Authors: Jules Moulin
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Copyright Â© 2015 by Jules Moulin
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Ally Hughes has sex sometimes : a novel / Jules Moulin.
ISBN 978-1-101-98416-1 (international edition)
1. WomenâFiction. I. Title.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Isabel, with love
n the end, it was Harry's fault.
Harry Goodman had promised to help Professor Hughes around the house that Friday. He'd also promised the Friday before and the Friday before that, too.
But it was New England and baseball season and 2004. The Sox were moving toward a ninety-eight, sixty-four record that spring, and five months later, that October, they'd sweep the Cardinals to win their first Series in eighty-six years.
Harry grew up in South Boston and it was a very emotional time. He said he could feel itâfeel it coming: the loss of the underdog status, the triumph of victory, the shedding of the past and having to look toward an uncertain future after successÂ .Â .Â .
So he was spending most of his days calming his nerves at Mulligan's Pub.
Ally sneaked out through the back door of Robinson, dodging her boss, Dr. Priscilla Patricia Meer.
She headed east behind Mencoff, Brackett, and Partridge, and when she hit Brown Street, she turned left, hoping to God she could get in and out of Pembroke Hall before Priscilla came by or called.
She had only one. One student: Jake Bean. He was it. Then she would go home and meet Harry.
Jake lost her after the lecture. In the throng of students and halfway downstairs, Ally went right instead of left, and Jake turned left instead of right and took the front door, walking to Brown on Waterman Street. He headed north and caught sight of her at Meeting Street. “Professor Hughes!” He broke into a jog. “Professor!”
Ally skipped steps up the Pembroke stoop, heaving her backpack, cell phone to cheek, speaking to the desk assistant at the East Providence Police Department. “So they weren't the guys? The guys you picked up? They were
guys?” She was confused.
“Dr. Hughes! Professor!” called Jake from down the block, gaining on her.
Ally disappeared inside. She didn't hear him. Despite the two lectures she taught each semester, the most popular campus-wide two years running, sold-out, so to speak, she didn't feel like a
of anything, much less an assistant professor.
Her grades were late. On Tuesday, Yoko had called in tears. “Professor, I'm sick!”
“Yoko? Where are you?” Yoko hadn't returned her calls.
“I can't walk!”
“Willa told meâ”
“My papers are
me. I took them to Omaha by mistake!”
“I'm so sorry! So stupid! So dumb!”
“I'm such an idiot!”
“Calm down. Please. Mail them to me. Is your mother there?”
“I'll grade them for you. It's no big deal. This is your
Yoko paused. “Really?”
“Really. Can she mail them today? Express Mail? Ten, twenty bucks?”
“Mom!” Yoko yelled and then said to Ally, “Hold on.” Then, “Mom!”
“How many left?”
“Onlyâonly, likeÂ .Â .Â . twenty-one?”
Ally absorbed this. Twenty-one papers meant twenty-one hours of grading, at least. She sighed. “
Are you asking
or telling me?” Yoko always inflected upward at the end of a sentence as if she were asking a question when she wasn't. A way, Ally thought, to belie her brilliance, to seem less sure than she actually was. She had been first in her class at Yale.
Yoko then said, “Twenty-one. But nine left to grade.”
Ally smiled. “Nine.” She could do it. “Got it. Get
“Professor!” Jake called as he flew into the building. He climbed the stairs to the second floor.
Ally shut her door and locked it. She dropped her backpack, crossed to her desk, and gathered the papers from Omaha.
She was late to meet Harry, but Harry was always late himself, and not by minutes. Harry was always two hours late. When he showed up. If he showed up. “So they're at large? Is that the right term? They're still
on the loose
The story had made
Brown Daily Herald
: “Robbery Crew Hits Nabe.”
Two weeks before, a rash of break-ins beset Ally's street, two miles from campus. Three morning burglaries, three midnight robberies, three men in ski masks, all short, all armed. A neighbor had spotted the men in a pickup casing Grotto.
Ally had hired Harry to put a bolt in the back door and finish the jobs he had started in March.
the jobs, Harry,” she'd said when they spoke.
This was the weekend. Harry would be at the house at one, and Ally would hole up to read and grade.
She loved the rental, the tiny Victorian, even if it was falling apart. For six years she'd paid Harry to replace shingles, empty the gutters, caulk the windows. She was sure it was rotting at its core, but did her best to keep it warm, to keep herself and Lizzie safe. It wasn't a five-star hotel, she said, when her mother complained, but it was home.
But three short men with three black masks, this was worse than leaks and mold.
Not that she owned anything to steal. The rooms were full of secondhand finds: old wooden tables, older chairs; desks and beds that Ally had bought at Goodwill, Savers, and the Salvation Army in Newport and Boston.
She hung up as Jake knocked. She turned and froze. Could it be Meer? “Yes?” she called. “Who's there?”
He had called Monday and booked twenty minutes of office hours to talk about his failed final paper.
She moved to the door and opened it. When she saw him, she drew back, surprised. “
“I have an appointment.”
“Yes! Okay!” She moved aside so Jake could step in. “We've never met.” She closed the door. Jake turned and held out his hand. Ally shook it. “Sorry. With two hundred studentsâI can't always put a face to a name.” Ally had thought that “Jake Bean” was the big blond guy who smiled all the time and sat down front.
She couldn't believe it. This was Jake?
Jake Bean was the boy in the back?
They hadn't talked, but the boy in the back had haunted Ally for three years.
He looked like that singer, the one from that boarding schoolâExeter, it was; Andover maybeâthe boy every Brown girl was drooling over: John Mayer or Meyer or Moyer, whatever it was, with that catchy little “Body Is a Wonderland” tune. Jake looked like him but much more handsome. He was the runway version of him. The rough-around-the-edges, childlike-but-tough, Hugo-Boss-model version of him.
“Professor Hughes, please. I never missed a lecture. Give me the credit. I'm begging you here.”
Ally flipped through his paper. “Let's discuss it,” she said kindly. Then her phone rang. She leaned in to see the incoming number. “Hold on, sorry. I have to get this.” She turned and picked up. “Harry?” She listened to Harry for a moment and grew annoyed. “Really, Harry? Seriously? Third time, Harry. Third time you canceled on me this monthÂ .Â .Â . Can you come and do theâ?” She listened a moment. “No, fine. But, no, Harry. Don't call back. Good-bye, Harry.” She hung up and took a deep breath.
“No,” Ally said. “I have a girl turning ten in four days and a bunk bed that needsâ Harry the handyman canceled on me
“You have a daughter?”
“Yes,” she said.
Ally laughed. “This is my life!” She was upset. Lizzie had begged for a bunk bed for years. Ally had saved and finally bought one for Lizzie's birthday. The bed had been hiding in the basement for weeks, in parts, in boxes, waiting to be built.
And she needed a lock. On the back door. She needed the downstairs windows secured.
She needed so much.
Shaking her head, she slid Jake's paper back to her lap and picked up a pen. “I'llÂ .Â .Â . find someone else.”
“What about your husband? Can't he do it?”
Ally looked up and then back down. It was a question and natural enough, but personal. “I don't have one,” she said softly. “I'm a, you knowÂ .Â .Â . singleÂ .Â .Â . mom.”
“I'll do it.”
“What?” She focused on the page, on Jake's profile of AnaÃ¯s Nin.
“Thanks.” Ally looked up. “Sorry. What?”
“Me and my brotherâwe have a business. Bookshelves, IKEA. Dollhouses. Do you know the
âit takes to get that Barbie elevator going?”
Ally smiled. “I do,” she said. “That elevator!” Crazy thing. Lizzie had a Dreamhouse. “But let's get back to the first part hereÂ .Â .Â . The part that sounds soÂ .Â .Â . pseudo-academic.”
Jake's gaze floated past Ally, out the window, to the trees. He was embarrassed. “I'm not a good writer,” he said. “I suck.”
“No, you don't. The ideas are great. Most of them. But it's too long and you change tone. At first, you use this fake formal tone.” She looked up. “Why?”
Jake shrugged. “To sound smart.”
smart. And then you change.” Ally flipped to page fourteen. “Your voice changes a quarter way through. You leave Nin totally behind. You leave your subject
behind and start riffing for forty pages.”
“I get excited.”
“You go off point: tantric sex, Britney Spears?”
“This part,” she said and pointed to a paragraph. She read it aloud. “âIn pop culture, older women are disrespected, but I think they rock.'” She looked at him. “
in a term paper?”
“You said to include our opinion,” he said. “That's my opinion.”
“Or âSick sex is a fast-food burger. Sacred sex is a porterhouse steak.' Intriguing, for sure, but what does it mean?”
“There's gotta be love,” Jake explained.
“There's got to be love to make the meat good?”
“Sex, like anythingâ Professor Hughes, if I may?”
“Go ahead, please.” Ally leaned back.
Jake leaned forward. “It all exists, like, on a continuum. High cow, low cow. High sex, low sex. And AnaÃ¯s Nin, if you ask me, she was on the bottom fucking rung. Excuse my French.”
“So why this course
“Well. I agree.”
Jake was surprised. “You do?”
Ally sighed. “If a chair sent out an SOS for a popular class because the professor who normally taught it was off for the year, to research, you know, all the gender-based
habits of octogenarians in
ItalyÂ .Â .Â .
“If a low-on-the-totem-pole sucker like meâwere asked to teach it, she might say yes.
if she were up for review.” Ally then stopped. “Sorry,” she said. “Too much caffeine. I should be quiet.”
“She was an evil, evil liar.”
“Nin. Isn't thatâ?”
Then, on cue, came four fast knocks on Ally's door. Meer's signature rat-a-tat-tat. Ally froze. Then four again.
“Coming!” said Ally, girding herself as she rose from the chair. Jake looked concerned. She crossed to the door and opened it. “Hi! Priscilla! Hi!”
“I left you a message,” Meer said, annoyed. “Where are your
“Coming,” said Ally. “Monday, first thing. One of my TAs had to go home.”
“Who?” Meer asked, arms crossed, anchoring a thick stack of files.
“Please,” Ally begged, “don't make me say.”
“You have to stop babying themâ”
“I'm with a student. Monday, okay?”
Meer leaned in. “Where?”
“Hereâhe's rightÂ .Â .Â .” She opened the door to reveal Jake. Jake waved.
“Oh,” Meer said.
“I'm sorry I didn't call you back. The seniors are done. I spoke to the registrar.”
“Fine,” Meer said and turned and walked off, her stacked heels pounding the floorboards.
Ally stood for a moment, unmoving. She then looked at Jake and closed the door. She sat down again and looked up. “Ever had someone love you so much, you can see it in their eyes?”
Jake smiled. “Meer?”
“She wishes I was a Marxist. We approachâlifeâfrom a differentÂ .Â .Â .”
“That. Sorry. Where were we?”
“The liar. Nin. Married to two guys at the same time. Cheated on both.”
sex with her dad? Because he left? Who does that? She was a pervert and a stuck-up sociopath.”
Ally smiled. “But she was an efficient writer. Unlike you.”
Jake shrugged and looked away. His cheeks flushed. “Maybe.”
“Please. Don't be embarrassed. I'll give you credit, butâ”
“What? You will?”
“I love you!”
“I love you! Thanks!”
Ally laughed. “But your writing! Jake. You can't hand in fifty-two pages when I ask for twelve.” She picked up some files from her desk. “See? Look. Three years of you.” She pulled the files onto her lap and opened one. She took out a midterm and a final, fifty and eighty pages, respectively. “Remember these?” She handed them to him.
He glanced down. “IâI wrote these freshman year.”
“I read them all. I kept them all.”
“None of my TAs knew what to do with them! How to grade them!” Ally laughed. “This one, on the Triangle fire, for Women and Work.