"Good morning, Dean Minor."
"Good morning, Anne," replied Saptosa Minor, Dean of Students, as she hung her cloak on the stand in the corner. She accepted the large mug of black tea from her smiling assistant, knowing it was prepared just as she liked it with a splash of milk and a good dollop of honey. Something in Anne's unusually bright smile, however, made her wary. "Is it not such a good morning?"
"I have the day's schedule ready." Anne handed over a stack of files with a single sheet of paper atop it. It was penned in Anne's impeccable hand. Saptosa looked at it and saw immediately what had caused her assistant's concern. "Master Morgan," she said in a resigned tone.
"Yes, Dean." It was an apology as much as an agreement. "I made your tea extra strong this morning."
Saptosa smiled weakly. "Thank you, Anne. I would be lost without you." She took the files and tea into her office, shutting the door behind her. Before she could face the day, particularly one that would start with her most problematic student, she took a sip of tea. It was hot and just as strong as Anne had promised. Saptosa took a second sip and sighed.
Setting aside the schedule sheet, she took the top file from the stack and placed it before her on the blotter. Not that there was any need to look at it again; it hadn't changed significantly since Matthew had arrived at the university in the autumn, and she'd seen it enough over the months to know what it contained. Still, another look might reveal something she'd missed in her countless previous perusals. It was unlikely, but not impossible.
She sipped her tea as she half-heartedly scanned the file. Large family; youngest child; southern-born; no strong interest in any one subject; no strong aversion to any other. Steady attendance record; acceptable, if not outstanding, grades. She could recite it in her sleep. In all her years of teaching and administration, she'd never come across a student quite like Matthew. Usually, when one was this lacking in goals or direction, one tended to stir up trouble. She could have dealt with that, but this
He was like a stick in a river, bobbing along wherever the current took him. She shook her head and took another, longer swallow of her tea.
There must be something he wanted, something he liked, something that interested him. Didn't there?
"Of course there must," she said aloud to the empty office. "I simply have to draw it out of him. Guide him to an answer. I was top of my classes in human behavior. I will not let this young man defeat me."
A light knock came at the door and Anne poked her head in. "Your first appointment is hear, Dean."
Saptosa sat up to her full height, straightened the cuffs of her cardigan, and took one more bracing drink of tea. "Thank you, Anne. Send him in."