Today's Reading

As we made our way through the crowd I spotted a familiar woman leaning against the bar next to another woman I didn't recognize. The one I recognized lived on the bottom floor of Sophie and Rena's building, and had opened the building's front door for me a few times. She could spot visitors approaching though her window and seemed to feel compelled to let people in.

Though I'd never met Mallory before tonight, she lived in Rena and Sophie's building too, in a flat all her own. She'd already
mentioned that she spent most of her time holed up there, studying, and studying some more. In the brief time I'd known her I'd already noticed that she had a quiet calm about her that Sophie and Rena didn't possess. Maybe Mallory just worked harder to hide her stress.

I waved at the woman from the first floor, someone I'd pegged as an undgrad. I thought she was looking my direction, but she didn't wave back. I followed her line of vision and spotted who she must have been watching instead. A handsome man, probably about sixty, stood not far from the edge of the small dance floor. He wore dark pants and a dark peacoat over his tall, thin frame. His short dark hair was slicked back from his high forehead, and though I thought his nose should be hooked to match the rest of him, it wasn't. It was straight and almost regal. He was lazily holding a tumbler half full of liquid.

He didn't see me looking, and neither he nor the young woman noticed that I saw what happened next. Both the man by the dance floor and the woman sent a quick, furtive glance toward a third person, a man who seemed to be in a hurried exit out of the pub. The only features I caught of the third person were a head full of bushy gray hair and the back of a tall body that moved in defiance of the gray hair; strong and sure. It could have been my imagination or the happenstance of my timing regarding their expressions, but in those brief beats of time, I thought both the man by the dance floor and the woman were concerned about the leaving man, or at least concerned about something. But the moment was over quickly, and I immediately doubted what I thought I'd seen.

As we approached the table Rena had spied, three men were also about to sit there. They sent us smiles of surrender and let us have the chairs.

After we sat, Mallory approached with a tray of four cups of coffee. "Freshly brewed," she said as she placed the cups in front of us one at a time and then leaned the tray against the wall. She angled herself into the tight space that held the last of the four chairs.

"Did you see him?" Sophie asked Rena.

"Yeah, just standing there being creepy," Rena said.

"The tall man in the dark clothes next to the dance floor?" I asked.

"That's him. That's Dr. Eban," Rena said.

"Did you guys see the gray-haired man leaving?" I said.

They all looked toward the door and said they hadn't.

"He must have left," I said, not sure why those brief seconds had made such an impression on me.

Mallory twisted around in her chair so she could see the man by the stage. "That's Dr. Eban, though. He'll probably just stand there all night and ooze horror, just tae set us all off balance. Take away our fun." Her words were ominous, but her tone was somewhat playful.

I looked at Rena.

She shrugged and said, "Believe it or not, that's probably exactly what he's doing. It's a power thing, I think. He likes bothering
us."

"He teaches anatomy, huh?" I said.

"Aye," three voices said together.

"Here's the other part," Sophie said. "He's also one of the best teachers on campus. Really good. He's just . . . difficult."

"Unrealistic expectations," I said before I sipped the coffee.

It wasn't a question, but the three women looked at each other as if searching for the right answer.

"Yes," Sophie said.

"Sort of," Mallory said.

"I'm not sure they're unrealistic, but they are high. We should have high expectations, though. We're going tae be doctors," Rena said.

I watched for Sophie's reaction to Rena's words, but didn't see disagreement.

My back was to the wall. Since I was sitting in the corner seat, I had the best view of the rest of the pub, and I saw Dr. Eban moving in our direction. His eyes caught mine for an instant, and I knew our table was his destination.

"It looks as if he's headed our direction," I said without moving my lips or remaking eye contact with him.

Despite the instantaneous terror that blanched my tablemates' faces, there was no escape now.
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