by Morris J. Marshall
Chapter 10: Back in Class
He was watching her. Krista was sure of it now. She had been glancing at him out of the corner of her eye for almost an hour while she spoke at the front of the lecture hall. The guy was sitting in the second to last row between two of her regular students. He had a ponytail, a thick, brown hipster beard and was dressed in a black biker jacket and tight bluejeans. Krista couldn’t see his eyes behind his mirrored sunglasses, but she could feel their penetration.
At first, she had thought he was a student. He looked ten years older than the other students in her class, but that in itself wasn’t unusual. There were many mature students in the college. Maybe he had just missed the first few classes and was joining the class now, four weeks in.
No matter how Krista tried to rationalize this guy’s existence at the back of her class, she couldn’t. He wasn’t writing notes like her other students. He was just staring at her. When she looked at him, his head would drop as if he were looking at his smartphone. When her attention shifted back to the board, his head came up and he focused on her.
Krista could hear her own voice as if it was coming from a distance. She squinted to deflect the glare of the neon lights. “Financial planners look at the expected future price of a stock, that is, the expected price of that stock in a month, six months or a year. Then they make investment decisions. Short-selling involves selling an asset at a higher price and buying it back for a profit at a lower price.”
As she stared at the stranger, the bright taste of panic flooded her mouth. This is what it felt like when you had your last breakdown. You were sure that everyone who passed you on the street was staring at you and judging you. And how about that time when you were sitting at the back of a bus and you suddenly felt like you were being smothered, as if someone had jammed a pillow over your face? You had to get off right away, blocks away from your stop.
But things were different this time. There was one person looking at Krista now, and he really was staring at her. Unlike during her last depression, she was on an extra dose of lithium each day. She was fully in touch with reality, wasn’t she?
On her break, Krista returned to her office to retrieve her sandwich. Walking through the halls, she glanced behind her periodically to make sure she wasn’t being followed. When a guy wearing a black leather jacket brushed by her, she froze. It was only a student. He apologized and continued walking.
“I thought you were still in class,” Steve said as she entered the office.
“There’s this guy staring at me in the lecture hall. I’ve never seen him before.”
“Are you sure, Krista? What did he look like?”
She described him, commenting on the strangeness of his mirrored sunglasses, especially on a cold, cloudy winter day.
Steve smiled. “The guy’s probably got bloodshot eyes from smoking too much pot.”
“I’m serious,” Krista said. “I have no idea what he’s up to. These days you can’t be too—”
“Why don’t you just ask him?”
It sounded like a plan. She returned to her class, ready to resume her lecture. Steve was right. She’d approach the man after class to find out who he was. Chances were that Starks had asked him to attend her class to see how her teaching was progressing. Maybe he was a prospective college professor looking for teaching tips. The Foreign Teacher Training Program often placed teachers in college classes to observe professors.
During a break in her lecture, Krista glanced toward the back of the lecture hall. The seat her watcher had occupied was empty. But he was there, Krista thought. I didn’t imagine that. She exhaled. There wouldn’t be a confrontation after all.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Krista’s ringtone sounded while she was on the bus heading home. She reached into her purse and grabbed her phone. “Hello?”
“Hi, Krista, it’s Earl Gavner from DBC Financial.”
“Oh, hi. I didn’t expect to hear back from you so soon.”
“We discussed the resumes earlier today, and it was clear that you were the most qualified applicant. I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve decided to hire you for the financial planner position. It’s a one-year, part-time position, but it should give you some experiences for your economics class.”
“That’s great, sir. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Can you start tomorrow at 9:00 a.m?”
“We’ll see you then.”
“Thanks again, sir.” Krista hung up the phone.
* * *
“Congratulations,” Tran said when Krista called him that night.
“Thanks,” Krista said. “I’ll be meeting with clients to assess their risk aversion, then suggest suitable investments.”
“I’ll be your first client. My investments are on life support.”
“We’ll work on it.”
“Have dinner with me tonight, Krista. I know a nice Vietnamese restaurant not far from here.”
“Sounds good, but I can’t. I have to be up early tomorrow. Can I take a rain check?”
“Of course,” Tran said. “Can you promise me something?”
“Be careful. Keep your eyes wide open and listen. I’ll do everything I can to help you from out here, but after what happened to those other financial planners—”
“I’ll be fine,” Krista replied. “I’m hoping this won’t take long.”
“I enjoyed the other night,” Tran said. “That talk really helped me.”
“Me, too. Don’t worry, there’ll be lots more.”
Copyright © 2017 by Morris J. Marshall