I sat there in silence, feeling her words plow into me like a ten-foot wave.

She took a sip of her drink. “Just so happens, he might be the one person who can make you really, really happy, too.”


“So what should I do?” I asked, half in sarcasm, half in despair.

“You want to go out and live life and write about it, right?”

“…yeah.”

“So go out and live life so you can write about it, dumbass.”

I grimaced. “In other words… go see him and write the fuckin’ article.”

She toasted my glass with hers. “Go see him and write the fuckin’ article.”

56

Four Years Ago

A couple hours after Shanna and I made up, the company that rented us our tiny dorm refrigerator came by and picked it up. There were two guys, and they went from room to room wheeling out the fridges on hand trucks as people packed up to go home.

Then, an hour after that, Derek stopped by with Ryan in tow.

“Oh my God!” Shanna squealed, and pushed a lock of her hair back flirtatiously. “It’s so good to see you!”

“Good to see you, too,” Ryan said nervously, then looked at me. “Hi, Kaitlyn.”

“Hey, Ryan.” I turned to Derek. “What are you two doing here?”

“Well… I knew you were leaving after your exam, and I knew that was this morning, so… how’d it go, by the way?”

“I think I did pretty well, actually. I think.”

“Good.” He smiled, and his eyes twinkled. “So all that studying last night paid off.”

Shanna snorted.

I blushed.

Ryan looked around, confused. “What’s… what’s the joke?”

“No joke,” I said quickly. “There’s no joke. Soooo… did you come by to – ”

“When are you leaving?” Derek interrupted.

“This afternoon, I guess.”

I actually didn’t want to leave… but considering what had happened last night, it was probably a good idea to get the hell out of Dodge.

“When are you leaving?” Derek asked Shanna.

“Soon as I get my car packed. Wanna help me?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah, sure, but… don’t you live in California?”

“Yeah, so?”

“So why’re you leaving now, and not in the morning?”

“Cause if I stay here tonight, I’m gonna get drunk as a motherfucker, and probably shack up with some dude, and wake up with a monster hangover, and not get going till tomorrow afternoon anyway, so… I figured I might as well skip the drama.”

“For once,” Derek grinned.

“Hey. Gotta start sometime.” Then she wiggled her eyebrows at Ryan. “Unless you wanna be the dude in question.”

“Uh… uh…” Ryan stuttered, looking like she had offered to give him a hummer in front of the entire college.

“Just messin’ with ya, man,” she said – though I knew she really wasn’t. “Besides, your mother would kill me. She’d hunt me down like an animal.”

“That’s actually true,” Derek laughed.

“What Shanna didn’t mention is that she’s driving to Tallahassee first and partying with a couple of friends at Florida State tonight,” I said.

Shanna wheeled on me. “You narc! They actually thought I was responsible for once!”

“No,” Derek teased her, shaking his head. “I know you too well.”

“You don’t know me at all.”

“I know you well enough.”

“Fuck you,” she said good-naturedly. “You still gonna help me get my stuff down to my car?”

“Sure.”

She pointed at me. “You’re definitely helping, narc.”

“Fine.”

57

Shanna took another hour or so to finish packing, during which time the four of us chatted – about Ryan’s upcoming high school graduation, about his and Derek’s plans for the band, about what Shanna was going to do over the summer. Then we carried Shanna’s stuff down to her car.

It went pretty quickly with four of us helping, though there was one point where we lost Ryan. He just disappeared for several minutes – and then he was there to meet us when we got back to the dorm room.

“Where’d you go?” Shanna asked.

“I, uh, had to use the restroom.”

He seemed awful nervous when he said it, and he glanced at Derek as though seeking approval.

“Well, come on, chop chop,” Shanna said, clapping her hands. “I ain’t payin’ you by the hour, so let’s go.”

Forty-five minutes later her Honda Civic was jam-packed with her clothes and computer and stereo speakers and TV and all sorts of crap. As thanks, she bought us all Cokes from a vending machine in the dorm lobby. We stood around for awhile, talking and drinking and laughing. Then it was time for her to go.

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