“All right, time’s up. Turn in your tests.” The four high school seniors who were taking my college credit course in American history had very diverse reactions. The test was a ball buster that wasn’t meant to be completed within the two hours they had available to them. Three of the four groaned, hastily scratching out last minute essay answers. The fourth smiled. She had finished her exam ten minutes before and was re-checking the multiple choice. All four of these kids were excellent students, but Landrie Souther was extraordinary.

I knew what the results of the tests would likely be before I graded them; the Stephens twins would land in the mid-to-high “B” range, Jeff Lawton would land anywhere between a “C” and a solid “A” depending on how much weed he’d smoked last night, and Landrie would secure the high A. Landrie had such a substantial GPA lead in her class that she had already been declared valedictorian. These results wouldn’t hurt any. It had been the same way from the first time she’d shown up as a transfer her junior year, and I it would undoubtedly continue when she enrolled at Stanford in a few months. It was one of the sadder days of my teaching career because it would end my time with Landrie, who was hands down the best student I’d ever had.

My name is Tyler Stevens, I’m the head of the history teacher at Perry high school. We’re a mostly rural district not too far from Kansas City, a mix of farms and new developments built for escapees from the city. We’re a very family-oriented community of mostly Protestant farmers and the doctors, accountants, teachers, truckers and grain elevator operators who serve them. My parents and their parents before them taught in the schools here.

I knew I was going to be a teacher from when I was young. When other kids were reading Dr. Seuss, my parents had me reading the Young Americans biographies. They weren’t pushy, just enthusiastic. I caught the bug at a young age and kept it all the way through high school and college. In fact, history and cross-country were all I cared about in high school. And girls, of course. I graduated summa cum laude at KU, so I had plenty of offers coming out of college, including a decent graduate assistant position, but I wanted to come home. It wasn’t a compromise to me, it was a calling, and a good one.

My ten-year career has been solid, I like to think. The first year was a chrome-plated bitch. Like most good teachers I thought about quitting, but also like those same good teachers, I didn’t. I got my masters through KU’s remote class system at the end of my fourth year. When old Dolph Reems retired five years ago, I became the history department head and two years ago, I became our cross-country coach. Each of these steps came with a small bump in pay as well. I’m not rich but I I’m comfortable and as a single man have plenty of latitude to do what I want in my free time.

I’ve always loved competition. Perhaps it was a holdover from my days as a runner or being competitive over grades, but if I was doing something meaningful, I wanted to test myself against others in it. When I inherited the responsibility for the inter-scholastic history team from Dolph it gave those competitive urges a place to flourish. Dolph was good teacher, but at the end of his career he was a tired one. While this was understandable, the team had gone to seed. We had not finished with a top ten finish in years.

Building the team required identifying students who had the ability to compete, getting them interested in competing, and then training them up. As a practical matter the team was limited to seniors, because the test covered both World History and American History and only the seniors had taken both by the end of their junior years. By encouraging new members, working them hard, and cycling out the kids who wouldn’t make the necessary commitment of time and energy, we gradually improved our finishes from eighth place in our first year, fourth place in our second, to first place in each of the last three. The trophies in the back of my classroom were a tribute to what those kids had done, and it gave the upcoming kids something to shoot for.

I was building the cross-country team the same way. I’d never led from the back and had never really stopped running, so when I met my guys at 6;00 every morning, they were racing to beat me. When they were lifting for core strength, they were lifting to beat me. So far no one had. We just placed fourth in regionals for the first time in a decade and I have three returning seniors next year, so I expect us to do even better.

My success as a teacher wasn’t matched in my personal life. I’m not bitching, believe me. I’ve got good friends, good colleagues, and a great family and I live in a community where I’m known and respected. But meeting that “certain someone,” hell, even meeting that “interesting someone” had proven to be a big challenge.

I dated extensively in college, even to the point of talking about settling down with the girl I was with my junior year. But she had dreams of moving to one of the coasts and pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, and that just wasn’t for me. Since becoming a teacher I’ve dated from time-to-time, but nothing steady has developed. Recently I’ve pretty much stopped looking. There have been plenty of lonely nights, but I covered for them with ball games at the school, class preparation, and outings with friends and family. I believed that the right woman would come into my life at some point. I still do.

There was always the opportunity for an illicit romance in school. The stories were legend of this coach or that teacher being caught on a date in a nearby town with a student several years their younger, even rumors of teachers trading sex for grades. I understood the temptation of dating a student much more so that the outright sex for grades business. In my view the teacher who’d trade sex for a grade ought to be prosecuted, then gelded. While I understood how they could happen, I felt that a romantic relationship between a teacher and student was a recipe for disaster. The risk was just too great that the student lacked the maturity to have any perspective in the matter, not to mention that if the relationship went sideways it would be the teacher who was blamed and stood to lose his job. And nine times out of ten it was a “him.”

There were plenty of students over the years who had shown interest. These very awkward approaches became almost scripted. The girl “stood just a little to close” or “stared just a little too long” in the words of Bonnie Raitt. You could see them scouting out the class as it filtered out, waiting back for a chance to be alone with you, see the incredible anxiety as they approached you, the faltering, awkward words, the blush. My rule was to be kind but firm. I didn’t want to send the girl off crying, but I also wanted it to be crystal clear that I wasn’t open to a relationship. After the first year or two teaching, I developed a sixth sense for attraction problems coming my way. I quickly developed a “hands off” reputation amongst the students that discouraged these advances. That was just fine with me, at least it was until Landrie’s senior year.

Landrie’s family moved into our school district from Florida just after she turned eighteen. Her transcript indicated both that she was a fabulous student, and that she was a year older than here peers. Those didn’t jive. Students this bright don’t get held back, they get advanced. I then learned that her family had worked abroad in the far East when she was very young and that she had contracted some sort of serious wasting tropical disease. They’d licked it with the help of modern medicine, but Landrie had been held back a year because of it.

She was a wicked good student. Not just smart, but diligent, funny, and a subtly strong leader. I use the Socratic method to teach, asking the kids questions concerning the subject matter to put them in the catbird seat of learning and make them responsible for acquiring and holding onto the material. It also helped them learned to speak in public and under pressure, which was an added bonus. I realized about a month after her arrival that, had she wanted, Landrie could have answered every single question I posed. For a short time, she did just that. Then, seeing the rolling eyes and hearing the cat-calls, she came to understand that other students needed to be involved too. So, after a couple of weeks of answering virtually every question asked of the class, Landrie just quit raising her hand, forcing her fellow students to come front and center in the learning process. Once they adjusted, she would pop in from time-to-time and answer the questions too difficult for her peers, or that particularly interested her.

Landrie also happened to be stunningly beautiful. I distinctly remember the first day she walked into my class about a week after we started the school year. Every boy in that class bore a “deer in the headlights” look. She was perhaps no more than 5′ 4″ with a figure I would describe as more athletic than petite. She had strong tapered legs, a narrow waist that broadened out to a lovely plum-shaped bottom and breasts that were somewhere between a “B” and a “C” in size, but an A+ in shape. She had large green eyes with a hint of occidental shape to them, a pert little nose and full pouty lips. Hers was the kind of face that was so beautiful that it undid you. It was good sport to watch the poor boys in the class as they tried to avoid, often unsuccessfully, tripping over their own tongues in even their most low-key exchanges with her. I had sympathy because I wasn’t too far removed from the way they felt.

Right after she transferred in, she approached me and asked to sit for the tests to make the competition interscholastic history team. I had an open-door policy, I told her, but warned that it would be tough for her to make the team because she hadn’t taken American History. To my surprise, Landrie easily made the team, making the fourth highest score on the exam without ever having taken any formal course work in American History.

I had Landrie in honors AP American History as a junior, of course. Perhaps it was reaching the magic 18 year so early, but she changed rapidly, as did the way I saw her. Landrie had tried out for and made the cheerleading squad. This was remarkable because cheerleader assignments were won on popularity and looks alone, and while Landrie was gorgeous, she was a complete unknown to our students. She’d won the competition by showing extraordinary skill. Evidently Landrie had trained as a gymnast for years and was just as serious about that as she was her studies. Suddenly, she was “the” girl on campus that everyone wanted to be next to, especially the boys.

I couldn’t tell that it changed her much, with one exception. The spring of that year I noticed that she was putting more of herself on display. The oversized sweatshirts and long jeans she’d worn through the fall semester were being replaced with short-shorts or mini-skirts, and tighter, more daring blouses, on which she left an extra button unbuttoned. That was, for me at least, when the trouble began.

My class was configured with five rows, always. Landrie sat on the fourth of five rows on my right, second chair from the front. Also, always. No idea why, but this was always her perch in every class she took from me. The problem was that after Landrie began wearing more daring attire, she acted just as she had when she was wearing sweatpants or jeans, namely, she wasn’t particularly careful about keeping her legs closed or crossed. She didn’t seem to be intentionally baring her Bermuda triangle, she was just studiously indifferent about the risk that someone else would look at it.

For a teacher, the attraction to a student, no, to a student’s private parts, in a crowded classroom, with other students watching, was death row, a dark place where you go to get blown the fuck up. It wouldn’t do to have Landrie or one of the other students see me staring at Landrie’s spread legs and have rumors start flying about Mr. Stevens being a perv.

Inevitably, Landrie caught me staring straight at the forbidden fruit. They were taking a test and I had finished grading all of the World History exams from the previous period. It was my habit to do spot checks during tests to make sure that students weren’t cheating. As I moved from left to right and front to back through the rows I stopped when reaching Landrie.

She was wearing a tight dark blue polka-dot blouse that day, tied with a knot at the bottom and a gauzy pair of white shorts. So gauzy, in fact, that I could see the outline of what looked like a black thong beneath the cream-colored material. Don’t go there I instructed my wandering thoughts. They didn’t listen. I patrolled down the rest of her row, then came back once again to look at Landrie. She was leaning back, pen in her mouth, focusing on the next question. She’d slumped back into her seat and her legs were splayed so far out that I could see her panties clearly, and a mile of hot white thigh. My thoughts went something like this…

Don’t stare at her pussy.

Don’t stare at her pussy.

For God’s sake, don’t stare at her pussy!

Oh my God, are those lace panties?

Shit, those are lace, that’s definitely a thong. Shit, she wears thongs.

Damn, I’d pay good money to see that.

Shut up you perv.

I’d pay good money to hit that!

God! Get your mind out of the gutter.

Shit, don’t stare at her pussy.

Grade your fucking tests, you stupid dick.

So preoccupied, I looked up and saw that Landrie was looking straight at me. Nailed I thought. I felt a hot red flush creep up my neck that could be seen all the way from the back of the classroom. That’s when she smiled at me, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head just a little as if to say oh, you want to go there do you? Her message seemed clear; I caught you, now I’m going to have some fun with it. I smiled back shyly, my face crimson, then looked back at my desk and pretended to continue grading the already graded World History exams. When I looked up again Landrie was again hard at work on her test. I avoided her entirely as she left the class, relieved by a question from one of her fellow students.

In the days that followed Landrie seemed to double down on her provocative dress, wearing her shortest shorts and skirts, items guaranteed to draw me into a perusal of her treasures. And, unless I was misperceiving things, she was remarkably more careless about leaving her legs spread open. I don’t think I saw her with her legs crossed more than once or twice the rest of the year.

Try as I might, I just couldn’t keep from sneaking peeks at her, and Landrie reveled in catching me at it. Surprisingly, she was always playful and accepting of my attention, never condemning. Unfortunately, my control was so weak, or perhaps the draw of those thighs was so strong, that my infirmities became a game between us. I’d be grading tests or visiting with another student and when my eyes came up, they would immediately track to the spot where Landrie’s panties might be on display–second seat, row number four. Most times my glimpses were so brief, so to speak, and Landrie was so involved elsewhere, that I could look without being caught.

But often Landrie caught me looking. Then, one day Landrie caught me and extended her index finger right over her crotch in the unmistakable “number 1” signal. As always, when I looked up after being caught, Landrie was smiling. I came to understand that what she was saying was “that’s the first time I caught you today.” Later she raised two fingers meaning “that’s the second time.” On my least disciplined day she caught me three times. She balled her fist and stuck her thumb up like a baseball umpire and give it a little jerk to say “you’re out!!” I couldn’t help but laugh despite my embarrassment. My interest in Landrie (sometimes observable from the large bulge in my jeans) was becoming embarrassing and I feared it would be noticed by other students.

My infatuation with Landrie was so strong that it became obvious to at least one of my good friends. Jordy Kolb taught math and the two of us had run cross country together years before. He and I were walking through the gym on our way back to class at the end of Landrie’s Junior year when we spotted Landrie and her cheerleading crew on their knees at work on a large banner painting on some support message. Landrie’s big blue panties, as I thought of them, had crept up the crack of her bottom and she was showing enormous butt cleavage. When we walked by one of her cohorts jostled Landrie’s hand and nodded her head in our direction. Landrie looked up and gave me an angelic smile, not bothering to sit up or cover her obviously exposed behind. I stumbled a little bit and Jordy sprung like a hawk.

“Easy there, buddy. Nothing but trouble between those cheeks” he said quietly.

“Fuck you, asshole” I responded angrily. Too angrily.

“Whoa! Hit a nerve, did I? Not that I wouldn’t want to hit that stuff too.”

“Nobody’s hitting anybody’s stuff” I replied hotly. “She’s a great kid, that’s all and I she’s the best student I’ve ever had. That’s it. Whole report.”

“Yeaaaaa, riiiiight” Jordy responded sarcastically. “That didn’t look like a ‘favorite teacher’ smile if you ask me. It looked more like a ‘I’ll let you do more than peek smile.”

“Yeah, well nobody asked you, did they?” I responded, again with too much heat.

“Okay” he said, “Okay! I get it. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see. I’m walking away officer. I got it.”

My relationship with Landrie became chummier the more time we spent preparing for the competition that year. The competition was in Wichita—a long haul out and a long haul back—but we won it hands down again with Landrie placing a surprisingly strong 8th overall out of nearly 200 students. She would be a fantastic leader for next years’ team if she did it again. When it came time to return home Landrie insisted on riding shotgun, claiming that she would get road-sick otherwise. All five of the other members of the team—all boys—grumbled good naturedly, but agreed. I knew exactly what they were really grumbling about; they wanted their fair share of time sitting cheek to cheek with the head cheerleader.

The competition had run late, as always, and it was 8;30 before we finished our celebration dinner and hit the road. At first the “boat” as we called it was full of celebration and joking conversation, but as the miles passed the entire team seated in the back nodded off one-by-one. Landrie became very anxious, turning to check out the guys several times in what could only have been an attempt to assure herself that the guys were all conked out. She fidgeted in her seat, straightened her skirt and top, and literally wrung her hands, before beginning the conversation that was clearly unsettling her.

“What was KU like?” she asked. “I’m looking at schools and they’ve offered a full ride. I’m not likely to get that anywhere else and my mom is pushing to keep me close. What do you think?”

I told her what KU was like from my perspective. She listened, but seemed preoccupied. As the conversation progressed, the reason for her nervousness became apparent. The conversation wasn’t about my life at KU, it was about me.

“So, what’s the dating scene like there?” she asked.

“Well, I didn’t date a whole lot. Well, at least I didn’t date a large number of people. There are two tracks at KU, one for the Frats and Sororities and one for everyone else. If you are in a Frat, you meet girls through the frat, but if you’re in the dorms, you meet people mostly in your dorm.”