About the book:
In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” And further, having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.
But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …
It cometh before the fall.
From ‘The Fall’:
“So, what was the disappearing act about?”
“Good evening to you, too.” Lorna stood aside and admitted Malcolm T. Mitchell into her home.
“Good evening. Now what was it about?”
Wearing a powder-blue long-sleeved linen shirt and beige linen pants, he looked like he’d shaved just before coming over. He also looked like something Lorna might want to eat for dinner. It was always easier to have the kiss-off conversation if one didn’t still just want to kiss the man in question. But it couldn’t be helped. It would be more difficult to say the words with conviction, but they had to be said: it was just a one-time thing, Malcolm. And this one time, out of consideration for his ego, she might go easy on him. In her experience, the arrogant ones were the most fragile when it came to rejection.
Shutting the door, Lorna turned to face him, and for a moment was taken aback to find him so close on her heels. She looked up at him, a question in her eyes and Malcolm smirked, then before she knew what was happening, her back was pressed against the door and he had her pinned.
“I’m waiting,” he said.
For a moment, Lorna was confused and then gradually she felt her ire rise. That and her excitement. It had been years since a man had handled her in this way—these days none of them dared. Her work came with all kinds of assumptions, not the least of which was that she wouldn’t stand for a man simply acting like … a man. On the contrary, she loved it. Malcolm T. Mitchell had either figured that out about her, or he didn’t care. It was that second possibility that irritated her. Who did he think he was? Who did he think she was? Scarlett-fucking-O’Hara to his Rhett Butler?
Putting her hands up, she shoved against his chest. It was rock-hard. She remembered that now; that beneath the urbane, collegiate exterior, Malcolm had the physique of a man who paid careful and almost meticulous attention to his body—not an ounce of extra fat anywhere. Okay, well maybe an ounce, but no more than that. She recalled running the flat of her palms across his chest and down his stomach, and the way his eyes darkened, both warning and inviting her as she moved lower.
“What exactly are you waiting for?” she asked, stalling.
“An explanation. We had a great night. And then you pull some sophomoric little …”
“Yes. Immature. Juvenile. Young. All those things.”
This was where she should tell him off, push him off, and ask him to leave. But she didn’t want to. And playing coy wasn’t her thing. She wanted him, and what she wanted, she generally went after with gusto. Why should this moment be any different? Afterwards, she would tell him … she would tell him … afterwards …
“And I guess you think the way to win me over is to come to my house and offend me.”
“Are you offended?”
Lorna couldn’t help but smile. She shook her head slowly as his face came closer. And just as his lips made contact with hers, she closed her eyes. He nipped her lower lip and pulled it in, sucking it lightly before dipping his tongue in for a brief taste. She remembered this as well, that he was an exemplary kisser. Good enough to almost make her forget that there could be even greater pleasures than kissing. Lorna pressed in closer for more and felt his smile at her response.
One point to Malcolm T. Mitchell.
“You’re going to return my calls,” he said against her lips.
Lorna wasn’t sure whether it was a question or a statement. She had a sneaking suspicion it was the latter, but she didn’t care. At least not at the moment. She nodded slowly and he deepened the kiss, his hands coming up to capture her wrists and move her hands from where they were still between them, pressed against his chest. Relieved of that barrier, he came closer and soon the only thing she could feel between them was what felt like a rod of granite at his groin. God bless his young soul, he was ready at the drop of a hat.
Smiling, Lorna pried one hand loose and reached down between them, feeling him. Malcolm groaned and pulled back abruptly, though their lips maintained contact. Capturing her wrist once again, he held it far away from the point of contention. Lorna smiled, just as his lips traveled down her jaw and to her neck. She tilted her head to the side to make way for him.
One point to Lorna Terry.
She didn’t want him to get the impression he could have the upper hand after barging into her meeting, and then into her home. A tie she could accept, but he couldn’t have the upper hand.
“Let’s go eat,” Malcolm said, pulling away suddenly.
Blinking, Lorna almost gasped in frustration. What the hell ..?
“I’m on to you,” he said smirking. Then he reached behind her and opened her door, standing aside so she would exit before him.
He drove them to the Harbor Inn in his Range Rover, as yuppie-like a vehicle as Lorna might have expected from the young professor. Harbor Inn was a small place set right on the banks of the Hudson; it was family-owned and simply decorated, serving fairly decent seafood, and excellent steaks. It was the place where parents of Gilchrist students took their collegians when they came to visit, or for a nice graduation dinner. On any given evening during the semester, there might be a few students at the restaurant on what they thought was a nice, grown-up date, but rarely did faculty go there. Probably because they wanted to avoid the students. But it was late spring, so there was little risk of running into anyone they knew, or might wind up teaching. Summer students rarely had the means to dine at places like Harbor Inn.
The hostess, an attractive girl with dark hair and startlingly blue eyes guided them to a table that overlooked the waters of the Hudson, and its craggy shores. Lorna loved this part of the country and missed it whenever she was gone too long. In just a few short months, the Hudson River Valley would transform, and become a golden landscape so breathtaking that people would drive from all over tristate area just to witness it. Since most of her conferences occurred in the spring and summer, Lorna was fortunate not to have missed this awesome display by Mother Nature in many years.
Their waitress surfaced with menus and rattled off the specials, and recommended wines when Malcolm inquired about a good pinot grigio. He chose one without asking Lorna what she wanted to drink, but she let it pass. The cool evening air, and the memory of their kiss in her foyer had her feeling docile and not inclined to argue.
“I was warned about you,” Malcolm said when they were alone again.
“Oh, I have no doubt you were,” Lorna said.
“I was warned that you’re very difficult to get to know. And that you throw up barriers—usually intellectual ones—against people who try.”
What was there to say to that? It was true, after all.
“I guess after hearing that, I was expecting something a little more sophisticated than the good old-fashioned refusal to return phone calls,” he continued.
“Well … then next time I’ll be sure to reject you in a much more sophisticated manner than refusing to return your phone calls.”
Malcolm didn’t smile as she would have expected he might. Instead he fixed that penetrative stare of his directly on her. “Are you rejecting me?” he asked.
“Depends on what you’re offering,” Lorna returned. “I can be a friend and a colleague. A … mentor, or …”
At that Malcolm did smile. “What makes you think I need a mentor?”
“You’re new to academia, you’re young …”
Malcolm smirked. “So that’s how you plan to play this? I’m too young for you?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-eight. Somehow I doubt I’m the youngest man you’ve ever been involved with.”
For a moment Lorna’s memory flashed back to that graduate student from Ohio. She couldn’t recall his name, and that caused her a moment of something akin to shame. She was way too old to be picking up anonymous lovers. Her twenties and thirties were riddled with that kind of behavior and nothing good had come of it other than a brief, but misguided sense of sexual liberation.
“I don’t know whether to be insulted by that comment,” she said, feeling nothing of the sort.
Their waitress returned with water and with a young man who opened a bottle of wine, poured the first glass and waited for Malcolm to sample and approve it. He nodded his assent, both their glasses were filled and then their servers departed.
“Of course I don’t mean to insult you …” he began.
“Well that’s a relief.”
The forcefulness of his tone gave her pause. She felt almost chastened.
“I’m not interested in verbally jousting with you. I’m interested in getting to know you. And …” then he shrugged. “The jousting, of all kinds, can come later.”
Sighing, Lorna picked up her wineglass and took a sip, enjoying the sharp, fruity taste on the back of her tongue. It was a good choice, though she hadn’t been consulted.
“So tell me about yourself, Malcolm T. Mitchell,” she said when she put her glass back down. “What brings you to Gilchrist when your writing career is so clearly about to take off? Teaching is what a writer does at the end of his career, not the beginning.”
Turned out he was looking to become a writer-in-residence somewhere, but teaching wound up being a better bet since he had recently gotten divorced and needed the income. He had two girls—one thirteen and the other nine, who lived with his ex-wife, Charlotte, in the city. Both he and Charlotte were attorneys but apparently, while she had taken to their chosen profession like a fish to water, he loathed it, and had written his book on weekends and late at night when his household was asleep. Around the time he grew more serious about his writing, and getting published, Charlotte grew more disenchanted with their marriage.
“And the rest is history,” Lorna finished for him.
“I hope not. I hope the rest is actually just the beginning.”
He emptied his wineglass and set it aside, as though he had satisfied some internal quota for how much he intended to drink.
Little things like that made Lorna think he was probably very disciplined, possibly even structured in his life. If she was right, she needn’t worry about rebuffing him. Men like that could never tolerate the messy, jazz-like cadence of her life for very long. She woke at different times each morning, sometimes writing late into the night, sometimes before first light. She sometimes smoked, and then for a year or two, she quit.
She could be almost maniacally social at times—having dinner parties, brunches and wine tastings in her garden—and then at others, lived like a recluse. Her life was disorderly, its only constants being her work; and Riley, Shawn and her grandson. Everything else was temporary and disposable, most especially the men who passed in and out.
“I plan to read your book,” she said. “I bought it shortly after we, ahm, met.”
“You’ll have to tell me what you think of it.”
“What do you think of it?”
“Of my own book?” His eyebrows lifted.
“Yes. Do you feel as brilliant as they say you are?”
“No,” he said with a laugh. “Never.”
He had scampi with wild rice and Lorna ordered the sea bass, thinking all the while about her daughter who would have scolded her for choosing something that wasn’t sustainable. She often heard Riley in her head, as though she was the parent, and Lorna the child. Her daughter was sometimes unnervingly mature for her age.
“So I’m interested in hearing who thinks I throw up barriers for people who want to get to know me,” Lorna said, once their meal was underway.
“Professor Hunt, for one. He was very entertained by us when we were in his office this afternoon. Spent the first half hour of our meeting singing your praises.”
“Telling you I throw up barriers doesn’t sound like praise to me.”
“He also said that every conversation with you makes him feel like the class dunce. That you’re witty, sharp and have lots of barbs. That it only makes sense that you would be a feminist because you’re probably right in your assessment that no man could ever live up to you.”
Lorna took a bite of her fish. “Steven should know better. Being a feminist is in no way a reactionary thing. It shouldn’t just be defined in relation to men. Just like being Black is more than simply the absence of Whiteness.”
Malcolm grinned. “You should know,” he said leaning in and lowering his voice. “Whenever you talk like that, it makes my dick hard.”
Coming in 2016. ‘The Fall’.