Textbook Love Affair

A 39-year-old teacher falls in love with his 17-year-old student, and everybodys life goes a little crazy

Jerry asked Steve if he and Sarah had a sexual relationship. Steve told Jerry they didn't. Jerry seemed very agitated. At some point Steve said, "You know, Jerry, she's probably had sex with someone by now."

Steve remembers Jerry becoming extremely flustered. "What are you talking about? What do you mean? Has she told you this?" Jerry asked. He told Steve that he and Sarah's mother "strongly believe she's still a virgin." Jerry "kept pressing the sex thing," repeatedly asking Steve whether the two were sleeping together.

Jerry remembers it quite differently. He remembers saying that if Steve and Sarah would wait until Sarah was 18 and out of the house, he would be an "advocate" for the relationship. He also remembers Steve flippantly saying, "You don't think she's still a virgin, do you?" Jerry says he was alarmed by Steve's "cavalier" attitude about Sarah's sexuality and denies that he pressed the topic.

"I didn't dwell on her sexual experiences," he says.

That night, Sarah told her parents she was going to study with friends at the library. Instead, she went over to Steve's house. This was the second time she had been there. The last time, they had made plans to watch a movie but instead just lay on his bed talking and listening to music. They kissed a bit. Early on, Steve said, he decided he didn't want sex to become a part of this. He didn't know Sarah's experience level, and he was trying his best to, in his words, "tread lightly." Ending up in his bedroom probably wasn't the best idea, he admits, but he insists it turned out innocently enough.

Mostly Sarah enjoyed seeing his house and seeing the things he loved—like his plane, which he kept in his garage, and his bike, which he kept in his bedroom. Sarah was fascinated with the cage he had built for his iguana. It was huge and light and airy and went up to the ceiling and had windows. Sarah had never seen an iguana cage like this one.

"I don't know what it was made of, certainly not normal material," Sarah remembers. "Iguanas are hard to care for, too. I'd say 70 percent of them die when they're little." Steve's iguana was "really tame and really spoiled." Sarah used to have an iguana, but her parents sold him "because they said he stunk up my room."

When Sarah arrived at Steve's house on the night of Sept. 26 and knocked on his door, he didn't answer. She figured he was just running late. She went back to her car and read.

Finally, Steve arrived. He "pulled up really quickly and slammed the door shut and jumped out," Sarah said. He looked "really somber."

"We really need to talk," he said.

"Here it comes," Sarah thought. "Here's where he tells me he doesn't want to see me anymore."

Instead, Steve told her about Jerry's visit. "Your stepfather is really scary," he said.

He seemed disturbed by the way Jerry kept bringing everything back to sex.

Steve's cell phone rang a couple of times, but he didn't pick it up. Then his home phone rang. It was Sarah's mom, and even from a distance, Sarah could hear her screaming, telling Steve that he was a predator and sick and that Sarah's father was on his way out from Arizona to shoot him.

"I've never heard my mom scream so loud and be so out of control in my entire life," says Sarah.

Steve seemed bewildered but tried to remain calm. Sallie hung up on him. Steve sent Sarah home, where she was put on what her parents called "house arrest" and her car keys were taken away.

"I had to walk to school and stuff," Sarah recalls. "They thought that was the worst thing in the world, but I didn't really mind. They started saying that they were going to treat me as a minor until I was 21 and dictate everything I do."

They made Sarah write out a contract.

"She needed to understand that there were certain minimum standards of behavior that were expected of her," says Jerry.

The first contract Sarah wrote wasn't acceptable. "It was one-word sentences like, 'I'll be polite. I won't see Steve,'" Jerry recalls.

Sarah wrote another contract that again proved inadequate, but "the third time around, she got it right." It read:

I will respect you by obeying rules because you are my parents and are entitled to that right. I understand that hostility will not be tolerated or taken lightly and that only obedience and courtesy is an option. I will aspire to create a peaceful environment by abstaining from hurtful comments or defiance. Paying heed to the "little things," such as placing the trash bins against the wall or immediately cleaning dishes after use, will be top priority. I will respect decisions made on my behalf, in what is believed to be my best interest. As a result I will have NO contact with Steve. I understand that a breach of this contract will result in my deportation to Arizona or the loss of Steve's job. Signed, Sarah Jansen
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