In the Tarot, the Hierophant is sometimes known as the High Priest or the Pope and generally appears in the form of a teacher or mentor. He’s always knowledgeable and wise but he can run the risk of being too hidebound and dogmatic. He can be the beloved mentor who is always there with the perfect bit of advice or that nasty teacher who still tries to teach that the earth is flat. He is calm, rational and ethical but he can also lack balance and be stubborn to the point of disaster, especially if his beliefs are called into question.

“You may begin.”

Galen Forsythe looked out over the sea of bent heads as his latest crop of graduate students hunched over their desks, furiously reading through the questions on the exam he had just passed out. A few began scribbling furiously while others perused the questions more carefully. One particular walnut-colored head was missing and Galen couldn’t help but worry. Lydia Curry had a perfect attendance record and a damn fine grade—almost a perfect score in fact. He wondered what could have possibly kept her from the final exam.

He pulled a wad of message slips and scribbled notes out of the pocket of his tweed blazer, where he’d stuffed them when he’d passed by his office mailbox on the way to class. He piled them onto the podium and sorted through the heap. No. Nothing from his brightest, yet most exasperating student. He stuffed the jumble of papers back into his pocket.

And then she was there. She crept through the door as quietly as a mouse but a man would have to be blind to miss the swirling rush of energy that accompanied her everywhere she went. She was young and exuberant and so bloody lovely it hurt to look at her sometimes. She reminded Galen viscerally of every lost moment of his wasted youth. Why couldn’t he have met someone like her when he was young enough to do something about it?

“I’m so sorry, Professor.” Her whisper was breathless, her fair skin flushed. Strands of dark brown hair escaped her haphazard ponytail to cling damply to the creamy white skin of her throat. Her generous bosom bounced as she panted, making Galen glad he stood behind the lectern. It was terribly bad form, he reminded himself, for a forty-five-year-old scholar to go rock-hard at the sight of a student. “My boss absolutely refused to let me leave on time.”

That explained the too-tight cropped T-shirt she wore emblazoned with the logo of Bubba’s Tavern, a popular student lunch venue as well as night spot. Her taut nipples poked through the thin cotton of the shirt and it occurred to him the air conditioning might be a bit high for someone wearing a belly shirt and microscopic denim shorts. Not sure he could speak without openly drooling, Galen just handed her the exam and waved her to a seat. He had no doubt she’d do fine despite the loss of five minutes of testing time.

But she didn’t. His gaze kept drifting back to Lydia as he pretended to watch the room, proctoring the exam. While her pen usually flew with ease across the pages of her work, now it was stalled. Her lush lower lip was caught between her teeth and her wide brown eyes were almost suspiciously bright.

The two-hour testing time lumbered slowly by as one by one the students turned in their exams and fled into the bright May sunshine outdoors. Today was the last day of finals and this late in the afternoon, his was probably the last class of the semester for most if not all of them. Finally, no one was left except Lydia.

Galen couldn’t help himself. He left the safety of the lectern, walked over to the corner seat and glanced down at her paper. A quick look confirmed his fear. She’d written a grand total of three lines on the first essay question and only one on the second. The third was completely blank. He knew she knew the material. She’d argued one of the questions with him in front of the class just last week. And she hadn’t been wrong, to his chagrin. Her point of view was just—different. She forced him to look at history—at life in general—in ways that differed from the old comfortable norm. He admired that in her at the same time he knew he had to avoid it for his own sanity’s sake. But he couldn’t abandon her right now. Not any more than he could stop breathing. He sat down on the chair beside her and spoke her name softly. “What’s the matter, Lydia?”

“Nothing, sir.” Lydia blinked hard to fight back the threatening tears. Dr. Forsythe was her toughest professor but she respected the hell out of his knowledge and understanding of medieval history. She’d tried—and apparently failed—all semester, heck, all through the three years of her PhD program, to earn his respect in return. No matter how hard she studied or how logically she laid out her arguments, he was still tougher on her than on anyone else in the class.

“Nothing?” There it was—that note of wry disbelief that always made her feel like a little girl trying to talk among the grown-ups—which was pretty lame considering she was just six weeks shy of the big three-oh.

“No sir. Nothing.” Nothing except today had been the day from Hell and it didn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon. She handed him the paper. “Since this exam is only twenty percent of our grade for the class, I should still pass, since I did the extra-credit paper on the liturgical calendar and its influence on daily life.”

He nodded, then opened his mouth to speak just as another faculty member ambled into the room, probably ready to set up for one last exam. Whatever Dr. Forsythe was going to say, he turned it into, “Follow me to my office, Ms. Curry. Please.”

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