“They any good?” she asks immediately, her voice flippant.
It’s then I admit to myself that I want her jealousy. Which is stupid of me. And stupid to be disappointed when she isn’t. I shrug, but then realize she can’t see me. “Gray seemed to think so.”
“But not you?” A world of skepticism lives in her tone.
“Right.” I can almost hear her rolling her eyes. “So a bunch of naked, gyrating women do nothing for you. Nice try, Drew.”
“You want to know what it made me feel?” My response is sharper than I want it to be but I can’t rein it in. “Empty. Like the world is full of lonely people who don’t know what the f**k they’re doing with their lives.”
It isn’t until I say the words that I realize how lonely my life has been. Until her. Until I understood how life could be if she’d just let me in.
Anna is silent for a moment. “Maybe that’s true. But you can’t fix other people. Only yourself.” She sounds so sad, I feel like a heel for snapping at her.
“Besides,” I say, making my tone lighter, teasing, because it’s easier for both of us, “there’s this girl who I can’t stop thinking about. She takes up all my attention, even when I’m not with her.”
Her voice goes playful, falling in line with mine. “Are you sure this isn’t a booty call?”
Do you want it to be? I almost ask, but I’m too tired, so I tell her the truth instead. “It’s about me not being able to sleep and wanting to hear your voice.”
Her breath catches, a gratifying sound if ever I’ve heard one, and then comes the sound of her moving about, like she too is sinking beneath her covers. “Iris and I went out for burgers tonight,” she says softly, a conversational opening that both surprises me and sends a pang through my chest. “George usually comes with us, but he’s been begging off lately. Which is kind of odd.”
Maybe I should be jealous of George. It’s clear he’s Anna’s closest friend. Except they really do treat each other like siblings.
Tucking my arm beneath my pillow, I close my eyes so there’s only her and me. “What do you think is going on?”
“I’d say it was a girl, only George has a tell when he’s into someone, and he isn’t doing it.”
“A tell?” I’m laughing at the idea.
“Yeah. He’ll start singing Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant under his breath at all hours.”
“It’s freaking weird, is what it is. Especially since he sounds like Mickey Mouse when he sings it.”
And then we’re both laughing.
I don’t know how long we talk about inconsequential things before I nod off to sleep. When I wake in the morning, the phone is still cradled in my hand.
WHEN I ENTERED college my choice of major wasn’t a pressing issue. Truthfully, I could have coasted by on a General Education track, doing the minimum requirements, and no one would have batted an eye. Not that I asked; the point was made extremely clear to me. And I made it extremely clear that I didn’t want that kind of ride. It went against everything my parents taught me. Granted, I chose English Lit because I’d been raised on it, and I knew it would be easier for me. Football is a full-time job, and I needed every advantage to hold my head above water when it came to academics.
But I work my ass off and manage to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. I am proud of that. Even so, I am looking forward to graduation. Endless studying and too little sleep are getting to me.
In point of fact, my eyelids grow heavy and my head wants to fall forward as my Literature in Film professor drones on about the differences between A Room With a View the movie and the novel. I take deep breaths, try to clear my head, but the stuffy room isn’t helping.
The end of class can’t come soon enough. I eye the clock as Professor Gephard hands back the quiz we had last week. An honest to God quiz. Like we’re still in high school. I’d wanted to laugh when he gave it to us.
“Good work, Mr. Baylor,” Gephard says as the quiz lands on my desk. 100 points. Perfect score.
I’ve been acing this class. Frankly, it’s easy and I like the material.
I give him a nod, my eyes scanning the quiz for lack of anything better to do, when I see a mistake. Rubbing my eyes, I read it over again. Yep, I’d answered question number 10 incorrectly.
Hanging back until everyone clears out, I head to Gephard’s desk. He looks up as I approach.
“How can I help you, Mr. Baylor?”
“There’s a mistake on my quiz, Professor. I have the wrong answer for number 10.” I point to the question. “It ought to be Charlotte Bartlett, not Freddy Honeychurch.”
Gephard doesn’t even glance at the paper but blinks up at me as though I’m speaking gibberish. The back of my neck goes hot. It’s just one stupid question. I shouldn’t push it. But it bothers me all the same.
I point to the page again. “I wrote that Freddy told Mr. Emerson about Lucy breaking off her engagement with Cecil. But it was Charlotte.”
Smiling, Gephard puts his palm over the quiz and slides it back to me. “It was obvious you’d read the work thoroughly, Mr. Baylor. I saw no reason to mark you down for a simple mistake.”
Something thick and ugly bolts through my gut. “But I got it wrong.”
“Yes, however, it was clear you knew the answer. The fact that you were able to discover the error tells me as much.” He smiles again. “Excellent game last week, by the way. Took my granddaughter to see you play.”