Kelly Adams sat on the plush couch in the Dean’s outer office and studied the laces of her lime green Chuck Taylors. Not even nine in the morning and she'd already screwed up. Her dad would be furious, livid, apoplectic.
The muted colors and hushed air of the anteroom were a stark contrast to the adrenaline rushing her veins as she waited impatiently for the wiry, old academic whose office she’d visited more than a few times.
Dean Woolerich’s secretary emerged from behind an imposing mahogany desk, patting her peach-tinted gray curls into place as she circled toward Kelly on thick legs. The bitch peered down through her bifocals and smirked. “You won’t get out of this one, young lady.”
Kelly clamped her mouth shut and stared the old bat down.
Finally, the woman harrumphed and strode toward the door to the Dean’s office, cracking it open. “Dr. Woolerich will see you now.”
Standing tall, Kelly marched into the wood-paneled office and shut the heavy carved door in the secretary’s face with a smirk of her own.
“Miss Adams,” the dean said in the tired, thready voice of an aging man. “Have a seat.” He gestured to one of the red leather wingback chairs, perfect for making a person feel as small as possible.
Kelly perched on the edge of the leftmost seat and waited, her eyes roving over the man’s many diplomas and certificates of accomplishment in the worlds of law and academia.
The dean let out a sigh and opened a thick folder on his immaculate desk. Kelly’s mother could have told her the era and style of the ornate piece of wood and whether it was reproduction or original. All Kelly knew was that it screamed money. Merridine University was nothing if not elite and expensive.
“Dr. Leitner has alleged that you cheated on your Constitutional Litigation exam,” he said, pushing his frameless glasses up his nose as he focused on her. “Do you deny the charge?”
She took a deep breath and held his gaze. “No sir. I did it.”
His mouth opened in surprise before he slowly sat back and studied her, steepling his fingers beneath his pale chin. “You’ll have to sign a statement. You understand that this will go on your permanent academic record?”
Confusion knitted his brows and painted a frown on his thin lips. “The punishment for cheating is expulsion,” he declared with a hint of exasperation. The poor man was probably calculating the endowments from her fearsome lawyer-turned-politician father that Kelly had just cost the school. “Not even your father can get you out of this one, Miss Adams.”
Exactly. Attempting to look ashamed, she cast her gaze down. “I understand, sir.”
Fifteen minutes later she practically danced out into the sun-dappled courtyard ringed with trees, unable to contain the smile that spread from deep within her soul.
She was finally free.
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