The weekend passed as well as the beginning of the next week. I’d been trying to avoid Hunter but he’d been texting me at least a few times per day. I had to tell him I’d gotten sick over the weekend to gracefully turn down his requests to hang out. It was getting harder to make up excuses to avoid him without appearing suspicious.
I’d just finished art history class learning about how Van Gogh cut off his ear and was in the hall preparing to head to my next class when I received a call. Nervous that it was Hunter, my heart started beating faster as I reached into my pocket for my phone. It was one thing brushing him off via text, it was another saying it out loud. Talking made it more difficult to come up with excuses. I took a deep breath and looked at my phone. I released a long sigh when I saw that it was my aunt.
“Hey Aunt Caroline!” I answered as I went to a private corner in the Arts building to talk to her.
“Hey hey! How are you doing?”
“Good. Just got done with my art history class.”
“Oh, sounds like you’re keeping busy. How’s your semester going so far?”
“It’s been a little difficult, but I think I’m getting used to it.”
“Sounds wonderful. Hey, what do you think about me visiting you next week? The boys are going on a field trip to D.C. and Stewart’s going on a business trip. Plus it’s been a while since I’ve visited Studsen.”
My heart leaped. “I’d love it if you came and visited.”
“Perfect. I’ll see you next week!”
Just as I hung up, I noticed an icon at the top of the screen telling me I had a voicemail. It was from Hunter.
“Hey Lorrie, haven’t heard from you in a while. Just wondering if you’re doing all right. You want to get together and hang out this week?”
An electronic voice asked me to press seven if I wanted to delete the message and nine if I wanted to save it. I thought about how I needed to have less complications in my life and at a tap of a digital button, I could do that. I pressed seven.
I had a good hour and a half until my economics class. It was a short enough break that it made going back to my dorm impractical. Instead, I found a bench outside and whipped out my sketch pad just as the sky started sprinkling snow. I became entranced by a lone blue bird perched atop a branch of one of the large trees that lined the arts quad. The color of his feathers reminded me of Hunter’s fighting trunks. Most of the birds had flown south by now, but this little guy was an exception. He wasn’t normal, just like me.
Startled by Hunter’s sudden appearance, I nearly poked a hole through the paper with my pencil. Looking over my shoulder, he exhaled a warm breath against my neck, raising goosebumps on the skin.
“Thanks,” I replied coolly, giving him only a quick glance before returning to my drawing. I did my best to ignore him though I knew it was futile.
“Are birds your favorite thing to draw?”
“Not really. This weird one just happened to catch my attention, that’s all. I’m not particularly attached to it or anything.”
“Are you trying to avoid me?” he hummed in my ear, making me realize I hadn’t said ‘hi’ to him.
“What?” I laughed nervously. “Don’t be silly. I’ve just been busy with classes.”
“Are you busy now?”
“I’m busy drawing my picture.”
“Can you draw in a place where it’s a little warmer? Maybe at the cafe? I’ll buy you a latte, my treat.”
I grumbled because I wanted to avoid Hunter and him showing up and asking me to hang out at a cafe didn’t mix. But then I remembered I had a debt to repay him. “Alright, let’s go. I’ll buy though since you got the ice cream last time.”
We went to Huck Cafe. Upon my insistence, I ordered him a latte and he thanked me for the kind gesture. Then I ordered a black coffee for myself. We found a table and sat down across from one another.
Hunter took a long sip of his drink. “Mmm yummy. Want a sip?”
“No thank you, Hunter,” I said politely.
“So, Lorrie—” He looked at me seriously. “—Is it because you stayed over at my place after we watched those movies?”
His direct question caught me off guard. “Uh . . . no.”
He shook his head. “Why are you freaking out about staying over at my place? Just because you stayed over doesn’t mean anything.”
I was prepared to agree with him about me staying over not meaning anything but the “not meaning anything” part upset me, when I knew it shouldn’t.
“Why would you say it doesn’t mean anything? It does mean something. It means we went further than we should have as friends.”
“We didn’t do anything though. I didn’t even kiss you when you fell asleep. Are you saying that having my arm around you is inappropriate?”
I sighed. Hunter didn’t understand the implications of the situation. “When you hang out with Gary, does he fall asleep nestled in your arms after you guys down some beers?”
“What? No! Of course not. That’s different.”
“How is that different?”
“Gary’s a dude. Man Code doesn’t allow that.”
“Okay, well what does Man Code say about falling asleep with girls that are friends?”
“It says it’s acceptable if neither of them are attached to anyone else. Therefore, what we did was acceptable. You might even say normal. Unless . . . you are attached?”
“No, I’m not,” I clarified, hoping Hunter took the cue that I was including my feelings toward him as well.
“Good, then there’s no issue.”
“I hate to tell you this, Hunter, but I don’t abide by Man Code. I abide by Girl Code.”
He lifted one brow. “Alright . . . then what does Girl Code say?”
I took a sip of my black coffee enjoying the sobering bitter taste. “First rule of Girl Code: don’t talk about Girl Code.”
He narrowed his gaze at me. “So you’re already breaking the first rule?”
“I referenced it. I didn’t talk about it.”
He rolled his eyes. Although I’d done that plenty of times to him, it was the first time I saw him do it to me. “I’m pretty sure you referenced Fight Club rather than an actual rule.”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes, it matters! Dammit, Lorrie. Talk to me. I’m okay with you not telling me some things about yourself but please, don’t avoid me. I told you before, I don’t bite.”