mind.
The day I realized I had fallen for a student was the day I forced myself to ask a colleague out. Not long after, I got this colleague pregnant and married her. She was hurt and I saw it quite clearly in the deliberate way she avoided me. But my wife (who eventually became her teacher) loved her as well - she still does. You had to be made of stone not to fall in love with that 14-year-old. She could charm the birds out of trees, talk classmates and teachers alike into anything. And so it was that ten years later, I found my wife talking to her over Yahoo Messenger. "Look at her!" my wife gushed, pointing at the screen proudly. Our cute little 14-year-old had turned out beautifully. She had been charming as a child, she'd become irresistible as an adult. I felt a catch in my throat just looking at her from that little box on the monitor. "She looks the same," I said, trying to sound nonchalant. Deep down, though, I ached in a place I thought no longer existed.