Here is the final version of the story we had to write for class. I’m not sure how I feel about it- especially the character of Violet. I think in a few months, once I’ve had some time away from it, I’ll come back and rework it. But, for now, this is it.
Although the laundry room was empty, the washer wasn’t. Something was spinning in the drum and there were still fifteen minutes in the cycle. Crap; I couldn’t put off doing laundry any more that I already had, my shift at Forever 21 started in an hour, The Notebook was on tonight, and I had a final to study for. Statistics- bleagh. I DID NOT have time for this.
But then I noticed the air. It was weighed down with some stench I couldn’t identify. It reminded me of a field trip I’d gone on when I was in the fifth grade. We went to a forest to go study the environment or something like that. I don’t really remember. But I do recall really liking it; I’m from the city, so I hadn’t really gotten to go hang out in the woods before. I can still see the absence of the sky, feel the sap squeezing itself from the trees, still smell that dark, earthy scent. Which was what I was smelling now. Except it had a sour, human tinge, a repulsive variation of my memory.
Crinkling my nose, I sat down on the only chair in the room. I might as well study for that final. Pulling my review out my review sheet, I glared at it. All those numbers, and graphs, and those pie things. As far as I’m concerned, the only pie worth anything is the kind you can eat. This was so dumb; it’s my fervent belief that math should not be required past tenth grade Algebra I. Shouldn’t you know by then whether or not you’re going to study math after high school? Only those people should have to take more. Yet here I was, in my sophomore year of college, nearly failing STAT 121.
It might not have been so bad if it weren’t for the teacher. Professor Malik had come from Sweden. Every day, he strode into class and wrote either our homework or test scores on the whiteboard, names included. It was humiliating. He said it should motivate us to do better. Despite that, he was popular among the students. Well, the female ones. Our university was small, and the amount of boys even smaller.
Ten minutes passed. During that time, I had managed to scowl my way halfway down the paper. This was just great- I was totally going have to miss The Notebook so I could review this crap. Maybe I could study during the commercial breaks? While I was trying to figure out what my grade would be if I didn’t do this assignment, the laundry room door opened.
It was Professor Malik.
I was shocked; what was he doing here? This was a student laundry room, in a dorm. And were those his clothes in the wash, the ones that smelled like rot? Why would Professor Malik’s clothes reek that bad? He was a professor, not a zombie. A second later though, I realized his coming here was a good thing; maybe he would help me with the review sheet. He didn’t usually offer any assistance besides answers to questions in class, but maybe this time would be different. I really hoped so.
“Violet! What a pleasure to see you!”
“Good to see you too, Professor” He looked at the timer, four minutes. “I’m sorry you’re having to wait on account of me. It should be done in just a moment.”
“That’s fine. I just didn’t know professors used this room.”
“Oh we usually don’t. My washer at home is broken and the repairmen can’t come until Tuesday. But, I had some laundry to do, and dirty clothes get worse the longer you let them sit, so I decided to make use of the student facilities.”
“That was a good idea,” I said. Immediately, I slapped my hands over my mouth. I couldn’t believe I had just said that to my professor, told him that his clothes smelled bad. There was no way he would help me now; I was so stupid.
But he just chuckled: “That’s what I like about you, Violet: you’re blunt.” I stared at him and the only things I could think to say were: “Statistics, help?” Wow. Was my brain dead today?
Yet again, Professor Malik laughed. He walked over and knelt down so that he could better see my review sheet. “Oh yes, this one. It can be rather difficult. But I’m sure we can figure it out.” Then he glanced at his watch, then at the washer, (two minutes) and cursed.
“Actually, Violet, could we meet later to go over these? I have a funeral I have to go to; I didn’t realize how late it was.” What? He was leaving? He couldn’t leave! Not when I was on the verge of failure. Inwardly I was cursing that timer for being so short. I would be late to my shift if it meant I got help from Professor Malik.
And then I realized what else he’d said: that I could come over to his office and he’d help me. Yes! This was just what I needed; he would go over it with me, we’d study it, and then I’d ace that final. Then we’d- wait, Professor Malik didn’t do things like this. Half of me didn’t even think he’d even say yes to helping me and now, here he was inviting me to his office. Had he always been this way? If so, I wished I’d known this earlier; I’d probably be getting better than a C-. But potential awesomeness aside, something about this felt weird.
I think Professor Malik took my silence as agreement, because he added, “Does tomorrow at three work for you? My office is room B308 in the math building.” Again, my mind was malfunctioning because all I said was: “Don’t you have to dry your clothes too?”
“Well, yes. But I prefer to air dry them; it just makes them smell so much cleaner.” This time, I was able to keep myself from blurting out any more insulting things about his laundry. He looked as if he were going to say more, but just then the washer beeped.
“Finally.” He opened the door heaved a pile of sopping clothes into basket. “Hmmm…” Professor Malik held up one of the garments and eyed it critically. Up until now, I’d been focused on him, but now I turned my gaze to the clothing he was holding.
It was a dress. Or, rather, it had been: brown, green, and red stains masked the once white fabric and I could see the underskirt from where the lace overlay had been ripped off. A clump of black hair was snarled in the zipper. Something was forming in my mind, but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was.
“Darn, I was really hoping bleach and vinegar would do the trick,” Professor Malik said resignedly. “Oh well, I’ll just have to let it dry and then rewash it using stronger stuff. As
they say, third time’s the charm!” He folded the dress, put it into his basket and walked towards the door, smiling over his shoulder. “See you tomorrow, Violet.”