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Authors: marian gard

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BOOK: To See You Again
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"Any big plans for tonight, Collin?" She shoves an
uncooperative strand of hair behind her ear, and it almost immediately falls
back toward her cheek.

I turn away from her and stare out the window. We're
surrounded by trees and fields, and I'm already dreading the barren concrete
strip malls we'll soon pass on our way back to the apartment.  No more island.
Back to reality. "Dunno. Why? You have some ideas?"

"I feel like we should do something college-y
tonight." She grins and I grin in return. I can't help it.

"Are they going to let you graduate using
non-words like college-y?" I jab.

She rolls her eyes at me. "You know what I mean,
Collin. We should do something that we can only do on campus. We just have a
few days left, and then college is over." Her eyes are on the road and mine are
on her. The landscape behind her is racing by, providing an ever-changing
canvas for her. We pass a marsh, the last stretch of brilliant green before we
hit campus property, and I'm thinking about the long t-shirt she wore to bed
last night in nearly the same shade. Everything looks beautiful on her, but she
looks her best when she tries the least.

"Like what, Raven? I reject this whole idea that
we are experiencing some sort of definitive end to things. Everyone is so
dramatic about it. So we get a diploma and our collective lease expires. Big
whip. People act as though we'll cross the stage and become new people on the
other side." I know I sure won't.

Raven sighs as she collects her hair into a ponytail
at the nape, twists it until it's tight, then releases it to uncoil rapidly across
her shoulders. She plays with her hair like this occasionally when she's
annoyed or frustrated and almost every time she has a problem she can't solve.
I wonder if that's what I am to her—non sequitur, incongruent, immaterial
even—the one person who doesn't fit. Raven likes it when things add up and go
together just as they are supposed to. I shove my hand in my hair and grimace
as the first strip mall comes into view.

"Well, I think I'm going to go to a few of the
campus bars tonight. You, Mr. Antisocial Grump, can take it or leave it. No
doubt there would be something in it for you, though, if you decided to come
along. Plenty of easy bimbos hang out at the bars."

Don't I know it

Raven loves to tease me about just about
everything, but in this way that doesn't make me feel judged. It's one of about
a million qualities I would list if I ever had the chance to tell her how I
feel. If I ever had the guts to tell her, that is. The past few months I've
curbed my habits significantly, in fact, it's been weeks since I've hooked up
at all, but if her earlier joke is any indication, I don't think she's noticed.
I fake offense to her comment, clutching my chest. "Woman, you wound me."

She smirks. "Yeah right."

"I'm capable of going out to the bars, socializing
and not picking up someone, you know," I say more seriously.

"I think your definition of socialization is a
little different than the rest of the world," she deadpans.

"And I think your definition of "fun" could use a
revision." I glance over at her, but her expression is serious. She parks her
car near her apartment, where I've been crashing for the past couple of weeks
since my roommate and I got evicted (long story), and turns toward me. Once her
eyes lock with mine it's as though the music in the car just stops, I can hear
nothing except my own heart accelerating as my breath gets caught in my lungs.

"Collin, look, I know this stuff doesn't mean to
you what it does to me, but I'm a little nostalgic about the crappy bars on
campus and other things I know you deem as lame. That's OK. You don't have to
see things my way, but at least think about coming out with the group of us
tonight. You might shock yourself and have fun. There's so little time left
here." She places her hand on top of mine and smiles a tiny smile. I feel the
gentle pressure of it and I'm suddenly desperate for the comfort her touch
provides. I look away from her and she retracts her hand. This woman has no
idea the effect she has on me. Not a clue. I'm lucky I learned how to hide my
emotions at an early age, because if I had a ‘tell', it would be obvious by

She reaches into the backseat and grabs her purse
from behind us. "If you have to bed some bambi tonight, that's fine too." She lets
out an exaggerated sigh, resigned to my alleged bad boy ways. "Just go to
place; don't be bringing whatever it is you do to my couch, OK?"

She pushes her door open and I follow suit. "Raven,
you're talking like I lack any self-control whatsoever. I can withstand a night
at one of the campus bars, and still manage to keep it in my pants. Geez." I'm
starting to feel a little pissed here.

I shuffle up behind her as she ascends the stairs
to her apartment. What I'm not saying is I'd be happy to hang out with her
tonight, and I could even tolerate her friends, but not her boyfriend, Spencer.
I could easily fold that guy up and throw him in a trashcan. I know it and he
knows it.

*** *** ***


A few hours later, I'm sitting on the landing
outside of Raven's apartment waiting for the girls to finish getting ready. I
hit the steps as soon as the "primping" began. They all crowd around the
hallway mirror with all their hair junk and makeup. I have a stepsister, I get that
this is normal, but it still annoys me to watch Raven look in the mirror and
decide that she has to transform into one of the stupid bar-girl clones. I
light a cigarette and inhale deeply. Raven has banned my habit in her apartment,
as well as in her car. She's pleaded with me to quit since we met in a creative
writing class our freshman year. She's so earnest about it that it almost makes
me want to stop. Almost.

Spencer appears at the top of the landing, dressed
preppy and smelling like a half a bottle of some overly masculine joke of a
cologne. Neither of us bothers to greet the other. What's the point? No one's
watching and this hatred isn't a one-way street.

"Is Rachel ready?" he asks in his nasally voice.

 "Rachel" is Raven. Nearly all of her college
friends, and even some of her high school friends, call her Raven. She sat
behind me in the first class we had together, and one day I wanted to talk to
her, but I couldn't for the life of me remember her actual name. It probably
seemed like a come-on, but it wasn't. I made it a personal rule, after a few
very bad post sex encounters, not to do
anyone I had a class with. The
drama unleashed on me by those girls, and their little rag-tag buddies, was
not worth it.

I glance up at Spencer. He's been the one holdout.
He refuses to call her Raven, even though she tells everyone she prefers it.
She told me once that she never liked her name, never
like a
Rachel. Nope, Spencer won't do it, because it has a connection to me, and if he
had it his way, all links to me would've ended a long time ago. When I'm around
he loves to say her name as much as possible, sometimes giving me a sideways
glance that says, "Rachel is
special thing." What-the-fuck-ever.

I shrug at him. "Go on in."

I don't move out of his way, so he steps awkwardly
over me like a giant pile of dog shit he's trying to avoid. If Raven were here
now, watching me be a total dick to him, she'd be lecturing me about my

I finish my cigarette and follow him into the
apartment, immediately staking claim to the larger of the two couches, the one
I've been sleeping on for the past few weeks. Spencer, having clearly been told
to wait in the living room, saunters back and takes the opposite couch, waiting
obediently like the good dog that he is. We don't bother with small talk; no
need to pretend when Raven isn't here.

He seizes the remote like he's won it from me and
begins flipping through the channels, only pausing to adjust his black,
buttoned down shirt. Spencer is always well dressed, well groomed, well spoken,
well-to-do. In a few days he will graduate with a business degree and start
working at his daddy's company. He thinks I don't get his lifestyle or where he
comes from, but I do. Spencer is a lesser version of what I would've become had
I'd done what was asked or expected of me.

Tabby meanders down the hall first, clearly not in
any hurry. She has on the standard bar outfit: skimpy tank, short black skirt,
and screw-me black boots. She has a decent figure, but I'd give her personality
a zero. I don't feel too bad about that, because she makes no bones about the
fact that she doesn't like me. "So, Collin, I hear you're going to grace us
with your presence tonight?" She twirls a lock of her blonde hair between her
fingers and glares at me.

The dog's ears perk up; this is
what Spencer
was hoping to hear. I guess Raven left
detail out.

"Yeah, Tabby, I'm coming. Don't worry, though, I
plan to be a good little boy tonight." I give her a condescending wink.

Not watering down her disgust even a little bit,
she laughs humorlessly. "I'll believe it when I see it." She rolls her eyes and
then returns to her reflection. I guess the amount of cleavage she has showing
just isn't enough, because she tugs on her tank exposing even more of her boobs.
Work it girl, ‘cuz it's pretty much all you got.

Spencer shifts uncomfortably in his seat. I don't
doubt that he's enjoying watching Tabby's take down, but I think he's still
reeling from the news that we have to pretend to be buddy-buddy for the rest of
the night. The feeling is mutual, jackass.




The phone rings, and I call out to Tabby that I'll
get it.

"Hello?" I say, pinning the phone between my chin
and my shoulder as I continue to battle my hair. I move toward the large mirror
that hangs just outside our shared bathroom and scrutinize my reflection.

"It's me." I hear the already tipsy voice of my
best friend, Vanessa.

"What's up? You're still meeting us out tonight,
right?" I ask sternly. She'd better not be ditching.

"No need to get your panties in a bunch, Raven.
I'm coming. I was just wondering if I left that silver cardigan at your place?"

I look back down the hall toward my bedroom. My
desk is visible through the doorway and I'm able to see her sweater, which is folded
neatly over the back of my chair. "Yep, you did. I was planning on bringing it

"Thank God! I really thought I lost it." She lets
out an exaggerated sigh.

"No problem, my dear. When are you guys getting
there?" I clip my hair up, and pronounce it good enough.

"Um, we should be able to meet you in, like,
twenty minutes, or so. Is Spencer there yet?"

"Yeah, he got here like ten minutes ago. I haven't
broken it to him yet that Collin's coming out with us tonight." I laugh

"Oh geez, Raven," she scolds. "You're making those
two boys nuts!"

I tiptoe into my room, shut the door and lower my
voice. "I am not! I've been friends with Collin for years. He's my closest
friend apart from you. Spencer has to accept that. And Collin knows Spence is
my boyfriend. That's that. They need to deal." I trace my finger along the
narrow space between the door and its' frame watching the light from the hall
cancel out as I go.

"Yeah, well, maybe they do, but Spencer isn't
blind. He knows Collin is sooo in looove with you," she coos. I feel my stomach
drop and I sit down on the bed. Vanessa used to make little jokes along these
lines about Collin years ago, but this is the first time in a long while,
certainly the first time since I got together with Spencer.

"Hellooooo? Earth to Raven? Are you still there?"
She maintains the same sticky sweet tone.

"Why are you talking like that?"

"Like what, Raven? Truthfully?" She snickers and
I'm compelled to roll my eyes.

"Vanessa, you need to take it down a notch. It
isn't like that at all." I flop backward on the bed and cover my eyes with my

"Pfft…you're so blind. What's Collin doing after
we graduate, anyway? You know, other than finding an excuse to follow you to
Michigan." Her last few words are muffled, and I picture her clenching her
brush in her teeth as she pulls her hair up, as I've seen her do so many times

I sigh into the phone. "We haven't really talked
about it. Knowing Collin I'm sure he hasn't even thought about it yet. If he
has, he certainly hasn't mentioned it to me. You can give him the third degree
tonight, if you want," I add sarcastically.

"Maybe I will," she giggles. "Don't be mad, girl.
I'm just teasing you…mostly."

"I know. I just wish Spencer and Collin could get
along. It would make my life so much easier." I bite my lip as I picture the
two of them waiting in our living room right now, undoubtedly sneering at each

"Add that to your pipe dreams." Vanessa laughs
again and I don't really respond. "OK. I'm done. Let's have a fun night,
alright? I'll see ya' in a few." I can tell she's already become distracted by
something else where she is…probably her boyfriend.

BOOK: To See You Again
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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