Professional Boundaries

By: Jennifer Peel


“You know I’m crazy about you, right?”

“Yes, but I’m crazier for you,” would have usually been my response. But not tonight. Believe me, I was more than crazy for him. I was head over heels, shut the front door, stop the presses in love with him, and I had decided tonight was the night I was going to tell him. Before I did, I reached up on my tiptoes, tugged on his shirt to pull him closer, and kissed those lips of his once. Then I went for the gold. “I love you, Ian Greyson.”

He immediately stepped back with a troubled look on his handsome face.

Ok, it wasn’t the reaction I wanted, but this was Ian, so I wasn’t too surprised. After all, I was the one who pursued him. Even though he thought I was too young, he eventually relented. I was eighteen at the time, and he was twenty-five going on sixty. I smiled nervously and stepped closer to him. “Ian, it’s ok if you don’t say it back right now. I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.” I wrapped my arms around him, waiting for him to reciprocate, but he was stiffer than his starched collar. “Ian?”

“Kelli, you’re too young to be in love.”

I looked up at him and laughed. “Did you really just say that?” Sometimes he sounded like my Dad.

“Why do you have to complicate things?” He sounded angry.

“How is me loving you complicating things? Because, FYI, I’ve been in love with you for months.”

It was true, and I had calculus to blame. I was a pretty smart girl; I even had a full-ride to my little private college set against the beautiful Rocky Mountains in Colorado. But for some reason, I couldn’t get calculus, and I needed to in order to keep my full-ride. That’s when I met Ian. He was in grad school, completing his MBA, and to make some extra money, he tutored. It was the best money my Dad ever spent.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw him sitting in the campus library, looking more serious than any twenty-five year old should. But there was something about him. I don’t think most women noticed him, and that was a shame because once you got past his serious exterior, he was really a very charming and considerate fellow—and he was actually a looker, but that was muted by his clothing and quiet, serious mannerisms. He had dark brown hair with a slight curl that just begged you to run your hands through it, and he had Hershey Kiss eyes and a strong jaw line that was always cleanly shaven and smooth. He was like a Clark Kent; he even had the glasses to match, but he dressed like a forty year old in khakis and polos. To me, though, he was adorable.

“This wasn’t in my plan. I’m not ready for this kind of commitment,” he stammered.

Ian had his whole life mapped out, and he wanted to map mine out, too, but I refused. Sure, I liked goals and a rough outline, but I also liked the freedom to do what seemed right in the moment, regardless of plans. Besides, I was young and he was too, but somehow he always forgot that. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his drive and dedication, but he really needed to simmer down sometimes. I succeeded, once in a while, in getting him to take it down a notch or two, but it was a hard job—a job I dearly loved.

“Ian, I’m not asking you to commit to me for life … yet,” I teased.

He didn’t look amused at all, so I just kept talking.

“I’m happy where we’re at. I just wanted you to know how I feel. I’m not expecting anything from you.”

He looked at me wryly, and then he began to pace back and forth in front of my apartment. I stood in front of the door and watched him as a cool summer breeze began. I had decided to stay the summer term after my freshman year, because of him, instead of going back home to Tennessee. I was beginning to wonder if that was a mistake now.

As he walked past me, I grabbed onto his hand. “Ian …”

He looked at me with eyes as hard as stone. I wasn’t sure I had ever seen him look so cold; it gave me shivers in the warm summer air.

“Why did you have to ruin everything, Kelli?”

My eyes started to water. In the nine months we had been dating, Ian had never made me cry.

“Ian, what are you saying? Just forget I said anything. I’m sorry.”