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The final moments of the final lesson. Charles glanced around the room as he wound up his farewell speech, wondering how much of what he'd said over the last ten weeks had sunk in, how much they'd retain.
Because they were there voluntarily--and had paid for the privilege of being taught by him--they'd certainly tried to come to grips with the life and times of Shakespeare, and, in the last three weeks of the course, Romeo and Juliet, but eight o'clock on a Friday night wasn't the ideal time to schedule a community course aimed at people with jobs and families. Three people had dropped out after the first two weeks, and, although he couldn't blame that on the timetable, the only one he would truly miss was Anne Sinclair. One of his star students, she'd rushed off to Iowa after her daughter had broken her leg three months after giving birth.
Charles felt sincere sympathy for the daughter, but an equally sincere regret at losing Anne, whose intelligent questions could always be counted on to revitalize a stalled discussion.
Those that were left were, for the most part, older than him. At thirty-two, a rising star at Suffolk County College, he was used to lecturing to the best and the brightest; children turning to adults as he watched, young enough to be awed or disrespectful, depending on how the freedom of being away from home for the first time took them. He could deal with both attitudes, and do it well. His classes were always well-attended and tenure was going to be as close to automatic as it got.
It was more than he'd expected when he'd left England six years earlier. He'd left in a hurry and arrived clutching a suitcase and a reference from hisformer employer, Durham University, that missed out a lot in order to be helpfully enthusiastic. He couldn't say his heart had been broken back in England, but it had certainly been hardened.
He'd been lucky. Lucky to get a job when his blank face and snarled admission to his prospective employers that he was gay should have closed doors, not opened them; lucky to have made friends, a few at least. Lucky to have found a house that needed work, lots of it, so that he could fall asleep at night tired in body as well as mind, guaranteeing the deep sleep that had eluded him for so long.
Fortunate to have rediscovered his gift for writing, so that the packed bookshelves in his house held four books with his name on the spine.
And if he hadn't done more than date and--sometimes--end up in bed with someone whose name he could barely recall a week later, because he wasn't that discourteous, but whose face was a blur, well, it was enough. It was all he wanted.
After Alan, it was plenty.
Teaching this course was a way of paying back some of his luck; Peter Matthews, the man in charge of the community college, had been his first friend in a strange country. He'd given Charles a place to stay, although his children--three of them, all under the age of six--had made it less of a refuge than a stopgap, and introduced him to the Dean of the local university. Who had, amazingly, heard of Dr. Charles Stanway, because he was a Shakespeare-obsessed Anglophile, and was more than willing to flaunt his liberal credentials by employing someone who was gay--providing that Charles was discreet and kept well away from the students. And, as an afterthought, the staff.
Charles had assured him, dryly, that it wouldn't be a problem. The fresh-faced students were unlikely to be tempting, and he'd had enough experience teaching to be able to deflect the wide-eyed crushes and the blatant come-ons without thinking, even if they had been. The rest of the faculty didn't hold anyone he was interested in, either, which he supposed was just as well, as he loved working there.
Yes, he owed Peter--and teaching this course had been good for him. In tailoring his theories to an audience that he had, in some cases, underestimated, he'd found himself discovering new subtleties in the text. It had been both humbling and educational, and although he wouldn't want to do this often, he found himself giving serious consideration to doing it again. Maybe.