She leans against the tiled wall, watching the students pass by. In her full length, brown, corduroy skirt, white blouse and boots she feels ridiculously overdressed compared to the young people all around her. Pretending everything is perfectly fine she takes a deep breath, as if trying to keep her heart from leaping right from her mouth. She closes her eyes for a moment to take another deep breath before clutching her books to her chest and walking into the class room.“Excuse me, professor” a tall, tanned, muscular young man in a sleeveless,gray shirt and shorts walks up to her “do we need the Friedman book right away?”
“I… I’m not the professor,” she answers softly, trying not to seem too embarrassed, “I’m a student.”
“Oh, um, cool.” He shrugs his shoulders and returns to his seat.
In her mind’s eye they are all staring at her, the old lady in the room. Forty two and only just returning to school after fifteen years away, what must they think of her? She avoids looking at them, and instead concentrates on organizing her iPad, books and other course materials. This wastes only ninety seconds of time, and there are still nine minutes before class begins. All around her the young people chatter, and again the self-conscious, self-absorbed part of her tells her it is about her, though really, she knows that is not the case.
This is her reward. This is what she needs after giving up her dreams twice: once to marry her husband and see him through law school, the second time to have their children. Now that their youngest is in middle school, and he can work from home, it is her turn to go after what she wants. She does not feel guilty. She makes herself not feel guilty. She is an excellent wife and mother, but she can be other things besides if she chooses.
The professor comes in and she is certain he is younger than her. The young man walks up to him and they exchange words quickly. It is obvious from the dejected look in his eyes as he goes to sit down that, yes, they will need the Friedman book right away. She takes it from the bottom of the pile and the instructor looks over at her and smiles. All the instincts she has learned as a woman over the years do not like that smile, and she brushes her hair out of her eyes, making sure to do so with her left hand to show off her wedding band. His smile fades a bit and he looks out over the class.
“OK, kiddies,” he claps his hands, “I am Dr. Weilland…” he goes on about the syllabus and her nerves settle. She can do this. She will excel in her studies, she will not feel old, and she will not feel guilty.