(Author’s note: This is a longer than my usual, but… just felt like going there today.)
She visited the between-semesters campus a different person, twenty-one and leapt from a directionless life into a world of self-confidence, commitment, and responsibility. The student bore down on the financial aid office, ready to implement the first official act of a future with a reach to places then unimagined.
An administrative assistant explained the important busyness of the dean and warned of a lengthy wait. Undeterred, student settled upon an uncomfortable, metal and vinyl chair. She selected the latest school magazine from a spread across a coffee table battered by years of student passage and use.
The student enjoyed the stories in Converging Moons, creative work of her peers. She zeroed in on upcoming events listed on page three, notice of a semi-annual, semi-formal dance, open to ACC students and their guests. She pictured the ruckus if she brought her twenty-three-year-old partner, she of underground music fame and official government fear.
The dean emerged from his office sanctuary and looked to the administrative assistant. She nodded toward the sole person waiting, clad in a jeans skirt with a fraying hem in no danger of touching a knee, a skimpy tank tee, and her obligatory weathered backpack, fashion statement of an economic underclass he loathed.
“How may I help you?” he asked, wishing he could ignore her.
The student introduced herself and explained her purpose. “Financial aid paid for my first two years. I’d like to discuss the future with you.”
Over two decades he dealt with an endless stream of whiny kids who begged for another year of funding. He no longer hid disinterest in their problems, but school policy required he hear each plea, even the women. “Please join me in my office.”
The dean sank deep into an overstuffed chair fronted by an overgrown antique desk. The grandiose combination projected an aura of an overreaching, incompetent buffoon, or maybe she filtered the image through acknowledged bias.
His eyes focused first on the crossing of bronze hued legs, and elevated to her bosom.
“We haven’t mailed the financial aid grant advisories,” he said. “You are a bit premature.”
“In the last month, I’ve married.” She ignored his continued attempt at conversing with her breasts, in favour of the reason for visit. “My partner and I agreed financial assistance should benefit those in need. I no longer require assistance.”
“That is a very considerate act, Miss-”
“Jahrae. Jahrae Khentavra. And please use Ms, not ‘Miss,’ Dean.”
“Mzzzz Khentavra, please forgive me, I’ve been rather distracted this morning.” His faux apology forced her to hold tighter to purpose against encroaching anger. She disliked this man, his attitude, and his lustful, roving eyes.
“Ms um… Jahrae, I appreciate your um… change of status, but may I inquire how marriage changed your circumstance?”
“I’m not really willing to discuss it except for renouncing future aid. That and my intent to establish a fund for women, since we both know ninety percent of your allotted revenue goes to men.” He winced over this expressed detail, uncertain how she obtained secure information. Yet, ever an opportunist, his expression evolved with a sense of monetary opportunity.
“Wha – what did you have in mind, Ms Khentavra?” He missed her slight headshake, recognition of his transformation from lecherous power wielder to hopeful seeker. After her casual reply, his sycophantic behaviour spiralled to another level, the product of his brain deciphering the meaning of three million.
“Yes, I said three million, Dean. Annually.” The student flashed her best Cheshire Cat smile.
Jahrae watched him fumble the number and roll it around, thoughts betrayed by a twirling pen in his hands. “Most generous of you, Ms Khentavra.”
The Dean aimed the pen as an inadvertent pointer, at Jahrae. “Naturally, we require full financial data to verify funding before we make an announcement. We cannot allow students to apply for assistance until that time.”
Jahrae reached into her backpack and emerged with a thumb drive. “You will find all the information you require on here. We expect semi-annual reports on funds dispersal, including the names of recipients. We reserve the right to meet with each to verify satisfaction with their scholarship and with the service received from this office. If we receive positive reports, we may increase the endowment.” She again suppressed a giggle, amused by the shameless shift in his conduct.
“Yes, yes, of course. You will find we meet or exceed all your expectations.”
“To be clear, I expect you to treat each applicant with dignity and respect. If one student tells us you stared at her breasts as you did me today, I will pay a visit to the governing board.”
“You can count on me, Ms Khentavra, yes you can. I apologise for my inattentiveness and lack of focus earlier. I didn’t sleep well.”
Rather than scoff at his excuses, Jahrae rose to leave. He still viewed her as prey, no longer for her physical attributes, but for ample monetary assets the chameleon would scrutinise before the door closed behind her.
She would know his every action, continuing a first act of defiance by one who would mark world history as one of its two foremost, beloved revolutionaries.