Power Play

December 2, 1896
Edith Bowen

“Miss Bowen, please remain after class.” Mr. Stark said.

He placed my writing booklet on my desktop and tapped it lightly with his fingers before moving on and distributing the remainder of booklets. The knots in my stomach kept me from opening the cover to see the inevitable poor grade residing inside for my latest attempt at literary expression.

One dry mouth, two sweaty palms and forty minutes later, class was dismissed. I sat perfectly still in my desk. My shoulders and back were straight and my nervous hands were folded together on my desktop. It was all I could manage not to tap my feet with impatience as the other students exited in mass. Finally, the door closed and we were alone.

I did not dare to look about. His eyes on me raised hackles on the back of my neck. The cool air wafting through the room from the exodus was enough to make me shiver, but I resisted the urge. I was nervous and scared and I was adamant not to show it.

“Alone at last.” Mr. Stark said.

I kept quiet, uncertain where the conversation would lead or even if a response was desired.

“Do you know why I have kept you after?” Mr. Stark asked.

“No, sir.” I replied.

“Could it be your work is unsatisfactory?”

“If it is, I will try harder.”

“If you are capable of better then why do you wait for my criticism before demonstrating your true proficiency?”

“I had done the best I can given my existing knowledge, but if I have failed I will strive to learn in what manner I have failed and how I can avoid such failure in the future.”

“And if your failure cannot be overcome?”

“I cannot foresee nor imagine any failure I cannot correct with practice.”

“You cannot become more than you are and it is what you are which is a failure.”

“Am I to understand I cannot achieve your expectations because I am a woman?”

“You think me unfair.”

“Do not presume to know my thoughts of you and do not inquire into them as you will well not like the answer.”

“To be clear, your failure is not being a woman, but rather being a woman who does not accept being a woman.”

“We are what God has made us. I am a woman and I am content with my sex. It is my status in your contrived male dominated society to which I object.”

“You would rather concern yourself with politics and economics than the raising of children?”

“They are one and the same it is only in flat world they remain disconnected.”

“You are a singular spirit, Miss Bowen.”

“So, I am unlike other women you know. Am I too much a woman for you or not enough?”

He came around to the front of my desk to look me face to face. With a chuckle, he place his index finger under my chin and pushed my head up a little higher.

“You are a proud one. Stand up.” He ordered.

I considered refusing the command. It would have been simple enough and certainly aggravating for him. He wanted to prove how in control he was and my instincts told me he needed to be corrected. As a simple matter of fact, control resides within ourselves and must be surrendered to another in order for them to wield it. In the end, I complied because I wanted to stand. The difference may be imperceptible though observation but that does not negate its existence.

“Very good.” He said.

“Shall I beg or roll over next?” I asked.

He stepped closer to me until our noses were nearly touching. I could feel his warm breath on my face and the faint scent of peppermint twitched in my nostrils. Our eyes met and I forced myself to meet his without blinking.

“Would you like that?” He whispered.

“Like what?” I breathed.

“To be treated like a pet.”

“I am not loyal and I do bite.” I replied.

“I would not have it any other way.” He said.

His lips brushed against mine almost as if by accident. My eyes closed to better enjoy the sensation and my lips followed his until he pressed against me and took my breath away. His arms wrapped around me and pulled me closer to him. I responded by encircling him with my own . As we shifted and maneuvered our bodies I briefly wondered if he was kissing me or if I was kissing him.

The moment seemed to last an eternity, but still it was not long enough. He pushed me back and held me at arms length away. The look in his eyes was primal like a savage on the prowl. I met the look with one of my own and my lips curled upward in a dangerous smile.

“This is not appropriate.” He said.

“You should be punished.” I said.

“Me? Surely a young lady like yourself knows better than to tease an old man like me.” He replied.

I slapped him across the face and picked my booklet up from my desktop. He grabbed hold of my arm as I started to walk away. I turned back toward him with fury in my eyes.

“Let go.” I commanded.

“Sit down.” He ordered.

I slapped him again.

“Let go.” I commanded.

His fingers loosened and then released my arm. I turned and walked away.

“Edith!” He called.

I ignored him.

“Edith!” He called.

I walked out the classroom door.

“Miss Bowen!” He called.

The desperation in his voice echoed in the empty hallway. I turned briefly to look at him before descending the stairs to the main floor and flashed him a mischievous smile. Perhaps now he understands who is in control.

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