"Yes, Professor Krumsfeld, I can arrange to be there in June," Katherine Anderson said into the telephone.
"Fine, fine," said the professor. "I'm glad you can arrange your schedule to attend this seminar. You know, dear, we have arranged to have several of the finest teachers of marriage and family at our seminar. You, along with your credentials, will certainly be an asset."
"Thank you, Professor. I am looking forward to meeting you, and everyone else," Katherine said.
The professor made small talk for a few more minutes. Katherine voiced the appropriate noises at the appropriate times, all the while trying to maintain her calm demeanor. But, inside she was jubilant. Being invited to teach and collaborate at the marriage and family seminar, held during the month of June at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, was a coup. The academic world required a calm, but positive outward appearance. Inside, however, Katherine was turning cartwheels and jumping for joy. The invitation to teach at the seminar at OSU had arrived two weeks ago. Katherine had filled out the application and sent it in to Professor Krumsfeld, and talking to him now, for the first time, she was a little amused at his personality. Professor Krumsfeld sounded rather frail and elderly, but perhaps his voice belied a strong physical presence.
Still murmuring polite responses to the professor's chitchat, Katherine glanced around her office. The decor had been chosen with great care. The plants were all cultivated and cared for. The expensively framed abstract prints on the walls aroused the aura of elegance. Katherine had refused the standard university metal filing cabinets, and had purchased, with her own money, lovely oak veneer filing cabinets. So many faculty offices were messy, with files and papers strewn around. Katherine had taken great pains to cultivate a neat, proper image. She had always worn conservative business suits, with the hemline not too high, and not too low. Academia was serious business.
"Yes, Professor, I certainly agree," Katherine said, trying to sound solicitous, as the professor rambled on.
Katherine eased her foot out of the proper pump that exactly matched her suit. It took so much work to appear well mannered and stately. Katherine had pursued her career with single-mindedness. She had worked hard to achieve her current position. Dressed in her working clothes, she knew she presented the proper university image. She had shoulder length brown hair with blue eyes that were studious when she was serious and sparkled when she was having fun.
Katherine had always dreamed of achieving recognition in the academic world. Her life followed a very carefully constructed path. From the time she had started high school, Katherine worked hard to receive the best grades. She chose her undergraduate school for its marriage and family program, and she chose her grad school for its excellent doctoral program. Three years ago, she had graduated, with honors, as a Ph.D. in psychology, holding a special emphasis in marriage and family. Katherine had accepted a position here at Ohio State University, and she was on the tenure track. Attending Professor Krumsfeld's seminar would certainly add to her vitae.
"Oh yes, Katherine dear, we have new student apartments which have just been built here on the campus," Professor Krumsfeld said. "All of our guests will be staying in the apartments. I'm certain you'll be quite comfortable."
"That will be most satisfactory, Professor." Katherine agreed. A new apartment sounded much better than an old dorm room. That had been the hardest part of college. Katherine liked having her own space, and sharing such a tiny space with so many girls, not to mention the only bathroom being so far down the hall, had been difficult. Truth be known, she hadn't given any thought to the living arrangements at the seminar at OSU.
"Well, then, dear, do you have any more questions for me?" asked the Professor.
"No, sir, you've covered everything."
"Well, then, we'll see you on June 3rd. Miss Anderson, just let me say that my wife and I are looking forward to meeting you."
Katherine bristled at being referred to as Miss Anderson, not Dr. Anderson, but it wouldn't be worthwhile to correct the professor, and even possibly upset him. She coaxed a smile onto her face, hoping he would be able to hear it through the telephone.
"Yes, I am looking forward to meeting you as well."
"It is an honor to have such a collection of experts on marriage and family coming to our little school. I'm quite certain that all of that experience will just shower down over our fair city. Perhaps our expertise can help to slow the divorce rate. Don't you think so, Katherine, dear?" he asked with a chuckle.
Inwardly Katherine sighed at being called by her first name. The professor didn't seem to be aware that calling a woman 'dear' was not appropriate in this day and age. She searched for a quick non-committal answer to his impossible question. Katherine's first impression of the Professor had been that he was elderly and frail. Perhaps he was not as aware of current social trends.
Rolling her eyes, but keeping her tone moderate, Katherine replied, "Well, professor, I do hope that we can make a small contribution to the decline in the divorce rate."
"Yes, dear, I'm certain you and your husband will be quite an asset to our little seminar. I must go now. Do ring up if you have any more questions. Otherwise, I'll see you in June. Goodbye, dear."
Katherine stared at the phone in her hand, losing her carefully cultivated academic composure for a moment. Husband? Married? Where had the professor gotten the idea that she was married?
Not quite sure what had just happened, Katherine put her shoe on and leaned back in her chair. She realized that she was still holding the phone receiver, and she reached out to dial the professor and correct his mistake. Quickly, she caught herself. The teaching assignment at the seminar was too big an opportunity to pass up. She swiveled around in her chair, looking out her window. The window was small, and it overlooked the physical plant. Katherine's view consisted of a lot of bricks and a waft of smoke from the smoke stack. It was a far cry from a corner office with two windows.
Honesty was important in any relationship, but Katherine was not about to blow this seminar. She bit her bottom lip, as thoughts raced through her mind. She needed a husband, and she needed one fast.
Making a quick decision, she sat up straight, reached for the phone, and dialed a number from memory. On the other end of the line, the answering machine picked up. Impatiently she waited for the beep. "Steven, I need a favor! Can you meet me at Mario's at 6:30?"
Steven Colby dropped his racquetball gear inside the front door, hit the play button on his answering machine, and darted to the kitchen for water. Coming back into the living room, holding his water bottle, he smiled with amusement at Katherine's message.
"What can it be this time?" Steven muttered to himself. With Katherine, there was no telling. Of all the people he knew in his life, Katherine was the one who provided the most fascinating company. It was always amusing to see how her mind worked, whether she was throwing a party or advancing her career. Steven formed a mental picture of Katherine sitting in her office at the university. She would be wearing a proper business suit. More than likely, if she were alone, she would have kicked off her shoes under the desk. He smiled at the mental picture.
Steven had known Katherine since their undergrad days at UCLA. They'd met at a social mixer, and they'd always been good buddies. He'd been an aspiring writer, and she had been talking about her career path. He didn't take her seriously at first. Then he learned how committed she was to her career. After college, he'd gone to Seattle, and Katherine had gone to graduate school. In Seattle, Steven had found his niche as a writer of sci-fi action books for teenagers. That paid the bills, and he still had time to pursue his passion: the research and writing of American history. When Katherine moved to Columbus three years ago, he'd been looking for a change. He'd really surprised himself when he moved to Columbus, too. It was a spur of the moment decision, but one that he hadn't regretted. Besides Katherine, he had a wide circle of friends. He could take his work anywhere, and he enjoyed the research opportunities at the Ohio State University library.
Still chuckling at the sound of her voice on his answering machine, Steven wondered what was in store this time. With Katherine, you never could tell. It could be anything from borrowing his popcorn popper to guest lecturing in the history department. It didn't matter what she wanted. He'd do it, if just to see her in the role of staid associate professor. Being around Katherine was never boring. She was the one person in his life whose visits were never inconvenient. When he had good news to share, she was the first one he wanted to share it with.
Katherine was one of the best friends that Steven had ever had. It surprised him that they had never had a single romantic encounter. He really enjoyed her company. They hung out a lot, socialized a lot, and talked on the phone a lot. He found her very attractive. But, back in undergraduate school, they had drifted into an easygoing friendship, and it was still there. If the truth were told, and Steven tried to avoid those thoughts, he found Katherine very attractive. But long ago, he had made the determination that he wanted Katherine in his life, on whatever terms she'd have him. If he didn't get to be her boyfriend, then he'd be her friend.
Steven took life as it came. He didn't borrow trouble or worry about unnecessary things. There wasn't much use in getting uptight about anything, and Steven rarely got uptight. He reached for the answering machine to erase his messages, but then his hand stopped. He left Katherine's voice the way it was. He wasn't sure what she did to him, but this relationship was such an adventure. He shook his head, chuckling at himself, as he headed off to the shower. He had to be ready by 6:30. Katherine would be waiting.