Chapter 181 – The Academy’s Secret Lovers (2)
When Stella woke again, it was bright everywhere.
‘Did I fall asleep…?’
She felt miserable and blinked a few times, then moved her stiff body.
She looked up, and realized that her head was propped up by something.
And that something, of course, was Professor Hill’s shoulder.
Stella was startled into awareness and swiftly apologized. Idiot! She didn’t want to be a nuisance to the professor, but she had done it again.
“I’m so sorry! Was I heavy? You were supposed to be busy, but because of me—”
“It’s no problem.”
A calm answer returned in between her flurry of confused words. Stella fell silent again, and the professor extinguished the remaining embers in the fireplace.
“Perhaps Miss Lapis…”
“You’d better go back to the dormitory to get your rest.”
And with that, Professor Hill nodded and left the kitchen first. His hurried pace made it clear that he was eager to get back to work.
Stella looked at the fireplace where there was not even a single ember left, and sat down in front of it.
‘The professor hurried out without even looking at me…’
She must have been a terrible inconvenience to him. What should she do?
Since that day, Stella did not go to the greenhouse. Each day she tried to force her feet to walk there, she remembered Professor Hill’s troubled face. She may have been right in her assumption that she wasn’t welcome.
Stella became upset and embarrassed each time. It was a familiar feeling now.
‘I think I expected to be special to the professor.’
She had assumed that their common factor—Professor Lassen—would be something that brought them together. But that was just a painful memory. Why did she only realize that now?
‘The professor is kind to everyone.’
Stella had mistaken it for favoritism, and the delusion had grown from autumn until now.
‘How many months…’
Stella pulled out the handkerchief Professor Hill had given to her long ago. It was white and freshly cleaned, unlike the day when he reluctantly gave it to her.
‘He was so sweet when he didn’t want to give up because it was smudged.’
Stella rose from her seat, holding on to her cherished memories. She had to return this handkerchief. It would be even more awkward the longer she held onto it.
Stella braved the cold wind outside, but when she arrived at his classroom it was empty. His teacher’s assistant informed her that the professor was in the infirmary since yesterday because he wasn’t feeling well.
“Is there anything you want me to give to him?”
The assistant looked at her kindly, but Stella clutched at the handkerchief.
“N-nothing. Thank you.”
The reply came out easily. She was a fool and a liar.
Stella tentatively arrived at the infirmary, but she was able to find Professor Hill without difficulty. Coincidentally, he was asleep in the same bed that she had laid in before. He didn’t know that of course, and she scolded herself for being so self-conscious.
Stella looked around at the immediate surroundings. Even when the professor was sick, he still busied himself with piles of books and notes at his bedside table. She wished he could just get some rest.
A book lay on his bed, and she carefully picked it up and set it on a stool along with the handkerchief. She looked back at the professor, but found there was still another problem aside from the books.
‘He’s thinks he’s being stylish when he sleeps!’
No he’s not! He was sleeping with his glasses on.
‘Isn’t it inconvenient? ’
Stella never wore glasses, but she thought it might be comfortable sleeping with something on your face.
Stella looked around for a moment. She wasn’t going to do anything bad, but her heart was pounding wildly in her chest. She carefully lifted both arms of the glasses off his ears.
‘P-Professor, I’m sorry!’
After making an unnecessary apology, she slowly began pulling the glasses away, revealing his face.
‘His eyelashes…are long.’
As she had that thought, Professor Hill’s brow furrowed. Stella froze with the glasses only midway off his face.
‘He’s not waking up, is he?’
Fortunately, his eyes remained closed.
Stella breathed a sigh of relief, and began pulling away the glasses again.
Just a little more, a little more.
After a moment of nail-biting concentration, she managed to take the glasses off without waking him up.
Stella gave another relieved exhale.
‘If I place them on the stool, he can easily find them after he wakes up…’
Suddenly, something caught her wrist.
Startled, Stella looked down at the professor as she held his glasses. His green irises were completely visible, and their gazes met. His grip tightened on her wrist.