Chapter 6.35

Charlie

We finally arrived at the temple and Dr. Day gave us an excavation briefing.

“Isn’t this amazing?” Susan asked me, grinning.

And yeah, the surroundings were beautiful but it wasn’t like this was a real temple. It was a tourist trap like Simsneyland. I mean, come ON! We were going to be archaeologists. How come we couldn’t dig in a real temple?

I had to admit I liked seeing this side of Dr. Day. He was so happy–almost beaming. It made him even more handsome to me. You could really tell he was at home here in the jungle.

But I just wasn’t enthused. I didn’t want to play archeaologist. I wanted to DISCOVER!

“Okay, everyone. There’s two dig spots and some discovery tables. Once you find an object, use the techniques we’ve gone over to figure out when your object was created and from what culture it is. You will be graded on this, so do your best.”

All my classmates went straight to work. I just couldn’t force myself to dig in something that had been prepared in advanced. It was like we were cheating.

“Come on, Charlie,” Susan said, rifling through the dirt. “Start digging! This is for our grade, you know.”

I sighed. God, this was sooooo annoying. Now I knew how it felt to die of boredom. It was a real thing.

“Hey, look. There’s a Charlie spot right next to me. Come on!” Susan patted the ground near her.

I shook my head and instead, decided to plead my case to Dr. Deathday. “Honestly, Dr. Day, do you see what a real lame waste of time this is? We could be discovering the secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation archway, but no. You have us digging in the dirt like a bunch of kids on a science field trip.”

Never glancing up, he said, “First of all, that passage doesn’t exist. It’s been proven. And secondly, you’ve got to walk before you can run, Miss Darby. Learn the techniques first THEN use them in a field situation.”

Ugh. He wouldn’t listen. I guessed I was doomed to do menial tasks instead of real exploration.

Dr. Day’s warning came true. We worked our asses off all day and into the night. My back ached but he said we couldn’t stop until all the artifacts were found. It was a monotonous cycle of digging, finding an item, then taking it to the table.

Eli picked out the most interesting artifact–a wooden llama sun god. Dang it. I wanted to find something cool like that. All I got were a few totem dolls and a coin.

Stretching my legs, I spied a weird glow off in the distance. My heart skipped as a twinge rippled through me. “What is that?” I whispered.

The twinkle grew bigger and bigger, hovering over the jungle. Could this be the celestial sign of enlightenment that aliensrreal.com was talking about? It happened once in fifty years but if you were lucky enough to see it, the glow would lead you directly to the archway.

I had no time to lose. Bolting to the outside, my heart beat so hard, it hurt.

But as I ran ahead, the glow seemed to sprint away from me. Damn!

And then it petered out the more I chased it. But I wasn’t going to give up. It’d showed itself! That part I knew was real. And I observed about where it had been or at least the area to search.

Meandering through the forest, the jungle took on a creepy dark tone which made the hair on my arms tighten. But I wouldn’t be disuaded by fear. Sure there were deadly things living in the dark at night. I just needed to focus on my quest.

And then I gasped as my heart lurched into my throat.

“It IS real,” I whispered.

Liam

“Okay, folks, it’s time to go back to our villa for the night.” I searched around, counting heads. I noticed one student missing. “Has anyone seen Charlene?”

Zane waved his arms. “The only thing I’ve been seeing are these freaking mosquitos!”

Walking over to her best friend, I asked, “Susan, have you seen Charlene?”

Wincing, she said, “Um…er…I thought she had to go to the bathroom really bad because I saw her run to the front but she hasn’t come back. Maybe she had to take a dump?”

I crossed my arms. She’d been blabbing about that fabled archway all day. I couldn’t understand how a smart, science minded girl like her could believe in fairytales like the Spiritual Transformation archway. It purportedly transported you to an ancient temple full of artifacts. But where was the evidence? Blurry pictures that looked faked were the only supposed “facts” the lunatics who talked about it could produce. The morons even purported there was a genie living in the depths. I mean, really? That was kid’s stuff like in the story of Simladdin. And now she’s probably gotten herself lost in the dark jungle. There were poisonous snakes and alligators out there. “Damn it,” I cursed. “I’ll go find her.”

My students insisted on accompanying me. I didn’t mind. It was best we stayed together.

Just as we were about to leave, I spied Charlene blasting toward us.

I stopped her, throwing my hands on my hips, I was so angry. “Where the hell have you been? Do you realize it’s dangerous in the jungle at night?”

Breathing hard, she said, “You’ve got to come with me, Dr. Day. I found it. The archway! It’s real!”

I folded my arms. This was unbelievable. “The archway is not real. And I’d appreciate it if you would follow the rules, Miss Darby. I’m responsible for your well being and until we leave at the end of the week, you will ask me if you can go somewhere. Understand?”

She lifted her hands. “Okay, I get it, Dr. Day. I screwed up but I saw a huge light and then I had to discover it for myself. Honest to God, I’m not joking. Come with me! It’s amazing!”

I pointed. “The only place you’re going is to the villa. Now march. And I better not hear anything more about this ridiculous archway or I’m going to send you home and you will fail my class. Is that understood?”

Her nostrils flared. “Oh my God, you’re impossible! Fine. Fail me! See if I care! But I’m going through the archway with or without you, asshole!”

Before I could stop her, she bolted toward one of our jungle carts. I chased after her, hoping I could beat her to it.

But she was too quick.

“Be careful, Dr. Day!” I heard one of my students shouting after me.

In a moment of insanity, I flung my body onto the cart, hoping to stop her, but she floored it. “Stop, Charlene!” I cried. “This is dangerous!”

“Go to hell!” she yelled back.

And so I was stuck on the top of that cart, clinging for my life and hoping she wouldn’t crash.

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Chapter 6.34

Charlie

Dr. Day was going over all the stuff everyone needed to take for the expedition. And with each word, I felt stupid and totally left out.

“God, I’m so angry with him, Charlie,” Susan whispered. “He can’t ban you from the expedition. You’ve got the highest grade in the frikin class.”

I sighed. “It’s my own fault, Suz. Don’t blame him.”

“Well, I do blame him. He’s going to get the cold shoulder by me all week. I don’t want to be in the jungles without you.”

“At least you’ve got your boyfriend to hang out with,” I said with a shrug. Susan hooked up with one of our classmates, Thomas Winkerstein, a few weeks ago. I had to admit, they were the cutest together. So, really, she was just being nice. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be working on some research papers and besides, who wants to end up with spider bites and mosquito welts? Not me.”

“Maybe I’ll talk to him. Beg him or something.”

“That won’t work,” I said, shaking my head.

“Why not?”

“Because he’s an asshole, Susan, and I don’t want him to take it out on you!”

“Asshole, huh?” Dr. Day was standing right behind me!

I winced. Oh God, why do you hate me?

So here I sat yet again staring at the coldest stare on the planet. Dr. Deathday should patent it for the army. It’d be their secret weapon!

“I uh…can explain. I…wasn’t…er…” but my tongue got all tangled up in my mouth. I hated lying.

He raised his eyebrows. I could see a slight smile rise on the corner of his mouth. He ENJOYED making me squirm, the jerk!

“Okay, okay,” I confessed, “I admit it. I called you an asshole. But can you blame me? You’re leaving me out of the expedition, something I’ve been looking forward to practically my whole life! And I’ve worked my tail off trying to do my best in this class but that’s not good enough for you! So I’ll sit home while you’re gallavanting across the globe, finding cool stuff and having the time of your archaeological life.”

“Are you finished with your tirade because I don’t want any emotional baggage or hard feelings against me once you reach Selvadorada.”

I blinked. “What the hell are you talking about?”

With a cocky grin, he answered, “Pack your bags, Miss Darby. You’ve got a long plane ride in your future.”

All of the angst I had been feeling earlier melted away. “Really? Oh my GOD! Thank you, Dr. Day!”

And for the first time in the history of me taking his class, I saw Dr. Day SMILE!

*****

Liam

Something happened to me right after I’d had that strange dream about Ginny. It was like a huge weight lifted off me. I was free. Free from the burden of my hurt and anger against the world for all the awful things that had gone wrong in my life. Dream Ginny was right. I had to let go. If I didn’t, I’d be miserable forever.

And the first thing I did was allow Charlene to go on the expedition. It was true. I was being an ass. So she messed up from time to time. She was the brightest student in my class. Charlene deserved to be there.

Once we arrived at our villa, I breathed in the muggy jungle air. I loved Selvadorada. I’d done my first real excavation there. And it brought back great memories of my own research.

“Hey, this is a cool place, Dr. D!” Reynold said.

It definitely was. I’d booked this place last year since it got so many great reviews on SipAdvisor.

Breathing in the sweet scent of plumeria drifting through the humid air, I led my students to the door. This was going to be an awesome trip. Probably the best one I’d done for my students to date. I could feel it in my gut.

Charlie

Selvadorada was even more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. Huge palms, tons of flowers, and green as far as the eye could see. I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.

Susan was flirting with her boyfriend beside me. Looked like I was going to ride solo on my quest for the secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation archway. But no matter. I wasn’t sure if Susan believed in it or not.

All the rooms had names and mine happened to be Simdiana Sones! What a sign!

Was God trying to tell me that I was definitely going to discover that archway? According to aliensrreal.com, it was usually observed around this time of the year, during a full moon and around dusk.

I was determined to find it, take pictures, and prove its existence once and for all! It wasn’t going to go the way of Simsquatch or the Sloch Sness Monster.

Dr. Day wanted to show us our campsite today. We were just going to hike around, getting to know the area. Then travel up to a temple where we’d get to use our digging techniques.

Putting on my fedora, tingles crept along my arms.

I soooo looked the part, didn’t I?

“Selvadoradan legends can’t outwit me,” I declared to the mirror. “I’m coming for ya!”

By lunchtime, we arrived at the camp. And even though we’d walked miles, I felt so fresh like I could walk ten more!

“Okay, guys,” Dr. Day said, “let’s make a fire and eat. Then I’ll go over some of our digging techniques to refresh your memories. We’ll be excavating all afternoon and into the night, so you need to eat as much as you can now because we’ll only be snacking later.”

Snacking? Who needed food when the surroundings were a feast for the eyes?

“Want me to cook you a veggie dog, babe?” Thomas asked Susan. Aww…he was so sweet!

“Now make sure you cover yourself in insect repellant. The mosquitos are vicious here.”


“Thanks for telling us that now, Dr. D,” Eli said. “My ass is covered in red welts.”

“Oh my God! Did you see that? Was that a SNAKE?” Flynn might look like a cool cat on the outside, but he was really just a timid Mama’s boy. I had no idea how he was going to make it this week.

“Yes, there are snakes here,” Dr. Day said, nodding. “And bats. But if we stick together, these wild animals won’t hurt you. Believe me, they’re more scared of you than you are of them. A good rule of thumb is ‘don’t touch’.”

“Don’t worry, Dr. D,” Reynold said. “The only thing I’m going to touch is my sandwich. I’m starving!”

After we ate, my classmates built a roaring fire, using survival techniques.

But I didn’t want to join in. I had some investigating to do.

And I couldn’t do that just by standing around.

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Chapter 6.33

Zack

I was meeting up with my best friend, Reed Savage. We were photography majors together and became fast friends our sophomore year. My life goal was to get into the modeling industry. With my family’s connections, I figured it wouldn’t be hard. At least I’d be on the right side of the camera. No fame for me. Dad had enough all on his own and both Liam and I dodged the spotlight no matter how much the press wanted to drag us in.

Reed was a beautiful man and made the best model when I needed someone in a pinch.

“Let’s get this over with,” Reed said with a salty tone.

What was with the mood? I’d ask him later. Right now, I had a project to turn in, so I snapped tons of pictures while Reed did what Reed does best.

And that’s making love to the camera.

“Can you give me ‘The Classic’? I always get A’s when you do it.”

Reed relaxed and looked all pouty.

I shot him a thumbs up. “That’s it! Did I tell you that I love you today?”

“No, darling, but I’ll take whatever sweet nothings you can give me.” We always bantered like that. He was totally gay and I was totally not but from the outside, people probably would think we were a couple.

“Scroll to the right. That’s it,” Reed said looking through the pics I took. “I think that’s the one.” He had an eye for just the right shot to use. I was damn lucky to have him help me out.

“Thanks, dude. I owe you one,” I said.

He retorted, “I’ll make you pay…in bed, darling. Can I stay over tonight?”

I shot him a look. “Only if you want to get racked. That spot is reserved for Myla.”

“Testy,” he tutted. “But seriously, Zack. I need a place to stay. If not tonight at least by tomorrow?”

Ah…the reason for the salt. As the sun set, we walked over to one of the park couches. He relayed to me his latest tussle with his on again off again boyfriend, Jonas Hoffman. Seems they got into a fight about Reed being late to a movie date and Jonas went all diva on him. So instead of cooling off and making up, Jonas found another dude and went with him. Reed found them making out in their apartment later that evening. “What a douche,” I said. “I told you to leave his ass weeks ago.”

“You’re always right. I should have but…he has a super power over me. I’m pathetic. I should be able to find an apartment this week. Just need to use one of your many rooms, if your brother doesn’t mind.”

God. My brother. He didn’t like Reed. Not because he was gay but Reed could get on your nerves. He was loud and sometimes obnoxious and he’d needle Liam on purpose always flirting and saying inappropriate shit just to get a rise out of him. “I don’t know, dude. I can’t speak for my brother.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise!”

“Still…how about you come over tomorrow morning. It’s Saturday and Liam will probably be in a good mood since he doesn’t have to deal with work. That’s your best bet.”

“I’ll be there with bells on,” Reed sang.

I smirked. “Forget the bells, dude. The less flash the better.”

Reed

Liam August Day was the most beautiful specimen I’d ever beheld. I’d had a crush on him since I first met him two years ago. But the poor boy was decidedly straight. Why were most of the men in the world wasted on women? It was criminal.

“Hello, Reed,” Liam greeted me. Oh what luck! He was happy. Or so it seemed. That smile! I could live on that alone for days!

He held out his hand and I took it, trying to quell the urge to kiss it. The guy had the most beautiful fingers. So well kept and manicured. Just like everything about him.

“Zack should be out in a minute,” he added. “I made some lunch. Do you like vegan Monte Cristo? It’s hot and there’s plenty.”

No. You’re hot, sweetheart, I wanted to say. But I had to play it cool or Liam would get mad at me.

Swinging my head back, I said, “I adore vegan sandwiches. You do spoil me, Liam. I think I’ll want to live here forever!”

“So he said yes?” Zack entered the kitchen. Goodness. Cat out of the bag and I hadn’t had the chance to ask him yet.

“What are you talking about, Zack?” Liam asked. “Yes to what?”

Zack answered, “Reed needs a place to stay. Just for the week. No longer.”

“Do say yes, Liam,” I cooed, flashing my pretty-please-with-whipped-cream-on-top eyes. “I promise to be on my best behavior. No tushie touches. No kisses in the night. And you won’t find me in your bed suddenly. Cross my heart!”

“I don’t know…” he cast his eyes downward.

“Please, Liam, I’ll be serious now. I have nowhere to go. Jonas is being a royal ass and he won’t leave.”

He flung his head up with a grin. “Of course you can stay, Reed. You really didn’t have to ask.”

What got into his oreos? Whatever it was, I’d take it! Liam rarely smiled and I knew he didn’t really like me but…maybe things had changed?

“Well…t-thank you,” I sputtered. “That’s so nice of you. Maybe just one kiss then as a downpayment?”

Ignoring my joke, Liam said, “Take the room upstairs on the left. It has the best view. And you can stay as long as you like. I’m going to be leaving for Selvadorada next week, so Zack will probably need the company.”

He patted my shoulder then strode away. Whistling!

Zack arched an eyebrow. “My God. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it. Maybe your charms are working on him after all?”

I blushed. “They all melt in front of this pretty face eventually, Zacky boy. You might as well, too, then we can make it a threesome!”

“Keep dreaming, bud, keep dreaming.”

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Chapter 6.32

Liam

I was getting some research done on the new object one of my collegues discovered when Zack knocked on my office door at home. He walked up next to me and said, “Why are you being a royal dickhead to Charlie?”

Charlie? Oh, he meant Charlene. “Come on, Zack. You know I’m not supposed to talk about my students. That’s between me and her. And anyway, it’s not your problem.”

“It becomes my problem when I can’t see my girlfriend because she’s consoling her best friend since an evil professor took away her privileges to go on some expedition. An expedition that was going to help her find an old magical relic.”

“Oh please! That expedition is just for entry level students. We’re not going to find anything of significance. It’s just some old bones we placed in the sand and they use the dig techniques to find them. It’s really no big deal.”

“If it’s no big deal then let her go. I think you’ve been too hard on Charlie this whole semester. What gives? Do you like her or something?”

“Like her? Oh God, now you’re sounding like Mother. No. I don’t like her. She’s a student. A kid.” A strong pain pierced my temples. Charlene Darby was getting on my last nerve at this point. Who did she think she was talking to Myla and trying to needle me into letting her go through my brother?

He crossed his arms. “You need to figure it out. Letting her go on the expedition would make my life easier, Liam. The poor girl is beside herself crying and feeling like a total loser. And she wouldn’t belike this if you didn’t make her feel so badly about herself. This shit isn’t right.”

I shook my head. “Whatever, Zack. You don’t know what went down and how irresponsible she is. She’s a spoiled child. No. She’s not going. You can tell your girlfriend that you coming in here to pressure me didn’t work. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.”

I strode out the door to my room.

Fuming, I pulled my sheets back, worrying I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Today had been a nightmare already. I just wanted to fast forward to the next day and put it behind me.

It was times like these when I missed Ginny the most. I was so fucking lonely, it stabbed through me. Was I being too hard on Charlene? Why did I care how she acted so much?

I drifted off and suddenly found myself under water, gaping at a mermaid.

“Hello, babe.” The mermaid smiled at me.

It was Ginny!

Somehow I was flailing in the middle of the ocean and I could breathe. It was such a strange feeling. And exhilarating.

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you,” Ginny said. It was as if we were really in the air except the water felt cool and wet on my skin.

“Ginny!” was all I could get out. I wanted to hold her so badly.

Sweeping my arms around her, I tucked my face in her hair and neck, wanting to never let go.

“Ginny, honey, I’ve missed you so much.”

From there, we were catapulted onto a dock somehow. In the back of my mind, I knew this was a dream but it felt so real and so right, I never wanted to wake up.

Stroking Ginny’s hand, I said, “I’m so glad you’re here. Where have you been?”

“Liam, I need to say good bye. I can’t be with you anymore. Not ever. You have to let me go.”

Bewildered, sadness flooded me, then Ginny grasped my head, pulling me closer to her. She kissed me with such tenderness, I wanted to bring her home and make love to her.

Then she pulled back just as suddenly. “You’re being too hard on that girl, you know. Liam, I want you to be happy. Bring her on the expedition.”

So confused, my dream self wasn’t even a professor so I didn’t understand who she was talking about. “What, Ginny? You’re not making sense.”

But she didn’t say anything. Flopping into the water, creating a huge splash, I watched helplessly as she swam away from me.

Instantly, I woke with a start. “No, Ginny! Come back!” I whispered.

And right then, I realized it was all a dream. But inside I felt the conflict. And the message. I needed to move on. Ginny was never coming back. And maybe dream Ginny was right. Maybe I should give Charlene one more chance.

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Chapter 6.31

Charlie

Okay, study food was all set. Brownies? Check.

Popcorn? Popped.

Gotta amp up the study molecules swirling in my brain. The delicious chocolatey goodness of the brownies melted in my mouth. Mmm…I needed sustinence. I had an all nighter in my future. Dr. Day’s dreaded midterm was upon me, and I was DETERMINED to make not only an A but I wanted to blow it out of the ancient black sea.

I went over different things I’d found online about the subjects we’d studied all semester. I wanted to pull out some things maybe even Dr. Day didn’t know about. I was sure I could wow him on the essay part of the test.

Next was memorizing the text. I mean, I had a photographic memory and knew this stuff backwards and forwards, but it didn’t hurt to go over everything again. I was leaving NOTHING to chance.

I really got into the Selvadoradan part of the book. My mind whirred to what it was going to be like on our expedition. I already had my research part basically done. The only thing left for me to do was find the stinking archway. I knew it had to be buried deep in the jungle. Unfortunately, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

But I hoped differently. I came upon a study on the thermodynamics of the area and the ancient temples all had paths that led to each find. The temperatures of the soils were usually ten degrees hotter than the rest. They surmised there must have been an old hot springs underground and the ancients believed this to be a sign of great religious significance and built their structures accordingly. All I had to do was test the grounds or find a new hot springs in the area and voila!

Of course the mainstream archaeologists didn’t believe in the archway’s existence at all. They thought it was an ancient fairytale. Sort of like mermaids or witches.

As the hours ticked on, my eyes drooped until I decided just to take a little nap. Resting couldn’t hurt. I’d be back at it in no time.

Honestly, it was like five minutes passed when a bright light woke me up.

Drowsily, I moved my head, wondering how the middle of the night could be so light!

And then I realized what had happened. I’d fallen asleep ALL NIGHT!

Scrambling, I noticed the clock on the wall said 9:00 am. My class was at 8! Dang! If I hurried, I’d make it with just enough time to spare–hopefully, twenty minutes at least. But I had to get my ass in gear.

Liam

I couldn’t believe it. This was the most important test I was going to give all semester. The only thing left was the expedition and their following research report. No final.

What the fuck was she doing?

“Is it okay to start now, Dr. Day?” Zane Smith asked.

That brought me back to the class. “Yes,” I said curtly. “You may proceed.”

Charlene’s friend, Susan Sabatini looked worried.

I shook my head. And Charlene had written the most brilliant report I’d ever gotten from any student on The Temple of Queen Twosweat. The girl was a genius. So gifted. But if she wasn’t going to take the midterm, what could I do? She would fail and get kicked out.

Time ticked by as the students furiously scribbled their answers.

I kept watching the door, hoping Charlene would rush in, red faced, with tons of excuses on her lips. I would give her whatever time was left to finish the test.

I wasn’t a monster. Sure I was angry at Charlene for getting me in trouble with the dean, but after she’d left, I smoothed it over with him, saying she was very talented, that I’d hand picked her to help me with a carbon dating project.

He bought it.

But she was running out of time.

Even after every student had handed in their tests, I allowed fifteen more minutes. But she didn’t show. Her friend, Susan, was stalling. I finally walked up to her. “Times up, Miss Sabatini. I need your test booklet.”

“Um, okay, but if you must know, I’m worried about her. Charlie told me she was going to study all night and she isn’t answering her phone. Maybe something happened to her.”

I arched an eyebrow. “She probably overslept.” The girl would often fall asleep in my lectures. I attributed it to boredom since she had a handle of the material at a level well beyond all her peers. Or she stayed up too late. Probably the latter.

Susan sighed. “Yeah…maybe.”

Turning toward me, Susan said, “Would you go easy on her, doc? I’m sure she has a good reason.”

But I couldn’t answer. A part of me was as worried as Charlene’s friend.

******

Charlie

My God. What did I ever do to make me cursed like this? It was like I couldn’t catch a break. Throwing on some sweats at lightspeed, I raced to my car but then discovered the keys were locked inside. I guessed I had a lot on my mind. So NO JOKE, I literally ran the whole way there. I didn’t have enough money to catch a Suber and my phone had died, so I couldn’t ask a friend to take me. I was so screwed.

Well, I figured Dr. Day might take pity on me. The truth would be written all over me in sweat beads and pit rings.

Thankfully, my test packet was waiting for me on my desk. Good old Dr. Day came through after all!

I wrote out the answers as fast as I could. The test was fairly easy, but the long answer part was going to take time.

“Miss Darby, where have you been?”

Dr. Day’s presence jolted me.

“You don’t look sick and you definitely aren’t dead, so what’s your excuse? And it better not be that you overslept.”

I was about to go to my hands and knees but there wasn’t room. “I…locked my keys in the car so I couldn’t get here in time. S-Sorry!”

“Why didn’t you call a suber or a taxi? One of your friends maybe. Even ride the bus! These excuses are ridiculous.”

“I know but I only have five dollars in my account right now and my phone died. I didn’t have time to charge it. I didn’t know about the bus system and I panicked. So I just busted my ass and ran all the way from my apartment to get here, but I was too slow. Come on, Dr. Day. Please let me finish the test.”

He crossed his arms, jaw clenching, thinking it over. He finally said, “You’re not going on the expedition. But I will allow you to finish the test. And then you may do two research papers instead. Punctuality is a redeeming quality. You need to grow up if you want to succeed.”

All of my dreams of finding the archway were dashed, but it was my own damned fault. “Thank you,” I whispered. “I’ll get right to work.”

I slipped straight through and rocked out all the answers, nailing the essay. Then I gave him the test and said, “I’m really sorry. For what it’s worth, you’re a great teacher, and I’ve enjoyed your class.”

I hated that he thought I was such a goof up. Just a mess walking around aimlessly. I was so disappointed in myself. And what’s worse, I hated that he thought of me as some irresponsible kid.

But I was grateful, too. He didn’t kick me out like he could have. I just didn’t know how to get my act together. I was such a loser.

Liam

A part of me wanted Charlene to succeed. And to be honest, I was really looking forward to observing what she came up with on our expedition. But…it wasn’t a real dig. She wouldn’t be discovering anything we didn’t already plant ahead of time. But why did I have a gnawing feeling that I was making a mistake?

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Chapter 6.30

Charlie

When Dr. Day turned around, I almost wet my pants. What was I doing? My mouth moved but nothing came out.

“Miss Darby? What are you doing down here? You know only upper level students are allowed in this area.”

“I-I know, but…I wanted to talk to you about missing your class.”

Dr. Day waved his hands. “Todd, if you could…”

“No prob, Liam. I’ll see you at lunch.” The guy just gave me a grin that made me uncomfortable like he knew my demise was imminent and he thought it was funny. Well, I deserved it.

Dr. Day threw me his cold stare that I’d been shot with a dozen times. God, why did he have this affect on me? Just with one glance, he could knock the wind out of me.

I swallowed down the hangover bile that was gurgling into my throat. “I-I guess you know why I didn’t show today and I want to say I’m sorry. For all those awful things I said to you and for going out of control like that. I’m like totally embarrassed.”

Dr. Day still said nothing, so I went on, “And if you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I promise, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a jack knife in my eye, I’ll never miss another class again.”

He lifted his hands. “Look, I don’t make the rules at the university. Our dean does. And he’s very strict about our masters program. Unless you have a note from a doctor, my hands are tied.”

I flailed my arms emphatically. “I WAS sick all morning. But not THAT kind of sick…heh…It’s just…going to this university is my dream. Academic probation would skewer me. I was hoping you could give me just one more chance?”

Walking toward the door, he said, “I don’t see any reason why I should. Especially since you called me Dr. Deathday as well as a hundred other profanities.”

Oh God. Why did I have to get drunk? Liquor was the worst truth serum on the planet.

“Would you in my position?” he asked.

Sadly, I shook my head no.

“Well, I’m not you. Get yourself out of the restricted area, please. I would appreciate it.” Then he strode out the door.

My eyes widened and I blinked. What the heck did that mean? Was he going to give me a pass? OMG!!!!!!

And although I should have been jumping up and down, celebrating, his words and his looks just made me feel like the worst human being on the planet.

Okay, so I was going to make amends. And it started now. I noticed a broom leaning against the wall. And this floor was disgusting. Like someone peed all over it. There was dust and spiderwebs everywhere.

So I grabbed its handle and did the best I could in cleaning up the mess. But then my mind wandered to when I’d actually became an archaeologist. This was the perfect setting–like I could see it all play out.

“There it is, Dr. Sabatini!” I’d say as I happened upon a large gateway structure. “The secret passage of the Spiritual Transformation. Legend says that once you enter, you will be yourself no longer. You will right many wrongs and clear the path to illumination.”

That was my dream. I’d always heard of this legend and there were so many archaeologists who believed in its existence since many petroglyphs in Simu Picchu showed it, but…no one was ever lucky enough to find where it was. I had a few ideas and I was determined to locate it on our expedition. Okay, like yeah, it was dangerous, but who cared? That was an archaeologist’s job.

I could picture it so clearly. People at this university would point at me and say, “There she is! The one who gave enlightenment to the world!”

That was definitely in my future. I could feel it in my marrow. Unfortunately, the stale surroundings broke apart my dream. I had to do the hard work first to receive the benefits. Better finish up and get out of here! I figured I’d tell Dr. Day I cleaned a bit for him. Maybe he’d be happy and stop pitching those frightening ice stares at me.

Whipping around to put the broom back, I stumbled and…

CRASH!

An ancient piece of pottery that was probably worth more than all the money I’d make in my lifetime, crumbled before me.

I wanted to scream! What was I going to do????

Repenting of my foolish ways all the way up to Dr. Day’s office, I gingerly crept in like a cockroach. God, I never wanted to step foot in there again, but here I was.

“Dr. Day?” I squeaked, mouth like the lining of an old sock.

He shook his head. “I already told you I wouldn’t file a complaint against you. What now?”

I sat down and swallowed. “Okay like I’m TOTALLY sorry. I was trying to do a good deed. HONEST!”

Liam

Who would have known that an intelligent student of mine could create crazy havoc in such a short time? The girl was so irresponsible, I had half a mind to terminate her privileges immediately.

But Ginny’s sweet face stared at me in my mind. I often wondered how she’d handle things. I wished so often I could ask her opinion. I breathed in and out, trying to calm down. I was in deep shit with this one.

“Miss Darby, will you please stop apologizing and get the hell out of my office? I’ll take care of it. Just go home and work. I better have your ten page paper on my desk early at the end of the week.”

She bobbed her head up and down with a frightened look on her face.

Then she scurried out of my office.

Wincing, I sighed. I had to assess the damage and then talk to my boss. This was just getting worse. Why did I have a heart for the girl? It would have been easier to escort her upstairs and report her rather than allowing these antics.

*****

Thankfully, Charlene’s goof up actually helped us out. We’d discovered the bones of an ancient shaman straight out of Simu Picchu. It even held a rare stone from the pre-classic era. Priceless. My dean was so thrilled, he wanted to congratulate me for the find himself.

“Tell me, Liam, what made you think to break into the vase in the first place? I must say, that was a bold move. Did you find some hints on its structure?”

I threw on a sheepish smile. “Heh…heh…well, it was s-sort of an accident. That’s how these things usually happen, right?” I wasn’t lying, but I couldn’t tell him the truth. My ass would be on the line by allowing an unsupervised student down there.

“Well, that was quite lucky for you then. So glad for you, son. After you take your students on the expedition, I’ll give you two semesters off for research. How about that?”

Two semesters? Wow! I definitely was going to go easy on Charlene for this great mistake. “Thanks, sir,” I said, laughing with him.

“No problem! Can’t wait to see what other discoveries you’ll find!”

Just then, we heard a knock on the door and Charlene rushed in. Before I could stop her, she apologized for breaking the pot and said I had nothing to do with it.

The dean just stared at me, glaring. “A lower level student was allowed in the archaelogical archives? Liam, I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

So, instead of this accident working out in my favor, Charlene managed to make sure I was sunk. Why was I so caring? It never got me anything but pain.

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