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Authors: Victoria H. Smith

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Holiday Fling (7 page)

BOOK: Holiday Fling
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As much as I wished she wasn’t, she was right.

“Yeah. I guess I’ll keep it in my drawer until I can get it fixed.” The necklace was better there than me trying to play doctor on it with my nail tweezers.

My heartbeat still descended from the event as I walked back inside the old cream-colored house. I climbed the staircase to the second floor and pushed open the first door on the right. My door. I walked toward my unfinished armoire and opened the top drawer. My hand felt for the familiar wood of the ornate box the necklace never spent its time in, since I never took it off. I carefully laid my treasure inside, making sure to sit the box upright before I closed the drawer.

I collapsed on my bed, and ran my fingers through my long, black hair. I caught a couple of tangles; probably time for a haircut. The crisp smell of leaves blew in on a gust of wind through the open window, reminding me of why I chose to attend college in the Midwest. In Southern California, there had been only two seasons—hot and swamp-ass hot. But here, there was actually a fall, with brightly colored leaves and cool breezes. I was relieved to be here, in more ways than one.

With a sigh, I turned my head to the right, taking in the assortment of moving boxes that awaited me. I didn’t own much, so it wouldn’t be too hard to get my things put away. I forced myself to get up and get to work.

I did all the necessary housekeeping by putting up posters of famous paintings by artists I could only dream of one day being half as good as, and filling my drawers with clothes. I placed my alarm clock up on the nightstand, and after I unloaded the last box, I put the finishing touches on the room by setting up my easels and paints next to the window. I was looking forward to capturing the beauty of the ever-changing trees and various tones of the fall sky. This was by far my favorite season for painting. There was just so much inspiration everywhere.

“A! The mail carrier is here,” Piper called in her raspy voice. “Come down!”

I didn’t, for the life of me, understand the urgency of the mail’s arrival—unless the carrier was a hot Italian wearing a Speedo, here to invite us to a pool party. Checking the time on my alarm clock, I realized I’d been up here for nearly two hours. I guessed I’d lost track of time trying to get my room in order.

I broke down my empty boxes and dragged them downstairs—might as well be efficient and save myself a trip.

I threw down my boxes when I made it to the door. “What’s the big deal?” I asked, noticing the lack of Speedo on the mailman—and thank God for that. The carrier was a fifty-something man with a beer gut hanging over the top of his pants and tufts of hair sticking out of the neck of his shirt. I didn’t even want to think about the night terrors I would’ve had if I witnessed that bit of unwanted visual information.

Piper signed for the packages and kicked the door shut. “It’s our first pieces of mail in our new house,
!” she said, bouncing with excitement.

That was just how Piper was, a free spirit, who got enjoyment out of the simplest things in life.

She thumbed through the letters and packages, tossing the junk mail over her shoulder and onto the floor as she went.

I clenched my teeth as I watched her create the mess.
She’s your best friend, Ariel. She’s your best friend.

Her fingers stilled when she came across two identical, medium-sized letters. There was one for each of us. “These look important,” she murmured, handing over the letter with my name on it.

I didn’t see the point of opening mine. Instead, I opted to let Piper enjoy the moment. She could tell me what it said.

Her happy dance was reminiscent of a child about to pee her pants as she tore open the envelope. The excitement on her face abruptly faded, the diamond stud in her pointed nose moving as she scrunched it up. “It’s a room change for our first class,” she said in disappointment.

“What?” I asked, tearing my own letter open to confirm. This change-up may not have been a big deal to most, but to me it was a nightmare! I had meticulously planned my schedule to coordinate with my best friend, while perfectly weaving in extra-curricular activities to maximize my time. “Why would they do that?”

“It looks like a last-minute professor change. The new professor has a class in the new building after ours, and it’s more convenient for him. What a prick.” She threw down the letter and walked across the room. Plopping down on the couch, she sent another cloud of dust into the air.

“Ugh! This messes up my classes for the rest of the day. How am I supposed to make it clear across campus in the ten minutes I have until my next class? I swear, these professors don’t give a flying sack of crap about us, and to tell us a week before classes start? What the heck is that about?”

Piper stood up from the couch in a huff and grabbed my hand. Dragging me with extremely focused determination, she headed toward the door.

I furrowed my brows, fumbling to keep the letter in my other hand. “Where are we going?”

She didn’t say anything and whipped me in front of her by the arm, now pushing me out the door.

“Piper, come on. What the hell?”

She grabbed her purse and my messenger bag-slash-purse from inside the house, threw them at me, and then locked the door. Turning around, she said two words, “Emergency Room.”


A quick, but terribly needed drive for my Piper-diagnosed neurosis later, I sat at a table inside the Emergency Room, aka Demitasse Café. I was fully equipped with my much-needed cup of Chai tea and even more needed peanut butter brownie on a small plate in front of me.

I grabbed my tea cup, blowing away the steam before taking a cautious sip. The familiar blend of black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, and other exotic spices slid over my tongue. The warm, rich Chai went a small way toward soothing my racing mind. Piper should seriously debate changing her major to something within the health field. The girl had a knack for knowing what to do to cure a spaz fit. “It’s almost like they get an extra bonus in their salaries if they can manage to make our lives just that much more miserable.”

Piper let out a long sigh, scraping at the last bit of coffee grounds from the bottom of her cup. “Well, it is what it is, A. We’ve just got to figure out what to do about it.”

What were we going to do? Out of habit, my hand went to where my moonstone necklace usually rested. With the jewelry’s long chain, that location was at the midpoint of my waist. My fingers came up empty, reminding me the keepsake was no longer there to bring me comfort.

Piper, eyeing my motion over her clinking, grabbed my hand. “It’s okay, A. We’ll get it fixed. Why don’t you try searching for some options for our schedule? That’ll take your mind off things.” She smiled.

When Piper wasn’t wrapped up in the chaos of life, she always knew just what to say to ease my anxious tendencies.

Taking her advice, I whipped out my laptop from my messenger bag and attempted to do a little damage control. The familiar sounds of clicking and the whirl of a tired computer fan filled the air with its music. The stupid thing booted up about as fast as it took the Egyptians to build the pyramids.

That was one bad thing about being on my own: having to be completely reliant on financial aid. Between my school expenses, rent, and gas, there never seemed to be much left over for keeping up with the latest technology. I guessed I could always borrow Piper’s if mine decided to crap-out entirely. Her parents practically shipped her a new one every other week. “A fine replacement for their love,” she said.

I clicked on my
icon and the familiar school website materialized on my thirteen-inch screen. It really astounded me sometimes how overly complicated and ridiculous the school website was. I mean, did I really need to know about the elevator repair going on in the student union, or an up-to-minute account of the weather, as if it was a play-by-play of the World Series? Sometimes I felt like I needed a map and a decoder pin just to figure out where the class registration button was on the damn page.

I clicked around a bit and found some potential options for us. “Looks like there are a couple of spots open in Earth Science 419.” The class wasn’t my first choice, but it was a science elective we both still needed. Come to think of it, Zoology, the class we were currently in, wasn’t my first choice, either. But Piper and I both thought it’d be interesting to take, so we figured why not.

Piper pulled out her polka-dot compact and applied her signature, deep purple eye shadow. Now didn’t seem like the time for this, but Piper always believed she needed to be date-ready for whoever would be vying for her attention that day. After a few seconds of this, she met my annoyed gaze as I waited very
for a response.

“Who’s teaching it?” she asked, cleaning up the lines of her lids.

“Looks like … Alfred Pondensky.”

She froze. “
, no, no, no. He smells like cheese, and he always gives me that look.”

Oh, God, really with this? “What ‘look’ would that be?” I widened my eyes and opened my mouth, imitating the face she made in her mirror.

Piper smacked my arm, hitting my elbow off the table. I tried to contain my smirk.

“Stop being a brat, and you know what I mean. The
. The one professors give you when they’re thinking about what they have at home and realizing you’re something they’ll never, ever have. It’s like they’re constipated, or something.” The way she crossed her eyes made her look like a pregnant woman rounding her twentieth hour of labor.

I couldn’t really say I’d ever seen
look. And envisioning it on Pondensky, with his leathery skin and paper thin lips, made me just about vomit what I’d eaten of my brownie.

“The female professors do it, too,” she continued, pointing her eye-shadow wand at me. “Except, with them, it’s because when they’re looking at you, they’re thinking about what they looked at in the mirror that morning, and realizing you’re something they’ll never be again. That’s assuming they ever looked like us in the first place, a million years ago.”

She continued to apply her makeup, indulging in a pouty face.

“Ugh, you’re so full of crap, sometimes. As hard as it may be to believe, not everyone wants you, or wants to
you.” I knew this wasn’t really true, though. Piper was pretty much a bombshell. Standing at five-foot-nine, she weighed
a buck-twenty when soaking wet, and had a half-rock star, half-supermodel look going on that made guys ready to drop their pants a second after laying eyes on her. But I wasn’t about to tell her that. And she could at least be a little more humble about her allure around those of us who weren’t so fortunate.

I brushed off her comment and continued my research. “How about Astronomy 395 with Helen Wright?”

“I’m not really into those signs and stuff. I believe people should just live their lives and not be bound by those kinds of generic labels.” She put away her compact, giving me her full attention.

I forced myself to swallow my laughter as I clicked out of that class and into another one. “I guess that would be a no, then, and I do believe you were referring to
, not astronomy. You know? The study of the universe?” Piper wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, and boy did I get a laugh at her expense sometimes.

Piper frowned as she analyzed my statement, and then shrugged.

“Whatever. Guys don’t care how smart a girl is when she has other, more …
qualities.” She batted her eyelashes; her grin was slyer than a fox.

I rolled my eyes. She was referring to sex, of course. She
was. We were in college, I got that, but the girl was seriously obsessed with men—several at a time most of the time. I was no angel, by any means—again, we were in college—but at least I could safely say my few
had been while in committed relationships. I never believed that kind of thing should be jumped into lightly, especially if there weren’t any real feelings involved. But Piper was a big girl. To each her own, I guess.

Piper grabbed her cup and stood. “Okay, Miss Prude, I’m going to get a refill. Do you want anything?”

I ignored her jab—voicing my irritation would only make it worse. “No, I’m good.”

She shrugged and exited toward the counter.

I continued my search, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that there weren’t any other options if we wanted to stay together. I guess Piper would just have to put up with Pondensky’s

A familiar smell invaded my nostrils, accompanied by an obnoxious clacking of heels.

“Well, well, well … If it isn’t Ariel Richmond,” a simpering voice said.

Ah, now I recognized the smell …
eau de

I snapped my laptop closed and forced myself to look up at my nemesis. There she stood, with her Louis Vuitton bag on her shoulder, string-bean lips, short, panty-revealing dress, and a skinny frame with so many bones exposed one would have thought she was a walking advertisement for anorexia. Who knew so much evil could be jam-packed under makeup?

Sitting straight up, I spoke to her in the nicest voice I could muster—which wasn’t very nice at all, but really, trying to be civil to the inhuman seemed like a pointless venture.

“Hi, Lila. How goes it?”

Lila lowered herself onto a seat at our table and crossed her freshly Nair
legs, making sure I saw the Fendi label stamped on the bottom of her shoe.

“Oh, nothing much. I just came to get an espresso and maybe a scone, but judging by the spread you have there, I’d guess they’re all cleaned out of freshly baked goods today.”

Oh, wow, a jab at my weight; weight I hadn’t even carried around since freshman year, thank you very much. But the stuck up she-devil couldn’t resist reminding me about it—

“Very nice, Lila. Did you think that one up all by yourself, or did one of the professors who gives you
tutoring help out with your creative genius?” A sick sense of pleasure filled me when I saw her jaw clench, showing I’d struck a nerve. This was immature, perhaps, but I couldn’t help myself. The girl drove me insane.

BOOK: Holiday Fling
11.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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