I cleared my throat. "This has been one heck of a ride, I have to say. Sometimes I wasn't entirely sure we were going to make it. Or at least that you were going to make it with me." I paused for the ensuing mild laughter. "We didn't always make it easy on each other, did we? That's good though. Anybody can do easy. Yet here you are, and we're gonna do this thing. I'm excited to see how you handle it, truly, but whatever you do I know is going to be great.
I took a long breath and made it a point to assert eye contact. "Now I don't say this easily. Or often. And I don't mean to make you uncomfortable or anything either, but... so you know, I care about you a lot, and I loved being with you. Giggle if you have to, yeah yeah, old Mr. Canon's some kind of simp. (Am I using that right? From your expression, I'm guessing no.) Anyway, whatever, I said it, and I'm not taking it back. You're great, and I hope I didn't permanently corrupt you in our time together.
"All right, mushy stuff out of the way. Who's ready to take their last high school English test?"
It was a mixed chorus of feigned enthusiasm and sincere disgruntlement, but I loved them for it all the same. I'd had great kids this year, with a few notable exceptions, and I hoped to have a lot of these juniors back in senior English next year. (For a couple, I wasn't even dreading having them back for a second crack at junior English.)
I distributed the exams and explained the various sections, trying to keep the class from starting early and ignoring my instructions. They did, after all, have over two hours to finish the thing, and I expected that most would be done with ample time to spare. Once I explained the essay selection process for the final section, I had everyone take a nice, deep breath, then set them loose.
Only one in my whole first period had forgotten a pencil on finals day, an improvement over their first semester exam back in December when I'd needed four. Progress, I supposed. After making sure everybody was set and ready, I made my way back to my desk and settled in, rubbing bleary eyes and taking another long sip of coffee. This was going to be the longest couple hours of the next two days, barring any more fitful nights like last.
I had managed to finish my backlog of grading the night before, an escape from the libidinous nonsense my brain had been trying to fixate on. Grades were entered, and since I'd arrived at school at the crack of dawn, all assignments were now filed in students' folders for returning. Most probably wouldn't bother checking them anyway, but for the few who would, I felt obligated. It was my own fault I'd fallen so far behind this past month (though there was ample competition for an assist on that score), but for now, I actually had no more work to do until those exams were back in my hands. When second period arrived in a couple hours, I'd give another speech, hand out another exam, but then first period exams would give me something to do while they worked. For now, it was only me and my old friend finals week exhaustion.
I really was tired, too. Those dreams had been intense, but they'd made damn sure my heart was too active for any quality sleep to occur. To keep myself busy, I started going through days of backed up mail from my school slot. That took almost six minutes. I tidied up my desk quietly so as not to disrupt the exam. That took four. Email was a more generous twenty. Short of tidying up the room itself, which would be way too disruptive, I was out of distractions.
Social media was blocked by the school internet server (plus it was pretty hypocritical to chastise them so many times for being distracted by it if I was going to do the same), so that was out. My work laptop was a simple machine, but it had a browser. Out of options, I pulled up a news site and started catching up on the world. Not surprisingly, it seemed little had improved.
I was in the middle of an article on summer travel trends when I fell asleep at my desk.
The second worst thing was that when you fall asleep sitting upright, in a place you know you shouldn't fall asleep in, you wake up in that moment where your chin slipped off your fist and you have that tenth of a second falling dream. Even if you had managed to escape notice dozing off, your sudden jolt to consciousness cannot be missed.
The worst thing, of course, was that I fell asleep in the middle of a final exam.
For over an hour.
"Ummmgbummng!" I stammered as I started myself awake.
Laughter rippled through the room. "Morning, Mr. Canon," said Kaya. "Partying hard last night?"
"Um, no talking during, um..." I shook my head. No sense trying to be strict at this point. "Sorry, gang. That was unprofessional. Been up late, um, grading, and..." I yawned in spite of my best efforts. So much for good last impressions. "Anyway, I'm so sorry. Did anybody need anything? Have questions?"
Kennedy explained that she'd already quietly worked out a system for handing in the tests, one stack for exams, one for scantrons, one for the essays. Perfectly handled. Sure enough, a half dozen or so kids had indeed been banking questions for me, which I busily answered. I assigned myself a seat at the stool in the front of the room. High as it was, the thing always made me a little nervous sitting on it to begin with. No chance of a repeat here.
Then I remembered that time I'd had to reprimand Taylor for trying to sit on it with a short dress on. That girl's exhibitionist streak would have been a lot more appealing in almost any other context than a room full of students.
Oh fine, so it was actually even more appealing in the classroom. Nothing wrong with admitting it. Still, I'd learned my lesson, both about displays of sexuality in the classroom, and about Taylor Stern. I was done with both.
What color had her panties been that day with the tantrum over the stool?
It didn't matter.
First period ended for the final time. A number of my kids came over to high five me or in a few cases share a quick hug. Several jokes were cracked at my expense over the napping, but nothing really mean-spirited. Roberto was still working, hand scribbling furiously, but passing periods were extended to ten minutes during finals week so I shut up and let him keep going. With three minutes to go, he suddenly darted across the room and slapped his test materials on their stacks and barked a quick "have a good summer, Mr. C!" on his way out the door.
Second period was seniors; they got a slightly more flowery speech, but otherwise it was the same drill. I drank in the surprised, perplexed, and intrigued expressions as they read through the essay question options. It was a stark contrast to the shame from first period's nap snafu, seeing those bright, determined faces mulling things over, grinning with determined cleverness.
The schedule being what it was, they were given a break in the middle for lunch. Teachers had complained about the possibility of students using the down time to look up answers or discuss the exam with friends, but as my mentor had taught me during my student teaching, no test ever enriched a life, but a hot meal just might. I made sure nothing left the classroom, but otherwise, if they wanted to talk about books and ideas and writing techniques, I was all for it.
I was just laying my head down on my desk to try to squeeze in another power nap during my own lunch when the door swung open.
"Mr. Canon? Do you have a minute?"
I sat up, stretched. "Sure, Tabitha. What's on your mind."
"You look..." Like hell, I thought. And she thought. But tactfully, she finished, "... tired."
"Mm. Long night."
The girl gently closed the door before her. She was a vision today. Clearly she had spent some time on hair and makeup this morning, volume and accents enhancing her natural beauty. Her outfit was a simple heathered cotton dress in a cream color even fairer than her complexion, hanging straight down off her shoulders to mid-thigh, coupled with a pair of strappy sandals. She looked amazing, even if not in the same porno-mag way that Taylor had shot for yesterday. Wholesomeness and fuckability combined in the vision entering my room.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
I ran my fingers through my hair; it helped keep my head upright. "Do you?"
Tabitha's lips twisted somewhat, and she crossed the room and pulled up a student desk next to my own. "That was pretty intense yesterday, huh."
"The part where Taylor stormed my classroom and demanded I have sex with her and go directly to jail for it, or the part where I found out she's had you under her thumb this entire time?"
"I'm happy to hear what you have to say about either, but if you have questions, I'm much more capable of providing answers in regards to the second part."
"How long has that been going on? Since the beginning?"
Tabitha took a deep breath, let it out, and false started one more time before finally managing words. "Pretty much? At least I think so. You know how it is, how everything feels normal even if you know it's nuts. It's been this way ever since the party, if that's what you mean. No second dosing later or anything. Though I guess with 'I'll do whatever Taylor tells me to' there's not much finesse required on their part."
"Has she abused it?" Before she could answer, I had another thought and blurted it aloud. "Wait, just Taylor? What about Abbie?"
"Abbie Stern can't tell me to do jack squat." She sneered coldly. The girl had an excellent sneer. "But if Abbie's the boss of Taylor, like Cassie told me, then maybe she simply wanted middle management. Or, honestly, Taylor just hates my guts and Abbie didn't care enough to get involved. Occam's razor and all that."
"You two never have gotten along," I granted. "I tried sitting her next to you when I did the seating chart for first quarter, actually. I hoped you'd rub off on her."
"There's some excellent pun waiting to be made with that lead-in," she observed, "but anyway, looks like it didn't take. Except perhaps for my taste in men."
I rolled my eyes. This young woman knew how to play me pretty well, but sometimes she got cocky about it. "What, I suppose you had a crush on your teacher before it was cool."
Her head cocked back. "Mr. Canon, please. Half the girls in this school would sleep with you if they could. You're basically the embodiment of every schoolgirl's teacher fetish."
"Oh, shove off. My ego is already just fine without all that, thank you."
"Suit yourself." She shrugged.
"So has she been coming after you? Obviously she gave herself the power, but has she actually taken advantage of you?"
"Yesterday was the worst of it. I don't really think she likes being around me, to be honest. She knows you like me, and it threatens her because she doesn't understand it. Why would a man want to have sex with me when they have her as an option." Her tone confirmed she absolutely did not share Taylor's appraisal. Tabitha was nothing if not self-confident. It was well-deserved confidence, at that.
"Well we'll see if we can't find a work-around. I still have a little bit left. Last thing I want is for Taylor to go off the deep end and take it out on you. We both know she's capable of it."
"It's fine," she said quickly. "I know you mean well, but you can't solve everything by mind-controlling people. No offense or anything - I trust you, Mr. Canon. Really. But it's also a huge liability, opening up your mind to absorb any old thing that gets said. You could be completely on the level, but then a car drives by blasting WAP and suddenly I have to wear a diaper for the rest of my life to keep my vagina from dribbling all over the place."
"Oh, Mr. Canon." She patted my shoulder. "Anyway, it's fine. Pretty soon, I'll be in college and she'll be in prison with that sister of hers. Good luck pulling my strings as a pen pal."
"I'm OK. Really. Thank you, though." Her hand lingered on my back, rubbing it softly. "You know, sometimes I think it's too bad you're not looking for romance, because a sweet guy like you would be easy to fall for. I don't know what a serpentess like Taylor Stern got so fixated on, but for us normal girls, you can be a lot to take in." She cut off a giggle by biting down on her lower lip softly. "Sorry, another pun opportunity. You're big, but you fit perfectly."
"So what did you come by for, Tabitha?" I rolled my shoulders, gently bucking her touch. It was nice and all, but still. School.
"To check on you." She sounded surprised I had to ask.
"Sweet, but trust me, I'll be fine."
"Really? I mean, I was here yesterday. I saw... that. I don't think I've ever seen a girl throw herself at a guy that hard before, and certainly not get rejected for it. Not looking like that, anyway. Are you really done with her, or was that just 'no' for yesterday, but this weekend, back at it?"
"No. I mean... just plain no. However good the good parts were, that was an abusive relationship, and I can't let myself - or the rest of you girls - go down with her." I sighed. "I just don't give up on my students easily. Stings to admit you failed them, even if they're bound and determined to fail themselves. And Taylor Stern deserves to fail if anyone does."
"You don't seem to give up easily on your lovers, either. Remember that first night? I was reading you the riot act, heaping all that derision on you for taking advantage of us poor innocent young women. Ugh. Churns my stomach to think how close I came to losing out on all that's happened since." She smiled sweetly. "Say, speaking of, is there any chance we could...?"
"That we could what? Wait, you mean... that?!" I threw up my hands. "Tabitha, we've been over and over this! Am I the only one who appreciates that this is not the place for that?!"
"No, I realize. Only stupid people take risks like that willy nilly." She didn't have to mention Taylor to have her target rendered obvious. "We do, however, have on-call security and lookouts available to us. The risk can be reduced, even eliminated if we plan and act cautiously."
"Are your teen hormones really that out of control that you can't wait until after finals? For crying out loud, Tabitha!"
She shook her head. "It's not that. Well, it's that, but also... I've gathered that doing it here is a turn-on for you. And why wouldn't it be? It's the seat of your authority. Literally," she laughed, smacking the backside of my chair. "Cassie has gone on and on about your orgy in the field locker room, and how amazing it was, how satisfied you were... I don't know, I guess with school about to end, I want the two of us to have a memory like that. I want you to end the school year on a high note, living out one of your fantasies. And what's more fantastic than the teacher taking the teacher's pet on his desk?"
She ran a hand back and forth across my smooth, bare desktop suggestively. "A little cold, but I bet we could warm it up."
"Look, I appreciate you're in the mood, but we really shouldn't. How's it going to look if Officer Barbour is standing watch outside my room all the time?"
"She watches the halls, like, constantly. Not as if the woman needs to stand right outside your door. And 'all the time,' really? We have barely twenty-four hours left in the school year. She'd have to stand right outside your room for all of them for it to seem weird to anybody."
"Look. I'm not trying to pressure you, Mr. Canon. You can say no and it won't hurt my feelings." Her button nose wrinkled momentarily. "Not much, anyway. But I'd like to, and I think you would like it, too, if you let yourself."
My star pupil rose from her desk and gracefully spun around the back of it to position herself on the edge of my desk. In doing so, she confirmed that she definitely was not wearing any panties, and also...
"Wait, hang on a second. Was that... did I see a tattoo?"
She grinned. "Sharp eyes, Mr. Canon. As you know, I've been gathering notes from your other girls, and Ms. Salata told me about her little brand. I've wanted to get a tattoo for a long time, but I knew my parents would lose their minds if they found out, so I figured, why not get one somewhere they'll never see, and one that I very much hope you will see often?"
"Ms. Salata just opened up and shared that with you. Really. What on earth did you say to her to make her open up like that?"
"It wasn't hard. You just have to know how to reason with people. I strongly implied that your 'plan' was to amalgamate me, from your kinks instilled in your other pet sluts, into the perfect sex toy for you. Once she believed it was part of the plan, she opened up good and wide."
"And how did you know to put it to her like that?!" I snapped.
"You had her programming papers sitting out on your desk when I stayed over one night. I had to match the handwriting, but it was easy to get a sample of hers. And now, voila! I'm inked. "
She uncrossed her legs enticingly. "Wanna see it?"
Like that, any irritation about her intrusiveness was forgotten. I peered, but until she opened her legs, I wasn't going to see anything but a shadow between her thighs. Damnit, as much as she managed to put me on the defensive by openly displaying what a conniving little brat she could be, I really did want to see what had come of it.
I picked up my desk phone and hit the speed dial for the resource officer's extension. Tabitha grinned patiently as it rang, but after four it went to voicemail. Meanwhile, I fished my keys out of my pocket and thrust them into Tabitha's hands, pointing to the door. She trotted off and deftly locked it. Then I tried Isa's cell next, and this time received a quick answer.
"Barbour." From the cacophony of voices in the background, she must be in the cafeteria.
"I need you to stand guard for me."
There was no hesitation. "On my way, ETA ninety seconds. That fast enough, or should I run?" Her voice dropped considerably in volume. "Master."
"Walk, but walk quickly."
I hung up the phone. "She'll be here in ninety seconds."
"I heard." Tabitha nodded, standing a few feet away, hands clasped in front of her. "I can't wait. I think you'll really like it."
"Well, go on then! Nobody likes a tease, Ms. Hutchings."
But she shook her head. "Eighty seconds. I'm not going to expose you to risks like that ever again. I respect you too much to endanger you."
I actually smiled at that. Whether she was only posturing herself as a foil for Taylor or if she actually meant it, I didn't even care. It felt nice to be in the company of a woman who was concerned for my well-being in any sense beyond the carnal.
We watched the clock together. Each tick was audible, we were so quiet. What had she gotten? A heart? A mermaid? Some Asian character? I doubted, at least, that I was about to behold another homage to the late Juice WRLD.
"That's ninety." Tabitha hopped back onto my desk and, with aching gradualness, parted her thighs. As they widened enough that I could see some dark smudge at the top (and, of course, the outline of her sweet little pussy), she slowly peeled up her dress until the thing was fully visible. She beamed proudly as I took it in.
"A cannon." I chuckled, shaking my head. "A little on the nose, don't you think?"
"But what else?" She ran her fingers over it. The tattoo was about three inches wide, pretty large considering the region serving as its canvas. In neatly etched lines was a civil war style cannon, complete with a pair of cannonballs resting by the wheels. The fuse was ablaze; that and the burst of fire spitting from its mouth were the only sources of color.
"I tought I taw a pussy tat," she quipped lamely, though at least had the grace to look embarrassed about the attempt. "So do you like it?"