Hunter paused for a moment then scoffed. “Yeah, he knows me.”
The change in his tone was weird. “He said he was your ROTC instructor.”
“But you quit or something, right?”
He stopped. “Or something,” he said after a moment.
It sounded like it was something painful, but I couldn’t imagine what. “Were you kicked out or something? Mitch said your evaluations were excellent.”
He took a deep breath. “Something came up and I couldn’t do it anymore, so I stopped. Listen, we have to get these kittens home. Want to help me with the bag while I get the box?”
It was obvious he didn’t want to talk about it, so I let the subject drop. His reluctance to share the whole story made me wonder, though. What was he hiding? Something that would stop him from doing ROTC had to be pretty big. The possibilities ran through my mind as we walked back to his apartment. I’d hidden things about my personal life from Hunter, but apparently he was hiding things about himself as well. Druggie parents, kicked out of ROTC despite top scores—it sounded like Hunter had a f**ked up past like I did. I decided not to prod him on it though. He hadn’t questioned me about my past even though it was clear I was hiding something bad from him.
Instead, I focused on the prospect of taking care of six adorable little furry babies with Hunter. It was going to be an adventure.
Friday marked the end of the fifth week of classes. I stood outside the Floyd Hall parking lot, eagerly awaiting my aunt’s arrival. She had called me asking if it was okay to park in the lot for the weekend or if she needed some sort of permit. After checking the signs posted on lamplights around the lot, I told her that she didn’t need a permit on weekends.
I looked at the rows of cars and saw Aunt Caroline step out the driver-side of a white minivan with a bumper sticker that said “#1 Soccer Mom.”
“Aunt Caroline!” I waved at her to catch her attention as she pulled out a small suitcase from the trunk.
She turned around and smiled. “Lorrie!”
I walked over to help her carry her suitcase.
“You’re looking good!” she said. “It’s been what . . . a little over a month since I last saw you.”
“Thanks! Yeah, it’s been some time.”
“I can see you’re eating well at the dorms.” She grinned.
My face heated as I laughed. Aunt Caroline was a good observer and wasn’t afraid to call it as she saw it. But she wasn’t mean-spirited or critical. She was in decent shape considering she had two boys, but by no means a Jessica Alba getting a six pack a few months after delivering. “Yeah, maybe a little too much.”
“Hey if it feels good, it can’t be wrong right? Bah, I wish I was your age again with your metabolism. I remember I’d be able to eat almost a whole pizza from the dining hall and not gain a single pound.” She sighed. “Now, it’s all about eating salads and dieting just to stay somewhat in shape. Ah, youth.”
“Well, you look great Aunt Caroline.”
“You’re too sweet!”
We went back to my dorm room. Aunt Caroline opened up her suitcase and presented me with a gift bag filled with cookies and other delicious treats.
“I wasn’t sure if you were eating enough, being busy with studying and everything, so I brought you this just in case,” she said.
I laughed. “And here you were making fun of me for eating too much!”
“I know, but you can eat these guilt-free because it contains Auntie’s love. Think of it as aspartame for cookies.”
“Ah, Diet Cookies. Don’t mind if I do then.” I took a bite of a chocolate chip one and the cookie crumbled in my mouth in all its gooey glory. I could taste the love.
“So,” she said, taking a bite of one herself. “How’s everything going? Are you adjusting to student life again?”
“Yeah, it was kind of hard in the beginning but it’s gotten easier. I’m getting into the groove, doing a lot more art.”
“That’s great to hear! Sometimes it takes a little while to adjust, it can be hard coming back from a long break. Classes going well?”
“So-so. Classes are tough but I’m passing at least. Psychology is kind of hard. Economics is harder. My other classes like sociology and art history aren’t too bad though.”
Aunt Caroline put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t feel bad, Lorrie. College isn’t all about grades. Half of it is meeting new people and enjoying your experience. You should be making fond memories that you can look back on when you’re older. When it comes to grades, what’s important is that you’re doing your best. Have you made any new friends besides Daniela?”
I thought about Hunter. Suddenly I remembered that I had to feed little Rampage and Taylor. Otherwise they’d get grumpy.
“Yes, actually. Speaking of which, I have to go over to his place to feed his kittens.”
I thought about correcting her by referring to Hunter as a ‘man’ but decided against it because no ‘man’ would be afraid of a black-and-white fly monster. “Yes, a boy.”
“Ooh, tell me about him and the kittens.”
I told Aunt Caroline a little about Hunter beyond him having short, dark hair—but not too much more. Certain parts—like girls propositioning him for a threesome—were definitely left out of the explanation. Having nothing else to do, Aunt Caroline joined me in going over to Hunter’s apartment. I was wary of my aunt meeting Hunter and getting the wrong impression, but he was usually at the gym around this time. On the way, I asked her about how Uncle Stewart and the boys were doing and she said that Stewart was keeping busy with his job as a salesman and the boys—Billy and Joel—were keeping busy with soccer practice. It seemed like the Perkins household was as stable as always.
I began bottle-feeding the cats and Aunt Caroline helped out as well. When we were almost done, the door opened and Hunter stepped inside. He was wearing a black sweater with the hood up and jeans and was carrying a gym bag in one hand; he looked like he’d showered recently.
“Hey Lorrie!” He waved at me kneeling in the kitchen, kitten on my lap. “Oh, hello,” he said, noticing my aunt beside me.
I put Bones down and stood up. “Hey Hunter. Oh this is my aunt, Caroline.” Hunter smiled and extended his hand. Aunt Caroline got up and shook it, and returned the smile. “I didn’t expect you to be back from the gym already.”