Title: Student Body
Author: Rafeeq O. McGiveron
Student Body is an allusive, finely grained genre-straddler that incorporates elements of romance, memoir, mystery, even something I might term “fiction of academia,” with mood ranging from mischievous to exulting to elegiac.
Charming young professor-to-be Rick O’Donnell seems to have it all, but he also hides a desperate secret: his brief, passionate affair with a beautiful girl who had been his own student just the semester before, and who now is a fellow teaching assistant with an office right down the hall from his. If the truth comes out, he will lose everything—his once-promising career, his marriage, perhaps even his life. Sensual, poignant, and lyrical, Student Body is a frank and intimate tale of a harrowing week and a half which will decide a deeply conflicted man’s entire future…and the lives of the women who love him.
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Whenever people ask me about my novel, I’m excited to talk about it—and I’ve done so in print, on the web, and on the radio—but at the same time, really, Student Body actually isn’t easy to categorize. When I wrote it, I knew I was crossing the boundaries of several literary genres, but I didn’t care.
The book is deeply romantic, for example, but it definitely is not a romance novel per se. It has some elements of a murder mystery or thriller, but it definitely is not quite one of these. For setting and even certain characters and scenes, I was able to draw from some my own experiences, but the book definitely is not a memoir. I simply had a fictional story to tell, and I told it—movingly, artistically, and evocatively, I hope.
As the novel opens, glib, cocky doctoral student Rick O’Donnell seems to have it all: a loving wife and three young children, a coterie of wisecracking friends, the respect of his professors, and a bright future ahead of him.
and who now is a fellow teaching assistant with an office right down the hall from his. If the truth comes out, he stands to lose everything—his once-promising career, his marriage, perhaps even his life.
Student Body is not about car chases or assassination plots or explosions, therefore, but about the secret needs we all have, the vulnerabilities and the confused motivations, the soul-searching and the angst. The protagonist may be flawed, but he is aware of his shortcomings and the wrongs he has committed, and is struggling now to do right. And yet as Rick is confronted with the one thing he cannot have revealed, he is forced in the desperate silence of his guilt to work through all the gnawing uncertainties and the memories he had thought were buried in the past.
Student Body has been hailed as “vivid” and “emotional,” “smoothly presented” and “carefully crafted,” with an “unexpected conclusion…both believable and satisfying” (http://curiousbookshop.blogspot.com/2014/06/rays-reviews-rafeeq-o-mcgiverons.html). The novel is poignant and introspective, the frank and intimate tale of a harrowing week and a half which will decide a deeply conflicted man’s entire future…and the lives of the women who love him. If you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then I’ll be happy.
Chapter 13, pp. 157-62
At that moment, however, footsteps approached from his blind side, and suddenly an arm insinuated itself about his back, a hand patting too familiarly at his waist, making him jump and his head snap around.
“Heyyy, there, study buddy,” smiled Lauren impishly, bumping her playful hip against his. “How’s it goin’…?” she drawled.
“Why, jes’ fine, study buddy,” he replied as smoothly as he could, matching the girl’s inflections. “Jes’ fine…” Still her slim hand had not released its friendly grip upon his waist, so, a little awkwardly and yet feeling that to match the silly mood of the moment he should, he extended his right arm and copied the gesture, settling his own hand into the delightful tuck of her narrow, supple waist.
Oh, the thrill of that pretendedly casual contact! A warm front had blown up from down south at the beginning of the week, and temperatures had jumped ten or fifteen degrees overnight, hovering unseasonably pleasant for mid-March. Just as Rick had broken out shorts from the top shelf of his closet, today Lauren for the first time had worn a thin, flowered sundress that bared her pretty shoulders and her long shapely legs, and the top of her petite little bosoms as well—how furtively now and then during class he had sneaked an unobtrusive peek! Now, therefore, beneath his hand there was no big fuzzy sweater, no shape-hugging denim belted in thick leather…nothing but one deliciously sheer layer of brightly patterned cotton that clung to a sinuous curve of feminine flesh warm and wondrously alive. He had never felt anything so sleek and girlish and smooth in his life—never.
Face warm, Rick patted the brunette there in a purposefully creepy-uncle sort of fashion, ready to stop as soon as this forced her to begin to pull away. Yet she did not. And as the girl merely looked sideways up at him with her lovely bare arm still draped about his waist, she seemed to settle herself more comfortably against him, her soft, nearly-naked hip against the side of his khakis. She smirked faintly, but said nothing.
Spurred on by the enigmatic look in her half-lidded dark eyes and by the swift, prideful thought that nobody was going to out-joke Rick O’Donnell like this, nobody, he pushed farther, knowing that now he would win this game of chicken, and she would have to jump back. It was a little guiltily that he proceeded, though.
There was a quick stab of unease as he thought of his wife, unsuspecting back in their apartment in Spartan Village on the complete other end of campus, with one child toddling and babbling incessantly and getting into things, and two more growing, and kicking at the insides of her, and weighing her down. And there was even guilt as he thought of the girl beside him now, for she was young and sweet, and her intentions here were only innocuous and playful. And yet even as he told himself that this was all mere jest, simply a game that he must win, a contest of wit and determination from which the maestro of mirth of course could not back down…well, still the feel of that girl’s desirable body beneath his hand excited him so, so powerfully. He felt like a pervert and a cad—but proceed he did, secretly aroused even while he posed as joking and nonchalant.
Slowly, therefore, painfully slowly, so that at the first sign of her flinch or stiffening or drawing back he could stop the motion he knew he should not even have started, Rick rolled his wondering hand down from Lauren’s willowy waist and across the soft, sensual swell of the hip beneath that teasing sundress, and he felt the heat of her and the firm yet yielding pressure of her available flesh against his caressing fingers—but still she did not pull back. Rick swallowed. He held his breath as he fondled her there a little, half in play and yet half in a desperate, unacknowledged earnestness, reassuring himself that surely this at last would scare her away, and the dangerous game would stop, for he had won. Yet still, looking drowsily playful, the girl merely snuggled unconcernedly into his embrace, and he could only continue touching her there in a disbelieving sort of wonder, marveling at the feel of that sleek, kittenish body whose long, relaxed lines showed no shock, no embarrassment, no disdain.
Her hip was so curvy and young and full of promise, and the dress lay so thin upon it that he could feel the seam of her panties beneath, and her pert rump stood so round and resilient and inviting, and although he tried to tell himself that it was all just a type of silly play between friends, Rick, vaguely frightened, realized as the surprised muscles rearranged themselves beneath his belly that he could have attained an erection with but the tiniest impulse of will. Confusedly he excited himself with the feel of this former pupil become laughing equal, caressing her, fondling her about the hip and waist. He smelled the shampoo from her shining raven hair, and the cloying hint of perfume from the hollow of her throat and behind her soft earlobes, and underlying it all was the cool blue reek of mimeograph ink wafting up from one of the drip-streaked drums on the ancient hardwood floor.
He looked down the front of her dress then, and her breasts were so beautiful and upstanding and pale. He could see the tops of both, yet also the tender few inches of the inside of the right one before it sank into the cup of her delicate brassiere, and it looked so smooth and silken and strokable, and he wondered helplessly what it felt like. And her shoulders were lovely, too, cool and shapely and bare with the gorgeous mass of her hair spilling down behind. And the top of her chest, just below the collarbones, was so taut and sleek and white…and yet a flush was creeping up that serene sweep of unstirred cream, a flush that came up between her high young bosoms, and up the throat from which her perfume floated so enticingly, aromatic molecular chains redolent of soft petals and night breezes and secret moonlit assignations tumbling up into his dilated nostrils to be drawn into the deepest recesses of his reeling brain—
And then, breathless in his wonder and his need and his sudden realization, he raised his gaze and saw that Lauren’s face, unguarded now, and framed in the descending sweep of her lustrous, fragrant ebon, had lost its mocking self-composure. Her rich lips were parted in an expression of longing as sudden, as defenseless, and as heartfelt as it was unmistakable. And her eyes, hugely dilated, and rimmed with long dark lashes that curled in the most gorgeous profusion, blinked up in a need almost painful in its intensity. Oh, God, her eyes, her eyes—
He knew it was wrong—wrong to her, wrong to him, wrong to that woman on the other side of campus—and yet he could not help himself. Shuddering somewhere deep within, as Lauren tipped her face back and let her flushed lids slide closed, in an ecstasy of devotion he bent and he kissed her, right on the gratefully sighing mouth. Ah, the electric contact of those once-teasing red lips! They were soft and moist and sweet, and they opened for him—for him!—and as a welcome fire drizzled like lava down into his tight-coiled groin, his tongue slid reverently inside of her, and within the hollow between her pretty cheeks the two of them danced, instinctive and sensuous and slow.
Oh, how long it had been since he had felt like this! Lauren fluttered sleek and delightful and generous against him, and he knew that in her adoring dark eyes he was handsome and mature, and fun and witty, and desirable as a man. Her passion thrilled him, filled him, fulfilled him. As she clung to him endearingly, with one possessive hand he clutched at the yielding flesh of her sinuous hip, and he raised his left unthinkingly to stoke tender and fond through the heavy black waves that tumbled about her naked shoulders.
The blood surged throughout his entire being, and yet this was more than merely physical, he knew, far more. These two had laughed together, learned together, sat together, secretly yearned together, and she was too like him, in interest and temperament and intellect, for Rick to pretend that she was merely another pretty face. Pretty she was, of course, very pretty, unutterably desirable in his every estimation, and yet they had become compatriots as well, and it was so easy to…well, to like her, as a person.
The thought flashed confusingly through his mind, and a feeling of tenderness, and a closeness exquisite and inexpressible. Before he could even imagine trying to sort it all out, however, the floorboards in the anteroom creaked with the approach of someone else, and Rick and Lauren jumped quickly apart. Shakily, Rick could only wipe his mouth with the back of his wrist, his eyes wild, but Lauren blinked, smoothed back her hair, and nodded as if in response to something he had said.
“Well, have fun with those handouts, then,” she clucked in apparent sympathy for the drudgery of the so-called teaching assistant as she headed toward the open doorway back to the outer room. “I’ll see you in Rosenblatt’s next week.”
“S-sure,” replied Rick as steadily as he could. “I, uh… I’ll seeya.” He watched as the girl winked mischievously, puckered up and blew him a little kiss, then clacked out, her footsteps receding through the anteroom and then down the hallway beyond.
Rafeeq O. McGiveron is a writer and educator with a knowledge of...well, writing and education, along with cats, stray bits of literature and history, and other miscellany. Having spent over 20 years as a professional academic, he holds a B.A. with Honor in English and History, an M.A. in English and History, and another M.A. in English. In the first 12 years of his career he taught English at places like Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, and Western Michigan University, while since the turn of the century he has focused on advising students at LCC.
As a writer, McGiveron currently may be best known for his literary criticism. In academic journals he has published some two-dozen articles on a fair range of authors, though it is his work on Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein that probably is most familiar to students. In 2013 he served as volume editor for a text on Fahrenheit 451 for Salem Press, after recruiting scholars from all around the world and writing about 10,000 words of it himself as well. In 2014 he released his novel, Student Body.