Story Time

Here's a little something (completely un-music related) that I wrote some time ago.  It isn't finished.  I never finish anything (which is why a blog is so perfect) and I've kind of lost interest in it now, so I doubt I'll ever finish it. I'll switch up what I have here when there are new things (or I find old things) that aren't too embarrassing.  Enjoy.

Evelyn ran through the rain, trying to jump over the puddles, but the bottom of her jeans were still dark with moisture by the time she reached the lecture hall.  She shook off her umbrella and folded it up before entering the large brick building.  In case she had any doubt if she was late, the hallway was deserted except for a heavy set janitor lazily pushing a mop around and humming to whatever was playing in his ears.  She hated being late on the first day, but Evelyn had promised herself she wouldn’t skip anymore classes, so she swallowed her pride and pushed open the heavy double doors.  A stroke of luck, the doors were at the back of the large lecture hall so she was able to sneak in and take a seat at the back of the room unnoticed.  After unpacking a pen, notebook and Juicy Fruit she plopped her book bag on the floor beside her and settled in for a long (probably boring) lecture on geography.  

An hour and forty minutes later, the 400 students were released back into the world.  The warm summer rain had stopped falling, but it left hot steam rising off the pavement in its wake.  Evelyn was deep in thought taking a mental inventory of the items in her dorm room, trying to decide what to do for lunch when she realized there was someone walking next to her.  She looked to her left and recognized the dark haired girl she sat next to in class.  The girl gave her a small smile.

“Gosh, how boring was THAT lecture?” Evelyn asked with a laugh.

“Oh, Dr. Jennings is a brilliant man!” her voice was dreamy, she was clearly hot for teacher.

“He might be,” Evelyn seded, “but he’s going to have to get more lively than that for me to believe it.”  

“Just keep an open mind, he’ll prove it to you,” she replied with a sly smile. “Hey, are you going to get lunch?”

“Sure, want to join me?” guess that settles the lunch debate.

The two walked in silence to the deli in the basement of the student center.  Oddly, they hadn’t discussed where to go, they just both headed that way.  Once they had their turkey sandwiches and diet cokes (and Evelyn had her chocolate chip cookie) they sat at a small booth in the back corner of the dining room.  

“I’m Evelyn, by the way,” she said as she unwrapped her sandwich.

“Oh, of course, I’m Aster, it’s nice to meet you,” she smiled as she poked her straw into the lid of her drink.  “I’m a junior this year, but I’m taking extra hours and hope to graduate next summer.”

“Yeah?  That’s cool.  I’ve got a full load but I have to work too, so I’m topping out at 15 hours a semester.  I’m kind of a junior and a half because I’ve done summer school every year.  I hope to be done either in May or next December.  What’s your major?” she took a bite of her sandwich and remembered why this school had a reputation for having some of the best food in the nation.

“World Religions. Well, I’m actually double majoring in that and accounting, but the accounting is only so I can get a job.  I’d love to study religion as a job, but I’m also a realist and I want to be able to pay my bills,” she shook her head gently as she took a bite of food.

“Sure, sure, we have to think about that kind of thing.  I’d like to be an artist but I know that it’s really tough make a good living doing that.  As a result I’ve majored in computer science and minored in art history.  Probably a mistake.”

“Do you like working on computers?” she raised an eyebrow as she asked the question.

“Yeah, I do.  I like that there’s a solution, you know?  Unlike art, there is a right and wrong answer.  Art is how I indulge the side of me that never wants to be wrong,” she laughed as she said it, knowing full well that her none of her ever wanted to be wrong.

“Then it’s not a mistake at all.  Doing what you love is not always an option, but you’ve only really screwed the pooch when you find yourself doing something you hate.”

After that profound statement, they both ate in silence.  Evelyn pondered whether she was “screwing the pooch” by putting her art career on the back burner. Would it forever be a hobby?  Would she ever be able to parlay it into a career while working at another career?  Should she go the route of starving artist and only turn to computer work if her situation became desperate?  Did she love her art enough to make that kind of sacrifice to it?  As she picked up the second half of her sandwich, Evelyn glanced up and realized that Aster was gazing at her thoughtfully.  “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you rethink your life plan,” she said with that same sneaky smile.

“How did you - er, I mean, no, I was just thinking about what I have to do this afternoon.  I’m sorry I’m not being very good company,” she shrugged apologetically.

Leaning toward her slightly, Aster said, “Oh, I think you’re delightful company.”  She smiled again, shy this time. It dawned on Evelyn then that perhaps this was more than a casual lunch invite.  But she had only ever dated men, how could Aster have known?  She shook the feeling, telling herself she was being silly and just smiled in return.

The remainder of their lunch was uneventful, but they exchanged phone numbers and promised to meet up again soon.  Evelyn found herself going through the motions for the rest of her afternoon.  She couldn’t get Aster off her mind.  She was odd and mysterious and infinitely interesting.  Her hair was dyed dark brown and she wore a clip-in strip of purple.  She had a tiny stud in her nose and a number of rings in her ears.  Her icy blue eyes and pale skin popped into Evelyn’s mind more than she cared for.  And furthermore, if Aster really was interested in her, what was with the comment about Dr. Jennings and the way she said it?  Of course, considering her dating history, Evelyn knew that was ridiculous.

The rain had started again and a storm seemed to be brewing as Evelyn made her way back to her dorm early that evening.  She had a programming class late in the afternoon that she already regretting signing up for.  Getting out of class at 6pm was not her idea of a good time.  Lost in thought as she had been all day it seemed, she walked right past the slim figure leaning against the building beside the door. Just as the door was swinging closed behind her, a familiar voice said, “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“Holy shit, Devin!!” Evelyn rushed back out the door dropping her book bag and wrapping herself around her best friend.  “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at school??”

“Unnff,” he groaned on impact, “I see you’ve finally put on that freshman fifteen,” he teased.

“Dick,” she slapped him playfully, “Seriously, what are you doing here?  I thought you had already moved back into your dorm?” she stepped back and studied his face, looking for signs of trouble.  Devin had been her best friend since birth it seemed.  Their parents had been friends and they had grown up side by side.  Born only a month apart, they had experienced everything together.  They went to school together from pre-school and had been inseparable the entire time.  In a moment of unusual teenage clarity they had even lost their virginity to one another and neither had ever regretted it.  In fact, it was an experience they had revisited a few times when loneliness loomed large, but a romantic relationship between them had never suited either of them.  In spite of their closeness, they went to different colleges and since they’d parted, Devin had a tendency to drink too much and experiment too much.

“Yeah,” he shuffled his feet, “we moved in this week but classes don’t start until Monday.  I thought maybe we could hang out this weekend.”  

“You drove 100 miles so we could hang out?  And it’s Thursday.”  She folded her arms, “What’s going on?”

“Can’t I just want to see my friend?” he tried to guilt trip her, but she knew better.

“Of course you can, but you must know by now that you can’t bullshit me that easy.  Come on, let’s go upstairs, I’ll see if I can find you something to eat.”  They hustled up the stairs to her room on the third floor.  Evelyn had paid extra for a single room every year since her freshman roommate experience.  The dorms were co-ed but only floor to floor, men and women were not to be on the same floor after hours.  However, her RA was a good friend and it wasn’t the first time Devin had camped out in her room.

Once upstairs Evelyn tossed her things in the small closet and grabbed them each a diet coke out of her dorm fridge, “Okay, spill it,” she coaxed as she tossed him one.

“God, Evie, you make it seem like I have a body in my trunk or something,” he rolled his eyes.

“You’re procrastinating.  What happened, Devin?  Are you going back?  Don’t make me call my mother,” she chided, knowing that disappointing her mother was a much bigger threat to him than disappointing his own.

“It just got a little crazy.  It was a wild summer, we had a lot of spare time staying on campus and only going to summer school part time.  There were lots of parties, lots of booze, lots of pot and a variety of things I probably should have avoided but didn’t.  Anyway, it just seemed to be bleeding into the semester already,” he traced his finger around the rim of the can, “so I thought I would come here this weekend and hibernate with you and clear my head.”  He looked up at her hopefully, “But if you don’t have time or whatever, I really do understand.”

She sat down on her bed next to him, “I’m glad you came,” she nudged him gently.  “You know me, I’m always a step ahead so my homework for next week is handled.  I’m free as a bird this weekend.  What did you have in mind?”

“Anything that can be done sober,” he answered honestly.

“I can think of several things that fit that description, what did you have in mind, you know, specifically?”  She leaned back, eyeing him suspiciously.  They had both stayed at school all summer attending classes apart from the last couple weeks when Devin returned home to his parents’ house.  Evelyn had lost touch with him over the summer, which led her to believe that he was drinking again, and it also led to her missing him.  A lot.

“Well,” he leaned in close to her and tucked her dark hair behind her ear, “that depends what I’m allowed to have in mind,” he grinned his crooked grin that she had always had a weakness for.  

“Right now, you’re allowed to have dinner in mind.  More importantly, buying it for me,” she jumped up and grabbed her hoodie, “Where are you taking me?”

Evelyn took him down the street to her favorite vegetarian restaurant.  After ordering their garden burgers and ice water and a considerable amount of eye rolling on his part, she decided to get the conversation rolling again.  Something told her they wouldn’t be talking much later in the weekend.  “So, are you going back to school or what?”

“Of course I’m going back.  I just felt like I needed to see you.  Honestly, I thought about going back home this weekend, but the three weeks I spent there right before the beginning of the semester didn’t help, so I rethought it,” he was rolling his straw wrapper into a tiny ball and giving it much more attention than seemed necessary.

“Oh, so I’m your second choice?” she asked, feigning hurt feelings.

“No, of course not, I just didn’t want to be a pest.  You are always so together, you’re always on top of things and I feel like I drag you down.  I’ve always needed you more than you need me,” he glanced up at her, then back to his fidgeting hands.

“Devin, what are you not telling me?  Why didn’t I hear from you this summer?” she reached out and touched his hand with her finger tips.

“I just needed some space, Evie.  It seems like everytime I turn around I’m calling you to come save me.  I wanted to handle things on my own for a change.  Of course, I obviously failed miserably at that.”

“Oh Dev, I’m so sorry.  I’ve never felt like you’re a drag.  I love you, sweetie, don’t you know that?  Whatever you need me to do, I’m here,” she gripped his hand, trying to make him understand her sincerity.

“You don’t mean that,” he was teasing now, trying to lighten the mood.

“Try me,” she called his bluff.

“I need my mind cleared.  I need to not think, if only for an evening.  No complications, no drama, just a stress-free environment,” he studied her face as the realization of what he was saying sunk in.

The waitress came by right then and placed their meals in front of them.  “Is there anything else I can get you folks?” she asked brightly.

“No, we’re good,” they answered simultaneously, not taking their eyes off each other.  The waitress snuck off quietly, recognizing that she was clearly not welcome.  After a long moment of gazing at each other, each playing out what might happen next in their mind, Evie broke the tension by looking down at her food, picking up her knife and cutting her burger in half.  “Eat your food,” she scolded.

The rest of their meal was peaceful, they got caught up from the time they missed over the summer and discussed their plans for the semester and the future.  Evelyn told him about meeting Aster and how she was considering changing her major to art history and maybe teaching art.  It would tack on some time to her college career, but might make her life afterward much better.  Devin told her about a girl he was thinking of asking out and how awkward it had been living with his parents again.  He was still undecided about what to do after college but thought he might teach.  Because of some time lost to bad decisions, he was almost a full year behind Evelyn.  After dinner, the rest of the night was spent making up for lost time in other ways.

The next morning, Evelyn slid out from under Devin’s arm only thirty minutes before her first class started.  With no time for a shower, she pulled her hair back in a bun, slapped on some makeup and scrawled a note on a piece of notebook paper.  She taped the note to the cinderblock wall beside the bed and crept out into the hallway.  It was 7:30am and the hall was eerily quiet.  Evelyn had always preferred to take early morning classes, mostly to have the afternoon free for homework or to actually go to work and because professors skip early classes more often than those in the afternoon.  They’re human and they like to sleep in sometimes too.  The class ended up being in the same building as her geography class but was in a much smaller room.  When she arrived the room was still dark so she flipped on the light and chose a seat close to the front along the wall.  A few students began filtering in, all sleepy, most gripping steaming cups of coffee from the Head Bean downstairs as if their lives depended on it.  

At precisely 8:00 Dr. Jennings, her geography professor, came strolling in the room followed closely by Aster.  He went to the front of the room, sat his briefcase on the desk and wrote “RS210 Religious Studies” on the dry erase board.  Aster stood nervously as the corner of the desk as if awaiting further instruction.  He opened his case, took out a stack of papers and handed them to her, without a word she began handing them out.  She smiled warmly at Evelyn as she handed her the packet of stapled sheets but remained silent.  

“I’m Dr. Jennings and this is Religious Studies 210.  If that’s not what you’re here for, please make your way out now,” he paused for effect, but as was often the case, everyone was in the right room.  “As most of my classes are over four hundred students, I am not in the habit of taking roll.  You’re all adults, you’re all paying to attend this class, and you knew it would be early when you signed up for it.  Show up if you like, stay in bed if you like, I’m not your father, I have no interest in micro managing your lives.  This is Aster,” he gestured in her general direction and she nodded politely to the class, “she is my teaching assistant this semester.  This is a job, she gets paid for it, if you have any general questions regarding assignments or need to schedule an appointment to see me, she is your girl.  Her contact information is on your syllabus.  Aster is also a fourth year World Religions major, so she knows what she’s talking about.”

After class, Evelyn lingered outside the room; when Aster finally came out, she approached her, “Hey there, how’s it going?”

“Oh, hey Evelyn, I’m good, how are you?”

“Great now that I know I have a tutor for this class!” she joked.

“Of course, if you need anything at all, I’ve assisted with this class four times now, so I know the material pretty well.  I think you’ll find it fascinating,” she said as they headed out of the building.
“I didn’t know you worked for Dr. Jennings, how did that come about?” Evelyn was curious now because of dreamy way Aster had talked about him yesterday.  Maybe there was more going on there than met the eye.

“I took him for an intro class my freshman year and needed a lot of help.  He was always so insightful and always willing to discuss any questions I had.  When I needed to start working I was friendly with the lady who made the assignments and she let me pick my professor.  He has requested me every semester since.  Say, why are you taking this class?  I thought you would be in the computer science building.”

“I am most of the time, but this semester I’m finishing up some general ed stuff and picking up some electives that I need for graduation.  I thought this class sounded interesting.  When I signed up they didn’t even have a teacher listed.  I didn’t know I’d be spending so much time with Dr. Jennings!”

“Heh, I guess that just tends to happen,” Aster replied, a bit sadly.

“Hey, my best friend in the world is here visiting this weekend.  I’d like for you to meet each other, are you free for dinner tonight?” Evelyn asked on a whim.

“I am, I have some homework to catch up on because I’m going out of town this weekend, but  could definitely spare some time for dinner.  I have to run but you have my number, so just send me a text later and let me know when and where,” she sounded pleased by the offer and even stopped and gave Evelyn a quick hug before rushing off toward the library.

It was another mildly strange interaction with Aster and now Evelyn was genuinely anxious to have Devin meet her so she could get his opinion.  Speaking of Devin, she was certain he would be hungry when he woke up, so she stopped at the deli in the basement of her dorm and grabbed them each a couple bagels and coffees before heading upstairs.  When she got to her room she found him awake, dressed and tying his shoes.

“Going somewhere?” she was instantly deflated, assuming he was trying to escape before she got back.

“Yeah, to get breakfast,” he looked up at her, his face a question, “What?  You thought I was trying to run?” he came over to her and took the bag of bagels and the coffee and sat it all on her desk.  Then he wrapped her in his arms and kissed the top of her head, “Silly girl, I would never dream of treating you that way.  Your mother would kill me.”  She pulled away and slapped his chest.

“If you really want to see her kill somebody, I’ll just call and fill her in on all the things you already did to me.  Now here, have a bagel.  I even remembered the cream cheese,” she plopped down on her bed and tossed him a cinnamon bagel, his favorite.

“Why aren’t we together?” he asked, suddenly serious.  “You’re the only girl I wouldn’t run from in the morning.  You know my favorite bagel, I know that coffee is perfect, you know everything.  With you is the only peaceful place I know.”

“Devin,” she sighed, “we’ve tried that, remember?  You get bored, I get naggy, the pressure of ‘being in a relationship’ wore us both down.  We imploded.  Losing you and being out of touch with you afterwards until we got our shit together was the worst time of my life.  I can’t risk that again.”

He came over and sat beside her, “I know you’re right.  I know it was a disaster, but it just doesn’t make any sense.  We’re so perfect together.  We have all the components of a relationship, why does it fall apart when we start calling it that?”

“I don’t know, I guess we have issues.  It’s not like either of us maintained a relationship with anyone else either,” she paused as they both flipped through their mental black books of bad dates and failed relationships.  His list was longer than hers, but no less dramatic or gut wrenching.  “How about we just keep doing what we’re doing, at least until we’re both done with school.  If you need a warm place, you call me and I’ll do the same.  We’ll see other people, just like we’ve always done, and maybe after school we’ll revisit this topic.”

“I’m just afraid that you’re going to find someone perfect and be lost to me forever,” he pouted.

“I’ll never be lost to you forever,” she protested, “well, maybe I’ll be off-limits physically if I’m in a relationship, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  Look, I need you, I need what we have and I think you do too, so let’s just leave it as is and not screw it up, okay?”

“Sure, that sounds good.  Just promise me if someone else comes along that you’ll let me plead my case again before you get serious, deal?” he held his hand out for her to shake.

She took his hand, brought it to her lips and kissed it gently, “I swear.”