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“You make it really hard for me to be annoyed with you when you use that ridiculous accent of yours.” She smiled playfully. I liked that side of her.

“I can talk more like you if you want.” I switched my voice to my best Midwest sound. “How about we have a double deep-fried corn dog and then eat a brat and get a sip of water from the bubbler?”

“Ohmyfreakinggosh, a double deep-fried corn dog sounds so good right now.” I swear she actually drooled from the thought. “With ranch dressing.”

I wasn’t sure if that was a pregnant thing or just a weird Wisconsin thing, but there was a significant chance it was both.

When she said that I could eat lunch with them, I did a dance, which she told me to never do again.

So of course I did it again before I sat down beside her. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Seeing as how Simon isn’t here, I think this leaves an open invitation for me to sit next to you on the bus.”

“You’re pushing it today, Levi. You want to sit with me at lunch and on the bus?”

I nodded. “But it’s also so we can work on our project together. I figured if we are going to make this project the best we can, we need to start getting you in touch with good music.” I dug into my backpack and pulled out my CD player, then handed her one of my ear buds.

“What is that?” she said, a look of bewilderment in her eyes.

“A CD player?” I replied, confused by her confusion.

“People don’t use CD players anymore, Levi. That’s weird.”

“Um, maybe normal people don’t, but seeing as how I am clearly a total hipster, I think it’s safe to say that this is the new hip thing to do. The old hipsters listen to vintage records, which, let’s face it, sound freaking amazing in person, but they are such a hassle to drag around town. An old school CD player still holds that cool, authentic hipster feeling, and weighs quite a bit less than a record player. So, mainly what I’m saying is it’s an honor for you to experience the magic that’s about to happen in your ear. It’s going to be like an explosion of color.”

“Are you always so awake in the morning?” she joked.

“Every day.”

She placed the ear bud in her ear, and I placed the other in mine. I hit play.

“What CD is this?” she asked.

“It’s a mix that I made at my uncle’s house over the weekend. It has all my favorites. First song is ‘Open Rhythms’ by Bodies Of Water.” I bent my knees, placing the soles of my shoes on the seat in front of me.

As the song started playing, I relaxed into the seat, lifted my fingers, and played my air guitar intensely, making her giggle.

She didn’t say anything else, so I had to take in the subtle clues that a person always gave when enjoying good music.

Her foot started tapping.

Her body started rocking.

She closed her eyes with a smile.

She lost herself in it, and I couldn’t have been happier.

* * *

After first hour calculus, I walked up to Aria and drummed my fingers against her desk. “I think it’s nice that you laugh at Mr. Jones’ terrible jokes.” I smirked.

“What are you talking about? Mr. Jones’ jokes are classic. And I fear being seen talking to anyone who cannot appreciate a good nerdy math joke.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “So that’s what does it for you? Bad math puns? Really?”

She nodded. “Not everyone can be as cool as Mr. Jones,” she said, sliding her books into her backpack as she stood from the desk. I always walked her to her locker after class, and for a while she complained, but after some time, I think she kind of liked it.

Clearing my throat, I puffed out my chest. “Well, I’m just going to put this out there: I’m not trying to be obtuse, but you’re acute girl.”

“Ohmygosh, stop, Levi, that’s terrible.” She chuckled.

“I don’t know if you’re in my range, but I’d sure like to take you back to my domain.” I followed my first bad math joke with an even worse one, making her laugh even harder.

“That was awful, just stop. Go away.”

I gripped the straps of my backpack with a large grin. I started walking backward, keeping my eyes on her. “Okay, I’m going. But I want you to know that this thing between us, it’s powerful. There’s no word to express this new found connection we have, Aria. It’s like dividing by zero…you can’t define it.”

* * *

I got some crap from a few people for not eating at the popular table during lunchtime, but I didn’t care because Aria smiled at me as I walked toward her table.

“Thaumaturge,” she said, unpacking her lunch.

“Oh wow, thanks. I think you’re pretty good lookin’ too, Aria,” I replied, sitting down across from her.

“What?!” Her cheeks blushed over. Whenever she was nervous, she placed her thumb between her teeth and broke eye contact.

“Sorry, I always assume when pretty girls use big words, it’s a term of flirtation.”

“Well, it’s not.”

“Keep telling yourself that. Okay, say the word again.”

“Thaumaturge,” she repeated. “I downloaded this dictionary app on my phone last night and that was the word of the day.”

“And the meaning?”

“A worker of wonders or miracles. A magician.”

“Okay, three things to say on this subject. One, what a badass word. Two, what a badass definition. Three, it’s a little sexy that you have a dictionary app.”