Diana wasn’t in the habit of eavesdropping.
But while she was waiting in line at the bus stop, words from the conversation happening behind her started penetrating her daydreams of the professor, and she found herself inadvertently doing just that.
Two women in their thirties, both of them working as cashiers for the same local grocery, and then moonlighting afterwards: one was a waitress at a diner while another did part-time at a convenience store near her house.
An idea started brewing in Diana’s mind as she listened to the pair exchange horror stories about their shared workplace, which ranged from a misogynist boss who thought nothing of calling his female workers ‘dumb pussies’ to having to pay for a customer’s groceries because an old woman had gotten away with faking an accident at Aisle 5 and blaming the staff for it.
While she wasn’t quite sure of the whys and hows yet, she did know that she was listening to something important, and when their bus finally arrived, Diana made certain to sit behind the pair so she could better (and discreetly, too, hopefully) observe them.
Tired was the first word that came to mind as Diana took in their appearances, their exhaustion so deeply seated in their systems that it almost seemed a scent they wore.
The two women’s talk had turned to Hollywood gossip, and Diana leaned back against her seat, feeling like she was missing something crucial.
She turned her gaze to the window in a bid to contain her restlessness and frustration.
She still had ten minutes before her stop, which was a short walk from the suicide help center Helder Meer had a long-standing arrangement with. In exchange of volunteer hours, students were given a chance to consult the staff, make use of its library with its specialized collections in medical literature, and conduct structured interviews with some of the in-house patients.
She had already spent a few hours there in the past days, and while Diana had found the time illuminating, it hadn’t felt…enough. Something was missing. Something that she had this unshakable conviction of finding somewhere else, but what it was exactly escaped her. She only knew she would recognize it when she found it…
Life’s the biggest bully of them all.
Diana jerked up in her seat, the words she had heard from one of the women making her heart thud against her chest.
I know right? It just keeps kicking you down, and it never gives you a break.
Before she could think twice of what she was doing, she was already leaning down to tap on one of the women’s shoulders and hearing herself say, “Hi.”
The two women turned to her in wary surprise. “Yeah?”
“I’m, umm, Diana, a student from Helder Meer. I was wondering if I could interview you…”
“For what?” The Hispanic woman was visibly bewildered.
“That depends,” her blonde friend joked at the same time. “How much will you be paying us?”
Diana didn’t hesitate, quoting a figure that had the two women gaping, and because she really wanted to make it happen, she added right after, “Free dinner, too.”
The blonde threw her head back with a laugh. “For that kind of deal, hon, we’d change our names and rewrite our life stories for you.”
The professor couldn’t reach for his phone fast enough when he saw it vibrate and slide towards the edge of his desk.
Diana: Good night, Professor.
He inhaled deeply and told himself to play it cool. There wasn’t any need to reply, and he liked to think she wasn’t one of those snowflake types that he thoroughly despised and who would find offense in just about every fucking thing.
So forget what you read and get back to work.
But instead his fingers started moving.
Matthijs: It’s two in the morning already.
Diana: I know. :(
The sad face at the end was cute. It shouldn’t be, but that was how he found it, and the realization had him cursing under his breath. Goddamn it to hell, but he really had it fucking bad for this girl.
And then a thought occurred to him, and his face hardened.
Matthijs: Out partying late?
He had never fished for information his entire life. Not fucking once. And if she let it slip that she was out partying with another guy and she was stupid enough to come to his class tomorrow hung over, he just might kill her. Then kill himself afterwards because he had never had a thing for girls who lived to club, and Diana had him so blind with lust that he had failed to see the truth about her.
A moment later, her answer in text arrived, and his tension slightly eased as her words dispelled his worst fears.
Diana: I’m working on V2.0 of my proposal. I have a scary professor to impress. I don’t want him mad at me again.
Matthijs: Only a heartless bastard could be mad at you.